Thursday, February 16, 2017

The French on Valkyrie

From Farewell America: 

Today, professional soldiers and guerrilla warriors have taken up where the nihilists left off. They are just as courageous, but often less successful. In Germany, in 12 years of Nazism and 5 years of war, despite the Kreisau Circle and the numerous groups that claimed in 1946 to have belonged to the underground, despite the work of the Allied intelligence services and the plots hatched by several high-ranking officers of the Wehrmacht and the OKW, Hitler was never assassinated. Two officers, however, tried.
The first planted a bomb on one of Hitler's aides, claiming it was a bottle of cognac. The bomb was due to go off in the plane carrying the Fuhrer to the eastern front, but it failed to explode. The assassination attempt was never discovered. It was publicized later by its author, who meanwhile had recovered his "bottle of cognac."

The second, more serious attempt was the work of Colonel Klaus Yon Stauffenberg. His failure dealt a deathblow to the plot of July 20, 1944. Stauffenberg either didn't dare or didn't care to shoot Hitler. Instead, he placed his briefcase, containing the equivalent of a pound of TNT under the conference table where Hitler was sitting and left the room, claming he had to make a phone call. The TNT was set off by a detonator a few minutes later.

But Colonel Yon Stauffenberg, while a brilliant cavalryman, was a poor saboteur. His bomb would have killed Hitler, and probably most of the other officers present, if the conference had been held, as was usually the case at Rastenburg, in the casemate of a cement blockhouse. The closed quarters would have magnified the compression, and the explosion would have proved fatal. On that hot July day, however, the conference was held instead in a wooden barracks with the windows open. Hitler was only knocked to the floor and slightly wounded by the explosion.

Colonel Von Stauffenberg was mistaken in his choice of an explosive. TNT is excellent for blowing up railroad lines and bridges, but for this type of operation Von Stauffenberg should have used a defensive grenade of the type used by the German Army, along with a phosphorous grenade and, as an additional precaution, a bottle containing about a pint of gasoline. The explosive power of the blasting agent would have been amplified by bits of flying steel and the heat from the phosphorus and the gasoline. Regardless of where the meeting was held, the explosion would have done its work. Those officers who weren't killed immediately would have been burned alive. But despite their small chance of survival, it would nevertheless have been wise to verify the success of the operation before giving the signal for a revolt that resulted in hundreds of executions, including that of Von Stauffenberg, about whom any biographer is forced to conclude that he was a total failure as an assassin. His technical incompetence caused the collapse of the German resistance and probably cost the Allies several more months of war.

Another Colonel, the Frenchman Bastien Thiry, attempted in 1962 to avenge the honor of the French Army by assassinating General De Gaulle. He set up an ambush using submachine guns at an intersection in the suburbs of Paris one evening when the General's car was due to pass on the way to the airport. The car, an ordinary Citroen, was going about 40 miles an hour. On a signal from the Colonel (a brandished newspaper), the gunmen fired more than 100 rounds, but neither the General nor his wife nor the driver nor the security agent accompanying them was hit. The tires were shot out, but the driver accelerated immediately, and the General disappeared over the horizon.

Colonel Thiry was a graduate of the foremost scientific school in France, the Ecole Poly technique, the students of which are renowned for their reasoning power. Moreover, he was a leading aeronautical specialist and, like Von Stauffenberg, a disinterested patriot. But, as far as assassinations were concerned, he too was a failure.

Like Von Stauffenberg, he was executed, and from a technical point of view his failure is understandable. He was an amateur, and assassinations are not for amateurs. His plan was of interest to the men at Dallas because its target was a moving vehicle. An attack on a moving target presents special problems which we shall examine later. In any case, these are problems that can only be solved by a specialist.

The Committee needed professionals who were accustomed to planning clandestine and risky operations, and who had the proper mentality -- in other words, professionals who had not lost their amateur standing. The men best qualified for this type of job are undoubtedly the specialists of the intelligence services like the Soviet KGB and the CIA, which have a special section for assassinations. It is safe to assume that nothing is impossible or surprising in the world of espionage, in the widest sense of the term. Obstacles that would hamper organized criminals or conscientious conspirators can be overcome or avoided more easily by those who are known as "spies."

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