On the term of surrender in war … and the costs for the road to peace

10 04 2011

Just read the study by Perlman on the attitudes towards surrender conditions in the war against the Japanese in WWII. He digs into what the term “unconditional surrender” might mean, and reports that it meant different things to different [US] stakeholders.


His report — “Unconditional Surrender, Demobilization, and the Atomic Bomb” — provides some information that one should keep in mind when looking at the government’s decisions in our days about engaging and getting out of ware-like involvements. Perlman’s focus is on what happened in the policy-making arenas, when the objectives for the war against Japan was made more concrete, and when the rules for ending hostilities were formulated.

Winner takes all … responsibility for management

One interesting insight is that even a major country on the winning side in hostilities has limits on what it can engage upon after shooting ends. Perlman states that decision made by the allies was that for Germany, they as winner would take on the entire management of the German homeland. This means that they had to create a huge administrative apparatus, populate it with suitably skilled persons, and then run this foreign country for an unstated number of years. The main burden of this work lay on the military branch, specifically the army.

It was apparently obvious that the military arms of the US did not want to be involved in a similar complete take-over of Japan. At least one reason was that it was difficult to find persons to populate such a completely covering bureaucracy. Some important factors (though they are not stated by Perlman) may be language and culture. But also a feeling that maybe it would be better to rule “by proxy”. So instead of taking over Japan, which would imply a massive amount of occupation forces, it would be much more advantageous to get the Japanese to do the administration, but along the lines of a political and policy framework drawn up by the US.

Surrender … on what terms?

Looking at the military situation in the period late 1944 until summer 1945, there was on the horizon a dreaded invasion of Japan mainland. From a military-political point of view, the optimal outcome would be for the Tokyo to surrender unconditionally before an American invasion was launched. This would preserve some order in the administrative  system of Japan, and by command from top, that administration could then be the instrument for persistent pacification of Japan.

An alternative scenario was that no surrender was announced, the American invasion of Japan mainland would be launched, huge number of casualties would be seen, the American forces would have to fight for every yard of land, and at the end there would be nothing left of a useful societal administrative structure, and that would force the American Army to take complete responsibility for managing Japan.

This was a dilemma, that partly influenced the way “unconditional surrender” was explicated. Different parties took different stances here. Some were pragmatic, and said that “unconditional” meant “there will be conditions, but these will not be negotiable”; while others said that “unconditional” meant that the Japanese would have to surrender and have guarantees at all concerning what would happen.

This is where speaking with different voices was both a blessing and curse. A blessing because one could target different messages to different audiences, and thereby try to satisfy everybody, despite the fact that there was no consistently fully explicated policy about terms and conditions for surrender.

It was a curse, because some Japanese factions could — and did — interpret what they heard as a step-back from the kind of strict “unconditional surrender” that Germany had to accept. And that such a step-back was caused by lack of American determination, and a war weariness on the part of the American citizens. Hence, by not accepting “unconditional surrender”, the Japanese could at the end of the day get a better deal by emphasizing that they could only accept a cease-fire that would guarantee that some part of what they regarded as their empire would remain in their hands.

Johnny … wants to go home

Another complication was that when Germany surrendered, the American citizens in general experienced a general relief … the war was won, we can finally be at peace. The military branches were of course fully aware of the fact that hostilities were not over. In the Pacific theatre the Japanese were as yet undefeated.

But signing a cease-fire with Germany caused a general feeling of elation. In November 1918, a similar story unfolded. Immediately the mothers and fathers of the US raised their voices that their sons must come home. This despite the fact that the German Army was not fundamentally beaten, and there was still some uncertainty about what would happen in Germany. And the Congress raised the same demands.

Now much the same happened. To appease the citizenry and Congress, there started a program of sending home soldiers from Europe. This caused some of the units– that were designated to transfer to the Pacific arena — to effectively lose their ability to perform as a combat-proven unit. Many of the veteran soldiers were released and sent home. This had a bad impact on the resource plans for the invasion of Japan. Planned date had to be moved forward, in order to leave time for extensive training of new recruits.

A GI soldier often sees a different kind of war, compared what professional long-term high-ranking staff sees. A General typically has nothing to “go back to” after the war — the war is what makes sense to such a person. But GI Joe thinks otherwise — to be in uniform should only be for a short period, and then go “back home”.

Morale, an essential ingredient, was virtually spent in ETO [European Theater of Operations] divisions, including the elite airborne. General Maxwell Taylor tried “to stir up enthusiasm for new worlds  to conquer” in the 101st, one of only two Army divisions to have won a Presidential Unit Citation. “We’ve licked the best that Hitler had in France and Holland and Germany. Now where do we want to go?” The heroes of Bastogne and Normandy all screamed: “Home.”

(Perlman, p. 19, quoting from Maxwell Taylor, Swords and Plowshares: A Memoir (New York: Norton, 1972), p. 110)

Soldiers on the shores of Japan … or dropping the Bomb?

This sensitivity of the home front to small positive signs is what ultimately may turn out to create a storm in Washington. And the politicians have to take this into account, and devise their policies and decision-making accordingly.

So this may be an additional reason for the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan.

If the American citizens were tired, they might object to surrender conditions that would put more American boys at danger in the field. I.e., they could — through their direct or indirect pressure on Washington — create a situation that would bring advantages to Japan.

So this is another argument that the war objectives for the Pacific might have left the Bomb as the only viable alternative left, for a president that wanted to be really elected for president (Truman was voted in as vice president, and only became president when Roosevelt died during his last term in the White House).

What does it mean? For us here and now?

The “home front” is important. And that is also what the American military arms have understood. So nowadays — in the era of Iraq and Afghanistan — they downplay the costs, and exaggerate the effects of their missions.

We do see how several European countries have started revising their plans for getting out of these UN/Nato controlled campaigns, based on eroding expectations about lasting positive effects of their work, and on concrete individual losses.

And this is also something that the other side has learnt. if they can cause casualties and deaths, then the countries from which these soldiers come from may ultimately pull out. Then it does not matter if the individual soldiers are kind of even non-combatants. The only important criterion is that persons from country X will be killed in the filed, in these far-away battlefields. Then ultimately these soldiers will be pulled out. And that will make it more difficult for the countries that still have their soldiers there.


Dr. Michael D. Pearlman has worked at the Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, since 1986 and has taught history for the Combat Studies Institute since 1989. He has a doctorate in history from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree from the University of Chicago. Aside from CSI, he has taught at the Universities of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. His first book, To Make Democracy Safe for America, was published in 1984. This present study on World War II is part of a manuscript on policy in American wars from the colonial period to Desert Storm that Pearlman has just completed.

(from the back cover of the report)


Michael D. Perlman: “Unconditional Surrender, Demobilization, and the Atomic Bomb“. Report, Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, US. 1996.
On the Web at DTIC.mil (PDF) (visited April 10, 2011)

This Page: https://whenthenightcomesfallingfromthesky.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/on-the-term-of-surrender-in-war-and-the-costs-for-the-road-to-peace/

Book: “Hiroshima – The World’s Bomb” — the atomic bomb and everbody’s concern

5 12 2010

This is yet another book about the nuclear bomb, its origin and the evolution of its use in war and in politics. It has no revolutionary revelations to offer, but it succeeds as a good overview of a number of themes about the motivations and policies related to the development of the bomb and its later use as a tool in the cold war.

"Hiroshima - The World's Bomb" -- -front

"Hiroshima - The World's Bomb" -- -front


The general history of the famous Bomb and the Manhattan Project that created it, that history is fairly well-known. So why write yet another book on this topic? In this case, the author Andrew J. Rotter tries to broaden the perspective, arguing that we should not understand the Bomb as just a particular phenomenon that emerged within Project Manhattan, but that the Bomb is something that concerns all of the world. Hence the subtitle of the book — “The World’s Bomb“. Does Rotter deliver on his implicit promises? Yes, he does, but there are certain perspectives relevant to his aim that he surprisingly does not cover.

The Bomb

When we talk about the Bomb (with a capital B) we most often mean the first nuclear  bomb that was exploded with intent to kill and destroy … the Hiroshima atomic bomb. A few days later, yet another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, but that bomb, and its victims, have never received the kind of attention that was accorded to the Hiroshima bomb and the Hiroshiman victims. As is often said: winner takes all.

Since then, an enormous amounts of nuclear bombs have been produced, but they have so far only been used as threats, not used as weapons in some conflict. During the Cold War, the terror balance between the east and the west rested very much on the possibility of mutual annihilation using nuclear bombs. During that era, a significant part of the world was worried about the risk for a nuclear war. When the cold war ended, there was some relief, but nuclear powered explosive devices became a fresh cause for alarm: some smaller countries got the bomb (e.g., North Korea), or there was serious suspicions that they had embarked on a project to develop a bomb (e.g., Iran). And then there were these terrorist organisations that might get the idea to acquire a nuclear device of some sort.

Therefore, it may be reasonable to talk about it as “the world’s bomb”.

The Book

Rotter lays out the groundwork for his story by describing two other weapon technologies that in a sense brings moral issues to the front. The first is the use of gas in battle, which was heavily used in World War I. Sophisticated gases are treacherous, as they do not create a clear signal that something is going to happen (no smell), and that there may be no safe protection from it (gases can get in everywhere). Morally speaking, should gas be allowed as a weapon?

The second weapon technology is airborne bombing. It is difficult to distinguish military personnel from civilians when you are flying at a high altitude, so bombing from planes tends to be indiscriminate. There has in modern times been an understanding (and, to a certain extent, agreed upon through some international conventions) that civilians should not be harmed by military actions. Morally speaking, should we allow a weapon that makes it practically impossible to avoid harming civilians?

As Rotter argues, gas was only seriously used in WWI, but later never really deployed. Notable exceptions are: in some colonial military actions between the wars; during WWII, the US produced and transported mustard gas to Europe to be used in case the Germans started to use such weapons;  By the Japanese during WWII; during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s; etc. Use of gas as a weapon was regulated trough international agreement in the Geneva Protocol of 1929, to some extent based on moral judgements, even though purely military reasons were the main underlying rationale.

But Rotter also reminds us that air bombing has become an ever more used method in various kinds of war and war-like situations. So there we cast moral judgements aside.

And this brings in one dimension in Rotter’s story about nuclear bombs: did the persons engaged in developing nuclear bombs think about ethical and moral issues regarding the effects  this development was aiming at?

The book describes how scientists started to think about the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction that could release an enormous amount of energy. Scientists from several countries were familiar with the idea, and there was some international collaborations on related issues in the science of nuclear physics. The military got interested and involved, but initially in a hesitating way. Then the Manhattan project was started as a strategic US effort, enrolling scientists that originated from many different countries. The bomb was developed, and then the bombings Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened.

The moral issue

Rotter presents the science of  physics as the common knowledge base upon which physics scientists created the applied science and technology that resulted in the bomb. One idealistic view of science is that science (and scientists) only has solidarity towards science itself and to the international community of scientists — “The Republic of Science”. According to that thinking, scientists should not engage in something that is of advantage to one country and disadvantage to another country. The progress of science itself — progress of pure science — is the collective effect of all international scientists.  Real scientific progress critically depends on knowledge to be open, so scientists can build upon the results of other scientists. As Newton famously said: “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

Rotter gives a line of argument that most scientists adhered to the general idea of a “Republic of Science”, but the situation they were in (WWII, and possible risk that Germany could develop a nuclear fission bomb, which would place a unique weapon in the hands of the Nazi regime) made it morally permissible — perhaps even morally obligatory — to engage in a crash program to develop a bomb.

Some scientists were never fully convinced that such a  weapon should be deployed. Other scientists thought that it should be used as an explicit threat to the enemy. Yet others thought that when it was finally available in a usable form, then this super weapon was no longer critically needed. And finally some thought that it should definitely be used, even if only as a demonstration of its cataclysmic effects.

The political rationale for dropping the bombs.

Ultimately it was a presidential decision that was the cause of the droppings of the bombs. There has been some debate about whether it was necessary to drop the bombs (and get the devastating effects on generations of Japanese subjected to nuclear fall-out). There are many lines of reasoning. One of the most convincing, practically speaking, is that this would save American soldiers from having to invade the Japanese mainland, which could entail a terrible cost in casualties. Another politically more subtle argument was that dropping these bombs  should make the war end before the Soviet Union could invade core Japanese land, and thereby claim that the Soviet Union should be party of the peace-making process for Japan. USA wanted to have complete command and control of the Japanese surrender and terms and conditions for post-war Japan. The bomb would hopefully terminate the war so early that the Soviet union would be out of the picture.

Another motivation was to make a strong impression on the Soviet Union, so that they would be more willing to negotiate about post war international relations. As an effect of the strong Soviet performance in the last years of WWII, they regarded themselves as strong enough to dictate conditions to the other allied partners, at least in the context of eastern and central Europe. An American Bomb would make Stalin behave with some restraint in the negotiations.

Rotter also brings up another kind of argument, that is surprising, but also revealing about certain aspects of a democratic society. A reason that the White House understands is that if the bomb was not dropped (on Japan), the White House would have some potentially difficult explaining to do about the huge hidden funds used to finance the Manhattan Project. A Congressional investigation had come upon the funds that was used, and started to ask questions about the highly secret use of these funds. Not having anything concrete to show as the result of the huge amount of money spent could be devastating for the president. So better have some results to point to, and then a destroyed Japanese town would be a strong argument that would silence the political opponents.

Nuclear explosions

Even though only two atom bombs were used in actual warfare (the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs), more that 2000 nuclear bombs have been exploded by 8 countries — officially as testing of nuclear bombs.

A pedagogical visualisation of the time line of all these test explosions has been created by Isao Hashimoto. Watching it is both interesting and a bit scary. One can perhaps feel some comfort in the fact that we are not in these days seeing such intensive testing as was happening in the 1960s and 1970s. But we have seen that some countries have acquired nuclear explosive technology during the recent decades, so in a sense there are more heads of states that could make a decision to deploy a nuclear bomb against what is perceived as an enemy.

What is missing?

To present the story about “The World’s Bomb”, and not mention the popular anti-bomb movements, that is strange. One of the much publicized popular movements of the 1950s was the demonstrations, agitations, and debating about the danger of a “nuclear autumn”, which engaged a lot of citizens in Europe.  An example is the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (1957 – ), where for instance Bertrand Russell was a widely known spokesperson for the anti-nuclear movement. This grass-root  movement, and others like it, are not mentioned by Rotter.

Rotter does mention the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (1945 – ), but does not emphasize the role of the Bulletin (and of the group of scientists behind it) as a voice expressing the perils of uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear weapons. A core aim of the Bulletin was educational — to explicate the relationship between scientific and technical advances in the area and the politics concerning nuclear armaments.

The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (1957 – ) is another effort that tried to raise public awareness about the arms race in general and nuclear weapons in particular.

So, in the context of the Bomb being a global concern, Rotter’s way of describing the grass-root efforts highlighting a fear of possible nuclear catastrophic scenarios, this is surprisingly more or less ignored.

Andrew J. Rotter

Andrew J. Rotter

The Author

Andrew J. Rotter is (2008) Charles A. Dana Professor of History at Colgate University. He specializes in US diplomatic history, recent US history, and the Vietnam War, and has written extensively on US-Asian relations during the twentieth century, including the books The Path to Vietnam and Comrades at Odds: India and the United States.

(from publisher’s  author presentation)

More info at Rotter’s professional home page (at  Colgate University)


Despite the way the author overlooks the public opinion concerning perils of nuclear weapons, the book is clear and thought-provoking. And well worth reading in these days where nuclear threats may originate in unexpected parts of the world.


Andrew J. Rotter: “Hiroshima – The World’s Bomb” (Oxford University Press, 2008), 357 pages; ISBN 10:     0192804375; ISBN 13: 9780192804372 (book at openlibrary.org)

This page: https://whenthenightcomesfallingfromthesky.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/book-hiroshima-the-worlds-bomb-the-atomic-bomb-and-everbodys-concern/

Book: “Fleeing Hitler – France 1940” — why people run away in war

3 12 2010

In June 1940, when the German armed forces were approaching Paris, the Parisians began to move out of the city, towards the south, where they believed they would be safe from the war. This exodus lasted for some people a few days or weeks, for others a few months, and some would never return to the city where they had lived. In Hanna Diamond’s book, we are told what this exodus meant for the persons involved, what their thoughts and feelings were, and about the military-political background.

"Fleeing Hitler" -- front

"Fleeing Hitler" -- front


The second world war (WWII) started in September 1939, when Germany and the Soviet Union attacked Poland. Britain and France declared war some days later, and these two countries were then at war with Germany. But on the western front, everything was quiet. It was called the “phoney war”, as no shots were fired, and everybody just waited. In May 1940, the German army advanced into Holland, Belgium and the Netherlands, and a real war had arrived in Western Europe.

The German forced advanced rapidly — the “Blitzkrieg” — and suddenly the people of Paris started to become worried. The French and British forces could not stop the Germans, and irresistibly the Germans moved toward the west — the Channel coast — and towards the south — threatening Paris.

The inhabitants of Paris had for some weeks seen refugees passing by, refugees from Holland and Belgium, fleeing towards the south. The Parisians were worried about what would happen. Then a few day into June 1940, the inhabitants started to flee toward the south. They made a hasty leave, and mostly had to resort to their own ideas about how to flee. Some made it by train, but an enormous number of persons started to leave by road, using cars, or bikes or on foot.

On June 22, armistice was made between Germany and the Vichy regime of France, and hostilities came to an end. The two weeks of fleeing came to an end, but for the refugees, the ordeal was not over. Some — the ones who were late to leave — managed to get back to Paris quickly. Others were stranded in the Unoccupied zone of France, and it took weeks or months to get back. And still other never returned. Either because they knew that returning to the Occupied part of France would place them in danger from persecution (Jews, refugees originally from Germany and other Central-European countries, foreigners that were just visiting France) or they decided that they had nothing to return to and preferred to stay in the south of France.

"Fleeing Hitler": Leaving Paris by train

"Fleeing Hitler": Leaving Paris by train

The stories of the refugees have not been much explored. Diamond here gives us a good representation of what was on the minds of the refugees; before the exodus, during the exodus, and after. The sources used are written texts, like books published later and contemporary and later newspaper articles.

Main insights

The first insight gained is that the chaotic nature of this exodus was, to a large extent, the effect of lack of organised evacuation plans. There are several reasons for this lack, the main ones are

  • no need for detailed plans — “our impregnable wall, the Maginot line, will stop the Germans, and they will never even see Paris at a distance”.
  • no need for detailed plans, as even if the Germans entered the north of France, they would be stopped outside the gates of Paris — “we will stop them just like in WWI” (the battle of the Marne)
  • planning for this eventuality sends the wrong message to the enemy — “we might not be able to defend Paris”.
  • planning for this eventuality sends the wrong message to our citizens — “is our glorious Army incapable of defending the heart of France?”

The practical effect was that the citizens of Paris did not get a clear message about who should evacuate, and when. Certain categories were addressed specifically, like children, but for the grown-ups no clear directives were available. And the officials at the municipal, city and regional level did not provide any enlightening information.

"Fleeing Hitler": Leaving Paris by roads

"Fleeing Hitler": Leaving Paris by roads

This is why the evacuation was largely seen as an anarchic endeavour.  People had to fend for themselves.

There was also the conflict — sometimes potential and sometimes real — of interference between the streams of refugees clogging the roads, and the army  that needed to relocate in order to create some kind of meaningful opposition to the Germans. Sharing the same roads did cause logistical problems for all.

When the tide slowed to a stop, at the armistice, people could often be put up in local families or in hastily organized refugee centres. Some monetary contributions were handed out to the refugees, that they could use to acquire foods and other stuff necessary for life.

Some time after the armistice, repatriation started. Not all could be returned home. But many Parisians did return, and thanks to Paris being declared an “open city” before the Germans had come close to the suburbs, there had been no damage to the city in itself. So people could try to restore the kind of life they had had before evacuation. But life was not as good as before. Now they were exposed to food rationing, and not all workplaces could re-hire personnel.

Some numbers

In the beginning of  July 1940, official estimates said that there were eight million refugees in France — 6.2 million internal French refugees; 1.8 million Belgians; 150,000 from Holland and Luxembourg.  Of the 6+ million French, Parisians were about two million, and 800,000 were from Alsace-Lorraine


When people experience troubled times, they do not want to take on any responsibility for that. There must be somebody else that is the cause of these troubles. This is also what was noticed among the refugees.

Leon Werth was struck by the number of people he came across who needed to find someone to blame. ‘They shouted and cried expressions along the lines of “We have been sold out! We have been betrayed!” This popular accusation, that I have heard several times on the road, seemed to suffice in itself. I was never able to get a reply to the question “By whom?”‘ Those passing by in their expensive cars were assumed to be Jews. ‘The Jews sold us out!’ people cried. As refugees struggled, their anti-semitism grew. Such feelings laid the way for people to  be sympathetic to Vichy’s later anti-Jewish statutes.

(Diamond, p 78)

That anti-Semitism could be noticed should not surprise us. In Germany anti-Semitism had been legally sanctioned for more than five years. In France there was a tradition of animosity towards the French Jews — cf. the Dreyfus affair. Having a lot of persons feeling desperate and on the run from their home, this provided an environment where latent anti-Semitism could become open anti-Semitism.

Did you notice the exodus?

Many persons have actually seen a glimpse of the exodus, or should we say a glimpse of a recreation of the evacuation of Paris. At the end of the well-known movie Casablanca (1942, directed by Michael Curtis; starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid), we hear:



Bogart/Rick: If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

Bergman/Ilsa:  But what about us?

Bogart/Rick:  We’ll always have Paris.

Then we remember an earlier flashback scene, when these two have met in Paris and fallen in love. The Germans are approaching Paris. Bogart and Bergman were to escape together. Bogart waited vainly for Bergman at the railway station. Those scenes are from a timing point of view located at the peak of the exodus, when people were desperately trying to get out of the city, and succeeded, failed, or lost each other.

Even though the power of the movie Casablanca rests on what happens in the city of Casablanca, it can be enlightening to realize that the exodus from Paris was the setting for a critical part of the history preceding the main action in Morocco.

Peoples’ thoughts about Pétain

Maréchal Pétain was at the critical point in time entrusted with the governing of France. He, the hero of WWI, was now quickly taking steps to terminate hostilities between the French and the Germans. A cease-fire was agreed, and the French-German armistice was signed in Compiègne. Despite the fact that Pétain now was Head of State of a defeated France, he tried to recreate a national feeling of nationalism and “back to the roots” — in effect trying to eradicate modernism and return to a mindset of nationalism coupled with a devotion of the French soil.

In my family there is tremendous fervour for Marshal Pétain and I share these sentiments. His past, his prestige, and his age are all guarantees of his courage and the rectitude of his behaviour at the head of the French state which, without being aware of it, has just been substituted for the Republic- ‘Pétain’, my mother says,’is a father for France’ and this is just how he appears to us.

(Diamond, p 190)

Perhaps it was because the modern France had been defeated, and there were no other persons of the same stature as Pétain, that the Marshal had a surprisingly large and devoted following among the French.

Jean Monnet appears

In the history of the European Union, Jean Monnet has a special position as the originator of the idea of a European Union. He architected the first “trial version” of it,  in the form of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).

Monnet is also mentioned here, as a strong supporter for the proposed Anglo-French Union of 1940 — an initiative that would prevent France from renouncing their promises to keep fighting alongside Britain. This union proposal was raised in the midst of the period that we are talking about here, but this proposal was quickly dropped, and France did ask for a separate armistice agreement with Germany.

But still, it is an intriguing thought that this Anglo-French union acted as a seed that would later grow up to be the ECSC, and a couple of decades later would result in the European Union.

Hanna Diamond

Hanna Diamond

The author

Hanna Diamond is Senior Lecturer in French History at the University of Bath. She lived and taught in Paris for many years and has spent her career researching the lives of the French people during the twentieth century.

(from publisher author presentation)


This was an interesting book, mainly because its topic has not been treated to this extent before. The reader gets a fair amount of political background, and of the main military actions taken. But the emphasis is on the people concerned — either as direct refugees themselves, or as French citizens in the south of France, citizens that did their best to host the refugees from Paris.

For obvious reasons, the main sources have been existing documentation in text, either printed or as manuscripts in the national archives. We would have preferred that this story had been treated forty years earlier, when lots of people were still alive, and had vivid memories of those weeks and months in 1940. Presumably we would have gotten a more diversified tapestry of experiences and opinions. Nevertheless, we have to acknowledge the the picture painted in this book seems like a solid account of those events and of the mindset of those times.

What is the relevance of this book? On the one hand it is another component in the story-telling of what happened during WWII, and in that respect a component with clear added value.

But we can also read this kind of book as a background when we try to understand what we see happening in our times. Even in Europe we have during the last thirty years seen refugees fleeing from their homes, and sometimes never to return. The kinds of thoughts that were in the minds of the Parisians in 1940 should to some extent correspond to thoughts in the heads of people fleeing from Srebrenica. There are lessons to learn from history, and we had better make good use of that kind of history, if we are to take some kind of control of our future.


Hanna Diamond: “Fleeing Hitler — France 1940” (Oxford University Press, 2008) 255 pages, ISBN 13: 9780199532599 (book at openlibrary.org)

This page: https://whenthenightcomesfallingfromthesky.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/book-fleeing-hitler-france-1940-why-people-run-away-in-war/


Bok: “Operation Sepals: Hemliga baser i Sverige 1944-45” – lite svensk-norsk krigshistoria

24 08 2010

Trots svensk neutralitet under andra världskriget, så var vi inte helt isolerade från vad som skedde i vår omvärld. I den här boken återges några perspektiv på hur Sverige fungerade som bas för partisaninstser på norska sidan av vår gemensamma gräns. Texten ger inte ett brett perspektiv på hur Sverige — officiellt och inofficiellt — förhöll sig till Norge under krigsåren, utan fungerar mest som en mosaik av personliga upplevelser av de som tog del i dessa speciella insatser.

"SEPALS" -- framsida

"SEPALS" -- framsida


Under 1944 och 1945 genomfördes operation SEPALS, till en del på svenskt territorium. Det var en organisation och verksamhet som drevs av de allierade, främst Norge, USA och Storbritannien. Målet var att etablera ett nätverk i norra delen av gränsområdet mellan Sverige och Norge — Abisko till Treriksröset. Det handlade om små grupper av norrmän som var utplacerade på en handfull platser, s.k. SEPALS-baser. De bedrev insamling och avrapportering av information med potentiellt intresse för krigsledningen i väster. Regelbundna väderrapporter sändes, för att bidra till att flygoperationer från England, Skottland och Shetlandsöarna kunde planeras. Information om tyska truppstyrkor och trupprörelser insamlades och sändes med radio till Storbritannien. Dessutom skulle dessa norska grupper förbereda sig för stridsoperationer och maktövertagande när det tyska trupper förväntades dra sig tillbaka i krigets slutskede.

Att norrmän fanns i SEPALS-grupperna är uppenbart. Inga svenska var formellt enrollerade i SEPALS, men lokalbefolkning — svenska och samer — gav stöd till SEPALS-grupperna i form av transporttjänster och viss annan försörjning. Det fanns dessutom i SEPALS-organisationen några förbindelseansvariga från USA och England.

"SEPALS": en av baserna

"SEPALS": en av baserna

Inom ramen för SEPALS skedde inte så mycket i form av direkta insatser. Huvuddelen av det som gjordes var spaning och informationsinsamling, samt insatser för att hjälpa flyktingar som begav sig över gränsen från Norge till Sverige. Den viktigaste orsaken till att det inte blev några riktiga stridsinsatser på norska sidan var att den tyska krigsmakten i Norge kapitulerade i all stillhet, och det norska organisationer och grupper kunde i lugn och god ordning ta över styrning och ledning av samhället. Det hade kunnat bli annorlunda om tyska trupper i Norge (och i Danmark) hade forsatt striden till det bittra slutet. I så fall skulle det kunna ha skett att  tyskarna under sin retirering skulle göra som under deras reträtt i Finland … bedriva brända jordens taktik. Det var bl.a. för sådana fall som SEPALS-styrkorna skulle kunna bidraga med spetsoperationer. Men, som sagt, det kom inte att behövas.


Roger Albrigtsen (født 18. januar 1971) er en norsk  forfatter  av krigshistorie. Han kommer fra Evenes kommune i Nordland.

Roger Albrigtsen

Roger Albrigtsen

Albrigtsen er barnebarn av kurér, grenselos og XU-agent Magne Lindgren fra Skjomen.

Albrigtsen er også frilanser og har skrevet en rekke krigshistoriske artikler for norske aviser og tidsskrifter.

Han var våren 2008 debutant med boken: Ukjent norsk krigshistorie – Sepals – Hemmelige baser på svensk jord 1944-1945.

Våren 2009 kom boken i ny utgave via Orion Forlag og Forlaget Kristiansen i serien Orion Dokumentar. Våren 2010 kommer boken i svensk utgave via Sivart Förlag.

Om Roger Albrigtsen på  Norska Wikipedia


Boken är en översättning av ett norskt original, publicerat 2008. Eftersom SEPALS inte blev involverat i några uppmärksammade  operationer (förutom att SEPALS hade bidragit med väderinformation inför det slutliga Tirpitz-anfallet), har det förblivit en okänd del av norsk krigshistoria. Därav den norska boktiteln: ” … ukjent norsk krigshistorie … ”

"SEPALS": gränsvarning sett från norska sidan

"SEPALS": gränsvarning sett från norska sidan

Rent praktiskt har en stor del av författarens bakgrundsarbete bestått av insamling av personliga hågkomster från de norrmän som på något sätt var knutna till SEPALS. Det har nu gått mer än 60 år, så självklart är det inte så många kvar i livet. Men återberättelser och nedskrivna minnen, kompletterat med diverse offentligt arkivmaterial har bildat basen för boken.

Bokens styrka är att vi får (fragment av) personliga berättelser från inblandade, vilket ger en handfast förankring i vad de gjorde och hur de upplevde sammanhanget (t.ex. att vara förlagd ute på kalfjället under krigsvinter.) De många samtida fotografierna visar dessutom att det fanns informella avkopplande inslag i vistelsen inom SEPALS. Det kan handla om jakt och slakt och fiske, om vilostunder i solbestrålad snö, om träffar med lokalbefolkning, etc. Och de fåtal gånger när det blev något intermezzo med tyska patruller.

Men boken har även sina brister. Speciellt för en läsare  som inte är grundligt bevandrad i norska krigsinsatser fram till krigsslutet. Och det är att  läsaren inte får ett sammanhang belyst, det sammanhang som visar hur SEPALS platsar in i den totala krigsinsatsen i denna del av Europa. Detta var dock endast en del av det som skedde i Sverige och som hade med Norge att göra.

För det första handlar SEPALS endast om det som skedde i det nordligaste gränsområdet. Vi får inget veta om det som skedde i gränsområdet mot Sydnorge.

För det andra var det trots allt en omfattande trafik över gränsen, rörande sådant som stärkte den norska motståndsrörelsen och som hjälpte norska flyktingar.

Dessutom genomfördes planering för två möjliga storskaliga insatser av svenska stridskrafter, de s.k. “Operation Rädda Danmark” och Operation Rädda Norge” (se t.ex.  Dansk Militærhistorisk Selskab – Chakoten / Operation Rädda Danmark ; Per-Anders Lundström: “Per Albin Hansson och den svenska D-dagen” ).

"SEPALS": vinddriven el-generator för radio

"SEPALS": vinddriven el-generator för radio

Så var i detta bredare spektrum platsar SEPALS-insatserna? Vi får inte se den typ av större blid av svenskbaserade stödinsatser, så läsaren finner sig ha lite tunt på fötterna  för att förstå vilken typ av kugghjul  SEPALS egentligen var, och hur angränsade kugghjul såg ut.


Boken har sina brister, speciellt i att vi inte får en översiktlig bild av hur det svenska samhället engagerade sig i Norgefrågan. Ett avslutande kort kapitel ger några svepande uttalanden om permittenttrafik och liknande, men det känns inte tillräckligt. Bokens värde är snarare att den tillgängliggör information, kunskap och intryck från dessa småskaliga insatser i vårt gränsland. Så läs den för att få veta att detta skedde, men glöm inte att det fanns mycket annat svenskbaserat stöd som stärkte det norska motståndet. Rent språkligt flyter inte texten så väl som man skulle önska. Det är dock inte lätt att veta om det beror på språkliga brister i den norska orginalutgåvan, eller om det är översättningen till svenska som snubblat.


Roger Albrigtsen: “Operation Sepals — Hemliga Baser i Sverige 1944-45” (Sivart Förlag, 2010) 152 sid; ISBN 13: 9789185705337 (book at openlibrary.org)

This pagehttps://whenthenightcomesfallingfromthesky.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/bok-operation-sepals-hemliga-baser-i-sverige-1944-45-lite-svensk-norsk-krigshistoria/

Movie: “The Big Steal” – a story on wheels

19 08 2010

An early Don Siegel film (1949), with glimpses of what he would later achieve. The surface story is quite simple … people chasing each other across a rural landscape. But we see some novel cinematic techniques put to use, especially in the context of the car chase. And the plot itself is nicely disguised, so the audience has to fill in the unknown pieces of the story as it unfolds. Not a perfect movie, but nice to view at least once.

"The Big Steal" -- poster

"The Big Steal" -- poster

Short resumé

On a ship that has just docked (or is it about to leave?) in a Mexican port, Duke Halliday (Robert Mitchum) is caught unaware when Vincent Blake (William Bendix) steps into his cabin whith a gun in his hand. There is a fight, Blake is knocked unconsious, and Halliday leaves the ship and takes refuge in this seaside Mexican town. He tries to surprise Jim Fiske (Patric Knowles) in a hotel, but arrives too late. Instead he finds Joan Graham (Jane Greer) there. When Halliday detects that Fiske is leaving the city in a car, he and Graham get a car and chase after Fiske. Then Blake gets a car and chases after Halliday. And then the chase is on, across the Mexican landscape, towards another city where something is about to happen, something that may have to do with money. Roads are bad, and obstacles encountered. The parties nearly catch each other, but succeed in getting away again. Finally Fiske reaches his destination, where he is to meet a “fence”, Julius Seton (John Qualen). Halliday and Graham are caught when they are almost at  Seton’s house, and brought into the house where Fiske and Seton are finalising their business. Then Blake arrives, and in the final climax there are some surprising information disclosed. Halliday and Graham survive, Fiske is killed, and Blake is arrested by the Mexican police.


Don Siegel had directed a few movies before getting enrolled to do “The Big Steal“. He was still looking for his approach to movie direction, so we should see this movie as an exploration of how one can tell an engaging story on the screen, while at the same time not exposing too much of the socio-psychological space in which the story unfolds. Action is important; movies  are about what is seen; and what cannot be directly shown, that should be left to the viewer to find out. Many of his later works were good at the box office, and several have achieved a lasting reputation — e.g., Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Killers (1964), and “Dirty Harry (1971).

Another dimension explored by Siegel in this movie is the “you gotta do it yourself” attitude expressed by the characters on the screen. Each has his own separate agenda — though it is never completely obvious what that agenda is. Most have been having talks with the police, but instead of getting the law engaged, they try to keep the law out of the action, leaving the troubles to be sorted out by the main characters.

Robert Mitchum was already established as a major star, and he was often typecast as a silent strong man with clear idea about what he wants. Many script that try to be a  box office success do have such roles, so Mitchum was never really out of jobs. In “The Big Steal” he is the strong man, but a strong man with an eye for fascinating women. Here Mitchum is 32 years old, and has already worked in a huge number of films. His performance in this movie is on par with what he usually does, meaning that he does not give us any surprises. It is rumoured that he never in his career felt really dedicated to the movies, rather that Hollywood provided him with a steady and good income, so he spent as little effort as possible when in a movie production, and played out the standard Mitchum look-and-feel. This is most likely why we immediately recognize the “Mitchum” figure in all of his movies.

"The Big Steal" -- poster

"The Big Steal" -- Jane Greer in action

Jane Greer was 29 at the time. She had ten movies behind her, starring in many of them. Her performance as Joan Graham is quite good. Female roles in those days were mainly of two types — the helpless innocent young woman, and the dangerous femme fatale. Here Jane portrays a woman who is strong-willed and wants to do right, and she makes a nice counterpoint to Mitchum’s more robust style. Of course there is a sort of “love story” glued onto the side of the film, but Siegel only uses it as a vehicle for entertaining dialogue between Mitchum and Greer, and does not surrender to the temptation to turn this into a sweetened romantic storyline. Not even at the end of the movie is there a clear “and they lived happily ever after” statement. Instead we are left wondering what will happen next to  these two persons and their relationship.

The Movie

The whole movie is about the chase, and almost all of it in the form of cars driven furiously across Mexico, chasing each others. Some  of the scenes with cars can be seen as early examples of “suspenseful car chase”, what some decades later matured into “Bullit” (1968),  “The French Connection” (1971), “Gone in 60 Seconds” (1974), etc. But this is the 1940s, so the cars are more primitive, and camera equipment too heavy to be used live in the cars. So what we are presented with are film-takes from fixed locations by the side of the road. Sometimes from high up, giving a feeling for the twisting and narrow roads, sometimes ground-level close-ups, where we feel the dirt thrown up by the passing cars. Here Siegel has created some scenes that still arouses the adrenalin in the viewer.

"The Big Steal" -- Halliday meets Graham

"The Big Steal" -- Halliday meets Graham

What is also obvious, when we look at the movie from a perspective more than 50 years later, is that cars were much more dangerous in those days. We can clearly seen how unstable these cars are when driven at that high speed on such roads. The cars really twist and turn, one expects at every moment that the cars will topple over. Possible reasons for this behaviour are that the wheels are quite big (diameter wise); this add to the already high centre of weight (a result of building cars that may be 50 cm higher than what we typically have today); the mechanical devices connecting the wheels to the frame of the car may be cause some jitter (“play”) as they are not as tightly fitted as on present-day cars.

The Big Steal” has been called a film noir. I would say that is not really a good characterisation. It is more a thriller or suspense movie — we want the bad guy to lose, and the good guy to win, and there are some obstacles that have to be surmounted before we achieve the desired state.

The movie was partly filmed on location in Tehuacán, Puebla, Mexico; and partly at a ranch outside Los Angeles. The entire story is located in Mexico, and enough material was recorded down there to make it feel like a real Mexican environment.

The unique aspect that makes this movie interesting to watch is that the when the movie starts, the viewers find themselves already in the chase. What happens in the first scenes — when Halliday is surprised by Blake entering Halliday’s cabin on that ship — we see what physically happens, but we do not know what it is all about. Who is the good guy? Or are both bad guys? Where a lesser director would have started with an introduction, carefully explaining who these persons are, and what they are fighting about, Siegel just throws us into the on-going story, and we have to collect whatever bits of background information the story reveals to us — on the fly — and try to make sense of it all. Fiske seems to be a bad guy. Or is he a good guy that happened to fall prey to some bad events? Halliday … well, for a long time we do not know if he good or bad. And Blake is good, of course. But actually, no. And does Graham, despite her good looks, have some untold agenda, that can complicate the unfolding of events?

Taking this approach to informing (or, rather, non-informing) the viewer is what makes this movie better than the average car chase movies (and better than the average movie thriller).

In our times we are more sensitive to cultural issues, and there are lots of stuff to note in this movie. It all takes place in Mexico, so the environment is foreign to the four main characters of the story (they are American). What we do note is the paternal or derogatory way in which these Americans interact with Mexican people. Shouting at them; treating them as less intelligent people; taking for granted that the Mexicans should serve the Americans; that the Mexican way of life is primitive; etc. Of course we can see similar examples in pure American contexts.  For example, in “Deliverance” (1972) there is a behavioural / cognitive / cultural gap between the urbanites and the local population in the rough rural areas, but then it is regarded as effects based on individual differences. In the movies from mid 20th century, the differences were in effect regarded as genetic and / or ingrained culturally.

We should note that the story in “The Big Steal” concerns the relationships between the three Americans (and also finally a fourth American, the “fence”), and that he Mexicans are just “extras” (apart from the main police officer who, in the story, is trying to be more American in his manner). Hence, the paternalistic attitude towards Mexicans is not really fundamental to the story, but rather an accidental (though predictable) effect of the geographical setting of the movie.


This is not a great movie. It is more like a kind of decent mis-en-scene, when the script it is based on does not provide much depth. It is only by not giving the viewer some key pieces of knowledge that we actually have a story worth observing. If we had known from the beginning what we know at the end, then there would have been no real story worth telling. So the final conclusion is that one can watch it once, except for those interested in the cinematic techniques used in the film — they can view it several additional times.


The Big Steal”  (1944). Directed by Don Siegel; written by Gerald Drayson Adams, Daniel Mainwaring; story by Richard Wormser; starring: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and William Bendix. (Movie at imdb)

This Page: https://whenthenightcomesfallingfromthesky.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/movie-the-big-steal-a-story-on-wheels

Movie: “Crossfire” – suspense and antisemitism

3 08 2010

From the latter half of the 1940s, “Crossfire”  is a movie that can be seen as a murder and detective movie. But it can also be seen as comment on civilian life after the horrors of World War II, where people attack other people for what they are, not for what they do. In this case, it is about antisemitism as a trigger for murder. A solid movie that delivers well.

"Crossfire" -- poster

"Crossfire" -- poster

Short résumé

We see someone murdered in a room, but we do not see who the murderer (or murderers) are. An unassuming Army Cpl. Arthur Mitchell (George Cooper) quickly becomes suspected by the police. A buddy of Mitchell, Sgt. Peter Keeley (Robert Mitchum) cannot believe this, and sets out to get in contact with Mitchell. Mitchell’s commanding officer, Montgomery (Robert Ryan) also expresses doubts, but starts to behave strangely. A buddy of Montgomery is later found murdered. The investigating detective, Capt. Finlay (Robert Young), suspects Montgomery, and sets up a trap. Finally the perpetrator receives his punishment.


Richard Brooks write the novel “The Brick Foxhole” (1945) about how a group of soldiers murder a homosexual man. That book was the basis of the script for “Crossfire“, but it was transformed from being about homophobia to being about antisemitism.

Presumably, homosexuality was in the 1940s still a no-no topic, not suitable for Hollywood. Antisemitism, on the other hand, was well suited, as the American society had in the years before become aware of what antisemitism could lead to in the Third Reich. There were other movies in that era that addressed the same topic, e.g. “Gentleman’s Agreement” (1947).  It could be interesting to explore that sub-area of Hollywood movies, what caused it to emerge, and when it disappeared. But that is for some other day.

"Crossfire": Robert Ryan and Robert Mitchum

"Crossfire": Robert Ryan and Robert Mitchum

This is a night-time movie, and an urban movie. Only a few short scenes show daylight. Otherwise it is all in the artificial light of the metropolis. A city where strangers encounter each others. The persons we encounter are either visitors to the city or city residents offering services to others — mainly visitors. No-one is really happy. We see the rootless service-men that have just come back from the war abroad, and have not succeeded in connecting to a the civilian society at home. Ginny Tremaine (Gloria Grahame) is working as a hostess in a bar, and is completely disgusted with her life … a life where she sees no future. The investigating police detective is tried and worn-out, and only now and then has enough energy to get proactive.

It seems that the only two persons who take decisive and immediate action are Keeley and Montgomery. Such targeted behaviour is most likely due to their experiences in combat, where they had to make decisions quickly and get others to follow them in some goal-driven action. In that role — in action — they were probably both effective and appreciated and behaved in similar ways towards the enemy. But now —  in a civilian context — their differ in terms of what they believe they have a right to do, and why they have that right (or not).

Therefore, we can surely call this a film noir, as it has several of the ingredients associated with that film genre.

"Crossfire": Robert Ryan, Robert Mitchum, and Robert Young

"Crossfire": Robert Ryan, Robert Mitchum, and Robert Young

Plot-wise, the movie keeps the audience in suspense, as it takes some time to understand who we should not suspect, and who we should suspect. There are no extended action sequences, so the suspense in the movie is based on the context and the uncertainties and options that remain until the very end.

Hollywood movies typically has to end in a happy or morally acceptable manner. Here, the culprit gets punished. But we get reminded that there is a fine line between those that actually commit some immoral act and those that are capable of doing so but have not yet crossed that line.


This a a suspenseful film, but action-wise quite low-key. It expresses the suspense of the police investigation and the way various soldiers get involved in this investigation. But at the same time it constantly reminds us about the antisemitic basis for this specific murder, and also illustrates that intolerance is a basic reason for much inter-personal violence in our society. It is worth seeing as an example of a Hollywood movie with a conscience.


Crossfire”  (1947).  Directed by: Edward Dmytryk;  written by: John Paxton (screenplay), Richard Brooks (story); starring: Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Gloria Grahame; length: 86 min; (Movie at imdb).

This Page: https://whenthenightcomesfallingfromthesky.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/movie-crossfire-suspense-and-antisemitism/

Bok: “Några Studier i T-kontorets historia” — svensk underrättelseverksamhet

26 07 2010

Hemlig underrättelseverksamhet under efterkrigstiden, sett ur en nyckelpersons perspektiv. Det beryktade T-kontoret var Thede Palms skapelse, och på gott och ont kan man säga att T-kontoret under hela sin existens var en förlängd arm för Thede Palm. I den här boken ger Palm en partsinlaga i form av nedtecknade hågkomster om sig själv och T-kontoret. Subjektivt och bitvis med syra får vi en bild av personerna som var involverade, men mindre om vad T-kontoret i stort sysslade med. Det här är ingen definitiv historia om T-kontoret. Mest av intresse för den som fördjupar sig i politik och underrättelseverksamhet under tiden 1945-65.

"T-kontoret" -- framsida

"T-kontoret" -- framsida


Före andra världskriget hade Sverige inte en särskild underrättelseorganisation. I samband med krigets utbrott etablerades en sådan — som fick namnet “C-byrån” — under ledning av överstelöjtnant Carl Petersén. C-byrån fanns fram till 1946, då en ersättningsorganisation skapades. Det var “T-kontoret”, med samma generella uppdrag som C-byrån, men med förändrade prioriteter eftersom efterkrigstiden erbjöd annorlunda utmaningar och möjligheter jämfört med krigsåren.

T-kontoret skapades av Palm genom övertagande av erfaren personal från C-byrån, men även kompletterat genom extern rekrytering. Palm var civilist — rekryterad direkt från en tjänst på universitetsbiblioteket i Lund till underrättelseorganisationen under krigets första år — och i anmärkningsvärt stor utsträckning kom T-kontorets personal att vara civila. Detta skapade viss irritation hos de delar av försvarsmakten som kände till T-kontoret, baserat på den inte helt onaturliga tanken att eftersom T-byrån skall stödja försvaret med underrättelseinformation, så är försvarspersonal bäst lämpad att bemanna T-kontoret. Men denna kritik påverkade till synes inte hur verksamheten levde vidare.

T-kontoret var en extraordinär verksamhet. Den var en hemlig del av försvarssektorn i samhället, och kom att drivas på sätt som inte var i samklang med lagstadgat myndighetsutövning och -förvaltning. Bl.a. arkiverades inte ekonomisk bokföring; efter godkännande av föregående verksamhetsårs ekonomiska redovisning, så brändes alla bakomliggande dokument.

En annan aspekt var att T-kontoret inte hade en formellt formulerat uppdrag. Det var inte inlemmat i formell mening i försvarsorganisationen (Fö) , så det fanns ingen chef inom Fö som kunde bestämma över T-kontoret. I praktiken etablerade Palm en relation till Fö-staben (dvs Fö-stabs-chefen), och rapporterade dit. Dessutom rapporterades till Fö-departementet. Budgetmässigt fick T-kontoret anslag som inte gick via försvaret, och därmed fanns det inte ens möjlighet för Fö att med ekonomiska medel utöva kontroll över T-kontoret.

Vad gjorde T-kontoret? I korthet var det informationsinhämtning, det som i vardagslag kallas spioneri. Det handlar då om att upptäcka nya sätt att få information av kritisk betydelse ur två synpunkter. För det första kan informationen vara viktig för det svenska försvaret, i termer av att veta hur läget är och vad som pågår. För det andra kan informationen utnyttjas som bytesvara gentemot andra länders underrättelsetjänster. Detta andra motiv kom att färga mycket av vad Sverige gjorde inom underrättelseområdet. Vi kan tänka på den nedskjutna DC-3:an och Catalina-affären 1952, vilket egentligen handlade om signalspaning för att försörja USA, UK, och Nato med information.

T-kontoret fortsatte sin verksamhet fram till slutet 1964, då underrättelseverksamheten strukturerades om. T-Kontoret slogs samman med den existerande “Grupp B” till IB (“Informationsbyrån”), som kom att ledas av Birger Elmér (senare nationellt ökänd i samband med IB-affären).

I samband med den formella nedläggningen av T-kontoret fick Thede Palm en tjänst på Försvarshögskolan. Detta var säkert en kombination av att ge Palm en signal om att hans uppdragsgivare skulle ta hand om honom, men kanske även ett sätt att undvika att Palm skulle skriva några memoarer som avslöjar sådant som inte borde få se dagens ljus.


Thede Palm

Thede Palm

Thede C Palm, född den 27 september 1907  i Sala, död 1995, var en svensk  filosofie doktor, forskningschef och chef för den militära underrättelsetjänsten.

Palm doktorerade i religionshistoria 1937. Han var anställd vid Lunds Universitetsbibliotek 1938-1956. Han begärde tjänstledigt 1943 för att arbeta under Carl Petersén vid C-byrån, han blev chef för verksamheten 1946 och avdelningen bytte namn till T-kontoret, vars uppgift var att sköta utrikes underrättelseinhämtning. När han slutade 1964 övergick han till militärhögskolan där han var forskningschef 1965-1977. Han har bland annat givit ut ett antal läsvärda historiska essäsamlingar. Under avskedsceremonien i Gyllene Salen i Stockholms Stadshus efter han avlidit nämnde N.N. följande tvenne: Thede Palm mottog aldrig en militärisk grad. (Men dock flera utländska ordnar. Listade i Vem är vem,1962-68). Han förblev civil – och var alltså i strikt mening aldrig en militär – och kunde på så sätt undvika att behöva träffa utländska militärer av lägre rang än nödvändigt. Han blev också under en tid så aktad nere i f.d. Västtyskland att han inom många kretsar kallades “Der Dr. Palm”.

(Från “Thede Palm” på Wikipedia)


Texten i denna bok skrev på uppmaning av Anders Björk, som ville veta något om hur underrättelseverksamheten bedrivits i Sverige. Palm arbetade med denna text under åren runt 1990. Palm avsåg detta som ett första utkast, och att han skulle kunna producera en bredare skrift om det fanns behov. Tydligen ville ingen ha en mer omfattande skrivelse, så detta framgent är vad vi har.

Thede Palm identifierar sig starkt med T-kontoret. Det är hans skapelse, och det var inom dess verksamhet som han lade tjugo års yrkesliv. Vad som hände 1964 var att det togs ett beslut om omorganisering av verksamheten, och Palm skulle inte vara del av den resulterande lösningen. Med andra ord, han skulle bort, och ett polerat sätt att göra detta är att omorganisera.

Palm var tydligen harmsen över detta sätt att genomföra en förändring. Att bli sparkad från sin egen “baby” är hårt. och han kom aldrig över detta.

Boken  “Några Studier i T-kontorets historia”  uttrycker detta på två tydliga sätt. För det första att verksamheten som T-kontoret bedrev var bra, billig, lyckad, och objektiv, och att det inte fanns något riktigt resultatmässigt motiv att lägga ner T-kontoret. För det andra att det var individer med horn i sidan mot Palm som direkt eller indirekt drev igenom T-kontorets nedläggning, och att T-kontoret blev offer för interna maktkamper. Några personer utpekas speciellt:

  • Jan Rydström. Enrollerad av Palm, för att arbeta med internationella ekonomiska frågor. Konflikt uppstod om vikten av ekonomiska analyser inom underrättelsetjänstens verksamhet. Rydström och den ekonomiska analysverksamheten flyttades över till Öst-Ekonomiska byrån.
  • Birger Elmér. Militär som drev en oberoende underrättelseverksamhet inom försvaret, inriktat mot inrikes information. Elmér anpassade sig mer till de externa kraftfälten, fick stöd på ett sätt som den mer buttre Plam inte fick, och det skapade en del spänning dem emellan. Elmér fick senare ansvaret för att integrera resterna av T-kontoret med sin egen underrättelseorganisation.
  • Olof Plame. Han är i Thede Palms ögon ett hot mot en objektiv underrättelseverksamhet. T. Palm ville inte styras av någon, men gärna ta diskussioner med andra intressenter om vad som skulle vara lämpligt att bedriva verksamhet kring. O Palme ville ha mer styrning över vad offentliga sektorns underrättelseverksamhet gjorde. Palm och Palme kom på kant med varandra.

Ett citat ur boken, om Olof Palme:

När jag tillträdde min befattning märkte jag snart att en och annan var missnöjd. Uppgiften var militär; på generalstabsnivå. Vad kunde jag räkna mig tillgodo, då jag fick en sådan tjänst? Men detta gick över. Jag hade egentligen inga sådana problem förrän Olof Palme ville ha helkontroll över underrättelsetjänsten vilket skulle ske genom att han placerade sitt eget folk, direkt eller genom ombud, på viktiga befattningar

(Palm, sid 73)

Av sådana personliga attitydsskäl — av en åldrad och bitter Thede Plalm —  blir boken inte en gedigen berättelse om T-kontoret och dess roll i det samtida samhället. På en konkret nivå är texten personcentrerad; den berättar om medarbetare; den berättar om personer inom försvaret; den berättar om personer i andra länders underrättelsetjänst. Men den säger intet om hur T-kontorets strategiska och taktiska verksamhet definierades och hur den genomfördes.

En motivsgrund för detta är nog att eftersom Palm identifierade sig med T-kontoret, så identifierar han sig med dess uppgift, och då det handlar om att bedriva verksamhet i hemlighet, så kan han inte i denna nedskrift avslöja något som är eller var hemligt. Det är först i andra forsknings- och undersökningsberättelser som vi får ta del av sådant övergripande material.

Thede palms bok blir därmed inte en lämplig introduktion till samtidens underrättelseverksamhet. De som kommer att dra mest nytta av denna skrift är dagens och morgondagens forskare som här kan hitta fragment som berikar någon partikulär aspekt av en större forskningsfråga. På samma sätt som politikers dagböcker ger fingervisningar om personrelaterade aspekter på gångna politiska skeenden.


Det är givetvis viktigt att den här typen av dokumentation får spridning, så att forskning kan dra nytta av det som sägs här,. I den meningen är det av samma slag som nyckelpersoners och makthavares dagböcker som publiceras, så att man kan vaska fram intressanta fakta för att pussla ihop en mer intressant och heltäckande bild av ett historiskt skeende. Den som läser “Några Studier i T-kontorets historia” får sig till livs fragment av ett försvarstal, Palms försvarstal om varför det var fel att kritisera och lägga ner T-kontoret. Men om du vill ha en mer heltäckande bild av underrättelsetjänsterna under denna tidsperiod, ja då bör du gå till andra källor.


Thede Palm:  “Några Studier i T-kontorets historia” (Svenskt Militärhistoriskt Bibliotek”, 2007) 143 sid; ISBN 978-91-85789-09-2 (book at openlibrary.org). (Även utgiven som Handlingar del 21, Kungl. Samfundet för utgivande av handskrifter rörande Skandinaviens historia, 1999, ISSN 0347-8505)

This page: https://whenthenightcomesfallingfromthesky.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/bok-nagra-studier-i-t-kontorets-historia-svensk-underrattelseverksamhet/