More On The Rosenberg Ring And The Vigilance Required For Security

The New York Sun has a book review that sheds more light on the case of Julius Rosenberg and his participation in Soviet spy rings. Ronald Radosh reviews Engineering Communism, a look at the escape of two Rosenberg recruits from the US and how they helped transform the Soviet Union into a military powerhouse — using American technology:

It has taken almost half a century, but Steven Usdin, in “Engineering Communism” (Yale University Press, 329 pages, $40), has finally told the story of the two men recruited by Julius Rosenberg to be Soviet spies and how they evaded the FBI and escaped to carry on their work on behalf of the Soviet state. Barr and Sarant rose to the pinnacle of power in the Soviet establishment and managed the building of the postwar modern Soviet military machine and microelectronics industry.
Mr. Usdin’s greatest accomplishment is to clear up remaining gaps in the story of the Rosenberg espionage network. The Rosenbergs’ defenders have long claimed that whatever the couple did, it was for genuine anti-fascist motives and that they only were concerned with helping an American ally. Mr. Usdin puts that argument to rest. He emphasizes that Rosenberg was recruited as a Soviet spy before June 1941 – i.e., during the years of the Nazi-Soviet Pact – and his primary motive was that he saw himself “as a partisan fighting behind enemy lines … on behalf of Soviet Communism.” He and his recruits wanted to “do anything they could to help the Soviet cause – before, during, and after the war against Hitler.” Barr, Sarant, and Rosenberg were Soviet patriots above all else.
The book clearly details the importance of the military information the network stole for Stalin. They passed on the 12,000-page blueprints for the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, the first American jet produced in large quantities and the workhorse of the Air Force in the Korean War. The detailed knowledge helped the Soviets build the MIG-15, whose superiority shocked the U.S. military in Korea. Barr and Sarant gave the KGB information on every project they worked on, including airborne radars for nighttime navigation and bombing and other new radar technology. One of these, an exact copy of the American device, was used in both Korea and Vietnam to direct artillery fire against American planes. “Rosenberg’s band of amateur spies,” Mr. Usdin writes, “turned over detailed information on a wide range of technologies and weapon systems that hastened the Red Army’s march to Berlin, jumpstarted its postwar development of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and later helped communist troops in North Korea fight the American military to a standoff.”

Since the case of the Rosenbergs usually gets treated as true-belief dogma by their defenders on the Left, who ignore even the data from the Soviets showing their involvement, I suspect this will change few of those minds. For the rest of us, this book might make a fascinating read and a warning about allowing our technology to escape to potential enemies. That warning should have been heeded long before now, especially in regards to mainland China. Our long debate over the nature of the Rosenberg perfidy clouded that issue and made it more difficult to remain vigilant against such thefts.

Never Forget Simon Wiesenthal, 1909-2005

Simon Wiesenthal, the man most responsible for forcing the world to confront the horrors of the Holocaust and living the pledge, “Never forget!”, has passed away in his sleep. Wiesenthal was 96 years old, or about 60 years older than the Nazi animals who once held him captive planned:

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre which continues his work, said: “Simon Wiesenthal was the conscience of the Holocaust.
“When the Holocaust ended in 1945 and the whole world went home to forget, he alone remained behind to remember. He did not forget.
“He became the permanent representative of the victims, determined to bring the perpetrators of history’s greatest crime to justice. It was a job no one else wanted.
“The task was overwhelming. The cause had few friends. The Allies were already focused on the Cold War, the survivors were rebuilding their shattered lives and Simon Wiesenthal was all alone, combining the role of both prosecutor and detective at the same time.”

Wiesenthal provided an example of how the human spirit could triumph over evil and suffering, finding meaning in the unspeakable barbarity he barely survived. He would not allow the world to overlook the millions of dead, those killed with ruthless industry by the Nazis and others in the coldly efficient machinery of Heydrich’s Final Solution. Wiesenthal transformed himself into an instrument of remembrance, encouraging other survivors to testify to their experiences and to the many others they knew who died at the hands of Hitler and his henchmen.
To say that the world owes Wiesenthal a debt of gratitude may be an insult. I would say that humanity owes Wiesenthal for the opportunity he gave us to recover our collective soul. Thank you, Simon, and Godspeed. You have earned your rest, and may those of us you leave behind find ourselves a tenth as worthy.

A Reminder For Senator Durbin

Italy has just concluded a trial based on World War II atrocities committed by Nazis after Italy switched sides during the war. Italian authorities convicted ten former Nazis in absentia for the massacre of over 500 civilians in Sant’Anna di Stazzema, men whom the Italians believe to be alive and living in Germany to this day:

In August 1944, about 300 SS troops surrounded the Tuscan village of Sant’Anna di Stazzema, which had been flooded with refugees, ostensibly to hunt for partisans. Instead, they rounded up and shot villagers, according to survivors. Others were herded into basements and other enclosed spaces and killed with hand grenades.
Historical documents are not clear on the precise number killed, but the most commonly cited number is 560 people. …
The slaughter was one of the worst in a series of atrocities by Nazi troops in central and northern of Italy during World War II. Italian authorities began investigating the massacre a few years ago when officials found reports on the killings drawn up by Allied forces at the end of the war.

The Nazis took their revenge for the faithlessness of their Italian allies on civilian populations unable to defend themselves. This was not a unique case; the SS wiped the town of Lidice, Czechoslovakia off the map when two British-trained partisan commandos assassinated “Hangman” Heydrich, the author of the Final Solution, earlier in the war. They slaughtered the men and some of the women, sent the survivors to labor camps and the children to Germany to be raised as Germans, and plowed the buildings under.
And these were hardly the worst of the Nazi depredations during the war.
A question for Senator Durbin and his apologists: do you think that the American military operates in this fashion?
UPDATE: Read Michelle Malkin’s Townhall column for more perspective on Gitmo and the due process given the detainees. It makes Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal look like a saint for not slapping his German hosts in this anecdote:

The diplomat, however, was just getting started. Bad as U.S. economic policy was, it was as nothing next to our human-rights record. Had I read the recent Amnesty International report on Guantanamo? “You mean the one that compared it to the Soviet gulag?” Yes, that one. My host disagreed with it: The gulag was better than Gitmo, since at least the Stalinist system offered its victims a trial of sorts.
Nor was that all. Civil rights in the U.S., he said, were on a par with those of North Korea and rather behind what they had been in Europe in the Middle Ages. When I offered that, as a journalist, I had encountered no restrictions on press freedom, he cut me off. “That’s because The Wall Street Journal takes its orders from the government.”
By then we had sat down at the formal dining table, with our backs to Ground Zero a half-mile away and our eyes on the boats on the river below us. My wife and I made abortive attempts at ordinary conversation. We were met with non sequiturs: “The only people who appreciate American foreign policy are poodles.” After further bizarre pronouncements, including a lecture on the illegality of the Holocaust under Nazi law, my wife said that she felt unwell. We gathered our things and left.

The German “diplomat” (scare quotes not reflective of Mr. Stephens but the Germans who gave him his status) has this much in common with a good chunk of the American public — he hasn’t bothered to check his facts:

Every single detainee currently being held at Guantanamo Bay has received a hearing before a military tribunal. Every one. As a result of those hearings, more than three dozen Gitmo detainees have been released. The hearings, called “Combatant Status Review Tribunals,” are held before a board of officers, and permit the detainees to contest the facts on which their classification as “enemy combatants” is based.
Gitmo-bashers attack the Bush administration’s failure to abide by the Geneva Conventions. But as legal analysts Lee Casey and Darin Bartram told me, “the status hearings are, in fact, fully comparable to the ‘Article V’ hearings required by the Geneva Conventions, in situations where those treaties apply, and are also fully consistent with the Supreme Court’s 2004 decision in the Hamdi v. Rumsfeld case.

Since these detainees do not qualify as POWs, having been captured out of uniform bearing arms against us in a time of war, that’s all the process to which they’re entitled. Politicians who bemoan a lack of a “trial” do not have the faintest clue about how these people have been processed.

The Forgotten War

Feeling a bit under the weather today and coming to the end of this major headache project at work this week and next, I decided to take an evening off from blogging and watch the History Channel’s special on the War of 1812. Titled “First Invasion”, the two-hour show reviews what for many Americans is a forgotten war, but one that clearly shaped our early notions of nationalism and ability to stand among other nations.
The war started over an issue that had largely been resolved before the first shot was fired, and the greatest American victory of the war came two weeks after the treaty that ended it was signed. Our capitol was sacked, and only saved from burning to the ground by a hurricane and a tornado that inflicted more damage on the invaders than the American militia that the British swatted aside like flies. The Canadians beat us like a drum, and New England almost seceded from the Union in support of the British trade that was their main commercial enterprise. The city of Baltimore wound up proving that Americans could stand and fight for themselves and deserved its place among nations.
If none of that sounds familiar to you, tune in to the next showing of “First Invasion”. The History Channel skillfully weaves the historical, political, and cultural issues together to present a much clearer understanding of one of our murkier wars, an unpopular war that almost undid James Madison’s presidency but one which ultimately vindicated our existence as a nation. It will play again in a couple of hours, and then will likely repeat during the month.

Telegraph: The Nazi Eisenhower Assassination Plot

Today’s London Telegraph relates one of the untold stories of World War II, nearly sixty years after it happened. The few survivors of uber-commando leader Otto Skorzeny’s final secret mission have decided to tell the story of how they were recruited to impersonate American soldiers, go deep behind enemy lines, and capture or assassinate the Supreme Head of the Allied Expeditionary Force — Gen. Dwight Eisenhower:

They were the decisive days of the Second World War and the Nazis faced defeat. Allied troops were on French soil and Hitler, desperate to prevent an invasion of Germany, hatched a final extraordinary plan: infiltrate the US army and take Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, dead or alive. The German leader entrusted Operation Greif to the Austrian SS Obersturmbahnfuhrer Otto Skorzeny, who had rescued Mussolini from imprisonment by the Italian government in 1943, flying him off a mountaintop in a tiny aircraft.
Skorzeny assembled a “crack unit” which would pose as GIs to launch their attack on Eisenhower at Fontainebleu, the Allied headquarters near Paris.
Yet, as one of the mission’s survivors has now revealed, Operation Greif rapidly descended into farce. Of the 600 men who were to masquerade as Americans, only 10 could speak fluent English. Scores were caught by the Americans, exposed as Germans, and shot.

For amateur historians of WWII such as myself, this intriguing story fits right into the pattern of Nazi delusional patterns that came to the surface during the latter half of 1944, after the successful invasion of Fortress Europe by Eisenhower and the Allies. By the time this operation went into effect (October 1944), the Germans had been pushed back almost all the way out of France and the Low Countries and faced the prospect of fighting on German soil for the first time since Napoleonic times. (Germany collapsed in WWI before any ground fighting occurred there.) Operation Greif was launched in tandem with the preparations for the secret Winter Offensive, which was to culminate in the Battle of the Bulge, an equally audacious but unavoidably suicidal strategic mistake of catastrophic proportions.
The Greif commandos were trained on American speech, American military dress and drill, and even American smoking habits. However, as the few survivors of Greif now admit, their training was hopelessly inadequate and their fallback strategies laughable:

According to Fritz Christ, then a 21-year-old Luftwaffe lance-corporal, many of his comrades were hopelessly ill-equipped.
“Those with no English were instructed to exclaim, ‘Sorry’, if they were approached by Americans, and then to open their trousers and hurry off feigning an attack of diarrhoea,” he told The Sunday Telegraph last week.
Mr Christ was transformed into “Lieutenant Charles Smith” from Detroit. The troops were trained to salute, shoot and even smoke like GIs, but there were fatal gaps in their coaching.
Many turned up at US army supply depots and asked for “petrol” instead of “gas”. They mistakenly rode four to a Jeep instead of two, as was standard US army practice.

As Germans out of uniform and mostly wearing American ones, they were quickly apprehended and summarily shot as spies. Christ, fortunately and ironically, survived because he managed to convince his own Luftwaffe that he was American:

L/Cpl Christ survived only because he was attacked by his own side. His lorry, marked with white US army stars, was strafed by Luftwaffe fighter planes shortly after it set out from Belgium towards American army lines on December 16, 1944.
“I jumped off the lorry and hid in a ditch before the vehicle exploded in a ball of fire,” Mr Christ said. “Nobody had told the Luftwaffe what was going on.”

Those familiar with Third Reich history would know why the Luftwaffe had been left out of the planning, even if you discount the need for secrecy. By October 1944, Luftwaffe Air Marshal Hermann Goering had collapsed into a hedonistic, disinterested, and defeated drug addict, more interested in his stolen art, jewelry, and various playthings stolen from all over Europe rather than face the systematic destruction of his storied air force.
Hitler himself, having barely avoided assassination himself less than three months earlier, had allowed his megalomania to overwhelm him, believing that he alone could command the armies of Germany to victory over both the Eastern and Western fronts. In fact, Hitler implemented his Western winter offensive by stripping the Eastern front of its reinforcements and reserve units, and thought that by giving the Allies a bloody nose on the frontiers of Germany, he could force them to a negotiated peace — and then ally with them to push the Russians back into Russia.
Small wonder that such thinking generated the “strategy” of capturing Eisenhower as a means to halt the Allied advance. Unlike the hidebound Nazi command structure, Eisenhower’s loss would simply have meant another American general would have taken his place — probably Walter Bedell Smith or Omar Bradley — and strategy recalculated for the possibility of Eisenhower’s knowledge falling prey to Gestapo interrogation techniques. Eisenhower, while brilliant, was not the only key to victory, which he himself would acknowledge freely.
In fact, one of the great questions of the fall and winter of 1944 is why Eisenhower held up his lightning offensive and switched to defense, making the Allies much more susceptible to the Nazi Winter Offensive than they otherwise might have been. Had the Nazis been successful in their ludicrous mission, they may have wound up hastening the Nazi collapse by another four months. But in the fantasy world of Nazi leadership in 1944, the notion of pulling 600 men off the already too-thin battle lines to participate in a playground-mentality mission must have made more sense than reaching political solutions, as German generals had been urging since July of that year.
Read the whole article, and if you haven’t yet read the lengthy but fascinating account of Nazi Germany, William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, be sure to do so soon.