Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Monuments Men During February 1945: Locating Repositories of Lootedand German Cultural Property

The Monuments Men During February 1945: Locating Repositories of Looted and German Cultural Property

by  on February 27, 2015


Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, archivist at the National Archives in College Park.
At the end of January, Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, head of the 12thArmy Group, wrote the G-5s of his four Armies (First, Third, Ninth, and Fifteenth) regarding the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) Specialist Officers and their activities.  He noted that as a measure contributing to the eventual restitution of works of art and objects of a scientific or historical importance which may have been looted from United Nations governments or nationals, the MFA&A officers would investigate all information of such nature and inspect all repositories of such works falling within the area of the command to which they were assigned or attached, and report their findings. Of course, in late January, the Monuments Men were not, with the exception of the Aachen area, in a physical position to seek out looted cultural property, nor German cultural treasures that had been evacuated eastward for protection.
But during February 1945, as the Allied forces pushed further east, the MFA&A officers had greater opportunity to seek out information about the location of German and looted cultural treasures.  By that time they already knew, based on information from MFA&A officers who entered Germany in the latter part of 1944 and the first months of 1945, that they had many challenges ahead, given the large, and increasing, number of repositories containing loot and German-owned cultural property, which were being identified. Information was being obtained from German museum personnel, from British and American sources in Paris, and from prisoner of war interrogations.
During February Capt. Walter J. Huchthausen, MFA&A officer with the Ninth U.S. Army obtained a German report, dated December 9, 1943, on a meeting of Rheinprovinz officials, October 22, 1943, the purpose of which was to discuss measures pertaining to disposition of art collections. The report provided information on thirty repositories. One was at Ehrenbreitstein Fortress on the mountain of the same name on the east bank of the Rhine opposite the town of Koblenz, where art treasures from Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Koblenz were kept in tunnels and where the building of another tunnel had been authorized for storing more art objects.  Another place identified was the salt mine at Kochendorf, near Heilbronn, which purportedly held art objects from many places.  In Aachen he found a group of papers that identified 10 repositories, including Kochendorf.  He reported that there was much correspondence regarding Kochendorf being an ideal art repository because of its depth (150 meters) and dry conditions.  From interrogations of Germans Huchthausen also learned about a repository at Siegen, east of Cologne, in south Westphalia.
Based upon the information that the MFA&A officers and other Allied personnel were obtaining about repositories, SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) on February 11 issued its first listing of German repositories holding loot and German-owned property. The list included a repository at Siegen, which was reported to contain 104 paintings and 48 pieces of sculpture from Aachen and also the Cathedral Treasure from Metz which had been sent there on August 30, 1944.  The list also included a storage location somewhere in Bad Wildungen (some 35 miles northeast of Marburg) and the salt mines at Heilbronn and Kochendorf.
While Huchthausen and other MFA&A officers attached to the Armies under the 12th Army Group were trying to pinpoint the location of repositories, Capt. Marvin C. Ross, USMCR, with MFA&A, G-5 Operations Branch, SHAEF, during mid-February visited 12th Army Group and the four armies under it to discuss intelligence on repositories of works of art and to coordinate the information obtained.  This information would be incorporated into the next issue of the SHAEF listing of repositories, issued on March 11.
At the end of February, Lt. George Stout, USNR, MFA&A office at the 12th Army Group produced a listing of additional repositories and had it provided to SHAEF.  In his listings, Stout noted that the Siegen mine and its vicinity were said to be used as repositories for work of art.
The Siegen copper mine, some 60 miles southeast of Cologne, had first come to the attention of the MFA&A officers in late 1944.  Capt. Robert K. Posey, with the Third U. S. Army, had issued a report, dated December 29, 1944, indicating that the Metz Cathedral treasures were at Seigen [Siegen] in Germany.  Upon reading this Ross wrote Stout at 12th Army Group that he could not find any trace of a Seigen [Siegen] in his Gazetteer and asked him to check with Posey about his information. Two days later Ross again wrote Stout, indicating that Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb, Adviser, MFA&A, G-5 Operations Branch, SHAEF, had straightened him out about the place where the repository was—Siegen—Posey had the letters transposed.  It is interesting to note that the Office of Strategic Services reported on January 1 that it was probable that part of the Treasury of Aachen Cathedral had been taken to “Singen in Westphalia, a town not otherwise known.”
It would not be until spring that the MFA&A officers would finally get to Siegen and discover what art works and other cultural property it contained.  In the meantime, during February and March, they would continue gathering information about the location of repositories and their contents.  Of course, they would continue with their mission of protecting cultural property.  As will be noted in future blog postings, two of them would be killed in action trying to save German cultural treasures.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The long read: Forget Lawrence of Arabia, here’s the real history ofthe Middle East and World War 1

The long read: Forget Lawrence of Arabia, here’s the real history of the Middle East and World War 1
On November 11, 1914, Sheikh Al Islam Ürgüplü Hayri Bey, the supreme religious authority in the Ottoman Empire, posed a dramatic question in the Fatih Sultan Mehmed Mosque, one of the most venerable monuments on the Istanbul skyline. The question, and the emphatic one-word answer it generated, would affect the lives of millions of Muslims, as well as their adversaries, across the Middle East over the next four years.
“Question: When it occurs that enemies attack the Islamic world, when it has been established that they seize and pillage Islamic countries and capture Muslim persons and when his Majesty the Padishah of Islam [the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V] thereupon orders the jihad in the form of a general mobilisation, has jihad then … become incumbent on all Muslims and has it become an individual duty for all Muslims in all parts of the world, be they young or old, on foot or mounted, to hasten to partake in the jihad with their goods and money?
“Answer: Yes.”
Traditionally, historians have downplayed the significance of the ensuing German-orchestrated jihad against the Allies, to the extent that it has been branded irrelevant to the wider war effort. Certainly it did not have the devastating effect wished for by its architects and, on this purely military level, it can be contrasted with the more immediately effective British-sponsored uprising of the Arabs against the Ottomans, their co-religionists and long-standing colonial overlords.
Yet this explanation, says Professor Eugene Rogan, the author of a new landmark study – The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, 1914-1920 – fails to take into account the effect the jihad had on the Entente Powers or Allies. 
“I think it failed to provoke a global Islamic uprising, but the way it played on British and French war planners was very significant, right through to the fall of Jerusalem in November 1917. The British were preoccupied that defeats at the hands of the Ottomans might provoke uprisings by colonial Muslims in India and Egypt – and it really shaped a lot of their wartime planning. So to say the jihad was irrelevant needs revising.”
The uniquely western perspective of fighting on the Ottoman Front, long a neglected and underrated theatre of the First World War with the exception of the numerous works about Lawrence and the Arab Revolt, has been equally in need of revision. Just as for many Europeans, particularly the British and French, the Great War is popularly known almost exclusively as a Western Front affair, so with the war in the Middle East, European and especially British historians have tended to see the conflict through a British lens. Thus we have those hoary staples of “Churchill’s debacle” at Gallipoli; “Townshend’s surrender” at Al Kut, the most ignominious in British military history; “Maude’s entry” into Baghdad in March 1917, ending 383 years of Ottoman rule; “Allenby’s conquest” of Jerusalem in November that year. And, of course, that most enigmatic and quintessentially British figure, with a liberal sprinkling of Hollywood stardust, “Lawrence of Arabia”, long lionised by Brits as the leader of the Arab Revolt. Arabs, it hardly needs explaining, have consistently and vigorously contested this view, including most recently the distinguished Iraqi historian Ali Allawi in his 2014 biography Faisal I of Iraq.
This Eurocentric approach to the war in the Middle East tends to be parochial to the point of one-sided, a narrow perspective which Rogan is keen to widen. While David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace (1989) reflected the classic view from British archives, Kristian Coates Ulrichsen’s The First World War in the Middle East (2014) offered a broader canvas. With Rogan, Gallipoli, Kut and Gaza now rightly become hard-won, resounding Ottoman victories rather than heroic British defeats. Far from proving the key to a swift end to war through a lightning defeat of the “Weak Man of Europe”, as the Allies had anticipated, the Ottoman Front only succeeded in lengthening – and vastly broadening – the greater conflict, claiming millions of soldiers from the Entente and Central Alliances.
What is especially welcome in this study is the long overdue focus on the experiences of Turkish and Arab soldiers and civilians during the war, culled from a series of recently published diaries and memoirs. During the past 10 years, perhaps 30 Ottoman soldiers’ diaries have been published in Turkey, counterparts to visceral British works such as P W Long’s Other Ranks of Kut (1938). These are alternately harrowing, heart-rending, sometimes amusing, but always intensely human documents. Rogan says they were “the most exciting part of writing the book. They allow us for the first time to approach the common soldier’s experience of fighting, and what’s so exciting are the parallels between what they write and what western soldiers write – we’ve never had it from both sides of the trenches before.” 
Thus we hear the voices of ordinary men such as Corporal Ali Riza Eti, a Turkish medic called up for military service to fight the Russians at Köprüköy, the first Ottoman battle of the First World War in November 1914. Eti transcribed the terrifying symphony of bullets as civ civ civ. “As it was my first day [of fighting], I was very afraid of dying,” he noted in his diary. “With each civ I broke out in a sweat from my teeth to my toenails.”
French and Ottoman soldiers’ diaries bear common witness to the terror of hearing the enemy digging under their lines. “The Turks wrote a lot of poetry too, much of it very bad, like that of the soldiers they were fighting,” says Rogan. “The experience was so big it seemed to defy prose so they resorted to poetry to do justice to it.”
Rogan charts how the emerging Arab movement pressing for rights for Arab subjects within the Ottoman Empire came under ever more severe Young Turk repression in the lead-up to the Great War. Tens of thousands were exiled for their political views and dozens were hanged in Beirut and Damascus in 1916. Increased Ottoman suppression, combined with the hardship of the war years, fuelled increasingly separatist views among the Arabs. 
Though sensitive to the general sophistication of Ottoman rule, Rogan does not pull his punches on the Armenian genocide of 1915. The chapter detailing “the annihilation of the Armenians”, with systematic massacres of males who were 12 years and over, often within sight or hearing of their womenfolk, sounds an eloquent riposte to long-standing Turkish denial of these “crimes against humanity”.
T E Lawrence famously considered the Arab Revolt “a sideshow of a sideshow”. By contrast, Rogan demonstrates that the Ottoman Front writ large was unquestionably an international affair that transformed Europe’s Great War into the First World War.
Here the British made common cause with South Asians, North Africans and New Zealanders, Australians, Senegalese, Sudanese and the French to fight a polyglot Ottoman army containing Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Armenians and Circassians. The Ottoman Front was “a veritable tower of Babel, an unprecedented conflict between international armies”. 
Much of the turmoil currently convulsing the Middle East can find its echoes on the region’s battlefields a century ago. “What we forget was that the war was fought in many areas of the Middle East,” Rogan says. “There was fighting that affected people’s daily lives in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Yemen, across the Hijaz, in Iran and in Turkey. The number of people touched by the war counted in the millions.”
Death came through disease, spread by the movement of huge armies, through famine and through direct conflict.
Another argument that comes in for intense re-examination concerns British wartime partition plans, which are typically considered “deeply duplicitous” in promising the same land to multiple parties. It is only by studying the series of different diplomatic agreements within their immediate military context, Rogan convincingly argues, that it becomes clear that diplomacy consistently was playing second fiddle to the overriding objective of winning an increasingly murderous war. 
Thus the Constantinople Agreement of 1915, in which France and Britain promised Russia the prizes of Istanbul and the Dardanelles, reflected Allied confidence in a swift capture of the Ottoman capital. The protracted Hussein–McMahon Correspondence with the Hashemites in 1915-16 was engendered by Britain’s need for an Arab ally to counter the rabble-raising Ottoman jihad. Then came the Anglo-French Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 to carve up the Ottoman Middle East, struck in anticipation of an imminent Ottoman collapse that then proved stubbornly elusive. The ominous and conflicting Balfour Declaration of 1917 was a belated effort to recalibrate Sykes-Picot and secure British rule for Palestine. In Rogan’s words: “Britain was not thinking about drawing up borders in the Middle East so much as defeating the Germans.”
With the war won, and the ailing Ottoman Empire on its deathbed, the Great Powers turned avaricious eyes on the post-war prize of the Middle East. To the victors the spoils. In the last years of Sunni Muslim Ottoman rule, from the Young Turks revolution of 1908, the mixed populations of the Middle East had been represented in Istanbul on equal terms. The traditional dhimmi status for Jews and Christians had been abolished. Now Muslim rule gave way to European imperialism. The new masters were determined to snuff out the aspirations for Arab independence they had ignited only a couple of years earlier. 
For Rogan, the conflict has left a distinctly baleful legacy in the region. “I think the Middle East has suffered more from the enduring consequences of World War I than practically any other part of the world,” he says.
Although the British and French successfully created what proved to be a remarkably resilient state system in which borders survived virtually intact for a century, they also left a legacy of unresolved national issues, which have continued to destabilise the region. Stable on one level, the long-lasting borders have engendered multiple conflicts on the other, notably with Palestine and the Kurds. 
In fact, the legacy of the Great War in the Middle East extends far beyond Israel, the Palestinians and the Kurds. Lebanon emerged with the seeds of sectarian conflict planted within its own borders, vulnerable to ambitions from a Syria that was never reconciled to its loss. 
Perhaps nowhere, though, has been as bloodied and scarred by its modern history as Iraq, conceived by the British as a union between the three related but separate Ottoman vilayets or provinces of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra. After a brief period of hope under a fledgling monarchy that lasted from 1921 to 1958, Iraqis have not been able to break the ensuing vicious cycle of revolutions, coups, wars and dictatorship. They are now engulfed by a sectarian conflict that traces its origins back more than 1,200 years before the Great War, to the Battle of Karbala in AD680, the crystallisation of the Sunni-Shia division.
Last year, Europe embarked on a four-year commemoration of the First World War. In the Middle East the centenary has been met largely with silence rather than celebrations of victories or commemoration of losses. There are other, more immediate conflicts to concentrate on. “It’s the forgotten war because it’s seen as someone else’s war even though it was fought on their soil and it was their men fighting and dying,” says Rogan. The people of the region had not chosen to get involved in this war. “World War One was the misfortune that led to the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of European imperialism and it’s remembered as a period of tremendous suffering.”
This is a formidable narrative history, written with great verve and empathy. Through its meticulous scholarship and its deft weaving together of the social, economic, diplomatic and military history of this neglected front, The Fall of the Ottomans provides an engrossing picture of a deadly conflict that proved catastrophic for the peoples of the region.
Surveying the state of the Middle East a century after the conflict, Rogan argues the basic peacetime challenge of generating jobs and economic growth for a young and rapidly expanding population has been frustrated by numerous, currently overwhelming setbacks. 
“What prevents the region from addressing those legitimate challenges are layers and layers of political problems and regional conflicts that seem to drive the prospects of a free and prosperous region deeper and deeper into the future,” he says. “With the conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya – and with political volatility in Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan and Algeria – I think everyone is rational to be pessimistic about the prospects for the region. None of these problems have a short-term solution.”
• Eugene Rogan will attend the Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai on March 4. He will take part in a panel discussion ‘100 Years On: Continuing Reverberations in the Arab World’ as well as speak about his own work. For more information, visit www.emirateslitfest.com.

The Assyrian Genocide, 1914 to 1923 and 1933 up to the prese - WorldWar One & Today

The Assyrian people have been repeatedly victimized by genocidal assaults over the past century. They first suffered, along Ottoman Greeks and Armenians, from Turkey’s simultaneous genocides during and immediately after World War I. Soon after, the Armenians of northern Iraq were brutally massacred by the newly established Iraqi state. Persecution continued during the reign of the Ba’ath Party and Saddam Hussein, and sectarian violence unleashed during the recent Iraq War has left Assyrians vulnerable in their historic homeland. As a result of these successive tragedies, an Assyrian diaspora stretches across the world.
The Assyrian people have deep autochthonous roots in Anatolia and Mesopotamia, going back well before the 3rd millennium BCE. Christianity came early to the Assyrians, at least since the third century CE. With subsequent Arab, Mongolian, and Ottoman conquests of Mesopotamia, the Assyrians and their Christian brethren were subordinated to minority status. The millet system of the Ottoman Empire ensured a certain degree of cultural and religious autonomy, at least until the crises of the 19th century. By then, geopolitical forces and the rise of nationalism threatened the multiethnic status of the Ottoman Empire, which subsequently directed its ire against its Christian subjects. Along with the Armenians, the Ottoman Assyrians suffered grave depredations towards the end of the 19th century, when the Ottoman Sultan organized an irregular cavalry force of Kurdish tribesmen called the Hamidiye. This was the awful prelude of what was to follow in the coming decades.
The status of Ottoman Christians became even more precarious after the ultranationalist "Young Turks" emerged as a dominant political force in the Empire. Organized as the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), the "Young Turks" staged a successful coup in 1913, thereby establishing a military dictatorship on the eve of World War I. They initiated a national project of "Turkey for the Turks," whereby they sought to forge a homogenous nation state through the deliberate removal of all minorities. Soon after the Ottoman Empire entered World War I in November 1914, the CUP ruthlessly began its genocidal project. Waging more or less simultaneous genocides against Assyrians, Armenians, and Greeks, the CUP essentially followed the same pattern of group destruction. Massacres, rapes, plundering, cultural desecrations, and forced deportations were all endemic. Around 750,000 Assyrians died during the genocide, amounting to nearly three quarters of its prewar population. The rest were dispersed elsewhere, mostly in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, the persecution of Assyrians did not end with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. From August 8-11, 1933, in the newly established state of Iraq, Assyrian villagers in the northern Iraqi town of Simele were brutally murdered. Some 3,000 men, women, and children were killed by Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish irregulars. The massacre was covered by Western media sources, and it inspired the intellectual development of Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish jurist who would go on to coin the word "genocide."
There remains a vulnerable Assyrian population in Iraq. They suffered along with their former Kurdish tormentors from Saddam Hussein and his Ba’athist party's "Arabization" program that culminated in the bloody al-Anfal campaign in 1988. As of the invasion of Iraq in spring 2003, there still remained a substantial minority of nearly 1.5 million Assyrians, roughly 8 percent of the total Iraqi population. However, the recent Iraq War has been devastating for the Assyrians, as they have been caught in the midst of vicious sectarian violence. Presently, the Assyrian diaspora stretches across the world, from the Middle East to Central Asia, as well as Western Europe, North America, and Australia. While they continue to celebrate their rich cultural heritage, their modern legacy as victims of genocide has yet to be fully recognized.WWI VIDEO ON SUBJECT

The terrifying vulnerability of the U.S. military


Whenever a military crisis breaks out, American hawks talk about sending in the troops, and doves sputter about imperialism. But the key role of the U.S. military is usually far away from these hot spots, and instead in Eastern Europe, the Taiwan straits, the Korean peninsula, and the world's shipping lanes.
Like it or not, in a world where the U.S. spends more on its military than every other country put together, and where the only plausible contenders with the U.S. for global predominance are unsavory regimes like Putin's Russia and authoritarian China, the U.S. military is the unseen guarantor of most of the peace and prosperity on the planet.
But all of that depends on the U.S. military being, you know, good.
The main reason why the U.S. military can promote global peace is because of the aura of invincibility it gained in World War II, because of the end of the Cold War, and because of its overwhelming military spending and technological advantage. But an aura of invincibility is a dangerous thing. And unfortunately, there are signs of rot.
I define a bureaucracy as an organization that does not understand itself to be under competitive pressure. This applies to most government departments, as well as many large companies, and other organizations, like many parts of my own Catholic Church. The reason why militaries often have a reputation for efficiency that other government departments don't is because they tend to get competitive pressure in the form of people who try to kill them.
But being a government body, a military's "natural" status is of a bureaucracy: lumbering, impervious to change, inefficient. Efficiency is still the exception to the rule. Napoleon was able to conquer most of Europe because Europe's militaries had become bureaucracies due to their feudal structure, which in France had been cut off (often literally) in the French Revolution.
As strange as it may seem today, in 1940, the French military had a similar aura of invincibility; it was the military that had led the Allied forces to victory in World War I, then the greatest war anybody had ever seen. Part of the impetus for appeasement in the 1930s came from the notion that Germany couldn't do anything too crazy because then the French would crush them. But the French did not understand that they were competing, they got complacent and lazy, and got crushed by Germans who understood very well that they were competing.
Today, the U.S. military has fallen under the Bureaucracy Rule. The U.S. has no great power rivals, and thank God for that. Iraq and Afghanistan have not caused an identity crisis for the U.S. military because many senior commanders view these as "freakshow" wars — counterinsurgency wars, not the kind of "real" wars that militaries fight.
MORE PERSPECTIVESJEFF SPROSS
PETER WEBER
How net neutrality proponents beat the GOP
What are the signs that an organization has become a bureaucracy?
The first is excessive PowerPoint. Every organization should ban PowerPoint. But it has become particularly endemic in the military. The fact that the new Defense secretary has banned PowerPoint from some senior briefings is a step in the right direction.
Another issue is endless red tape. Red tape is bad not just in itself, but because it quickly breeds a culture of corruption and sloppiness. Unchecked, the Red Tape Machine produces so many rules that it becomes simply impossible to comply with all of them. But the real problem comes then: Once everyone gets into the habit of not following the rules, no matter how justifiably, the culture changes. Once people are able to rationalize not following the rules — at first, very justifiably, they only stop following the bad rules, but then they are on a slippery slope — they grow to internalize an attitude of contempt for all rules. "Everyone else is doing it."
Is this going on in the U.S. military? The signs are increasingly there, as a damning study by Army War College professors reveals.
Officers have so many bureaucratic requirements that they end up fudging forms — in other words, lying — and then have to justify it to themselves. For example, one captain reports skipping quarterly sexual harassment training for his troops. Even more damning: "Enemy contacts in Afghanistan and Iraq would go unreported because they required a PowerPoint description after the fact." That is not a good thing.
These are all the classic signs of an organization that looks great on the outside but is rotting from the inside because of bureaucratization. Something needs to be done. Military history books are full of organizations that looked just as good on paper, but were just as complacent, and then toppled over when given a good shove. And that's something none of us should wish for.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

US Navy conducts 155th test flight of Trident II D5 missile


25 February 2015 

Trident II
The US Navy has successfully conducted the 155th test flight of two unarmed Lockheed Martin-built Trident II D5 Fleet ballistic missiles, which were launched in the Pacific Ocean from a submerged Ohio-class submarine.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Strategic and Missile Defense Systems deputy and Fleet Ballistic Missile programmes vice-president Mat Joyce said: "These latest test flights demonstrate the reliability of the D5 missile and the readiness of the entire Trident strategic weapon system, every minute of every day.
"The navy programme office, the submarine crews and the industry team never rest to ensure the safety, security and performance of this crucial deterrence system."
Prior to testing, the missiles were adapted to test configurations using kits comprising a range safety devices and flight telemetry instrumentation.
The US Navy performs a series of operational system evaluation tests for the Trident strategic weapon system under the testing guidelines of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Trident II D5 is a three-stage, solid-propellant, inertial-guided ballistic missile, capable of travelling a range of 4,000nm while carrying multiple, independently targeted re-entry vehicles.
"Trident II D5 is a three-stage, solid-propellant, inertial-guided ballistic missile."
It is currently aboard the US Navy Ohio-class and UK Royal Navy Vanguard-class submarines.
The missile's design was completed in 1989 and was first deployed in 1990.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the strategic missile prime contractor for the US Navy's strategic systems programmes.

WATCH: Brave Royal Navy pilot awarded medal after nail-biting crashlanding goes viral


WATCH: Brave Royal Navy pilot awarded medal after nail-biting crash landing goes viral

A ROYAL Navy officer who became an online sensation after he was filmed skilfully crash-landing an historic fighter plane has been awarded a medal for bravery. 




Lieutenant Commander Christopher Gotke said he was "shocked and amazed" to receive an Air Force Cross, despite serving in the Royal Navy all his life.
The 44-year-old shot to fame last summer when a clip of his nail-biting landing was uploaded to YouTube.
Speaking about the terrifying footage, which shows the plane skid across the runway without use of its landing gear, the modest pilot said: "It looks a lot more dramatic from the outside than it felt from the inside".
Lieutenant Commander Gotke was flying a 1944 Sea Fury T20 as part of an historic flight display when the 70-year-old plane's engine began to lose power.
The pilot radioed to air traffic control telling them he was in trouble and started delicately positioning the plane to land.
The engine failed completely as the Lieutenant was lowering his landing gear.
More than 21,000 air show spectators watched in horror as the Sea Fury billowed smoke and dropped altitude.
In a split second, Lieutenant Commander Gotke decided to fly the aircraft to safety rather than eject and abandon the historic war machine to its fate.
By raising the undercarriage he improved the plane's chances of gliding and smoothly handled the plane pass the airfield boundary, narrowly avoiding disaster.
Although it was partly damaged, the aircraft is now being repaired and will fly again "some time next year".
Lieutenant Commander Christopher Gotke shot to fame after his crash landing went viralIG
Lieutenant Commander Christopher Gotke shot to fame after his crash landing went viral 
The father-of-two, from Kent but recently stationed in Yeovilton, Somerset, joked his wife Georgia and daughters were ranked third on his list of calls after the incident.
"The first people I called were the people who look after the aircraft, to tell them I was now looking at a very sad aeroplane on the side of the runway. They thought I was joking," he said.
"The second was the Commodore at the base, saying 'Well, that didn't end up very well'.
"And the third one was to the wife saying 'Had a slight engine issue, won't be back tonight but I won't be flying this weekend'.
"I don't think she was really listening because the kids were playing havoc in the background.
"I said I'd had a rough running engine and she kind of acknowledged it a little bit, but when I called her back I said it was a bit more than just a rough running engine.
"It looks a lot more dramatic from the outside than it felt from the inside - when I was bouncing across the grass it was just like being in a bumper car."
Lieutenant Commander Gotke, who joined the Royal Navy in 1992 as a pilot, said that members of the watching public had never been at risk.
"The safety of the crowd was never a factor because the aircraft was fully controllable," he said.
There are still three to four Sea Fury planes in the UK.
First manufactured by Hawker towards the end of the Second World War, it was the last propeller-driver fighter to serve with the Royal Navy.
It was also one of the fastest production single piston-engined aircraft ever built.
The Air Force Cross is awarded for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy".

Elkhart County History World War I 100th Anniversary: Elkhart CountyHistorical Society hosts lecture series on the ‘war to end all wars’


World War I 100th Anniversary: Elkhart County Historical Society hosts lecture series on the ‘war to end all wars’

The Elkhart County Historical Society is sponsoring the “Great War Lecture Series” to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I. The first installment on Thursday, Feb. 26, will cover the causes and events that led to the start of the war. 

HMS%2520Dreadnought
Britain's HMS Dreadnought revolutionized the construction of naval ships and was part of a massive arms race in Europe as countries continued to compete for the biggest military. (U.S. Naval Historical Center/Public Domain)







Posted on Feb. 24, 2015 at 5:14 p.m.
It was 100 years ago this year that Europe erupted in what would become World War I. To mark this anniversary, the museum is hosting a series of lectures that relate to the “War to End All Wars.” The first installment will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, at the Elkhart County Historical Museum, 304 West Vistula St. in Bristol. The cost is $1 per person.
ABOUT THE COMMUNITY BLOGGER

Elkhart County History, one of The Elkhart Truth’s community blogs, is written by staff members at the Elkhart County Historical Museum. Patrick McGuire is the museum’s curator of education.
The first presentation will focus on the causes and events that led to the beginning of the war and will be presented by former teacher and Elkhart County historian Marcia Brenneman. Looking back with a historian’s eyes, seeing a major conflict taking place in Europe in the early 20th century is something that should have been obvious. As a preview of Thursday’s presentation, here are some of the main reasons why World War I happened:
MILITARISM
As the world entered the new century, many countries looked to upgrade and expand their military forces both on land and sea. Some of the major combatants — Britain, France, Germany and Austria-Hungary — increased their military spending by more than 100 percent in 1913, compared to the money they were spending in 1890. With larger amounts of money being spent, new products were introduced. For example, Britain constructed the HMS Dreadnought, which ushered in a new era of navy construction featuring massive guns and made all other naval ships that came before it obsolete. Also during that time, many European countries introduced the draft and required many men to serve in the military, thus raising the total number of soldiers ready for action. France had the highest proportion of its population in the military — of military-aged men during the time, roughly 85 percent served in either the army or navy. Each time a county increased its military strength, it was met with a response from another county increasing its military in a massive arms race.
ALLIANCES
Many of the countries allied with each other in order to promote peace in the continent — or so they thought. Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary allied together and so did Britain, France and Russia. They thought these alliances would promote peace due to the harsh consequences there would be if a conflict began. Both alliances stated that if one of their countries were attacked, it would be treated as though all of the countries in the alliances were attacked. It was believed that opposing nations would not dare attack other countries, seeing as they’d be fighting with three instead of one. The logic makes sense, but when war broke out, it is what drug all these countries into fighting and made the war as terrible as it was.
IMPERIALISM
As these countries entered into alliances and built up their military forces, they were also competing with one another to carve up the world map. Europe had been exploring the world for a few hundred years and establishing colonies, but large issues began to arise in the decades leading up to World War I. Establishing colonies led to growth in wealth, as well as expanding influence on the world stage. Britain and France dominated the colonial system and had expanded into Asia and Africa. By the end of 19th century, Germany and Italy had made decisions to build their holdings and become colonial empires themselves. With new nations expanding their empires, conflicts began popping up all over the world as these countries fought for power.
NATIONALISM
The previous three causes all funnel into the idea of nationalism. It is understandable to think that each nation thought it was the best in the world and would compete to out-do other nations because of pride. Call it ego or rivalry, but the arms race, the forming of alliances to protect countries’ interests, the rise of empires and the establishment of colonies throughout the world all lead back to nationalism.
As these four factors continued to raise the stakes, it was only a matter of time before the issues led to conflict. That moment took place in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. Most of us remember learning about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in school and how it led to World War I, but the death of the heir to Austria-Hungary’s throne was just one small part of what led all of Europe to war. The war was the culmination of more than 20 years of tension caused by the four factors mentioned. When it’s examined, it seems that no matter what happened, a conflict was inevitable.

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