NASA history book – “The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy” (University of New Mexico Press, 2019) – John Bisney interview – MHIO (Episode 68)

John Bisney has worked as a reporter, on news radio, in public relations and is a NASA enthusiast. We talked about the latest book he has co-authored “The Space Age presidency of John F. Kennedy” which is a photographic history of NASA’s work during JFK’s presidency.

1:03 – John talks about how he got into studying and writing on this subject.

7:35 – John talks briefly about NASA illustration art.

7808 – John talks about how they lay out the book.

11:23 – John talks about doing research at the Kennedy library.

13:34 – John talks about his favorite photos in the collection. He touches on Alan Shepherd in the White House Rose Garden.

15:24 – John talks about how he chose the pictures they used.

18:03 – John talks about the companies that worked on the space program.

22:21 – John talks about other important people found in the photos.

23:43 – John talks about interesting people who also show up in the pictures.

36:54 – John talks about video of JFK’s travels.

43:35 – The other co-author of the book has a website

Links of interest

For more “Military History Inside Out” please follow me on Facebook at warscholar, on twitter at Warscholar, on youtube at warscholar1945 and on Instagram @crisalvarezswarscholar

Guests: John Bisney

Host: Cris Alvarez

Tags: science, NASA, gemini, apollo, cape canaveral, jfk, space program, LBJ, congress, john glenn, white house, air force

World War Two history book – “Mass Violence in Nazi-Occupied Europe” (Indiana University Press, 2018) – Alex J. Kay and David Stahel – WarScholar written interview 3

Nazi genocide was one of the most fearful and awful organized actions of the twentieth century. Their atrocities affected all of Europe and nations beyond. Though Nazi activities have been studied extensively, there is still much to learn. In their new book Mass Violence in Nazi-Occupied Europe, editors Alex J. Kay and David Stahel examine this subject with a series of essays.

Genocidal atrocities were committed all across Europe during WWII but despite the extensive research, there is still much that is unknown about these activities. How much did the war contribute to genocide? Was it part of German strategy or was it an outgrowth of the chaos of war? Who was involved and to what extent? Questions like these and others need more research and information to answer them.

Though Nazi genocide occurred decades ago, the repercussions of these events continue to affect global society. I posed some questions to Alex Kay and David Stahel about Mass Violence in Nazi-Occupied Europe

How did you become interested in studying and writing on the subject of your book?

David: The concept of “Mass Violence” in Nazi Occupied Europe is so shocking because of its ubiquity. To many non-specialists the assumption is we already know so much about the Nazi period, but in many instances the opposite is true. To give one example, in the 1990s the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum set out to document centres of Nazi persecution across Europe. So far, just three of the projected seven volumes have appeared, but it is the scale of their findings that is shocking. An estimated fifteen to twenty million people died or were imprisoned in these sites, which included ghettos, slave labour enterprises, transit camps, concentration camps and purpose-built killing centres like Auschwitz-Birkenau. When the research began in 2000, the research team, headed by Geoffrey P. Megargee, expected to locate and document some 7,000 sites based on post-war estimates. Yet, as the research continued, this number grew first to 11,500, then 20,000, then 30,000 and finally surpassed 40,000 to reach the current total of 42,500 sites.

Without question there is much still to learn, but more importantly, in an age of “fake news” the danger of Nazi criminality being disputed or minimalised is very real. The social media platform Facebook has been shown to have avoided removing Holocaust denial material in most of the Central European countries where it is illegal. A leaked company document stated that it did “not welcome local law that stands as an obstacle to an open and connected world”, meaning that moderators would only block Holocaust denial material if, “we face the risk of getting blocked in a country or a legal risk.”

Such developments underline the importance of continued research at the scholarly level, but also argues for a wider discussion and dissemination of historical research into the public sphere.

What aspect of this subject does your book focus on?

David: The aim of the book is to present research across the full spectrum of Nazi criminality – The Holocaust, Sinti and Roma, the Nazi concept of “Useless Eaters”, the Wehrmacht, Memorialization and Comparative History of genocide in the Second World War. Each of these categories includes research, which is based on leading research typically from non-English language publications. Indeed, the starting point for this book was a late night discussion in a Frankfurt pub about the number of significant studies that had never appeared in English.

What are the major themes of this book?

Alex: Mass Violence in Nazi-Occupied Europe argues for a more comprehensive understanding of what constitutes Nazi violence and who was affected by this violence. As David says, the individual contributions focus in particular on the Holocaust, the racial persecution of Europe’s Sinti and Roma, the eradication of those regarded by the Nazis as “useless eaters” (first and foremost psychiatric patients and Soviet prisoners of war), and the crimes of the Wehrmacht. The chapters featured also consider sexual violence, food depravation, and forced labor as aspects of Nazi aggression. The collection concludes with a consideration of memorialization and a comparison of Soviet and Nazi mass crimes.

A wider, overarching theme of the book is the predominance in the literature of works on individual Nazi atrocities or types of atrocity and the need, therefore, for us to examine Nazi policies of mass violence more collectively. Important and innovative recent works have taken a closer look at the relationship between the German conduct of the war in the years 1939 to 1945 and the unleashing of extreme mass violence by the National Socialist regime during this period, especially the key role played by food policy, supply, and shortages. However, research on the most systematic and comprehensive of the Nazi murder campaigns, the Holocaust, continues to be carried out in isolation from research on other strands of Nazi mass killing. The genocide of European Jewry was indeed unique in many ways, but it was nonetheless one part of a larger whole in the context of the war. A comprehensive, integrative history of Nazi mass killing, addressing not only the Holocaust but also the murder of psychiatric patients, the elimination of the Polish intelligentsia, the starvation of captured Red Army soldiers and the Soviet urban population, the genocide of the Roma, and the brutal anti-partisan operations, however, is yet to be written. This volume is not designed to fill that gap, but rather to provide an impetus for future research.

How coordinated were these Nazi actions?  Was there simply a general policy of eradicating as many enemies as possible?  How many Nazi leaders might have understood the level of killing that they were doing during the war?

Alex: For all the differences in the nature of the victims and, frequently, the ways in which they were murdered, they had something fundamental in common. It is no coincidence that virtually all of the more than twelve million victims of deliberate Nazi policies of mass murder were killed during the war years. The commonality shared by the different victim groups is closely related to the war. Each and every one of the victim groups was regarded by the Nazi regime in one way or another as a potential threat to Germany’s ability to fight and, ultimately, win a war for hegemony in Europe. This view was informed and justified by Nazi racial thinking, so that it is difficult, if not impossible, to separate German war strategy from Nazi genocidal racial policies. In fact, one might go so far as to argue that in the case of the German Reich genocide itself, and mass killing policies in general, constituted a war strategy. These were systematic killing programmes, and both the political and military leaderships were not only well aware of the scope of the killing but also deeply implicated in it.

How much did war operations overlap with mass violence against civilians or captured soldiers?  Was it simply a situation where the military took territory and then civilian authorities conducted the mass violence or were military units also used to conduct mass violence against civilians or prisoners of war?

Alex: There was extensive overlap between mass violence against civilians and other non-combatants on the one hand and the military operations themselves on the other hand. As I said earlier, it is impossible to separate German war strategy from Nazi genocidal racial policies. The British historian Sir Ian Kershaw rightly pointed out many years ago that the Holocaust would not have been possible without the military victories and stubborn resistance of the Wehrmacht. This, however, is only half the story. In fact, it has long been known that numerous regular German army units actively participated in the mass shootings against Jews in the Soviet Union and in Serbia, either by providing shooters to the SS commandos or by carrying out massacres on their own initiative. In fact, the Wehrmacht participated directly in a number of mass killing programmes: the elimination of the Polish intelligentsia, the genocide of Serbian and Soviet Jewry, the starvation of captured Red Army soldiers and the Soviet urban population, and the brutal anti-partisan operations in Eastern Europe. Members of the Wehrmacht may even have constituted the majority of those responsible for mass crimes carried out on the part of the German Reich.

Do you find that people either in the past or present try to separate Nazi politics from the genocidal actions of Nazis during the war?  That is, how often do you hear an argument such as “being a Nazi is a good thing as long as enemies are simply kept at bay by segregation or other non violent means rather than killing them.”

Alex: In the past, it was far more common for the supposed positives of Nazi politics – having enough to eat, full employment, law and order – to be emphasized and Nazi atrocities to be played down along the lines of “it was wartime” or “we didn’t know about it”. This kind of thing has now become increasingly rare and, indeed, taboo. Only neo-Nazis openly make such claims these days. To be honest, I don’t actually think I’ve ever heard anyone say “being a Nazi is a good thing”. Back in 2005, I attended a conference in Potsdam on Nazism, Communism, and the 20th Century, at which the historian Omer Bartov said that Stalinism did terrible things in achieving its goals, but with Nazism, the terrible things were the goals.

What part of the research process was most enjoyable for you?

David: Research is a process of discovery. I cannot speak for other authors in this book, but my own experience with Alex, both in producing this book and writing our chapter, was the model of scholastic collaboration. I see myself primarily as a military historian and my body of past works focus on operational and social histories of the Wehrmacht. This may seem an odd fit for this subject, but that would be a misconception.

Alex and I studied together for our respective PhDs at the Humboldt University in Berlin and being the only two non-Germans (as far as I am aware) in the history department at the time, we became fast friends. Both of us were working on the Nazi period, but Alex’s dissertation and subsequent research has always focused on the Nazi state and its criminality. Over 15 years of trading research notes and discussing respective projects we often commented on how often the same themes ran through our respective, but separate, fields of research. Perhaps that should not have surprised us, but one should not underestimate how much of a separation has existed between scholars that came before us. Much of the body of works that informed my early reading on the Wehrmacht’s history had almost no bearing on Alex’s literature and vice versa. The potential for collaboration was huge (although we are not the only ones have begun this work).

Our chapter is a reconceptualization of how we see the German soldier’s role in the war in the East and what standard we might use to understand and apply a label like “criminal”. The finer points of the argument I will leave for those interested in reading the chapter, but working with other scholars and making a contribution to such an important field of study is indeed both a process of discovery and an enjoyable one.

What did you discover in your research that most surprised you?

Alex: The exploitation of recent history for the purposes of nation-building and the construction of a cohesive national identity not only in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltics, but also further west in Germany itself, demonstrates that the Nazi past remains very present, and hotly contested, throughout Europe. Thus, while European integration in a commercial, financial, and to some extent political respect may have progressed at a rapid pace over the last two decades or so, not least with the accession to the European Union and NATO of former Eastern Bloc states such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania, the very different historical experiences and memories mean that a common sense of European identity remains elusive.

In our attempts to reflect the view from Eastern Europe, too, it was helpful, therefore, to have several historians fluent in Eastern European languages on board, as well as one Russian historian who is a professor in Moscow and another contributor who is a professor in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.

Was there anything you discovered that moved you?

Alex: Inevitably, working in this field, one does become somewhat desensitized over time to the numerous stories of violence and killing. If we didn’t, it would be impossible for us to do our work. Having said that, I’m still moved every time I read about the suffering of victims of Nazi atrocities. This empathy with our fellow human beings is something we should fight to retain, because once it’s gone, the floodgates to hatred, violence and death are wide open. For this reason, it’s vital to keep studying the perpetrators, as difficult as that might be. The mindset and conduct of someone who kills requires considerably more explanation than the mindset and conduct of someone who is killed. As the historian Timothy Snyder has noted, “It is less appealing, but morally more urgent, to understand the actions of the perpetrators. The moral danger, after all, is never that one might become a victim but that one might be a perpetrator or a bystander.”

What was the most difficult issue to research?

Alex: There’s no easy issue to research when looking at mass violence committed by Nazis or any other group. But the difficult topics are often the most important and sometimes the most rewarding.

What do you hope the book will do for readers?

David: There is no easy answer to a question like this. Most will use the book to inform an angle of their own research or as an overview to inform their teaching. They will typically be people familiar with the field and the events. While I hope they do find things of interest, my hope would be to gain at least a few reader from beyond this usual demographic (even if an edited collection of scholarly essays from a university press is never realistically going to have much popular appeal). The recent rise of populist political parties and politicians, who openly evoke previously unthinkable Nazi terminology and sometimes advocate variants on their policies, are supported by people who simply do not see these parallels. It is all very well for academics to write for the benefit of each other, but in the meantime, the real battle for historical truth may be lost. One must also look for ways to get beyond the usual audience and engage with the wider community. My university has promoted community engagement and we are increasingly being incentivised to engage beyond the confines of academia (perhaps here I should thank Cris Alvarez for such an opportunity). Whatever the benefit of this book I hope it contributes to a wider understanding of just what created, and allowed for, such widespread criminality.

What are your next research or writing projects?

Alex: I am under contract with Yale University Press to write a history of Nazi mass killing. It will look at the seven major killing programmes of deliberate mass murder between 1939 and 1945.

David: My next book is a fresh look at the German retreat from Moscow in 1941-1942 and will appear at the end of 2019 (see: Retreat from Moscow: A New History of Germany’s Winter Campaign, 1941-1942).

Dr David Stahel is an historian, author and Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales. He specialises in German military history of the Second World War.


Dr Alex J. Kay is Senior Lecturer at the University of Potsdam and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. His principal research interests are Nazi Germany, the Holocaust and comparative genocide.

More interviews:

Air Force and NASA history book – “Come Fly With Us” (University of Nebraska Press, 2019) – Mel Croft and John Youskauskas interview – MHIO (Episode 67)

Mel Croft and John Youskauskas are both space program enthusiasts who have previously written a book on the NASA space program. They recetly wrote another book on space shuttle payload specialists and we discussed this new book.

1:414 – They talk about how they got into writing on this subject.

2:27 – They talk about how they organized the book.

3:18 – They explain what the pauload specialist program is.

6:51 – They discuss some of the interesting aspects of the program.

9:58 – They talk about writing on STS-51L.

12:26 – They talk about the reactions people had to being chose as payload specialists.

29:47 – They talk about what they might do with all the information they obtained that didn’t end up in the book.

35:44 – They talk about what the specialists thought when they saw they Earth from orbit.

45:28 – They talk about how the DoD affected the shuttle design and missions.

48:38 -They talk about how payload specialists handle being called astronauts.

54:06 – They talk about the X-37B.

57:33 – They’re both on They’re also on


Links of interest

For more “Military History Inside Out” please follow me on Facebook at warscholar, on twitter at Warscholar, on youtube at warscholar1945 and on Instagram @crisalvarezswarscholar


Guests: Mel Croft and John Youskauskas

Host: Cris Alvarez

Tags: NASA, space program, shuttle, STS, challenger, accident, payload specialist, hunstville, space center, astronaut, X-37B, air force


Cold War history book – “Spy Pilot” (Prometheus Books, 2019) – Francis Gary Powers, Jr. interview – MHIO Episode 66

Francis Gary Powers, Jr. is son of the famed U-2 pilot who was downed during a mission. Gary has spent years researching his father’s life and developing the Cold War Museum. We spoke about his new book that covers his father’s and family’s life and career.

1:06 – Gary explained why he wrote the book on his father.

4:00 – Gary talks about he structured the book. He discusses who he interviewed for the book and FOIA requests.

5:53 – Gary talked about how he got the government to help him with his research.

10:18 – Gary talks about how the US government initially refused to believe that the Soviets had missiles that could have reached his father’s plane.

12:00 – Gary talks about how he got into this research.

15:50 – Gary talks about the various sections of the book.

17:01 – Gary talks about how his book adds to the history of this event.

18:40 – Gary talks about the Soviet pilot who was shot down chasing Gary Powers.

21:25 – Gary talks about how the Russians celebrated their pilots.

25:20 – Gary talks about his involvement with the movie “Bridge of Spies.”

28:56 – Gary talks about the Cold War Museum.

34:51 – Gary talks about some of the interesting spy and other items held at the Cold War Museum.

41:51 – Gary talks about the similarities between early NASA and the military.

44:00 – Gary talks about old audio recordings his father had made [that] years ago.

46:42 – Gary talks about the extensive physical and mental testing U-2 pilots went through.

53:58 – Gary has sites at for the museum. Gary has or

Links of interest

For more “Military History Inside Out” please follow me on Facebook at warscholar, on twitter at Warscholar, on youtube at warscholar1945 and on Instagram @crisalvarezswarscholar

Guests: Francis Gary Powers, Jr.

Host: Cris Alvarez

Tags: military, history, military history, conflict, war, interview, non-fiction book, U-2, spy missions, cold war museum, Gary Powers, veterans, CIA, Air Force, medals, missiles, eisenhower, krushchev, latvian rugs, vladimir prison, bridge of spies, afghanistan

World War One history book – “Southern Thunder” (Seaforth Publishing, 2019) – Steve R. Dunn – WarScholar written interview 2

World War I naval operations evoke images of high seas and winter pea coats. That’s because much of the war at sea occurred around the coastlines of Northern Europe. It was most often a war of German u-boats silently hunting their prey and British ships patrolling for danger in cold and dangerous conditions. In his new book Southern Thunder, author Steven Dunn examines this brutal contest from the point of view of the Royal Navy.

One of the Royal Navy’s principal tasks was to stop trade between Germany and other nations who remained neutral or on the sidelines during the war. This included the Scandinavian nations and the United States. The Royal Navy was obliged to keep a sharp eye out to protect its own trading partners from u-boats and to stop and seize the ships trading with the enemy. It was no doubt a thankless but important job.

Though World War One ended 101 years ago, the importance and the devastation of that war live on. I posed some questions to Steven Dunn about Southern Thunder: The Royal Navy and the Scandinavian Trade in World War One and about the Royal navy’s activities.

How did you become interested in studying and writing on the subject of your book?

Southern Thunder is the last of a quartet of books dedicated to an examination of the British naval blockade of Germany in World War One. My interest in this little-known aspect of the war is part of my determination to ascribe to the Royal Navy more credit for British and Allied eventual success in the war than is generally allowed, a contribution which is often overlooked or played down.

Of course, the slaughter on the Western Front was an important part of the victory; but the Royal Navy’s maintenance of command of the sea denied Germany essential materiel and foodstuffs which eventually broke the morale of her people and hence that of her troops. Command of the sea also prevented Germany breaking Britain’s own supply chain through cruiser and U-boat warfare, although it was sometimes a close-run thing.

What aspect of this subject does your book focus on?

The book focuses on the naval plans and actions to prevent the three key Scandinavian countries, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, from supplying goods to the German war effort, either from their own resources or by acting as a channel for imports from abroad, primarily the USA.

All three countries had declared themselves neutral in August 1914 but attempted to make commercial gains from supplying to both sides of the conflict, and in some cases clearly leaning towards the Germany. It was the role of the Royal Navy and the British government to prevent such supply and ensure that Britain gained the resources she needed.

What are the major themes of this book?

The book examines the mechanics of blockade, the naval actions that supported it, the political and diplomatic campaign waged alongside the naval one, and the German response. It exposes governmental indecision and naval frustration, political negotiations, American profiteering and the impact of blockade on the Scandinavians themselves. The book’s narrative shows the day-today efforts of the Royal Navy in their attempts to cut off the Scando-German trade whilst protecting British commerce across the North Sea from predation by German submarines.

Additionally, Southern Thunder details the story of the introduction of convoy, throwing a different light on the traditional narrative, tells the compelling story of two set piece battles to defend Scandinavian convoys and pays due respect to those who lost their lives in the cold waters of the North Sea.

How did the Royal Navy handle Scandinavian ships trying to cross the blockade?  Did these stops get violent? Were goods confiscated and crews imprisoned?

The Royal Navy stopped and searched all vessels it suspected of carrying contraband (i.e. goods for the enemy). Ships were usually instructed to heave-to by signal and then a small boat carrying a boarding and search party sent across. There was seldom violence but often passive resistance.

If contraband was found or believed to be present, a prize crew was put aboard and the ship sailed to a British port. Goods were then fully inspected and if appropriate condemned by a prize court. Vessels carrying contraband would be impounded and also condemned by the court.

Did you get a sense of how the German u-boats and British naval ships were able to track which Scandinavian ships were helping the enemy and which were supporting their side in trade?  Was it mainly an issue of which trade routes were being used by the ship in question?

Trade routes were predictable and therefore ships easy to track in the beginning. Choke points on the approach to ports were the most dangerous. The Germans used espionage at Scandinavian ports to discover planned sailings.

The British stopped all ships that they encountered, if they could. The Germans torpedoed or otherwise sank on sight after the Unrestricted Submarine War declarations of February 1915 and January 1917.

The geographic area at issue seems to have been quite cramped operationally speaking.  Did you come across any unusual events that occurred with so much ship activity going on in that area during the war?

In such a cramped environment and with the prevailing bad weather conditions for most of the year, ships were often in danger of collision. One must remember that there was no radar or other form of becoming aware of another ship, apart from the ‘mark 1 eyeball’.

The tragic collision between HMS Marmion and HMS Tirade in October 1917 was such an event. In a filthy night of high seas and strong winds the two ships literally drove into each other and seventy-six men from Marmion died.

What goods were the Scandinavian countries shipping to the countries fighting in WWI?

Was a lot of this shipping conducted with the open support of the Scandinavian governments or were the shippers generally behaving as “mercenaries” on their own?

Britain and German both required iron ore, copper ores, pit props and other timber and fish from Norway and Sweden. Additionally, Sweden exported some horses to Germany. Denmark exported diary products, meat and horses.

All three countries re-exported to Germany goods supplied by America. Export was undertaken with the consent of their governments who were placed under diplomatic pressure to prevent it by Britain and Germany, pressure which was generally ignored. They seldom stopped for very long until the British set up the Ministry of Blockade in 1916 and began to apply severe sanctions. The trade only really ceased after America joined the war and banned its own citizens from supply to the Scandinavia, except by quota.

What resource materials did you use for your research?

The book required a considerable amount of research. It is my writing style to try to source as many first-hand accounts of the subject as possible. Contemporary books and newspapers were a help here, as were the many personal diaries and notes held at institutions such as The National Archives at Kew, the Imperial War Museum in London, the Churchill Archive, Churchill College, Cambridge (my favourite archive!), the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, the University of Edinburgh, the Liddle Collection, Leeds University Library, and the Shetland Museum and Archive, Lerwick.

What are some of your favorite naval vessels or civilian ships from this period and why?

I think one has to admire the crews of the old River-class destroyers, already largely obsolescent at the start of the war, lightly armed, smaller than the U-boats they sought to find and sink and never intended for blue water operation in the North Sea. They were pressed into service as U-boat hunters and convoy escorts and the quotidian bravery of captains and crews in vessels such as HMS Itchen and HMS Ouse deserves our respect.

What part of the research process was most enjoyable for you?

Sometimes I wonder if in a previous life I was a detective! I love tracking points through various archive materials to get to a new or fresh aspect. And reading original documents, written at the time, now yellowing and often hard to read, allows the author to access the real men behind the actions they fought.

What did you discover in your research that most surprised you?

I was surprised at the number of sailing ships still in use in the North Sea during 1914-18 for transport of goods and people. They were easy prey for U-boats.

Was there anything you discovered that moved you?

I never fail to be surprised and awed at the quotidian and understated stoicism and bravery of the ordinary sailors, naval and merchant, of that time.

What do you hope the book will do for readers?

With the passing of the centenary I believe there is a real danger that the First World War will begin to diminish in the public consciousness. This would be a betrayal of those who fought and died in a terrible conflict. We have to work even harder to make sure they are not forgotten and I hope that my books will cause people to reflect on the war’s legacy, good and bad, and that peace always has a price.

Moreover, many people have told me they were surprised to discover just how the Scandinavians involved themselves in the war behind a cloak of neutrality.

Did you have any difficulties in finishing the book and publishing it and if so, how did you overcome those?

The book was commissioned by the specialist naval publisher, Seaforth, who have published the last four of my books.

It is both difficult to start and to finish a book. I have a writing strategy by which I write a quick ‘version one’, which allows me to understand how the book starts and finishes. I then write a fuller version which expands key points and lets me see where I need to do further research. And finally, I write a third and final draft.

What are your future writing projects?

I am currently writing for two commissions, a book which looks at the Royal Navy’s actions immediately after the First World War, to be published by Seaforth in January 2020, and another which examines the broader history of the Royal Navy to be published in January 2021.

Do you have any online accounts where people can find more of your work?   

Interested readers can view my website at;

I am on Twitter at @SteveRDunn

My books are available from all good bookshops, and on-line from Amazon and Pen and Sword

Steve R Dunn is an author with a special interest in the Royal Navy of the early 20th century and World War One. He has seven published books to his credit, with another two commissioned for 2020 and 2021, and is a regular speaker on the topics raised in his work. When not writing Steve plays tennis and cooks. He lives in Worcestershire, England, and South West France. He is a member of The Society for Nautical Research and the Britannia Naval Research Association.

More interviews:

WWII warfare history book – “Ghost Riders” (Da Capo Press, 2018) – Mark Felton interview – MHIO Episode 65

Mark Felton is an author and historian who has written extensively on World War II. He also produces short films on various subjects. We spoke about his latest WWII history book Ghost Riders.

0:57 – Mark talks about how he got into writing on this subject.

2:44 – Mark talks about how he tells the story in the book.

5:00 – Mark talks about Patton and the individuals who were important to this story.

7:20 – Mark talks about how he treats the Soviets in the book.

9:37 – Mark talks about the SS in this story.

13:10 – Mark talks about plans for an Aryan warhorse.

18:20 – Mark talks about how General Patton launched this operation.

24:00 – Mark talks about the Cossacks in the book.

26:00 – Mark talks about how he collected his information for the book.

36:00 – Mark discusses the Disney film “Miracle of the White Stallions” which is a ficitonalized version of this story.

57:58 – Mark can be found at and he has a youtube channel with lots of films at Mark Felton Productions.

Links of interest

For more “Military History Inside Out” please follow me on Facebook at warscholar, on twitter at Warscholar, on youtube at warscholar1945 and on Instagram @crisalvarezswarscholar

Guests: Mark Felton

Host: Cris Alvarez

Tags: military, history, military history, conflict, war, interview, non-fiction book, D-Day, Ardennes, Germany, Riding horses, Patton, WWII, world war II, Lipizzaner, Lipizzan, Soviets, German SS, Aryan, tanks, cavalry, Task Force Baum, Cossacks, Hostau, Americans, disney film, san diego zoo, spanish riding school, vienna

WWII warfare history book – “War Tourism” (Cornell University Press, 2018) – Bertram Gordon interview – MHIO Episode 64

Dr. Bertram Gordon is a retired Professor of History. His specialty is modern France, especially the French Right and WWII. We spoke about his latest book on war tourism in France both during WWII and afterwards.

0:56 – Bert talks about how he got into studying and writing on this subject.

3:47 – Bert talks about how the book is laid out.

6:45 – Bert talks about German cemetaries in France.

9:08 – Bert talks about wild spots in France Germans liked to visit.

10:19 – Bert talks about tourism and security.

12:19 – Bert talks about Germans visiting WWI sites in France. He discusses

the railroad car where the WWI Armistice was signed.

16:30 – Bert talks about how French businesses handled German patronage.

20:02 – French people coulnd’t go to the coast for vacation.

25:21 – Bert talks about French museums under the Germans.

28:26 – Bert talks about what resources he used for this book.

38:17 – Bert talks about French fascination with the Occupation period.

For more “Military History Inside Out” please follow me on Facebook at warscholar, on twitter at Warscholar, on youtube at warscholar1945 and on Instagram @crisalvarezswarscholar


Links of interest

Bertram Gordon Email: bmgordon (*at)


Guests: Bertram Gordon

Host: Cris Alvarez

Tags: military, history, military history, conflict, war, interview, non-fiction book, WWI, WWII, Junger, Verdun, Armistice, Paris, tourism, Russian Front, Normandy

Cold War history book – “The Land of Nuclear Enchantment” (University of New Mexico Press, 2019) – Lucie Genay – WarScholar written interview 1


For many, images of nuclear weapons testing blend seamlessly with the flat emptiness of the desert.  That’s because much of the development and testing of these weapons occurred in the Southwest United States.  In her new book Land of Nuclear Enchantment, author Lucie Genay examines the effects that this development has had on the state of New Mexico. 

The U.S. development of nuclear weapons began in secret in places such as Los Alamos, New Mexico.  After nuclear weapons were used to help the United States win WWII, Los Alamos and other areas of New Mexico were important locations for the continued development of the U.S. nuclear weapons program.  However, this work did not occur in isolation from the people of New Mexico.  The program had profound impacts on the state throughout the Cold War and beyond.   

Los Alamos laboratory recently marked a 75-year anniversary and I posed some questions to Lucie Genay to discuss Land of Nuclear Enchantment and the many effects that the nuclear program has had on New Mexico.

How did you become interested in studying and writing on the subject of your book?

When I was a third-year student at university in France, I studied the Cold War in one of my US civilization classes and became fascinated with the topic. The fact that humanity had created weapons capable of destroying the planet several times over and that military strategists were able to devise policies based on this abstraction truly captivated me because it struck me as a way to address so many aspects of human nature. So when I decided to apply to study abroad as an exchange student for my first year in my Master’s program (my university had an exchange program with the University of New Mexico UNM) and I needed to choose a topic for my thesis, my advisor Dr. Susanne Berthier told me “do you know that the atomic bomb was designed and tested in New Mexico?”

I was even more excited to travel there and that is what first led me to researching the Manhattan Project and the scientists who had participated in it. I spent a year in the Land of Enchantment and fell in love with it. The courses that I remember the best were Gerald Vizenor’s on the Manhattan Project and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Dr. M.L. Garcia y Griego’s on the political history of the United States. I am profoundly indebted to both of them. The research I conducted for my thesis and the observations I made while living in NM shaped my approach to my PhD research thereafter. The book is adapted from my PhD dissertation.   

What aspect of this subject does your book focus on?

The book focuses on the local perspective on the military-industrial complex that the US developed during World War 2 and the Cold War in the state of New Mexico. All the works I had read on nuclear weaponry mainly focused on the politicians, the scientists, and the military leaders, but did not talk much about the workers, the local residents, the anonymous partakers in the US atomic adventure. Also, little was said about the long-term impacts of the nuclear weapons industry.

Of course other authors have written about some aspects of the industry specifically (e.g. uranium mining, the environmental legacy of the Cold War in NM, the politics of opening of a nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad), but my approach was to try and assemble all of these elements in one book that would span the whole chronology of the nuclear weapons industry and the whole geography of the state, with a focus on the point of view of New Mexicans.

Another important aspect of the book is the analysis of New Mexico’s relation to the rest of the US through the concept of neocolonialism. Historians of the US West such as Gerald Nash have seen in World War 2 and the subsequent Cold War an opportunity for the West to emancipate itself from its quasi-colonial relationship with the industrialized East. I argue that although the development of a nuclear science-oriented sector brought dramatic socioeconomic and cultural changes to NM, the state’s dependence on eastern markets to sell raw materials transferred to a dependence on the federal government and the nuclear weapons industry. Thus, its fate remained tied to outside forces. More importantly, those who benefited the most from these changes, especially on the long-term, seemed to come from other states rather than be Native New Mexicans, so I see more continuity than rupture in this story in the end…    

What are the major themes of this book?

Major themes in the book include social and economic history, ecology and environmental justice, nuclearism, federalism, colonialism and patriotism, ethnic discrimination, multiculturalism, mythologizing, and memory. 

What resource materials did you use for your research?

My goal was to focus on testimonies from New Mexicans so I centered on collections of oral histories, a few of my own interviews, newspaper articles, unpublished research material (theses and dissertations) and any source in which I could find the perspective of local residents. Then I also used published material, official reports, and data to build the theoretical framework and the economic information I would need to develop my overall analysis.

What part of the research process was most enjoyable for you?

My research trips to New Mexico were definitely the best part. Talking to people about my work and seeing their interest in it, finding hidden gems in the archive centers, traveling around the state. I do not live in the US but in France, so it was always complicated in terms of time, money, and organization to plan a stay in NM to access the research material and meet with as many people as possible in a limited amount of time and on tight budget. These were very intense experiences. I have amazing friends there who also participated in making these trips very enjoyable.

What did you discover in your research that most surprised you?

Everything I learned about (sometimes consciously done) dangerous practices and contamination of the environment and people’s bodies shocked me. If I had to choose a surprise or something that caught my attention though, it would be the starting point of my research: seeing the discrepancy between the sophistication of the nuclear weapons industry, the wealth of a community like Los Alamos and the poverty of areas and populations juxtaposed to it. Los Alamos County is one of the richest counties in the US. NM is one of the poorest states. The US is known for being a land of extremes, including socioeconomically, and the way it is visible and accepted to some extent is always surprising to a French person, I suppose. I am not the first to mention this (and that is not to say that there is no inequality in France, of course) but I found it particularly striking in NM.

Was there anything you discovered that moved you?

I was moved by the connection many New Mexicans feel to their land and the genuine pain or nostalgia they expressed when talking about contamination of the environment or the loss of land-based traditions. Part of my family comes from a peasant background and I grew up eating the produce of my grandparents’ garden, so I think I could relate to that on some level.

They also talked about hard work and sacrifice for their children to have better, less difficult lives. The other side of my family is from a working class background, so they also passed down similar values to us. The sense of roots that New Mexicans have is very strong. It was deeply moving to learn about these family histories and see the struggles of younger generations who expressed how torn they were between tradition and economic necessity for example (what Vizenor calls “cultural schizophrenia”). Also, the observation that the most vulnerable, who rely on this land that they love, are the most likely to suffer from pollution is always very moving.

What was the most difficult issue to research?

Probably the most delicate subject was the divide between the town of Los Alamos and the valley. My fear was to be too intrusive or disrespectful when I went to talk to people in the Pueblos around Los Alamos. Finding testimonies of members of Native American communities was complicated. I was also concerned about being perceived as judgmental and as an outsider whenever I asked people questions. Remaining as objective as possible was important to me because my purpose was not to identify culprits and victims but to understand and explain how the nuclear weapons industry developed and what were the consequences of this development for local people. Some benefited from it; others were adversely impacted. For those people, on both sides, there are emotions, politics, and personal issues involved. You have to be respectful of that.

How much did the security and secrecy aspect of the facility affect community attitudes? 

One chapter in the book deals in part with the paradoxes of Los Alamos, a town born in secrecy where people felt particularly safe because of the low unemployment, crime, and poverty rates combined with all the security measures connected to the presence of the national laboratories. Postwar Los Alamos residents considered their community an ideal place to raise children, despite the risks involved in living next to a laboratory that develops nuclear weapons and in an environment contaminated by radioactive substances.

Socioeconomic anxieties clearly superseded other concerns in this case. The impact of secrecy was too great throughout the state and over the period to summarize in a few sentences, but in this particular community, it was mostly visible through the sense of privilege that came with knowledge. Society was stratified based on educational attainment and degrees, i.e. how much people knew and what clearance level they could get based on that knowledge. Outside of this bubble, many were excluded because they did not have the degrees and the legitimacy; they were not trusted with any information presented as connected to national security, even though it could affect their communities, their environment, and their health.

Also, I understand the economic divide that exists but in what ways did the local community benefit from the presence of the facility? 

New Mexicans benefited mainly because many were able to access employment close to their homes for the first time after the building of the laboratory and other facilities thereafter. Before World War 2, New Mexico was hardly industrialized and offered few opportunities to work for wages especially after the economic depression and drought of the 1930s, so most people supplemented their small agricultural revenues by becoming seasonal migrant workers who left the state to find employment elsewhere, as far as California. With the development of the nuclear weapons industry, thousands were hired locally, mainly on unskilled positions at first. The first generations benefited immensely, but the hiring and upward mobility both stalled with the following generations. Competition among job seekers became harsher. The labs hired skilled labor from other states and thus the inequality did not subside, on the contrary. This evolution is one of the core analyses in the book.

How much pride did local communities feel in the work being done?  Did it give locals a feeling of being connected to the world in an international sense?

Patriotism is another aspect in the mechanism of industrial fatalism regarding defense-related industries. New Mexicans were and are proud of their participation in national security. Some among those who criticize the industry are afraid of being branded traitors or seen as unpatriotic. The same observations have been made by other researchers (such as Sarah Alisabeth Fox) who have studied the plight of downwinders, uranium miners, and atomic veterans. It took a long time for testimonies to resurface precisely because of this ambivalence between patriotic pride and bitter feelings of having been exploited or sacrificed in the name of national security. Be it at the labs or at the Pantex nuclear assembly facility on which I am currently working, employees express genuine pride in and enjoyment for what they do, but also a whole range of feelings from sadness and disillusionment to resentment and anger at what their occupations and the industry did or is doing to them.

In addition, did you come across any physical structures or items that intrigued you in some way? 

I did, mostly at museums and tourist sites. I talk about memory in my conclusion because visiting the Trinity test site with its lava obelisk and the remains of the Jumbo cylinder, the museums where replicas of nuclear weapons and missiles are displayed, or the downtown area of Los Alamos with its homestead tour was a fascinating experience. Observing the attitude of other visitors was particularly interesting. In general, I think the memorialization of the Manhattan Project and of the nuclear era is a topic that deserves all our attention, since it shapes the way people will understand the birth and development of nuclear weapons as well as their impacts in the future.

What do you hope the book will do for readers?

My hope is that readers in New Mexico will learn something about their state, will find that my writing was faithful to their culture, and will be motivated to learn more about the nuclear weapons industry, potentially taking action to protect the environment, fight inequality and preserve cultural diversity. For readers outside of New Mexico, I hope they will be as delighted to discover this wonderful state and amazing people as I was. My approach to US history might surprise readers or even challenge them, but I hope they will be convinced by it and that other researchers will be inspired to continue the work on these crucial issues.

Did you have any difficulties in finishing the book and publishing it and if so, how did you overcome those?

Because this book is an adaptation of my PhD dissertation (which was over 500 pages), the main difficulty was to rework the text into a publishable manuscript that would not sound like a student’s work. I was very lucky that the Center for Southwest Research at UNM Zimmerman Library told me they would like a copy of my dissertation, and that UNM Press might be interested in publishing it, because I sent the first draft of my manuscript shortly after defending it and the Press was indeed interested, provided I made substantial changes. It was a long process, but I am grateful to the Press, to the editors, and to all those who helped me reshape this work and give it a real author’s rather than a student’s voice.

Do you have any online accounts where people can find more of your work?   

I do not but the simplest way to find my work is to google my name. Some of my articles are available online. People will also find a list of my most recent publications on the resume available on the website of my research team. I try to update it regularly.

Author Biography

Lucie Genay

Associate Professor in US civilization 20th-21st centuries

University of Limoges, School of Humanities

Author of Land of Nuclear Enchantment: A New Mexican History of the Nuclear Weapons Industry, University of New Mexico Press, 2019.

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