Hidden History: The Japanese Bombing of Australia

Croker Island Exodus

Directed by Stephen McGregor (2011)

Film Review

Prior to watching this documentary, I had no idea Japanese bombers attacked northern Australia 97 times during World War II.* This film reenacts the evacuation of 95 Aboriginal children from Croker Island during the bombing. Members of the “Stolen Generation,” the mixed race children were forcibly removed from their mothers to be raised in Christian missionary schools. Claiming the practice would facilitate assimilation, the Australian government continued to kidnap mixed race children until 1970.

The filmmakers also interview three of the surviving children as they reminisce about their separation from their families and their 42 day journey from Croker Island to Sydney.

Darwin was evacuated (except for essential services) in 1941, shortly before the first Japanese bombing raid. The three missionary sisters running the Croker Island school had the option to evacuate but chose to remain with their students.

Once Darwin was evacuated, the school ceased to receive food shipments from the Australian mainland. This left the sisters and children no choice but to evacuate. They traveled to Barclay Point in Queensland by naval frigate. From there two trucks drove them 50 kilometers through the tropical rainforest to Oenpelli. Because the trucks kept having breakdowns, most of the children ended up walking.

From Oenpelli, they walked barefoot 344 kilometers to the army base in Pine Creek. With limited provisions, they relied on bush water holes and wild water grass (wild sugar cane) for water and supplemented their bread and butter will lizards and wild berries.

At Pine Creek they were put on a train to Sydney. The army built two portable shelters for them on a mission homestead one-half hour south of Sydney.

In 1946, 63 of them chose to return to Coker Island. They remained there until age 16, when they went to Darwin to look for work. In 2011, when this film was made, only 12 evacuees were still living. The film ends with an extremely moving reunion they held with the last surviving missionary sister.


*Between February 1942 and November 1943, during the Pacific War of World War II, the Australian mainland, domestic airspace, offshore islands and coastal shipping were attacked at least 97 times by aircraft from the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force and Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. These attacks came in various forms; from large-scale raids by medium bombers, to torpedo attacks on ships, and to strafing runs by fighters.

In the first and deadliest set of attacks, 242 aircraft hit Darwin on the morning of 19 February 1942. Killing at least 235 people and causing immense damage, the attacks made hundreds of people homeless and resulted in the abandonment of Darwin as a major naval base.

The film can be viewed free at the Maori TV website:

https://www.maoritelevision.com/shows/sunday-documentaries/S01E001/croker-island-exodus

A History of the Medieval Plague

Did Plague Really Cause Black Death?

Dr Dorsey Armstrong

Film Review

This film is actually a (free) 24-lecture course on the “Black Death,” a plague epidemic that recurred over approximately 300 years in medieval Europe. Given the COVID19 pandemic, the topic is of particular interest in 2020. The lecturer is Purdue Associate Professor of English and medieval literature Dr Dorsey Armstrong.

Personally I found the first nine lectures riveting. They become somewhat repetitive from lecture 10 on. I also highly recommend lecture 21, which covers the growing political-economic power experienced by the medieval peasantry (particularly women) with the loss of approximately 50% of Europe’s population to plague. Both Ciompi’s Rebellion (1378-1382) in Florence and the Peasants Revolt (1381) in England are discussed in extensive detail.

Despite my medical training, I had very little knowledge of plague prior to watching this series. I had no idea the disease first appeared in the 6th century in the Eastern Roman Empire and was considered pivotal in the ultimate fall of Rome.

I was also unaware that medieval plague appeared in three discrete forms, leading some modern scientists to speculate it may represent three distinct illnesses:

  • Bubonic plague – characterized by “buboes” (severely inflamed lymph nodes). It had the lowest mortality rate (approximately 20%) and couldn’t be transmitted to other human beings unless the buboes were lanced. It could only be transmitted through flea bites of infected rats.
  • Pneumonic plague – plague pneumonia, in which patients coughed up blood and easily transmitted it to other people. The mortality rate was nearly 100%.
  • Septicemic plague – a hemorrhagic fever (like Ebola) resulting from Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC), a condition in which a patient’s blood can’t clot and they bleed from all their orifices and into subcutaneous tissues. Non-transmissible to other humans, it was 100% fatal.

The plague recurred in Europe 15 times, every decade or so. The last European outbreak ended in 1676. It would take 300 years for the continent to return to its pre-plague population of 150 million.

Yersinia pestis, the organism believed responsible for medieval plague, was first identified in 1896 in an epidemic occurring in India and China.

There are still periodic plague outbreaks in Asia and the Southwestern US. The disease responds well to antibiotics if recognized in time. Because it’s so rare, doctors sometimes misdiagnose it, and there are still deaths.

Anyone with a public library card can watch the course free on Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into the search engine.

 

 

 

Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to the US

Operation Paperclip

Annie Jacobsen (2014)

Film Review

This video is a lecture by Annie Jacobsen about her 2014 book Operation Paper Clip. In her talk, she mentions two classified Pentagon programs “Operation Alsace” and “Operation Paperclip.” Alsace, under the command of Colonel Boris Pash, was sent to the German front in the final days of the war. There it undertook a detailed investigation of Germany’s Atomic, Biological, and Chemical weapons programs. Renamed operation Paperclip following Germany’s surrender, the program arranged for 1600 Nazi scientists to be secretly repatriated to the US to work for the Pentagon and various weapons industries.

As all were documented war criminals, they were secretly smuggled out of Germany to avoid being tried for war crimes at Nuremberg. In some cases, their crimes consisted of inhumane treatment of the Jewish slaves who staffed their weapons programs, in others for their medical experiments on concentration camp inmates with lethal biological and chemical agents.

Some of the key war criminals Jacobsen mentions include

  • Otto Niemeyer – worked directly under Goehring in the Luftwaffe and created the Stealth Bomber for the US Air Force.
  • Celebrated rocket scientist Werner von Braun – (along with 100 of von Braun’s V2 rockets)  to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
  • Walter Dornberger – after working directly under Himler, he came to the US to found Bell Aircraft.
  • Otto Ambros (Hitler’s favorite chemist) – co-inventor of Sarin gas and synthetic rubber, who later ran slave labor complex at Auschwitz. In the US, served as an advisor to Dow Chemical and the US Army Chemical Corp.

 

The Evolution of Legalized Slavery in the US Prison System

13th

Directed by Av DuVernay (2016)

Film Review

This documentary is a thoughtful exploration of the crucial role of the 13th amendment played in the president mass incarceration of African Americans, who currently provide captive labor for major Wall Street corporations for pennies a day. Featuring such luminaries as Van Jones, Angela Davis, Michelle Alexander, retired Black Congressional Caucus member Charles Rangel, and former (Republican) House Speaker Newt Gingrich*, the film highlights major landmarks in the evolution of the US prison industrial complex.

According to filmmakers, the 13th amendment was the most significant in that it essentially preserved slavery as “punishment for a crime.” Having lost their four million strong slave labor force, Southern states facing economic collapse, were quick to adopt “convict leasing” systems. In this way former slaves arrested for minor crimes such as loitering and vagrancy (ie failure to carry a letter certifying employment), could be leased to plantations, mines, and developing industries.

Likewise the 2015 release of D W Griffith’s Birth of a Nation was instrumental in the emerging mythology of black criminality. The overtly racist films glamorizes the Klu Klux Klan, while implanting the fiction in the public mind of an irresistible African American desire to rape white women. KKK cross burning was another fiction Griffith invented, which the terrorist organization subsequently adopted. .

The film’s release, which greatly increased KKK membership, also triggered thousands of lynchings between World War I and World War II. This state sanction terrorism against Southern Blacks, rather than economic privation, would be the main driver of northward African American migration in the early 20th century.

The film also recounts Nixon’s “Southern strategy,” in which he used subtle “war on drugs,” “law and order,” and “tough on crime” rhetoric to appeal to Southern Democrats’ unease with the civil rights movement – thus persuading them to vote Republican.

Reagan, in turn, would provide the legislation and funding to prosecute the war on drugs, significantly ramping up the arrest and conviction of low income minorities for victimless crimes such as marijuana and crack cocaine possession.

The film attributes most responsibility for the America’s obscene incarceration rate (2 million+ and growing) to Bill Clinton and his 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill. The latter significantly increased the militarization and numbers of cops on the street. Clinton also heavily promoted “three strikes you’re out” and minimum mandatory sentencing laws that have massively increased the US prison census.


*Newt Gingrich: “No one who is white understands the difficulty of being Black in the US.”

Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066

Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066

Directed by Jon Osaki (2018)

Film Review

This documentary traces the US government internment of 120,000 West Coast Japanese-American citizens during World War II.

The film begins by describing the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act banning Chinese immigrants, which led West Coast farmers to turn to Japanese immigrants as their primary source of cheap labor. Many Japanese would save enough money to purchase their own land in California’s Central Valley, regarded as worthless desert by Caucasian farmers because it was hard to irrigate.

Concerned about a potential Central Valley takeover by Japanese farmers, in 1924 their Caucasian neighbors successfully lobbied Congress to ban all Asian immigration.

Anti-Japanese feeling intensified following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, aggravated by the mainstream media dissemination of rumors about Japanese saboteurs collaborating via shortwave  with Japanese bombers and submarines off the coast of California.

Despite a two-year investigation by the Office of Naval Intelligence that failed to identify a single case of Japanese sabotage, the War Department heavily lobbied Roosevelt to intern Japanese American citizens as a “genetic” enemy of the US. California Attorney General (later Supreme Court Chief Justice) Earl Warren also made it a major issue in his 1942 campaign for governor.

Despite strong opposition from the Justice Department, the War Department prevailed and in February 1942 Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. The latter ordered all Japanese Americans living in Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona to be stripped of their lands and imprisoned in internment camps. Congress subsequently validated the Executive Order with Public Law 503.

Three Japanese-Americans challenged the public law in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1944, SCOTUS upheld their internment. The decision would be overturned in 1983, based on documents in the US Archives revealing the US government had altered, suppressed, and destroyed evidence in laying out the case before the Court.

Japanese Americans would remain in internment camps until March 1946.

The film can be viewed free until June 1st, either at New Day Films or via Kanopy (by anyone with a public library card). Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine.

Did Winston Churchill Have Dementia?

Churchill

Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky (2017)

Film Reiview

What I find particularly interesting about this feature length biopic is its portrayal of Churchill as suffering from obvious dementia in the lead up to Operation Overlord (the D-Day invasion of Normandy – June 6, 1944). It shows Churchill as openly opposing the invasion owing to his catastrophic experience during World War I. As First Lord of the Admiralty he spearhead the attempted invasion of Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula. After over 250,000 allied forces* were killed by Turkish forces, the Allies were forced to retreat.

In the case of D-Day, the Germans, like the Turks, represented a powerful entrenched army with the potential to mow down Allied forces as they landed on the beaches beneath.

As portrayed in the film, Churchill repeatedly tries to obstruct planning for Operation Overlord, and the generals involved (including Eisenhower) repeatedly call on his wife to pull him back in line.

Prior to watching this film, I was unaware that Churchill possibly suffered from dementia during the final stages of World War II. With two openly demented senior citizens competing for the US presidency, it raises some interesting questions about the true source of power in so-called liberal democracy


*A high disproportiate number of Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand conscripts) were massacred at Gallipoli.. Anazac Day, which celebrates the bloodbath, is one of the major holidays here. This film was shown on Māori TV for the April 2019 Anzac Day celebrations. A substantial number of the Kiwis killed at Gallipoli belonged to the Māori Battalion.

 

The full film can be viewed free at the Māori TV website: https://www.maoritelevision.com/shows/anzac-day-2019/S01E001/churchill

 

 

 

 

Hidden History: How the CIA Experimented on Unabomber Ted Kaczynski with LSD

The Net: Ted Kaczinski, the CIA and the History of Cyberspace

Directed by Lutz Daumbeck

German (with English subtitles)

Film Review

This is a fascinating German documentary about the so-called “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski. Between 1978 and 1995 Kaczinski, a former Berkeley math professor, sent a series of letterbombs (killing three people and injuring 23 others) to researchers involved in high profile cybernetics* and related fields. His brother would ultimately identify Kaczynski after the FBI persuaded the New York Times to publish his manifesto “Industrial Society and Its Future.” Following his 1996 arrest, his attorneys negotiated a plea bargain (without his consent) in which he pleaded guilty to all charges and received a life sentence without possibility of parole.

Warning against the future role of computers in absolute mind control and surveillance of all society, Kaczinski’s manifesto also outlines his desire to derail this process by targeting the main scientists responsible. Hard copies of the manifesto are still available various anarchist bookstores and online at Kaczynski the unabomber manifesto

The film intersperses investigation into Kaczynski’s personal history and an examination of the bizarre LSD-laced culture that would result in the personal computer,** the Internet, Esalon,*** and CIA mind control experimentation.

For me the most shocking revelation in the film concerns a CIA experiment Kaczinski participated in while a Harvard student. The lead researcher fed him and 19 other exceptionally gifted students LSD and filmed the bizarre behavior they subsequently engaged in. Although the videos of Kaczinski have “mysteriously” vanished, there is clear written documentation of his participation. It’s also apparent the government failed to inform his defense team of these mitigating circumstances.

Kaczynski, reported to have an IQ of 170, began studying math at Harvard at age 16. He began teaching graduate level math courses at Berkeley in 1965. In 1971, he resigned his job and built himself a cabin in the woods in Montana.

The most interesting segments of the film relate to a lengthy correspondence (in German) between Kaczynski and one of the filmmakers.


*Cybernetics is defined as the interaction between human beings and machines.

**Stewart Brand, known as the father of the personal computer, was a member of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. The Merry Pranksters’ bus traveled widely during the sixties distributing free LSD and performing with a band that later became the Grateful Dead. As John Potash writes in Drugs as Weapons Against Us, Kesey and Grateful Dead band members were also CIA assets involved with a scheme to promote and distribute LSD among antiwar leftists.

***According to Wikipedia, the Esalen Institute is a Big Sur retreat center, founded in 1962, that  focuses on “humanist” education and personal change. As the filmmakers suggest, they had strong links to the CIA, MKUtra, and similar mind control experimentation during the sixties and seventies. See https://www.reddit.com/r/conspiracy/comments/5xf335/the_cia_esalen_and_mkultra_doctors/

 

A Nation Founded on the Institution of Slavery

Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents

by Margaret Kimberley

Truth to Power (2020)

Book Review

This book should be required reading in all US high schools and colleges, along with Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States and Roxane Dunbar Ortiz’s Indigenous People’s History of the United States. It will make absolutely clear to all history students that the main purpose of the US War of Independence and the US Constitution were to preserve the institution of slavery in North America.

It was to preserve slavery the nation’s capitol was moved in 1791 from Philadelphia to a coastal swamp between Virginia and Maryland. Traveling to a national capitol in a northern state was too embarrassing for slave holding presidents like Washington. It meant having to rotate slaves between Philadelphia and Virginia – any slave remaining in Pennsylvania longer than six months automatically won their freedom.

Kimberley also totally demolishes the mythology around America’s “shrewd and brilliant” slaveholding founding fathers. Even northern presidents who favored emancipation (including Lincoln who only did so for political expediency) held profoundly racist beliefs about the innate inferiority of Africans. In fact, they sought to forcibly expel them to offshore colonies.

As Kimberley ably demonstrates, no US president has ever supported social justice reforms benefiting African Americans except in response to massive grassroots pressure.

For me the most interesting part of the book concerns Fannie Lou Hammer and her battle to seat the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. The 1968 Democratic National Convention, would ultimately seat them – leading to the breakaway of Storm Thurmond’s Dixiecrats. This wholesale defection of Southern whites would ensure a Republican presidential victory (for Nixon) the same year.


* Lincoln, who fervently believed in keeping the US white, worked on a number of colonization strategies to forcibly deport freed slaves, first to Île À Vache near Haiti and later to Panama.

 

Maori Land Wars: Genocide New Zealand Style

New Zealand Wars: Part 2 Kings and Empire

Directed by Tainui Stephens (2017)

Film Review

Part 2 of this series concerns the Wairau Valley War (1843), the Wellington War (1846), and the first Taranaki land war (1860-61).

The Wairau Valley War started when British settlers in the Marlborough Sounds (top of South Island) tried to farm land that still belong to Māori. After local iwi (tribes) drove out the land surveyors and set fire to their huts, 50 armed settlers marched to the Wairau Valley to “teach Māori” a lesson. Te Rauparaha, aka the Emperor of the South,* organized iwi warriors on both sides of Cook Strait to repel them.

Responding to growing fears Te Rauparaha would also attack unauthorized settlers, the newly appointed governor general George Grey marched British troops into in the Hutt Valley northwest of Wellington. Local Māori responded by killing the settlers who had illegally taken their land. During this fighting, Te Rauparaha was captured and imprisoned without trial, and settlers seized his former Māori.

The last segment of Part 2 is the most interesting to me as it concerns the first Taranaki War (I live in Taranaki). By 1858, there was a split in the North Island’s indigenous population.Two-thirds of Taranaki iwi supported the growing Māori king movement, formed with the explicit intention of solidifying Māori control over their own lands. One-third wished to sell land to the British for the purpose of facilitating trade.

The Taranaki land wars started when Te Teira sold the British communally-owned land in Waitara, and Wiremu Kingi and his followers turned settlers back when they tried to claim possession.

The major battle of the first Taranaki War took place at Puketekauere pā near Waitara in 1861. Although local Te Atiawa warriors were reinforced by other iwi belonging to the Māori king movement, they were still vastly outnumbered by British troops.

This first battle ended in a stalemate. In the truce that followed, Māori reclaimed more than £200,000 worth of property from New Plymouth settlers. However Wiremu Kingi lost control of coastal Waitara, which the British wanted for a seaport.


*Te Rauparaha held sway over iwi extending from Kaipiti Island near Wellington to modern day Nelson in the South Island. This would be the first attempt of iwi to consolidate their military efforts to retain control of their land.

 

 

The War Britain Lost

The New Zealand Wars: Part 1 The War Britain Lost

Directed by Tainui Stephens (2017)

Film Review

The New Zealand Wars (between British settlers and Māori) occurred between 1843-72. Until the modern indigenous rights movement, which started in the 1970s, it was rare for our public schools to teach the history of these wars. In 2019, the NZ Parliament approved legislation requiring the compulsory teaching of this history in public schools by 2022.

This film is the first in a five-part series exploring the British-Māori wars. Part 1 covers early British settlement of New Zealand and the first war in 1845-46. The defeat inflicted on colonial forces was extremely quite a shock for the British, especially as they outnumbered the Māori (6 to 1), who (unlike the British) had rifles but no heavy artillery (eg canons and mortars).

The trigger for the 1845 war was the repeated destruction of the British flagpole overlooking Kororāreka (Russell) by the Māori chief Hōne Heke. The latter believed British forces were in violation of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, which guarantees Māori full sovereignty over their own lands and people.

The victory of warriors led by Heke and his ally Kawiti is largely attributed to their superior military strategy. This involved a new form of fortified pā, a combination of deep trenches and primitive bunkers, in which flexible wooden fencing plays a similar role to the barbed wire used in World War I trenches, as well as their skill in drawing colonial forces into an ambush.

This new form of reinforced pā is viewed by military historians as the inspiration for modern trench warfare. It would spread to iwi (tribes) across the entire North Island for use in their own engagements with the British.

In 1846, colonists were forced to sign a truce with Heke and Kawati. They gained no new land in the three year war. The British flagpole would not be re-erected during Heke’s lifetime.