World War II whodunit solved, German historian says

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In the 1960s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, a POW camp is run by inept German soldiers. In Mel Brooks’ version of the Lubitsch classic To Be or Not to Be, the Nazis are bumbling evil-doers.

Such blundering Nazis not only existed, they were purposely cast in important roles in a real-life spy mission, according to a book published in Germany by historian Monika Siedentopf.

As a prelude to invasion of the British Isles, Nazi Germany launched an espionage offensive in 1940. But the 12 spies who were slipped into England and Scotland quickly blew their cover, the Guardian reports. A British official at the time blamed it on “their own stupidity.”

For decades, it was a mystery: Why would the Nazis send incompetents on such an important mission? Continue reading

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Photo: First American selfie was taken in Pa. in 1839

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the_first_selfie_Robert_CorneliusRobert Cornelius of Philadelphia captured his own image in 1839, in the first selfie.

He used a cumbersome camera. It wasn’t until the Kodak came out in 1888 that the snapshot was born.

“A game even emerged called ‘snapshooting,’ a sort of photographic version of tag: You tried to escape while someone raced around trying to catch you on film, Clive Thompson writes.

Read more about how snapshots changed the way we see the world here.

This Just In looked at why smiles are so rare in the oldest photos here.

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Care for a nip? 200-year-old bottle of booze found in shipwreck

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bottle-shipwreck-livescienceThey don’t make ‘em like they used to.

After two centuries at the bottom of the sea, you might expect a bottle to contain sea water. But underwater archaeologists from Maritime Museum of Gdansk who were investigating a shipwreck  in the Baltic Sea have announced that a bottle they found still packs a wallop, according to Poland’s Ministry of Science and Science EducationContinue reading

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U.S. ‘kidnapped’ Soviet spacecraft

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lunikThe Kidnapping of the Lunik may sound like the latest spy thriller, but it’s the title of a U.S. intelligence report from 1967.

The USSR, in the midst of the space race, sent the Lunik — Sputnik’s younger but stronger sister — on a global tour, an old-fashioned exhibition/trade fair to demonstrate Communism’s most high-tech achievement.

You’d think that the Soviets would send a Hollywood-style mock-up, right? Continue reading

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Not so fail-safe: Declassified documents confirm H-bomb close call

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Whew. That was a close one.

Declassified documents this week provide new details on the H-bombs that accidentally fell on Goldsboro, N.C., in January 1961, an incident that This Just In explored last year.

It was a scare that prompted Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to note that “by the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted,” the National Security Archive reports. Continue reading

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FDR’s D-Day prayer

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In a radio broadcast to the nation on June 6, 1944, the president asked Americans to join him in a prayer:

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom. … Continue reading

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Secret Cold War chapter: 40,000 Nazis planned for war against communists

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Albert SchnezAlbert Schnez, a Nazi colonel during World War II, was the organizer of the shadow army, recruiting men and soliciting donations. He would later serve in West Germany’s reestablished military. Photo courtesy of Der Spiegel.

It sounds like the plot of a Cold War spy novel.

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, Germany was demilitarized by the Allies. But within five or six years of the Nazi surrender, 2,000 former officers of the Nazi Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS plotted to recruit a secret paramilitary force of 40,000 fighters, reports Der Spiegel. Continue reading

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