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After the war ended, Churchill ordered all of Bletchley's work -- the computers, the notebooks -- destroyed, but some of Alan Turing's notes were discovered between the walls of Hut 6 during a recent renovation, and are now on display at Bletchley Park.
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Starting with a fake Paris built to lure Kaiser Bill's incendiary bombs, through to the pretend industrial towns used in WWII England to divert 900 tonnes of munitions, to the pretend airbases built in the Pacific Northwest and through to the Viet Cong's pretend villages to disguise tunnel complexes.
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Ryan Mungia's Protect Yourself: Venereal Disease Posters of World War II uncovers many obscure propaganda posters that were, once upon a time, just as popular as the iconic "We Can Do It!" woman.
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ST Geotronics have exanded their Instructables project for building your own Arduino-based Enigma and turned it into a Kickstarter. $40 gets you some boards you can kit-bash with; $125 gets you the full kit; $300 gets you the whole thing, beautifully made and fully assembled.
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The University of Nottingham's Windows on War is one of the world's premier collections of WWII Soviet posters related to their war with the Nazis on the eastern front. The scholarly notes that accompany the exhibit are a treat, though they are presented in a way that makes it nearly impossible to read them. But the entire collection has been scanned and posted, and is available for viewing at very high resolutions.
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Here's more bad news from historic computing site Bletchley Park, where a new, slick museum is being put together with enormous corporate and state funding. Last month, it was the fact that McAfee had apparently banned any mention of Edward Snowden in a cybersecurity exhibit.
Now there's this heartrending BBC report on how volunteers who've given decades of service to Bletchley have been summarily dismissed because they don't fit in with the new plan. The museum of Churchill memoribilia that shared the Bletchley site has been evicted.
For people like me who've donated over the years, fundraised for it, and joined the Friends of Bletchley, this is really distressing news. I've always dreamt of Bletchley getting enough funding to do the site and its collection justice, but if it comes at the expense of decency and integrity, they may as well have left it as Churchill did -- abandoned and forgotten.
Update: Bletchley Trust has clarified to me that while this volunteer was dismissed from guiding tours because he refused to conduct the tour to the new spec, he still volunteers with the Trust in its educational department.
Alan Turing has received a pardon under the "Royal Prerogative of Mercy by the Queen," 61 years after he was "chemically castrated" by court order as punishment for homosexuality. Less than two years of forced hormone treatments drove him to suicide at the age of 41. The pardon came at the request of the government's justice secretary. It's a wonderful vindication of Turing.
But I agree with Turing's biographer Dr Andrew Hodges, who says that the idea of a pardon for Turing establishes the principal that "a sufficiently valuable individual should be above the law which applies to everyone else." In my view, the Queen should have pardoned every man and woman persecuted under the cruel and unjust law that ruined so many lives.
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The archives of Bletchley Park are being digitised for online use, bringing to life the records of the legendary codebreaking effort whereby Alan Turing and colleagues invented modern computing, modern crypto, and took years off the war, saving millions of lives. HP underwrote the effort, which aims "to put everything into the public domain."
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Rick Kleffel interviewed Ian Tregillis, author of the amazing alternate history Milkweed books, about Nazi X-Men fighting a secret war against British warlocks. Tregillis describes the process by which he came up with the premise, and especially -- and most interestingly -- how he came up with his brilliant treatment for Gretl, a precognitive villain who is pretty much evil personified (MP3).
Star Trek actor George Takei writes about being interned in Arkansas and California internment camps along with his Japanese-American family during WWII, a particularly important rememberance in the face of the out-of-control US spying revealed in the Edward Snowden leaks:
As I write this, once again the national dialogue turns to defining our enemies, the impulse to smear whole communities or people with the actions of others still too familiar and raw. Places like the museum and Rohwer camp exist to remind us of the dangers and fallibility of our democracy, which is only as strong as the adherence to our constitutional principles renders it. People like myself and those veterans lived through that failure, and we understand how quickly cherished liberties and freedom may slip away or disappear utterly.
These know-your-chemical-weapon posters were produced by the Medical Training Replacement Center at Camp Barkeley near Abilene, Texas as training materials for soldiers being sent to fight in WWII. They're a weird mix of cheerfulness and atrocity:
Four WWII Posters That Taught Soldiers to Identify Chemical Weapons by Smell (via Kadrey)
Of the four chemicals mentioned here—phosgene, lewisite, mustard gas, and chlorpicrin—three were used in World War I. (Lewisite was produced beginning in 1918, but the war ended before it could be used.) Phosgene, which irritates the lungs and mucus membranes and causes a person to choke to death, caused the largest number of deaths among people killed by chemical weapons in the First World War. (Elsewhere on Slate: A firsthand account of what it felt like to be hit by mustard gas.)
The smells that these posters warn soldiers-in-training to be wary of are the everyday scents of home: flypaper, musty hay, green corn, geraniums, garlic. The choice of analogies seems particularly appropriate for soldiers raised on farms—a population that would become increasingly small in every war to follow.
(Images: National Museum of Health and Medicine)
Osaka's fascist mayor defends WWII policy of sexual enslavement: "a comfort women system is necessary. Anyone can understand that."
Toru Hashimoto is mayor of Osaka and co-founder of the Japanese Restoration Party. He's previously called for Japan to be run as a dictatorship; now he's made public comments defending the WWII Japanese military policy of enslaving women and giving them to soldiers to rape. He says that it was a necessary expedient to support hard-working soldiers.
He said last year that Japan needed "a dictatorship".
In his latest controversial comments, quoted by Japanese media, he said: "In the circumstances in which bullets are flying like rain and wind, the soldiers are running around at the risk of losing their lives,"
"If you want them to have a rest in such a situation, a comfort women system is necessary. Anyone can understand that."
He also claimed that Japan was not the only country to use the system, though it was responsible for its actions.
Japan WWII 'comfort women' were 'necessary' - Hashimoto (Thanks, Jack!)
With Necessary Evil, published today, Ian Tregillis triumphantly concludes his astonishing, brilliant, pulse-pounding debut trilogy, The Milkweed Triptych. Milkweed began in 2010 with Bitter Seeds, an alternate history WWII novel about a Nazi doctor who creates a race of twisted X-Men through a program of brutal experimentation; and of the British counter-strategy: calling up the British warlocks and paying the blood-price to the lurking elder gods who would change the very laws of physics in exchange for the blood of innocents. These elder gods, the Eidolons, hate humanity and wish to annihilate us, but we are so puny that they can only perceive us when we bleed for them. With each conjuration of the Eidolons on Britain's behalf, the warlocks bring closer the day when the Eidolons will break through and wipe humanity's stain off the universe.
Book two, The Coldest War, came out last summer -- a too-long hiatus! -- and jumped forward to the 1960s, where the struggle continued in a Europe divided among the Soviets -- who seized the Nazi technology at the end of the war and used it to breed their own supermen -- and the British, whose warlock reserves have become an everyday instrument of foreign policy. Coldest War was half James Bond, half Cthulhu, and was every bit as painstakingly researched, beautifully described, blisterlingly plotted and utterly engrossing as the first.
Now, with book three, Necessary Evil, Tregillis draws the series to a close with a time travel story that goes back to the beginning of the tale, a desperate mission to stop the use of magick and the use of the Nazi "Will to Power" from ever gaining hold, to keep the elder gods at bay. And in Evil, Tregillis is even more on form. This is a book that veers precipitously from unexpected and chilling ruminations on the inherent evil of precognition; to the questions of loyalty and betrayal so thorny that they need a time-travel loop to really be explored; to spy-thriller action sequences that will keep you up under the covers with a flashlight, turning pages and unable to sleep.
This is a remarkable set of books, and with all three in hand, would make a fabulous spring read.
From the Imperial War Museum in London, a couple of incredible photos of nurses testing out infant gas-masks: "Three nurses carry babies cocooned in baby gas respirators down the corridor of a London hospital during a gas drill. Note the carrying handle on the respirator used to carry the baby by the nurse in the foreground."
From the Dec 20, 1924 issue of the New York Times: Adolph Hitler's rehabilitation is now complete, and he is "no longer to be feared."
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Pykrete is a WWII-era experimental material made by mixing wood pulp with ice. It's easy to make, easy to work with, and it's bulletproof:
If so, we’d like to humbly suggest that you consider pykrete for all your snow fort construction needs. Pykrete is a composite material made of a mixture of wood pulp and ice. Named for its inventor Geoffrey Pyke, pykrete was an experimental material developed during the mad science heyday of World War II.
At a time when steel was starting to run into short supply, Pyke looked at ice, a material that can be formed for a fraction of the energy cost of steel, as a potential building tool. Early experiments ran into problems — ice is prone to being brittle — but they came across research that showed that if you mixed in cellulose with pure water, that the resulting stuff, when frozen, turned out to be quite durable.
How durable? Let’s put it this way: Would you like a snow fort that is bullet-proof?
How to Make an Indestructible Snow Fort — With Pykrete [Tim Maly/Wired]
The Telegraph's obit for Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld recounts the florid and exciting life of the aristocrat turned French resistance fighter turned UK special forces killer turned escape artist turned colonial enforcer in Indochina. In particular, La Rochefoucauld was a skilled escapologist, and ballsy as all hell about it:
Dropped into the Morvan with two British agents, including one radio operator, La Rochefoucauld teamed up with a Maquis group near Avallon led by a man who called himself The Pope. After destroying the electrical substation at Avallon, and blowing up railway tracks, La Rochefoucauld was awaiting exfiltration by the RAF when he was denounced and arrested. After a series of interrogations, he was condemned to death.
En route to his execution in Auxerre, La Rochefoucauld made a break, leaping from the back of the truck carrying him to his doom, and dodging the bullets fired by his two guards. Sprinting through the empty streets, he found himself in front of the Gestapo’s headquarters, where a chauffeur was pacing near a limousine bearing the swastika flag. Spotting the key in the ignition, La Rochefoucauld jumped in and roared off, following the Route Nationale past the prison he had left an hour earlier.
(Image: downsized, cropped thumbnail of a larger image on The Telegraph)
Would you look at these adorable BritishWWII urchins enjoying their wartime carrot-on-a-stick in these stills from a 1941 Pathe newsreel?
The British Council has posted a fabulous trove of CC-licensed, downloadable "cultural propaganda" videos commissioned during WWII to "refute the idea that ours was a country stuck in the past."
During the 1940s, the British Council was an enthusiastic commissioner of documentary films. Over 120 films were produced as 'cultural propaganda' to counteract anything the Nazis might throw out and to refute the idea that ours was a country stuck in the past. These films were designed to showcase Britain to the rest of the world, at a time when Britain itself was under attack.
Seen by millions of people in over 100 countries worldwide from the 1940's to 1960's, they present a historic snapshot of Britain, portraying its industry, its landscapes, and its people. The Collection is fantastically varied, covering anything from how a bicycle is made, to how the British spend their Saturdays. They provide us with a unique insight - not necessarily into how Britain actually was, but more into how Britain once wanted to be perceived by the rest of the world.
Alongside basic credits and production information, you can find some fascinating pieces of trivia, photos, and screen grabs, as well as the original synopses that the films were distributed with. Some of the films give you the option to go even deeper, to learn a little more about how the films was made. And, perhaps most importantly, you can not only watch the films online but download them too.
GCHQ, the UK government's communications headquarters, has published a set of code-breaking papers written by Alan Turing during WWII. The papers had been held in secret since they were written. The papers are c"The Applications of Probability to Crypt" and "Paper on the Statistics of Repetitions" and they deal with cryptanalysis techniques to optimize breaking Nazi ciphers. They're displayed at the National Archives at Kew. The BBC has more:
According to the GCHQ mathematician, who identified himself only as Richard, the papers detailed using "mathematical analysis to try and determine which are the more likely settings so that they can be tried as quickly as possible..."
Richard said that GCHQ had now "squeezed the juice" out of the two papers and was "happy for them to be released into the public domain".
DrawTheShitler sells rolls of toilet roll printed with a caricature of a mustache-less Hitler. You supply the mustache when you wipe.
Here's the backstory behind the iconic "Keep Calm and Carry On" posters. Though 2.5 million were printed, they were never officially issued as they were reserved for crisis or invasion. 50 years later, Barter Books of Northumberland discovered a copy of the poster in a box of books from auction, and framed and hung it. They started selling copies a year later, and the rest is history.