TIME conflict

This Vintage Map Shows the ‘Greatest Battle in the History of Naval Warfare’

The Battle of Leyte Gulf between Japanese and U.S. forces took place 70 years ago

TIME

In 1959, reflecting on the Battle of Leyte Gulf from a distance of 15 years, TIME declared that the World War II engagement — between the Japanese navy and U.S. troops on and around the island of Leyte, which the U.S. had taken a few days before — was “the greatest battle in the history of naval warfare.” (The map above is from that issue; roll over to zoom on a desktop or click if you’re viewing on mobile.)

The battle began on Oct. 23, 1944, when Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita of Japan led a fleet into the region and was flushed out by U.S. submarines. Over the course of three days of heavy fighting, the U.S. troops crippled the Japanese navy — and in the process made clear that old-fashioned line-of-battle style naval warfare no longer made sense, ending a military tradition that had been in place for centuries.

The battle was also a crucial step in General Douglas MacArthur‘s making good on his famed 1942 “I shall return” promise to the Philippines. But the troops weren’t the only Americans there — TIME correspondents were also in the area, sending dispatches back to the office. In the magazine’s Oct. 30, 1944, letter from the publisher, TIME explained how the process worked:

Last Friday John Walker of TIME’S Battlefronts department handed his first dispatch from the Philippines to an Army short-wave broadcaster.

“American power came back to the Philippines today over the glass-smooth, grass-green waters of Leyte Gulf under a tropical sun coming through an ominous haze lit by yellow flashes and the blasting of guns,” that message began. “It was virtually perfect weather for the landings.”

Walker’s words flashed across 7,000 miles of ocean via U.S. Army Signal Corps circuits to San Francisco. And there the monitors of the Blue Network picked them up—recorded them—wrote them down—and wired them east by fast overland telegraph—to reach TIME’S editors in New York in less than an hour’s time…

“All landings seem to have come off well,” Walker reported. “The beach where I am was perforated by both mortar and artillery fire at landing. Two boats hit, one sunk. Casualties relatively light. Loyal Filipinos helping us from the first moment of landing.”

Walker went on to tell how General MacArthur got his first view of the Philippines—”a gun-rocked coast backed by rolling hills. He saw it from a cruiser standing in to shore an hour after the landings, sitting placidly on the flag bridge puffing his pipe. . . .”

And when the General came ashore at Red Beach, TIME’S Bill Chickering, veteran of the Gilberts and the landing on Bougainville, was waiting on that “toughest beachhead” to report MacArthur’s arrival with President Osmeña:

“Both men seemed calm,” Chickering short-waved, “but MacArthur borrowed a canteen and his hand trembled as he held it to his lips. Watching his expression, there was no mistaking his elation. . . .

Read TIME’s full 1959 remembrance of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, here in the archives: Greatest & Last Battle of a Naval Era

TIME movies

How Fury‘s Director Made the WWII Film as Realistic as Possible

Columbia Pictures

Director David Ayer met with vets to learn what life in a tank was really like

Perhaps more than any other historical event, World War II has provided fodder for Hollywood. From The Bridge on the River Kwai to Saving Private Ryan to Schindler’s List, directors keep turning to “the good war.” This year alone, Fury (in theaters this weekend), Imitation Game and Unbroken all feature World War II heroes and will all battle for Oscar buzz.

Fury director David Ayer, who is a veteran himself, wanted to distinguish his World War II film with an air of authenticity. The movie takes on a single day in April 1945, when the Allies had for all intents and purposes beaten Germany. But American soldiers were still fighting on the front and, some would argue, needlessly dying. Calling into question the glory of war, Ayer and the movie’s actors—including Brad Pitt, returning to the time period he visited in Inglourious Basterds—met with veterans to get more intimate details on the challenges of fighting in a tank crew, the Credits reports.

According to the vets, the life expectancy of a tank crew member was only six weeks. Ayer incorporated this and other details he learned from veterans into the movie, like that every fifth bullet from a gun’s machine is a tracer, which is ignited with a burning powder that glows brightly so the shooter can follow the trajectory of the bullet with the naked eye. The actors also learned that the soldiers would differentiate between outgoing and incoming artillery by the whistling sound a projectile make when coming towards you (but not away from you).

Read about the connection between reality and another WWII movie, The Monuments Men, here in TIME’s archives: George Clooney’s Art of War

[The Credits]

TIME movies

Review: In Fury, Brad Pitt Wins World War II, Again

Columbia Pictures

The Inglourious Basterds star returns for another tour in this grisly account of an American tank crew in the war's last month

Correction appended: Oct. 16, 2014

“Done much killing?” tough Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) asks winsome newbie Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman). “No,” Ellison answers timidly. “You will,” the big guy spits out.

He’s not kidding. Fury, writer-director David Ayer’s war film to end all war films (fingers crossed), begins with Wardaddy killing a German cavalry officer with a knife, then cutting his eye out as a souvenir. It ends, a draining two hours and 10 minutes later, in a battle that makes the Alamo look like a pie dessert — à la mode.

This is War Movie 101: all fighting, nearly all the time. Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down pictured a similarly unrelenting siege (Somalia), as did, in a fantasy landscape, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Rohan). Saving Private Ryan traced an American unit’s trajectory across World War II–era France, and Platoon and Full Metal Jacket, once that film got past the fatal hazing of basic training, submerged the viewer in the Vietnam nightmare as seen by its edgy American invaders. Fury doesn’t come close to the achievement of those edifying cinematic ordeals, let alone to Samuel Maoz’s harrowing Israeli film Lebanon, which summoned a claustrophobic psychopathy by setting virtually all its action inside an Israeli tank. But Ayer’s movie has the admirable ambition of showing how even the Greatest Generation could brutalize and be brutalized by war.

Brad Pitt, you’ll recall, already won World War II in Inglourious Basterds. Hell, last year he won World War Z. So how can he and the near victorious GIs of the 2nd Armored Division be established as underdogs in a movie set in Germany in April 1945, just a few weeks before Hitler would blow his brains out in a bunker? Ayer’s solution: put ‘em in a tank, where their rumbling weapon was far outclassed by the enemy’s. Henry Ford produced the Americans’ thin-skinned Sherman tank; Ferdinand Porsche designed the Germans’ much larger, sturdier Tiger. It was, essentially, the Tin Lizzie vs. the Mercedes-Benz Super Sport.

And though World War II would shortly end, the U.S. soldiers couldn’t take it easy, like college seniors in the final term before graduation. Their mission was to roll through Germany, whose Nazi leaders called for every citizen to fight the invaders to their death. To the Americans, each person they meet is a potential sniper; every man, woman and child is cannon fodder. Some of the soldiers became efficient killing machines. Some of them may have liked it.

Norman, who looks about 12 and takes most of the movie to grow stubble on his sweet peach face, doesn’t like killing, doesn’t want it and, when he’s drafted as Wardaddy’s gunner, doesn’t know how to do it. His first job is to scrape the remains of his predecessor off the insides of the tank, nicknamed Fury. He is the token innocent, the audience surrogate, almost the girl joining a quartet of grizzled veterans.

Because their characters are reduced to their religious, ethnic or lowlife stereotypes, they may as well be called Bible (Shia LaBeouf), Mex (Michael Peña) and Animal (Jon Bernthal). Their tour has taken them to hell and halfway back, which makes them the rude tutors in Norman’s life-or-death indoctrination. “The war’s gotta end, soon,” Wardaddy says, in one of the boilerplate truisms that serve as this movie’s dialogue. “But before it ends, a lotta people gotta die.”

Sometimes, even a little death is a lot. Conquering one village, Wardaddy and Norman enter a house that holds two frightened young German women, Emma (Alicia von Rittberg) and Irma (Anamaria Marinca, star of the Romanian prize winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days). Irma makes lunch for Wardaddy, who sends Norman off to the bedroom with Emma in what may be their mutual deflowering. The assignation is meant to be tender, but the viewer has to wonder if Emma (or for that matter, Norman) is a willing participant, and if the scene doesn’t carry the lingering toxicity of sexual violence. Then the other tank troopers barge in, and Animal uncorks a flood of insults that amount to assault. By velvet glove or iron fist, barbarism rules.

That, Ayer would argue, is just war, daddy. And in staging his big battle sequences, he brings Fury to fitful life. The attack of three Shermans on a giant Tiger is choreographed for maximum impact, as is the looming face-off between Wardaddy’s crippled tank and about 300 SS troops marching toward it. Pitt, who at 50 still looks great with his shirt off, has the gruff charisma to play a dauntless soldier with killer courage and a vestigial streak of humanity.

He carries a film that could stumble under the burden of its clichés. You know that when one character who’s chomped out bits of Norman’s callow butt for most of the movie finally makes gentle amends, he’ll be the next to die. And that another character, having faced death countless times by German fire or misadventure, will survive through an act of enemy kindness. World War II was a historical event, but also a movie genre, and Fury occasionally prints the legend. The rest of it is plenty grim and grisly. Audience members may feel like prisoners of war forced to watch a training-torture film.

The original version of this story misspelled the name of Brad Pitt’s character. It is Don “Wardaddy” Collier.

TIME conflict

There’s a Nazi Buried on Mount Zion in Israel — For a Good Reason

Oskar Schindler's Grave
Visitors honor hero Oskar Schindler by placing stones on his grave in Jerusalem Ed Kashi—National Geographic/Getty Images

Oct. 9, 1974: Oskar Schindler, the inspiration for 'Schindler's List,' dies

Oskar Schindler, the real man who inspired Schindler’s List, got off to a less-than-heroic start. Taking advantage of the Nazis’ ouster of a Polish factory’s original owner, a Jew, he exploited the cheap Jewish labor of the Krakow ghetto to turn a massive profit, which he used to fund his playboy lifestyle.

But witnessing the horrors of war changed him, as is explained by Yad Vashem’s profile of the man whose gravestone — after his death 40 years ago today, on Oct. 9, 1974 — would note that he rescued 1,200 Jews. The profits he had once funneled into his own pleasure or used for bribes that advanced his business interests were soon reserved for hiding and feeding hundreds of Jews, forging identification papers for them and bribing Nazi officers into releasing prisoners from concentration camps. The one-time gambler staked his life on the decision, as well as his money; he was arrested twice by the Gestapo but freed with the help of well-connected — and presumably well-paid — friends in the German army, according to his obituary in the New York Times.

He survived the war, but his money did not.

The former war profiteer and onetime Nazi spy who became known as one of history’s greatest humanitarians found himself penniless after World War II, when Soviet troops commandeered the factory where he had made a fortune manufacturing enamelware, then ammunition. A handout from an American Jewish organization helped finance his move to Argentina, where he bred nutria for fur. That venture failed, as did a second enterprise he undertook upon relocating to Germany. There he bought a concrete factory, which went bankrupt, as recounted in the book Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activities and the True Story Behind the List.

After Oskar Schindler sacrificed his livelihood to save more than 1,000 Jews from World War II death camps, he came to rely on Jewish charity for his own survival. For much of the rest of his life, Schindler lived meagerly in Frankfurt, in a one-room apartment financed by donations from those around the world who were grateful for his wartime sacrifice.

Even after his death, Schindler was looked after. He was interred in the Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem — and is, according to Thomas Keneally, the author of Schindler’s List, the only member of the Nazi Party ever to have been buried there.

Read TIME’s review of Schindler’s List, here in the archives: Heart of Darkness

TIME conflict

75 Years Ago: Hitler’s Phony Plea for Peace

Peace Speech
From the Oct. 16, 1939, issue of TIME TIME

How TIME covered the "bare-faced lies" of the Oct. 6, 1939, speech

On Oct. 6, 1939, Adolf Hitler returned from touring the trampled city of Warsaw to address the Reichstag. He was ready to do something surprising: ask the world for peace.

Except that his peace speech — delivered 75 years ago on Monday — was far from peaceful. As TIME noted in its coverage of the event, Hitler spent about 60 of the 80 minutes speaking about other things. And, when he finally moved on to the subject, the oratory was, unsurprisingly, full of untruths.

Here’s what TIME reported in the Oct. 16 issue:

The Polish victory came first on Speaker Hitler’s list, accompanied by three bare-faced lies. Lie No. 1: “A state of no less than 36,000,000 inhabitants took up arms against us. Their arms were far-reaching, and their confidence in their ability to crush Germany knew no bounds.” Lie No. 2: In spite of the “violations and insults which Germany and her armed forces had to put up with from these military dilettantes,” the First Soldier of the Reich claimed that he “endeavored to restrict aerial warfare to objectives of so-called military importance, or only to employ it to combat active resistance at a given point.” (For photographs and an accompanying eyewitness account of German restricted aerial warfare see p. 45.) Lie No. 3: All objective reports of the last days of besieged Warsaw agree that the Germans refused point-blank to allow the garrison to evacuate non-combatants from the city. Herr Hitler’s variorum: “Sheer sympathy for women and children caused me to make an offer to those in command of Warsaw at least to let civilian inhabitants leave the city. . . . The proud Polish commander of the city did not even condescend to reply.”

The German victory, though it had to be won at times over odds of 6-to-1, was not only sweet but cheap in casualties, said the Führer (see p. 44). And now “German soldiers have once more firmly established the right to wear the laurel wreath of which they were meanly deprived in 1918.”

If TIME readers flipped to page 45, as suggested by the parenthetical about “restricted aerial warfare,” they would find a tale of the slaughter of Polish civilians.

The speech continued, this magazine reported, with a discussion of good relations with Britain and France, and Hitler’s hope that the nations of Europe could settle on a peace — but only a peace in which German demands would be met.

And, despite the ostensibly peaceful nature of the speech, Hitler couldn’t resist ending on an ultimatum: “If, however, the opinions of Messrs. Churchill and his followers should prevail,” TIME reported him saying, “this statement will have been my last.”

Read the full report on Hitler’s Oct. 6, 1939, speech here, in TIME‘s archives: The Last Statement

TIME politics

The History Behind the Other ‘United Nations’

united nations - Jan. 19, 1942
From the Jan. 19, 1942, issue of TIME TIME

In 1942, the group known as the United Nations was convened to accomplish one goal: defeat the Axis powers

The United Nations was created in 1942 — but not the United Nations as we know it, the group whose representatives are this week converging in New York City for the 69th General Assembly.

When the phrase first “slipped into the world’s vocabulary,” as TIME wrote, the world was in the midst of war, and the concept of wide-scale international collaboration was fraught. World War II had already exposed the failure of the League of Nations, the international organization set up after the previous world war. Still, in January of 1942, 26 nations, including the U.S., the U.K., Russia and China, signed a pact uniting them in one goal: to defeat the Axis powers. The name, which had been proposed by the Roosevelt administration, became the official title for the Allied powers.

“For the people of the Axis countries that fact could not be other than sobering: 26 nations—count them—26, all determined that Hitler and his tyranny shall be destroyed,” TIME wrote at the time.

Even then there was skepticism that the United Nations could be effective. Some called for a cooperative body to oversee the war effort, while others continued to call for a union of peoples and not just an intergovernmental pact.

But the United Nations prevailed, and when, after the war, world leaders descended on San Francisco for the conference to hash out the details of an intergovernmental organization to jointly confront the world’s problems, they called it the United Nations. The first session of the United Nations General Assembly opened in 1946.

Take a look at TIME’s coverage of the signing of the declaration of the original United Nations in 1942:

The significance of the pact was slower being digested. In Washington, enthusiasts compared it to the Articles of Confederation that had held the 13 States together until the Constitutional Convention. Advocates of Union Now thought it did not go far enough, wanted a union of peoples, rather than of governments. Josephus Daniels recalled his last talk with Woodrow Wilson, when Wilson had said: “The things we have fought for are sure to prevail . . . [and] may come in a better way than we proposed.” Advocates of a revived, strengthened League of Nations hoped the United Nations would prove the better way.

Taken at its face value, the Declaration was impressive. If the signing nations could actually employ their “full resources,” their power would be staggering. Their combined populations came to almost 1,500,000,000 of the world’s 2,145,000,000. They held twice as much of the world’s steel capacity as the Axis, most of its wheat, most of the materials needed for making war or prospering in peace.

Today’s United Nations, by those standards, is even more impressive: instead of 26 member nations, there are 193.

Read the 1942 story about the original United Nations here, in TIME’s archives: The United Nations

TIME World War II

Most Countries Are Not Doing Enough to Recover Wartime Jewish Art

Only a handful of nations are trying to help

Italy is among the countries doing the least to identify and research works of art looted or otherwise acquired from Jews during the Holocaust, according to a report published on Wednesday. It is joined on the list by Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Argentina and Brazil, among others.

The report, compiled by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the World Jewish Restitution Organization, measures the progress of 47 countries that signed the Terezin Declaration in 2009 and the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art in 1998. Both agreements involve a commitment to making greater efforts to repatriate art confiscated or bought from Jews during World War II.

However, the report has found that only 34% of the 43 countries for which reliable information is available have made “major or substantial progress” toward implementing the principles outlined in the declaration.

Austria, the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic are ranked highest in terms of commitment to restitution efforts. But Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, told the New York Times that even those nations could do more. He said there was still a need for “countries to recognize that this is the right thing to do.”

TIME conflict

Here’s How World War II Began

This week marks the 75th anniversary of the conflict's beginning

TIME

On a desktop, hover over the map to zoom; on mobile, click to zoom.

Seventy-five years this week, World War II began. “The telephone in Franklin Roosevelt’s bedroom at the White House rang at 2:50 a. m. on the first day of September,” the Sept. 11, 1939, issue of TIME explained. “In more ways than one it was a ghastly hour, but the operators knew they must ring. Ambassador Bill Bullitt was calling from Paris. He had just been called by Ambassador Tony Biddle in Warsaw. Mr. Bullitt told Mr. Roosevelt that World War II had begun. Adolf Hitler’s bombing planes were dropping death all over Poland.” On Sept. 3, the United Kingdom and France declared war.

Roosevelt wasn’t the only one expecting the dramatic news. In that same TIME issue, the first to hit stands after Germany began its march into Poland, the magazine provided readers with a timeline explaining the war’s start, despite a worldwide mood described as “thoroughly sick of and appalled by the idea of war.” The retelling starts in March of 1939, after Hitler moved on Czechoslovakia, and continues throughout the spring as England and Germany deliberate over the future of Poland — but as late as August 23, even after Germany surprised the world by announcing a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, war was not a foregone conclusion.

The description of the events of that late August might read like a farce if it weren’t so deadly serious: as Hitler uses impossible ultimatums to negotiate with Poland, a nation Britain has already sworn to aid if necessary, the timeline fills up with sudden deadlines, haggling over the difference between an ambassador and an emissary, offers that can’t be sent because phone lines have been cut and orders to attack given simultaneously with offers of peace.

And then the time for negotiating was over.

Grey Friday, Sept. 11 1939
From , Sept. 11, 1939 TIME

The original TIME story about those events can be read in full, for free, here — Grey Friday — and the map of Poland that accompanied the story appears above.

 

TIME conflict

This 75-Year-Old Map Shows Europe ‘Ready for War’

A portrait of a world days away from combustion

The declarations had not yet come, but on Aug. 28, 1939, Europe already knew war was on its way. On that day, 75 years ago, the armies that would fight what became World War II had gathered.

Just how many soldiers that meant differed by nation, as TIME pointed out to its readers with the map below, which ran in the Sept. 4, 1939 issue. The annotated chart also provides evidence that, no matter how many men were under arms, there was no way for the continent to be entirely ready for what was to follow. In Poland, for example, President Ignacy Moscicki was said to have told Roosevelt that he was willing to negotiate with Germany. By the time Sept. 4 came around — the magazine arrived on stands before then— that willingness had already proved pointless.

On desktop, roll over the map to get a closer look. If you’re reading on a mobile device, click to zoom.

TIME

Stay tuned next week for further coverage of the 75th anniversary of the beginning of World War II.

TIME China

Want Some Entertainment in China? Don’t Turn On the TV

CHINA-ECONOMY
This photo taken on July 15, 2014 shows a couple watching TV in their apartment in Beijing. GREG BAKER—AFP/Getty Images

China’s TV and film watchdog has ordered a dull diet of nationalist fare ahead of the country's National Day in October

There’s nothing like coming home from work, plopping down in front of the TV and watching some relaxing antifascist and patriotic fare. That’s exactly the kind of prime-time programming China’s TV and film watchdog is ordering up for September and October, according to state media. One reason for this propaganda blitz? National Day falls on Oct. 1 and a line-up of TV shows glorifying, say, the Communist Party’s fight against the Japanese during World War II, will hopefully usher in a wave of jingoistic pride among citizens.

Earlier this year, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (commonly known by its previous acronym SARFT) also urged TV stations to present entertainment that propagated President Xi Jinping’s ideological catchphrase, the “Chinese Dream.” Applicable programming, according to the official Xinhua News Agency, includes such delights as a program on the navy’s activities in the Gulf of Aden and a 48-episode series on the life and times of Deng Xiaoping, the late leader who spearheaded the nation’s economic reforms. (Deng would have celebrated his 110th birthday on Aug. 22.)

What exactly constitutes patriotic programming? The China Daily, the government’s English-language mouthpiece and no stranger itself to jingoistic content, reported that “patriotic TV shows should promote the protection of the home country, as well as entrepreneurship and innovation.” As for antifascist TV material, anything to do with World War II, or what China calls the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, should do nicely.

Smaller TV stations will have more latitude than major networks in controlling their schedules. They can, for instance, reserve patriotic programming for prime time and relegate anti-fascist material to less coveted time slots, according to the China Daily. On Aug. 13, the China Youth Network also assured viewers that the premieres of a couple highly anticipated TV dramas shouldn’t be affected. Nevertheless, one user of Weibo, China’s microblogging platform, quipped “The authorities force the masses to watch such rubbish. Who is the fascist here but SARFT?”

Chinese viewers have been clamoring for TV programming with modern entertainment value in recent years — just as censors have begun clamping down. In 2011, as China celebrated the 90th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party, SARFT railed against films and shows that depicted time travel because they were “treating serious history in a frivolous way.”

Then, in April of this year, authorities began restricting foreign material that could be watched through streaming websites. A particular favorite was the geeky U.S. sit-com The Big Bang Theory, which racked up 1.3 billion views in China before it was banned. (The Good Wife, NCIS and The Practice were also targeted.)

Other areas of online space have been encroached on. Weibo has lost some of its edge because of industrious censorship and a crackdown on its more high-profile users. This month, the crackdown was extended to mobile instant messaging services, like the hugely popular WeChat.

As for the upcoming two months of antifascist and patriotic TV, even the Global Times, a Beijing-based daily that often takes a nationalist line, grumbled in an Aug. 15 article. “It is also an administrative order,” the story reported, “that many TV shows producers often see as ‘annoying.’”

Imagine how the people who are expected to tune in to such partisan programming feel.

with reporting by Gu Yongqiang/Beijing

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