Venona Files Reviewed
I read the July/August “Intrigue” article by Peter Kross on the Venona project with interest, until I reached p. 73. The facts stated there pertaining to Donald MacLean are incorrect. He was head of Chancery from 1944 to 1948 at the British Embassy, and in 1947 he was designated to act as the United Kingdom’s secretary on the Combined Policy Committee, concerned with atomic energy matters. Toward the end of his stay he began—again—to drink rather excessively. In 1948 he was posted to Egypt as counsellor and head of Chancery. His drinking had become excessive. He was posted to Britain in May 1950. In November, MacLean was appointed head of the American Department at the Foreign Office. He left that post on May 25, 1951. He was scheduled to be interrogated on May 28, but at 11:45 p.m. on May 25, he embarked at Southampton, later resurfacing behind the Iron Curtain. In August 1950, Anthony Burgess was posted to the British Embassy as first secretary. It is somewhat difficult to imagine any reason for the appointment. Whether Kim Philby, with whom he had spent some time, told him to help MacLean escape is open to question.
Westmount, Quebec, Canada
In reading Justin James’ letter in the November 2006 issue, emphasizing the superiority of Wehrmacht troops during World War II (and referring to the interview with Edward Shames that appeared in June’s MH), I was reminded of a German woman’s admonishment to several American officers, including me, during the early 1950s. She had been listening to our discussion about German generals such as Erwin Rommel, Erich von Manstein, Gerd von Rundstedt, Hasso von Manteuffel and Walther Model. She eventually interrupted us and asked why, if German generalship was so great, did Germany lose two world wars.
I’d also like to point out that the kill-rate criterion used by James to assess the superiority of the German military machine smacks of the infamous “body count” concept employed during the Vietnam War. Defeating an opposing force and undermining its willingness to continue hostilities determines success in battle. Stephen Ambrose’s “citizen soldiers,” along with the forces of Allied nations, accomplished that in WWII.
Colonel Edward Basanez
U.S. Army (ret.)
Levy and the Appeasement Myth
I read with interest the September 2006 “Perspectives” article by James Levy regarding the historical myths of Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement. Levy seems to take the position that appeasement was a cunning strategy by Chamberlain to buy time until the French and British could militarily match the Germans. History would seem to indicate that Chamberlain’s intention was to avoid war by essentially giving Adolf Hitler what he thought Hitler wanted in the mistaken assumption that the Nazi dictator could be satiated. I’m not aware of any evidence that indicates Chamberlain was merely biding his time waiting for a French and British military buildup.
I would further dispute Levy’s assertion that appeasement put France and Britain in a stronger position vis-à-vis Germany in 1939. Winston Churchill certainly did not think so, and he bemoaned the loss of Czechoslovakia, Poland and Russia as a substantial military counterbalance in the East. It was appeasement that cost the Allies this Eastern counterbalance. There are few lessons in history so well-documented as the failure of appeasement. It has obvious implications for today.
Tim P. Huston
San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
I have yet to hear of any historian worth his credentials laying total blame for World War II on Chamberlain, nor have I read any historian claim that he should have foreseen the Holocaust. The author took three pages of text to present his argument and conveniently (or deliberately) left out the most important fact: His appeasement plan sold Czechoslovakia into the horrors of Nazi slavery. That one act is the thing he is remembered for. The only myth I find in this article is the idea that appeasement works. Appeasement didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now.
Port Huron, Mich.
James Levy responds: First, if the Czechs wanted to fight, nobody was stopping them, certainly not Chamberlain. They chose to roll over. In 1940 Norway fought back, and in 1956 Hungary did too, both with almost no chance of success. In 1938 and 1968 the Czechs did nothing. Again in March 1939, the Germans marched on Prague, and the Czechs didn’t even sabotage their armaments industry, let alone fire a shot in defense of their independence. Additionally, the Poles (historically a much larger and more powerful ethnic group than the Czechs) took on the Germans one year later and were done in 28 days. France and Britain were knocked out of the land war after about 31 days. Realistically, how long were the Czechoslovakians going to hold up against the Nazis? Of all the myths of the interwar years, the idea that the Czechs were some great asset squandered by the British and French at Munich is one of the most persistent and fallacious.
Nürnberg, Not Dresden
On P. 19 of the November 2006 issue I noticed an incorrectly captioned photo. The scene, described as the “ruins of Dresden,” is actually a view of bombed-out Nürnberg. It shows the steeple of St. Maria’s Church, where I had my Confirmation in 1938.
The photo of Brig. Gen. William R. Bond on P. 58 of Philip Beidler’s essay “Fort Morality” in the December 2006 issue should have been credited to www.Virtual
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