tv Mary Jo Mc Conahay The Tango War CSPAN December 15, 2018 1:15pm-2:02pm EST
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>> tell low, everyone. >> hello. >> thank you for being here tonight. this a great turnout, love seeing the community support of local authors. normally i write a little introduction here but tonight that responsibility has been lifted from me so i'd like to introduce naomi. >> thank you for come, latin america has been of interest tee thus since james monroe decidedmer was for the americans over 200 years ago if not before and now seems to be mostly of interest to the politician as a source of people fleeing the u.s. or gang members, but throughout our history, the americas happen been intertwined. resources, people, and new ideas, culture and consequences have flowed up and down the
hemisphere. much of that history is unknown in the u.s., and mary jo mcconahay is the perfect personality to recount the history, she is a journalist who spend years in region, walking its paths, listening to ministers and's peasantses she was there when can he jesuits are murdered in al salvador, i stood known her when the dike tater stood trial for genocide. she knows regee john this players and the issues and also the humanity the generosity after people, willing to tell i stories, the narrative of suffering, loss, and also solidarities and hope. she has an important story to tell here and i'm really glad you're all here to hear it. please welcome, mary jo mcconahay. [applause] >> thank you.
naomi wasn't fromly introduc -- prop early introduced, naomi is a well lawyer to say the cleese an expert in international justice issues and an inspiration to all of us who know latin america. i thought i'd start -- i thought i'd start -- i thought i'd start -- sooner or later -- by reading a short passage that gives you a bit of an idea of the sphere. it's from the introduction called "storm front." at the cafe, at women meet over black forest cake and extrudesle, planning a film night for their carpenter of the nazi women's league, outside the
cafe, blond girls in dresses and boys wearing lederhosen, pass the wide windows, returning from the -- some of the youngsters look up to the sky and hopes of catching soothe of the zeph, the silver dirigible, send zeppelin, passing overhead. young boys wearing swastika on armed bands, practice marching under the tattoolage of teams from thing you club and gymnastic society hitler's birthday is just around the corner. there will be parades. the party men will march in uniformed shirts, arms raised, straight out before them, saluting like the fuhrer. these moments smooth be unfolding in 193's germany but instead the afternoon scene is typical of a host of towns in southern brazil, where a million
ethnic germans lived on the eve of world war ii. ethnic italians and japanese, too,'sed in countries from mexico to argentina, as world war ii loomed in europe. president franklin delano roosevelt's greatest fear was that fascists, especially nazi, in latein america would threaten the security of the united states, of 100 meetings of the joint planning commission of the u.s. state navy and war departments in 1939 and '40, all but six had america at the top -- littan america at the top of the agenda. this is, i'm guessing, little known, and one wonders why was franklin roosevelt so worried about fascists being powerful and posing a risk to the united
states. one of the reasons is because the germans were very, very popular, fascism indeed was popular in latin america, this is post the depression and fascism was attractive. remember, in italy,ed made the trains run on time. you had countries in latin america would love the trains to run on time. some of them would love to have trains, and they admired many people, the fascist organizations and they had their own fascist home grown. didn't have to have nazis imposedded from germany. they'd had their own home-grown fascist groups. another reason that roosevelt was so concerned as were the military, was because latin america had all of the wartime
materiale needed for a war machine. they were going to germany. there was tungsten which is used for tanks and platinum, platinum which is 30 times more valuable than gold. rubber, oil. oil is just as now, something that people will go to war over. mexico had the biggest reserves at the time. the president of mexico, probably the best president the country has ever had, cardenas, wanted to sell to at the democratic countries. her was a democrat. why couldn't he? because big oil, standard, shell, texas co, were boycotting his oil which had recently been nationalized in order to have the kind of programs that he
wanted to bring people up from where they were, he needed obviously the best natural resource they had which was oil. but the big companies would not -- they wouldn't stand for it. one reason was because they didn't want to -- didn't want publics to have possession of its own oil but the other reason was, they didn't want the president having be livan oil be bolivian's, venezuela's oil be venezuelans, so one of the characters that dish can't say i liked him but i found very attractive as a writer, was william rhodes davis, known as the mystery man who helped cardenas sell his oil to germany. he was a little operator, and he could buy the mexican oil, sell
it to germany, how did he do it? with a refinery that was built by fred koch, the father of charles and david koch. and charles -- well, fred koch but that time had already built dozens of refineries for stalin, but he was not so happy with stalin's purges, which affected some of his own friends, and he became a great admirer of the fascist countries and compared them well to the united states. so, i pose it's all business anyway. he was quite happy to build the refinery and davis was quite happy to supply the oil. when i say -- i believe it's absolutely true is that mexican
oil gave hitler his first victories because you couldn't get the kind of fuel you needed in any old refinery. so this particular refinery was able to produce oil for the luftwaffe, for the air force and they went into poland, they went into france, and they did a lot of that with mexican oil. why? because the u.s. oil companies, in this particular case, would not bend, recently dithey'd. root thought it was very unpatriotic of them too be holding back and they did to then but by that time the war worst was on its way. another resource re need -- i weren't born then but the united
states needed -- was rubber. rubber is so incredibly essential as a war material. i was amazed reading about the things that rubber went into during the war. a battle ship needs 20,000 parts made out of rubber. and at that time we did not have synthetic rubber. the germans were way ahead of that and the russians were way ahead and the japanese in the pacific invaded the places we used to get our rubber from. so, they say that -- well, mark twain sass that war is a way of teaching people geography, and was certainly true in that case. the scientists got out their maps and figured out that the absolute best place to get rubber was the amazon.
505,000 rubber soldiers -- 50,000 rubber soldiers were recruited, volunteers but as you have to say where people are very poor, what degree of free will goes into being a volunteer for anything, and these 50,000 rubber soldiers harvested rubber in the amazon. 30,000 of them died. 30,000 died from malaria, jaguars, piranhas. you can imagine. they were not accustomed to the amazon, the people -- the men who made relationships with local women or indigenous women actually survived much more
likely ---they were more likely to survive because local people knew but the medicine and that sort of thing. so, these are all important resources that we needed, and basically we wanted to defly to the enemy. but geography was also very important. if you -- probably going to do this backward but if you look at a map, brazil come us out with a big hump into the atlantic. here's africa over here and i guess one time a zillion years ago they were united and now they're only the distance between chicago and l.a. so, when the nazis started being very powerful in north africa and west africa, we felt we had to build air bases and naval bases and so all along that entire coast of latin america were naval and air bases built
by the united states, and it's quite a story how they did that. in fact the operation was called operation rubber, because they also thought they might have to take that part of brazil to get the natural resources. i want to dedicate this part of the reading to a man who passed away on july 31st named -- lost his last name -- art shibamaya. art was born in peru as his family and his dad was out fishing with friends in december 1941, and somebody heard on the wireless that the japanese bombed pearl harbor, and the peruvians weren't -- they were very -- they
discriminated a lot against then brazilians -- against the japanese anyway, and so somebody called them and said you better get home. very soon all of these japanese who had shops or small businesses or were important in the community, and germans, too, were put on a black list, and our fbi had them kidnapped -- if you had told me at the beginning of the research for this book that the united states had kidnapped more than 4,000 latin american citizens and legal residents and brought them to son centration camps in the united states, i never would have believed it. but that is in fact what happened. democracy in a time of crisis in a time of war, or in a time of
fear, has to be doubly guarded and it wasn't at that point. let me just read, if i about victor my miyoki. some japanese immigrants dreams of saving money to return prosperous to japan but victor planted himself firmly in the new world, father always said we should live like peruvians, said libya miyoki. you have been entry duesed to her already. she lives locally. he gives us span -- gave us spanish names. to him it was important, even that we worship like them. he baptized his children at catholics and they made their first communeons. he organized construction of a school with walls painted white. the classrooms open.
airy, with maybe 60 children. remember, libya's sister, blanca. in peru, they were preparing to us be leaders. so it's really too bad they got rid of us. why somebody like victor my oak -- miyo ky. he was not a spy. he had some shops. he had a big family. but miyoky was the man who made the long trips to lima to request donation of bricks from the japanese embassy to portland the school. when someone in the community died he handled paperwork and made funeral arrange.s. three of his children had died at tender wages and were board in the local cemetery but the maine of nonchristians, including many japanese, were forbidden in the hallowed ground so he obtain land on a corner of the hacienda where he had a
shop, as a dig any identified graveyard for those whoa might rest nowhere else, on a low hill he erected 16-foot high cross facing the pacific and homage to immigrants who arrived on the first voyages from japan in 1899 and 1903. libya, as a small girl, saw her father taken away in the back of a truck. a month after he was trucked away, a letter from panama, from miyo ky arrived, flattened moss rose dropped from the folds. he had not forgotten his daughter's 12th birthday. he lost 20 pounds and became very thin, he wrote. his wife, destitute, volunteered with all her children to go to the concentration camp in texas, crystal city, texas, and that is where libya and eloi spend spent
their childhood areas. we say who you are? here's libya. and here's low. grace's father was also in the camp, and i remember i mentioned art to begin with. well, art -- it was a great fellow who decided that this just wasn't fair, that there was no compensation or no recognition of what happened to all of these japanese peruvians who, by the way, were not allowed to go home. peru would not take them back. and since the u.s. authorities took their passports, -- when they put them in the ships they were all illegal aliens.
so, grace has sort of -- is -- with art and other people, had this crusade called -- okay -- i just blank he -- campaign for justice. campaign for justice. and it would be wonderful if it ever came to fruition but they continued to fight. as we know, japanese americans, rightfully, had their situation recognized and compensation given, but because latin america is -- as naomi was saying, is the backyard. we don't recognize the equal dignity of our neighbors there. how about something
light-hearted. appanage is always good for a laugh. -- espionage is always good for a laugh, and the -- working on the spies was fascinating to me. there was a real contrast between the spy master of the germans, kenaris, very cosmo poll -- cosmopolitan man, escaped incarceration in chile, walked over the alps -- sorry -- the andes in disguise and this was an exciting guy, and his -- the mirror was j. edgar hoover who was rather delaware dull and nevertheless j. used gar hoover
manage told get authority to have all of the espionage and counter-appanages of the united states during world war ii in his hands. he was a mover bought one that that was interested to me was the spy business wasn't just about germans versus americans or axis versus allies. often it was fighting among themselves. and one of the times that happened was with the british and the americans. wasn't exactly a fight but the british were just sick and tired of waiting for an italian airline in latin america to be weeded out. i was very dangerous because it could take everything, like it could take platinum, contrabands, passengers who were spies, right to the heart of the
reich because its went to rome which was allied with berlin, and theys to to get rid of it and tried all of these diplomatic ways to do it. the ambassador was a classic ambassador and tried everything and the british were saying, among themselves, we think those pilots are spotting for the germans, spotting the british ships. we have to get rid of them. so this fell into the hands of william stephenson, churchill called him entrip ped and he was spy's spy. he thought that the best way to do something was to do it short of violence, short of murder , if possible. itself it wasn't possible, then you had to murder. and he was a pilot so he thought that knocking down an airplane full of people would not be a
good idea because he would not want to be responsible authorize death of fellow pilots. at that time. there were decisions made where people knew that civilians were going to die. this wasn't one of them. so, he went to camp x, a place in canada, surrounded by water and moats, basically, where actors and magicians and moviemakers, made all kinds of clothes and suitcases and had rehearsals for interrogations because they also in that place, train the people that were going to go and drop into enemy territory, and he asked them -- asked station m for magic there,
station m, can you make a letter that looks like it comes from the head of lati in rome, and they were able to do it by getting a letter from the typewriter of the director in rome, through one of their agents. sherlock holmes says a typewriter is as individual as a person's handwriting so it had to be exactly the same type writer and they typed up the letter and through some mash nations that are also funny -- machinations that were funny, they were able to get that letter found, discovered, and brought to the american embassy. well, the american ambassador, who had been trying so hard all that time, you know to do something diplomatically,
thought this is the way no get rid of the airline, and he took it to the president, vargas, and vargas read it and he went red. here's what the letter said: this was supposed to be from the director of the airline in rome to their local director. again, real. there can be no doubt the fat little man during vargas -- is falling into the pocket of the americans, the phony letter said. our berlin collaborators decided to intervene as soon as possible, to ice the cake, stephenson ended the letter with an insult that could not be ignored. the brazilians may be, as you have said, a nation of monkeys, but they are monkeys who will dance for anyone. we have brazilian here -- who
will pull the string. furious, president vargas cancelled the lati landing rights. no more. that was it. events happened so fast that protests from italy was useless. brazilian soldiers took over the lines, aircraft, landing fields and maintenance equipment and entered the flight crews though u.s. ambassador took full credit for the culminating affair. he had a copy of the letter shown quietly to a member of the british intelligence, working at the british embassy, saying, u.s. intelligence had pinched the damns evidence. later, fbi chief j. edgar hoofer who took credit for everything the americans did in latin america during world war ii, would also take credit for bring down laty. the british agent secretly cog any sent of the letter's true back story, made sure to compliment the u.s. ambassador's
work effusively. so those are little tastes of what is in the book. thank you. so, i understand we have time for questions. >> how did you find out -- [inaudible question] >> which -- >> about the letter. >> how did -- >> how did you -- [inaudible question] >> six years of research. things pop up. i would say. yeah. >> hi: uh-oh, brazilian. >> what can you tell us about the brazilian expeditions. >> this is great simple glad you asked. the brazilianed and addition area -- how many people know the
brazilians fought on the side of the allies in the second world war. i didn't know. there were 25,000, called the smoking cobras. they named themselves that because hitler was once reputed to have said, thinking that the brazilians would probably fight with them, they had a fascist -- pro-fascist government -- the brazilians will fight when the snake smokes. so, when they finally went to war on the -- in the fifth army, mark clark, general mark clark, went to war on the side of the allies they called themselves the smoking cobras, just to get athart low -- hitler. they started out bee draggles with world war i weapons and they had unfortunately they landed with
these green ewan formed that looked exactly like the german uniforms. nobody paid attention to that. and so they were mocked and things were thrown at them because they were assumed to be german prisoners of war. little by little, they became a band of brothers. they breached the goth thick line -- this was in 1944, so many of the allied troops left italy to go up for the invasion of france for d-day. nevertheless, the hole from the half of italy on up was still in the hands of the germans and the italian followers of mussolini. so, they had quite a fight on their hands, and they managed to learn things. people who had never been in a car before, were driving trucks.
they had more accidents, more accidents, people injured in the first few weeks from car accidents than they did in the war, but little by little, through the worst winter of -- that europe had known for 100 years, and i've met some of these gentlemen in their 90s and when you ask them, what was the war like? starting question. the first thing they say was but being cold. and they're from brazil. at the end of the war, they captured 14,000 german soldiers, three generals, and had a terrific record, but they're not very much remembered in brazil. they have reunions now, and it is quite moving.
they sing the old songs. i went to one man's house, and he remembers being left off by the american convoy. they were protecting them going across the atlantic, and around the equator they had to shove off, and all of the americans in their navy whites went on deck and all of the brazilians went on deck, and whatever uniforms they had and they sang together god bless america, and he sang it again because america's latin america, too, and he sang it in portuguese, of course, naturally. so, these memories and these histories are extremely important, and so much of what is going on today is really a reflection of what went on
there. i talked to a woman whose dish was going read it but i think we don't have time but a woman whose father was taken off for this prisoner exchange, and she was in her 70s, a ph.d, language teacher, and she said -- she almost went. she said i used to good around saying, where is daddy? and my whole life, the separation, every day, to need my father. it was very moving, and i naturally when i read over it and i think of the people today who are being separated at the border from their children, and all of the distress that must be theirs. so any other questions? yes. regina, my sister. this is not a plant.
>> i'm interested, president cardenas that stood up to president roosevelt, that he would not relinquish japanese? >> president. no that was his successor. president -- sorry -- anyway, his successor, did something very interesting. he would not send the -- help me -- can believe i wrote -- camacho -- thank you -- always doing stuff like that -- cam match co met with- -- camacho met with roosevelt at the time when the japanese were being taken to the concentration camps in the united states. neither would he allow u.s. bases in mexico. you have to remember that united
states took giant chunks of mexican territory. there was no way they were going to allow mexican -- bases in mexico that belonged to in the united states, and he refused to have his citizens and legal residents, who were of japanese ethnicity, be taken to the united states, and some of the older people there remember him very, very well, remember him as -- i'm not saying they were not concentrates of many families had to move away from the coast, but one of the most famous japanese, matzamato -- he was the gardener of the president and there was no way
that camacho was going to send his own citizens and residents. he stood up for them. thank you for that. >> anything but the connection of walt disney since he's in california? >> walt disney played a big part in world war ii in latin america. nelson rockefeller had -- the rockefeller family had a lot of businesses in germany -- in latin america and knew that germany was way ahead of the game early on in terms of commerce, and said -- plus, they were way ahead with propaganda, the globalist propaganda machine was working full-time in latin america. i've even been in these dusty archives in guatemala, finding
newspaper articles by adolph hitler that -- surely they were written by the globalists but envelopes -- nevertheless they were way ahead and the talked to roosevelt and get an organization going that at first targeted elites in these contributes the said we have to have goodwill ambassadors to be in touch with the latin americans and they have a latin americans in touch with us, and he had a whole long list of names you would recognize, composers, actors, speakers, go down there, but the most successful one was walt disney. and everyone knew, of course, mickey mouse, and they made films down there, tres amigos as and their stereotypes were not
gone but how to they were harmless, it wasn't they kind of rough, dark, idea of latin americans that many films in the '20s in and '30s produced and even changed walt disney's look at -- the eye of walt disney changed because if you look at the films before the group -- they called themselves el groupo -- you look at the films before, they're darker, they don't have these vivid, crazy colors that you would never think good together but in latin america go together, and in his newer films -- well, 70 years old and less -- you'll see that. so walt disney was a big shot in latin america, and he was used
for propaganda, quite honestly. >> mary jo, nowow you're a journalist first and a book writer sect or author second. how did you get from the -- i understand that's a memoir and you lived that life, miya rhodes -- to a book about the war in latin america? what was the -- >> kathy is referring to the first two becomes i wrote were memoirs. and i love latin america. wanted to continue writing about it but not about myself, and my father had told me stories when i was a kid about latin america. that's one of the places he was based as a navy officer. and my agent, who shall remain nameless -- yay! told me, this isn't going to be
a book but your father, is it? no. my father's not anywhere in it, but those stories that he told me really sparked my interest and my imagination about latin america during world war ii, about which i could find no book in english that looked at the overall picture, and so i decided to write the book i wanted to read. >> i want to ask about the style of the book. what i really like is every chapter tells a story that is really vivid, and you made some decisions. it's not a history book that begins in a certain place and goes through time. describe how you came to that decision. >> she's worse than you. you know, it seemed as if the stories -- seemed as if tellingg
the stories chronologically didn't work, as easy at that i'm not an historian. i'm a journalist, i look for stories, i look for connections, and i look for the people who are still around, who, like livia, who could tell me stories about what it was like then, as a way of bringing the history forward. to put the smoking cobras in a line with intrepid and his machinations, would just not work, and to that's why i did it a different way. thank you. >> martin. >> you lived in latin america for many years in guatemala, is that right? >> yes, i did. >> feel that connection with -- >> i do. >> dish history of latin
america. >> martin is from guatemala. once you have fall in love with guatemala or salvador or honduras or all of them, they somehow grab you and you can't get away. so that's why this book -- i always felt like i wanted to get up in the morning and write about latin america. alise. >> you're talk us about propaganda. can you tell a little bit about in different places, how propaganda was used or how popular opinion was used to support the deportations. >> oh. the deportations -- >> japanese and germans and different countries, was this done at the level of popular opinion? was it done by the government was it done by u.s. -- >> look in peru and in many countries you didn't have to have any propaganda because the
racism was already there. where you have some racism, you can spin it out against any group, and of course they had newspaper articles about the yellow peril, just like they did here, and so that kind of propaganda wasn't necessary. it just wasn't necessary. they were branded as people that couldn't assimilate, and that business asim legislation is was huge then. the reason so many jews who were headed for latin america were turned away or were not given shelter there because it was said that they couldn't assimilate. it was that same kind of -- i can't call it racism but it's something that takes flight in
these crisis periods, and sometimes you don't even have to do much propaganda, unfortunately. it happens by itself. was there anybody -- >> okay. >> here's the thing. haven't read it yet but i understand that eric larson and i saw a video of him has written a very good book, garden of beasts about william dodd who was the ambassador to germany in the late '30s and was not a government person, he was -- i don't know if he was academia or exactly what but -- >> came from business. >> what i seem to connect there -- and correct me if i'm wrong -- one of the reasons that the united states, which was very isolationist, finally was willing to get into the war, at least supply, had a lot to do
with the fact that people thought the mexicans were going support the germans and that was too close to home. do you remember that happening? >> well in the first world war -- >> you're right. >> the zimmerman telegram was captured. that was a -- from -- a diplomatic telegram suggesting to the mexicans that if they came over -- the were but to start submarine war --... the explosion off of new york a few people were cured.
donna killed, this is the mindset that j edgar hoover had when he started. i really believed that kidnapping of the germans and the japanese has connection to today which is i think the original extraordinary rendition. that we use in the cherub war. nothing is old. nothing is old. i look around the room and i see so many wonderful faces that are so glad to see.i really thank you for being here tonight. davidb [applause] you are watching booktv on c-span2, every weekend we bring you author talks and interviews from around the
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