Nazis bite off more than they can chew in the bitter Arctic.
The Nazis got around. We've already talked about their forays to the South Pole. Why not the other end of the Earth too? Last week Russian scientists stumbled across a secret Nazi military base in the Arctic that had been constructed in 1942, subsequently abandoned and forgotten. The base is located on the island of Alexandra Land, 600 miles from the North Pole, and was codenamed Schatzgraber, which in German means “treasure hunter” or "treasure trove.” It was a tactical weather station used for the crucial task of planning troop movements during the German invasion of Russia, which began in 1941 but quickly turned from an invasion into a military quagmire that cost Germany four million dead and any chance to win the war. The occupants of the base were evacuated by submarine in 1944 after they ate undercooked polar bear meat and contracted trichinosis, a very nasty illness that can cause uncontrollable diarrhea, inflammation in the whites of the eyes, and swelling of the heart. Considering Russia's symbol is the bear, it's a bit ironic. According to reports, more than 500 historically significant items have been found at Schatzgraber, including documents that may shed light on yet another dark corner of the Nazi empire.
Monroe, Curtis, and Lemmon give jazz a swing.
On this promo poster for the Marilyn Monroe comedy Certains l'aiment chaud, aka Some Like It Hot, it looks like Russian illustrator Boris Grinsson went a little strong on Monroe's wink, making her look like she got a splinter of glass in her eye, but Monroe actually looked that way in the promo photo used as the basis of the art, which you can see at right.
You know all about this movie, so we won't bother to go over it. We'll just mention, if you haven't seen it, don't be surprised that it's in black and white. There are so many color production photos from this one—like the several we've shared below—that we even forgot. And we'd seen the movie several times, though not in about ten years. When it opened with documentary style footage of a car chase and shootout followed by a title card reading “Chicago, 1929,” we were thinking, “Ah, this is where it shifts to color.”
But of course it didn't, and we suddenly remembered that this was a later black and white production, made the same year Technicolor films such as Ben Hur and North by Northwest hit cinemas. According to our research, Monroe actually had a stipulation in her contract that all her films had to be in color, but director Billy Wilder wanted black and white because the heavy makeup worn by Curtis and Lemmon—who spend most of the movie disguised as women—looked green in Technicolor. He lobbied Monroe and she finally agreed her co-stars could not be green.
Does Some Like It Hot fit under our self-defined umbrella of pulp? Of course—there are gangsters, the aforementioned shootout, and it's about two jazz musicians on the run. And few Hollywood figures are more pulp in essence than Monroe. The character of nightclub singer Sugar Kane is one of her better creations. Sit back and enjoy. Some Like It Hot premiered in the U.S. in February 1959, and opened in Paris as Certains l'aiment chaud today the same year. Another promotional poster by Grinsson appears below, and you can see the very different West German promo poster here.
If you're hearing this it's already too late.
This curious photo shows a bit of pulp-era technology—the acoustic mirror or acoustic locator. It was used to detect the approach of aircraft. The examples above and below are from Japan, Finland, Russia, Sweden, and other countries, and date from the 1930s to the eve of World War II, when they were replaced by radar systems. Apparently, these worked quite well, picking up engine noise from miles away. But as aircraft became speedier the effective range of the devices decreased—enemy planes would reach the site where a mirror was located within a minute or two of being detected. At such speeds, a spotter with a good pair of binoculars and decent visibility would see the planes the same time a mirror heard them. But before airspeeds increased these were the surest way to detect an oncoming aerial attack or reconnaissance flight, particularly at night. In addition to portable mirrors, some countries used cast concrete to construct massive versions that had a twenty-mile range. Great Britain built the last set of these in 1943 when fears surfaced that the Germans had developed a means to jam radar. Built to endure weather and time, some survive and have become tourist attractions. We have ten more crazy acoustic mirror designs below for your enjoyment.
All I really wanted for Christmas this year was Russia. Sigh. This holiday sucks.
Adolf Hitler and cohorts enjoy an uproarious 1941 Berlin Christmas party, where the mood may have been somewhat subdued due to the fact that attempts to crush Russia had so far failed at the cost of more than 800,000 German casualties. The photo was shot by Hugo Jaeger, one of the Führer’s personal photographers, and didn’t come to light until published by Life magazine in 2010.
On the first day of Christmas the Gazette gave to me—a Hitler.
Just in time to ruin everyone’s Christmas shopping, this National Police Gazette from December 1960 splashed Adolf Hitler’s face on its cover along with an inset of Swedish actress May Britt (who could hardly have appreciated the inclusion). George McGrath’s story minces no words, opening with this: Indisputable evidence that Adolf Hitler is alive and living in the Argentine has has been uncovered by the Police Gazette. Although this new information is in the hands of government intelligence chiefs, the United States and its allies are not lifting a finger to catch the runaway Nazi dictator.
By now you’re familiar with the basics: Hitler sent his possessions ahead to Mar del Plata, Argentina eighteen months before World War II’s end, later escaped Europe by u-boat, and set up shop with some of his top brass to begin plotting a return to the global stage. This particular version of the story managed to cleverly sneak in a shot at the Soviet Union, claiming Nikita Khrushchev didn’t want Hitler found. Considering the many millions of soldiers and civilians the Russians lost defeating the guy, that makes zero sense, but hey, this Gazette was published during the Cold War—Russia had to be blamed for everything.
This makes the twenty-second Hitler Gazette cover we’ve posted of twenty-nine we’ve found so far. Each story adds a little bit more to the labryrinthine tale of his daring dash to South America, but this is the first story we’ve seen claim that his capture would divide the Allied nations. Why? Because some would want him executed (obviously), while others would want him forgotten (not so obviously). The only rationale given for the latter position is that Hitler’s capture would open old war wounds. That’s pretty hard to swallow, but also beside the point. The point was magazine sales and the editors undoubtedly achieved that. We’ll have more from the Gazette later.
One out of two isn’t bad, when it comes to Cyrillic.
The cover of the above Soviet-issue James Hadley Chase/Victor Canning double novel isn’t particularly wonderful, but the interior illustrations are rather nice. We don’t read Cyrillic, but we painstakingly plugged the cover squiggles into a translator and came up with I’ll Bury My Dead for Chase and something like “communicating on foot” for Canning, a title which resembles those of none of his actual works. So there you go. We were actually pretty confident when we started the process. We once figured out the St. Petersburg subway system during rush hour, so we figured book titles would be a snap. No such luck. These translations appeared in 1991.
Update: The answer comes from John, who wrote in saying: пешка translates as "pawn", so a reasonable guess might be Queen's Pawn, Canning's 1969 book. The other word проходная translates as "communicating", so that is harder to work out a connection.
Police Gazette conveniently forgets who invented what and when.
Police Gazette editors hit the panic button with this November 1961 cover claiming the Soviets have a death ray bomb. For a mere twenty-five cents readers were able to acquire new nightmare material by reading about this superweapon, which in the story is called an n-bomb. They’re of course referring to a neutron bomb, which by releasing deadly unshielded neutrons would minimize destruction and contamination of property but maximize human death. Not quite rays, so much as a wave emitted by a massive air burst, but still, the new element it brought to the nuclear party was wantonly scattered neutrons, so, okay—rays it is. It must have been a real stunner for Gazette’s millions of readers to learn of this horrific weapon, but unless the Russian scientist who brainstormed it into existence was named Sam Cohen we have to call bullshit on this tall tale, for it was Samuel T. Cohen—an American physicist—who conceived and developed the neutron bomb.
Cohen was an ex-Manhattan Project scientist who spent his career in nukes. He promoted his bomb relentlessly, defending it as “the most sane and moral weapon ever devised,” because “when the war is over, the world is still intact.” See, this is what can happen when you live in a military bubble—Cohen defined morality not by the neutron bomb’s extra-lethal effects on actual living and feeling humans, but by the survival of (reusable) material assets. At its most compact it could blast an area scarcely a mile across, however only a blind man could fail tosee that tactical neutron weapons were simply the thin edge of a wedge opening a tightly sealed nuclear door.
Of course, once the Soviets caught wind of this abomination they developed their own neutron bomb, prompting the U.S. to accelerate its program (see: arms race), until Ronald Reagan ordered 700 finished warheads to be deployed in Europe. It was only mass protest by Europeans—those ungrateful victims of two previous devastating continental wars—that thwarted Reagan’s plans. They realized that neutron weapons made nuclear war more likely, not less likely. If this wasn’t clear enough at the time, it became crystalline when China announced in 1999 that it had built its own neutron bomb. As you have probably deduced by now, the entire point of the Gazette’s death ray story is to urge President John F. Kennedy to get off his ass and develop an American n-bomb to counter the Soviet one. You almost have to wonder if the text was fed to Gazette editors from Sam Cohen’s office.
Moving on, Gazette wouldn’t be Gazette without at least a little Hitler, so in addition to the death ray feature it offers up photos of Adolf relaxing with Eva Braun at a retreat in the Bavarian Alps. In contrast to the
many stories about Hitler living in bitter, defeated isolation in South America, here readers see happy Hitler, socializing during the 1930s with friends and compatriots. Next up, Gazette gives readers their fix of celebrity content with Rita Hayworth, who had been married five times and whose problem the editors are only too happy to diagnose—in their esteemed opinion she’s just too wild to be tamed. And lastly, Gazette presses panic button number two by tying the nascent civil rights movement to communist agitation from overseas. This is a tabloid tale that was told often in the 1960s because, well, we don’t know why exactly—presumably because who besides the puppets of foreign governments would ever deign to demand equal rights? Anyway, we have a few scans below, and an entire stack of early 1970s Gazettes we hope to get to soonish.
History’s most storied serial killer finally identified.
Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper has published a story in which it claims infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper has been identified through DNA testing. The analysis was performed on a shawl found by police on the body of Catherine Eddowes, the fourth of the Ripper’s canonical victims, killed on the same night as Elizabeth Stride in what is termed by Ripper scholars as “The Double Event.” The shawl had recently been bought at auction by an amateur sleuth and passed on to genetic experts, who took samples from the fabric and found matches to the DNA of descendants of Eddowes, and to the descendants of Aaron Kosminski, an original Ripper suspect who had been questioned and surveilled by police back in 1888.
The Mail has said the new evidence “puts to end the fevered speculation over the Ripper’s identity,” but we imagine independent corroboration will probably have to follow before that’s true. Kosminski was of Polish descent and had emigrated from the Russian Empire to London. Police reports from the time of the murder describe him as a serial masturbator, and indeed the Kosminski DNA sample from the shawl is thought to be semen, meaning that in the few minutes after the killing he both mutilated the corpse and ejaculated over it. Presumably more details will emerge in the coming days, but the announcement of Kosminski as the killer, if true, has to rank as one of crime history’s most significant, and may bring to a close one of its most baffling murder cases.
Update: That didn't take long. Various scientists and DNA experts say the genetic analysis done on the shawl was botched due to error of nomenclature. Instead of an extremely rare genetic match, DNA extracted from Eddowes' shawl actually matches that of most people of European descent. So forget everything we wrote above.
The divide between fact and propaganda is never so clear as in hindsight.
Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day—the Allied landings in Northern France—and since most observances take the same form, we thought it would be a good opportunity to look at the event from a different angle by sharing something you might not see anywhere else. So above and below are some front and back covers of Signal, a German propaganda magazine printed from 1940 to 1945 and distributed in neutral, friendly, and occupied countries. These are from Yugoslavia, and their text is Croatian. Glancing at the images is to marvel at the always yawning chasm between propaganda and reality, for though Signal showed Hitler’s soldiers defeating foes while winning hearts and minds, when most of these were printed his army was not only the most hated entity in the Western world, but was already in the process of being fatally smashed in the crucible of a bitter Russian winter against a hardened foe that had always considered ice, snow, wind and frostbite its most important allies.
Once the other allies, led by the U.S., dragged the Germans into a two-front war, defeat was assured. That outcome could have been forestalled perhaps by the development of advanced technology, particularly a German atomic bomb, but it never quite happened. And yet under the direction of the Wehrmacht and Hasso von Wedel, winning imagery kept spinning from the web of German presses, depicting beautiful frauen cavorting in the homeland and smiling soldiers abroad doing the tough but necessary work of unifying Europe. But the intended recipients of these messages had begun to understand the truth—the Germans were finished, and the devastation they had wrought on foreign lands was coming home to roost. When bombs finally fell like rain on Berlin and enemy soldiers stormed the ramparts east and west, Hitler’s imagined 1,000-year Reich was over. It had lasted barely five years.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1986—Jimmy Cagney Dies
American movie actor James Francis Cagney, Jr., who played a variety of roles in everything from romances to musicals but was best known as a quintessential tough guy, dies of a heart attack at his farm in Stanfordville, New York at the age of eighty-six.
1951—The Rosenbergs Are Convicted of Espionage
Americans Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage as a result of passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. While declassified documents seem to confirm Julius Rosenberg's role as a spy, Ethel Rosenberg's involvement is still a matter of dispute. Both Rosenbergs were executed on June 19, 1953.
1910—First Seaplane Takes Flight
Frenchman Henri Fabre, who had studied airplane and propeller designs and had also patented a system of flotation devices, accomplishes the first take-off from water at Martinque, France, in a plane he called Le Canard, or "the duck."
1953—Jim Thorpe Dies
American athlete Jim Thorpe, who was one of the most prolific sportsmen ever and won Olympic gold medals in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, played American football at the collegiate and professional levels, and also played professional baseball and basketball, dies of a heart attack.
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