tv Book Discussion on Operation Long Jump CSPAN December 20, 2015 6:00pm-7:01pm EST
>> our guest, clark forsyth, senior counsel with americans united for life and author of "abuse of discretion: the inside story of roe v. wade." and melissa murray, professor at the university of california berkeley law school and former law clerk for sonia sotomayor prior to her appointment to the supreme court. that's live monday night, and for background on each case
while you watch, order your copy of the landmark cases companion book available for $8.95 plus shipping at c-span.org/landmarkcases. >> now on booktv, military historian bill yenne recalls the nazi plot to assassinate president roosevelt, josef stalin and winston churchill in 1943. [inaudible conversations] >> well, good evening, and thank you so much for coming. i'm susan from portfolio books, and we are thrilled to have one of our local authors here tonight, bill yenne, the author of more than three dozen nonfiction books as well as ten novels. some of his literary fans
include general wesley clark and general craig mckinley, president of the air force association. he has written numerous books on military history and has recently released a book called "hit the target," which we have right over here. and that book is related to the eighth air force. but tonight we're very honored to have bill here to discuss his latest book with us, "operation long jump." bill yenne. >> thank you. [applause] >> well, thanks, thanks to paula, who isn't here, and john who is for inviting me here tonight, and thanks to all of you for coming out and sitting down to listen to my story. well, you know, conspiracy stories are almost as fun to write about as they are to read.
well, that's not true. they're more fun to write about. [laughter] but an assassination conspiracy stories seem to have sort of a special resonance, and people get excited and interested in that stuff. well, i'm here to talk about what i'm maintaining is the largest assassination conspiracy in history. churchill, roosevelt, stalin in one room with three bullets, and the court of world history is changed. the lincoln conspiracy was a pretty big deal back in '65, but the war was over by that timings and it was -- time, and it was directed at the leadership of only one country.
this particular conspiracy was aimed at the three allied powers in world war ii, at the three men and their staffs who commanded 70 million troops who were arrayed against the armies of the third like. so that -- third reich. so that made it an especially big conspiracy. this came at a very hard time for the allies, unlike the situation in 1865 when the war was over. this took place in 1943. it was, it was the year of the turning point of world war ii, although you wouldn't have known that to look at the situation on the battle fronts. germans were, had been defeated at stalingrad, but they were still in control of a huge slice of the western soviet union,
1200-mile front from leningrad to kiev. they still controlled all of western europe or virtually all of western europe. the anglo american allies had kicked rommel out of north africa, but they had invaded italy and were expecting to make steady progress against the germans in that peninsula. but by november of 1943 when this takes place, they had run into a literal stone wall in the form of the but sad line -- and such was the situation of the war at that time. so the big three allies that were allied against the third reich -- britain, the u.s. and
soviet union -- well, the leaders of the former two, churchill and roosevelt, they had met several times. they met in washington a couple of times, they met in quebec, met at casablanca, famous conference. but they really wanted to get together with stalin. they really wanted to have a big three summit conference. they wanted to have everybody together in the same room to discuss the strategy for defeating the third reich. so i actually had access to some of the diplomatic cables or virtually all of the diplomatic cables that were running back and forth between these three guys, and i sort of excerpted them and crafted them into like a conversation. actually more of an argument between the big three. roosevelt said, well, you know,
joe, we'd like to get together. why don't you and i meet in alaska. joe said, no. well, roosevelt and churchill got together, and they asked stalin. he said, well, okay. we're going to be meeting in cairo. we've got a conference in cairo coming up in november. why don't you come down and meet with us there. and joe said, no. churchill even got biblical, and he talked about there being, about setting up three tents in the desert in iraq and having each one of the big three in a tent and have their meeting there. and joe said, no. joe wanted to, wanted to meet in iran because it was close to the soviet union. and he wanted to meet close to
the soviet union because there were people inside his government that he didn't trust. well, actually, come to think of it, there was nobody in his government that he did trust. [laughter] so he didn't want to go far from home. the other thing that is often not told about stalin and the list of fun facts about the least fun man of the 20th century is that he was afraid of flying. he didn't want to go too far. in fact, the trip to tehran was his one and only airplane flight ever. so they argued, and stalin refused, and finally they decided that meeting stalin was worth it. so november 27th, 1943, date's set. meanwhile, inside the third reich a guy named walter shellenberg who is the guy who ran the covert operations
division of the ss, or he got this idea that maybe we should try to take him out. one room, three bullets. so he cooked up this scheme to assassinate the big three. in fact, he had even started to organize his hit teams. problem was he didn't know where or when this thing was going to take place. in fact, the allies argued about it until, like, six weeks before the conference. so nobody knew where it was going to be. he certainly didn't. and then one day shellenberg got a phone call from a kosovar albanian named melissa basna.
this guy said, i hate, i hate the british, and i'm for sale for the right price. so shellenberg said, well, why should i listen to you? and he said, because i got a job in the british embassy in ankara and that's where all the, all the diplomatic cables are coming through, and the ambassador, well, he's not a light sleeper. he, in fact, he has insomnia, so he takes this, he takes sleeping pills. not just the kind of sleeping pills that you and i might take, but some of that serious stuff like michael jackson used to abuse. and so when he's asleep, he is out. so shellenberg said, okay, how much do you want? he asked for a lot of money. finally shell pberg said, well,
why not? we'll take a chance. so the intel started flowing. he would creep into the board's room at night -- the ambassador's room at night when he was honking away in his bed and take pictures of all the cables and documents with his little mynox camera, and he was shipping those off to shellenberg in berlin. and the ss realized that the intel that he was, that he was sending was spectacular. in fact, the germans even code named this guy cicero after the roman orator, because the intel he supplied spoke so eloquently. so it was through cicero -- and the chapter i have about him in the book, i entitled it "the million dollar master key."
because he was able to supply the master key that told the germans where and when. well, it was an exciting, it was an exciting moment not only to learn the fact, but to learn that it was in iran. iran, between the wars -- and, in fact, going back to world war i, i could tell some stories about that -- but the germans and the iranians had been very close. they were, germany was iran's leading trading partner. they, the germans ran the airline, they built the railroad. most of the dye, some 60, 70 percent of the dye that was used in persian rugs came from germany. so that was how close they were.
germany had this incredible network of agents all over, all over iran. the german military intelligence, they had a network of agents. ss had a network of agents. very, very close. in fact, in the book you'll see that the first picture in the little photo section, it's an autographed photo of adolf hitler inscribed to his friend, the shah. this guy, shah and hitler were exchanging autographed, personalized pictures. that's how close they they were. so the germans were pretty excited. so, in fact, this was such a big deal that the british and the soviets in the fall of 1941 at a time when the german armies were closing in on moscow, german
armies in north africa were closing in on the suez canal. they took time out to invade and occupy iran because of the german, the german networks inside this country. that's how big a deal this was. and so all during the war and before the war they were sending agents in and out. in fact, they had long-range aircraft flying out of crimea, dropping paratroopers in there throughout the entire war, supply drops, troop drops. a thousand miles, extremely long-range planes, ju-290s if you're an aircraft -- i know we've got at least one aircraft buff in the room. and it was this long jump more inserting agents into -- for inserting agents into iran, that
was the source of name, "operation long jump." so inside tehran you've got a city that's seething with international spies. you've got the germans, you've got british. they were, they were active throughout that region before, well, ever since world war worl, back to the 19th century. that was an important part of their, part of their sphere of influence between the suez canal and india. very big deal for them. so they had a strong presence. and -- hi, annika. thanks for coming. to they had a strong presence there. -- so they had a strong presence there. what about the americans? well, you probably heard of norman schwarzkopf, the famous general. you may have heard of his dad
can, also called norman schwarzkopf, who was the head of the new jersey state patrol who was the guy who cracked the lindbergh case, the guy who solved the crime of the century. norman schwarzkopf. so who does shah, the new shah because the british deposed the old shah, the one who exchanged autographed pictures with hitler, they got his son in. they got him to hire schwarzkopf to run his john -- so this is the presence of the british and the americans. so what about the soviets? well, the soviets, they were present too. they sent in the nkvd, the predecessor to the kgb. these were the same guys who made their reputation back in the '30s with the purges and
rounding up people and sticking them in the gulags. they filled the gulags three or four times over. they were some of the cruelest secret police this side of the gestapo. and so they flooded these guys into -- well, they filtered them in early, and then when the soviets knew that the the big three conference was going to take place, then they flooded tehran with nkvd. now, these guys are -- you've heard in the movies about sometimes you've got the cops is and the secret police rounding up the usual suspects. well, the nkvd rounded up the usual suspects and the unusual suspects. and, in fact, there is a famous quote about the purges in russia in 1937 that said that they,
basically, they picked up every second man and an awful lot of women and sent them off to the gulags. so this is their strategy, and they brought that to tehran. they brought their dragnets, and they brought their jails, and they brought their dungeons. they were setting up jails and dungeons all over tehran. but long jump was not thwarted through the efforts of these, any of these agencies, not schwarzkopf, not the british mi-6, not the nkvd. and this takes us to a small circle of young friends live anything tehran, mostly ex-pats, mostly people in their 20s. and there was, there were some, a couple lebanese, and there were some iranians, there was an
ran january- iranian-french guy and a polish refugee girl who actually was the smartest one of the whole bunch, but that's a whole other story. how the polish refugees got to iran is another story. but anyway, this existed before the war. passing through iran before the war and coming into contact with these people was an more than, young american named peter ferguson. well, ferguson was kind of a cowboy. he fell for this, this polish girl. her name was ida. so ferguson and ida, it was one of those boy-girl things that, you know, lots of the usual tension. yet he wanted it to go somewhere he didn't, and they broke up, and he got mad and went home. so fast forward to 1943.
he has gone home, the war has started, and his dad -- who was well connected who knew somebody who knew somebody -- got him a job with the oss, the office of strategic services, wild bill donovan's organization that was a predecessor to the cia. so meanwhile, and so then since they, you know, when he had his interview, they asked him, well, what have you done in life? well, i hitchhiked around, i spent some time in iran. okay, you're going back to iran. so he ends up back in iran. back in his, this little thing going on with his would-be girlfriend. well, i won't get in -- i don't want to spoil it. it's in the book. meanwhile, ida has befriended another polish refugee girl, somewhat younger. her name is wanda pollack, and she works for a swiss
businessman named ernst mercer. well, mercer is an interesting character, as was the case so often with the international businessmen in the 1930s as the 1930s became the 1940s. he was a double agent. he was recruited in the 1930s by the german military intelligence and hired on with them and started supplying them with information because he was, he moved between europe and the middle east with his business dealings. so he was, he was able to supply them with a lot of information. meanwhile, he had as a, as a young man he had studied in england, and he had the same kind of affinity for the british that cicero had a dislike for the british.
he was quite an anglophile. he didn't mention that in his interview with the, with the german military intelligence. and he met, he met an english playwright named somerset molm. >> [inaudible] >> yep. and he was, he spent time in switzerland, and it was while he was in switzerland he, these two crossed paths, and molm said, well, you might want to, might want to take a look at doing some, doing some work for mi-6. and he jumped at the chance. so that's how ernst mercer became a double agent. and he had employed this younger polish girl as a housekeeper at his house, and she worked there,
and she was befriended by ida, and she became part of this circle of friends, this small group of young people who would hang out, and they'd go to coffee shops and bars like young people do. just part of that social scene. and, well, one day it was a nice day. it was a day not unlike today here in millie valley. it was late september, and nice fall day, beautiful fall day. decided that they were going to go for a picnic. and so this group of friends went to a park on the edge of town for a picnic. they were having a good time. they were probably drinking a little something or other, and, you know, getting a little bit relaxed, and they noticed that,
where's wanda? wanda was gone. oh, yeah, she said she was going to go take a walk. well, how long ago was that? she certainly should be back by now. but she wasn't. so they went to look for her. and they looked high and low, and they couldn't find her. finally, they found somebody who said, oh, yeah, we saw a girl like that, and there were these russian guys pushing her into a car. so the nkvd dragnet -- which was very indiscriminate -- they just picked up every second man and a lot of women that had worked in the receive crete on you item -- soviet union in 1937, it ought to work here in tehran in 1943. so they were just picking people up at random. so they went back to ernst mercer, and they said our
friend's been taken by the soviets. what are we going to do? can you help us? and he said, all right. i'm going to, i'm going to, i'll make a call. i'll call a few people, i know some people that know some people. so he called his contact with mi-6 at the british embassy in tehran and said, well, this thing happened, what do you know? the guy said, okay, i can find out, and he found out. well, i am sorry to say that your friend is in nkvd custody at such and such a place. remember, they set up these jails and dungeons all over town when they swept in to sweep the town clean in advance of the big three summit. so, yep, she's in jail at this particular address, and it's the
nkvd, and you -- i hate to say it, but you've got to kiss this girl good-bye. so mercer came back to this little circle of friends, and he said that's the situation. i'm sorry, nothing we can do. so ferguson, this cowboy, he says we can't let this stand. he was an oss agent, and he had learned, he had learned his trade, his spycraft trade the way a lot of these young oss men did in those days, by watching the movies. and he knew what you needed to do, we're going to break her out of jail. i mean, this was a soviet dungeon. [laughter] this doesn't work. so they knew a guy who knew a guy, and the guy -- there was this iranian martial arts guy
who, he was one of those guys who knows everybody in town. so they set up a ruse which lured the guards away, and they got, they went to the jail. it was lightly forwarded. they broke in, they found wanda in her cell, and they got her out. and as they were taking her out of this dungeon, you know? you can picture this in the movie now. you've seen these scenes where they're taking her out of this dark dungeon, somebody says, well, you know, if we take just her, or they'll know that we came for her, and she'll be in big trouble when she gets out. we gotta let everybody go. so they just went around opening cells. they let everybody that the nkvd had swept up and thrown into this particular jail, they let 'em all out.
and ernst mercer is standing there watching all of this, and all of a sudden he's -- and he's being a german speaking swiss, he was multilingual, but he was speaking to his friends in german-accented english. all of a sudden he hears somebody behind him who's speaking german. and he turns around, and he's greeted in german by walter shellenberg's operation long jump advance man who had parachuted into the desert outside of tehran, had gotten into the city and had been picked up in one of these sweeps. the nkvd had no idea who he was. he was just some guy that spoke german. and they had no idea that he was the advance man for this, the thing they were guarding against
most. and so he gets let out of jail. and this is where the story really gets interesting. this is where it gets really interesting. but i don't want to spoil it, so i'm going to -- [laughter] so i'm, i will entertain questions. thank you. [applause] >> i had a question. >> yes, sir. >> [inaudible] in the -- >> yeah. he was part of the, he was one of the ss -- he was, otto skorsini, the label he enjoyed the most, in fact he used it for his memoirs, was the most dangerous man in europe.
he was probably the most, the most ruthless and most effective of the, of the ss special operations team leaders. in fact, when the allies invaded italy and the king decided to end the fascist government, they put mousse lipny under -- mussolini under guard, locked him up in this hilltop prison, actually, it was a resort hotel out of season, but they look locked him up there, otto was the guy who led the special operations operation to get him out of there. amazing story. i won't get into all the details. but, you know, they used the short takeoff and landing airplanes. amazing thing. so he got, within 4 hours -- 24 hours, within 18 hours they had
mussolini in berlin shaking hands with hitler. that's the kind of stuff otto did. and he was one of the people who was likely to have been involved in this thing. but it's -- after the war there were a lot of denials about this whole, this whole operation. and he in his memoirs largely denied any involvement in it. but in later conversations, he admitted that, yeah, he had been part of it, but he did not be actually go to tehran. that would have been made a great story. maybe in the movie version we'll have that. no, he was, he was the guy who was probably best equipped to lead such a mission, but they did have some amazing people on the ground.
they had at least six ss hit teams and then another whole elaborate -- but i don't want to spoil the story. yeah. >> the photo on cover, at least two of the three have military-looking uniforms on. under the conventions of the rules of war, had it succeeded, would it have been against what happened? >> yeah. that is actually a very good question, and that's one that i got into briefly in the book. bothchurchill and stalin did wear uniforms. in fact, stalin did have military rank. so under the rules of war with, they would have been fair game. it's like, it's like the u.s. going after admiral yamamoto. i mean, it was a targeted killing, but he was, he was a uniform military officer. so under the rules of war, he
was fair game. so that, yeah, that's definitely an issue. but do you think shellenberg cared? [laughter] do you think his boss cared? i mean, when him her and hitler -- himmler and hitler both signed off on this operation, they didn't care. yes, sir. >> your description of the close german ties with iran, how could they have held the conference in tehran in the first place knowing the danger that was created by that? and how could the russian secret service and the german spies have coexisted in that city at that time? >> well, it was the, prior to the conference after the invasion it was a very effective occupation. and i got ahold of the memoirs of, actually, the guy who was
probably the lead intelligence agent in iran. and his story about how they clamped down when the british came in, they clamped down hard and fast. and so did the, so did the soviets. so it was -- and the iranians, you had a lot of pro-german iranians. in fact, they were, a lot of them were waiting for the, waiting for the german armies to get close enough so that they could come into iran and liberate it from the soviets and the british. and you also had some pro-ally iranians. but mainly once the british and the americans, especially british and the americans were there and spending money and doing infrastructure projects, because the americans ran the
railroad through iran to take lend-lease supplies into soviet union. so once they got in there, a lot of public opinion shifted toward the allies. so that was, that was the environment. and the germans largely went underground at that point. yes, ma'am. >> a couple questions. you mentioned the -- [inaudible] so was -- [inaudible] in on this at all? and the second question is otto ended up in argentina, right? >> no -- go ahead. you had more question? >> did he, did he end up in argentina? >> yeah. two questions there. the first one was admiral wilhelm decanaries who was in charge of the german military intelligence. and the military intelligence
and the ss got along about as well as the fbi and the cia, there was always that tension. in fact, it was a little more serious. interestingly enough, this was one of the few operations where the military intelligence and the ss actually cooperated. there were meetings where he was present and shellenberg. in fact, interesting footnote about them is that shellenberg used to go riding. they were both equestrians, so they would go riding in the morning, and hen they'd go to work and -- and then they'd go to work and fight against each other. so it was a strange, strange deal between those two. what happened to otto? well, it's -- he was picked up by the allies not on humanitarian war crimes, but on
military war crimes because of during the battle of the bulge, his team operated behind american lines with american uniforms which is something that's against the rules of war. he was tried for that. and interestingly enough, he got a lawyer who found a group of british soe operatives who had operated behind german lines in german uniforms and got him to testify. so he got out of those charges. he was actually in jail for, on other charges serving time. he broke out of jail in about 1947. after the war he was in an allied prison. he broke out of jail, and he was never recaptured. and ors n. ors -- and, in fact, there were magazine photos of him drinking at sidewalk cafés
in paris. he later did spend some time in argentina. mainly, he moved to spain and operated there. he had a private security consulting firm that lasted up through the 1960s. [laughter] and he was doing work for the spanish government and the egyptian government, and he was never recaptured. he was never recaptured. and eventually they just washed it away, you know? the denaziification courts in germany who ran those types of things, they just cut him loose for time served, and he never -- yes, yes, yes, sir. >> my mother's second husband was a surveyor for that railroad built north of the caspian sea. >> that's -- yeah. that's an interesting story. it was a very, very much a german project, and it was something that the british hated
this railroad. and they hated it because it went from the persian gulf to the soviet union. they wanted a railroad that went from basra in iraq, because the british owned iraq, to india. they wanted it to go east/west and not coast to coast from the persian gulf to the caspian sea. but that's the way, that's the way the shah wanted it, and that's the way that they built it. and it was, and then it later became an important deal with the lend-lease supplies that were going from the persian gulf into the soviet union. yes, sir. >> two questions. one is you started out your first chapter sort of describing what the assassination would be like, but you never in the entire book, i don't think it would be a spoiler if you told us, did you have an idea what the assassination would have been like? you gave us a hint which is that
there was a german who was a russian defector and that germans would show up acting like russians -- >> yes. >> how it would take place. that's the first question. second question was it seemed like there was candy every other page in your book. when you wrote it, did you think you were a kid in a candy store? [laughter] >> yeah. it was loads of fun, and i'm glad you, you're having fun with it. as to your first question, yes, there was -- that's another component of the russians in russian group forms. that is another part of the plot. but, again, i don't want to -- i don't want to spoil it. so spoiler alert, i'm not spoiling. [laughter] one of the questions that i, i've done a lot of radio shows about this book, and one of the questions that comes up
occasionally is, you know, coming from the premise of, gee, we didn't, we've never really read much about this. we've never heard much about this thing. and why is that? well, i go back to -- and this is if you've read that far into the book, you read the famous quote from franklin roosevelt at his press conference just after he arrived back in washington after this whole thing. some of his comments, one of his comments that i actually was able to carve a chapter title out of this was it would have been a pretty good haul if they could have gotten all three of us. but the one that is the most telling was after he described all of this, after he described german agents running all over, all over tehran hunting the big
three, he says to the washington press corps, well, there's no be be -- no use going into that. and the washington press corps, apparently a bit different than the washington press corps that we know of, didn't go into it. [laughter] and this whole, this whole thing died. and again, there were some, there were some reasons having to do with censorship and with the people who were, well, how should i say, in charge of the truth in, on the ground in tehran. which would be, would suggest that a reporter who did try to go into it, who did try to get into that whole story back then probably would have run into
some pretty serious obstacles. more questions. all right. going once, going twice. thank you. [applause] wait, wait, wait, wait. >> in writing the book, what was your greatest obstacle? did you have -- in terms of the research that you have. finish. -- >> well, if you drove by my house during that time, you probably noticed that black suv across the street. [laughter] that had nothing to do with it. [laughter] no, biggest obstacle was the fact that for so long nobody went into this. it was something that, well, there were obviously the people writing about current affairs in 1943 had some pretty big fish to fry. so a field assassination plot doesn't, you know, measure up to, i don't know, stalingrad and
then the normandy invasion the next year and all this stuff. so there was a real paucity of information. i did have, as i mentioned earlier, i did have the diplomatic cables between the big three as they're discussing that. all of these various illusions to it from churchill mentioned it, roosevelt mentioned it, stalin, stalin's biographers mention it. so i pulled, sort of pulled all of that stuff together. one of my great resources was the memoirs of mike reilly who was the head of the white house
detail and secret service. essentially, he was roosevelt's bodyguard. and he was, and he was there. he was in and out of tehran, and he was on the ground during the, during in this whole operation -- during this whole operation. and he knew a lot and mentioned a lot in his memoirs. also i had, i got a lot of -- let me, i'll just give one example. there was one particular german operateive, his name was franz meyer. well, franz meyer, he was the ss guy. and he was sort t of the s -- sort of the ss station chief, if you will, in iran before the war and then as the war began. i have, so i sort of picked up
all of the little threads that mentioned him. i got ahold of the memoirs of bern hart schutz who was the station chief for the german military intelligence at that time, and he writes a lot about ier. so i'm -- mayer. so i'm putting that together. there was also the press attache at the polish embassy in tehran. he ended up teaching over at berkeley. he wrote a lot about that, about that period. and he mentions mayer. and i'm using mayer as an example because two weeks ago i got, i got an e-mail. i get people send me mails occasionally. there's this one man in this room who sends me mails about my
book -- me e-mails about my book. so i got an e-mail from this guy named randolph churchill. so i start looking it up, and, well, he really is the grandson of winston churchill. and so we're exchanging e-mails, and i'm figuring it out, and he hooks me up with the churchill society. so i know it's really him. and also curator at chartwell which was churchill's home, and i'm e-mailing her. we're not quite facebook friends yet, but anyway -- [laughter] and so randolph, is and we're on a first name basis because he calls me bill, so i call him randolph -- he says, bill, we have something here at chartwell. i won't pretend to do a british
accent. we have something here at chartwell that might interest you. it's this iron cross that was given to my grandfather. and it was taken off of a german who was captured in, who was captured in tehran around time of conference. and he said would you, would you like to see this? i could e-mail you a picture. and what am i going to say? [laughter] nah, don't worry about it. no, i said, please do. so he sends me thing. it's been framed and there's a label on the bottom, and whose name is on it? it's franz mayer's iron cross. so, you know? so this is the, so the challenge was, you know, digging through all of this stuff.
there was a hungarian journalist back in the '60s who did a lot of study of this thing. in fact, he interviewed a lot of the members of the ss hit teams in the '60s when these guys were till alive. so there was a lot of tough there. so the challenge was finding all of this stuff, and that was also, you know, one of the exciting things about this. so, yes, sir. >> so i guess people will ask you what are you working on next? is it about that polish girl, how she made an arduous journey to tehran? >> yeah. yeah, i'm working on some other things. yeah. i've got several, several other things in the works. a book of, about the japanese
invasion of the united states, another thing that didn't happen, but it was, there were a lot of things around that that were -- and so those are, and i also do a lot of aviation history. so i've got a couple of aircraft books that i'm working on. yes, ma'am. >> [inaudible] >> they, yeah, they were declassified sometime ago. you know? they're buried. you've got to, you've got to dig to find 'em but when you find them, there's nobody guarding them. >> where did you find the them? >> actually, a lot of that stuff was online at the department of state web site. if you know where to go and what to look for. and it's -- and then there's, i spend time in washington d.c. i'm one of those people that
goes into those desperately dark vaults and dusty things. i could tell some stories. but i don't want to spoil it. [laughter] yes, sir. >> is it inappropriate to ask you to tell us just a little bit about the russian fighter pilot? i love that story. i'm wondering if people here know that book. >> well, this is one of my, one of my previous books. it was published in the u.s. and u.k. about three years ago, and it's -- just this month it came out in the czech republic. they sent me a copy of it. another book to go on my shelf that i can't read by me. this, the title of the book is "the white rose of stalingrad." and the white rose of stalingrad was a young woman in her 20s, well, young woman in her late teens. of she was barely 21.
most of her career was when she was 20, who became the highest scoring female, air ess of all time. she blew with the soviet air force in world war ii. she was, obviously, she fought at stalingrad which is how she got her name. well, her name was -- the nickname is a misnomer. her name was lilia, and she was was -- and lilia means lily, so she painted a white lily on the side of her fighter plane. and the luftwaffe, you know, these guys aren't scientists, they're not going to identify flowers. that's the last thing a luftwaffe fighter pilot is going to do, identify a pee cease of flowers. -- species of flowers.
oh, it was a rose. she became the white rose of stalingrad, and that was her nickname. she shot down at least 12 and as many as 18 luftwaffe aircraft during -- mainly during stalingrad and in the spring during the spring offensives into ukraine when the soviet armies were pushing back toward kiev. and hers was quite an amazing life. she grew up in the soviet union under stalin. what i mentioned earlier about how the nkvd was rounding up every second man? well, her father was a second man. he worked in the transportation industry. that didn't keep him out of trouble, and he ended up as a second man. and never came home from the
gulag. but she, she was a, she was a pilot. she wanted to fly, she wanted the fight the germans, and so she did. and an amazing life, amazing story and just a few days after her 21st birthday she was on patrol over the eastern ukraine. at the time i wrote the book, it was a very peaceful part of the world, and it sort of didn't -- sort of got not peaceful in the last year or so. in fact, the place where they shot down that malaysian airliner was only about 10 miles from where the wreckage of her plane was eventually discovered. and so she was flying there, and she never came back. the last time they saw her, she was being chased by a messer
schmidt through the clouds, and it was like, oh, 25 years before they found the wreckage of her, what they assumed was her plane and recovered her body. so that's, that's that story. well, it's, we've been at this more about an hour. if there's no more questions -- [applause] >> and i'm happy to, i'm happy to sign books, and the young man behind the register will be happy to sell 'em to you. [laughter] and i'd also like to thank my friends from c-span. this is not our first time together. we, we worked another show down at the hiller aviation museum a couple of years ago, and so
we're old friends. and so you can, you can relive this night on c-span. [laughter] it's optional. >> when's it going to be on? >> that's a good question with. i don't, i don't know. but i'll put out an e-mail blast. [applause] sure. [inaudible conversations] >> "usa today" reporter ray locker looked into the nixon administration and found some things. mr. locker, what'd you find
about the nixon administration that others haven't? >> well, the big thing was he restructured the national security council on his first day in office, funneled everything through the white house and away from the cabinet agencies that usually handled that. and that created a series of resentments and rivalries that then nixon had to keep his hands on and cover up a lot of secrets with throughout his entire presidency. >> was this unprecedented at the time? >> yes, it was. i mean, these agencies -- state department, pentagon, cia -- used to have a lot of latitude and a lot of authority, and he really bottled that up. >> by taking control of those agencies, what did -- how did it affect the u.s. government? >> well, it meant that those agencies didn't know a lot about what was actually happening in vietnam and in diplomacy and all sorts of matters of foreign affairs. and that meant that those cabinet officials could not testify before congress and let them exercise their legitimate oversight roles, because they didn't know what was happening. >> was this, would you consider this a master plan by nixon, or
was this just nixon wanting control over everything he touched? >> i think that was his master plan, and i think that's the gamble, that he could do everything secretly before he got caught. and he managed to accomplish many of his goals, opening the china detente with the soviet union and ending the vietnam war before everything caught up to him. >> we talk about nixon taking the unprecedented move, but did it set precedent for future administrations? >> i think every president since nixon has consolidated national security planning in the white house up through the obama administration. you hear from any cabinet agency they don't believe they have enough authority, that the white house controls everything, and i think that's something that's endured for the last 45 years. >> why did you pick this story? >> i've long been interested in nixon, grew up with him as president and had been looking at various facets of his life and administration and found some things that kind of led me to this and some, you know,
fairly significant discoveries, i think. >> have we learned everything we can learn about richard nixonsome. >> no. no. i mean, that's the great thing about history, right? so many things that you think have been out get up covered, they get declassified. people learn about them, and that can help you understand things that you thought you had known for years in a different way. >> what do you report on for "usa today"? >> i supervise our reporters who cover the white house, pentagon, money in politics and health care. ..