The Eagle's Nest: The Last Great Prize
Font face=verdana>In May 1945, as the war in Europe drew to a close, two great prizes remained.
The first, Berlin, was almost completely in the hands of the Soviets.
The second, Berchtesgaden, home to Adolf Hitler's famous mountain retreat, remained to be captured.
The winners in the race to seize Berchtesgaden were quickly forgotten in the wake of Allied victory.
These reports found their way into the popular press in the last months of the war. Time wrote in February 1945: But what of the top Nazis who cannot hide? With a compact army of young SS and Hitler Youth fanatics, they will retreat, behind a loyal rearguard cover of Volksgrenadiere and Volksstürmer, to the Alpine massif which reaches from southern Bavaria across western Austria to northern Italy. There immense stores of food and munitions are being laid down in prepared fortifications. If the retreat is a success, such an army might hold out for years. Some Germans expected that the Soviets and the western powers would soon come to blows when their armies met in the centre of Germany, and believed that if there was still a German government functioning in the south, it could come to terms with one side or the other. According to a number of intelligence reports to the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), this area, which they dubbed the National Redoubt, held stores of foodstuffs and military supplies built up over the preceding six months, and could even be harbouring armaments production facilities. Within this fortified terrain, they said, Hitler would be able to evade the Allies and cause tremendous difficulties for the occupying Allied forces throughout Germany. SHAEF received reports that German military, government and Nazi Party offices and their staffs were leaving Berlin for the area around Berchtesgaden, the site of Hitler's retreat in the Bavarian Alps. These reports said that most of the German ministries had moved staffs into this area during February and early March, by which time few departments were still operating in Berlin. The Allies' belief in the National Redoubt was fostered by German propaganda. Josef Göbbels, the minister for propaganda, set up a special unit to invent and spread rumours about an Alpenfestung. Goebbels also sent out rumours to neutral governments, thus keeping the Redoubt myth alive and its state of readiness unclear. He enlisted the assistance of the intelligence service of the SS, the SD, to produce faked blueprints and reports on construction supplies, armament production and troop transfers to the Redoubt. For Germans, the Redoubt became part fantasy and part official deception plan. The problem with the National Redoubt as a serious plan was that the heart of the German government was Adolf Hitler, and he never endorsed the plan. Without Hitler's approval, the Redoubt could never become a serious threat to the Allies. Although Hitler issued an order on April 24 for the evacuation of remaining government personnel from Berlin to the Redoubt, he made it clear that he would not leave Berlin himself, even if it fell to the Soviets, as it did on April 30. Without Hitler there was no Nazi Germany, and once Hitler was dead few Germans, even dedicated Nazis, saw any point in fighting on. When the American armies penetrated Bavaria and western Austria at the end of April, they met little serious resistance, and the National Redoubt was shown to have been a myth. Nevertheless the National Redoubt had serious military and political consequences. Once the Anglo-American armies had crossed the Rhine and advanced into western Germany, they had to decide whether to advance on a narrow front towards Berlin, or on a broad front, with a view to securing both the North Sea coast and southern Germany before advancing further. The British commander, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, had consistently advocated a narrow front ever since D-Day, and did so again at this point. But the Allied commander in chief, U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower, took a more cautious view, and the broad front strategy prevailed. Göbbels' deception plan over the Redoubt was one of the great successes of German intelligence during World War II, albeit one that came too late to alter the outcome of the war. The Allied intelligence services were completely fooled by Göbbels' false trail of rumours. The historian Stephen E. Ambrose, who has written important books about Eisenhower and the Second World War in Europe, has described the intelligence reports supplied to SHAEF about the Redoubt as one of "the worst intelligence reports of all time, but no one knew that in March of 1945, and few even suspected it." As a result of Eisenhower's decision to move his forces towards southern Germany rather than towards Berlin, the Soviets were able to capture the city on April 30. There is no doubt that the belief in the National Redoubt significantly influenced Eisenhower's decision. One of his subordinates, General Omar Bradley, later wrote that the Redoubt "grew into so exaggerated a scheme that I am astonished we could have believed it as innocently as we did. But while it persisted, this legend of the Redoubt was too ominous a threat to be ignored." SHAEF nominated concern about the Redoubt as one of three reasons the Allies decided to shift their main thrust away from Berlin to Southern Germany in April 1945. (The others were the knowledge that Berlin had already been assigned to the Soviet zone in the future Allied-occupied Germany, and the belief that taking Berlin by storm would entail unacceptably high Allied casualties). SS General Gottlob Berger's claims
In 1945 "National Redoubt" was the English term used to describe the possibility that German dictator Adolf Hitler and armed forces of Nazi Germany (Wehrmacht) would make a last stand in the alpine areas of Austria, Bavaria and northern Italy in the closing months of World War II in Europe. In German this concept was called the Alpenfestung (Alpine Fortress). Although there was some German military planning for a stand in the Alpine region, it was never fully endorsed by Hitler and no serious attempt was made to put the plan into operation.
In the six months following the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944, the American and British armies advanced to the Rhine and seemed poised to strike into the heart of Germany, while the Soviet Army, advancing from the east through Poland, reached the Oder. It seemed likely that Berlin would soon fall and Germany be cut in half. In these circumstances, it occurred both to some leading figures in the German regime and to the Allies that the logical thing for the Germans to do would be to move the government to the mountainous areas of southern Germany and Austria, where a relatively small number of determined troops could hold out for some time.
SS General, Generalleutnant Gottlob Berger, who was put in charge of all German run POW camps in 1944 until the end of the war was arrested at the end of the war and put on trial in the Ministries Trial in 1947. In 1948 Berger gave details to an American judge in Nuremberg of Hitler's plans to hold 35,000 Allied prisoners hostage in a 'national redoubt' (or 'last redoubt') in the Bavarian mountains. He claimed that if a peace deal was not forthcoming, Hitler had ordered that the hostages were to be executed. Many allied POWs were marched towards Stalag VII-A at Moosburg in Bavaria in the final months of the war in what was known as The March. Berger claimed that on 22 April 1945 Hitler had signed orders to this effect regarding the 35,000 hostages and the orders were passed onto him by Eva Braun but he decided to stall and not carry out the order.
For months, General Dwight D. Eisenhower and other Allied commanders had worried about the possible existence of a "national redoubt" in Bavaria and Austria. They were concerned that thousands of Nazi diehards would take to the rugged mountains, sustain themselves with copious supplies stored up over the course of many years and fight a guerrilla-style war against the Allies.
These reports found their way into the popular press in the last months of the war. Time wrote in February 1945:
But what of the top Nazis who cannot hide? With a compact army of young SS and Hitler Youth fanatics, they will retreat, behind a loyal rearguard cover of Volksgrenadiere and Volksstürmer, to the Alpine massif which reaches from southern Bavaria across western Austria to northern Italy. There immense stores of food and munitions are being laid down in prepared fortifications. If the retreat is a success, such an army might hold out for years.
Some Germans expected that the Soviets and the western powers would soon come to blows when their armies met in the centre of Germany, and believed that if there was still a German government functioning in the south, it could come to terms with one side or the other.
According to a number of intelligence reports to the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), this area, which they dubbed the National Redoubt, held stores of foodstuffs and military supplies built up over the preceding six months, and could even be harbouring armaments production facilities. Within this fortified terrain, they said, Hitler would be able to evade the Allies and cause tremendous difficulties for the occupying Allied forces throughout Germany.
SHAEF received reports that German military, government and Nazi Party offices and their staffs were leaving Berlin for the area around Berchtesgaden, the site of Hitler's retreat in the Bavarian Alps. These reports said that most of the German ministries had moved staffs into this area during February and early March, by which time few departments were still operating in Berlin.
The Allies' belief in the National Redoubt was fostered by German propaganda. Josef Göbbels, the minister for propaganda, set up a special unit to invent and spread rumours about an Alpenfestung. Goebbels also sent out rumours to neutral governments, thus keeping the Redoubt myth alive and its state of readiness unclear. He enlisted the assistance of the intelligence service of the SS, the SD, to produce faked blueprints and reports on construction supplies, armament production and troop transfers to the Redoubt. For Germans, the Redoubt became part fantasy and part official deception plan.
The problem with the National Redoubt as a serious plan was that the heart of the German government was Adolf Hitler, and he never endorsed the plan. Without Hitler's approval, the Redoubt could never become a serious threat to the Allies. Although Hitler issued an order on April 24 for the evacuation of remaining government personnel from Berlin to the Redoubt, he made it clear that he would not leave Berlin himself, even if it fell to the Soviets, as it did on April 30. Without Hitler there was no Nazi Germany, and once Hitler was dead few Germans, even dedicated Nazis, saw any point in fighting on. When the American armies penetrated Bavaria and western Austria at the end of April, they met little serious resistance, and the National Redoubt was shown to have been a myth.
Nevertheless the National Redoubt had serious military and political consequences. Once the Anglo-American armies had crossed the Rhine and advanced into western Germany, they had to decide whether to advance on a narrow front towards Berlin, or on a broad front, with a view to securing both the North Sea coast and southern Germany before advancing further. The British commander, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, had consistently advocated a narrow front ever since D-Day, and did so again at this point. But the Allied commander in chief, U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower, took a more cautious view, and the broad front strategy prevailed.
Göbbels' deception plan over the Redoubt was one of the great successes of German intelligence during World War II, albeit one that came too late to alter the outcome of the war. The Allied intelligence services were completely fooled by Göbbels' false trail of rumours. The historian Stephen E. Ambrose, who has written important books about Eisenhower and the Second World War in Europe, has described the intelligence reports supplied to SHAEF about the Redoubt as one of "the worst intelligence reports of all time, but no one knew that in March of 1945, and few even suspected it."
As a result of Eisenhower's decision to move his forces towards southern Germany rather than towards Berlin, the Soviets were able to capture the city on April 30. There is no doubt that the belief in the National Redoubt significantly influenced Eisenhower's decision. One of his subordinates, General Omar Bradley, later wrote that the Redoubt "grew into so exaggerated a scheme that I am astonished we could have believed it as innocently as we did. But while it persisted, this legend of the Redoubt was too ominous a threat to be ignored." SHAEF nominated concern about the Redoubt as one of three reasons the Allies decided to shift their main thrust away from Berlin to Southern Germany in April 1945. (The others were the knowledge that Berlin had already been assigned to the Soviet zone in the future Allied-occupied Germany, and the belief that taking Berlin by storm would entail unacceptably high Allied casualties).
SS General Gottlob Berger's claims
Fortunately, the redoubt existed more in the minds of German propagandists and the nightmares of Allied leaders than in the Bavarian Alps. By May most Allied officers had begun to understand this. They faced a German army with very little fight left. Hordes of prisoners clogged the Autobahn. The German soldiers still resisting did so primarily against the Russians and most of the others fled westward in hopes of surrendering to the British or the Americans.
Accordingly, Berchtesgaden changed from a strategic to a prestige objective. This was the place where Hitler had planned his conquest of Europe, the place where he had hosted heads of state, the place where the German dictator had relaxed and held forth on various topics to an intimate retinue of party cronies. It was the second seat of government outside of Berlin. Every Allied unit in the area, whether French or American, desperately wanted to capture Berchtesgaden. The unit that did so would win for itself historical immortality as the conquerors of the crown jewel of Hitler's evil empire. At least that was the thinking.
The 7th Infantry Regiment, the "Cottonbalers," had fought its way from North Africa to Germany. The unit enjoyed a proud combat heritage dating back to the War of 1812. During World War II, the regiment, operating as part of the 3rd Infantry Division, carried out four amphibious invasions, numerous river crossings and fought in such costly battles as Sicily, Anzio, southern France, the Vosges and the Colmar Pocket. Quite probably no other regiment in the U.S. Army in World War II exceeded the 7th in combat time.
The proud veteran soldiers of this tradition-rich unit were among those vying to seize Berchtesgaden. They figured it was their just dessert after so many hard years of fighting. Many of them had heard stories about the food and liquor stored at "Hitler's house." On May 2, fresh from the capture of Munich and a tour of the infamous Dachau concentration camp, the regiment was back on the move, this time bound for Salzburg, Austria, which it took with no opposition.
The easy capture of Salzburg surprised 3rd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. John W. "Iron Mike" O'Daniel because he expected a tough fight, like the one his troops had experienced a couple weeks earlier at Nuremberg. In looking at a map, O'Daniel realized that the 7th Infantry was now in perfect position to make a dash for Berchtesgaden. The lure of capturing this objective was well nigh irresistible. "By that time the prize of Berchtesgaden was so radiant that it was obvious that considerable fame and renown would come to the unit that was first to reach Hitler's Eagle's Nest," Major William Rosson, one of O'Daniel's staff officers said. "We were resolved to be the first into Berchtesgaden."
There was only one problem with that resolution. Eisenhower and his Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) staff had already bestowed the honor upon two other units, the French 2nd Armored and the American 101st Airborne divisions. If the French got Berchtesgaden they would see it as an enormous triumph over Germany, or at the very least some kind of redress for the humiliation of their defeat in 1940. If the 101st captured the prize, Eisenhower expected that it would only add an additional laurel to a unit that was now arguably the most famous outfit in the Army after its epic stand at Bastogne. Eisenhower was doubtless aware of the 3rd's proximity to Berchtesgaden, but given that the general and other brass expected the 3rd Division to run into a real fight in Salzburg, they probably dismissed O'Daniel's division as a likely contender. Of course, events on the ground confused such easily formulated intentions.
Very simply, as the situation existed on the morning of May 4, the French 2nd Armored and the American 101st Airborne, the "Screaming Eagles," were not in as good a position to take Berchtesgaden as O'Daniel's 3rd Infantry Division. His 7th Regiment controlled the only two remaining bridges over the Saalach River. One was a damaged railroad bridge outside Piding and the second a small wooden bridge nearby. Anyone wishing to get to Berchtesgaden would have to cross the Saalach over one of these bridges. On the morning of the 4th, even though his earlier request to capture Berchtesgaden had been denied by superiors, O'Daniel decided to make the attempt anyway. The tactical situation dictated this course of action but, more than that, he wanted the great prize for his division. The 3rd "Rock of the Marne" Infantry Division had suffered more casualties than any other division in the U.S. Army. It had fought its way from the beaches of North Africa to the Bavarian Alps, all without a great deal of publicity. O'Daniel felt, perhaps with some justification, that his men deserved the chance.
At about 1000 hours that morning, O'Daniel visited the German-born Colonel John A. Heintges, the commander of the 7th Infantry. Heintges, a popular commander, had ordered his engineers to work feverishly through the night to strengthen the railroad bridge so that it could accommodate the 7th Infantry's vehicles.
O'Daniel and Heintges spoke alone. Although there had been a small snowstorm a couple days before leaving a few inches of snow on the ground, this day was warm and clear. O'Daniel turned to Heintges, "Do you think you can go into Berchtesgaden?"
"Yes, sir," Heintges responded. "I have a plan all made for it, and all you have to do is give me the word and we're on our way."
O'Daniel asked him if the railroad bridge was ready. Heintges nodded. "I did not get permission to go into Berchtesgaden,"
O'Daniel told him. "Do you think you can do it?"
Heintges did not waste a second. He immediately spoke with his 1st and 3rd battalion commanders and told them to move out.The troops, along with their armored and artillery support, crossed the bridge and fanned out. The 1st Battalion, led by the regimental "Battle Patrol," a special reconnaissance formation under the command of Lieutenant William Miller, headed west on the most direct route, through Bad Reichenhall, while the 3rd Battalion swung east on the autobahn. The two pincers were supposed to proceed deliberately, not recklessly, and meet in Berchtesgaden. In the meantime, O'Daniel set up a roadblock and plenty of guards at the valuable bridge his men had just crossed. He left orders that no one was to cross without his express orders and immediately set about making himself difficult to contact.
After cruising through Bad Reichenhall, Miller's Battle Patrol and the 1st Battalion ran into some resistance at a mountain pass. Some SS troops were defending the pass, a natural defile that could have held up the battalion indefinitely. The Cottonbalers simply backed up, set up their artillery and fired away at the SS, who melted back into the mountains. From there the Americans hit a few roadblocks and mines but nothing really serious.
In the east, L Company led the 3rd Battalion down the Autobahn. The commander of L Company, Lieutenant Sherman Pratt, had risen from the ranks to become an officer. Bright, articulate, upbeat and blessed with great resolve, he had found opportunity in the Army as an escape from economic privation and family problems. He had joined the 7th in 1939 and immediately took to military life.
By the time the regiment entered combat in North Africa in November 1942, Pratt had risen to sergeant. For the next 2 1¼ years he served with the 7th Infantry in various NCO jobs. At Anzio he was severely wounded by German artillery, but he managed to return in time for the breakout and liberation of Rome. Eventually his superb battlefield leadership led to an opportunity for a commission, and he took it. He quickly rose from platoon leader to command of L Company. Pratt was the very embodiment of those 7th Infantry veterans who had fought their way across two continents, in the process suffering tremendous adversity. He and so many other survivors wanted Berchtesgaden as a reward for overcoming that adversity.
Now, as morning turned to afternoon on the 4th, Pratt and his company rolled cautiously down the Autobahn. "After an hour or so we had covered almost 10 miles, or approximately half the distance to the objective," Pratt reported. "The going, however, was weird and scary. I was most apprehensive. The hills on both sides of the gorge were steep, and we were confined in a very narrow and restricted area." In other words, the terrain was ideal for an ambush and, for all Pratt knew, plenty of SS troops waited around the next bend. The only excitement came when an American tank opened up on a German armored car and blew it up. The column proceeded unmolested all the way to Berchtesgaden, arriving there at 1600. "Berchtesgaden looked like a village from a fairy tale," Pratt said. "Its houses were of Alpine architecture and design. Some had gingerbread decorations."
Pratt's group got to Berchtesgaden shortly after a platoon from the 7th Regiment's Battle Patrol entered the town at the head of the 1st Battalion at 1558. There were some German soldiers in the town, but they were in no mood to fight. Isadore Valenti, a medic with K Company, wrote, ".50-caliber machine-gun carrying jeeps and half tracks took up positions inside the square, bagging the entire enemy force in one quick move." Valenti and the other Cottonbalers captured 2,000 enemy soldiers. "The streets were lined with German officers and a few noncommissioned officers and other ranks as well," Major Rosson recalled. "The officers were in their gray long coats, with side arms and baggage, awaiting orders." Among the prisoners was Hermann Göring's nephew Fritz. The younger Göring presented himself to Heintges, who had come into town with the 1st Battalion. "He surrendered to me in a typical military fashion," Heintges remembered. "He took off his belt with pistol and dagger and handed it to me in a little ceremony in the square right in the middle of Berchtesgaden." After the surrender Göring and Heintges went into a local Gasthaus and split a bottle of wine. Heintges then asked Göring why he remained in the town. "He said that he had been left behind to turn over his uncle Hermann Goring's administrative headquarters and all the records," Heintges remembered. The Cottonbalers found the headquarters to be a complex of one-story buildings. Inside were the records for the Luftwaffe.
As soldiers of the 1st and 3rd battalions began exploring the town, Lieutenant Pratt took one of his platoons and some tanks on a mission to "liberate" Hitler's home on Kehlstein Mountain a few miles outside of town. A complex that included an SS barracks and the homes of other high-ranking Nazi leaders surrounded the Führer's house. "We were winding our way up the steep and winding mountain road," Pratt recalled. "The air was clear and crisp with almost unlimited visibility. We rounded a bend and there before us in a broad opening lay the ruins of what had once been Hitler's house and the SS barracks." The Royal Air Force had bombed much of the complex on April 25. Pratt and other 7th infantrymen dismounted and began poking around the buildings. "Everyone in my group was struck into silence...by the significance of the time and place. After all the years of struggle and destruction, the killing, pain and suffering...here, for sure, was the end of it." Pratt and his men engaged in some minor looting and then went back into Berchtesgaden. A few other Cottonbalers inspected the elevator shaft that led to the teahouse atop Kehlstein Mountain.
At the same time, Valenti, the veteran medic who had seen a great deal of tragedy and heartbreak over the past two years, also explored Hitler's house and some of the buildings around it. "We couldn't believe what we saw. The walls were covered with shelves and the shelves were stocked with all kinds of wines, champagnes and liqueurs. The food bins were well stocked with a variety of canned hams, cheese and two-gallon cans containing pickles." Valenti and his friends sat in Hitler's great room, where he had once entertained heads of state, and drank his wine. Before the war, Valenti, the son of Italian immigrants, had been a coal miner. He never dreamed he would get to see something like this. He persuaded a buddy to take a picture of him lounging on the hillside next to Hitler's house.
Most of the Cottonbalers did not visit the Berghof, as the home was known. They were down in Berchtesgaden hunting for other treasures. Heintges, who had set up his command post in a small hotel, watched in great amusement as his men availed themselves of a nearby warehouse full of cheese. "Our soldiers were rolling these big cheese wheels down the streets. I don't know how many dozens of these cheeses we found and rolled out." The troops found plenty of shelter along with various bottles of liquor, more food and a couple of Göring's special automobiles, one of which was bulletproof and could fit 14 people. The soldiers also found Lt. Gen. Gustav Kastner-Kirkdorf, a member of Hitler's staff, dead in his bed. He had committed suicide with a Luger pistol, and his brains were all over his plush pillow. A Cottonbaler officer promptly liberated the Luger. Some of Heintges' other officers brought him a Nazi flag that had flown over Hitler's house. The colonel ordered that it be cut into pieces and passed out among his officers. Later that evening he was sampling some of the local food when his S-4 reported a major find: In a storage vault underneath a villa, soldiers had discovered Hermann Göring's personal liquor stock. The stash, remembered Heintges, consisted of "16,000 bottles of all kinds of liquor. We had Cordon Rouge, Cordon Bleu Champagne...and we had Johnny Walker's Red Label, Black Label, American whiskeys. You name it, we had it. Hermann Göring was well supplied." Knowing that other units would soon descend on Berchtesgaden, Heintges quietly arranged for six of his trucks to haul much of the liquor to Salzburg, where his 2nd Battalion could safely hide it. This was the largest single trophy the Cottonbalers collected from Berchtesgaden. Most of the humble foot soldiers would leave the area with only small items that could be easily carried.
Throughout May 4, as the 7th Infantry moved into Berchtesgaden and established control of the area, O'Daniel made sure that the bridges over the Saalach remained closed to the French and the 101st. At approximately 1700, French General Jacques Philippe Leclerc attempted to cross the railroad bridge with his division and head for Berchtesgaden. Cottonbalers would not let him cross. "He was standing upright in his vehicle assuming the role of commander with authority and great assertiveness," Major Rosson said. Another Cottonbaler officer, Lt. Col. Lloyd Ramsey, told the French general that he had orders to let no one cross. Fuming, Leclerc demanded to speak to O'Daniel. After trying to give him the runaround, Ramsey and the officers agreed to Leclerc's request. The two generals argued for a time. Leclrec demanded that he be allowed to pass; O'Daniel just as stridently refused. Only when O'Daniel received word that Heintges had, in fact, reached Berchtesgaden, did he allow the French and the 101st to pass. Earlier the Screaming Eagles had succeeded in finding a small footbridge and sending some patrols across, but they were nowhere near Berchtesgaden and, if they wanted to cross in real strength, they needed O'Daniel's bridges. Countrymen or not, O'Daniel would not let them pass until the race was over and his men had won the prize. The French and Screaming Eagles were mixed up in a traffic jam near the railway bridge at the Saalach. Not until later in the evening of May 4, approximately 2000, did the first French troops reach Berchtesgaden. The paratroopers got there the following morning, probably sometime between 0900 and 1000.
In the early morning hours of May 5, a polite French staff officer visited Heintges and worked out the occupation zones in the area. "I took the railroad track which ran right through the middle of Berchtesgaden," Heintges remembered. He gave the French everything else, including Hitler's home and its environs. "This was a terrific psychological thing for the French," he said. "So, I gave it to them because I knew that it would be a good thing for international politics."
In so doing, Heintges unwittingly sowed the seeds for trouble. Several hours later, well after sunrise, Heintges decided that he and his soldiers should hop aboard trucks and jeeps, go back up to the ruins of Hitler's house and raise the American flag. By that time, French soldiers had blocked off the approaches to the complex. This was their occupation zone, and they obviously thought of themselves as its conquerors. Most likely, the French soldiers had no idea that the 7th had taken the place first. By allowing the French to set up their occupation zone here, Heintges had directly created this problem. When he and his men attempted to drive into the complex, the French halted them. "I'm the...commander of the regiment that captured this place," Heintges said. "We're just going up there with our troops to look over the place and raise our flag."
The French refused to let them pass. An ugly argument ensued. There was hollering, and even some pushing and shoving. Colonel Heintges defused the situation by speaking to several French officers and agreeing that there would be a joint flag-raising ceremony. When the moment came, however, the French flag brought to the ceremony was so big that it dragged on the ground, and in the end it was only Old Glory that flew over the hastily assembled troops. Heintges, his battalion commanders and several of his platoons, including one from Lieutenant Pratt's L Company, lined up, stood at attention and saluted as the flag was raised in the light of a sunny spring sky. At the request of his battalion CO, Pratt had chosen one of his best men, Staff Sgt. Bennett Walters, to represent the 3rd Battalion in raising the flag. Private First Class Nick Urick of A Company represented the 1st Battalion. The flag raising took only a minute or two. Several war correspondents snapped photographs, and that was that. The Cottonbalers got back on their trucks and returned to Berchtesgaden, never to return to the Berghof, the complex they had conquered. They left behind no billboards or signs to mark their feat nor any indicator that the 7th Infantry had been the first ones there. Heintges should have made sure this was done. By not doing so, he left open the possibility that other Allied soldiers would believe themselves to be the conquerors of the Berghof.
Heintges returned to his command post and was soon visited by Colonel Robert Sink, the commander of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The two men were old friends, and they warmly greeted each other. They then sat down for a nice lunch and went up to Heintges' room for a few drinks.
Sink turned to Heintges and said: "Well, Johnny, I'm up here...to relieve you. My regiment is on the way up here."
Heintges was surprised because the 3rd Division staff had led him to believe that the 7th Infantry would get to stay in Berchtesgaden for a while. "I just talked to division a little while ago," Heintges uttered, "and they told me I'd be up here for five or six days."
"Oh yes," Sink replied, "but those plans were all changed and you're going back to Salzburg."
Heintges excused himself, called the 3rd Division and found out that Sink was correct. The 7th Infantry had orders to return to Salzburg, its original -- and authorized -- zone of operations. The Cottonbalers spent one more night in Berchtesgaden and cleared out the next day, May 6. As they did so, Colonel Heintges and Lt. Col. Ramsey stood next to their jeeps in the middle of town. They watched the last trucks of the 7th Infantry leave Berchtesgaden and enjoyed one last, wistful gaze at their great trophy. Heintges acknowledged to Ramsey: "Boy, this is a hell of a note. Here we captured the last prize of the war, and we haven't got a damn thing to show for it." His words were very prophetic.
By this time, Berchtesgaden and the Berghof were alive with Allied soldiers, especially paratroopers from the 101st, many of whom believed they had gotten there first. The Cottonbalers had left behind little evidence of their presence. Perhaps they were too war weary to care. Their looting, as a result of strict orders from Heintges, was limited, and somehow they did not encounter the paratroopers in the town or at the Berghof. In the confusion, many of the paratroopers, including several members of E Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, naturally thought that they had been the first ones into Berchtesgaden.
Thus, as the war ended and the 101st Airborne Division occupied Berchtesgaden and its environs, the mistaken notion that they had bagged this great prize took hold. Thousands of tourists from the Allied armies visited Berchtesgaden that summer. Since the paratroopers were there, most of the visitors assumed that they had taken the place. The Screaming Eagles had the time and opportunity to pick the town clean of prime souvenirs and take them home, forever associating themselves with the Nazi complex by their mementoes. Moreover, the 3rd Division, unlike the 101st, was not particularly adept at publicity. Major General O'Daniel and Colonel Heintges apparently thought that their arrival at Berchtesgaden would simply stand on its own merit, and they made little, if any, effort to promote their division's accomplishment. So, gradually over time, the idea that the 101st had made it to Berchtesgaden first took on a life of its own until many accepted it as fact.
It is not, however, a fact: The 7th Infantry got to the Kehlstein Mountain first. Not only is this recorded in potentially biased sources such as Fedala to Berchtesgaden, the 7th Regiment's World War II history, another history called The Third Infantry Division in World War II or the recollections of 7th Infantry veterans, but in other more neutral sources. Charles MacDonald in The Last Offensive, the Army's official history of the final campaign in Europe, wrote of the race to Berchtesgaden that "motorized troops of the 3rd Division got there first, in the late afternoon of 4 May." General Eisenhower in his wartime memoir noted, "on May 4 the 3rd Division...captured Berchtesgaden." Even the 101st Airborne credits the 7th Infantry with getting to Berchtesgaden. Major General Maxwell Taylor, commander of the 101st, admitted in his postwar memoir, "3d Division units got into Berchtesgaden ahead of us on the afternoon of May 4."
The history of the 101st Airborne Division in World War II, Rendezvous With Destiny, also records the true course of events. After chronicling how, on May 4, General O'Daniel sealed off the Saalach bridges to ensure that his units would win the race, the authors state: "At 1558 that day a motorized column [of the 3rd Division] entered Berchtesgaden; and that evening the 7th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Division entered. When General O'Daniel received the message of his regiment's entrance, he lifted his ban, allowed the 101st to come over his road, and Colonel Strayer [commander of 2nd Battalion, 506th] followed the 7th Regiment's route." The authors of Rendezvous With Destiny estimate that Strayer's soldiers reached Berchtesgaden sometime between 0900 and 1000 on May 5, a full 17 hours after the first Cottonbalers got there.
In spite of these indisputable facts, the myth still persists even today that troopers from the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, got to Berchtesgaden first. This is largely because of an honest mistake made by historian Stephen Ambrose in his otherwise excellent book Band of Brothers, which chronicled the experiences of one airborne unit -- Easy Company of the 506th -- in the war. Ambrose wrote of Berchtesgaden: "Everybody wanted to get there -- French advancing side by side with the 101st, British coming up from Italy, German leaders who wanted to get their possessions, and every American in Europe. Easy Company got there first." In his research for the book, Ambrose heard the accounts of many Easy Company vets who honestly thought that they had won the race, and he never corroborated them with official, or even outside, sources. Inexplicably, Ambrose never even checked Rendezvous With Destiny, a source that would have alerted him to the fact that the 7th Infantry had reached Berchtesgaden on the afternoon of May 4. Indeed Ambrose wrote in Band of Brothers that Easy Company made it to Berchtesgaden on the morning of May 5. In so doing, he betrayed his ignorance of the facts of the race to Berchtesgaden and unwittingly (not to mention ironically) made the case that Easy Company had not gotten to Berchtesgaden first.
The smash success of Band of Brothers led Home Box Office to turn the book into a miniseries, in which the paratroopers were portrayed capturing Berchtesgaden. The continuation, on film, of this error led to an even greater proliferation of the myth, so much so that it shows up routinely in any discussion of Berchtesgaden. For instance, one reviewer of the Band of Brothers miniseries commented that the Eagle's Nest was aptly named because the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles had captured it.
This is quite unfortunate, perhaps even unjust. The Cottonbalers' capture of Berchtesgaden is not open to debate. It is an incontrovertible fact and should be recognized as such. In emphasizing this point so vociferously, there is no intent to denigrate or dismiss the Band of Brothers book or miniseries. Both are excellent studies of the American combat soldier in World War II, but they propagated a myth that, in the interest of fairness and accuracy, needs to be redressed. Nor is there any intention of disparaging the considerable bravery and sacrifice of the 101st Airborne Division. The unit won great, and deserved, fame for itself, through the valor of its soldiers. Even so, the division should not receive plaudits for something it did not do. Plain and simple, those who achieved the prestigious conquest of Berchtesgaden should receive its laurels. Anything else is simply not fair to those who deserve the real credit -- the Cottonbalers of the 7th U.S. Infantry Regiment.
For further reading, see Autobahn to Berchtesgaden: A View of World War II From the Bottom Up by an Infantry Sergeant, by Sherman Pratt.
This article was written by John C. McManus and originally appeared in the May 2005 issue of World War II.
~ F. Lee Benns,
For the last nine years of his life Adolf Hitler, a lifelong hypochondriac had as his physician Dr Theodor Morell. Hitler's mood swings, Parkinson's disease, gastro-intestinal symptoms, skin problems and steady decline until his suicide in 1945 are documented by reliable observers and historians, and in Morell's diaries. The bizarre and unorthodox medications given to Hitler, often for undisclosed reasons, include topical cocaine, injected amphetamines, glucose, testosterone, estradiol, and corticosteroids. In addition, he was given a preparation made from a gun cleaner, a compound of strychnine and atropine, an extract of seminal vesicles, and numerous vitamins and 'tonics'. It seems possible that some of Hitler's behaviour, illnesses and suffering can be attributed to his medical care. Whether he blindly accepted such unorthodox medications or demanded them is unclear. Parkinson's disease of Adolf Hitler and its influence in the development of World War Two Professor Max de Crinis established his diagnosis of Parkinson's disease in Hitler early in 1945 and informed the SS leadership, who decided to initiate treatment with a specially prepared 'antiparkinsonian mixture' to be administered by a physician. However, Hitler never received the mixture, this implies that the SS intended to remove the severely diseased 'Leader'.
It has been proved that Adolf Hitler suffered from idiopathic Parkinson's disease. The first symptoms of it began to appear in 1937/1938. It is likely that its appearance, and the fear that it caused regarding his survival, led Hitler to advance his initial projects of military expansion of the great Germany beginning in 1943. Thus, the Second World War broke out in 1939, perhaps quite before the time in which Germany would be prepared. Chronic treatment carried out with opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, and strychnine may very well be related with a very abnormal judgement of the problems and absence of trust in the advice of his team. With this, he would make military decisions that would end up being ill-fated for his interests and which, after 1942, would lead to a change in the course of the war.
Two different character traits can be analysed in Hitler's personality: on the one hand the typical premorbid personality of Parkinsonian patients with uncorrectable mental rigidity, extreme inflexibility and insupportable pedantry. On the other an antisocial personality disorder with lack of ethical and social values, a deeply rooted tendency to betray others and to deceive himself and uncontrollable emotional reactions. This special combination in Hitler's personality resulted in the uncritical conviction of his mission and an enormous driving for recognition. The neuropsychiatric analysis of Hitler's personality could lead to a better explanation of the pathological traits of one of the most conspicuous historical personalities.
For the last nine years of his life Adolf Hitler, a lifelong hypochondriac had as his physician Dr Theodor Morell. Hitler's mood swings, Parkinson's disease, gastro-intestinal symptoms, skin problems and steady decline until his suicide in 1945 are documented by reliable observers and historians, and in Morell's diaries. The bizarre and unorthodox medications given to Hitler, often for undisclosed reasons, include topical cocaine, injected amphetamines, glucose, testosterone, estradiol, and corticosteroids. In addition, he was given a preparation made from a gun cleaner, a compound of strychnine and atropine, an extract of seminal vesicles, and numerous vitamins and 'tonics'. It seems possible that some of Hitler's behaviour, illnesses and suffering can be attributed to his medical care. Whether he blindly accepted such unorthodox medications or demanded them is unclear.
Parkinson's disease of Adolf Hitler and its influence in the development of World War Two
Professor Max de Crinis established his diagnosis of Parkinson's disease in Hitler early in 1945 and informed the SS leadership, who decided to initiate treatment with a specially prepared 'antiparkinsonian mixture' to be administered by a physician. However, Hitler never received the mixture, this implies that the SS intended to remove the severely diseased 'Leader'.
"Prague," the Führer responds stubbornly, almost mystically, "is the key to winning the war." Generaloberst Heinrici's hard-pressed troops must "do without." [They did in fact "do without" and yet managed to put up a fierce resistance against overwhelming odds in the initial stages of Zhukov's final offensive on Berlin].
One may also perhaps imagine Heinrici and the other assembled generals perhaps casting a doleful glance at Norway on the situation map, where thousands of German troops are still stationed, occupying a country that had long since ceased to be of any strategic or operational value to the defense of the Reich. Why indeed did Hitler maintain so many German troops in Norway up to the very end of the war? [The standard versions, of course, are that he wished to maintain the supply line of iron ore from Sweden to Germany, and that he wished to continue to use the country as a base to interdict the lend-lease supply route to Russia. But by late 1944, with the huge losses of the German Kriegsmarine, these explanations no longer were militarily feasible, and hence do not make military sense. One must look for other reasons, if indeed there are any beyond Adolf Hitler's delusions].
These paradoxical German troops deployments are the first mystery of the badly written finale of the war in Europe. Both Allied and German generals would ponder it after the war, and both would write it off to Hitler's insanity, a conclusion that would become part of the "Allied Legend" of the end of the war. This interpretation does make sense; for if one assumed that Hitler were having a rare seizure of sanity when he ordered these deployments, what possibly could he have been thinking? Prague? Norway? There were no standard or conventional military reasons for the deployments. In other words, the deployments themselves attest his complete lack of touch with military reality. He therefore had to have been quite insane.
But apparently his "delusional insanity" did not stop there. On more than one occasion during these end-of-the-war conferences with his generals in the Führerbunker, he boasted that Germany would soon be in the possession of weapons that would snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at "five minutes past midnight." All the Wehrmacht had to do was hold out a bit longer. And above all, it must hold Prague and lower Silesia.
Of course, the standard historical interpretation of these and similar utterances by the Nazi leadership near the end of the war explains them - or rather, explains them away - by one of two standard techniques. One school understands them to refer to the more advanced versions of the V-l and V-2, and on rare occasions, the intercontinental A9/10 rockets, the jet fighters, anti-aircraft heat-seeking missiles, and so on that the Germans were developing. Sir Roy Fedden, one of the British Specialists sent to Germany to investigate Nazi secret weapons research after the war, left no doubt as to the deadly potential these developments held:
In these respects (the Nazis) were not entirely lying. In the course of two recent visits to Germany, as leader of a technical mission of the Ministry of Aircraft Production, I have seen enough of their designs and production plans to realize that if they had managed to prolong the war some months longer, we would have been confronted with a set of entirely new and deadly developments in air warfare.
~ Sir Roy Fedden, The Nazis' V-Weapons Matured Too Late (London: 1945), cited in Renato Vesco and David Hatcher Childress, Man-Made UFOs: 1944-1994
The other standard school of interpretation explains such remarks of the Nazi leadership as the utterances of madmen desperate to prolong the war, and hence their lives, by stiffening the resistance of their exhausted armies. For example, to make the insanity gripping the Reich government complete, Hitler's ever-faithful toady and propaganda minister, Dr. Josef Göbbels also boasted in a speech near the end of the war that he had seen "weapons so frightening it would make your heart stand still." More delusional ravings of a Nazi madman.
But on the Allied side of the Allied Legend, things are equally peculiar. In March and April of 1945, US General George S. Patton's Third Army is literally racing across southern Bavaria, as fast as is operationally possible, making a beeline for:
(1) the huge Skoda munitions works at Pilsen, a complex all but blown off the map by Allied bombers;
(2) Prague; and
(3) A region of the Harz Mountains in Thuringia known to Germans as the Dreiecken or Three Corners," a region encompassed by the old mediaeval towns and villages of Arnstadt, Jonastal, Wechmar, and Ohrdruf. [Arnstadt is where the great German composer and organist J.S. Bach first began his career]
One is informed by countless history books that this maneuver was thought to be necessary by the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHEAF) because of reports that the Nazis were planning to make a last stand in the "Alpine National Redoubt", a network of fortified mountains stretching from the Alps to the Harz Mountains. The Third Army's movements, so the story goes, were designed to cut off the "escape route" of Nazis fleeing the carnage of Berlin. Maps are produced in old history books, accompanied in some cases by de-classified German plans - some dating from the Weimar Republic! - for just such a redoubt. Case settled.
However, there is a problem with that explanation. Allied aerial reconnaissance would likely have told Eisenhower and SHAEF that there were precious few fortified strong points in the "National Redoubt". Indeed, it would have told them that the "Redoubt" was no redoubt at all. General Patton and his divisional commanders would most certainly have been privy to at least some of this information. So why the extraordinary and almost reckless speed of his advance, an advance the post-war Allied Legend would have us believe was to cut off the escape route of Nazis fleeing Berlin, who it turns out weren't fleeing, to a redoubt that didn't exist? The mystery deepens. Then, remarkably, in a strange twist of fate, General Patton himself, America's most celebrated general, dies suddenly, and, some would say, suspiciously, as a result of complications from injuries he sustained in a freak automobile accident soon after the end of the war and the beginning of the Allied military occupation. For many, there is little doubt that Patton's death is suspicious. But what of the explanations offered for it by those who do not think it was accidental? Some propose he was eliminated because of his remarks about turning the Germans "right back around" and letting them lead an Allied invasion of Russia. Others believe he was eliminated because he knew about the Allies' knowledge of the Soviets' execution of British, American, and French prisoners of war, and threatened to make it public.
In any case, while Patton's barbed tongue and occasional outbursts are well known, his sense of military duty and obligation were far too high for him to have entertained such notions. These theories play out best, perhaps, on the internet or in the movies. And neither seems a sufficient motivation for the murder of America's most celebrated general. But then, if he was murdered, what was sufficient motivation?
Let us return, for a moment, to a less-well publicized explanation for his end-of-the war lightening-like strikes into south central Germany and into Bohemia:
In Top Secret, Ralph Ingersoll, an American liaison officer at S.H.A.E.F., gives a version of the facts much more in line with German intentions:
(General Omar) Bradley was complete master of the situation.... in full command of the three armies that had broken through the Rhine defenses and were free to exploit their victories. Analyzing the whole situation, Bradley felt that to take battered Berlin would be an empty military victory.... The German War Department had long since moved out, leaving only a rear echelon. The main body of the German War Department, including its priceless archives, had been transferred to the Thuringian Forest...
But what exactly did Patton's divisions discover in Pilsen and the forests of Thuringia? Only with the recent German reunification and declassification of East German, British, and American documents are enough clues available to allow this fantastic story - and the reason for the post-war Allied Legend - to be outlined and its questions answered.
Thus, finally, one arrives at the main theme of the post-war Allied Legend. As the Allied forces penetrated ever deeper into the German fatherland itself, teams of scientists and experts and their intelligence coordinators were sent in literally to scour the Reich for German patents, secret weapons research, and above all, to find out about the state of the German atomic bomb project. ["Alsos" was the code name of this effort. "Alsos" is a Greek word meaning "Grove", an obvious pun on General Leslie Groves, chief of the Manhattan Project. It is the name of the book about the Manhattan Project by Dutch-Jewish physicist Samuel Goudsmit]. Literally vacuuming the Reich of every conceivable technological development, this effort became the largest technology transfer in history. Even at this late stage of the war, as Allied armies advanced across western Europe, there was fear on the Allied side that the Germans were perilously close to the A-bomb, and might actually use one on London or other Allied targets. And Dr. Göbbels and his speeches about fearsome heart-stopping weaponry were doing nothing to alleviate their fears.
It is here that the mystery of the Allied Legend only deepens. It is here that the badly written finale would be truly comical, were it not for the vast scale of human suffering involved with it, for the facts are clear enough if one examines them independently of the explanations we have become accustomed to apply to them. Indeed, one must wonder if we were not conditioned to think about them in a certain way, for as the Allied armies advanced deeper and deeper into the Reich, famous German scientists and engineers were either captured, or they surrendered themselves. Among them were first class physicists, many of them Nobel laureates. And most of them were involved, at some level, with the various atomic bomb projects of Nazi Germany.
Among these scientists were Werner Heisenberg, one of the founders of quantum mechanics, Kurt Diebner, a nuclear physicist, Paul Hartek, a nuclear chemist, Otto Hahn himself, the chemist who actually discovered nuclear fission, and curiously, Walter Gerlach, whose specialty was not nuclear, but gravitational physics. Gerlach had written esoteric papers before the war on such abstruse concepts as spin polarization and vorticular physics, hardly the basics of nuclear physics, and certainly not the sort of scientist one would expect to encounter working on atom bombs. [Nick Cook, The Hunt for Zero Point]. ook notes that these areas have little to do with nuclear physics, much less A-bomb design, but "much to do with the enigmatic properties of gravity. A student of Gerlach's at Munich, O.C. Hilgenberg, published a paper in 1931 entitled 'About Gravitation, Vortices and Waves in Rotating Media'.... And yet, after the war, Gerlach, who died in 1979, apparently never returned to these matters, nor did he make any references to them; almost as if he had been forbidden to do so. That, or something he had seen...had scared him beyond all reason."]
Much to the Allies' puzzlement, their scientific teams found but crude attempts by Heisenberg to construct a functioning atomic reactor, attempts that were wholly unsatisfactory and unsuccessful, and almost unbelievably inept. This "German ineptitude" in basic bomb physics became, and remains, a central component of the Allied Legend. And yet, that itself raises yet another mystery of the badly written finale.
Top German scientists - Werner Heisenberg, Paul Hartek, Kurt Diebner, Erich Bagge, Otto Hahn, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, Karl Wirtz, Horst Korsching, and Walter Gerlach - were carted off to Farm Hall, England, where they were kept in isolation, and their conversations recorded. The transcripts, the celebrated "Farm Hall Transcripts", were only declassified by the British government in 1992! If the Germans were so far behind and so incompetent, why keep them classified for so long?" Bureaucratic oversight and inertia? Or did they contain things the Allies did not wish to be known even at that late date? [It was Manhattan project chief General Leslie Groves who, in fact, revealed in his 1962 book about the bomb, Now It Can Be Told, that the German scientists' conversations had been recorded by the British. Apparently, however, not everything could be told in 1962].
What a surface reading of the transcripts reveals only deepens the mystery considerably. In them, Heisenberg and company, after hearing of the a-bombing of Hiroshima by the Americans on the BBC, debate the endless moral issues of their own involvement in the atomic bomb projects of Nazi Germany.
But that is not all.
In the transcripts, Heisenberg and company, who had suffered some inexplicable mathematical and scientific dyslexia during the whole six years' course of the war, the same Heisenberg and company who could not even design and build a successful atomic reactor to produce plutonium for a bomb, suddenly become Nobel laureates and first rank physicists after the war. Indeed, Heisenberg himself within a matter of a few days of Hiroshima, gave a lecture to the assembled German scientists on the basic design of the bomb. In it, he defends his first assessment that the bomb would be about the size of a pineapple, and not the one or two ton monster he maintained throughout most of the war. And as we shall discover in the transcripts nuclear chemist Paul Hartek is close - perilously close - to the correct critical mass of uranium for the Hiroshima bomb. This demonstrable mathematical prowess raises yet another question directly confronting the Allied Legend, for some versions of that Legend would have it that the Germans never aggressively pursued bomb development because they had - via Heisenberg -overestimated the critical mass by several order of magnitude, thus rendering such a project impractical. Hartek had clearly done the calculations before, so Heisenberg's estimates were certainly not the only calculations the Germans had available to them. And with a small critical mass comes the practical feasibility of an atomic bomb.
In his August 14, 1945 "lecture" to the assembled German Farm Hall physicists, Heisenberg, according to Paul Lawrence Rose, used a tone and phrasing that indicated that "he has only just now understood the solution" to a small critical mass for the bomb, [Q.v. Paul Lawrence Rose, Heisenberg and the Nazi Atomic Bomb project: A Study in German Culture (Berkeley: 1998), pp. 217-221. Thomas Powers notes of Heisenberg's lecture that "this was something of a scientific tour de force -to come up with a working theory of bomb design in so short a time, after years of laboring under fundamental misconceptions." (Thomas Powers, Heisenberg's War: The Secret History of the German Bomb (1993), pp. 439-440)].
Samuel Goudsmit, of course, used the transcripts to construct his version of the Allied Legend: "That the German scientists were at odds with one another, that they didn't understand bomb physics, and that they concocted a false story of moral scruples to explain their scientific failures.... The sources of Goudsmit's conclusions are all obvious in the transcripts, but what leaps out at the reader now are the many statements which Goudsmit failed to notice, forgot, or deliberately overlooked." since "others" reported a critical mass of about 4 kg. This too only deepens the mystery. For Rose, an adherent of the Legend - though now in its highly modified post-Farm Hall declassification mode - the "others" could be the Allied press reports themselves.
In the years immediately after the war, the Dutch-Jewish Manhattan Project physicist Samuel Goudsmit explained the whole mystery, alone with many others, as being simply due to the Allies having been "better" nuclear scientists and engineers than the very Germans who had invented the whole discipline of quantum mechanics and nuclear physics. That explanation, in conjunction with Heisenberg's own sell-evidently clumsy attempts to construct a functioning reactor, served well enough until these transcripts were declassified.
With the appearance of the transcripts and their stunning revelations of Heisenberg's actual knowledge of atomic bomb design, and some of the other scientists' clear understanding of the means to enrich enough weapons grade uranium without having to have a functioning reactor, the Legend had to be "touched up" a bit. Thomas Powers' Heisenberg's War appeared, arguing somewhat persuasively that Heisenberg had actually sabotaged the German bomb program. And almost as soon as it appeared, Lawrence Rose countered with Heisenberg and the Nazi Atomic Bomb Project, arguing even more persuasively that Heisenberg had remained a loyal German and had not sabotaged anything, but that he simply labored under massive misconceptions of the nature of nuclear fission, and consequently over-calculated the critical mass needed to make a bomb during the war. The Germans never obtained the bomb, so the new version goes, because they never had a functioning reactor by which to enrich uranium to plutonium to make a bomb. Besides, having grossly overestimated the critical mass, they had no real impetus to pursue it. Simple enough, case closed once again.
But again, neither Powers' nor Rose's books really go to the heart of the mystery, for the Legend still requires the belief that "brilliant nuclear physicists including Nobel prize winners before the war, apparently struck by some strange malady which turned them into incompetent bunglers during the...War," [Philip Henshall, The Nuclear Axis: Germany, Japan, and the Atom Bomb Race 1939-45, "Introduction."] were suddenly and quite inexplicably cured of the malady within a few days of the bombing of Hiroshima! Moreover, two such widely diverging contemporary interpretations of the same material - Rose's and Powers' - only highlights the ambiguity of their contents in general, and Heisenberg's knowledge - or lack of it - in particular.
Matters are not helped by events on the other side of the world in the Pacific theater, for there American investigators would uncover similarly strange goings on after the war ended.
There, after Nagasaki, the Emperor Hirohito, overriding his ministers who wanted to continue the war, decided that Japan would surrender unconditionally. But why would Hirohito's ministers urge continuance of the war in the face of overwhelming Allied conventional arms superiority, and, from their point of view, facing a potential rain of atomic bombs? After all, "two" bombs could just as easily have turned into twenty. One could, of course, attribute the ministers' objections to the Emperor's intentions to "proud samurai traditions" and the Japanese sense of "honor" and so on. And that would indeed be a plausible explanation.
But another explanation is that Hirohito's cabinet ministers knew something.
What his ministers probably knew was what American intelligence would soon discover: that the Japanese, "just prior to their surrender, had developed and successfully test fired an atomic bomb. The project had been housed in or near Konan (Japanese name for Hungnam), Korea, in the peninsula's North." [Robert K. Wilcox, Japan's Secret War]. It was exploded, so the story goes, one day after the American plutonium bomb, "Fat Man", exploded over Nagasaki, i.e., on August 10, 1945. The war, in other words, depending on Hirohito's decision, could have "gone nuclear". By that time, of course it would have done Japan no good to prolong it, with no viable means of delivery of an atomic weapon to any worthwhile strategic American targets. The Emperor stood his ministers down. [The Japanese were, in fact, developing large cargo submarines to transport a bomb to West Coast American port cities to be detonated there, much like Einstein warned in his famous letter to President Roosevelt that initiated the Manhattan Project. Of course, Einstein was more worried about the Germans using such a method of ship-born delivery, than the Japanese].
These allegations constitute yet another difficulty for the Allied Legend, for where did Japan obtain the necessary uranium for its (alleged) A-bomb? And more importantly, the technology to enrich it? Where did it build and assemble such a weapon? Who was responsible for its development?
The answers possibly explain events far in the future, and even possibly down to our own day. Yet even now, we have only begun to penetrate into the heart of this "badly written finale." There are also the "odd little, and little known, details" to consider.
Why, for example, in 1944, did a lone Junkers 390 bomber, a massive six engine heavy-lift ultra long-range transport aircraft capable of round trip intercontinental flight from Europe to North America, fly to within less than twenty miles of New York City, photograph the skyline of Manhattan, and return to Europe? [Italy, as well, launched long-range air missions to Japan]. Germany launched several such top secret long-distance flights during the war, using these and other heavy-lift ultra-long range aircraft. But what was their purpose, and more importantly, the purpose of this unique flight? That such a flight was extremely risky goes without saying. What were the Germans up to with this enormous aircraft, and why would they even risk such an operation just to take pictures, when they only ever had two of these enormous six engine monsters available?
Finally, and to round out the Legend, there are the odd details of the German surrender and the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunals. Why does former Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, mass murderer and one of human history's most notorious criminals, try to negotiate a surrender to the Western Allies? Of course, one can dismiss this as delusion, and Himmler was certainly delusional. But what could he possibly have thought he had to offer the Allies in return for a surrender to the West, and the sparing of his own wretched life?
What of the strangeness around the Nuremberg Tribunals themselves? The Legend is well known: obvious war criminals like Reichmarschall Göring, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Army Chief of Operations Staff Colonel-General Alfred Jodl, are sent swinging from the gallows, or, in Göring's case, cheating the hangman by swallowing cyanide. Other Nazi bigwigs like Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, mastermind of Germany's devastating U-boat campaign against Allied shipping, or Minister of Armaments Albert Speer, or Finance Minister and Reichsbank President Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht, were imprisoned.
Missing from the docket of the accused, of course, were the Pennemünde rocket scientists headed by Dr. Wernher von Braun and General Walter Dornberger, already headed to America to take charge of America's ballistic missile and space programs along with a host of scientists, engineers and technicians under the then super secret Project Paperclip. [The best sources on the overall outlines of Operation Paperclip are Mark Aaron's and John Loftus' Unholy Trinity: the Vatican, Nazis, and Soviet Intelligence (New York: St Martin's Press. 1991), and Christopher Simpson's Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. 1988)]. They, like their nuclear physics counterparts in Germany, had seemingly suffered from a similar "bungler's malady", for once having produced the first successful V-l and V-2 prototypes comparatively early in the war, they suffered a similar lack of inspiration and ingenuity and (so the Legend goes) managed to produce only "paper rockets" and theoretical study projects after that.
But perhaps most significantly, by joint agreement of the Allied and Soviet prosecutors at Nuremberg, missing from evidence in the tribunal was the vast amount of documentary evidence implicating the Nazi regime in occult belief systems and practice, [22Q.v., Jean-Michel Angebert, The Occult and the Third Reich (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974); Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology (New York: New York University Press. 1992); Michael Howard, The Occult Conspiracy: Secret Societies - Their Influence and Power in World History (Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books, 1989); Peter Levenda, Unholy Alliance: A History of Nazi involvement with the Occult (New York: Avon Books, 1995); Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, The Morning of the Magicians, trans from the French by Rollo Meyers (new York: Stein and Day, 1964); Dusty Sklar, The Nazis and the Occult (New York: Dorset Press, 1977); James Webb, The Occult Establishment and The Occult Underground (LaSalle, Illinois: Open Court 1988)] a fact that has given rise to a whole "mythology, and one that has never been adequately explored in connection with its possible influence on the development of German secret weapons during the war. [It should be noted that the SS Ahnenerbedienst did come under the tribunal's scrutiny].
Finally, a curious fact, one of those obvious things that one lends to overlook unless attention is drawn to it: the atomic bomb test that took place at the Trinity site in New Mexico was a test of America's implosion-plutonium bomb, a test needed to see if the concept would actually work. It did, and magnificently. But what is immensely significant - a fact missing from almost all mainstream literature on the subject since the end of the war - is that the uranium bomb with its apparatus of a cannon shooting the critical mass of uranium together, the bomb that was actually first used in war, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, was never tested. As German author Friedrich Georg notes, this tears a rather gaping hole in the Allied Legend:
Also another question is of great importance: Why was the uranium bomb of the USA, unlike the plutonium bomb, not tested prior to being hurled on Japan? Militarily this would appear to be extremely dangerous.... Did the Americans simply forget to test it, or did others already do it for them?
The Allied Legend accounts for this in various ways, some ingenious, some not so ingenious, but basically they boil down to the assertion that it was never tested because it did not need to be, so confident were Allied engineers that it would work. So we have been asked to believe, by the post-war Allied spin, that the American military dropped an atomic bomb of untested design, based on concepts of physics that were very new and themselves very untested, on an enemy city, an enemy also known to be working on acquiring the atomic bomb as well!
It is indeed a badly written, truly incredible, finale to the world's most horrendous war.