|A new coat of paint and a restored|
|It is only 4 miles across Admiralty Inlet|
between Forts Worden and Casey
|Great views at Fort Casey|
|A new coat of paint and a restored|
|It is only 4 miles across Admiralty Inlet|
between Forts Worden and Casey
|Great views at Fort Casey|
This book “Recommendation and Review” is for “Agent Sonya” by Ben Macintyre.
“Agent Sonya: Moscow’s Most Daring Wartime Spy” by Ben Macintyre is the true story of Ursula Kuczynski, also known as Ruth Werner, Ursula Beurton, Ursula Hamburger, or her code name: Sonya. She was born in Germany in 1907 and was a teenager and young adult during the political upheaval immediately following World War I. She became a devout, ideological communist, passionately opposed to the rise of fascism in her country. When her husband was offered a job in Shanghai, she went with him. There in China, she met other communists and was recruited into working for Soviet intelligence. Over her career worked in China, Poland, Switzerland, and Great Britain. Although Sonya didn’t “spy” firsthand, she did run agents in these locations and radio information back to Moscow.
I’ve read books by Ben Macintyre before, specifically Rogue Heroes and Agent Zigzag. So I knew the writing would be excellent and that this book, like the others mentioned, would be a true story that reads like fiction. What makes this book different from the usual spy story is that it is told from the perspective of Kuczynski. I gained an understanding of why a person would embrace Communism during the 1920s, especially if faced with a weak government (the Weimar Republic) and a threat of Fascism. As an aside, Ursula became disillusioned with the Soviet Union after the purges by Stalin in the 1930s, but she never lost her idealistic faith in communism. During the story of her career as a spy during the 30s and 40s, you of course sympathize with Ursula and are on the virtual edge of your seat during the times she was nearly caught.
SPOILER ALERT! If you don’t want to know the rest of the story, skip the next paragraph.
Why a book devoted to this one spy? One of her agents she ran in Great Britain was another German Jew, a talented physicist by the name of Klaus Fuchs. Fuchs had escaped from Hitler’s Germany and was sponsored into Great Britain. He was investigated and cleared to work on Britain’s atomic bomb project, despite being a devout communist. Once Fuchs realized what the project was about, he decided to share all the information about his work with the Soviet Union. Agent Sonya was his handler in Great Britain. When Great Britain’s nuclear bomb program was merged with the Manhattan Project (the United States nuclear bomb project), Fuchs was sent to work in the U.S. and passed off to a KGB handler in America. The information that Fuchs passed to the Soviets arguably gave them the bomb or certainly allowed them to develop their own five years earlier than expected. When Fuchs' treachery was found out, it would lead straight back to Ursula. In 1950 she escaped Great Britain and settled into retirement in East Germany, eventually writing a book about her own escapades.
So you have to ask: Did Agent Sonya help to start the Cold War or did she prevent World War III by helping to maintain a balance of power? Don’t try to answer that question without reading the book. I think it will change the way you look at that period of our history. It did mine.
You can stay in the house that was the 509th CP
during the Battle of Anzio.
(click on any image for a larger version.)
|509th CP during Anzio|
|Map courtesy of|
|Il casale di Giulia before|
|Aerial view showing B/509th|
position on forward hill.
Diego shared quite a few pictures with me, and I’ve included some of them for you to see as well. The next time I’m in the archives at NARA or AHEC I plan to look in the records of the 3rd ID for that missing overlay. In the meantime, I’m planning a trip after covid to visit Anzio, Il casale di Giulia, and other sites where the Geronimos fought. Ever thought about it?
This book Recommendation and Review is for “The Boy who Followed His Father into Auschwitz” by Jeremy Dronfield.
By the cover design and title, I mistakenly at first thought this book was a work of fiction. So did my wife who first saw it on the shelf in our local bookstore. She read it; she was enthralled by it. Then she insisted that I read it. She is not a big reader of nonfiction history and rarely pushes me to read nonfiction (that’s because my nonfiction reading stack is always piled so high). So, I moved this read to the top of the list. Really glad I did.
This is a true Holocaust story that reads like fiction. In fact, the author started out a fiction writer but switched to narrative nonfiction. If you read a lot of books about World War II, you might know Jeremy Dronfield from his previous nonfiction work, “Beyond the Call.” At the time I’m writing this, “The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz” has 4.8 stars on 1853 reviews on Amazon. With numbers like that, it is no wonder it is a bestseller and I'm probably wasting your time telling you that the book reads like a novel. A “page-turner” as my dad would say.
The book is about the Kleinmann family of Vienna, Austria. There is the father, Gustav, a combat veteran of the First World War, his wife Tini, and their four children, Edith, Fritz, Herta, and Kurt. They are a Jewish family, but not overly devout, living in a Jewish neighborhood. They are part of the community; they have non-Jewish friends and neighbors. The story begins with the impending vote in Austria on Anschluss, the joining of Germanic peoples together under the Third Reich. The family lives through the arrival of the Nazis, the growing prejudice of their non-Jewish neighbors, and Krystallnacht. All this beginning in March of 1938, a year and a half before the beginning of World War II in Europe and over three and a half years before America entered the conflict.
Soon after, the Nazis begin to arrest Jewish adult males, initially as political prisoners. Gustav and his eldest son, Fritz, are caught up in this and sent to Dachau. Fritz was only sixteen. I had the opportunity to visit Dachau, a concentration camp outside of Munich, when I was stationed in Germany back in the 1980s. This connection allowed me to visualize the Kleinmanns in this evil and depressing place. Gustav and Fritz are transferred to other camps during the course of their years as slave laborers. While they are in captivity, Tini attempts to get her other children sponsored to immigrate to Great Britain and the United States. She is only partially successful. After years of starvation and beatings with no word from the other members of his family, Gustav is informed that he and hundreds of other prisoners will be sent to Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi concentration camp in Poland. Upon hearing this news, Fritz volunteers to go to Auschwitz with his father. Both believe this is a sentence of certain death, but they believe that it is better to be together than to die alone.
The book is based on a diary Gustav kept during his six years in concentration camps. Not only will you learn of the horrors of the concentration camp system, but also how difficult it was to flee Germany or an occupied country. Hint: countries like the United States and Great Britain limited the intake of refugees, and once the war was declared on and by these countries, even this avenue was cut off to the victims of the Nazi regime. This is an amazing story and through the experiences of this one family the reader gains a visceral understanding of the different ways that people suffered during the Holocaust.
I wish that every American would read this book. I spent three years in Germany, forty years after the war. I found the German people to be warm and friendly. I enjoyed my time there. Though I could never reconcile how the people I met there who were alive during that time could possibly allow the rise of fascism and the Holocaust to take place, much less enter a pathway to war that would eventually destroy their country. I worry that we have demonized the Nazis to such a level that we can’t learn anything from this period of history. I hope that is not the case. This is different than reading about fighting the war. This is about learning about the cause and effect of it. Please read two books. First, “The Nazi Seizure of Power” by William Sheridan Allen. In this book, you’ll learn how the Nazis took over Germany, not by Hitler from the top down, but on a grassroots level through local action by Nazi party members. The other is this book, “The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz” by Jeremy Dronfield. If you’ll make that investment of time, and it won’t be boring, then you’ll understand the what and the how. I doubt we’ll ever understand the why.
Astoria, Oregon, is located near the mouth of the Columbia River that creates the border between the states of Washington and Oregon. Astoria, the oldest city in Oregon, is an interesting and fun place to visit. Anyone who is on a Lewis and Clark pilgrimage is going to stay there of course. But there is a rich history about this town that goes way beyond the Corps of Discovery.Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter of 1805-06 at Fort Clatsop that they built just four miles to the southwest of modern-day Astoria. In 1811 fur trappers of the American Fur Company, owned by John Jacob Astor, established Fort Astoria where the city is today. Astoria is a deep-water port whose location on the Pacific coast made it a thriving resource town since then. Along with the fur industry, there is the timber industry and fish canneries for processing locally caught salmon. As you can imagine, not only the shipping of these commodities but the fishing industry as well creates a strong maritime history in Astoria. Oh, yes, and do not forget the Columbia bar.the Columbia bar is exactly. Well, as the Columbia flows over 1200 miles all the way from Canada to the Pacific, it picks up sediment, as most rivers tend to do. As the waters of the Columbia hit the Pacific Ocean, it slows. When it does it drops the sediment creating what they call a “bar.” The Columbia Bar is an area about 3 miles wide and 6 miles long where the river enters the ocean. Because the bar creates shallows, the waters there tend to be rough and prone to a lot of unusual waves and currents. Plus, the sediment in the bar is always shifting around. That’s why large container ships need a river pilot to guide them into port. Moreover, combine the dangers of the bar with the naturally crappy weather of the Pacific Northwest and you’ve got some challenges. There are so many shipwrecks historically around this area (over 2,000 since 1792) that it has earned the nickname of the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”the Columbia River Maritime Museum comes in. This is a must-see when you visit Astoria. Most of the exhibits are indoors so don’t worry about the weather (oh, yeah, it rains a lot in Astoria). We made our trip pre-covid, but despite the pandemic, the museum is open with protocols. You will see exhibits on each of the industries that are a part of the history of this area. Particularly interesting to me is the information about the bar. Such a historically dangerous spot that had to be conquered (still true today) in order to exploit the resources of this region and on an individual level, earn a living. You’ll learn what a “bar pilot” does, and that there are only about 16 of these specialists working out of Astoria today. There is also a fine exhibit honoring the work of the United States Coast Guard in and around the Columbia River Bar.the River Walk Inn, one of several hotels that provide a view of the marina from your room (nice!). From the hotel, you are able to catch a trolley that runs the length of the city with a stop at the Maritime Museum. The entry fee is a little pricey at $16 for adults, but that’s probably because I think all museums should be free. Regardless, the museum is worth it. Add it to your itinerary along with your pilgrimage to Fort Clatsop.
For more information, visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum website.
The Civil War-Era Fort under the Golden Gate BridgeCamp Roberts to the Presidio in San Francisco – didn’t notice it then. Finally, Fort Point came on the radar several years ago when I visited the Presidio as a tourist. Who knew?
At some point during the Spanish and Mexican eras, the cliff that the fort was located on was known as the Punta del Cantil Blanco (point of the white cliff) became known as Punta del Castillo (Castle Point). After the Mexican-American war and the United States gained control of California in 1848, the name was carried over as “Fort Point.” Soon the Gold Rush was in full swing, California became a state in 1850, and the United States now needed to protect the bay. A series of defensive fortifications were proposed that included Alcatraz Island, Fort Mason (located adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf), and Fort Point.Check with the NPS website. Oh, and bring a jacket. You know the old joke: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” 😎
Get a full history of Angels Camp from the Historic Hwy 49 website. the Angels Camp Museum, which is managed by the city. They have a great collection of wagons and carriages, mining equipment, even a period printing press. You can even try your hand at panning for gold. It is family-friendly and well worth the stop. Although I’m sure covid protocols are in place, the website reports that the museum is open. Well, you might want to wait for summer. But plan a Gold Rush themed California vacation and put Angels Camp on the itinerary.
Okay, for those of you unfamiliar with the Pacific Northwest, Snoqualmie Falls is a 268-foot waterfall on the Snoqualmie River, between the cities of Fall River and Snoqualmie, Washington. Perhaps it is easier to visualize if I just tell you that from downtown Seattle, get on eastbound Interstate 90 and drive for about fifty minutes and you will run right into it. There is free parking, a gift shop, a nice lodge, and a 1.4-mile round trip hiking path that runs from the upper viewing area down to a lower viewing platform. Of course, the real star is the falls themselves. They are beautiful year-round, but I gather that some dedicated individuals drive up there after a few days of heavy rain to get a view of the falls on steroids.
We are still working with COVID-19 restrictions and I was happy to see that although viewing the falls is an outdoor activity, a vast majority of people were wearing their masks and doing their best to stay socially distanced. That social distancing was easily accomplished up top and on the trail down. But as you get to the bottom, the trail narrows to a boardwalk that goes past the old 1911 powerplant building and out to a viewing platform. Unfortunately, when we got down there, it was busy. A crowd that could stay distanced in the upper viewing area could not on the sidewalk-width of the boardwalk. Folks were patient and queued up nose-to-back along the boardwalk waiting for their turn to go out onto the viewing platform. But that’s not the point.
Enjoy the pictures and videos. Stop by and see Snoqualmie Falls when you are driving from Spokane to Seattle. It is worth the stop. Look at the Falls and think of a much longer history that you are seeing. And double-down on those protocols: mask, wash hands, stay distanced. The only way to get through the pandemic is with a little dose of discipline and good judgment.