Penny Wise and Pound Foolish?
In early 1915, with Germany working hard to bring the Ottoman Empire into the Great War as an ally, the head of Royal Navy intelligence, Reginald Hall (known as “Blinker” from his habit of constantly blinking his eyes) took steps to avert that possibility.
The Turks were miffed for a number of reasons, most notably fearing British ambitions about Ottoman territories. Another irritant was that upon the outbreak of war with Germany in August of 1914 the Royal Navy had seized several major warships being built in Britain for the Ottoman fleet. Soon afterwards, the German battle cruiser Goeben and light cruiser Breslau, fleeing pursuit by strong British forces, took refuge in Turkish waters. The Germans, who had been cultivating ties with the Ottomans for several years, worked out a clever deal with the Turks, a bogus “sale” of the two ships, which remained completely under German control, the crews merely hoisting Ottoman flags and donning fezes. Soon the Germans were pressing the Ottomans to take a more active role in the war.
Realizing the danger, yet sensing an opportunity (possibly with the permission of the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill and First Sea Lord [CNO] Admiral of the Fleet Jackie Fisher) Hall initiated covert negotiations with the leaders of the “Young Turk Movement”, who were running the Ottoman Empire. Young Turk leader and War Minister, Enver Pasha, and Interior Minister Taalat Pasha, were offered £3 million to keep Turkey out of the war, turn the German warships over to Britain, and open the Dardanelles to the Royal Navy, so that a supply line could be established to Russia. The negotiations went smoothly, and by mid-March of 1915 it looked like a deal might be effected.
But then the matter ran into some snags. Learning of the proposed deal, senior British government officials raised various objections. Perhaps the Young Turks would take the money, and ignore the deal. The objections were seconded by Foreign Office, which had made some promises regarding Ottoman territories, and the Exchequer, always wary of spending any money. So, literally days before the arrangement was expected to be concluded between Hall’s agents and Enver and Taalat, the deal was called off.
Now perhaps Enver, Taalat, and their henchmen might have pulled a double cross on the British. If so, Britain would have been out several million pounds; oddly, just about what the ships confiscated from the Turks had cost in the first place. But if the deal had gone through, and the Young Turks acted as promised, those several millions would have been well spent, saving Britain and her allies the untold tens of millions of pounds and hundreds of thousands of lives that the campaigns in Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine cost; not to mention the long-term consequences of the Allied inability to support Russia.
"Arenít You Tired of the Guy with the Mustache?"
Soviet Vozhd Joseph Stalin was extremely careful of the image that he projected, and had what was perhaps the best managed cult of personality in history. At times he pushed his image to the utmost, projecting virtual god-like omniscience and omnipotence, while at other times he allowed himself to be depicted as the benevolent overseer of events managed by capable subordinates. This softer image was particularly important during the Second World War, as illustrated by an anecdote recounted by his grandson Vladimir Allieluev.
At the end of the war, with Germany under Allied occupation, Stalin ordered a monument to be erected in Berlin celebrating the Red Army’s heroic struggle to seize the city.
The noted sculptor Evgeny Vuchetich was given the commission, and in due time produced some sketches which were presented to Stalin for his approval.
Vuchetich proposed a monumental statue of Stalin triumphantly overlooking the conquered enemy capital.
Stalin glanced over the sketches, and then said, “Listen, Vuchetich, aren’t you tired of the guy with the mustache?” Then the Vozhd proposed replacing his image with that of an heroic figure of a Red Army soldier protectively holding a little girl in his arms. In due course this was the monument that was built (incorporating rare marbles salvaged from the devastated Reichs Chancellery Building and rubble from the Führerbunker) and which even now stands on a hilltop in Treptower Park.