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Hitler Feared Failure As Early As April 1942, Wartime Analyst Concluded

Adolf Hitler was sounding like a beaten man as early as April 1942, according to a recently uncovered British intelligence report.

A British analyst, psychiatrist John T. MacCurdy, set out “to reconstruct, if possible, what was in Hitler’s mind” when the dictator addressed the Reichstag on April 26, 1942. In his analysis, conducted soon after Hitler delivered the speech, MacCurdy diagnosed a despondent, delusional leader who had given up on overrunning the Soviet Union and bombing Britain into submission. Instead, Hitler was increasingly paranoid— and obsessed with what he called “the Jewish poison.”

MacCurdy’s analysis of Hitler’s mental state, stamped “secret,” was found recently by a University of Cambridge researcher. The report terms Hitler “a man who is seriously contemplating the possibility of utter defeat.”

Frustrated by setbacks on the Eastern Front and the failure of Luftwaffe raids on London, Hitler had high hopes for a U-boat campaign.

MacCurdy notes that Hitler spent a mere 65 words characterizing German successes on the Eastern Front— and “some 700 in the description of the horrors of the Russian winter. One’s impression is that he was more disheartened by the winter than he was confident of the future.”

Hitler also made little effort to urge Germans on.

“There is little of the inspiring crusader,” the psychiatrist concluded. The content of the speech “focused rather on his demand for the legal right to override laws,” MacCurdy said.

After offering praise for the military and Nazi Party institutions, Hitler went on merely to demand more sacrifice of civilians—for example, overriding their right to time off from work.

In his report on the dictator to the British government, MacCurdy suggested ways in which the Allies could exploit their foe’s apparently defeatist outlook: make much of Britons living in comfort and cranking out ever more armaments to suggest U-boats were flopping, and generate propaganda to “taunt the Luftwaffe with its impotence” and “emphasize the power of the RAF” to destroy German food supplies and communications.

The German leader was also sounding increasingly messianic, the psychiatrist said. “Hitler is caught up in a web of religious delusions,” MacCurdy wrote.

“The Jews are the incarnation of Evil, while he is the incarnation of the spirit of Good. He is a god by whose sacrifice victory over Evil may be achieved,” he added. “The notion of a great military victory has passed onto the background, while he poses more as a martyr.”

MacCurdy’s insights are chilling given the timing: in January 1942, at the Wannsee Conference, Nazi officials had revealed their “Final Solution to the Jewish question.”

University of Cambridge researcher Scott Anthony found the report while studying British market researcher Mark Abrams, who assigned MacCurdy to probe Hitler’s mind. Abrams, a pioneer in polling and market research, went on to predict the importance of the teenage consumer as the Baby Boom was reaching adolescence.

Mixing Up the Years—and the Images

Russian photographer Sergey Larenkov creates ghostly images that mash up eras by blending contemporary color photographs of European cities with World War II–vintage photos showing the same locations. Adolf Hitler and entourage stand before the Eiffel Tower, seemingly posing for Japanese sightseers. Soviet Field Marshal Georgi Zhukov pauses by the Reichstag in Berlin, surrounded by rubble and triumphant Russian graffiti and trailed by a modern-day father leading a toddler. A Soviet tank rumbles down a German boulevard— past a Burger King.

Larenkov, 42, is from St. Petersburg. His grandparents survived the two-year German siege of that city, called Leningrad at the time.

“I have got two daughters,” he told Britain’s Daily Mail. “My youngest asked me to tell her about the war and I decided to show her. So I started making collages.” He finds old photographs, travels to where they were taken, exposes a new picture, and blends them digitally. The images appear at sergey-larenkov.

Latest Attempt to Clear Kimmel of Pearl Blame Fails

A formal rejection letter is the latest setback for descendants of Admiral Husband E. Kimmel as they continue to try to clear the name of the man who shouldered a large share of the blame for the debacle at Pearl Harbor.

Thomas Kimmel Jr. recently learned that the United States Naval Institute has refused to publish his defense of his grandfather in its periodicals, Naval History and Proceedings. The younger Kimmel’s latest gesture came after Naval Institute Press announced it would reissue Samuel Eliot Morison’s magisterial 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, a series that includes the 1948 classic Rising Sun in the Pacific.

In Rising Sun, Morison harshly judged Kimmel for failing to heed warnings and ready Pearl Harbor’s defenses. Morison’s opinion reflected the official verdict at the time. Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet on December 7, 1941, Kimmel was demoted to rear admiral soon after the Japanese attack and left the navy in 1942.

But Morison had second thoughts as evidence emerged that officials in Washington withheld crucial intelligence from Kimmel as well as from Lieutenant General Walter Short, who commanded army forces in Hawaii. Morison’s change of heart solidified after he read Walter Lord’s popular Pearl Harbor narrative Day of Infamy and Roberta Wohlstetter’s Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision, a classic account of intelligence failures that gained renewed popularity after the 9/11 attacks. In a 1961 letter to the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association, Morison offered to endorse any effort to reinstate Husband Kimmel’s four-star rank. Admiral Kimmel died in 1968; Morison, in 1976.

When the Naval Institute Press began republishing Morison’s books, in 2010, Thomas Kimmel Jr., sought to set the record straight in the institute’s magazines. He wrote that the publishing division “should ensure that readers are aware of Mr. Morison’s revised analysis, and the shortcomings that led to it.” The institute made no response until late last March, when a “standard publication rejection letter” arrived, he said.

Kimmel continues to press his case with the institute, calling the rehabilitation of Admiral Kimmel a “matter of national honor.” He has not heard back.

Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton also rejected bids to reinstate the admiral’s rank.

Spitfires in the Hole?

David Cundall spent 15 years hunting buried treasure—not doubloons or pieces of eight, but fighter planes. The British farmer had heard that Royal Air Force Spitfires were buried in southeast Asian jungles, and was determined to find them. This spring, Cundall says, he located a cache of the venerated fighter planes interred in the forest in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. The find has generated controversy over the ownership of the planes as well as their existence.

Cundall says his quest began in 1997, when a group of American veterans told archaeologist Jim Pierce, a friend of Cundall’s, that in August 1945 they planted the planes underground.“They told Jim,‘We’ve done some pretty silly things in our time, but the silliest was burying Spitfires,’” Cundall told the Sydney Morning Herald.

At war’s end a used fighter was junk, but attrition has made intact examples of the aircraft that helped win the Battle of Britain extraordinarily valuable.

Intrigued, Cundall placed ads trying to find the men alleged to have buried the craft. He won the trust of Myanmar’s junta and visited that country a dozen times. Using ground-penetrating radar, he says, he found the planes—crated and seemingly in good condition—40 feet underground at a site he won’t disclose. Cundall hopes that investors will help get the historic fighters back into the sky. “Spitfires are beautiful airplanes and should not be rotting away in a foreign land. They should be preserved.” After his first report, Cundall suggested more planes may be buried around Myanmar.

Controversy arose over the buried planes when British billionaire Steve Boultbee Brooks, an aviation enthusiast and one of the proprietors of an airfield that specializes in vintage aircraft flight and lessons, got involved. Media reports have Boultbee Brooks, who traveled with Prime Minister James Cameron on a goodwill mission to Myanmar, jousting with Cundall over who owns the fabled planes. In addition, the phenomenon’s improbability has some experienced observers wondering whether any aircraft ever actually went into the ground.

“Generally, after the war aircraft weren’t buried as being described in Burma,” says British aviation historian and documentary filmmaker Andy Saunders, who has worked on World War II aircraft and artifact recovery projects since 1969. “In Europe, it was standard to fill bomb craters with plane hulks and other debris. However, to excavate for, crane in, and cover over so many planes would require a massive effort. I have heard that no one dug a hole for these aircraft but instead that they were placed in a dry riverbed and had an airfield extended over them. That’s a bit more believable. But we’re also being told there may be more locations in Burma, with more than a hundred planes buried. They seem to be multiplying underground. I want to believe these planes are there. Some very sane people seem very happy to throw a lot of money at the pursuit of this dream, but….”

“To the best of our knowledge, it was not RAF official policy to bury unwanted aircraft,” Royal Air Force Museum curator Andrew Simpson said in an e-mail. “Buried aeroplanes do turn up, but more by local accident than central design.”

Cundall did not respond to requests for comment; Boultbee Flight Academy declined to comment.


Originally published in the October 2012 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.