12. An Early Death Saved This Great Industrialist’s Son From Getting Prosecuted For Trading With the Nazis
In the early 2000s, evidence from newly-declassified documents demonstrated that Nazi Germany’s links with Ford Motor Company went well beyond its founder. Among other things, the documents indicated that Henry Ford’s secretary, Ernest Liebold, might have been a Nazi agent who helped fuel his boss’ paranoia about Jews. Indeed, the documents indicate that Ford’s own son and the company’s then-president, Edsel, could have been prosecuted for trading with the Nazi enemy had he not died in 1943.
Letters between Edsel Ford and the head of Ford’s French subsidiary in 1942 – after America had joined the war – were quite troubling. They indicated that Ford knew and approved of the subsidiary’s manufacturing efforts on behalf of the German military. The declassified documents reveal that the US Department of Justice concluded that there were grounds for criminally prosecuting Edsel Ford.
11. Ford’s German Subsidiary Used Slave Labor and Was “An Arsenal of Nazism“
In addition to doing business with the Third Reich, Ford’s plants in Germany used slave workers in order to meet the demands of the Nazi war effort. Not only after America joined the war and the plants were seized by Germany, but also during the interval between the war’s outbreak in September, 1939, and America’s entry into the conflict in December 1941. During that period, this great American industrialist still controlled his company’s German subsidiary, and knew what was going on in its factories.
When the American forces liberated Ford’s plants in Nazi Germany, they found emaciated slave laborers behind barbed wires. A US Army investigator’s report, dated September 5th, 1945, accused Ford’s German subsidiary of serving as “an arsenal of Nazism“, with the parent company’s knowledge and consent.
Charles the Great, or Charlemagne (742 – 814), towered over early medieval Europe. He led a series of campaigns that expanded his Frankish realm, and eventually unified much of western and central Europe into what became known as the Carolingian Empire. In 800, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne “Emperor of the Romans“. He became the first in a line of Holy Roman Emperors that lasted until Napoleon abolished the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. While inarguably a great man, Charlemagne was also a weirdo, who was into incest and necrophilia.
Charlemagne had an incestuous relationship with his sister, Gillen. Medieval accounts report that he was eventually overcome with guilt, and visited the tomb of Saint-Gilles, near Nimes, where he prayed for forgiveness. An angel showed up and placed a parchment on the altar, declaring that the saint’s intercession worked and that God forgave Charlemagne so long as he did not repeat the sin. While the part about the angel showing up is just myth, many modern scholars give credence to the reports of incest. Charlemagne probably did sleep with Gillen, and fathered upon her a son/ nephew, named Roland.
9. There’s Pervy, and Then There’s Sexing Corpses Pervy
Incest with his sister was not the most perverted thing done by Charles the Great. He reportedly also liked sexing corpses. Various ninth-century texts refer to Charlemagne repeatedly engaging in, but refusing for a long time to confess to, some “unspeakable sin”. He eventually got it off his chest and sought absolution for what some modern scholars think was a predilection for necrophilia.
The necrophilia reports eventually gave rise to legends in which Charlemagne’s partiality to corpses extended from sexually satisfying his lust with random corpses, to sleeping with his wife’s corpse after she died. While there are some scholarly bases for Charlemagne’s necrophilia, the parts about Charlemagne having sex with his dead wife are most likely exaggerations and legends. However, they are indicative of the field day contemporaries had with Charlemagne’s necrophilia, working up the sufficiently shocking reports of that perversion into even bigger myths.
8. A Great American General’s Nepotism Spelled Disaster For Hundreds of His Men
George S. Patton is America’s most famous fighting general of WWII. He led the US Seventh Army in North Africa and Sicily, and commanded the Third Army as it stormed through France, across Germany, and into Czechoslovakia. A man of contradictions, Patton was a hard-charging, profane, and often objectionable and obnoxious figure. He also had a softer side, dabbling in writing poetry – although not very well. And then there was the bonkers side, in which this great general convinced himself that he was some kind of eternal soldier, having been reincarnated numerous times over the millennia as a warrior.
In short, Patton was a man of extremes. He also elicited extreme reactions: people loved or hated him. He gave the latter plenty to hate, as his wartime exploits were often marred by controversies stemming from his propensity to abuse his authority and those under his command. One incident from 1943, in which he slapped sick soldiers, almost cost him his career. It was nothing compared to another incident in 1945, hurriedly swept under the rug, in which Patton got hundreds of his men killed, wounded, or captured, because of nepotism.
7. Patton’s Career Survived Slapping a PTSD-Suffering Soldier Burning Up With Fever – Then He Committed a Worse Abuse of Power
General Patton’s best-known controversy occurred during the 1943 Sicilian Campaign. While visiting a hospital, he came across a PTSD-suffering soldier who was also burning up with malarial fever. Seeing no visible wounds on the GI, Patton flew into a rage, accused the unfortunate man of cowardice, slapped him around, and threatened to shoot him. The great general repeated the disgraceful performance a few days later in another hospital, and physically assaulted another PTSD-suffering soldier.
When the scandal broke, it nearly got Patton cashiered from the US Army. However, his boss, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, protected Patton and gave him a chance to command another army in France. The lesson against abusing his power did not sink in, however. In 1945, Patton had a worse, but lesser-known scandal, in which he got dozens of GIs killed for personal reasons. It happened in March 1945, when Patton ordered Task Force Baum, comprised of 314 men, 16 tanks, and dozens of other vehicles, to penetrate 50 miles behind German lines. Their mission was to liberate Hammelburg POW camp, which housed Patton’s son-in-law, John K. Waters.
6. This Great General Paid a High Price in His Men’s Lives to Help His Relative
Task Force Baum’s raid ended catastrophically. All tanks and vehicles were lost, and of 314 participants, 32 were killed, and most of the rest were wounded or captured. Only 35 men made it back. The worst part of it was that the mission was totally unnecessary. Patton’s beloved son-in-law, for whom the great general had gotten the beloved sons, brothers, and fathers of many Americans killed or injured, had never been in any danger. Hammelburg was liberated two weeks after the Task Force Baum fiasco.
When Eisenhower found out, he was furious at Patton’s misuse of military personnel and assets for personal reasons, and reprimanded him. In light of his valuable services, however, Eisenhower declined to punish Patton beyond the reprimand. Shortly thereafter, a reporter got wind of the scandal. When the story first broke in a major publication on April 12th, 1945, it would have wrecked Patton under normal circumstances. However, FDR died that same day, and his demise eclipsed all other news. The scandal got little traction, and when Patton died a few months later, the scandalous affair was reduced to a mere historic footnote.
5. A Great Moral Leader Who Had a Thing for Young Girls
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869 – 1948) richly deserved the title by which he is better known to history: the Mahatma – Sanskrit for “Great Soul”, similar in usage to the English saint. Gandhi, an anti-colonial nationalist who pioneered new methods of resisting oppression, is one of history’s moral giants. One of the most revered figures of the modern era, Gandhi famously led India’s struggle for independence. Along the way, he perfected the strategy and tactics of nonviolent civil disobedience, and inspired other independence and civil rights movements around the world.
The ranks of those inspired by Gandhi’s nonviolent civil disobedience included Dr. Martin Luther King, who studied the Indian leader’s methods and put them to use in America’s Civil Rights movement. However, in his personal life, Gandhi was… a complex man. Nowhere is that complexity more evident than in his sleeping habits, and it is fortunate for the Great Soul’s public image that his sex life did not garner widespread coverage during his lifetime.
4. Gandhi Referred to His Sleeping Naked With Young Girls as an “Experiment”
Put bluntly, Mahatma Gandhi liked to sleep naked with young girls. The story put out by those in his circle was that the Great Soul did so in order to test his willpower and strengthen his resistance to the temptations of the flesh. In reality, it was probably less about spiritual experimentation, and more about Gandhi gratifying his sexual desires.
As one of the early acolytes who shared his bed described it after his death, it was all about protecting Gandhi’s public image. As she put it: “Later on, when people started asking questions about the physical contact with women … the idea of experiments was developed … in the early days, there was no question of calling it an experiment“.
3. This Great Founding Father Was a “Complicated” Man
To state that Thomas Jefferson was a complicated man is to greatly understate things. On the one hand, this great Founding Father penned some of the most stirring words in advocating freedom, liberty, and equality. Jefferson’s phrase in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” has moved and inspired idealists for centuries.
Then we get to the other hand, and the jarring contrast between the man’s public perception and his private life. Jefferson pursued his happiness in a hilltop plantation, Monticello, leading a life of luxury that was only made possible by the labor of hundreds of chattel slaves. He also engaged in conduct that would be seen as clear-cut violent sexual criminality today: in Monticello, Jefferson raped his dead wife’s underage lookalike half-sister.
Thomas Jefferson had a creepy – another understatement – relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings (1773 – 1835). Straightforward rape might be a more accurate description than a “relationship”. Sally Hemings was not free to accept or reject Jefferson’s advances. She was a slave, kept in bondage by a brutal system in which violence, including deadly violence, was used to coerce its victims and secure their compliance. She had as much choice in submitting to Jefferson’s sexual demands as does a modern kidnapped victim, who finds herself chained for years as a sex slave in some psycho’s basement.
Even if Sally Hemings had not been a slave, there would still have been something creepy about the age disparity between her and the great Founding Father. He was 44-years-old when he started having sex with Sally. She was thirteen or fourteen. Even if she had been a willing participant, it would be considered statutory rape today.
1. Thomas Jefferson Was Infatuated With His Child Concubine Because She Was His Dead Wife’s Half-Sister and Lookalike
There was more to Thomas Jefferson sexually preying upon Sally Hemings as his child concubine, which makes things even creepier. Hemings was also Jefferson’s dead wife’s sister and lookalike. She was the daughter of a slave woman and John Wayles, Jefferson’s father-in-law. That made her the biological half-sister of Jefferson’s wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson (1748 – 1782). Hemmings, who was nine when her sibling died, bore a striking resemblance to the deceased Martha. The resemblance only increased as she grew. Jefferson missed his dead wife, so when her lookalike sister was thirteen or fourteen, he began raping her.
Thomas Jefferson having sex with Sally Hemings would be an epic scandal if it had happened today, hitting just about every icky button there is, and destroying his public image beyond repair. Pedophilia? Check. Incest? Check. Violence, coercion, and rape? Check, check, and check. Adding another layer to it all is that Jefferson fathered six children upon Sally, and kept them as slaves. He eventually got around to freeing his children, but he never freed his concubine: Sally Hemings was still Jefferson’s slave when he died in 1826.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading