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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

IRELAND 1955 | Todd Andrews

Todd Andrews (L) and Louis Rhatigan,
in Russia.
I just discovered a couple of books by Christopher Stephen "Todd" Andrews – Dublin Made Me (Lilliput Press, 2001) and A Man of No Property.

Todd got his name because he had a likeness to a comic strip character in The Magnet, Alonzo Todd.

Todd was born in Summerhill, Dublin in 1901. He attended St. Enda's School and Synge Street CBS.

He studied Commerce at University College Dublin with a break in which he participated in the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. Afterwards he returned to the university and earned a degree in Commerce.

My discovery of his books has prompted me to post here a letter he wrote to my mother, Hilda van Stockum Marlin, in 1955. I have been sorting through these letters since she died in 2006.

Todd was head of Bord na Móna, which was established in 1946 as a quasi-governmental corporation in order to exploit the fuel potential of turf. In subsequent years it has expanded to include other alternative-energy-related initiatives.

My father was then working for the International Civil Aviation Organization as the Director of Technical Assistance. Of the 1,700 employees of ICAO, 1,500 were technical assistance workers under his direction. He was at that time developing air traffic control guidelines, assisting with airport design, and staffing pilot training centers all over the world – in places like Afghanistan, Beirut and... Shannon.

The training center he set up in Beirut under U.N./ICAO auspices was regional.

It was a substantial structure, called "Spike Marlin's building," later used as barracks for the U.S. marines, who were tragically the victims of a terrorist attack.

Meanwhile, my mother was a bit impatient in the late 1940s at the amount of travel that my Dad did while she froze in the Canadian winters (ICAO was based in Montreal), although she made the best of its by writing two books about the family in Canada.

She figured out that a U.N. family with a peripatetic father could live better than we were living in Montreal, and we could live anywhere in the world.

After our Granny (Olga Boissevain van Stockum) died in 1949, Hilda  prevailed in a family move to Dublin, a return to the city where Hilda and Spike met.

We six children were installed first in Blackrock and then for two more years in Dalkey at the top of Harbour Road in a house called "Beulah" (referencing the Biblical Beulah Land, the subject of a lovely hymn with the chorus  "I'm counting all the hours...").

The house is now chopped up into several smaller pieces, but even so "Beulah" is currently priced at about $8 million.

Randal and I went to Blackrock College. Olga was at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Brigid went to art school and the other two sisters went nearby in Blackrock  to Sion Hill.

The two-page letter from Todd Andrews is embedded in this post. It expresses great admiration for Olga's ability to speak French, and disappointment in the progress of Ireland relative to Sweden. Like many Irish people after WW2, Todd was eager for Ireland to prosper from the economic benefits of peace. The Emerald Tiger didn't emerge until the tech boom, and that didn't end well...

(The "John" mentioned in the letter is presumably John Dowling, the dentist. He and his wife Joan were close friends of Hilda.)

Friday, September 1, 2017

WW2 | Sept. 1 – Hitler Invades Poland

September 1, 2017 – This day in 1939 Adolf Hitler invaded Poland. He had been aggressive before without provoking a response from the rest of Europe.

Hitler began his plan with a nonaggression pact with Poland in January 1934.

This pact was contravened five and a half years later – Hitler had just been buying time.  The pact was unpopular with his supporters, who resented the Versailles Treaty's giving former German provinces to Poland. Hitler, however, saw the nonaggression pact as a way to prevent a French-Polish military alliance against Germany before the Wehrmacht had rearmed.

In the second half of the 1930s, France and Britain pursued a policy of appeasement toward Germany. Public opinion (especially in Britain) was sympathetic to revising some territorial provisions of the Versailles treaty, and neither Britain nor France in 1938 was militarily prepared to fight the Nazis.  So Britain and France acquiesced to:
  • German rearmament (1935-1937). 
  • Remilitarization of the Rhineland (1936).
  • Annexation of Austria (the Anschluss, March 1938). 
  • Invasion of the Sudetenland and breakup of the Czechoslovak state (March 1939) in violation of Anglo-French guarantees of the integrity of rump Czechoslovakia in what is called the Munich agreement.
The invasion of Czechoslovakia was the last straw. France and Germany responded by guaranteeing the integrity of the Polish state. Hitler's shocking answer to that was   a nonaggression pact with Premier Josef Stalin in August 1939, partitioning Poland between the two powers, giving Germany the western third and enabling Hitler to attack Poland without fear of its defense by the Soviet Union.

One week after the surprise pact with Stalin, at 5:11 a.m., Hitler issued an order for the Wehrmacht to invade Poland, claiming that the Poles were preparing to invade Germany. In fact, the Wehrmacht was massing on the German side of Poland's western border and the Poles were simply moving their army to defend this border.

Britain and France declared war within two days, but it was too late. The German army launched its Blitzkrieg, its "lightning war."  From East Prussia and Germany in the north and Silesia and Slovakia in the south, more than 2,000 German tanks,covered by  more than 1,000 planes, broke through Polish defenses along the border. Within six days they took Krakow and within ten they were outside Warsaw. By early October, Poland had fallen. World War II was on.