June 25

1863 Countdown to Infamy: Captain Simon Cooper, commanding the US merchant steamer Pembroke near the Shimonoseki Strait, is fired upon by rebel Japanese forces on two European-built warships. The rebels' battle cry is: "Revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians!" Pembroke somehow manages to escape with no casualties and only minor damage. (Satow, Craig)

[See: Countdown to Infamy.]

1894 Birth: Hermann Oberth in Germany—will help found modern astronautics:

By his own account and that of many others, around the age of 11 Oberth became fascinated with the field in which he was to make his mark through the writings of Jules Verne, especially From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon, re-reading them to the point of memorization. Influenced by Verne's books and ideas, Oberth constructed his first model rocket as a school student of 14. In his youthful experiments, he arrived independently at the concept of the multistage rocket, but lacked, at the time, the resources to pursue his idea on any but a theoretical level.

In 1928 and 1929 Oberth worked in Berlin as scientific consultant on the first film ever to have scenes set in space, Frau im Mond (The Woman in the Moon), directed at Universum Film AG by Fritz Lang. The film was of enormous value in popularizing the idea of rocket science. Oberth lost the sight in his left eye in an experiment for this film . . . . 

In autumn 1929, Oberth launched his first liquid fuel rocket, named Kegeld?se. He was helped in this experiment by his students at the Technical University of Berlin, one of whom was Wernher von Braun, who would later head the wartime project to develop the rocket officially called the A4, but far better known today as the V1.

In 1950 he went on to Italy where, for the Italian navy, he completed the work he had begun at WASAG. In 1953 he returned to Feucht to publish his book Menschen im Weltraum (Man in Space) in which he described his ideas for a space-based reflector telescope, a space station, an electric spaceship, and space suits. In the 1950s, Oberth offered his opinions regarding unidentified flying objects; he was a supporter of the extraterrestrial hypothesis. Oberth eventually (July, 1956) came to work for his ex-student von Braun developing space rockets.

1895 Alois Hitler: Higher Collector of the Royal and Imperial Civil Service, retires, at the age of 58, on an ample pension. Though retiring early to devote his remaining years to the (what might be presumed) idyllic existence of a peasant farmer, Alois is nevertheless firmly convinced that his sons, especially the under-achieving eldest, Alois II, could do no better in life than to follow in their father's footsteps by entering the civil service. After devoting the major part of his adult life to furthering his career, the previously much absent father now has the time to become involved in the lives of his children. [For further details, Click here.]

1900 Birth: Lord Louis Mountbatten:

On this day in 1900, Lord Louis Mountbatten, British admiral and second cousin to King George VI, is born.

Louis Mountbatten was born in Windsor, England, the fourth child of Prince Louis of Battenberg and his wife, Princess Victoria, granddaughter of Queen Victoria. He entered the Royal Navy at age 13. Among his many assignments was that of aide-de-camp to the then Prince of Wales in 1921. He attained the rank of captain in 1932 and became a French and German interpreter shortly thereafter. When the Second World War broke out, he was given the command of the destroyer Kelly, which was attacked by 24 German bombers off the coast of Crete and sunk in 1941. (Mountbatten swam to shore and took control of the rescue effort.)

An able commander and a courageous soldier, Mountbatten was given ever greater responsibilities: first that of command of Combined Operations, then that of Supreme Allied Commander of Southeast Asia. His cousin, the king, would have to fend off accusations of nepotism in granting such appointments, despite Mountbatten's gifts.

Mountbatten led the capture of Burma from Japanese control and later accepted the surrender of Japanese land forces in September 1945. He then went on to become the last British viceroy of India and an able negotiator of independence for both India and Pakistan. He was created Viscount Mountbatten of Burma in 1946 and admiral of the Royal Mediterranean fleet in 1956. Other positions he later held include that of chief of the U.K. defense staff, chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, and finally governor and lord lieutenant of the Isle of Wight.

Mountbatten's distinguished career came to an end on August 26, 1979, when an Irish Republican Army bomb exploded on his boat, killing him. (History.com)

1907 Birth: J Hans D Jensen: in Germany, physicist; atomic nuclei-Nobel 1963.

1915 World War I: Various:

List Regiment: Gefreiter Adolf Hitler's 16 Reserve Infantry Regiment continues to occupy a position at Fromelles—pictured above in a drawing by Hitler&mdashon a level field with water channels, willow trees and willow stalks. In the distance towards the enemy lines, lies an insignificant wood with barbed wire entanglements. Under the direction of their defense-minded commander, Lieutenant General Gustav Scanzoni von Lichtenfels, the regiment works ceaselessly day and night to further fortify their position at Fromelles while fighting off repeated assaults by the enemy. [For further details, Click here.]

German Statement on the Use of Poison Gas at the Second Battle of Ypres:

The essence of the statement was straightforward: French criticism of Germany's use of poison gas was hypocritical given that France had itself pioneered use of gas some months earlier. To substantiate Germany's claim the text of a French War Ministry memo dated 21 February 1915—i.e. prior to the opening of 2nd Ypres - was published.

1916 World War I: List Regiment: Gefreiter Adolf Hitler endures trench warfare in Flanders (Artois) with 3 Company, 16 Reserve Infantry Regiment. [For further details, Click here.]

Hitler and his fellow dispatch runners

1917 World War I: List Regiment: Gefreiter Adolf Hitler's 16th RIR is deployed for Phase 1 operations in Flanders, Belgium. [For further details, Click here.]

1918 World War I: Various:

Bouresche and Belleau Wood captured by the Marine Brigade of the US Second Division: The Marines suffer 9,500 casualties, almost 55 percent. Click here to read the text of U.S. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniel's account of the battle.

List Regiment (June 17-27): Gefreiter Adolf Hitler's 16th RIR is given a ten day rest, during which time they pick up 329 reinforcements and an influx of lightly wounded and mildly sick men from field hospitals. [For further details, Click here.]

1919 The first advanced monoplane airliner takes to the skies:

The F13, developed and manufactured by Hugo Junkers in June 1919, was the first commercial all-metal aircraft ever produced. In the following years it became the first aircraft designed for the economical needs of the international air traffic. The very simple and cleanly designed aircraft successfully completed its first-flight on June 25, 1919 in Dessau, Germany.

A then novelty of the aerodynamic passenger aircraft was a trim-tank mounted in the tail of the aircraft: By means of filling it or emptying this fuel tank, a shift of the center of gravity could be adjusted during long distance flights. Thus, a pilot was relieved of permanently fighting the stick, since the required power for steering was reduced to zero. This type of aircraft trim is still applied today in Airbus aircraft and the Concorde. After successful testing, this modern passenger aircraft established an altitude record of 6.750 meters on September 13, 1919. [For further details, Click here.]

1934 Holocaust: Professor Lenz says at a meeting of the Expert Advisory Council for Population and Race Policy: "As things are now, it is only a minority of our fellow citizens who are so endowed that their unrestricted procreation is good for the race." (THP)

1936 Church and Reich: A Swiss Catholic reportedly asks children to pray for the death of Adolf Hitler. The German press quickly accuses all Catholics of being in sympathy with sedition. (THP)

1940 World War II: Various:

Reich Foreign Minister (Joachim von Ribbentrop) to German Ambassador in the USSR (Schulenburg):

Please call on Herr Molotov and state the following:

1. Germany is abiding by the Moscow agreements. She takes, therefore, no interest in the Bessarabian question. In this territory live approximately 100,000 Volksdeutsche. Germany is naturally interested in the fate of these Volksdeutsche and expects their future to be safeguarded. The Reich Government reserves the right to make certain proposals to the Soviet Government at the appropriate time concerning the question of resettling these Volksdeutsche in the same manner as the Volksdeutsche in Volhynia.

2. The claim of the Soviet Government to Bucovina is something new. Bucovina was formerly an Austrian crown province and is densely populated with Germans. Germany is also particularly interested in the fate of these Volksdeutsche.

3. In the rest of Rumania Germany has very important [staerkste] economic interests. These interests include oil fields as well as agricultural land. Germany is, therefore, as we have repeatedly informed the Soviet Government, extremely interested in preventing these areas from becoming a theater of war.

4. Although fully sympathetic toward the settling of the Bessarabian problem, the Reich Government is, therefore, of the opinion that  . . everything should be done in order to reach a peaceful solution of the Bessarabian question with the Rumanian Government. For its part the Reich Government would be prepared, in the spirit of the Moscow agreements, to advise Rumania, if necessary, to reach an amicable settlement of the Bessarabian question satisfactory to Russia. Please point out again clearly to Herr Molotov our great interest in Rumania's not becoming a theater of war. As matters stand, we are of the opinion that a peaceful settlement in accordance with Russian views is altogether possible, provided the problem is properly handled. We should be grateful to the Soviet Government for a communication concerning its ideas as to further treatment of the matter.

Holocaust: A paper by Professor Lorenz, "Disturbances of species-specific behavior caused by domestication" appears. He writes:

There is a certain similarity between the measures which need to be taken when we draw a broad biological analogy between bodies and malignant tumors, on the one hand, and a nation and individuals within it who have become asocial because of their defective constitution, on the other hand . . . . 

Any attempt at reconstruction using elements which have lost their proper nature and characteristics is doomed to failure. Fortunately, the elimination of such elements is easier for the public health physician and less dangerous for the supra-individual organism, than such an operation by a surgeon would be for the individual organism. (THP)

[See: What Was the Nature of Hitler's Anti-Semitism?]

The Franco-German armistice takes effect: Two-thirds of France now comes under Nazi control. Click here for terms.

[See: Was Adolf Hitler a 'Great' Military Leader?]

USA: Increased income taxes are introduced—to pay for Roosevelt's armament expenditures—and bring in an additional 2.2 million people who never before had been required to pay income taxes.

Romania: A new government is set up in Bucharest and several Legionaries are given appointments to minor positions.

Operation Sealion: General Hans Jeschonnek, the perceptive chief of the German air staff, is asked by the OKW to help prepare invasion plans for Britain. He refuses, telling them, "There won't be any invasion, and I have no time to waste on planning one."

1942 World War II: Various:

Major General Dwight Eisenhower is appointed commander of US forces in Europe. On the same day, General Sir Claude Auchinleck becomes commander of the British Eighth Army in North Africa.

War in the Air: Some 1,000 Royal Air Force bombers raid Bremen, Germany.

Ultra/Magic: This day's Magic Summaries, detailing intelligence decrypts of Japanese and German coded traffic, contain a circular sent out to Japanese Embassies from Togo's Foreign Office. "All British and US interests in East Asia now belong to Japan, and all British and American influence in China must be eliminated." The circular goes on to say that the French Concession (in Southeast Asia) will not be eliminated "immediately" because (Vichy) France is cooperating with Japan. However, the French concession must be "broken up" because "it may well become a fountainhead of activity for the Axis and various neutral countries of Europe and Asia." (Lee)

1944 World War II: Various:

OKW's reply to the inquiry from the Supreme Command West, signed by Wilhelm Keitel, initialed by Warlimont and Alfred Jodl:

Subject: Treatment of commando participants

1. Even after the landing of Anglo-Americans in France, the order of the Fuehrer on the annihilation of terror and sabotage units of 18 October 1942 remains fully in force. Enemy soldiers in uniform in the immediate combat area of the bridgehead, that is, in the area of the divisions fighting in the most forward lines, as well as of the reserves up to the corps commands, according to Number 5 of the basic order of 18 October 1942, remain exempted.

2. All members of terror and sabotage units, found outside the immediate combat area, who include fundamentally all parachutists, are to be killed in combat. In special cases, they are to be turned over to the SD.

3. All troops committed outside the combat area of Normandy are to be informed about the duty to destroy enemy terror and sabotage units briefly and succinctly, according to the directives issued for it.

4. Supreme Commander West will report immediately daily how many saboteurs have been liquidated in this manner. This applies especially also to undertakings by the military commanders. The number is to be published daily in the Armed Forces' communiqué to exercise a frightening effect, as had already been done toward previous commando undertakings in the same manner."

From Keitel's IMT testimony:

It is true that the Commander-in-Chief West, after the landing of Anglo-American forces in Northern France, considered that a new situation had arisen with reference to this Fuehrer Order of 18 October 1942 directed against the parachute Commandos. The inquiry was, as usual, reported, and General Jodl and I represented the view of the Commander-in-Chief West, namely, that this order was not applicable here. Hitler refused to accept that point of view and gave certain directives in reply, which, according to the document, had at least two editions; after one had been cancelled as useless, the Document 551-PS remained as the final version as approved by the Fuehrer during that report. I remember all this so accurately because, on the occasion of presenting that reply during the discussion of the situation, this handwritten appendix was added by General Jodl with reference to the application in the Italian theatre, too. With that appendix, this version, which was approved and demanded by Hitler, was then sent out to the Commander-in-Chief West . . . .

I am of the opinion that, giving any assistance to agents or other enemy organs in such sabotage acts, is a violation of the Hague Rules for Land Warfare. If the population takes part in, aids, or supports such action, or covers the perpetrators—hides them or helps them in any way or in any form—that, in my opinion, is clearly expressed in the Hague Rules for Land Warfare, namely that the population must not commit such actions.

Churchill to Stalin:

We now rejoice in the opening results of your immense operations, and will not cease by every human means to broaden our fronts engaged with the enemy and to have the fighting kept at the utmost intensity . . . . 

We have had bitter fighting on the British front, where four out of five Panzer divisions are engaged . . . . 

You may safely disregard all the German rubbish about the results of their flying bomb. It has had no appreciable effect upon the production or life of London. Casualties during the seven days it has been used are between ten and eleven thousand. The streets and parks remain full of people enjoying the sunshine when off work or duty. Parliament debates continuously throughout the alarms. The rocket development may be more formidable when it comes. The people are proud to share in a small way the perils of our own soldiers and of your soldiers, who are highly admired in Britain.

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: Constantin von Neurath: The former German Foreign Minister and diplomat resumes the stand:

Dr von Ludinghausen (von Neurath's counsel): In connection with the last point, I should like to put one more question about the position of Jews in the Protectorate. What can you tell us about it?

Von Neurath: The legal position of the Jews had to be coordinated with the position of the Jews in the Reich, according to instructions from Berlin. The directives with regard to this had been sent to me already in April of 1939. Through all sorts of inquiries addressed to Berlin, I tried and succeeded in not having the laws go into effect until June 1939, so as to give the Jews the opportunity to prepare themselves for the imminent introduction of these laws. The so-called Nuremberg Laws were introduced into the Protectorate, too, at that time. Thereby, the Jews were removed from public life and from leading positions in the economic life. However, arrests on a large scale did not take place. There were also no excesses against Jews, except in a few single instances. The camp at Theresienstadt was not erected until long after my time of office, and I prevented the erection of other concentration camps in the Protectorate, too.

Dr von Ludinghausen: The Czech report accuses you of personally carrying through anti-Jewish measures. They maintain that, first of all, you charged the Czech Government, that is to say the autonomous government, with the carrying through of the anti-Jewish laws and that when Ministerprasident Elias refused to do so, you personally took the necessary steps.

Von Neurath: As I said just now, the introduction of the anti-Jewish laws came about on Hitler's direct order. [For the full text of today's proceedings, Click here.]

1950 Cold War: Ratcheting up the Cold War another notch, North Korea, with the backing of the USSR and the People's Republic of China, invades South Korea. This will provide an opportunity for the von Braun Team when the Army orders a feasibility study for a surface-to-surface ballistic missile with a range of 500 miles. Note: Werner von Braun, Hitler's former chief rocket scientist, is now working for the US. See: July 10, 1951. (Piszkiewicz)

[See: Wunderwaffen: Hitler's Deception and the History of Rocketry.]

1954 Wunderwaffen: A meeting attended by Werner von Braun is held in Washington DC, to discuss the idea of launching an artificial satellite. It is proposed that off-the-shelf technology be used, to launch a 15 to 20 pound satellite on the tip of a Redstone. A joint Army-Navy working group is formed to plan what is known as Project Orbiter.

1988 Death: Mildred Gillars in Columbus, Ohio, at age 87. Note: Gillars had served 12 years in prison for treason.

Out of the 12 Americans indicted for treason following World War II, all but five were radio broadcasters — a fact all of us at WFMU can be proud of. One of the most notorious to be convicted was Mildred Gillars, or "Axis Sally" as she was known to the GI's who heard her Radio Berlin broadcasts. A graduate of Hunter College in New York, Gillars went to France to study music in 1929 after failing as an actress. By 1934 she was in Germany, where she fell for former Hunter professor Max Otto Koischewitz. Koischewitz became Radio Berlin's Program Director, and Gillars became his star propaganda broadcaster. Typically, she did a DJ program — breaking up the music with anti-semitic raps. "Damn Roosevelt! Damn Churchill!", went one of her tirades. "Damn all Jews who made this war possible. I love America, but I do not love Roosevelt and all his kike boyfriends."

"Axis Sally" also liked to air messages from American POWs. Telling the POWs she visited that she was a Red Cross representative, she enticed them to send happy messages to suggest that living under the Nazis, even in POW camps, was a good thing. Once on the air, she would intercut POWs messages with propaganda, despite having promised the prisoners not to do so.

Despite all her other antics, "Axis Sally" was convicted on the basis of just one broadcast, a radio drama called "Vision of Invasion" that—on the eve of D-Day—sought to scare GI's out of invading occupied Europe. In the play, the mother of an Ohio soldier sees her son in a dream. He tells her that he's already dead, his ship having been destroyed mid-invasion by Germans. GI's can be heard sobbing and shrieking in the background, and the effect of the broadcast is said to have been chilling.

2006 Death: Jaap Penraat: Dutch architect who smuggled 406 Jewish men to safety:

Mr. Penraat, whose first name is pronounced ''yahp,'' refused for many years to talk about his wartime experience. When he finally did, he simply said that he had done the decent thing. ''You do these things because in your mind there is no other way of doing it,'' he said in an interview withThe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2000.

He was imprisoned when his counterfeiting was discovered. He was tortured, but told his captors nothing. There were harrowing experiences as he shepherded Jews masquerading as construction workers across Europe. Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to victims of the Holocaust, awarded Mr. Penraat the designation ''Righteous Among the Nations'' and put him on its honor roll in Jerusalem. His medal carried this proverb: ''He who saves a single human life saves the entire universe.''

Most Dutch Jews did not survive the Holocaust; of the 140,000 who lived there before the Nazis invaded on May 10, 1940, about 110,000 died . . . . He was a young architect and draftsman when Nazi occupiers took escalating measures against Jews. First, they were prohibited from being air-raid wardens, then barred from the civil service, then made to register. A secret resistance formed to help them. Mr. Penraat, then in his 20's and a non-practicing Christian, marshaled his design talents to make fake identity cards. A friend married to a German gave him copies of official papers and stamps for models. He was soon discovered and went to prison for several months.

The situation for Jews worsened, and resistance cells raced to make false travel papers. But escaping the country was hard, because Germans controlled countries and seas bordering the Netherlands. Mr. Penraat and his friends devised a plan to disguise Jews as construction workers for the wall that Hitler was building along France's Atlantic Coast. He forged travel documents, using a real construction company's letterhead. He took the Jews to Lille, France, where he presented them to the French underground for transport to neutral Spain. He made about 20 trips, accompanying about 20 Jews each time.

Once, he approached German guards outside a school and told them his laborers needed lodging. He complained about the food, but called this ''one of the first times a German Army played host to a bunch of Jews.'' Only one of the men moved by Mr. Penraat died, and that man was accidentally hit by a train. But Mr. Penraat trembled whenever he handed papers to a clerk.

''You're there, a woman walks away and either she comes back with papers or she comes back with soldiers,'' he said in an interview with The Poughkeepsie Journal. ''And they would shoot you right then and there, so other people could see what happens when you do anything against the German Army.'' . . . .  After 1944, the trips were too risky, and Mr. Penraat hid in a village, subsisting on sugar beets.

Edited by Levi Bookin (Copy editor)

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