The attempted murders of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, due to poisoning by a nerve agent

March 10, 2018

On Sunday, March 4, 2018, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, were found unconscious on a park bench at Salisbury, Wiltshire, England.  They were poisoned by some kind of nerve agent.  An investigation is underway into their attempted murder.  A policeman, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, became ill while attending the victims.

As of March 10, Mr. Skripal and Ms. Skripal were said to be in “critical but stable condition” at Salisbury District Hospital.  Mr. Bailey was said to be “seriously ill” but awake and engaging with his family.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd described the poisonings as brazen, reckless and cruel and promised to “act without hesitation as the facts become clearer.”  Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, head of counter-terrorism operations, said the Skripals had been “targeted specifically.”

More than 250 counter-terrorism are involved in the investigation. About 180 military personnel were deployed to help remove vehicles and objects which may have been contaminated.

Mr. Skripal was once convicted by the Russian government of passing secrets to M16.  After being imprisoned he was given refuge in the United Kingdom as part of a “spy swap.”  UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that the UK will respond “robustly” if Moscow is found to be behind the incident.  Russia has denied any involvement.  The country’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said Russia was willing to assist in the investigation but the UK had did not ask them to assist.  He dismissed rumors of Russia’s involvement as “hysteria” and “propaganda.”

Mr. Skripal was born in Kaliningrad in 1951.  He joined the elite Soviet airborne troop known as the Desantniki.  In 1979, Mr. Skripal was one of the first Soviet troops to go into Afghanistan. He later graduated from the Diplomatic Military Academy in Moscow and joined the GRU — Russia’s military intelligence agency.  He had two postings in Europe as a spy in the 1980s and the 1990s.  In 1999 or 2000 he quit the GRU allegedly because he was upset with corruption. He then was believed to have gone to work for Boris Gromov, who was the last commander of Soviet forces in Afghanistan.  Mr. Skripal then settled into normal family life.  He had married a woman named Liudmila, his teenage sweetheart, in June 1972. A son, Alexander (known as Sasha) was born in 1974 and a daughter, Yulia, was born in 1984.

The Skripals’ family life was disrupted in December 2004, when Mr. Skripal was arrested for spying.  He was swiftly convicted in a trial that was closed to media and was sentenced to 13 years in a labor camp but spent most of his sentence in Mordovia.

Mr. Skripal was released from prison in July 2010 as part of a major spy swap — he was one of four spies released by Russia for 10 Russian agents imprisoned in the UK.  Mr. Skripal was then reunited with his wife.  They decided to make their home in Salisbury.  In 2011, Liudmila was diagnosed with cancer and she died on Oct. 23, 2012.  In July 2017, son Sasha died at age 43 in St. Petersburg while on a holiday with his girlfriend.  Sasha’s death was somewhat suspicious.  It was said that he died of sudden liver failure.

Ms. Skripal was a top student at school and attended Russian State University for the Humanities, where she studied geography.  After graduation from the university, she went to work at Nike’s Moscow branch, leaving in 2010.  After her father was released from prison she lived in England and worked at the Holiday Inn in Southampton.  She is fluent in English, Spanish and Russian.  She returned to Moscow in 2014 but would regularly visit her father in England.


USS Atule (SS-403): a World War II submarine that made four war patrols

March 4, 2018

USS Atule (SS-403) was a World War II submarine.  Atule is special to me because my Father, John Robert Baker (1924-2018), served as a sailor (radioman) on this submarine during the war.  Atule (also referred to in an endearing manner as “O’Toole”) earned four battle stars for her World War II service.

Atule was a Balao-class diesel-electric submarine.  She was built at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at Kittery, Maine, launched on March 6, 1944 and commissioned on June 21, 1944.  Atule was 311 feet long, 27 feet wide, displaced 1,526 tons and had a range of 11,000 nautical miles.

World War II submarines were basically surface ships that could travel underwater for a limited time. Diesel engines gave them high surface speed and long range, but speed and range were severely reduced underwater, where they relied on electric motors powered by relatively short-lived batteries.  Recharging the storage batteries meant surfacing to run the air-breathing diesels. Even combat patrols routinely involved 90 per cent or more surface operations.

Commanding Officer Jason Mauer — There were 10 officers and 70 enlisted sailors on Atule.  John “Jason” H. Mauer (1912-2009), a 1935 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, was the commander of Atule from 1944-1947.  (He was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1963.)  The United States Pacific Fleet awarded him the Navy Cross.  The citation, signed by C.W. Nimitz, Fleet Admiral, United States Navy, stated:

“The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to John H. Mauer, Commander, U.S. Navy, for gallantry and intrepidity and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. ATULE (SS-403), on the FIRST War Patrol of that submarine during the period of 9 October 1944 to 11 December 1944, in enemy controlled waters of the Luzon Strait of the Philippine Islands. Commander Maurer launched well-planned attacks which resulting in sinking enemy ships totaling 25,000 tons.  Through his experience and sound judgment Commander Mauer brought his ship safely back to port.  His conduct throughout was an inspiration to his officers and men and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

Commander Mauer was also awarded two Silver Stars: one while serving as Executive Officer of the USS Harder (SS-257), a Gato-class submarine, and one for his service as commander of Atule.

After Atule was commissioned she had a month of shakedown training before departing New London, Conn., and heading south to join the action in the Pacific.  There was a 15-day stopover at the Fleet Sound School in Key West, Fla.  Atule transited the Panama Canal and steamed to Pearl Harbor with USS Jallao (SS-368), a Balao-class submarine.

First War Patrol — On Oct. 9, 1944, Atule departed Pearl Harbor on her first war patrol in company with USS Pintado (SS-387), a Balao-class submarine, and Jallao.  The three submarines formed a “wolf pack.” On Oct. 11, 1944, the pack was joined by USS Plaice (SS-390), a Balao-class submarine, and USS Thresher (SS-200), a Tambor-class submarine. On Oct. 21, 1944, the pack arrived at Tanapag Harbor, Saipan Island.

On Oct. 25, 1944, the pack made its first score when Jallao sunk the Japanese light cruiser Tama (5,200 tons, commissioned 1921).  Three torpedoes hit Tama, breaking the ship in two. The cruiser sunk within minutes with all hands. The pack then set course for their patrol sectors in Luzon Strait and the South China Sea.

On Nov. 1, 1944, Atule encountered the Japanese transport ship Asama Maru (16,975 tons, built 1929) in Luzon Strait about 100 miles south of Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands).  After Atule fired six torpedoes Asama Maru was sent to the bottom of the ocean.  Asama Maru was escorted by the Japanese torpedo boat Sagi and minesweepers W-17 and W-18.  Atule was forced to dive to avoid the escort ships.  Nine depth charges exploded in the vicinity of Atule.

My Father wrote:

“Several escorts accompanied [Asama Maru] so we promptly submerged. Soon they started depth charging, to the detriment of the swimming survivors, I’m sure, but they never came very close to us.  . . . The enemy ships probably carried 3,000 to 5,000 troops, and the sound of that huge ship breaking up as she sank into the depths will never be forgotten.”

Asama Maru was originally built as a Japanese ocean liner for passenger travel between Japan and the west coast of the United States.  In 1941, before the start of the Pacific War, the ship was called into Japanese Navy service as a troop ship.

Atule continued her patrol covering the Hong Kong-Manila traffic lane in the South China Sea.  On Nov. 3, 1944, Pintado sunk the Minekaze-class Japanese destroyer Akikaze (1,367 tons, built 1920), which was escorting aircraft carrier Jun’yo and cruiser Kiso toward Brunei.  Akikaze sank with all hands. It was said that Akikaze intercepted the torpedoes to save the aircraft carrier.  There was a tremendous explosion that was seen and heard on board Atule.  During days thereafter Atule was forced to zigzag and run to evade Japanese airplanes equipped with radar and magnetic detection devices.  The airplanes dropped 14 depth charges but none came close to Atule.  However, USS Halibut (SS-232), a Gato-class submarine, was severely damaged.

Atule then began patrolling her assigned scouting station west of Formosa. On Nov. 20, 1944, Atule sunk a vessel identified as Minesweeper W-38 (648 tons, built 1944). It was reported:

“After midnight, Cdr (later Rear Admiral/COMSUBPAC) John H. Mauer’s  (USNA ’35) USS ATULE’s (SS-403) SJ radar picks up a show moving vessel. Mauer moves in to attack on the surface, but the target is protected by a rain squall.  USS ATULE continues tracking the target. At about 0500, the target is silhouetted against a clear horizon. Mauer fires four torpedoes. The third torpedo hits below the minesweeper’s stack. Less than three minutes later, W-38 sinks by the bow.  Her depth charges explode as she goes under . . . .”

(Source: — IJN Minesweeper W-38.)

My Father wrote:

“At around 5 a.m. we fired four fish from our stern tubes. The first struck with a terrific explosion at about his forward stack.  Two and one-half minutes later his stern reared straight up and he slid under.  His depth charges kept going off as he plunged deeper and deeper into the depths.  No survivors.”

On Nov. 24, 1944, Atule sank two more Japanese war vessels.  My Father wrote:

“On the afternoon of November 24, 1944, Atule detected echo ranging on a bearing of 200 degrees True.  By 1400 we had four ships in sight and we went to battle stations torpedo. This would be our third attack on this patrol. Tracking showed this group of four ships to consist of a large transport with a destroyer covering the starboard bow, a patrol craft on the port bow and another destroyer trailing astern. . . . We eased in on the starboard flank jockeying for a good set-up at the transport and the destroyer. Flat, calm water for a change, and still they didn’t spot us!  After more careful tracking, Captain Maurer announced: ‘The near D.D. (destroyer) and the transport overlap. Commence shooting.’ . . . Torpedoes three and four hit the destroyer, which literally exploded into a funeral pyre. Nothing was left but fuel oil burning on the water. A few more seconds and # two hit the big transport followed by # seven.  The transport stopped dead in the water mortally wounded and then went under in less than 10 minutes.  This was a classic shot, i.e., two successive targets destroyed in one barrage.  The remaining Japanese escorts made a rapid search, fired a sporadic burst of gunfire, the dropped several depth charges, but in the wrong area.  As it turned out, we weren’t able to get a shot at them, so as we lost radar contact we secured from battle stations.  I felt elated, for on our very first patrol we seemed to be having great success.”

“The destroyer exploded with a blast that shook Atule like a terrier shaking a rat,” the patrol report stated. “All that was left of her was oil burning on the water.” [NOTE — The patrol report stated that the attack took place on Nov. 25, 1944.]

Atule’s final attack during her first war patrol was on Nov. 27, 1944.  Atule destroyed a Japanese transport ship of about 5,000 to 7,000 tons anchored between Dequey and Ibuhos Islands, Philippines.

“Fired four bow torpedoes,” Atule’s patrol report said.  “All hit.  His port side was almost entirely blown away. The ship burned like a torch with frequent violent oil and ammunition explosions.”

My Father wrote:

“When we approached, we identified a ship anchored at the northern end of the channel between the islands.  Four shots remained in the bow tubes on this patrol and we would not be denied. . . . Conditions were perfect and all torpedoes hit, one after another, and a gigantic fire erupted. She was aflame from bow to stern and heeled over as the stern settled to the bottom.  We turned 180 degrees and headed away at full speed. . . . The target burned for over an hour and lit up the sky with explosions on six different occasions. Finally, when we were about 18 miles away came the last and most brilliant explosion which blew the charred remains to bits. I was one of the crew allowed to come to the bridge one at a time to take a look at our accomplishment.”

Atule’s first war patrol ended on Dec. 11, 1944 at Majuro, where she was refitted by Submarine Division 142 and USS Bushnell (AS 15), a submarine tender.

My Father wrote:

“Coming to a rest camp area was a very special occasion for submarines after patrols. First of all, for the obvious reason — we had made it back safely — but also because of the warm welcome we received.  Immediately upon securing our lines we would become the recipients of boxes of fresh fruit — oranges and apples . . . . Most important of all, we were given our accumulated mail. The whole crew would be spread at topside, sitting everywhere, eating fresh fruit and reading all the precious mail from home — always in chronological order so we could keep events in proper perspective.”

Second War Patrol — On Jan. 6, 1945, Atule departed from Majuro for her second war patrol.  She was ordered to patrol the Yellow Sea.  She was accompanied by USS Spadefish (SS-411), USS Bang (SS-385) and USS Devilfish (SS-292). The pack later included USS Spearfish (SS-190) and USS Pompon (SS-267).

On Jan. 24, 1945, Atule torpedoed and sank Japanese merchant cargo ship Daiman Maru No. 1 (6,888 tons, built 1944) in the Yellow Sea.  Atule’s patrol report stated:

“Watched two torpedoes hit the target.  This target . . . looked brand new (which was correct, she was on her maiden voyage).  The crew started to abandon ship.  . . . The ship broke in half and the after part soon sank.”  Another patrol report stated:

“The target appeared to be a brand new engines-aft freighter. Set the depth at three feet and fired four torpedoes. The first fish struck abreast of his stack and the second near his after mast. The ship rapidly settled stern first as the crew quickly manner two motor life boats (one on each side). Just as the life boats cleared, the damaged rear section broke off, taking the engine room with it. The forward half popped up like a cork, floating higher than ever.”

My Father wrote about being fired on after attacking the freighter:

“About this time I heard that one of our lookouts shouted ‘Look, they’re sending blinker signals to us.’  Captain Jack answered: ‘Signals, hell! He’s firing at us with his 40 mm cannon!’ So we dove and fired a steam torpedo at him.  We missed.  (Torpedo went under his bow.) We had had shells exploding on either side of us, so we hastily left the immediate area and withdrew to decide our next move.”

On Jan. 28, 1945, Pompon and Spadefish reported a convoy of Japanese war vessels.  Spadefish sunk one of the ships.  “At 0255 we observed a terrific explosion with a column of water high in the air,” Atule’s patrol report stated. “Exchanged calls with Spadefish as she was standing by her victim, a ship observed to be burning from bow to stern.”

My Father wrote:

“Next, we commence criss-crossing the known Shanghai to the Empire shipping routes.  Our time will be spent patrolling all areas where enemy shipping might be expected. We are now en route to a patrol station east of Hangchow Bay (what a name) and sighted our first floating mine about 30 miles southwest of Socotro Rock.  In short order we sink five mines with our 30 caliber machine gun. The sixth mine detonates.  Contact mines are about five feet or so across and have several horns sticking out of their perimeters. Theoretically, when a horn is stuck and broken, the mine explodes its hundreds of pounds of explosives.  These mines were usually moored to the bottom at preset depths at the end of a cable attached to an anchor.  The areas where they were sewn were very often just where submarines were likely to travel.  The U.S. has been able to determine that seven of the 52 boats were destroyed by mines.  Only eight men were survivors of the USS Flier (SS-250).  On all the other boats all hands were lost.”

Atule actually struck a mine on Jan. 30, 1945.  Atule’s log stated:

“Floating mine bounced disconcertingly down the port side of the ship, plainly heard by the bridge watch and officers seated in the wardroom. . . . Thankfully this was another dud Japanese mine. Not all of them exploded when they were disturbed.”

On Feb. 7, 1945, nine depth charges in quick succession were dropped near Atule by unseen Japanese aircraft.  Atule’s patrol report stated: “These were not close enough to bother us, but weren’t so far as to have been directed at anyone else.”

On Feb. 18, 1945, en route to Daikokuzan to intercept a new battleship position, Atule struck another mine.  Atule’s patrol report stated: “Struck mine with a jar that turned out a good percentage of ship’s complement. It first hit near the stem, then it bounced several times down the side, busily exploring our limber holes with its horns.”

At a submarine convention years later at Albuquerque, N.M., Captain Jack mentioned this harrowing occurrence to the wives of submariners attending the convention and told them “they should appreciate having us,” my Father wrote.

Atule’s second war patrol ended on March 7, 1945 at Midway.  She was refitted by Submarine Division 322 and USS Pelias (AS 14), a submarine tender.  Atule was also dry docked while being refitted.

My Father wrote:

“Ah, rest camp. We’re certainly ready for it. The ship we sank in the Yellow Sea assured that we would be credited as having had a ‘successful patrol.’ This patrol . . . destroyed a total of 28 mines.  We were lucky with the last one.”

Third War Patrol — On April 2, 1945, Atule departed from Midway for her third war patrol.  She was ordered to patrol south of Honshu, Japan.  On May 5, 1945, Atule picked up a Japanese naval observer from a crashed Japanese aircraft.

On May 17, 1945, Atule departed the area for Pearl Harbor by way of Midway.  Atule ended its third war patrol on May 30, 1945, when it arrived at Pearl Harbor.  At Pearl Harbor she was refitted by Submarine Division 181 and the USS Euryale (AS 22), a submarine tender.  Atule was also dry docked while being refitted.

Fourth War Patrol — Atule began her fourth and final war patrol on July 3, 1945, when she departed Pearl Harbor.  She was ordered to patrol east of Honshu and Hokkaido. Atule was part of a pack that also included USS Gato (SS-212) and USS Archerfish (SS-311). On Aug. 13, 1945, Atule torpedoed and sank the Japanese frigate Kaibokan 6 (740 tons, built 1944) and torpedoed and damaged the Japanese frigate Kaibokan 16 (740 tons, built 1944) east of Hokkaido, Japan. (Kaibokan means “sea defense ship.”)  During this encounter Atule was subjected to terrific blasts from exploding depth charges.

On Aug. 15, 1945, while Atule was in her patrol area in Empire waters east of Honshu, news was received of Japan’s surrender.  Atule then headed to Pearl Harbor via Midway.  Atule ended her fourth war patrol upon arrival at Pearl Harbor on Aug. 25, 1945.  Five days later she departed Pearl Harbor via the Panama Canal bound for New London, Conn.

During World War II, the United States Submarine Service lost 52 submarines, 374 officers and 3,131 enlisted men.  (One out of 5.54 submarines in the fleet were lost.) Those personnel losses represented 16% of the officer and 13% of the enlisted operational personnel.  The loss rate was the highest among men and ships of any United States Navy unit.  Less than two percent of American sailors served in submarines, yet that small percentage of men and their boats sank 214 Japanese warships.  This included one battleships (Kongo) four large aircraft carriers (Chuyo, Jinyo, Otaka and Unyo), three heavy cruisers (Atago, Kako, Mayo and Ashigara), eight light cruisers, 43 destroyers, 23 large submarines and 1,178 merchant ships of more than 500 tons.  In all, U.S. submarines sank more than 55% of all Japanese ships sunk — more than surface ships, Navy air and the U.S. Army Air Corps combined.

There were 465 Commanding Officers if submarines during World War II.  They made 1,474 war patrols for an average of 3.2 war patrols for each Commanding Officer.   The total number of submarine sailors was about 30,000.  About 16,000 of these made war patrols. Sailors who were killed aboard a submarine are said to be “On Eternal Patrol.”

Of the 52 submarines lost during World War II, the first was USS Sealion (SS-195) on Dec. 10, 1941 (scuttled following irreparable damage in an air attack) and the last was USS Bullhead (SS-332) on Aug. 6, 1945 (sunk by Japanese aircraft).

Vice Admiral C. A. Lockwood, Jr., Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (1943-1946) said during a speech in Cleveland on Navy Day 1945:

“To those whose contribution meant the loss of sons, brothers, or husbands in this war, I pay my most humble respect and extend my deepest sympathy. As to the 374 officers and 3,131 men of the Submarine Force who gave their lives in the winning of this war, I can assure you that they went down fighting and that their brothers who survived them took a grim toll of our savage enemy to avenge their deaths.  May God rest their gallant souls.”

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz prepared a dedication stating:

“We, who survived World War II and were privileged to rejoin our loved ones at home, salute those gallant officers and men of our submarines who lost their lives in that long struggle. We shall never forget that it was our submariners that held the lines against the enemy while our fleets replaced losses and repaired wounds.”

Atules’s History after World War II — On July 4, 1946, Atule became a member of Operation Nanook, a mission to establish advanced weather stations in the Arctic regions and to aid in the planning and execution of more extensive naval operations in polar and sub-polar regions. Atule later was involved in Navy and NATO operations in various areas including the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, South America and the Gulf of Mexico.

Atule was decommissioned on April 6, 1970.  In 1974 Atule was sold to Peru and renamed Pacocha (SS-48) as part of the Peruvian Navy.  On Aug. 26, 1988, Pacocha was on its way to the port of El Callao, the chief seaport of Peru.  Pacocha was accidentally rammed by a 412-ton Japanese tuna fishing trawler, No. 8 Kiowa Maru, causing the submarine to sink in 110-feet of water.  There were 44 survivors out of a crew of 52.  Twenty-two sailors jumped into the water as the submarine sank and were rescued. Seven of the crew members died (including Capt. Daniel Nieva Rodriguez) when the submarine sank and an eighth crew member later died from an embolism at a hospital.  Divers freed 23 sailors who were trapped in the submarine almost 24 hours after it sunk.  Capt. Rodriguez died when he left the cabin to close an outside hatch in a desperate effort to save his crew and then became trapped in an outer compartment that filled with water. “I want to point out the bravery of Capt. Nieva,” said Peruvian President Alan Garcia. “I want to stress the bravery of an officer who after leaving the ship through a hatch went back to rescue his mates.”   A documentary film about the occurrence titled “Miracle on the Pacocha” was released in 2007.

Gunther Rall: the third most successful fighter ace in history

January 21, 2018

Gunther Rall, a German Lieutenant-General (Generalleutnant), was the third most successful fighter ace in history. During World War II, Lt. Gen. Rall flew 621 combat missions and shot down 275 enemy aircraft.  He was shot down eight times and was wounded three times.

Lt. Gen. Rall participated in aerial battles over France, Great Britain, Crete, the Eastern Front and the final defense of Germany.  The majority of Lt. Gen. Rall’s 275 victories were achieved against Russian aircraft on the Eastern Front.  Lt. Gen. Rall primarily flew the Messerschmitt 109.  During the closing months of the war he also flew the FW-190 and the ME-262 jet fighter.  (He did not fly the ME-262 in combat.)

In August 1941, Lt. Gen. Rall was promoted to Oberleutnant — the highest lieutenant officer rank in the Germany armed forces.  In April 1943 he was promoted to Hauptmann — considered a captain when used as a German officer’s rank.  He became a pilot in the West German Air Force in 1956.  From 1971-1974 he served as Inspector of the West German Air Force.

Lt. Gen. Rall initially joined the German infantry in July 1936 but in 1938 he decided to become an air force officer.  “I went to the air force and started flying in 1938 in Neubiberg, which is a suburb of Munich,” Lt. Gen. Rall said in an interview. “In 1939 I finally graduated training as a fighter pilot on a base east of Berlin and was transferred to Jagdgeschwader (fighter wing) JG-52 [of the Luftwaffe].”

Source: Aviation History: Interview with World War II Luftwaffe Ace Gunther Rall — History Net (hereafter History Net interview):  The article was written by Colin Heaton and originally appeared in the Sept. 1996 issue of World War II magazine.

His first combat was during the Battle of France.

“At the beginning of the war I was with this wing [JG-52], and my first contact with the enemy was in May 1940.  This was over France,” he said in an interview.

Source: History Net Interview.

During May 1940, he shot down his first enemy aircraft: a French Curtiss P-36 Hawk fighter.  With the fall of France, Lt. Gen. Rall’s unit moved to Calais.

Lt. Rall’s shot down three enemy aircraft during Operation Barbarossa on the Eastern Front during June 1941.  By Nov. 28, 1941, Lt. Gen. Rall scored his 37th victory. But on that same day his aircraft was shot down.

“A Russian came in behind me.  He shot my engine dead and it was over Russian territory, so I certainly moved and turned trying to reach the German lines — not a solid line, but I saw some German tanks. I was flying westward, and I tried to make a belly landing, but I saw where I was going to touch down, in what they call a baikal. . . . I bellied in and crashed on the other side.  That was the last I knew, as I saw this wall coming against me, and in the big bang I was knocked out.”

Source: History Net Interview.

He was rescued by a German tank crew and then hospitalized with three fractures in his spine.  During his treatment at a hospital in Vienna he met Dr. Hertha Schon, whom he later married in 1943.

Lt. Gen. Rall returned to battle in August 1942.  From August to November 1943, Lt. Gen. Rall shot down 38 enemy aircraft — bringing his total to 101.  On Sept. 3, 1942, Lt. Gen. Rall was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.  On Oct. 22, 1942, Lt. Gen. Rall shot down his 100th enemy aircraft.  On Nov. 26, 1942, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.  The award was personally made by Adolf Hitler.

On Aug. 29, 1943, Lt. Gen. Rall scored his 200th victory during his 555th mission.  On Sept. 12, 1943, the Fuhrer awarded him the Swords to his Knight’s Cross.  During 1943, Lt. Gen. Rall shot down more than 40 Soviet aircraft.

On May 12, 1944, Lt. Gen. Rall was shot down by a pair of P-47 Thunderbolt operated by the 56th Operation Group of the United States Air Force.  His left thumb was shot off.  He suffered a severe infection and was hospitalized until November 1944.

“I was wounded three times, but I was shot down about eight times. I bellied in between the front lines, I jumped out and was picked up by Germans in tanks and so on. I was always lucky, except I was seriously wounded three times.  The first time it was my back.  I was then shot and hit right in the face and in my hand, and the third time I jumped out and a P-47 Thunderbolt shot my left thumb off.”

Source: History Net Interview.

Lt. Gen. Rall commanded JG 300 operating out of Salzburg from February 1945 until the end of the war, when he was taken prisoner by the Americans.  (He flew his 621st and final mission during the end of April 1945.)

“The Americans took me back to Salzburg and put me in prison, Lt. Gen. Rall said. “From Salzburg to Neu Ulm, then to Heilbronn, and there the CIC [Counter Intelligence Corps] saw me. They knew my name and said all air force officers should report, and they took me very quickly to interrogation.  Then seven of us were taken to England.”

Source: History Net Interview.

After being freed Lt. Gen. Rall went to work in the civilian world.  When the Luftwaffe was re-formed in 1956, he joined and was involved in the F-104 program.  Lt. Gen. Rall was later a German military liaison to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

“My decision in 1956 to help establish a new German Air Force, to work for NATO and its Allies was driven by my deep conviction that based on the experiences of the past only NATO could help lead Germany back to honor by joining with its democratic countries,” Lt. Gen. Rall said in an interview.  “If I could help to rehabilitate our reputation then I decided I would give the rest of my life to it.”

Source: Jill Armadio, Gunther Rall: A Memoir, Luftwafe Ace and NATO General (Tangmere Productions — 2d ed. 2003). (Hereafter Armadio biography.)

“The Third Reich trained 30,000 pilots.  Ten thousand survived the war.  One-third.  This is the highest loss rate along with the U-boat sailors,” Lt. Gen. Rall said in an interview.

Source: Generalleutnant Gunther Rall (Telegraph — Oct. 11, 2009).

“The highest attrition rate for all combat units in the war or traits were submarines,” Lt. Gen. Rall said during a speech in Finland.  “And right next to the submarines were the fighter pilots. In every mission from mid 44 onwards, we knew that every second pilot wouldn’t come back.”

Source: Lecture by Lt. Gen. Rall arranged by the Aviation Museum Society, Finland (June 2003). Transcription at

Lt. Gen. Rall, the son of a merchant, was born on March 10, 1981 at Gaggenau, a small town in the Black Forest of Germany.  His family moved to Stuttgart when he was three-years-old.  He was brought up and educated in Stuttgart.  He died at age 91 on Oct. 4, 2009 at Bad Reichenhall in Upper Bavaria, Germany.  When he died he was the longest living top German ace.

Source: Armadio Biography.

In 2004, Lt. Gen. Rall wrote an autobiography titled Mein Flubuch (My Logbook). The book was published in English as My Logbook: Reminiscences 1938-2006 (2006). (A new book sells from $1,499 and used books sell from $382 on Amazon.)  Another book on the career of Lt. Gen. Rall, written by Jill Armadio, is titled Gunther Rall: A Memoir, Luftwaffe Ace & NATO General (Tangmere Productions — 2d ed. 2003).


Major Walter “Nowi” Nowotny: Super ace during World War II

December 24, 2017


NOWOTNY’S FW 190A4 OF JG54 — By Ron Cole

Major Walter “Nowi” Nowotny was a “super ace” in aerial combat during World War II.

Nowotny was born on December 7, 1920 in Gmund in Lower Austria.  On November 8, 1944 — less than one month short of his 24th birthday — Nowotny was killed in combat with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) fighters.

During Nowotny’s military career, Nowotny was credited with 442 flying missions and 258 victories in aerial combat.  Nowotny also had 50 unconfirmed victories. He flew the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the world’s first jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 262.  Nowotny recorded 255 of his victories over the Eastern Front and three victories over the Western Front.  All three of Nowotny’s victories over the Western Front were while flying the Me 262 jet fighter.  Two of those victories involved shooting down four-engine bombers.

Nowotny was 19-years-old when the British and French declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939.  Nowotny volunteered to serve his country and opted for service in the Luftwaffe, which he joined on October 1, 1939.  By the time he reached 20 years of age he had been flying for two months.  On Feb. 23, 1941, he was assigned as a fighter pilot to Jagdgeschwaer on the Eastern Front with the Grunherz JG54 Group.  Within weeks he downed his first Russian J 18.

On July 19, 1941 — Nowotny’s 24th mission — he recorded his first victories when he shot down two Russian Polikarpov I-153 biplane fighters.  On the same day, Nowotny’s Messerschmitt Bf 109 was shot down by a Russian I-153 flown by Russian ace Alexandr Avdeev (13 victories, killed in action on Aug. 12, 1942). Nowotny’s fighter ended up in the Bay of Riga, where he clung to life in a small rubber dinghy for three days and three nights.  He eventually drifted ashore on the Latvian coast. While drifting in the dinghy, Notowny was almost run over by a Soviet destroyer.

Nowotny recorded his 55th and 56th victories on August 7, 1942.  After his 56th aerial victory, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross,  On September 6, 1943,  Nowotny recorded his 191st and 192nd victories.  After these victories he was awarded the rare and coveted Oak Leaves Award.  Nowotny reached the century mark of victories on June 5, 1943, on his 344th combat mission.

During June 1943, Nowotny shot down 41 aircraft including 10 Russian fighters on June 24, 1943.  During August 1943, Nowotney shot down 49 aircraft — a number reached by Jagdgeschwader 52’s (JG 52) Erich Hartmann — bring Notwotny’s total to 161 victories. During October 1943, Nowotny shot down 32 aircraft. Nowotny was renowned even among Allied pilots.

On October 14, Nowotny downed his 250th enemy plane: a P-40. Nowotny was the first pilot in history to record 250 victories. For this accomplishment, Nowotny was awarded the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds.

By early 1944 Messerschmitt developed a twin-engine jet propelled fighter, the Me 262.  Nowotny was ordered to Berlin and was chosen to create Germany’s first jet fighter squadron.  By autumn 1944 the squadron downed 4 MOTS, Mosquitoes and Mustangs.

Nowotny was at his post on November 8, 1944, when it was learned that two of his fighter pilots had been shot down.  Nowotny immediately took to the air in his own Me 262.  He had downed a B-24 Liberator and a P-51 Mustang fighter before he heard on the radio that there were flames erupting from his aircraft.  As Nowotny’s jet spiraled toward the ground, he opened the canopy and bailed out.  The parachute lines tangled with the aircraft’s rudder and Nowotny was killed.  The place of Nowotny’s death was near Hespe, Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), Germany.

Helmut Lennartz, a Luftwaffe fighter ace, recalled:

“I remember Notwotny’s crash very well.  Feldwebel Gossler, a radio operator with our unit, had set up a radio on the airfield. Over this set I and many others listened to the radio communications with Nowotny’s aircraft. His last words were,’I’m on fire’ or ‘it’s on fire.’ The words were slightly garbled.”

After Nowotny’s death, Jagdgeschwader 7, the first operational jet fighter wing in history, was renamed Nowotny in Walter’s honor.

Nowotny was given a state funeral in Vienna. The guard of honor was composed of his friend Karl Schnorrer, Oberst Gordon Gollob, Major Rudolf Schoenert, Hauptmann Heinz Sturning, Major Josef Fozo and Major Georg Christl. The eulogy was delivered by General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland and Generaloberst Otto DeBloch. Nowotny’s ashes were buried at Vienna Central Cemetery in Vienna, Austria (Group of Honor Graves at Zentralfriedhof).  Others buried at the cemetery include Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss and Johannes Brahms.

Nowotny had two brothers, Rudolf and Hubert, who both became officers in the Wehrmacht. Hubert was killed in action in the Battle of Stalingrad.

A list of Nowotny’s 258 victories is set forth at

The definite biography on Major Nowotny is by Werner Held.  It is titled German Fighter Ace Walter Nowotny: An Illustrated Biography (Schiffer Publishing 2006).  It is a translation of Der Jagdflieger Walter Nowotny (1984).  The book includes material from the Nowotny family.  Mr. Held is also the author of Battle Over the Third Reich: The Air War Over Germany: 1943-1945 (Air Research Publications 1990 — reprinted Zenith Aviation Books / Air Research Publications 1993); The German Fighter Units Over Russia: A Pictorial History of the Pilots and Aircraft (Schiffer Publishing 1990) and Fighter!: Luftwaffe Fighter Planes and Pilots (Prentice Hall 1979).

Other books discussing Luftwaffe fighter pilots include: Robert Forsyth and Jim Laurier, Jagdgeschwader 1 “Oesau” Aces 1939-45: Aircraft of the Aces (Osprey Publishing 2017); Gunther Fraschka, Knights of the Reich: The Twenty-Seven Most Highly Decorated Soliders of the Wehrmacht in World War II (Schiffer Publishing 2004), and Mike Spick, Luftwaffe Fighter Aces: the Jagdflieger and Their Combat Tactics and Techniques (Greenhill Books 1996 — reprinted Frontline Books 2011).

Inspiration for this article came from a book chapter titled Walter Nowotny: Air Ace Among Air Aces, in Mike Walsh, Heroes of the Reich (2017).  Mr. Walsh is also the author many other books including Heroes Hang When Traitors Triumph: Were Sinners Really Saints (2015).


Saint Lucia Day in Sweden

December 9, 2017

Saint Lucia Day processions take place annually on December 13 in Sweden.  Saint Lucia Day (also known as Saint Lucy’s Day, the Feast Day of Saint Lucy of Syracuse and Little Yule) includes a Swedish custom with girls and boys wearing white, full-length gowns and singing songs together. The singing procession of boys and girls is led by a girl chosen to be Lucia (also known as the Lucia Bride).

There is a competition for the role of Lucia/  Although Sweden has always sought to avoid ranking people, the Lucia celebration has been an exception.

Lucia wears a wreath with five burning candles affixed to it.  (For safety purposes, battery-powered light bulbs have largely replaced real candles.)  The wreath is made of Lingonberry branches. Tradition has it that Lucia is to wear “light in her hair.”  Along with Lucia there are Handmaidens and Star Boys (Stjarngossars).  The Handmaidens wear brilliant red sashes and carry a single candle (or light bulb) or also wear a wreath of candles (or light bulbs) on their heads.  The red sashes are to remind of Saint Lucia’s martyrdom. The Star Boys carry stars on sticks and have tall paper cones on their heads.

The many Lucia songs all have the same theme: the days have become short and dark; the darkness is lighted up Lucia bearing lighted candles.  The most famous lyrics versions in Swedish are Luciasangen (“Saint Lucy, bright illusion”), Natten gar tunga fjat (“Night walks with heavy step”) and Ute ar morkt och kallt (“Outside is dark and cold.”).  Here is one versions of Santa Lucia:


Night walks with heavy step, round yard and hearth, as the sun departs from earth, shadows are brooding. There in our dark house, walking with lit candles, Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Night walks grand, yet silent, now hear its gentle wings, in every room so hushed, whispering like wings.  Look, at our threshold stands, white-clad with light her hair, Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Darkness shall take flight soon, from earth’s valleys.  So she speaks, wonderful words to us, a new day will rise again, from the rosy sky, Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

The Lucia celebrations also include ginger snaps and sweet, saffron-flavored buns (lussekatter), which are shaped like curled-up cats with raisin eyes.  The buns are often eaten with glogg or coffee.

Saint Lucia Day marks the beginning of the Christmas season.  It is meant to bring hope and light during the darkest time of the year.  Families observed Saint Lucia Day in their homes by having one of the daughters (traditionally the eldest) dress in a white robe and serve coffee and baked goods such as lussekatter and ginger biscuits.  Saint Lucia saffron buns take about 2-1/2 hours to prepare and 12 minutes to bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).

The first appearance of a white-clad Lucia in Sweden was in a country house in 1764. The custom did not become universally popular in Swedish society until the 1900s, when schools and local associations began promoting it.  Stockholm proclaimed its first Lucia in 1927.

In agrarian Sweden, young people used to dress up as Lucia figures (lussegubbar) that night and wander from house to house singing songs.  The old lussegubbar custom virtually disappeared with urban migration.  White-clad Lucias with their singing processions were considered a more acceptable, controlled form of celebration than the youthful carousals of the past.

Under the Julian calendar, December 13 was the Winter Solstice.  Thus, the saying: “Lucy light, the shortest day and the longest night.”  Lucy means “light.”

Saint Lucia Day is in honor of Saint Lucia, a young girl from Syracuse, Sicilly, who was one of the earliest Christian martyrs.  She was killed by the Romans in 304 CE because of her religious beliefs.

Saint Lucia Day is also celebrated in Norway and the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland.  In Finland, Luciadagen is observed a week before the Winter Solstice.


Alfredsson and Sedin named by The Hockey News on the all-time best list

October 28, 2017

Two Swedish hockey players have been named on an “all-time best by franchise” list by The Hockey News.

The prestigious publication named the “Top 50 Players of All-Time by Franchise” in the National Hockey League (NHL).  Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators and Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks were listed as the No. 1 all-time player for their respective teams.

Daniel Alfredsson — Alfredsson played right wing for the Senators from 1995-2013.  The Hockey News said about Alfredsson:

“A huge reason why Ottawa became relevant and stayed that way ever since was the arrival of Alfredsson. He cracked the roster at 23 in 1995-96 as a sixth-round draft pick from the 1994 draft, sniped 26 goals and won the Calder Trophy. The following year, he led the Sens on their first playoff foray, which sparked years of dominance in the standings and deep playoff pushes.”

The article added:

“He laps the Ottawa field in every major offensive category, because he was so good for so long. He scored at least 20 goals in a Sens uniform 13 times. He had 70 or more points 10 times. He’s the most beloved Senator because he was a stalwart for them across three different decades.”

Alfredsson was born Dec. 11, 1972 at Gothenburg.  He is considered a Swedish-Canadian hockey player because he and his wife, Birgitta, reside in Ottawa and Saro, Sweden.  They are the parents of four sons: Hugo, Loui, Fenix and William Erik.  Alfredsson became a Canadian citizen in 2016.

Alfredsson was a member of Sweden’s 2006 hockey team, which won the gold medal, and Sweden’s 2014 hockey team, which won the silver medal.

Daniel Sedin — Sedin has played left wing for the Canucks since 2000.  He has a twin brother, Henrik Sedin, who also plays for the Canucks. The Hockey News said about Daniel and Henrik Sedin:

“Identical twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin have just 23 games and 34 points separating them after 16 illustrious seasons. . . . Daniel has always been the shooter in the tandem, so he gets the edge for No. 1 in these rankings. Daniel’s 370 goals beat Henrik’s 237 by a landslide. . . . Daniel and Henrik powered some mighty Canucks teams — including the 2010-11 group that lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final — because they worked so well as a two-man force.”

Henrik Sedin was named the No. 2 all-time player for the Canucks.

Daniel Hans Sedin was born on Sept 26, 1980 at Ornskoldsvik.  He and his wife, Marinette, were married in 2005.  They have two daughters (Ronja and Anna) and a son (Erik).

Sedin played with Alfredsson on Sweden’s 2006 gold medal Olympic team and Sweden’s 2014 silver medal Olympic team.

People react to the disgraceful comments made by a comedian on a weekly television show

October 1, 2017

Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20, 2017.  The Category 4 hurricane blasted Puerto Rico with winds up to 150 mph.  Maria made direct landfall and drenched the island of 3.4 million people with feet of rain.

Ricardo Rossello, the Governor of Puerto Rico, has praised the relief work by the United States.

“The president and the administration, every time we’ve asked them to execute, they’ve executed quickly,” Governor Rossello told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo in an interview on Sept. 29.  He said that Puerto Rico was in an “emergency mode” and called on members of Congress to act quickly with a long-term rebuilding package.  He also said: “We need to treat Puerto Rico equally to Texas or Florida or any other state.”

Governor Rossello also said on Sept. 29:

“I have to say that the administration has responded to our petitions. FEMA, Brock Long, has been on the phone virtually all the time with me, checking on how things are going. . . . The different components of the national guard, military, FEMA and our government are working together on the priorities.”

President Trump tweeted on Sept. 29: “The fact is that Puerto has been destroyed by two hurricanes.  Big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding!”

On Sept. Sept. 28, President Trump’s administration temporarily waived a law known as the Jones Act, which made it more expensive to import goods from the United States to Puerto Rico.   The Jones Act required all good ferried between United States ports to be carried on ships built, owned and operated by Americans.

Governor Rossello’s comments contradicted a comments by Carmen Yulin Cruz Soto, the Mayor of San  Juan, Puerto Rico.  Cruz demanded more from the federal government.  She criticized the work of federal government relief workers.  During a press conference on Sept. 29, Cruz accused President Trump and his administration of “killing us with inefficiency.”  Cruz said:

“We are dying here.  And I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles long. . . . People are drinking off a creek.  So I am done being politically polite. I am done being politically correct. . . . So I am asking the members of the press, to send a mayday call all over the world. We are dying here. . . . And if it doesn’t stop, and if we don’t get the food and the water into people’s hands, what we are going to see is something close to genocide.”

Cruz made her anti-Trump statements while standing in front of huge pallets of United States aid.

President Trump tweeted: “Because of Fake News my people are not getting the credit they deserve for doing a great job [in Puerto Rico].  As seen here, they are ALL doing a GREAT JOB!”  President Trump posted a 9:44 video showing the extraordinary work that is being done by relief workers in Puerto Rico.

President Trump tweeted on Sept. 30: “Such poor leadership by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help.”

President Trump also tweeted on Sept. 30: “The Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, is a great guy and leader who is really working hard.  Thank you, Ricky!”

President Trump had praise for Rep. Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon.  He tweeted on Sept. 30: “Congresswoman Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon or Puerto Rico has been wonderful to deal with and a great representative of the people.  Thank you!”

On Sept. 30, during a segment called the “Weekend Update” on Saturday Night Live (SNL), co-anchor Michael Che called President Trump a “bitch” and a “cheap cracker” in connection with President Trump’s response to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Che read one of President Trump’s tweets saying that the Mayor of San Juan was “told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.”   Che then said:

“Oh, really, Donald, you bitch?  Was she nasty to you? . . . This isn’t complicated, man. It’s hurricane relief. These people need your help. You just did this for white people, twice. Do the same thing.  Go tell Melania to put on her flood heels, get some bottled water, some food, pack up some extra Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl T-shirts and write them a check with our money, you cheap cracker.”

Members of the SNL audience applauded Che’s comments.

Yashar Ali, a contributor to New York Magazine and the Huffington Post said: “If you told me 5 years ago that SNL would be calling the President of the United States a ‘bitch’ and a ‘cracker’ I wouldn’t have believed you.”

Other reactions to Che’s disgraceful comments were posted on-line:

“The stupid mayor of San Juan had her picture taken in front of pallets of aid when she complained about Trump not helping.”

“Don’t tell me, let me guess: from the slave driver ‘cracking’ his whip?”

“Che reveals himself to be either an ignorant clown or a propaganda prop.”

“What if someone would have referred to Zero using the N word when he was president?”

“Cracker is a Racial Slur.  NBC should terminate this black bigot.”

“This is the first time most of these libtards have ever given a thought to Puerto Rico about anything.”

“Are leftists REALLY trying to pretend that there were no minorities in Texas and Florida when the hurricane hit? . . . The left is so obsessed with dividing us by race, they make a statement like that you literally have to have brain damage to think is clever or truthful.”

“‘Cracker’ comes from whip CRACKER. A ‘cracker’ is what a slave calls his master’s slave handler.”

“Bannon is dead on about these ‘celebrity’ idiots. They live in a bubble with zero sense of reality.”

“FIRE this POS.  Double standard.”

“He is clearly Racist, that offends me and belongs nowhere on TV.”

“SNL used to be a regular show for me until obamo, and all the humor stopped. Now it’s pathetic nonstop slamming of anything conservative and nonstop butt licking of anything leftist. And their collective tongues are way in there. As they say in LA, sooo not funny.”

“This is why I continue not watching. And it hasn’t been funny in 20 years.”







Court spectators lined up to watch the trial of an Afghani asylum seeker charged with the murder of Maria Ladenburger, a 19-year-old German medical student

September 6, 2017

The trial of Hussein Khavari, who is accused of raping and killing a young woman in October 2016, began on Sept. 5, 2017 at the regional court in Freiburg, Germany.  Members of the public lined up for two hours before the first day of trial to witness the court proceedings.  Pictures were taken of Khavari arriving at court in handcuffs and shackled at the ankles. The trial is expected to conclude in December after the court hears from at least 45 witnesses and 10 experts.

Maria Ladenburger, 19, a medical student at the University of Freiburg, was found dead on October 16, 2016 in a river in the town of Freiburg near Germany’s border with Switzerland.  Police later arrested Afrhani asylum seeker Khavari, who claimed to be 17 at the time but has now admitted that he was at least 18 when he arrived in Germany in 2015 without any identification or travel documents.  Prosecutors in the case believe that Khavari could be at least 22-years-old.

Ms. Ladenburg attended a party on the night of her death.  Khavari is alleged to have purposely waited outside the party until Ms. Ladenburg left on her bicycle about 3 a.m.  Khavari is alleged to have followed the young student before attacking her by biting her on the head and chest.  Prosecutors allege that Khavari ripped off Ms. Ladenburg’s clothes, choked her and raped her.  Prosecutors further allege that Khvari then threw Ms. Ladenburg into the River Dreisam in hopes that she would drown.

Chief prosecutor Ekkart Berger said at the start of trial:

“What exactly happened that night, the investigators were able to reconstruct in detail. We assume that he had a killing intention from the beginning. . . . At about 3 a.m. or a few minutes earlier, the defendant Hussein attacked Maria. He grabbed the handlebars of the bicycle and brought her to a halt.”

David Muller, head of the police Special Commission, said at a press conference:

“Through interviews and a web-based survey, we were able to reconstruct Maria’s final hours. The 19-year-old student had been at a party. By 2:37 a.m. she left the party, Maria then cycled home as usual. The young woman had been the victim of a sexual offense and a violent crime.”

Khavari told the court that he was born in Afghanistan but moved to Iran when he was 13.  (However, there is evidence that he is Iraqi.) After getting into trouble with the police, Khavari is said to have fled to Turkey and then to Greece.  Stern magazine reported that when he was in Greece he almost killed a 20-year-old girl by throwing her off a cliff in Corfu in 2013 — for which he was sent to prison for 10 years but later released.  Khavari then traveled to Germany as an unaccompanied minor in November 2015.  He is said to have developed an alcohol and drug problem — including the use of heroin up to twice a week for several months.

The assault of the woman in Greece was reported in a United Kingdom publication called METRO:

“It later emerged that Khavari was previously sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempted murder after he threw a woman off a cliff in Corfu in May 2013. is still unclear why Khavari, who arrived in Germany as an unaccompanied minor, was released by Greek authorities after just two years. Apparently, the German authorities knew nothing of his past and so let him into the country as a registered asylum seeker.  The victim, a history student, fell 25 ft down the Greek cliff and only survived because she knew how to protect her head from her hobby of mountaineering.  She said she had been walking home when Khavari suddenly appeared in front of her: ‘I gave him my purse. But when the headlights of a car illuminated him he pushed me backwards.’ Speaking to the Greek TV channel Alfa in 2014 she went on: ‘Then he grabbed me at the hips and legs, lifted me up and threw me down the cliff.’ After Bild newspaper showed a recent photograph of him to his lawyer in the Greek trial, Maria-Eleni Nikolopoulou, she told them: ‘This is the same person, definitely. I’m speechless.'”

(Source: John Roberts, Afghan national ‘raped EU official’s daughter to satisfy sexual urges before killing her’, METRO — Sept. 6, 2017.)

Another account of Khavari’s crime in Greece was reported in the on-line publication Revolvy:

“The suspect, identified as Hussein Khavari, entered Germany in 2015 without identification and claimed to have come from Afghanistan and to have been born in 1999. Because of his age he was granted asylum as an underage unaccompanied refugee and was placed with a foster family.  Following Khavari’s arrest as a suspect for the rape, Stern wrote that in 2014 he had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for robbing a 20-year-old student and throwing her over a cliff in Corfu, Greece during 2013. The victim survived with heavy injuries.  This was confirmed by the suspect’s Greek lawyer and by a fingerprint match. Khavari was released after one and half years in prison due to a general amnesty for juvenile offenders initiated by the Greek government. He violated his probation in Greece by not regularly reporting to a police station and migrated to Germany where German authorities did not find out about his earlier conviction because Greece had not initiated an international search via Interpol.  During the Greek trial in 2014, the suspect told the court that he had been born in 1996 and than he had fled from Iran, both of which conflicts with claims made when he entered Germany. In February 2017 the public prosecution stated that a medical investigation had revealed that the suspect was not a minor, but was at least 22 years old at the time of the crime. In March 2017, because of ‘doubts that could not be dismissed’ the suspect was not accused in criminal court, where the penalty for murder could be life in prison, but instead, in juvenile court, where the same crime carries only a maximum 10-year sentence.”

(Source: Murder of Maria Ladenburger — Revolvy — )

Ms. Ladenburger’s father, Dr. Clemens Ladenburger, is a legal adviser to the European Commission in Brussels.  Ms. Ladenburg worked in her spare time helping out migrants in various shelters and homes in Freiburg.  A funeral was held for Ms. Ladenburger during October 2016 at Notre Dame des Graces Church in Brussels.

Khvari stayed free for seven weeks before police arrested him. On Dec. 2, 2016, police announced at a press conference that they arrested Khavari on suspicion of murdering Ms. Ladenburg.  Khavari was arrested after police found Khavari’s DNA on a scarf belonging to the victim near a bicycle path. Police also found a single strand of Khavari’s hair on a nearby blackberry bush.  The 18.5 cm-long strand of black hair had partially been dyed blond.  Police also viewed a closed circuit video that showed Khavari on a local tram with long black hair partially dyed blond.

About one month after Ms. Ladenburg’s murder, 27-year-old Carolin Gruber was sexually assaulted and murdered in an attack in the same area.  Ms. Gruber’s body was found in a wooded area in Endinge, 18 miles from Freiburg, on Nov. 10, 2016.  Khavari has not been charged with Ms. Gruber’s murder.  Police have found no DNA evidence in the case of Ms. Gruber’s murder.

Comments by the Irish press after Conor McGregor’s loss to Floyd Mayweather

August 27, 2017

American boxer Floyd “Money” Mayweather earned his 50th straight win in a 10th round TKO of Irish UFC champion Conor “The Notorious” McGregor.  Here are some comments made by the Irish press after McGregor’s loss.

The Irish Times — “McGregor was more than gracious [after his loss].  He was almost ebullient, waving a glass of his soon-to-be-launched whiskey brand . . . . And if he seemed a touch more euphoric than beaten boxers generally are, you could understand why. He had faced one of the greats and avoided total humiliation, he had escaped without serious injury, and his earnings, once his cut of the pay-per-view, gate receipts, and merchandise sales is added to the guaranteed $30 million purse, could total around $100 million, making this by far the most lucrative debut in professional boxing history. He didn’t quite get to the top of the world, but from where he’s standing the view doesn’t look too bad.”  (Tim Early, Despite defeat in the ring McGregor has still won.)

Irish Independent — “The UFC lightweight champion was the subject of some ridiculous criticism prior to last evening’s bout and for much of the build-up to the fight he was ridiculed as an unworthy opponent who was simply a part of Floyd Mayweather’s latest cash grab. That was all quickly proven to be inaccurate lat evening and the Irishman did himself, his country, and the sport of MMA proud.” (James Edwards, Conor McGregor may have lost but he won UFC respect in the world of boxing in Floyd Mayweather defeat.)

The Irish Sun — “With the blows raining down on McGregor he should have taken an eight count and perhaps prolonged Mayweather’s 50th bout. But he courageously refused to meet the canvas and instead was rescured by referee Robert Byrd before he was seriously hurt.” (Wally Downes Jr., Floyd Mayweather beats gutsy Conor McGregor with 10th round stoppage to seal place in history.)

Irish Daily Star — “The Notorious put up a fight against the boxing veteran. Mayweather eventually won by TKO in the tenth round. He can sail off into the sunset with his undefeated record intact at 50-0. It’s a different story for McGregor. At just 29-years-old, the Dubliner still has a lot of time to fill and things to do before he announces his retirement. . . . Even though McGregor’s professional boxing record stands at 0-1, he changed a lot of people’s minds last night by putting it up to one of the best ever.”  (Sean Walsh, Conor McGregor lost to Mayweather, but what will he do next?)

Irish Daily Mirror — “Conor McGregor will spend a few days reflecting on his defeat by Floyd Mayweather but talk will then return to the Irishman’s next fight. McGregor started well against the boxing legend on Saturday night before he fatigued and Mayweather’s class prevailed.  And [McGregor] is now expected to return to the UFC.”  (Martin Domin, What next for Conor McGregor? Irishman faces tough decisions after defeat by Floyd Mayweather.)

Irish Daily Mail — “But there were no tickets to spare for McGregor’s official after-party, which took place at the Encore Beach Club in Las Vegas in the early hours of Sunday. McGregor had been stopped by Mayweather in round 10, but the defiant Irishman grabbed the mic and shouted to his reveling supporters: ‘You’ll never beat the Irish!’ . . . The 29-year-old, who earned a basic purse of 62 million pounds for the fight, certainly did not look like a man who had lost.  Before dancing on stage to Fat Joe’s All the Way Up, he addressed his adoring fans. . . . McGregor, who arrived at the club around 3 am, supplied his entourage with free drinks to the value of 77,643 pounds.” (Robert Summerscales, Conor McGregor celebrates hard despite losing to Floyd Mayweather as 62 million pound richer MMA fighter signs for 77,643 pound booze bill and tells fans at 150 pound-a-ticket after-party: ‘You’ll never beat the Irish’.”)

The Irish News — “Conor McGregor was ‘brought to school’ by Floyd Mayweather and needs to ‘stay in his lane,’ according to former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. UFC star McGregor lasted 10 rounds with Mayweather in his maiden professional boxing match in Las Vegas, as his opponent stopped him to retire with a perfect 50-0 record.  Many had predicted McGregor would barely last a round with one of the greatest fighters of all time, so he has earned some credit to have stayed the course for as long as he did.”  (Conor McGregor given boxing lesson by Mayweather say Lennox Lewis.)

The Straits Times — “Irish media hailed Dublin-born Conor McGregor for a gritty display on Sunday following his 10th-round loss to Floyd Mayweather in their Las Vegas super-fight. . . . McGregor wears his Irish identity with pride and trooped into the ring draped in the national flag in front of thousands of his supporters, who had spent vast sums of money to fly to Las Vegas.”  (AFP, Irish media talks up Conor McGregor’s fighting spirit despite loss.)

Irish Examiner — “Conor McGregor was told he had ‘nothing to be ashamed of’ by boxing great Lennox Lewis and several others came out in support of the Irishman as the dust started to settle on his round 10 loss to Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas.  The UFC star was not expected to last longer than a round by many on his boxing debut, particularly given his opponent is one of the greatest fighters of all time. But going into the 10th round has earned him plenty of credit, particularly on American soil, with the bout described as ‘amazing’ and McGregor praised for making the notoriously cagey Mayweather open up.”  The article noted that Shane Mosley tweeted: “Damn good fight. Mayweather put on a hell of a show. Conor did much better than I had expected. Hats off to both guys. Worth the money.” The article also quoted a tweet by Manny Pacquiao: “Respect to McGregor for taking a chance but congrats to Floyd on #50!”  (Conor McGregor receives support from boxing legends after loss.)

NHL drafts four Swedes in the first round

July 4, 2017

Four Swedes were drafted by NHL teams during the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The first round of the 55th entry draft took place on June 23, 2017 at Chicago. Hockey players born between Jan. 1, 1997 and Sept. 15, 199 were eligible for selection in the draft.

Pick No. 5 by the Vancouver Canucks — The Vancouver Canucks drafted Elias Pettersson (6-2, 164 pound center), who played for the Vaxjo Lakers Hockey Club of the Swedish Hockey League in Vaxjo, Sweden during the 2016-17 season. Petterssson is said to have great instincts and can create offense with good speed and quickness. His brother, Emil Pettersson, who is also a center, was selected in the sixth round (No. 155) of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators.  Emil now plays in the Swedish Hockey League.  Elias Pettersson, 18, was born on Nov. 12, 1998 at Sundsvall, Sweden.




Pick No. 7 by the New York Rangers — The New York Rangers drafted Lias Andersson (5-11, 200 pound center), who played for Frolunda Hockey Club of the Swedish Hockey League in Gothenburg, Sweden during the 2016-17 season.  He has also played for HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League in Jonkoping, Sweden. Andersson is said to be a rugged, two-way left-handed center who is effective on face offs and hard to knock off the puck.  He can also play wing.  Andersson recently signed a two-year contact with Frolunda in Sweden and will report in 2017-18.  He is the son of former NHL player Niklas Andersson.  Andersson’s uncle, Mikael Andersson, also played in the NHL.  His grandfather, Ronnie Andersson, played goaltender for Vastra Frolunda, Sweden.  Lias Anderson, 18, was born on Oct. 13, 1998 at Smogen, Sweden.




Pick No. 15 by the Vegas Golden Knights — The Vegas Golden Knights drafted Erik Brannstrom (5-9, 179 pound defenseman), who played for HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League in Jonkoping, Sweden during the 2016-17 season.  Brannstrom is said to be an outstanding skater and a two-way player who defends as well as he pushes the offensive pace.  It is said than Brannstrom, although undersized, could turn out to be the sleeper pick of the 2017 draft class.  Brannstrom, 17, was born on Sept. 2, 1999 at Eksjo, Sweden.




Pick No. 17 by the Toronto Maple Leafs — The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Timothy Liljegren (5-11, 188 pound defenseman), who played for Rogle BK (Rogle Bandyklubb) of the Swedish Hockey League in Angelholm, Sweden during the 2016-17 season.  He is said to have tremendous speed, balance and feel for the game, makes good decisions under pressure and control the play at both blue lines.  Liljegren is expected to return to Sweden to further his development.  Liljegren, 18, was born on April 30, 1999 at Kristianstad, Sweden.




Second Round, Pick No. 36 by the New Jersey Devils — The New Jersey Devils drafted Jesper Boqvist (5-11, 165 pound center), who played for Brynas IF of the Swedish Hockey League in Gavle, Sweden during the 2016-17 season.  Boqvist, 18, was born on Oct. 30, 1998 at Falun, Sweden.

Second Round, Pick No. 37 by the Buffalo Sabres — The Buffalo Sabres drafted Marcus Davidsson (6-0, 191 pound center), who played for Djurgarden IF Ice Hockey Club of the Swedish Hockey League in Stockholm, Sweden during the 2016-17 season.  Davidsson, 18, was born on Nov. 18, 1998 at Tyreso, Sweden.

Second Round, Pick No. 38 by the Detroit Red Wings — The Detroit Red Wings drafted Gustav Lindstrom.  Additional information is not available on Lindstrom.

Second Round, Pick No. 44 by the Arizona Coyotes — The Arizona Coyotes drafted Filip Westerlund (5-11, 180 pound defenseman), who played for Frolunda Hockey Club of the Swedish Hockey League in Gothenburg, Sweden during the 2016-17 season.  Westerlund, 18, was born on April 17, 1999 at Harnosand, Sweden.

Swedish hockey players drafted during rounds three through seven — There were 21 Swedish players draft in the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh rounds.

Third Round — Fabian Zetterlund, LW, Farjestad (Swe  Jr.) and Jonas Rondbjerg, RW, Vaxjo (Swe Jr.).

Fourth Round — Malte Setkov, D, Malmo (Swe Jr.), Tim Soderlund, C, Skelleftea (Swe) and Emil Bernstrom, C, Leksand (Swe Jr.).

Fifth Round — Lukas Elvenes, RW, Rogle (Swe Jr.), Jacob Peterson, C, Frolunda (Swe Jr.), Sebastian Aho, D, Skelleftea (Swe), Calle Sjalin, D, Ostersund (Swe 3), Sebastian Walfridsson, D, MODO (Swe Jr.), Jan Drozg, LW, Leksand (Swe U18), Olle Eriksson Ek, G, Farjestad (Swe Jr.) and Linus Olund, C, Brynas (Swe).

Sixth Round — Arvid Holm, G, Karlskrona (Swe Jr.), Olle Lycksell, RW, Linkoping (Swe Jr.) and Jonathan Davidsson, RW, Djurgarden (Swe).

Seventh Round — Eric Walli-Walterholm, RW, Djurgarden (Swe Jr.), Victor Berglund, D, MODO (Swe Jr.), Filip Sveningsson, LW, HV71 (Swe Jr.), Anton Andersson, D, Lulea (Swe Jr.) and K. Roykas Marthinsen, LW, Almtuna (Swe Jr.).

Number One Draft Pick — The number one draft pick was Nico Hischier (6-1, 178 pound center), who became the highest drafted Switzerland-born player in NHL history.  Hischier was drafted by the New Jersey Devils.  During the 2016-17 season he played for Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).  In his first season in the QMJHL, Hischier was named rookie of the year and was named the best rookie in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL).  Hischier, 18, was born on Jan. 4, 1999 at Naters, Switzerland.




Number Two Draft Pick — The number two draft pick was Nolan Patrick (6-2, 199 pound center) of Canada.  Patrick was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers. During the 2016-17 season he played for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL). Patrick’s father, Steve Patrick, and his uncle, James Patrick, each played in the NHL. Patrick’s grandfather, Stephen Patrick, played professional football with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League (CFL).  Patrick, 18, was born on Sept. 19, 1998 at Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Number Three Draft Pick — The number three draft pick was Miro Heiskanen (6-1, 172 pound defenseman) of Finland.  Heiskanen was drafted by the Dallas Stars. He was regarded as the best draft-eligible defenseman at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship for silver medal-winning Finland with two goals and 10 assists in seven games.  During the 2016-17 season he played for Sporting Society Comrades, Helsinki (HIFK) in Finland.  Heiskanen, 17, was born on July 18, 1999 at Espoo, Finland.