villain

Heroes & Villains - Franz Von Werra

The Luftwaffe's Lion-Taming, Escapist Fighter Ace!

My first H&V of the year. I'm going to be trying out some slightly different formatting for this one. If I decide I like the formatting, I may go back and revamp some older entries. First off, I'm going to dress up my articles with sensational (but true) headlines. Like a 50's stag mag. 50's stag mags knew how to get attention and interest.

Franz Von Werra and Simba inspecting his Bf 109 E-4. They're checking out the MG FF/M cannon in the wing. I believe this was taken in August of 1940. (That's just an educated guess, however)

Franz Von Werra and Simba inspecting his Bf 109 E-4. They're checking out the MG FF/M cannon in the wing. I believe this was taken in August of 1940. (That's just an educated guess, however)

Franz Von Werra joined the Luftwaffe in 1936, and qualified as a fighter pilot by 1938. Upon the formation of the fighter group Jagdgeschwader 3 , he was assigned as an officer, and flew combat over France, scoring 4 kills by the time the invasion was over.

Von Werra maintained a reputation as an eccentric upper-class playboy. His squadron had a pet lion named Simba, and photographs of the man often feature this mascot. He often returned from missions with wild tales of impossible feats and odds. His penchant for tall tales earned him the nickname Baron, a reference to the fictional Baron Münchausen, who also spun tall tales of adventure and achievement. On August 28 of 1940, he returned from a sortie claiming to have downed 9 RAF Hurricanes after getting separated from his squad.

Another picture with his lion cub. I wonder if it was concerned that the British Spitfire would turn out to be more than a match for the Bf 109 E series.

Another picture with his lion cub. I wonder if it was concerned that the British Spitfire would turn out to be more than a match for the Bf 109 E series.

Soon, Von Werra would have an opportunity to make his facts much more impressive than his fiction. September 5th, 1940, The Bf 109 E-4 "Black >" of Stab II./JG3 (Von Werra's fighter) crash landed in Kent.

The exact circumstances aren't entirely clear, but here's what I've determined. Von Werra's plane was damaged (possibly by friendly fire, possibly by P/O Bennions of the RAF), causing him to drop altitude over the Kent district of England. An RAF pilot named Gerald Stapleton reported engaging a wounded fighter matching Black >'s description in that area, forcing it down in a field outside Marden, Kent. Also according to Stapleton, Von Werra was apprehended by an unarmed cook who had been manning a searchlight.

British soldiers at the "Black >" wreck. That's an annoying name, but I'm pretty sure that's how the name is supposed to be written.

British soldiers at the "Black >" wreck. That's an annoying name, but I'm pretty sure that's how the name is supposed to be written.

Actually, the Brits got some great photos out of this wreck and I'd hate to have them go to waste.

"Commander, an extensive review of the wreck turned up suspicious amounts of pussy hair. We'll be wanting to let the folks at Bletchley know about this."

"Commander, an extensive review of the wreck turned up suspicious amounts of pussy hair. We'll be wanting to let the folks at Bletchley know about this."

The Brits put Von Werra's smug ass to work at Maidstone Barracks, digging ditches. He attempted to overpower a guard with his pickaxe, and was moved to a slightly more prison-y location, Grizedale Hall

Everywhere in England is castles. Even their homeless shelters are castles. Hell, this image is proof that even their goddamned prisons are castles.

Everywhere in England is castles. Even their homeless shelters are castles. Hell, this image is proof that even their goddamned prisons are castles.

The Brits, in their eternal quest to be upper-class weirdos, apparently allowed the prisoners at Grizedale to have an escorted walk each day. Von Werra collaborated with the other prisoners to block the guard's view while he slipped away. And it worked! Briefly. After an extensive search, the Home Guard found him in a ditch and dragged him back to prison. This time, he was sent to Camp 13 at Derbyshire.

Seriously? I wanna go to British war prison.

Seriously? I wanna go to British war prison.

From Camp 13, Von Werra participated in an escape attempt with four other prisoners. They created fake IDs and paperwork to leave the country, and then built a tunnel out of the camp. The plan worked, and all five of them escaped the camp. Four were quickly recaptured, but Von Werra was unaccounted for.

For his part, Von Werra had convinced a local train driver that he was a Dutch pilot, Captain Von Lott, and he needed some help getting back to his unit. During the journey, they were stopped by the police and questioned, but the cops failed to realize the passenger with the heavy accent might have been the person they were looking for.

It wasn't until he was literally in the cockpit of a fueled up British plane, running a quick check and figuring out the controls, did anyone realize he was Franz Von Werra. In the nick of time, he was pulled from the cockpit at gunpoint. The Brits were finally tired of Von Werra's shit, and decided to send him to Canada.

Once they reached Ontario, the Brits put Von Werra on a train to his new home. He and a few other prisoners hopped off the train as soon as they had a chance. Naturally, everyone but Von Werra was quickly captured and put back on the train. He was nowhere to be found.

Von Werra managed to cross the northern border of the United States and made his way to New York City, where the police planned on arresting him for entering the country illegally. I'm not making that up. However, the German embassy demanded his release, and got it. They then shipped him down south to Brazil, and from Brazil, back to the Axis forces.

In October of '41, the Luftwaffe assigned Von Werra to I./JG53, to go fight on the Ostfront. They also issued him one of the new Bf 109 F series, which he put to use downing 12 soviet aircraft (mostly bombers, but his last kill was an Il-2). Then on October 25th, Von Werra was on a practice flight when his engine failed over the North Sea. He was never seen again.

The Ostfront, where the only thing colder than the weather was the pitch black lump of ash pretending it was Stalin's heart.

The Ostfront, where the only thing colder than the weather was the pitch black lump of ash pretending it was Stalin's heart.

He would be remembered by Germany as a vain playboy, prone to telling tall tales, but who managed the skill and guile to hold up his stories.

The Brits would remember Von Werra as "The One Who Got Away".


Sources

  • Kacha, Petr. Aces of the Luftwaffe - Franz Von Werra, www.luftwaffe.cz/werra.html.
  • http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/12th-october-1956/16/the-thruster
  • https://ww2aircraft.net/forum/threads/done-1-48-bf-109e-4-von-werra-defense-of-britain-atlantic.43991/
  • https://forum.keypublishing.com/showthread.php?73749-Who-shot-down-Franz-Von-Werra
    • This one was a discussion of the circumstances that led to Von Werra getting shot down.
  • https://www.warhistoryonline.com/featured/franz-the-one-that-got-away-von-werra.html

Heroes & Villains - "Baby Doc" Duvalier

I'm of the belief that a nation shouldn't feel an obligation to like their neighbors. People shouldn't *have* to like anyone. I do feel that nations and people are obligated to acknowledge and notice their neighbors. Here in the United States, I think we've been doing a less than stellar job at recognizing our neighbors.

I am not immune to this. I know basically nothing about Haiti beyond that they suffer greatly from earthquakes and were once a French colony. This article is at least a partial extension of my effort to learn a little bit more about our Haitian neighbors down in the Caribbean.

This entry of "Heroes & Villains" will be focusing on Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. Until now, the subjects of these entries have been people who are either solidly Heroes, or who fall into a grey area between Heroism and Villainy. Duvalier very solidly falls into the category of Villain. Furthermore, I notice some striking similarities between Baby Doc and another, more current world leader. More on that later.

Let's begin with a brief history of François "Papa Doc" Duvalier, Baby Doc's father. In the late 50's, François Duvalier took control of Haiti on the time-honored "terrifying nationalist" political platform. Within a few years, he had disposed of his political opponents and declared himself President-for-Life.

And here I thought Brezhnev was going to be the most Bond-villain looking person I ever wrote about.

And here I thought Brezhnev was going to be the most Bond-villain looking person I ever wrote about.

Between 1957 and his death in 1971, Papa Doc built up a private paramilitary police force, crushed all attempts to overthrow him, and ended the lives of over 30,000 Hatian citizens. He also kept the head of a political opponent in his closet and claimed he communicated with the spirits of the dead through it, which, while horrible and evil, is pretty fucking metal. After 20 years of running a well organized oppressive terrorist government, François died in 1971, and power was transfered to his 19 year old son, Jean-Claude.

"No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die."

"No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die."

Quietly, the people of Haiti hoped their new leader would prove less bloodthirsty than his father. Technically, he was. Unfortunately, this meant Jean-Claude Duvalier chose to stay aloof and ignorant of the evils of his father's established regime. His private army continued to menace the people of Haiti, and the nation continued to stagnate and suffer.

He looks so naive. And looks do not deceive here.

He looks so naive. And looks do not deceive here.

Papa Doc always put on a good show of claiming he was being misrepresented by the press of other nations. Throughout his run as president-for-life, he insisted that Haiti was a major economic and social power in the Caribbean and that shunning him was a mistake for his neighbors. I have my doubts that Francois Duvalier actually believed any of this, but then again, we're talking about a man who kept the severed head of a political enemy to facilitate communication with the dead.

Jean-Claude, on the other hand, truly believed he was the rightful heir to a glorious legacy that was the greatest thing to ever happen to the Haitian people. Baby Doc's was not a calculated, planned evil, but rather an evil born from delusion and egomania. His father's private army, the Tonton Macoute, continued its reign of terror over the people of Haiti. The Haitian economy continued to stagnate, and the nation fell yet further into poverty. As of the time of me writing this, Haiti continues to be in a very unhealthy economic position.

I feel that Baby Doc shares many traits with the current leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un. Both inherited control of their nation from their father. Both seem impossibly naive compared to their fathers. And both do not seem to understand what actually occurs during their own regimes.

Baby Doc and Kim Jong Un were taught from a very early age that they could do no wrong, that their regime was the greatest thing possible for their nations. They were taught their whole lives that objections from outsiders to their government were the result of those outsiders being evil, misguided, and jealous of their success. And in regards to both of them, the rest of the world is not at all sure how to handle the situation.

To be honest, I expected to have a lot more to say about Baby Doc, but he's actually kind of lackluster compared to his father. There is, however, one anecdote worth passing along. One that highlights Baby Doc's shortcomings when it comes to the world of villainy.

One of my main sources for this article was an article by Majorie Valbrun. Valbrun's family fled Baby Doc's Haiti when she was very young. For most of her life, he was the horrifying monster under the bed and in the closet, but also actually real. Valbrun grew up to be a successful American journalist, and, following his exile from Haiti in the 80's, she tried desperately hard for many years to get an interview with him.

Finally in 2003, she got that interview. Valbrun got to meet, shake hands with, and take some selfies with the monster that was behind pretty much everything bad that had ever happened to her or the people she cared about. It's not surprising that her first order of business at the venue of the interview, a hotel in Paris, was to have a nervous breakdown and contemplate avoiding the interview altogether.

How to put this politely..... It looks like someone took the figurative sands of time and literally scoured Duvalier's face with it.

How to put this politely..... It looks like someone took the figurative sands of time and literally scoured Duvalier's face with it.

But then Valbrun discovered something very perverse. Duvalier was a pretty poor excuse for a monster. He expressed pride that he could meet a successful American reporter who was born in his Haiti, which I imagine was pretty disarming. Then he spent a fair portion of the interview talking about how the rest of the world had it out for him, that they just didn't understand the good he was doing for his people. It became clear that he, himself, had no idea what sort of a regime he was in charge of. He had no idea that his private army was raping and murdering the population of Haiti into compliance. They were just his national guard.

Ignorance is never an acceptable excuse for terrorism, but given the parallels my mind draws between Jean-Claude Duvalier and Kim Jong Un.... perhaps it's an explanation for how casually it is administered.

I'm feeling pretty down as I conclude this article. To try and end on a mirthful note, I'd like to observe that, in my opinion, the trustworthiness and overall qualification of the leaders in this photo are, in ascending rank, arranged from front to back.

I'm feeling pretty down as I conclude this article. To try and end on a mirthful note, I'd like to observe that, in my opinion, the trustworthiness and overall qualification of the leaders in this photo are, in ascending rank, arranged from front to back.

 

Main Sources for this Article :
Valbrun, Majorie. "Baby Doc Duvalier terrorized my country and haunted me. Meeting him wasn’t what I expected." Washington Post . 15 Oct. 2014. Web. 8 June 2017. <https://goo.gl/YVihE5>.
Hanes, Stephanie. "Jean-Claude Duvalier, ex-Haitian leader known as Baby Doc, dies at 63." Washington Post. N.p., 4 Oct. 2014. Web. 8 June 2017. <https://goo.gl/qJpaU9>.