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Posted in Aerospace, Communism, Engineering, Famous news stories, Historical articles, Science, Space, Technology on Thursday, 9 May 2013
This edited article about Sputnik originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 247 published on 8 October 1966.
Hitler's V2 rocket
The Second World War accelerated interest in the development of rockets, and by 1945 the famous V2, forerunner of modern rocket systems, was a familiar phenomenon. Scientists and engineers, in both the Eastern and Western worlds, strove to perfect a rocket powerful enough to launch an artificial satellite.
These early satellites were needed to study the problems and dangers that faced Man when he ventured into the upper atmosphere and out into space.
On 4th October, 1957, the U.S.S.R. launched the world’s first artificial satellite. Called Sputnik I, this first explorer of the upper atmosphere weighed 184 pounds and was a polished metal sphere about 23 inches across. Travelling at a height which varied between 133 and 585 miles, it circled the Earth once every 95 minutes. Until the batteries powering the radio transmitter failed, it relayed back much information to the Russian scientists.
Posted in America, Aviation, Communism, Famous battles, Historical articles, History, War, Weapons on Tuesday, 26 March 2013
This edited article about the Korean War originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 210 published on 22 January 1966.
The North American F-86 Sabres in action in Korea by Wilf Hardy
At twenty thousand feet the high-tailed silver Russian-built MiG-15 darted away in a climbing turn then panicked, and flicking over, dived for the safety of the forbidden territory beyond the Yalu River. Three hundred yards behind the nose of the pursuing American Lockheed F-80 was suddenly lit up with the flashes from its machine guns. It was a strike! The MiG’s engine poured out a sheet of flame a second before the whole aircraft disappeared into a ball of smoking wreckage.
The F-80 pilot rejoined his formation and they turned for home and landed, but there was no jubilation at the victory. The place was Korea, the date, November 8, 1950, and the first all-jet air battle in history had been fought and won. But the newly-arrived MiG-15′s, the word MiG is derived from the aircraft’s two Russian designers, Mikoyan and Gurevich, had shown speed and climbing power that had made the F-80s of the United Nations force seem slow and outdated. Only the superior training and experience of the U.N. pilots had brought victory.
The MiGs became a serious threat as they disrupted the high-level precision bombing of the American aircraft. Things were going badly for the U.N. and they knew that to win they must regain the air superiority that would allow their bombers to destroy the enemies’ supply lines.
The United States Air Force quickly moved units flying the F-86 Sabre to Korea, their pilots trained to a high degree of fighting skill by eighteen months of intensive training.
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Posted in Aviation, Communism, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Politics on Friday, 8 March 2013
This edited article about the Berlin airlift originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 179 published on 19 June 1965.
June 26, 1948 – and Berlin was a beleaguered city, ringed by Russian troops. The Russians, already in control of the eastern section of the city and the whole surrounding countryside, were trying to starve the citizens of West Berlin into submission to Communist rule.
Rail, road, and canal services had all been stopped, cutting off vital supplies of food and fuel from the Western Allies, who controlled West Berlin. The summer ahead looked desperate indeed for Western Berliners. . . .
The Russian task seemed to be an easy one. Berlin lay 100 miles inside the Russian-occupied zone of Germany, and although the city itself was divided it could only be reached with Soviet permission.
But the Russians could not block the narrow international air “corridors” into Berlin without causing a major war, for airfields each end lay in Allied territory. And so the great Berlin air-lift of 1948-9 began, on July 1, defeating the Russian objective. . . .
Every available American and British plane was called in to fly supplies to the besieged Berliners. Each day enough planes took off from Frankfurt, Hanover and other airfields to deliver two thousand tons of food at Gatow airport in Western Berlin. Frequently the planes were “buzzed” by Russian fighters, but that was all. Open hostility would have meant war.
The air-lift was so successful that in May 1949 the Russians ended their blockade. By that time the Western Allies had flown in nearly two million tons of coal, food, fuel and medicine to their former enemies, and safely flown out about 12,000 sick children and parents. The manoeuvre cost Britain ten million pounds and the United States £90,500,000.
Posted in Communism, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Invasions, Politics on Wednesday, 6 March 2013
This edited article about Hungary originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 175 published on 17 May 1965.
Resistance fighters duing the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956
The desperate message broadcast by a “Freedom Radio Station” in Budapest on November 4, 1956, was an appeal to the United Nations from a country which was asking only for one thing – the right to determine its own form of government. A thousand Soviet tanks and many divisions of Russian soldiers were at that moment on Hungarian soil determined to prevent such a thing happening.
Russian motives were coldly realistic. They wanted to ensure that the politics of the country on their borders should be in line with their own thinking. Their armed ruthlessness in assuring this horrified many people of sincere Communist beliefs, and their propaganda about “subversive activities” in Hungary deceived nobody, for all the Hungarians wanted was a free election with a choice of candidates – and the removal of Russian troops who had been there since the war.
The trouble began in 1949 when elections were held with a single list of candidates, which resulted in 95 per cent of the votes cast being obtained by the Communist People’s Front.
Mass demonstrations by students, workers and soldiers demanded political reforms, withdrawal of Soviet troops and the release of Cardinal Mindszenty, the Roman Catholic Primate of Hungary, who had been under detention since 1948.
Alarmed, the Government proclaimed martial law; imposed a censorship and a curfew. All rail and air communications with the outside world were cut off. Finally, realizing the full strength of the peoples’ revolt, the Government called in Russian troops.
Soviet tanks roared into the cities and the bloodshed began. The Hungarian army, on the side of the revolutionaries, fought heroically against odds, but the unarmed people were no less brave. Even schoolchildren attacked the tanks and threw small bottles of blazing petrol through hatches.
Appeals were made to the people to stop fighting; statements were made that the Russian tanks were withdrawing, but actually there was a build-up of forces and at dawn on November 4 the final assault began. The then Manchester Guardian reported that the Russians were using 200,000 soldiers, 4,600 tanks and 2,000 aircraft. The result was inevitable.
With 25,000 Hungarians killed and 50,000 wounded in Budapest alone, resistance crumbled. A “puppet” Government was installed under Mr. Kadar, who has been Prime Minister ever since.
The call to the United Nations for help could, of course, achieve nothing, because any resolution was at once vetoed by the Russians. All it could do was to organize relief when the revolution was over.
Posted in Communism, Famous battles, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, World War 2 on Friday, 15 February 2013
This edited article about the Siege of Leningrad originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 134 published on 8 August 1964.
A Russian train brings supplies to Leningrad after two years of siege during World War II.
An icy wind blew across the north Russian plain. Violent gusts of snow whipped around the men who were struggling to free their heavy Mark IV tank from the frozen mud.
The day before the plain had been a sticky morass. Lorries had sunk axle-deep in the thick brown slime, and horses had to be used to pull them free. But horses could not drag the tanks of the German Army Group North any farther from this sea of mud. When dawn broke, they were frozen into the ground, and pickaxes had to be used to move the rock-like lumps of earth.
Twenty miles across the plain, to the east, stood the great city of Leningrad, and the crew of the tank could hear the savage rumble of artillery fire above the howling wind – the rumble that announced to the world that the German Army was besieging the city.
Many German generals had hoped to conquer this great industrial centre before the Russian winter set in, but now the snows and the ice had come and Leningrad remained untaken.
For the first time since the German armies had attacked Russia in June, 1941, they were meeting the rigours of a bitter Russian winter. It was to be one of many that they spent in that inhospitable country before they were finally driven out with terrible losses.
When the great invasion of Russia began, the city of Leningrad had been a main objective. Adolf Hitler, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the German Armed Forces, wanted to capture important industrial points there to deprive the Russians of their supplies.
But the successful advance – some German forces covered a hundred miles a week – took even Hitler by surprise. His front-line troops reached Leningrad in August, barely two months after the beginning of the invasion. By September they had surrounded the city, and German artillery subjected it to ruthless bombardment.
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Posted in Communism, Historical articles, History, Politics, Revolution on Tuesday, 12 February 2013
This edited article about the Russian Revolution originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 131 published on 18 July 1964.
After years spent in exile in Switzerland, Lenin (second from right) at last returned to his homeland to take charge of the revolution. Picture by John Keay
The angry fire of revolt ran through the streets of Russia’s capital, gaining fury with every yard. Starving workers demanded bread. Women carried banners saying: “End the War!”
Three years’ fighting had left Russia demoralized. The armies had no ammunition, and soldiers deserted in thousands. While the Tsar and his nobles enjoyed luxury, the people were little better than slaves. Now they were determined to be free.
As the mob surged towards the Tsar’s palace in Petrograd, the military governor, General Khabalov, ordered his soldiers to shoot. They raised their rifles – and fired harmlessly into the air. The revolt was spreading to the army.
Another army group was called into action. They shot directly into the crowd, killing sixty and driving the rest berserk. Police stations were looted, burned, destroyed. Jails were broken open and prisoners – thieves, murderers and revolutionaries – set free.
Tsar Nicholas II, who a few days earlier – in March, 1917 – had left for his military headquarters to direct the war against Germany, decided to return to Petrograd.
He said he would consider proposals for a new government. He was already too late. The revolutionaries had no intention of allowing him back.
In his private train Nicholas set out for Petrograd – and ran into a blockade. In a railway carriage he spent the last hours of his reign. Because his son, the heir to the throne, had an incurable illness, the Tsar asked that the crown should go to Grand Duke Michael, another member of the Romanov family.
The Grand Duke declined to rule, fearing the mood of the Russian people. For the first time in three centuries Russia was without a Tsar. Nicholas and his family were arrested, watched all the time by guards.
After the revolution a new government was formed, and new hope dawned for the Russian people. But it soon became clear that the government, headed at first by a prince and later by a young lawyer named Alexander Kerensky, had no intention of ending the war. They were determined to fight on, hoping later that Russia would share the spoils of victory.
The Russian people were confused. They wanted bread and they wanted peace. So far their revolution had brought neither.
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Posted in Communism, Historical articles, History, Revolution, Royalty on Monday, 11 February 2013
This edited article about the Russian Revolution originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 130 published on 11 July 1964.
On January 22, 1905, the Tsar’s soldiers fired on Father Gapon and the peaceful demonstrators in St Petersburgh, lighting the tinder-box of the Russian Revolution
On a chill autumn morning nearly sixty years ago the strangest battle fleet the world has known set out on the most fantastic naval voyage of all time.
Fifty ships – a bizarre collection of new but untried battleships and ancient, rusting ironsides – left the Baltic shores of Russia to sail sixteen thousand miles round the world to fight the Japanese. The crews were inexperienced. Some of the noblemen officers had never been to sea before. A colonel was in charge of navigation.
The flagship Suvarov, newest battleship in the world, was thought to be so top-heavy that the crew was warned not to hoist too many flags in case she should capsize. As the Russian ruler, Tsar Nicholas II, waved farewell, the Suvarov stuck in the mud, an omen of chaos that bedevilled the expedition from then on.
When the fleet reached the North Sea, a voyage of only a few hundred miles, the officers were thrown into panic at the sight of some British fishing vessels. In a moment of incredible lunacy, an officer declared them to be Japanese warships, and the Russians opened fire. One trawler was sunk, others damaged.
At ports round the world where the fleet refuelled, Japanese spies waited, reporting every detail back to their masters. In the Indian Ocean seventy-three breakdowns occurred through engine trouble. Some crews mutinied.
At last, after seven months, the Russians came within firing range of the well-drilled Japanese. The battle lasted forty-five minutes. The Russians were pounded to pieces. One old cruiser and one destroyer were all that survived to sail back to Russia.
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Posted in Communism, Historical articles, History, Literature, Philosophy, Politics, Revolution on Tuesday, 8 January 2013
This edited article about Das Kapital by Karl Marx originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 809 published on 16th July 1977.
The Reading Room at the British Museum is famous for one particular reader – the economist and political philosopher, Karl Marx, who introduced Communism to the world
In 1870, Paris was under siege by the Prussians during a strange, short war that had been largely brought about by the Emperor Napoleon III’s dream of restoring some of the glory to his country’s old imperial court.
In some ways it was an old fashioned war because, even though it was little more than a hundred years ago, Paris, France’s capital, was still ringed by a high wall. And it was still possible to observe the classic military situation in which a large number of troops surrounded a strongly defended city and tried to starve its inhabitants into submission.
Certainly, the defenders of Paris got very hungry indeed, so hungry that they not only ate their horses and pet dogs, but even sewer rats and elephants in the local zoo. But what made the Franco-Prussian conflict a very new fashioned war was its aftermath.
Napoleon III was forced to acknowledge defeat after a few short months, but the people of Paris were so disgusted with the mismanagement of their affairs that they overthrew their council and proclaimed an organisation known as the Commune, a movement of working people who were less interested in waging war than in gaining better wages and working conditions for themselves and their families.
The Commune’s power was confined to Paris, and as the country at large recognised the legal government at Versailles there was never much likelihood of the revolution becoming nationwide. Moreover, instead of consolidating their position, the 90-strong Commune frittered away its time in endless discussions, until on 21st May no less than 70,000 government troops marched through one of the city gates.
Only then did the Communards stop arguing and begin to fight, and for seven days the streets of the city ran with blood. It seemed as though each side was trying to commit the most terrible atrocities, and prisoners, women and children, were usually the victims. At the end of a week 38,000 Communards had been taken prisoner and the uprising was at an end.
It was a brief and bloodthirsty incident that horrified most people but was welcomed by at least one man with unstinted approval. In London, the German born Karl Marx hailed the Commune as “the harbinger of a new society”.
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Posted in Communism, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Politics, Revolution on Tuesday, 27 November 2012
This edited article about Che Guevara originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 789 published on 26th February 1977.
The death of Zapata (above) gave Mexican revolutionaries a synbol much as the death of Che Guevara did the Cubans. Picture by Ron Embleton
When the Mexican revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata, was lured into a trap and riddled with bullets by the Federal troops, the General who was in charge of them had no illusions that the flames of the revolution had been quenched by his death. Looking down at the body of the guerrilla leader, he said on that day in 1918: “Sometimes a dead man can be a terrible enemy.”
He spoke with a great deal of truth, for Zapata was to remain a symbol of freedom for the oppressed peasantry throughout the whole of the revolution.
The same epitaph could have been applied to Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who lies in an unmarked grave somewhere in Bolivia.
Che was born into an upper class Argentinian family in 1928. Although in time he was to react strongly against his social background, his family were actually liberal and progressive people who were more interested in justice, literature and poetry, than in making money.
Thanks to his father, who encouraged him to work with the peasants, Che became aware of the tremendous gulf between the rich and poor in South America. This background contributed to his urge to help the underprivileged.
But if Che ever dreamed of becoming a revolutionary in those early days, he also had to face up to the fact that he suffered constantly from asthma – a complaint which demands a life free of tension. He fought the illness with the only weapon he had – will-power.
It was this will-power which made him take up games, even though there were times when he had to run off the field to inhale his medicine; it was this will-power, too, which took him through a six-year course in medicine in three years, despite 45 serious asthma attacks.
While he was still at the University, Che decided he would like to learn more about South America and its people. Finding an enthusiastic fellow traveller in a friend named Alberto Granados, who was to become a distinguished leperologist, Che set off on a journey which was to change his whole life.
Unfortunately, the motor bike which was to take them across South America, broke down soon after they had crossed the Andes. Undaunted, they continued on their way by hitch-hiking, and earning money as truck-drivers, porters, doctors and dishwashers. Travelling like this. Che was able to see at first hand how the peasants and workers lived.
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Posted in America, Communism, Espionage, Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Law, World War 2 on Monday, 26 November 2012
This edited article about the F.B.I. originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 788 published on 19th February 1977.
Charles Lindbergh, whose son was kidnapped and killed in 1932, by Ron Embleton
Since its instigation in 1908, the F.B.I. has helped solve many cases from the most famous, like the Rosenberg Spy Ring of the postwar years, described below, to the smaller, unpublicised local crimes of suburban America. Some lawbreakers have taken years to apprehend, some only hours or days to bring to justice. In any case, the criminal, whether he be forget, kidnapper or common thief, takes on a massive organisation when he confronts the F.B.I.
During the early years the G-man was frustrated by his lack of power when handling investigations. The complexity of U.S. law tied his hands, to the limit of assisting local police who often resented his interference. It was the lawlessness of the inter-war years which led to new legislation giving F.B.I. agents more responsibility and greater powers of arrest. Prohibition was the watershed for both lawbreaker and Bureau. America was officially declared dry – i.e. alcohol was banned – in January 1920, raising the curtain for the bootlegger and gangster.
Initially the public was apathetic, finding excitement in ‘speakeasy’ bars and illegal alcohol. They attached a certain glamour to the underworld personalities of the period, turning a blind eye to gang wars and corruption in local government. By the time J. Edgar Hoover took over the F.B.I. in 1924, the reputation of police agencies in the U.S. was at its lowest. Soon the Attorney-General had given Hoover powers to form special squads to investigate corruption in city police forces and reform was on the way.
After the Lindbergh affair in 1932 when the great flier’s child was kidnapped, then killed, kidnapping reached its peak, so did crime generally in the U.S., by which time the public was outraged and demanding action by law enforcement agencies. The big round-up started as Hoover and his agents tracked down the hoodlums one by one. The cost was high, F.B.I. men and police alike were killed, but by 1934 the gangs were crippled and corruption at least partly crushed.
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