March Violets (A Bernie Gunther book) — by Philip Kerr (Penguin, 1989) [Photograph by Edith-Mary Smith]
After the success of the Nazis in the election of 5 March 1933, swarms of Germans scrambled to jump onto the bandwagon by joining the Nazi Party. Such latecomers were termed ‘March Violets’ by the old-time Nazis.
March Violets is the title of the first book in the trilogy Berlin Noir, written by British author Philip Kerr. The trilogy represents the beginning of a long series of novels featuring Kerr’s famous protagonist, Bernie Gunther.
The chances are that you already know Bernie very well. If not, you are in for a treat.
Bernie is a some-time private eye and a some-time detective on the Berlin police force. In March Violets, the year is 1936 and Bernie is hired by a wealthy German industrialist to investigate his daughter’s death: shot in her bed with her husband; her diamonds have disappeared.
Japanese foreign minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, signs the instrument of surrender on board the USS Missouri, 2 September 1945 [Public domain, wiki]
This week in the war, on 2 September 1945, Japanese foreign minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, signed the instrument of surrender on board the battleship USS Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay.
General Douglas MacArthur signed on behalf of the Allies. Representatives of many Allied nations attended, including General Philippe Leclerc of France and General Arthur Percival of Britain, the latter having only recently been released from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.
Also anchored in Tokyo Bay was the British destroyer, HMS Whelp. Its first Lieutenant was Prince Philip of Greece who, in 1947, would marry Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen of England.
Ho Chi Minh, standing between two American OSS officers, 1945 [Public domain, wiki]
This week in the war, 20 August 1945: As agreed at the Potsdam Conference
, the Chinese forces of Chiang Kai-shek crossed into northern Vietnam (Indochina) to accept the surrender of the Japanese.
The Chinese left local control in the hands of the Vietnamese provisional government which was headquartered in Hanoi and led by Vietnamese nationalist, Ho Chi Minh.
The Potsdam Conference had assigned the southern part of the country to Allied Southeast Asia command and the British arrived in Saigon with the French, who moved to reestablish their control.
Thus Vietnam became divided.
The Japanese Imperial Family, 7 December 1941 [Public domain]
This week in the war, on 15 August 1945, Emperor Hirohito broadcast on the radio to the Japanese nation. His broadcast announced Japan’s acceptance of unconditional surrender to the Allies.
It was the first time that the Japanese People had heard the voice of their Emperor.
Late on the night before the broadcast, over a thousand troops attacked the Imperial Palace, hoping to prevent the transmission from taking place. They were eventually driven off and the recording of the Emperor’s speech was transmitted as intended.
A schoolgirl rings the Hiroshima Peace Bell [Surgeonsmate, GNU Free Documentation License 1.2/wiki]
This week in the war, on 6 August and on 9 August 1945, atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The necessity of using the atomic bomb is still debated today.
President Harry S. Truman meets with King George VI aboard the USS Augusta off the coast of Plymouth, England, 2 August 1945 [Public domain]
This week in the war, off the coast of Plymouth, England, President Harry S. Truman, en route home from the Potsdam Conference
aboard the USS Augusta
, met with King George VI, who was on board the British battlecruiser HMS Renown
The atomic bomb was a focus of discussion. At least one of Truman’s party, Admiral William Leahy, was sure that the power of the bomb had been exaggerated and remarked that it sounded like a ‘professor’s dream.’
Later, after he had become fully aware of the bomb’s destructive power, Leahy condemned the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as barbaric.
Clement Attlee and King George the Fifth in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, July 1945 [Public domain, wiki]
In the July general election, the British Labour Party had won its first majority in British history and, this week in the war, on 26 July 1945, Clement Attlee became the first Labour prime minister of Great Britain.
The Labour Party’s platform was based upon full employment and social reform, namely the sharing of wealth through the introduction of a welfare state.
It would also become the role of Clement Attlee to take part in the final negotiations at the Potsdam Conference.
British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, US President Harry S. Truman, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, Potsdam, July 1945 [Public domain, wiki]
The Potsdam conference opened this week in the war, on 17 July 1945.
Three countries participated: The Soviet Union—represented by Joseph Stalin, the United States—represented by Harry S. Truman (who had become president following the death of President Roosevelt), and Great Britain—represented at first by Winston Churchill and then by Clement Atlee, who became prime minister as a result of the Labour Party winning the July 1945 general election.
The continuation of the war against Japan was a major item on the agenda. So was the re-organization of post-war Europe, including moving the boundary of Poland westward into Germany.
Meanwhile, a top-secret telegram was sent from Washington to Potsdam, to inform the US Secretary for War, Henry Stimson, that the atomic bomb had been successfully tested at Alamogordo in New Mexico.
Troops of the US 92nd Infantry (‘Buffalo’) Division, Italy 1945 [Public domain, wiki]
This week in the war, on 15 July 1945, the first contingent of American troops that had been serving in Europe boarded their ship in Naples, Italy, and set sail for Japan.
The invasion of the Japanese homeland had been set for 1 November.
American warships had already been bombarding the Japanese mainland as a preparation, and the Japanese were making preparations of their own by training thousands of men for kamikaze air and sea attacks against Allied shipping.
Ivan Lyon enjoying a beer with friends, Brisbane 1944 [Public domain, wiki]
This week in the war saw the final and sad end of Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Lyon’s Z Force.
Since the fall of Singapore, Lyon had served with special forces (British, Australian and Free French) that were fighting behind the Japanese lines.
In September 1943, he led a successful raid against Japanese shipping in Singapore harbor.
He died while engaged in a similar raid in October 1944.
All of the members of Z Force were eventually killed or captured. Those captured were executed by beheading on 7 July 1945.
Once over twenty strong, Z Force had begun