Eighty years ago a Soviet super-spy is arrested in Tokyo and France enters a cycle of random killing and reprisal


The career of one of the most successful spies ever came to an end when Japan's military security police, the Kempetai, arrested Richard Sorge, a German journalist and long term Soviet agent. As well as a network of Japanese agents, Sorge had a close relationship with the German ambassador to Tokyo Eugen von Ott and had access to all his communciations with Berlin. Von Ott tolerated Sorge's affair with his wife, one of his very many mistresses. Sorge had accurately warned his controllers of the pending German invasion and, perhaps more important, that Japan had decided against attacking the Soviet Union, which freed the Red Army to concentrate on fighting the Germans. Stalin discounted Sorge's warnings of Barbarossa like all the others and preferred to keep his deluded trust in Hitler, but may have paid attention to the information on Japan's intentions. Sorge's one-time pad coded messages to Moscow were never broken but their sheer volume gave almost unmistakeable evidence of a large spy ring.

The Ukrainian port city Odessa had been besieged since the early days of Barbarossa. The operation was conducted mainly by Rumanian troops who faced ferocious resistance by the Soviets. The attackers suffered over 90,000 casualties, more than double those of the defenders. Cut of from any hope of land reinforcement, it was only a matter of time for Odessa and the Soviet high command evacuated the garrison by sea to the Crimea, which was coming under severe German attack. Odessa was one of four cities declared a "Hero City" by the government in 1945.

The main German thrust towards Moscow reached Borodino, site of the gigantic battle of Napoleon's 1812 campaign. Fighting was intensive but not remotely on the same scale.  Legend has it that a Soviet colonel visited the museum to the 1812 battle and wrote in the visitors' book that he had "come to defend the battlefield." The museum and Spaso-Borodinsky monastery were severly damaged. 

The German military commandant of the French city Nantes, Colonel Hotz, was shot dead  in an operation ordered by the French Communist Party. Hotz was an engineer who knew the city well and had been involved in peacetime work on its rivers; his killing had no military value. The Germans ordered the killing of 50 hostages in reprisals. These were political prisoners including a 17 year-old Communist, Guy Moquet. Moquet's final letter to his parents became the object of a national act of memory in 2007, which was criticised on the grounds that his membership of the Communist Party was not mentioned. Nor though, was the essentially terroristic nature of the act that the Party had ordered, triggering his death.

The USN destroyer Kearny was torpedoed by a U-boat in the latest "incident" of US/German combat sparked by Roosevelt's forward policy of almost full invovlement in the Atlantic war. Kearny had been escorting a convoy and taken overdepth-charging  the U boat when the British escort had had to break off their atttacks. She stayed afloat but 11 of her crew were killed. The incident was widely publicised by the US government.


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