The central figure of Hero on Three Continents is Sir Henry Brown, born 1901, into a prominent Anglo-Jewish family. Henry's two elder brothers were killed in action on the Western Front during World War I, an experience that had an immeasurable impact on young Henry.
After leaving Eton in 1919, Henry, too young for military service in the Great War, took a first-class honors degree in oriental languages at Oxford University. He then pursued a military career at Sandhurst, and afterwards served on the staff of Lord Reading, Viceroy in India. While in India in 1926, he married Henrietta, the younger daughter of the 11th Duke of Shropshire.
After service in India, Henry was posted to Kenya and was awarded the Military Cross for a heroic defusement of explosives in the African hillside. He served in the War Office and as an instructor at England's famed military academy, Sandhurst, until he was posted to Berlin in 1935 as military attach?, under the covert direction of Winston Churchill, Chaim Weizmann, and the Marquess of Reading.
This was a difficult assignment -- to say the least, for a Jew during Hitler's rise in Germany. He witnessed contagious anti-Semitism after the implementation of the Nuremberg Laws. His wife threw herself enthusiastically into the upper echelons of the Nazi hierarchy, greatly influenced by the force of its propaganda and ideology. In her efforts to foster a better understanding between Nazi Germany and England, and encouraged by her German friends and British sympathizers, such as Sir Oswald and Lady Mosley and Unity Mitford, she distanced herself from her husband. This culminated with her affair with a senior member of the German Foreign Office. Henry Brown and his wife separated, She remained in Germany with their two children. Brown, at his own request, was transferred to the British Embassy in Paris.
Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, Henry re-joined his regiment and saw active service in North Africa and Sicily. He was badly injured in de-fusing a mine in Sicily, for which he was awarded the George Medal. After the war, he stood successfully for parliament. A resurgence of anti-Semitism erupted and, after being insulted in the House of Commons and accused of dual loyalties, Brown resigned as a member of parliament, but not before a climactic parliamentary showdown, featuring impassioned speeches from many members including Churchill - and then the subsequent suicide of Henry's main accuser.
Henry traveled to the fledgling State of Israel, where he offered his services to David Ben-Gurion, first prime minister, and was appointed a military advisor, specializing in explosives. He became an Israeli citizen, and was appointed general in the Israeli Defense Corps. After serving in the Suez Campaign in 1956, he was appointed the Israeli Ambassador to the Court of St. James. As an old Etonian, Oxford graduate, retired British brigadier and former parliamentarian, he was able to re-enter British society with ease and assisted in fostering close political, business, and military ties between England and the State of Israel.
In 1963, Brown re-married, and was transferred to the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC where he served as ambassador during the tense, hectic negotiations of the six day war of 1967. He retired from the Israeli Foreign Office in 1971, the same year his second wife died. He chose to remain in the United States and was appointed to the boards of several major Fortune 500 Companies. He became a personal friend and advisor to the president of the United States.
While dining privately one evening with the president at the White House, the president was interrupted during dinner. He was advised by telephone that the Kuwaiti embassy in Washington DC had been taken over that evening by Palestinian terrorists who had infiltrated the building. The terrorists were holding the Kuwaiti ambassador and his dinner guests hostage. The guests included a leading member of the Gambino Mafia family, a Jewish Australian arms dealer, who was attempting to break into the lucrative trade of selling military equipment to Arab terrorist organizations, and the president's own elder brother, a Washington gadfly and a constant source of embarrassment to the First Family. Four call girls, well known on Capital Hill, were also present.
The president was placed in a compromising position, given his brother's presence at such a gathering, in the context of the sensitive Middle East political situation and the all-important up-coming presidential election. Settling this situation expeditiously, prior to the involvement of the media, became crucial. Brown, a skilled and trusted senior international negotiator, fluent in Arabic, left the White House and went to the embassy to negotiate for the release of the hostages, pending discussions on the terrorists' demands. On arrival at the embassy, he negotiated for the release of the hostages. These negotiations were slow and tense, with tempers frayed and, at one point, the terrorist commander grabbed the telephone and screamed angrily at the president. The president, believing the negotiations had failed, reluctantly sent in troops to re-capture the embassy.
On seeing the troops' arrival, the terrorist commander panicked and killed the ambassador, the arms dealer and Brown, and then himself. Brown's death occurred shortly before a long-planned family reunion in New York with his children from whom he had been estranged for decades.
In such a manner, Sir Henry Brown, A HERO ON THREE CONTINENTS died after a full and exciting lifetime that covered almost the entire 20th century. He had witnessed, as a spectator, the carnage of the First World War; India during the British Raj; appeasement; Berlin and Paris in the 1930's; the Second World War; post-war England; the birth of a new nation; sophisticated diplomatic life in London and Washington DC, and business on Wall Street. He had also been a lover and a father figure, a spokesman and a good friend, a worthy adversary and an admirable hero.
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August 29, 2010
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