World War II was the most cataclysmic event of modern times. Two thirds of the national production of nearly every nation in the world was devoted to the war − either devoted to conquering the world or desperately fighting evil. More than sixty million people were killed. The reality is unimaginable today − it was unimaginable then. It was the ultimate battle between good and evil. It was World War II.
This collection is the most important in private hands. Eighty pieces chronicle and represent the personalities and events of the war from both the Allied and Axis powers. More than half, fifty pieces, are letters, documents, manuscripts and important signed photographs.
The collection begins, chronologically, with important letters about the founding of the Nazi Party beginning with one of the earliest Hitler documents, changing his status from artist to writer as he was rejected by the Vienna Academy, and was about to be destitute and homeless. In these months his anti-Semitism was formed.
The Versailles Treaty, thought by many as the start of World War II, is represented by a lengthy letter, signed by the four Allied leaders, offering conditional help to Russia and a photograph of the four leaders the day the Treaty was signed, with the signatures of Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd-George and Georges Clemenceau. Two handwritten statements by the German World War I Military Commander, and later President, Paul von Hindenburg, reinforce Germany’s resolute determination to rise again.
After the failed Beer Hall Putsch, attempting to seize power, with Hitler in prison, in 1923 the wounded Hermann Goering, exiled in Italy, pleads in two lengthy letters for Mussolini’s assistance to save the Nazi Party.
Hitler’s obsession and love affair with his niece Geli, according to his confidantes at the time (1928), caused him to turn from his Nazi Party activities to his personal pursuit of her. In the most personal photograph he could have inscribed, he pledges his affection to her and signs “My love – Uncle Adolph”. She mysteriously died of a gunshot wound three years later. This photograph was removed from Hitler’s apartment, where he had created a shrine to her, by an American soldier.
By 1929 the Nazi propaganda machine was critical to its success, and a manuscript by Himmler, then its chief, is for a pamphlet comparing the Marxist press reporting, and the Nazi version of reality. Hermann Goering’s devotion to Hitler is vividly expressed in a formal portrait photograph which he has elaborately inscribed to Hitler.
The German novelist Thomas Mann had emigrated to America before the war after his children warned him not to return to his native country. In 1942 he made a radio broadcast to Germany, “Why Hitler Cannot Win”. The English typescript, signed with corrections in his hand, is in the collection.
Turning to Italy, a lengthy handwritten manuscript, 1926, by Benito Mussolini, details his definition of fascism, which “strives to dominate the world”, and a manuscript, in English, of an interview with Mussolini, corrected and signed by him, gives his views on the state of Europe.
The same year in Russia, Josef Stalin, in a lengthy handwritten letter, attacks American newspapers for their criticisms of Stalin’s Bolshevik atrocities.
John F. Kennedy described in an unparalleled chapter in his revolutionary book Why England Slept, the British government’s reaction to Hitler’s election in 1933 and his developing foreign policies during that fateful year. Kennedy explored the reasons for Britain’s reactions to Hitler which led to their appeasement in his best selling 1939 book. The original corrected manuscript, eighteen pages in length, is in the collection.
Albert Einstein, a month after Germany’s Blitzkrieg, writes a passionate and thoughtful letter about the terrible events and the mystery, to him, of how so many intelligent and responsible people “could be so blind”.
Two months later, in August 1940, Churchill gave one his most memorable speeches about the Battle of Britain pilots, “Never in the field of human conflict, has so much been owed by os many to so few”. The original printing of his speech is in the collection. The following year, Churchill triumphantly announced the sinking of the great German Battleship Bismarck, and in the collection is the complete file of 258 decrypted coded messages to the Admiralty, from the ships following and attacking the Bismarck describing the battle and final sinking.
The Enigma Code Machine was one of the most important factors in the war, with the British ability to decode German military messages, one of the most important factors in military history. The code machines themselves do become available but documentation is extremely rare. In the collection is a printed form, marked in red SECRET, for encrypting and decoding Enigma messages. This was evidently retrieved from the U-85 German submarine that was sunk off the coast of North Carolina on April 14, 1942.
In Mein Kampf Hitler wrote about the importance of propaganda and in October 1939 he issued a broadside addressed to the French people expressing that he has never even thought of the French as his arch enemy. A second broadside, June 16, 1940, the day France capitulated, promises honorable treatment to the defeated French Army.
Winston Churchill, ever mindful of the importance of propaganda, responded in 1943, to a satirical cartoon in Punch, defending Montgomery and his Eighth Army.
The British ground war began in Africa to save their source of oil from Germany. Erwin Rommel, Germany’s most important military commander, the “Desert Fox,” wrote to his son at the beginning of the African Campaign about his victory which Churchill told the House of Commons “was a painful experience”. Rommel’s main adversary, Field Marshall Montgomery, wrote a lengthy (24 legal folio pages) manuscript at the conclusion of the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944, analyzing the use of air power in support of ground troops. His memoirs of the war bear a lengthy inscription referring to the “Years of Endurance” followed by the “Years of Victory”.
King Edward VIII, who was inappropriately friendly with the Nazi leadership before abdicating, was given the Governorship of the Bahamas during the war and wrote a lengthy letter on February 15, 1943 to a BBC broadcaster about various affairs, noting that he always listens to Roosevelt and Churchill and that Churchill’s ability to enthuse listeners “since 1940 has far surpassed even his high pre-war standards”.
The great film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, considered one of the best films of all time, was historically very inaccurate. The role played by Alex Guinness of the British commander greatly misrepresented the truth. Brigadier Toosey was the leader of the British prisoners and told his true story in a privately printed book, marked “not to be published in my lifetime,” a highlight of the Asian section of the collection..
The Pearl Harbor attack brought America into the war. The first Honolulu newspaper with the enormous headline WAR is rare, but the Tokyo newspaper with photographs of the attack from their fighter planes and bombers is an almost unheard-of rarity (the firebombing of Tokyo destroyed nearly everything). Both are in the collection together with the first German announcement in the Nazi Party newspaper.
Franklin Roosevelt’s typewritten and signed message for Christmas 1944, expresses great national appreciation for all the troops are doing and while “the way ahead of us is arduous” peace will be attained with final victory.
America’s war began in the Pacific with Douglas MacArthur as commander-in-chief. The carbon typescript of his message December 27, 1941 announces that he is abandoning Manila so that it will not be destroyed by the Japanese. The following October his handwritten manuscript statement from Australia praising the efforts of Australia and denying any interest in running for President is in the collection.
A large Japanese map of the Pacific is marked up with two parallel Japanese suppositions of the counter attacks by the forces of Nimitz and MacArthur, both quite accurate.
Admiral Nimitz wrote a lengthy post-war letter about his actions when he took over as Pacific Commander after Pearl Harbor. He emphasizes the importance he placed on restoring morale, that all was not lost. A second letter is the text he wrote to the mother of the five Sullivan brothers who died on the same ship.
The fear in America after Pearl Harbor is illustrated by the two posters ordering all Japanese Americans to report for internment and prohibiting them from being in a newly declared coastal area of Los Angeles.
Prominent German author, Thomas Mann, exiled in America, wrote an essay in 1942, “Why Hitler Cannot Win”. The manuscript bears his corrections.
In 1942, Dwight Eisenhower wrote a handwritten letter to his wife on December 27th saying he hoped to “have time for a long letter-but no-everything is normal: no time for anything… I’m still struggling…” In May 1943 in a typewritten letter signed to the commanding General in North Africa, he reviews the success in North Africa and as the Allied destruction of German forces is virtually complete, congratulates him. Later as the European war was coming to a conclusion, he wrote a long-typewritten letter to one of his commanding generals meticulously stating the policy for transferring troops to the Pacific war. The details of his letter establish how soldiers will be transferred, retained for the army of occupied Germany or discharged but he admonishes “… apply the established policies with human understanding”. Also included in the collection is Eisenhower’s report on operations in Europe signed on the title page.
George Patton praised his corps commander in his lightning strike across France the day after Paris was liberated. “Your ability to accept calculated risks without becoming involved in unwarranted delays has contributed substantially to the successful accomplishment of the mission….”
During World War I Patton wrote a handwritten letter to his mother updating her on his progress and discussing his need for more tanks, the need for rain because the tanks do better in it, adding “A tank in spite of its ferocious appearance is in reality a delicate animal and subject to more ills than horses…. His wife has told him he now habitually has his mean look”. In an earlier handwritten letter to his mother, he wrote to tell her about learning how to ride horses (he later became an excellent polo player while stationed in Hawaii).
D-DAY is represented in the collection with the Top Secret original map of the “Underwater Obstacles” at Omaha Beach, May 19, 1944. This printed map, 16 ½ x 14 inches is marked “Annexe. A.”, as part of the overall invasion plans. The two diagrams of Omaha Beach show the placement of rows of obstacles, including hedgehogs. “Tellermines may be fixed to some stakes.”
Ernest Hemingway’s difficulty in getting into the initial D-DAY Landings was because of a concussion he had suffered in London while awaiting the invasion. In a late war lengthy letter to his future wife Mary, he explains that he needed to have been treated at the time but he had to lie about it or he would have been blocked from going with the invasion. The brain damage affected his reaction to alcohol as well as his personality, but his physician has told him he is improving after five concussions in two years (“not the way to treat what you make your living with”).
An earlier document in the collection is his press pass for the Spanish Civil War. After the liberation of Paris, Hemingway sent his future wife Mary seventeen pages of typewritten poems and another letter reflecting on his experiences in combat.
The founder of the OSS, the precursor of the CIA, signed an official certificate of service in the OSS for John O’Keefe who served behind Japanese lines.
Jimmie Doolittle, the leader of the top secret first bombing mission of Tokyo, described in detail to the film maker Daryl Zanuck the success, in 1943, of the bombing of Europe.
In 1937, the year after Charles Lindbergh visited Nazi Germany’s aviation centers, he wrote a philosophical letter to the American Ambassador to Germany discussing that peace can only be maintained by offering advantages that are greater than those of war. The handwritten letter is surprisingly well thought out given Lindbergh’s reputation for support for Nazi Germany’s military superiority.
The most famous photograph of the war, Rosenthal’s of the flag raising on Iwo Jima, is present with the very rare signatures of the surviving flag raisers. The dramatic photograph is 8 x 10 inches. A full-page letter from the hospitalized Corpsman John Bradley recounts the details of the flag raising.
Charles de Gaulle, in a handwritten document the month before the German invasion of France, warns that any Legionnaire who deserted would never be able to rejoin any of the Allied powers forces. Two weeks after the Fall of France, de Gaulle writes from London to a woman about her reaction, and volunteering, in response to his most famous war time speech, “France has lost the battle but not the war”. His memoirs of the war, 1940-1942 and 1942-1944, are both inscribed to notable war time persons.
In Russia the spy agency NKVD was headed by the ruthless Lavrenty Beria who here writes a letter organizing a spy network in Turkey.
The OSS in Italy brought about the surrender of the German troops, and the collection contains a typewritten manuscript, corrected, with 17 original photographs, detailing the inside OSS story of the negotiations, without Soviet knowledge, between the OSS, Field Marshal Kesselring and SS General Wolff. (The only other copy is in Allen Dulles’ papers at Princeton).
Britain and America were concerned about reports of Hitler’s fanatical supporters holding out in the mountains and monitored radio messages to the last minute. On the day of the German surrender, a British Enigma listening post intercepted a radio message from Henrich Himmler, head of the SS. Himmler indicates at least several units plan to carry on a “small war in the mountains” and to send orders to them to carry out all orders.
The atomic bombing of Hiroshima, ending the war, is discussed in first person detail, by the pilot, the navigator and tail gunner of the Enola Gay B-29 which dropped the bomb. A contemporary photograph of the plane is signed by all the crew.
The official photograph of the Japanese signing the surrender document on the Battleship Missouri, is inscribed to the naval historian Samuel Eliot Morrison by the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet Admiral Nimitz.
The Nazi prisoners on trial in Nuremberg as war criminals were allowed to write letters, and two are included as well as two official documents:
Hermann Goering. Full page handwritten to his wife discussing family events, his health and his losing 41 kilograms, almost half his weight. He professes his love and passion for her, unexpected sentiments from the founder of the Gestapo.
Karl Doenitz, the founder of the U-Boat war and Hitler’s successor as Fuhrer, writes “We can be proud of what a decent, valiant navy we had and how honorable our submarine war was”.
Wilhelm Keitel, Commander of the Armed Forces, signed a document to summon a pastor to testify in his behalf.
Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s Foreign Minister requests the Archbishop of Canterbury appear to testify to Ribbentrop’s desire for peace with Britain.
The one who got away: Otto Skorzeny, Hitler’s favorite commando leader who rescued Mussolini, was captured and escaped at the end of the war. His false identity papers to elude being recaptured are in this remarkable collection.