Back in the 1970’s while in High School (I know, I’m really dating myself here) I was first exposed to the song stylings of Tom Lehrer. I soon memorized all his songs, and actually learned a few things along the way. But one lyric has always stumped me. Given the intelligent, ecclectic and sarcastic group the SDMB seems to attract, I thought I’d ask for your help.
The lyric is from the song MLF Lullaby. For the uninitiated, here are the lyrics, preceded by his explanatory comments:
“A considerable amount of commotion was stirred up during the past year over the prospect of a Multi-Lateral Force, known to the headline writers as MLF. Much of this discussion took place during the baseball season so the chronicle may not have covered it but it did get a certain amount of publicity, and the basic idea was that a bunch of us nations, the good guys, would get together on a joint nuclear deterrent force including our current friends, like France, and our traditional friends, like Germany. Here’s a song about that called the MLF lullaby.”
Sleep, baby, sleep, in peace may you slumber,
No danger lurks, your sleep to encumber,
We’ve got the missiles, peace to determine,
and one of the fingers on the button will be German.
Why shouldn’t they have nuclear warheads?
England says no, but they are all soreheads.
I say a bygone should be a bygone,
Let’s make peace the way we did in Stanleyville and Saigon.
Once all the Germans were warlike and mean,
But that couldn’t happen again.
We taught them a lesson in nineteen eighteen,
And they’ve hardly bothered us since then.
So sleep well, my darling, the sandman can linger,
We know our buddies won’t give us the finger.
Heil–hail–the Wehrmacht, I mean the Bundeswehr,
Hail to our loyal ally!
Will scare Brezhnev,
I hope he is half as scared as I.
This song was on Tom Lehrer’s third album, called That Was the Year That Was (and included 9 songs used on the NBC show That Was the Week That Was) and was recorded in 1965.
OK… so while I enjoyed the obvious sarcastic intent, I did not immediately understand a couple of references. The “Heil - [er, I meant to say] hail” remark was obvious, but not having lived during WWII or taken up a fascination with studying every military battle involved I had to find out independently that the Wehrmacht was roughly the German “offense” while the “Bundeswehr” was the “defence”. So that now made sense. But I have never, despite my efforts (admittadly undertaken at the time, before the was such a thing as the internet) been able to find out what the heck happened in Stanleyville. Saigon I understood - America was (in my time) just getting over the Vietnam war, and in his time (1965) just starting to get heavily involved in the Vietnam war, so he is obviously referring to the USA making “peace” by blowing up everyone there, or something like that. So when did the USA bomb Stanleyville? Where was Stanleyville, anyways?
I am posting this now because I have just been exposed to a big clue. I now think I understand the idea, but not the details, which I am now asking for. I just saw a new film (a small independent film, but a film nevertheless) called Lumumba. It is about a man called Patrice Lumumba, and the Independence of the Congo from Belgium. Lamumba became the first president of the independent Belgian Congo in 1960 or 1961. He was killed about two months later. As described in the movie, there is much violence among the populace, after the Belgians leave, partially because of the factions vying for control. While he is not a communist, Lamumba toys with the idea of inviting Russian support (some research tells me he was ignored in his pleas for American support, due to the Eisenhower affilliation with certain business interests which would have benefited from a breakup of the Congo; for more details, visit here). Anyways, the movie portrays the US CIA guy making good friends with an opponent of Lamumba who was in charge of the military, who then imprisons Lamumba under house arrest. Lamumba manages to escape, and along with his wife and kid and several supporters, drives off in an attempt to reach Stanleyville. He never makes it there, and is captured and later killed.
So that must be the Stanleyville Tom Lehrer is referring to. It was apparently Lamumba’s headqurters or base (more details in the above link). I imagine that in the ensuing days or weeks or months there was some sort of “operation” backed by the CIA, that eliminated one way or another the rest of Lamumba’s supporters. The movie does not deal with that at all. My guess is that whatever happened, it was in the public’s conciousness enough for a few years for Tom Lehrer to refer to it in 1965, but was soon enough forgotten as a footnote in history on faraway foreign shores. (You think anyone will understand a reference to Joan Benet Ramsy you make 30 years from now?).
Does anyone know what happened in Stanleyville back in the early 60’s? I haven’t been this happy since someone explained Tom Lehrer’s “As someone once remarked to Schubert, ‘Take us to your Lieder.’” from his Whatever Became of Hubert? song from the same album.
Thanks in advance for your help!