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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Friday, December 28, 2012

What Mattered In 2012

The book of the year, if you ask me.

Looking back at 2012 I would say it again was a year of the rise of Asia and in particular China. As for my own work during this year, North Africa was a major focus.

Judging from recent reports, the world in 2013 will be no less shaped by what takes place in Asia, starting January 1.

The Syrian Civil War may evolve into something much worse. Another serious hotspot is of course Iran, and, as always, there is Israel and North Korea. The latter country is the subject of this year´s strongest book IMHO, Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Harden. But for some reason I reckon that the East China Sea holds the greatest dangers during 2013.

In case we are fortunate enough that no new major wars break out in 2013 the world may still suffer greatly, perhaps as much as from war, by further inactivity in the field of energy, i.e. by not seriously going for alternative energy sources. Here the US, China and the EU probably hold the largest keys.

Moving away from things of global importance to my own work, in 2012 I was writing mostly on a book about a special forces unit in North Africa, Ghost Patrol. It was released a month ago. I also wrote several articles about more or less recent military history, one which was extra special, as it to a great extent was the result of exciting discoveries in the mountains by some very energetic readers of mine.

Speaking about readers, I only now found this study in English about Swedish volunteers in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War, partly based on Swedes at War. Well, in 2013 I will return to the subject of Swedish volunteers, first those in Finland and Norway in 1940, and then, in another book, all over Europe and Asia.

Goodbye 2012 and wishing all my readers a Happy New Year!

When I wrote the above I was not aware of this article re. the worsening security climate China-Japan.

But, you may ask, what about a Swedish connection to Escape From Camp 14? Well, although the book makes no reference to Sweden or any other Nordic country, Sweden played a largely unknown role during the first combat phase of the still unfinished Korean War. There was both a Swedish field hospital where everyone wore US uniforms and in addition a handful of Swedish volunteers and many more Swedish Americans in US combat units. More about them in a coming book by me and Lennart Westberg. Although Escape From Camp 14 is not about a soldier but about a man born in a North Korean concentration camp, it does provide valuable insights also into Korean history. In addition, yours truly during four years lived right beside the North Korean embassy in Switzerland. This gave me several opportunities to learn about North Korea. I got to talk with several persons living inside the embassy, especially one Kim. It was, however, not the Kim now ruling North Korea, as he arrived in Switzerland only after I had left the country. Still, I have some idea about the wonderful environment where he spent some of his formative years. I tend to think those years must have done him and the world some kind of good.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Last Panzers, New Photos

"AFV Photo Album vol 1: Armoured Fighting Vehicles on Czechoslovakian Territory 1938-1968" by Marek Solar, Petr Dolezal and Vladimir Kos.

In my post "Nordland Panther in New Swedish Book" I mentioned the young Swedish publishers Canfora. They have since then become an even more interesting English language publisher for Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) buffs and modellers.

Canfora's AFV Photo Album vol 1 is quite simply a treasure trove for AFV buffs and modellers. What you get is 224 A4 size pages with an incredible amount of large and high quality photos of mostly German, Soviet and US tanks and other AFVs in Czechoslovakia, mostly in 1945. I doubt if anyone outside the region has seen any of the book's images from 1945 before. Several photos are ideal for those into restoring or building vehicles and/or dioramas.

I would like to especially mention a photo in the book of a Bergepanther with a 37 mm Flak gun, a probably unique example of late-war improvisation. I was also intrigued by four photos of Jagdpanzers (38) abandoned in May 1945. Inside one of them was a woman in SS uniform, according to the authors. There is no photo of this woman in the book, nor her name, but I find the caption possible as she perhaps was not a regular tanker but someone from a staff, being transported. Could she have been a crew member? Well, considering that there did exist a handful of female Luftwaffe pilots, not impossible.

One of the very few negative things about this book is the main title, as it says too little about the contents. Otherwise it is a goldmine for AFV enthusiasts.

"The Nordic Edge Model Gallery Vol 3" edited by Toni Canfora.

The Nordic Edge series from Canfora is focused entirely on scale models made by modellers in the Nordic countries. However, even if you are not into modelling yourself I reckon these books could be of interest. Because they are simply astounding in their quality. Both the models, dioramas and the quality of the books.

Volume 3 is 143 pages in A4 size with both superb large size photos and text about the thoughts and work behind every subject. It is easy to get inspired by these books, and also to get practical tips from them.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Stunning Christmas Story From WWII

This is quite simply one of the most unusual stories to come from WWII and I saw it for the first time only today.

Of course, Sweden is mentioned too... there is always a Swedish connection! And with this peaceful and inspiring story from WWII I wish all my readers GOD JUL! as we say in Sweden i.e. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 14, 2012

1945 Reenactment in Ukraine

I have never seen reenactment photos like these before, especially the last ones.

Ukrainian and Russian reenactors are obviously not only into reenacting Stalingrad and Kursk. The theme of the above reenactment earlier this year was Graz, Austria, 1945. This enabled not only reenactors in Soviet and German kit to participate but also in US and British uniforms.

I had never thought there would be so many US Airborne and British Army reenactors in Ukraine and Russia. Note that one of the "Wiking" reenactors has a Norwegian arm shield.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lars Wars

The Lars homestead in Tunisia was in bad shape but was recently restored by some true fans. If you read this: well done, guys.

As a Swedish fan of Star Wars from the very start, i.e. 1977, I have always been extra happy with my name, a Nordic version of Lawrence, even though Owen Lars of episode IV was far from heroic. But what about other Star Wars connections to the Nordic countries?

I am into Star Wars trivia, as you may have noticed from some of my previous Star Wars posts. But there are some things I have yet to do, like travel to the Star Wars locations above and below. The below one in Finse, Norway, actually not being that far, far away.

The Star Wars fan guide to Finse, Norway.

Another Star Wars project I would like to start is the one I intend to start right here and now, by compiling Star Wars trivia connected to the Nordic countries. I am priveleged to have relatives in all Nordic countries and have a special love for travelling within our area.

Obviously, the Finse connection to the planet Hoth in "The Empire Strikes Back" is the main connection (Hoth = Finse). But then we also have Mark Hamill´s Swedish family roots. Incidentally, I saw a scene in a Swedish action movie being shot in Murmansk, with Hamill as the main villain. The movie in question, "Hamilton" (1998) was not one of the best motion pictures ever made, but not all that bad either.

Finally, Shmi Skywalker Lars, mother of Anakin Skywalker and grandmother to Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, is portrayed by Swedish actress Pernilla August. More about Shmi Skywalker Lars here.

Well, that is all that comes to my mind right now. But what about Finnish and Danish connections? And surely there are some more Swedish and Norwegian connections. Please help, you are my only... comment below please.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Burnt By The Critics

The actors playing Stalin and Beria have an uncanny likeness to the real persons. This trailer has no subtitles, but the DVD has.

I just saw a grand Russian war movie, "Exodus", the first half of "Burnt By The Sun 2". For long I chose not to see it. Because I believed in the massive flak that the movie got. Well, I was wrong.

Of course, many scenes and details can be questioned. But, if you treat the movie like a novel about WWII I think it works fine. Some things are in fact better than in most WWII movies. In particular, I believe, the way many things look, like the uniforms. Most uniforms in this film look as if they have actually been used for months or even years.

Bluntly put, forget the critics and see the movie yourself!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Swedish Cyber Threat Book in English

The best book I have read about information warfare is about to be published in English as The Dark Sides of the Internet. I read it in Swedish (Internets mörka sidor) when it came out earlier this year.

I would say that the book is written in a manner that makes it accessible to virtually anyone interested in the subject while at the same time not being too shallow. It provides fascinating insights into information warfare in practice during recent wars and conflicts.

The author of The Dark Sides of the Internet is Roland Heickerö, Associated Professor at the Swedish National Defence College (SNDC). His research examines different aspects of information warfare and cyber threats. Between 2003 and 2012 he was Deputy Research Director at the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) in charge of cyber defence research.

The Dark Sides of the Internet is about to be published by international academic publishers Peter Lang and here is the publisher's info about the coming book.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Grave of General Engelbrecht

Today, for the first time, I stumbled upon a photo of General Engelbrecht's grave. He was the commander of the German division that was allowed to pass through Sweden during WWII, the 163rd Infantry Division.

The website where the photos are seems well worth some future visits.

Monday, December 03, 2012

First Victoria Cross Won Close to Sweden

Here, at Bomarsund in Finland, the very first Victoria Cross was won.

It is not every day that I am really surprised by military history. But today is such a day. I have learnt that the very first Victoria Cross was won during the Crimean War on one of the Finnish Åland Islands.

The first action to render a Victoria Cross (VC) was fought not that far from our capital, Stockholm. The man behind the heroism in 1854 was Charles Davis Lucas. I learnt this from a very short letter published in the latest issue of the Swedish journal Militär Historia, i.e. Military History.

I also learnt, from some online articles, that the fall of Bomarsund was seen as a large victory in France. In fact, there is an inscription to that effect on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Incidentally, the latest VC recipient, Bryan Budd, was born in Northern Ireland, just like the very first recipient.

After peace was signed in Paris in 1856, Russia promised not to have any military infrastructure on the Åland Islands, and they have ever since been a demilitarised area. Residents are also exempt from conscription to the Finnish Defence Forces.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Captain of "Saving Private Ryan" Dead

The real captain was Swedish American and his name was Ralph Goranson.

It was a great honour for me to get a reply from Ralph Goranson, the Swedish American who was the reality behind Tom Hanks in "Saving Private Ryan". The other day his obituary reached me. I am ashamed to say that no Swedish papers have yet reported his death.

In "Saving Private Ryan", Tom Hanks commands company C of the 2nd Rangers in Normandy on D-Day. A great deal of what Tom Hanks does in the opening scenes is what Ralph Goranson actually did. But John Miller, the name that Hanks has in the blockbuster (nominated for eleven Academy Awards), is pure fiction.

I was in touch with the very real Ralph Goranson, thanks to his children, in connection with writing the passage about him in Swedes at War.

I am ashamed, but not surprised, to say that no Swedish papers have yet reported Goranson´s death. It took ten days until a Swedish newspaper reported the death of the most respected Swedish citizen in British WWII service, Allan Mann. And that piece was not a news story but a family page text. The first article about Mann's death was published only a month after his death.

Thank you for your courage on D-Day and many other days, Ralph Goranson. Rest in peace.