The Secret Life of Ernst von Enzmann

Dr. Robert Duncan-Enzmann

Ernst von Enzmann, my father, honored all debts, favors, and kindnesses. This is an extremely important ethic.

Father had extensive, detailed, and broad battlefield experience with all types of artillery of his time. On Kwajalein, he excellently advised and instructed the Japanese on effectively defending and destroying an attack on Kwajalein Atoll by massed battleships and naval aircraft. His work was excellent.

The Japanese spent lavishly cutting trenches in the broad tidal seaward reef of Kwajalein. Had America attached across the mile-wide seaward reef, we should have been decimated, slaughtered, and soundly defeated in that maze of almost invisible trenches.

Father omitted to tell the Japanese but thoroughly, with many photos at various tidal levels, showed Americans how Kwajalein could be attacked inside its lagoon. The American attack on Kwajalein, called operation Flintlock (I participated in a US Navy Aircraft), was carried out just as Father had suggested in 1944. The battle, swiftly shattering Jap defenses, was decided within an hour.

Loose lips sink ships.

But 1944 is long past. In 2021 the island is so peaceful; the battleships are museums or scrap. The papers published after the attack said one US Navy battleship, but I counted four battleships with hundreds of missiles from the air.  The sea bombardment was awesome (note that battleship 16-inch guns had a maximum range of 30 miles). The landings of the US Army and Marines were dominant within an hour.

Father had honored all debts, favors, and kindnesses from a past event, one that saved his life. He had just escaped Siberia, where he had been imprisoned, a story told in Siberian Prison, published in 2014. It was cold, and Ernst was very hungry and somewhat ill. He was hitching a ride to get away from the Japanese; they were expanding their grip on Manchuria as they prepared to invade and occupy Nanking and, eventually, all of China. Father staggered into the American Embassy, begging for help.

The American Ambassador bathed and fed father, put him to bed, cleaned the sleeper’s clothes, and changed his Russian money for American dollars. He revived my father. It was a life-or-death intervention.

Kwajalein Atoll

Father honors debts, favors, and kindnesses. The Japs thought Austrians were Germans. Austrian by birth, father chatted in Russian, German, and English with Japanese officers about artillery. They sent him to Kwajalein Atoll to analyze naval and land-based artillery defense and attack on Kwajalein Atoll, which the Germans had purchased from Spain with the Truk Atoll and Northern New Guinea – and the Japs seized in World War I.

And so father repaid the Americans by spying on the Japanese military at Kwajalein Atoll, sending them photographic information to help them succeed in obtaining it as a base. Joanna and I have spent many years working there on missile defense and radar. Currently, it is governed by the Republic of the Marshal Islands.