by Mike Vanderboegh
13 May 2008
“It is only the dead who have seen the end of war” -- Plato, 428 BC - 348 BC
"I hate war." -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1940, when he was running for a third term.
"Maybe somebody just forgot what it was like."
Last week, on 7 May, was the anniversary of V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day) -- the date in 1945 when the World War II Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and ended Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. Hitler had committed suicide on 30 April. The war in Europe was over. The act of military surrender was signed on May 7 in Reims, France. (The Russians signed a day later in Berlin). Between 60 and 70 million people who had been living at the beginning of the world war were dead by the time the Japanese surrendered a few months later, most of them innocent civilians who had no idea why the war was necessary -- ignorant of why, in fact, they were being killed. Death had found many of them at home, blasted apart by aerial bombs, incinerated in firestorms conventional and atomic. Others were rousted from their houses, transported somewhere convenient for the killers, and machine-gunned, bayoneted or gassed -- entire families, old and young -- because of who they were, or in retribution for someone else's act of defiance. A few, a statistical minority, got to fight their enemies -- either as soldiers in armies or as resistance fighters in the dark.
I grew up listening to the stories of the men who left their homes to cross the vast oceans and defeat the enemies of western civilization. The stories of the survivors, that is. In every tale was the mention of other men -- the valiant, the feckless, the unlucky, who remained "over there" in neat cemeteries of white markers or beneath the waves, or worse, were simply missing -- never to return to their loved ones, never to love, to build or grow old watching their children and grandchildren. Somewhere in those stories of triumph and loss, I became an amateur historian, in order to understand. And yet, after all these years, I still don't. Oh, I know now what motivates men to fight for their country, their liberty or just for their friends. But I still don't get why the evil greedy bastards throughout history have always managed to start vicious wars for power, or territory that isn't theirs, or plunder, or sometimes just because they can.
Many times I think, like Powers Boothe's Colonel Tanner in Red Dawn (1984), wars break out because of simple historical amnesia:
Darryl Bates: What started it?
Col. Andy Tanner: I don't know. Two toughest kids on the block, I guess. Sooner or later, they're gonna fight.
Jed Eckert: That simple, is it?
Col. Andy Tanner: Maybe somebody just forgot what it was like.
-- Red Dawn, 1984
In Why Nations Go to War, Darian Domer observes that both sides in a conflict will claim that morality justifies their fight. Heck, the Wehrmacht in World War II carried out operations in support of the Final Solution wearing belt buckles that said "Gott mit uns" (God is with us). Domer also states that the rationale for beginning a war depends on an overly optimistic assessment of the outcome of hostilities -- both the casualties and the costs and on misperceptions of the enemy's intentions.
I have a bumper sticker on the back of my Chevy Blazer - two of them, actually. The one on the left says, "If you think 'war is not the answer . . .'" The one on the right finishes, "Then you don't understand the question." I never got around to putting the "Remember 9/11" sticker under the one on the right. As anyone who has read much of my writing before knows, I have a son in Iraq, currently on his second tour as a Sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division. He still believes in the mission, so I do too. I support him unconditionally and totally, and all of his comrades in arms. I started out putting the above sentiment on my vehicle to poke a rhetorical stick in the eyes of the peace-love-dopes who sport those "War is NOT the answer" bumper stickers.
But to me the twin stickers are not about Iraq, but rather a restatement of George Washington's dictum that only those who are prepared for war will have peace. What liberals fail to grasp is that you don't have to be a war lover to believe this. Indeed, those who have studied the history of human conflict (and especially those who have had to fight them) know that war is the sum of all human evil. This is even more true of civil wars. Only sociopaths and lunatics would disagree with F.D.R.'s quote above. There are, however, a few things worse than war: oppression, slavery, and the unanswered murder of innocents, including your own family. Faced with this alternative, those of us who wish to be free have but one choice -- resistance
"You simply cannot respond with niceties . . ."
"When you face violence -- political violence such as in Germany -- you simply cannot respond with niceties; you cannot deal honestly with dishonesty." -- Belgian "Pere" Bodson to his pacifist son Herman, 1935, in Agent for the Resistance: A Belgian Saboteur in World War II, Herman Bodson, Texas A&M Press, 1994, p. 9.
Like many Europeans horrified by the slaughter of the Great War (1914-1918), Herman Bodson was raised to be a pacifist by his father. But with Hitler's rise to power in Germany, Belgians like the Bodsons began to reconsider.
"As my thesis was being printed in August (1937), I reported for my induction physical. My country was calling, the enemy was known, his views were known, and I looked forward to serving. The only possibility of not being enslaved was to fight. I was ready, as was every loyal Belgian. We had had the experience of German occupation in World War I and by now we knew the Nazis would be worse." -- Ibid., p. 19.
When the Germans once again invaded their little country on the 10th of May 1940, it didn't take them long to defeat the Belgian army, whose general staff -- in the interest of preserving the sham protection of "neutrality" -- had refused to even carry out cooperative planning with the French and the British. After his release from POW status, Herman Bodson the former pacifist began to explore the paths of resistance.
"Having been raised a pacifist, never having had any toys resembling a gun, hating the use of force, I was certainly not prepared to become a belligerent person. I had already realized I could not live with the German philosophy, and now that they had imported it into my country, it was just intolerable. Something had to be done. From there came the thoughts of rebellion, or resistance. But I also realized that thoughts alone would not achieve anything, action was needed. Individual acts, even if possible, would have very little effect against this fantastic war machine well oiled by propaganda. The only logical way to organize would be to form small groups of trusted friends to discuss, train for, and embark on some serious and very dangerous ventures." Ibid., p. 50.
The Germans, for their part, considered the Belgians fellow Aryans and even were able to recruit some quislings into the Waffen SS. The Nazis figured that after their racial "bruders" got over pining for the old order, they would embrace Hitler's "New Order." Belgians like Herman Bodson soon gave the Germans and their allies plenty of reasons to regret their failure to anticipate effective resistance.
Jack Booted Thugs Without a Clue
I suppose this is always the way it is with those who start the wars. They simply can't or won't see what the unintended consequences of their actions are going to be, even when others are completely unsurprised and even predict it publicly. Which brings me, as many of you familiar with my work have probably already guessed where I was heading, to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Look, there are roughly three different classes of folks who read my stuff these days. The first is made up of my beloved gunnies, the awake and aware members of the armed citizenry of the United States. The second, far less numerous, are the objects of my gun control ridicule -- the Op-Ed page-writing venal morons and collectivist "useful idiots" to whom I often address my essay responses. And the third, and really the most important of all, is what has become the armed opposition to the constitutional republic as represented by the forces of the imperial federal leviathan: the BATFags and their bigger, meaner, more deadly brethren, the Fibbies.
These tax-paid mokes read my stuff for evidence that I have strayed across the shifting line of post-PATRIOT Act law into sedition or worse, for they would like to shut me up. Some of them would like to shut me up with nails in my coffin, or so I've been told. I have tried mightily to stay on the right side of the law while trying to educate these historical ignoramuses about the dangers to everyone of their violating the Law of Unintended Consequences. It has been an uphill climb, I'm here to tell you.
As I learned only too well in the 90s, these agencies have an institutional memory with all the longevity of a fruit fly's honeymoon. If they learned anything from Waco or Ruby Ridge (and I doubt they did very much) they have long ago forgot it. Today, they are totally unaware of how such outrages as the Olofson case are viewed by people -- armed people I might add -- who internalized those lessons and who will never forget them. They are truly jack booted thugs without a clue.
They sit in their steel and concrete headquarters, look out their windows and believe they are masters of all they survey. They are in their own minds, as I have pointed out in earlier essays, The Untouchables. Having escaped the consequences of their bloody errors in the 90s and lacking even the most superficial oversight from their bureaucratic and elected masters, they do anything we can't or won't stop them from doing. And as Olofson demonstrates, that includes rigging evidence, suborning perjury and manipulating judges to get the outcome they want. They are the Men in Black -- above the law, outside it -- and it ain't no Hollywood action comedy, it's all too real.
Now, if these jerks were well-read in history, they wouldn't be quite so smug in their arrogant ignorance. If they understood that folks who DO read history could, come some future "nut cuttin' time," inflict a few of those lessons on THEM, well, they might be a little more polite and law-abiding. For example, if somebody in one of those shiny corner offices actually read Bodson's memoir on the Belgian resistance from cover to cover, they might get a little nervous -- deservedly so, in my opinion, after their recent unlawful depredations.
Remember that His Majesty's General Gage did not want to start a war in April 1775. Indeed, the trip to Concord was anticipated to be a simple gun raid -- to be executed there and back before anyone was the wiser. Oops. That miscalculation cost the Brits the best half of a continent. Wars CAN start by accident.
Thus, I think it would be a public service to draw the attention of the present-day gun-seizing, Redcoat-equivalents to a few of the more awful lessons of modern resistance war so that we all may thereby more easily avoid its horrors. Wars are started, remember, by "overly optimistic assessment of the outcome of hostilities -- both the casualties and the costs and on misperceptions of the enemy's intentions" to requote Domer. Presumably then, we may better avoid war if everybody understands the horrors attendant to it. This is surely a public good, and so I offer this anecdote from Bodson's book in the interest of continued peace and tranquility.
Number 453 Avenue Louise
The Belgians like Bodson who stayed on their home ground and fought the Nazis in the merciless, unequal shadow war of night and fog had help from across the North Sea in Britain. A number of Belgians fled to Britain to continue the war against the common Nazi enemy, especially pilots like Jean Michel De Selys Longchamps -- a man who was both fighter pilot and resistance fighter.
Baron Jean Michel P.M.G. De Selys Longchamps
Distinguished Flying Cross, Chevalier de l'ordre de Leopold, Croix de Guerre
In 1939 in Brussells, the capital of Belgium, two old manor houses on the Avenue Louise were torn down to make way for a tall new building of concrete, steel and glass which towered over the surrounding structures. When the Germans seized Belgium the following year, the Gestapo made Number 453 Avenue Louise their new home-away-from-home. For almost three years, the Nazis dragged Belgian Jews, "politicals" and resistants to their shiny headquarters for interrogation and execution. Among these Belgian martyrs were friends and relatives of the Baron Jean Michel P.M.G. De Selys Longchamps (Bodson says the victims included de Selys' father). It would have been better for the Nazis if they had not attracted the attention of this amazing pilot.
Born in Brussels on 31 May 1912, de Selys was a Belgian cavalry officer at the time of the German attack on Belgium. After the surrender in May 1940 he came to England with the Dunkirk evacuation. Immediately returning to France to continue the fight, when France fell he managed to escape via Marseilles to Gibraltar. In his eagerness to reach England to continue the war, de Selys traveled to Morocco to join up with Belgian aviators. He was arrested by the Vichy authorities in Morocco and returned to France and imprisoned in Marseilles. Transferred to an internment camp near Montpelier, de Selys escaped and crossed the Pyrenees into Spain and finally reached England. Despite being rather old for pilot training, he was accepted as a pilot in the RAF in 609 Squadron based at Manston in Kent.
The 609 Squadron flew Hawker Typhoon Bs, nicknamed "Tiffies" -- big fast single-seat attack aircraft mounting 4 Hispano Suiza 20mm cannons. Tiffies made great bomber killers, but after the Battle of Britain German bombers were a bit scarce so they were employed in another role: ground attack.
Hawker Typhoon showing the big 20mm cannons.
Jean de Selys leans against the prop of a Hawker Typhoon B, at Duxford, England, 1942, when the Belgian minister Camille Gutt visited the Belgian 609'ers.
By January 1943, the Tiffies of 609 Squadron were being employed on "Rhubarb" flights -- ground attack missions in France and Belgium aimed at destroying the transportation and communication infrastructure of "Festung Europa". For months, de Selys had been begging his superiors to let 609 Squadron attack Number 453 Avenue Louise. Each time he was turned down. On 20 January 1943, Flight Lieutenant Jean de Selys Longchamps was flying a routine "Rhubarb" with a fellow Belgian Andre Blanco. They were looking for locomotives and they split up. De Selys destroyed his and radioed Blanco to return to base. Blanco complied. De Selys had another idea.
The Belgian flight lieutenant violated his RAF orders, and turned the nose of his Typhoon toward Brussels. He was there in minutes, coming into the capitol he knew so well, buzzing the local horse track as he made a bee-line for Gestapo headquarters. Flying just above the deck, an incredibly dangerous feat in Belgium's largest city, he zoomed down the two-miles of the Avenue de Louise with his prop blast blowing the hats off pedestrians and bicyclists below and his wingtips just clearing the buildings on either side.
In Number 453, Gestapomen sat at their desks, confident in their modern, high-class surroundings. Let Bodson take up the story:
"Coming from the west, the pilot was able to see the building from quite a distance as it faced the wide Avenue de Mot and the adjacent Parc de la Cambre. Approaching over the suburban community of Ixelles and flying at rooftop level to avoid early detection, the pilot could easily aim at the building and direct the fire of his wing guns at its base. Continuing his fire while pulling up on the joystick, he sprayed the complex from basement to roof with a murderous hail of (20mm) explosive bullets. . . The attack had taken place around ten in the morning while the building was fully lit by the rising spring sun. . . The morale boost for us was immense, for the pilot had demonstrated that the Germans were vulnerable and unable to exercise complete control of they air space. They could also be victims." Ibid, p. 78-79
De Selys' marksmanship was impeccable. As he walked his fire up from bottom to top, every single 20mm projectile hit the building, leaving those on either side and beyond untouched. As the Tiffie roared up in an almost vertical climb, de Selys tossed out of his open canopy a memento for the Gestapo. Bodson recalls it was a wreath with de Selys' father's name on it. Other accounts say he dropped two flags, one the Belgian Tricolor, the other the Union Jack of Britain. Bodson was able to get inside the building the next day posing as a repair contractor. Recalled the ex-pacifist with satisfaction approaching glee,
"It was unbelievable the damage those little explosives had done. I particularly remember a third-floor office, a major's office. One bullet had entered his mahogany desk and exploded, temporarily adding the major to the plastering job. By the time we arrived he had already been scraped away. How many German agents died that day I was not able to tell, but from the evidence of the damage, quite a few. All the big shots had offices in the front of the building looking out on the Avenue De Mot and the park beyond." Ibid, p. 79. (Note: The butcher's bill was later estimated to be 30 dead Gestapo officers.)
On his return to base, de Selys was demoted to Pilot Officer and transferred to another squadron in punishment for disobeying orders to fly off and play resistance fighter. At the same time, he was awarded the RAF Distinguished Flying Cross. On 16 August 1943, after returning from a mission over Ostend in his beloved Belgium, he crashed on landing at Manston and was killed . You can find his grave, number 3002A, in Minster Cemetery nearby. Number 453 Avenue Louise still stands today, and the Belgian people have erected a statue to their heroic, if disobedient, flying resistance fighter. Recalled Bodson,
"Belgian morale was low . . . (but) the day of the attack was a day of joy. That week, while the news was told around the country, was a week of joy. We were not alone. We were the oppressed, we were the victims, but across the North Sea we had friends, friends who cared and were ready to help." Ibid., p. 79
So there you have it, G-Men -- a snippet of ancient history poorly told. It has absolutely nothing to do with you as you go about framing people like poor young Olofson. Nothing whatsoever. There is no reason why you should lose any sleep over it. Indeed, I present it here as an informational tale only, from another place long ago and far away. You may go to your tall shiny 21st Century offices and look out the windows down the broad streets below secure in the notion that nothing of the sort could happen to you. Not here, not in America.
First of all, I'm sure you'll never be so stupid as to become as oppressive to your own people as a Gestapo man was to the Belgians in 1943. And secondly, I don't think the Confederate Air Force has any Hawker Typhoon B's flying. Yeah, I'm pretty sure of that.
Just don't screw up and fatally victimize the wrong guy who has a son who happens to be an A-10 or Apache pilot.
Naw. That couldn't happen.
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