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.
My father is tougher than your father.
This bit of World War II propaganda, which was created by the Graphics Division of the U.S. government's Office of Facts and Figures in 1942, caught our eye for a couple of reasons. It features champion boxer Joe Louis, which is interesting enough, but it also features a quote he had uttered while taking part in a military charity event: “We’re going to do our part… and we’ll win because we’re on God’s side.”
This is an interesting turn of phrase because of the inversion of “our” and “God.” The way Louis formulates the idea suggests God desired the war and the U.S. was just helping out. Usually you hear the sentiment expressed as, “God is on our side,” but Louis's quote has more power loaded into it than the standard iteration. It casts Japan as not just battling an enemy nation, but battling the natural order of the cosmos.
Of course, the Japanese also thought they were divinely guided, and over in Europe where Germany was fighting several countries at once, the opportunistic Adolf Hitler, though a skeptic in private, declared himself a Christian in public and busily used religious sentiment in his devoutly Catholic nation to whip up support for his rule. We have a sizable collection of World War II propaganda inside Pulp Intl., originating from many countries, which we think is worth a look. You can see some of it here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Wisdom, chivalry, serenity, honor—these are not those kind of samurai.
A different type of paperback today, an example of World War II sexploitation, in this case John Slater's Women Under the Samurai, from Stag Modern Novels, which deals with, well... this is not the kind of book to be proudly displayed on a shelf. More like tucked in the back of a closet. The women here are nurses and are believed by the Japanese to know the location of Allied soldiers on the Pacific Island which they all inhabit. Pretty much every torture you can imagine is used, with the whole spectacle serving to both titillate and horrify the reader. Slater, who was a pseudonym used by Ray Slattery (as well as R.L. Taylor, and others) dipped into these murky waters regularly. Some of the titles that resulted: Island Slave, Brides of Terror, Women of Warsaw, Love Slave of Paris, The Captive Women. And so forth. More than eighty times. You can understand these selling during the war and post-war period, but the amazing thing about this genre of fiction is that it lasted until well into the 1970s. This example is from 1964.
An American crime story.
Written by The Gordons, who were the tandem of spouses Gordon Gordon and Mildred Gordon, FBI Story follows Agent John Ripley as he investigates the disappearance of a woman named Genie. She's wanted for theft by the FBI, and by the Los Angeles police as a person of interest in a murder case. Ripley finds that he and the missing woman have a lot in common, a fact revealed by his perusal of her bookshelf and diary. Is she really a criminal or just a desperate woman in deep trouble? As the investigation unfolds and the search spans the entire United States, we learn that other people are after her, including a millionaire American fascist who looks like Hitler and rants about the master race. Eventually Ripley uncovers jewel thievery, treason, and the mysterious Genie herself.
Originally published in hardback on the heels of World War II in 1950, FBI Story delves deeply into the weariness and cynicism of combat vets, of which Ripley is one, yet all the agents are unswervingly dutiful and honest. Considering the fact that the novel is dedicated to J. Edgar Hoover, one could be excused for branding it propaganda. In fact, Gordon Gordon was an ex-FBI agent and had J. Edgar Hoover approve his work. Even so, FBI Story is generally considered a good read. It was later turned into a movie starring James Stewart and Vera Miles. The Bantam edition of the book is from 1955 with uncredited art, and the Corgi one appeared in 1957 with Mitchell Hooks on the cover chores.
World War II
, Los Angeles
, Bantam Books
, Corgi Books
, FBI Story
, The Gordons
, Gordon Gordon
, Mildred Gordon
, Mitchell Hooks
, J. Edgar Hoover
, Adolf Hitler
, James Stewart
, Vera Miles
, cover art
The kiss that never ends.
The woman from the famous Alfred Eisenstaedt of a U.S. Navy sailor kissing a stranger in New York City's Times Square on August 14, 1945 has died at age ninety-two in Richmond, Virginia. The photo was made on Victory over Japan Day—better known as VJ Day—when New Yorkers were celebrating the end of World War II. Greta Friedman, who for many decades went identified, said of the moment, “It wasn’t my choice to be kissed. The guy just came over and grabbed. [He] was very strong. I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this tight grip.” While today such an act would be unambiguously categorized as sexual assault—which makes perfect sense, because what woman wants to be grabbed and kissed against their will?—Friedman's relatives have said that in “that circumstance, that situation, that time,” the still unidentified sailor did nothing wrong. The result was one of the most renowned photographs ever made.
That's fine, mister—I want the other one anyway. Before the school got bombed she was my sex ed teacher.
This cover depicting a grown man and a pre-teen boy browsing a pair of working girls is kind of creepy, we know, but it's also well executed. Originally titled A Convoy Through the Dream and published in 1948, Torment appeared in this Popular Library edition in 1953. Author Scott Graham Williamson tries for Hemingway with a story set in various sites around the Mediterranean during World War II, including Gibraltar, Algeria, and particularly Palermo, Sicily. Basically, a radio officer on a warship and his wife try to maintain their love and fidelity in a time of chaos and separation. This comes complete with that familiar war novel plot device—one last incredibly dangerous mission before the hero can go back home. The cover art is uncredited.
Light and darkness in New York City.
Alfred Statler honed his camera skills in Europe documenting the chaos of World War II and brought his gritty sensibilities to bear on his fine art photography once he returned to the visual utopia he called home—New York City. This shot is from the mid-fifties and captures a nighttime scene in Manhattan, with its neon signs and sky aglow with metropolitan lightbleed. We love this.
Hitler makes a mad dash from the Arctic Circle to the bottom of the world.
Has it really been nearly a year since our last Hitler Police Gazette cover? A look back through the website confirms the lull, but we haven't run out of Adolfs yet. This is the twenty-eighth Gazette we've found with him as the star, a May 1961 issue proclaiming, of course, that he's alive. Inside, journo Harvey Wilson reiterates the Argentina claims that had been well flogged in previous issues, telling readers Hitler's “super secret” hideout is located in Rio Negro province at the edge of wild Patagonia. Wilson writes: “Hitler flew out of Berlin on the night of April 30, 1945. He fled the city in company with a woman and they made their departure in a Fieseler-Storch plane. They carried several suitcases and proceeded to a Nazi submarine base in Norway.” According to Wilson, the u-boat chugged across the ocean and docked at Mar de Plata, Argentina.
It's easy to understand Gazette's (and its readers') interest in Hitler. He was a titanic figure who died a tawdry little death—suicide by self-inflicted gunshot. It must have felt to the World War II generation like an anti-climax, or even a cheat. So Gazette instead assures those readers that Hitler escaped, and makes his flight sound like adventure fiction. This formula, which must have both titillated and terrified those who believed, not only furnished material for twenty-eight covers, but the story was also told numerous times in issues that didn't feature Hitler on the front, such as this one focusing on JFK, and this one that shines a spotlight on Eva Braun. But we may have finally reached the end. We know of only one other Hitler cover. We'll share that a little later. Argentina
, Rio Negro
, Mar de Plata
, World War II
, Police Gazette
, Adolf Hitler
, Harvey Wilson
From Here to Oscar night.
American actor Burt Lancaster posed for the promo photo you see above when he was filming the World War II drama From Here to Eternity in the Hawaiian Islands in 1953. The movie, based on James Jones' novel, was one of the highest grossing productions of the 1950s, and film noir vet Lancaster in the lead as Sergeant Warden was a prime reason why. The movie also starred Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra, and Ernest Borgnine, making for a supremely talented cast. In the end From Here to Eternity scored thirteen Academy Award nominations and won eight, including Best Picture.
Southeast Asia escape epic features murder, sex and everything between.
This issue of Male magazine published this month in 1958 features James Bama cover art illustrating Richard Farrington's story “The Incredible 'Blood and Bamboo' Escape,” which is the true tale of Dutchman Klaus van Tronk's flight from a Japanese internment camp in Malaysia during World War II. The story is a book-length special, and one of the more harrowing and interesting details involves one of the prisoners being tied spread-eagled on a bamboo mat elevated six inches above the ground. Beneath the mat were living bamboo shoots. As Farrington tells it (via van Tronk's account), “The shoots are tough, the tips as sharp as honed steel, and they can push through a plank floor [two inches thick]. They grow rapidly in the Pacific sun, about six inches on a good hot day. It had been a hot day.” When van Tronk's work detail came back that evening from a long grind of slave labor in the jungle the bound man already had bamboo shoots growing through his chest, and was still alive, screaming.
We did a verification check on this arcane torture and found that no cases confirmed to scholarly standards exist, but that it is well known in Asia, and experiments on substances approximating the density of human flesh have shown that it would work. As little as forty-eight hours would be needed to penetrate an entire body. Fascinating stuff, but what you really want to know in terms of veracity is whether scantily clad women helped the escapees paddle to freedom like in Bama's cover art, right? Well, this depiction is actually a completely accurate representation of what van Tronk described, or at least what biographer Farrington claims van Tronk described. The women were the daughters of a sympathetic Malay farmer, and indeed they wore virtually nothing, and were considered quite beautiful by the prisoners, save for the minor detail of having red teeth from the local tradition of chewing betel nuts.
The risk taken by these women was extraordinary. Other women who had helped van Tronk and his companions during their months-long odyssey were tortured and raped, and at one point a village was machine-gunned. Why would these Malays take up the foreigners' cause if the risks were so high? Van Tronk attributes it to a cultural requirement to help strangers in need, but we'd note that people have taken these sorts of risks everywhere, cultural norms or no. Often the suffering of others simply brings out the best in people. A historical check on Klaus van Tronk turned up nothing, though, so maybe the entire true story is a piece of fiction. If so, it's a very good one. We have some scans below with art by John Kuller, Joe Little, Al Rossi, Mort Kunstler, and Bruce Minney, and more issues of Male magazine at the keywords.
, World War II
, Male Magazine
, Klaus van Tronk
, Richard Farrington
, James Bama
, John Kuller
, Joe Little
, Al Rossi
, Mort Kunstler
, Bruce Minney
, Carol Morris
, Tony Accardo
, magazine art
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1919—Volstead Act Passed
The U.S. Congress passes the Volstead Act over President Woodrow Wilson's veto, paving the way for alcohol Prohibition to begin the following January. The Act, named for Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Andrew Volstead, was supposed to create a better society but instead helped lead to the rise of violent organized crime gangs. The law wouldn't be repealed until 1933.
1922—Mussolini Comes Into Power
During the second day of the event known as the March on Rome, Fascist leader Benito Mussolini officially takes control of the Italian government when King Victor Emmanuel III cedes power. Supported by a coalition of military, business, and right-wing leaders, Mussolini remains in power until 1943, when defeat in World War II begins to look inevitable.
1994—U.S. Prison Population Reaches Milestone
The U.S. prison population tops 1 million for the first time in American history. By 2008 the U.S. Justice Department pegs the number of imprisoned at 2.3 million, and the overall U.S. correctional population, i.e. those in jail, prison, on probation or on parole, at 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 adults.
1951—Churchill Becomes Prime Minster Again
The Conservative Party wins the British general election, making Winston Churchill prime minister for the second time. Churchill is nearly 76 at the time, making him the second oldest prime minister in history after William Gladstone. Churchill remains PM until 1955, when he steps down at 81 due to ill health.
1964—The Night Caller Is Executed
In Australia, Eric Edgar Cooke, who had earned the nickname Night Caller, is hanged after being convicted of murder. He had terrorized Perth for four years, committing 22 violent crimes, eight of which resulted in deaths. He becomes the last person to be executed in Western Australia.
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