- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2001

Terrorist leftovers

What is it about roving journalists and the bizarre souvenirs they snatch?

British scribe Richard Lloyd Parry, of the Independent, strolled into the bathroom of Osama bin Laden's abandoned compound in Afghanistan and grabbed from the hook the terrorist leader's "striped gray and black cotton boxers, with a label reading Angelo Petrico, size XXL."

Explained Mr. Parry: "How many can claim to own the underwear of the world's most dangerous man?"

Meanwhile, Matt Labash, senior writer for the Weekly Standard in Washington, acquired his unusual souvenir while on assignment in Florida, where "I happened by the Palm Beach Flight Training center … where terrorist Mohamed Atta rented planes to practice up for his flight into the World Trade Center."

Mr. Labash not only slid into the cockpit of Atta's rental, he retrieved with the flight center's permission Atta's laminated flight-safety checklist.

"I had never understood the murderabilia market until that moment," Mr. Labash writes in the Dec. 10 issue of the Standard. "Why would anyone want the clown paintings of John Wayne Gacy or the nail clippings of serial killer Roy Norris?"

Perhaps for the same reason they would want the remains of Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele, the "Angel of Death."

For decades, the elusive mad scientist avoided capture by Nazi hunters, including the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations (OSI). Then came word in June 1985 that the body of a man who resembled Mengele, who had drowned sometime before while swimming off the coast of Brazil, was buried in a small cemetery outside Sao Paulo.

"Go get Mengele," my former boss, Arnaud de Borchgrave, ordered, and three hours later exactly one week before my wedding day I jetted off to Rio on anything but a honeymoon.

In the cemetery, surrounded by local police and dozens of reporters and photographers, a lone Brazilian gravedigger began shoveling. Fifteen minutes later, what would be left of Mengele assorted bones and tattered cloth was unceremoniously heaped with dirt into a white tub.

Brazilian authority Jose Antonio de Mello next scooped up Mengele's skull in his bare hand and hoisted it into the air for all to see. The skull and largest bones were then carted off to Sao Paulo, while leftover bone fragments and other material were shoveled back onto the grave.

"What's this?" Mr. de Borchgrave asked the day before my wedding, rubbing between his fingers the contents of a small film canister I had presented to him upon my arrival back in Washington. The newspaper's other senior editors, sitting around a large table for that afternoon's news meeting, looked on with curiosity.

"It looks like hashish," said Mr. de Borchgrave.

"It's Mengele," I replied. "I got him for you."

Now, like then

The Mayflower Hotel in Washington is the site for tomorrow evening's annual Hillsdale College Churchill Dinner.

The Michigan college feels a close connection to Winston Churchill ("Hillsdale is famous for its fierce independence and its support of freedom," explains college spokesman Tim Caspar) and each year honors the Brit on the anniversary of his birth.

And in light of the recent terrorist attacks, this year's dinner takes on added significance. Sen. Jesse Helms, the soon-to-retire North Carolina Republican who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, will give the keynote address on "Emerging Threats to American Security."

It was after hearing news of a similar surprise attack against the United States, at Pearl Harbor, that Churchill described his thoughts: "Silly people … might discount the force of the United States. Some said they were soft, others that they would never be united. They would fool around at a distance. They would never come to grips …

"I thought of a remark which Edward Grey had made to me more than thirty years before that the United States is like 'a gigantic boiler.'

"'Once the fire is lighted under it, there is no limit to the power it can generate.'"

Open diaries

"How about the rest of the story on Dwight Eisenhower's diaries," writes John D. Bowen, secretary of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, after reading our item yesterday on the discovery of two of the allied commander's handwritten desk diaries from 1944 and 1945, documenting everything from D-Day operations and the Battle of the Bulge to the surrender of Germany.

"As we approach the 57th anniversary of America's 2nd surprise attack [after Pearl Harbor] on Dec. 16, 1944, we would love to know what Ike's thoughts were," Mr. Bowen says.

Good news, Mr. Bowen. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kan., under the direction of the National Archives and Records Administration, has not only acquired, but has already "made available for research," both desk diaries.

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