[Marxism] Some interesting stuff on Leslie Howard

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Mar 23 12:12:58 MDT 2009

This is the actor who played Professor Higgins in Pygmalion, as well as 
major roles in "Gone with the wind" and "Petrified Forest". This is what 
wiki has to say:

He was born Leslie Howard Steiner to a Hungarian Jewish father, 
Ferdinand Steiner, and an English Jewish mother, Lillian Blumberg, in 
Forest Hill, London and educated at Dulwich College, London. (In later 
years, Howard usually listed his birth name as Stainer despite clear 
records of the correct spelling.) He worked as a bank clerk before 
enlisting at the outbreak of World War I. He served in the British Army 
as subaltern in the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, but suffered severe shell 
shock, which led to him relinquishing his commission in May 1916...

Howard died in 1943 when he was returning to England from Lisbon on KLM 
Royal Dutch Airlines/BOAC Flight 777. The aircraft was shot down by a 
German Junkers Ju 88 over the Bay of Biscay.[1] It has been rumoured 
that Howard was engaged in secret war work at the time, and that the 
Germans believed the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who had been in 
Algiers, to be on board. Howard's manager, Alfred Chenhalls, physically 
resembled Churchill, while Howard was tall and thin, like Churchill's 
bodyguard, Walter H. Thompson. However, this story has been completely 
discredited. Churchill himself seems to have been to blame for the 
spread of it; in his autobiography, he expresses sorrow that a mistake 
about his activities might have cost Howard his life.

Several exhaustively detailed books such as Bloody Biscay (which comes 
to a slightly different conclusion), Flight 777 by Ian Colvin, and In 
Search of My Father by Howard's actor son Ronald, conclude that the 
Germans were almost certainly out to shoot down the plane in order to 
kill Howard himself.[2] His intelligence-gathering activities (while 
ostensibly on "entertainer goodwill" tours), as well as the chance to 
demoralise Britain with the loss of one of its most outspokenly 
patriotic figures, were behind the Luftwaffe attack. Ronald Howard's 
book, in particular, explores in great detail written German orders to 
the Staffel assigned to intercept the airliner, as well as communiques 
on the British side which verify intelligence reports of the time 
indicating a deliberate attack on Howard. It also makes clear that the 
Germans were well aware of Churchill's whereabouts at the time and were 
not so naïve as to believe the British Prime Minister would be traveling 
alone aboard an unescorted and unarmed civilian airliner when both the 
secrecy and air power of the British government were at his command.[3]

Howard was traveling through Spain and Portugal, ostensibly lecturing on 
film, but also meeting with local propagandists and shoring up support 
for the Allied cause. The Germans in all probability suspected even more 
surreptitious activities. (German agents were active throughout Spain 
and Portugal, which, like Switzerland, was a crossroads for persons from 
both sides of the conflict, but even more accessible to Allied 
citizens.) A book by Spanish writer José Rey-Ximena called 'El Vuelo del 
Ibis' ('The Flight of the Ibis') claims that Howard was on a top secret 
mission for Churchill to warn Franco to keep out of the war. Howard had 
contacts with Ricardo Gimenez-Arnau, head of Spain's Foreign Office via 
an old girlfriend, Conchita Montenegro.

Ronald Howard, Leslie's son, was of the conviction that the orders to 
liquidate Leslie came from Goebbels, who had been ridiculed in one of 
Howard's films and who believed Howard to be the most dangerous 
propagandist in the British service.[4]

Howard was flying from Portela (Lisbon), Portugal back home to England 
on a regularly scheduled flight that did not pass over what would 
commonly be referred to as a war zone. The Luftwaffe records indicate 
that the Staffel was sent beyond its normal patrol area to intercept and 
shoot down the airliner, even though this flight had never before been 
disrupted. There were about fourteen other passengers, most of them 
either British executives with corporate ties in Portugal, or various 
British comparatively lower echelon government functionaries. There were 
also two or three children, the offspring of British military 
personnel.[5] The DC-3 was attacked by eight German JU-88s, despite the 
fact that Luftwaffe patrols in the nearest normal vicinity usually 
consisted of single planes. According to German documents, the plane was 
shot down at longitude 10.15 West, latitude 46.07 North, some 500 miles 
(800 km) from Bordeaux, France. (The DC-3's last radio message indicated 
it was being fired upon at longitude 09.37 West, latitude 46.54 North.) 
The German pilots photographed the wreckage floating in the Bay of 
Biscay. After the war, copies of these captured photos were sent to 
Howard's family.[6] [1]

Christopher Goss's book Bloody Biscay, however, quotes Oberleutnant 
Herbert Hintze, Staffel Führer of 14 Staffel, based in Bordeaux, France, 
as remarking that his Staffel shot down the DC-3 merely because the 
plane was recognised as an enemy aircraft, unaware that it was an 
unarmed civilian plane. Hintze states that his fellow Staffel pilots 
were angry that the Luftwaffe had not informed them of a scheduled 
flight between Lisbon and the UK, and that had they known, they could 
easily have escorted the plane to Bordeaux and captured it and all 
aboard. [1] More recently, Spanish author Jose Rey-Ximena has claimed in 
a book that the actor's plane was shot down as he was returning to 
England from a secret mission ordered by then-Prime Minister Winston 
Churchill, to dissuade Franco from joining the war with Hitler and 
Mussolini .[7] There have been rumours that documents connected with the 
shooting down of the airliner have been classified until 2025, though 
this has not been confirmed. [8][9]

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