Thursday, May 28, 2020

William Patrick Hitler: Fighting Celt!

William Patrick Hitler


This is the William Patrick Hitler chapter of our forthcoming work 101 Fighting Celts from Boudicca to MacArthur...



Pursued by the shame
of an infamous name. Half-Celt
fighting Uncle's friends.

(Haiku by Stuart Laycock)

William Patrick Hitler may be one of the strangest Fighting Celts who ever lived. He was born in Liverpool in 1911 to Alois Hitler and Bridgett Dowling. His father was Adolph Hitler’s half brother, and his mother was an Irishwoman from Dublin. The couple had met in Dublin where Alois, who claimed to be the son of a wealthy hotelier, was visiting. They moved to Liverpool and married, with William following shortly after. The marriage did not last, and William was brought up in Britain by his mother. Alois returned to Germany and remarried bigamously.

After his uncle emerged as an important political figure in Germany, William moved in 1929 to Germany. He used his family connection to land a low-level job at the Reichs-Kreditbank in Berlin. Not satisfied with his banking job, he moved on to Opel. At one point, he seems to have attempted to blackmail his uncle, who was Chancellor of Germany at the time. He threatened to expose a rumor about the family’s alleged Jewish roots.  Adolph Hitler referred to “Willie” as “my loathsome nephew.” William took the hint and fled to Britain where he wrote a 1939 article for Look magazine titled “Why I Hate my Uncle.” Rejected by the British military because of his surname, William later moved on to the United States.
FDR Statue
Grosvenor Square, London
Following the Pearl Harbor, attack, he wrote a letter in 1942 to President Roosevelt, asking for help in joining the US military. Hitler wrote, “I am one of many, but can render service to this great cause.” On January 10 that same year, his house on 102 Upper Stanhope Street was destroyed by the last Nazi air raid to hit Liverpool.

In 1944, Hitler finally signed up for service in the US Navy. When he first approached a Navy recruiting station, introducing himself as Hitler, the response was, “Glad to see you, Hitler. My name is Hess.” Hitler served as a pharmacist’s mate until his discharge in 1947. He saw active service in the war, received a shrapnel wound, and was awarded a Purple Heart.

After the war, he returned to New York and changed his name to William Stuart-Houston. He married a German woman with whom he had four sons. He used his Navy medical training to establish a blood laboratory.

Hitler’s estranged nephew died in New York in 1987. In 2006, a play on the life of this odd Fighting Celt titled Little Willie opened in the States and on London’s West End."


101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur is coming soon...!


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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Invading California!

California Invaded!
California is my home state.  This is what we had to say in America Invaded (www.americainvaded.com) about how California has been "Invaded" or fought in...



"The great California writer John Steinbeck noted in his novel Tortilla Flat that “Monterey had been invaded many times in two hundred years.” Not just Monterey, though, and not just the past two hundred years.

Many waves of European explorers/invaders arrived on the Pacific Coast, disrupting the indigenous people and eventually paving the way for an American conquest.  The Spanish were the first Europeans to explore what is now the state of California. For instance, in 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo stopped at a place he named Bahia de los Pinos, better known today as Monterey Bay.

In 1602, Sebastián Vizcaíno cruised along the southern California coast. He left a major legacy of his efforts by naming San Diego, Santa Catalina Island, Santa Barbara, and Monterey. However, the Spanish were to have little enthusiasm for extending their influence farther in the area until the eighteenth century, when they began to fear other European powers expanding into it.
Junipero Serra

At that time, the Spanish sought to extend both their religious and military influence, both by sea routes and by land routes. Father Junipero Serra established the first Spanish mission in the area in San Diego in 1769, and Spanish officer Gaspar de Portolà led a military contingent and claimed the region for Spain.  The Spanish seized Monterey. In 1775, 240 colonists, led by Juan Bautista de Anza and Father Pedro Font, moved from Sonora to San Francisco harbor.

The Spanish eventually built twenty-one missions in Alta and attempted to convert the natives to Catholicism. Diseases such as measles devastated the indigenous population, and the Spanish enslavement of native people generated some opposition. An uprising in 1775 in San Diego, for example, led to the deaths of three Spaniards.  The Spanish tightened their grip on California by building presidios, or forts, in Monterey, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and San Diego.  e Spanish explorer Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra charted the waters near Bodega Bay in 1775. e  rst major European fortification built in California was at the Presidio of San Francisco, which was constructed by the Spanish in 1776.

The Spanish would soon be followed by the British. Sir Francis Drake, the famous Elizabethan pirate, arrived o  the shores of California in 1579, hoping to capture Spanish treasure ships. Accounts vary as to whether he stopped in Drake’s Bay, California, the Oregon coast, or even possibly British Columbia. Other Englishmen followed. A fur trader by the name of James Hanna traveled there in 1785; George Vancouver, an officer in the Royal Navy, arrived in Spanish California in 1792. Vancouver, observing the weak defenses of the Dons, noted that an invasion of California would be “an event which is by no means improbable.”  The Hudson’s Bay Company engaged in fur trapping along the west coast.

In 1837, rumors swirled that Mexico might cede California to Britain in exchange for repayment of debt. American fears of a renewed British presence in California helped spur the call for Manifest Destiny.
Alfred Hitchcock
1899 - 1980
California Invader?
Many Englishmen have followed in the footsteps of Drake and Vancouver, smitten by the California sun and the lure of economic opportunity. Charlie Chaplin, Basil Rathbone, Alfred Hitchcock, and John Cleese are just a few Englishmen that have launched personal and peaceful “invasions” of California. Hollywood would be hard-pressed to make movies without the help of English villains! Among the many English actresses that have “invaded” California are Julie Andrews and Angela Lansbury.
Captain Cyrille Laplace
1793 - 1875
The French also were attracted to California. In 1786, Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse of the French Navy arrived in Monterey to assess the territory with a view to expanding opportunities for trade and commerce. Abel du Petit-Thouars returned in 1837 to scout for whaling opportunities. Captain Cyrille Laplace arrived with the L’Artémise in 1839 and became friendly with Governor Alvarado. He even warned Alvarado about the avaricious intentions of the Americans, and suggested the formation of a French protectorate.

Many Frenchmen would beat a path to California, some attracted by the state’s winemaking potential. George de Latour would found Beaulieu Vineyard in 1900. A bubbly “invasion” of California was launched in 1973 with the introduction of méthode champenoise by Domaine Chandon.

Czarist Russia made a serious bid for California, which left a legacy that endures to the present. In 1806, officials of the Russian-American Company first visited San Francisco.  They sought mainly a source of food to supply their colony in Russian Alaska. In 1812, the same year that Napoleon invaded Russia, the Russians ”invaded” northern California, establishing Fort Ross in what is today Sonoma County.  The Russians already had an important colony established in Alaska, where the harsh climate made agriculture problematic. Eighty Aleuts and twenty-five Russians helped build a stockade.  The cannons of Fort Ross were never fired in anger. Today Fort Ross is a California state park.

 The Russians traded with the native Kashaya people who had inhabited the land around Fort Ross for thousands of years. Some Russian colonists intermarried with Kashaya women.  The Russians and their Aleut allies pursued sea otters and planted orchards, growing peaches, apples, and pears.  They built a Russian Orthodox church. An outbreak of smallpox in 1837 decimated the indigenous people, and by the 1830s, the sea otter population had been greatly diminished (only about 2,500 otters remain in the twenty-first century).  The Russians opted in 1841 to sell Fort Ross to Captain John Sutter, a Mexican citizen of Swiss extraction, who later became famous for igniting the California Gold Rush of 1849.
Fort Ross
California State Park
The Russian departure from Fort Ross in 1842 did not mean the end of Russian in uence on California. A Russian Orthodox cathedral was built in San Francisco in 1881.  The Russian River, popular with kayakers, cuts through Sonoma County. Fictional Russians would return to Northern California (doubling for Massachusetts) in 1966 to  film  The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming near Fort Bragg. In 2016’s Hail Caesar, a Soviet submarine is met o  the California coast by a boatload of leftist Hollywood screenwriters.

The Spanish did not perceive the Russian presence at Fort Ross as much of a threat to their empire. In fact, Spanish sovereignty over California was repeatedly tested and weakened. In 1808, Napoleonic France invaded Spain, providing a catalyst for the Mexican Revolution. Hippolyte Bouchard, a French Argentine, commanded two ships that cruised against the Spanish in 1818. In December of that year, Bouchard’s pirates seized and subsequently burned much of San Juan Capistrano. A revolution that swept aside Madrid’s power in the New World would begin in 1810 and culminate with Mexican independence in 1821.

During the Mexican period, Father Eugene Macnamara from County Clare led a brief Irish “invasion” of the San Joaquin Valley. A stream of American immigrants also began to  ow into Mexican California.
President James K. Polk
Polk House / Columbia TN
In 1844, James Polk, an aggressive expansionist, was elected president of the United States. During the campaign, he had threatened British Canada with the slogan “Fifty-four forty or fight!” (Oregon’s northern boundary is 54 degrees, 40 minutes.) After his inauguration, however, he focused his attention southward, toward Mexico. In 1845, he annexed Texas and prepared for war with Mexico. In June of 1845, Brevet Captain John C. Frémont set out from St Louis on an expedition to explore and map the source of the Arkansas River. Included in Frémont‘s command were the frontiersman Kit Carson and a band of Delaware Indian scouts. Frémont, known as the Pathfinder, wound up in Sacramento in January 1846. After being confronted by the Mexican General Castro at Gavilan Peak, Frémont withdrew north into Oregon.
John Fremont
"The Pathfinder"
By April 27, 1846, hostilities in the Mexican-American War began. A three-pronged invasion would conquer Mexican California on behalf of the Americans: Captain Frémont marched his group of  filibusters south from Oregon, Commodore John Sloat of the US Navy’s Pacific squadron led a naval offensive, and Brigadier General Stephen Kearny invaded southern California.

In June, Frémont captured towns in Sonoma. On July 1, he was ferried across the San Francisco Bay and spiked ten Mexican cannon. On July 4, 1846, the Bear Flag Republic was proclaimed, and Frémont became the head of the California Army.
General Stephen Kearny
1794 - 1884
General Kearny, a veteran of the War of 1812, was appointed to command the Army of the West in 1846. He set out with a force of nearly 1,700 men from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in June of that year. After capturing Santa Fe (see New Mexico), Kearny led his much-reduced force into Mexican California. Kearny and his men soon occupied San Diego. Frémont captured San Luis Obispo that same month.

Prior to the war, Commodore John Sloat had been instructed to seize San Francisco in the event of hostilities between the United States and Mexico. On July 7, 1846, Sloat captured Monterey with a force of three ships and fewer than three hundred sailors and marines without a shot being fired. Sloat immediately announced the annexation of California. By the end of July, the sixty-eight-year-old Sloat was replaced in command of the Pacific squadron by “Fighting Bob” Stockton. Commodore Stockton ferried Frémont’s men south, where they captured San Diego and Los Angeles.

On August 9, 1846, General Castro of the Californio forces called for “Death to the Invaders,” but promptly fled south to Mexico. All seemed to be going remarkably smoothly for the Americans, who were now in charge of all significant towns in California, but not for long. Archibald Gillespie, left in charge of Los Angeles with a force of forty-eight men, began to impose a harsh and unpopular martial law. Californio resistance coalesced under the leadership of Andrés Pico, a ranchero who owned the oldest building in the San Fernando Valley, which still stands today.

The bloodiest battle of the American invasion of California was fought on December 6, 1846, at San Pasqual, between General Kearny’s forces and the Californios, led by Pico. Nineteen Americans were killed in the fifteen- minute-long engagement, most pierced by the willow lances of the mounted Californios, who were excellent horsemen. Kearny himself was wounded, but his regulars forced the Californios to withdraw. Casualties among the Californios are unknown. e intervention of naval and marine forces would quickly overwhelm the resistance of the Californio forces. Frémont and Pico negotiated the Treaty of Cahuenga, which ended the fighting in California. Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles honors the family of the Californio leader.

Victory by American forces in the Mexican-American War led finally to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, which ceded California to the United States. California was admitted to the Union in 1850, and Frémont became one of the state’s first two senators.
Sutter's Fort
Sacramento, CA
The discovery of gold near Sutter’s Fort in the Sacramento Valley in 1849 spurred a Gold Rush that brought a flood of new settlers to California.  The Gold Rush was followed by waves of immigrants from Europe, Asia, and other parts of the United States.

 The continual  flow of settlers created intense competition for land, and the Native American population often suffered severe brutality from US forces and settlers. A series of clashes and minor wars occurred. For instance, in 1850, 130 Pomo men, women, and children were killed by US forces on an island in Clear Lake.  The Mariposa War of 1851 saw Native American resistance crushed in the Sierra Nevada.  The Yuma fought US forces over control of the Yuma crossing of the Colorado River. Overall, a huge percentage of the Native American population in California was wiped out during the nineteenth century.
Ulysses S. Grant
San Francisco, CA
Gold from California played a significant role in funding the Union during the Civil War. Ulysses S. Grant wrote, “I do not know what we would do in this great national emergency were it not for the gold sent from California.”

Some smaller units made up of Californians would fight on the Union side in the Civil War.  The California battalion formed part of the Second Massachusetts Cavalry and fought in over fifty engagements, mainly in Virginia.  The California brigade suffered high casualties at Antietam in 1862 and at Gettysburg in 1863. A California Column was used to drive Confederate sympathizers out of Arizona and New Mexico.

Fort Mason was built in 1864 during the Civil War on property owned by Frémont. It was intended to protect San Francisco from Confederate raiders.  The previous year, a group of Confederate sympathizers had outfitted a schooner, the J. M. Chapman, to serve as a privateer operating out of San Francisco Bay. Most Californians, however, remained loyal to the Union.

The 1860s and 1870s saw a number of clashes between US forces and Native Americans in Northern California, during the so-called Snake War of 1864–1868 and the Modoc War of 1872–1873.
When the War of the Pacific was fought (1879–1883) between Chile on one side against Peru and Bolivia, the Chilean Navy was considered superior to the US Navy’s Pacific fleet, and America did not intervene.

As Pacific powers such as Russia and Japan expanded their respective navies, the security of California’s long coastline became of heightened concern. Forts Baker, Barry, and McDowell were built to defend San Francisco from feared invasions between 1876 and 1905. In 1917, Fort MacArthur (named after Chester MacArthur) was built in San Pedro during World War I. More California forts would be built during World War II.
1942 Rose Bowl
Durnham, NC
On December 7, 1941, the battleship California, moored near the southern edge of Ford Island at Pearl Harbor, was struck on her port side by two Japanese torpedoes.  The Tennessee-class battleship sank (and was later re-floated), and one hundred members of her crew were killed. After the Pearl Harbor attack, submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy prowled o shore of California, and fear gripped the West Coast.  The Rose Bowl scheduled for New Year’s Day 1942 in Pasadena was initially cancelled due to fears of further Japanese attacks. Ultimately the game was played in Durham, North Carolina, where Oregon State beat Duke, 20 to 16.

On December 23, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy’s I-21 under Commander Matsumura torpedoed and sank the oil tanker Montebello off the California coast, near Cambria.  The surfaced sub also used its machine guns to shoot crew members that were attempting to use the ship’s lifeboats. Poor visibility allowed the crew to escape. In 1996, the wreck of the Montebello was discovered. Eight of its ten oil storage tanks are an on-going environmental concern as they rust in coastal California waters.

On February 23, 1942, I-17 surfaced near Santa Barbara.  The Japanese sub used her 140mm deck guns to shell the Ellwood oil refinery with sixteen to twenty-four rounds. Damage was minimal and no one was killed or injured in the attack, but Radio Tokyo crowed, “Sensible Americans know that the submarine shelling of the Pacific coast was a warning to the nation that the Paradise created by George Washington is on the verge of destruction.”

In the early morning hours of February 25, 1942, the air-raid sirens of Los Angeles sounded after an unknown aircraft triggered a blip on the radar. Anti-aircraft guns  red over ten tons of ordnance into the night sky. Eight citizens died during the “raid,” mostly due to heart attacks.  The phantom raid had involved no Japanese planes. Panic had swept the West Coast.  This incident later inspired Stephen Spielberg’s movie 1941.

The US Navy’s decisive victory at the Battle of Midway in June of 1942 largely eliminated the threat of Japanese invasion to California and the West Coast. In November of 1944, the first of at least twenty Japanese balloon bombs to land in California was spotted off the coast of San Pedro, near Fort MacArthur, by a US auxiliary ship.


Philip K. Dick’s 1962 science fiction novel  The Man in the High Castle (and the subsequent TV series) posited an Axis victory of World War II and a Japanese occupation of California and the West Coast.

The small rocky island at the heart of San Francisco Bay known as Alcatraz has been subject to many invasions over time. In the 1850s, it was fortified by the US Army Corps of Engineers. During the Civil War, it was used to defend against Confederate privateers on the Pacific Coast and to house Confederate prisoners of war. It would later evolve from a military prison into a federal maximum-security prison, housing the likes of Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly (no relation!).  The prison was finally closed in 1963. In 1969, Native Americans “invaded” the island and occupied it as a protest for two years. Today Alcatraz is “invaded” daily by masses of tourists eager to hear tales of “The Rock.”

On December 2, 2015, fourteen Americans were killed in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, launched by an American citizen and his Pakistani-born wife."



TOURIST SITES:  There are so many great tourist sites in the Golden State for those interested in her military history.  Here are a few of my favorites...

1) SUTTER'S FORT, Sacramento, CA. (https://suttersfort.org/).  Learn where the Gold Rush started.

2) FORT ROSS, Sonoma County, CA. (https://www.fortross.org/).  Find this gem of a Park right north of Russian River.

3) SAN PASQUAL BATTLEFIELD, Escondido CA. (https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=655).  Site of California's bloodiest battle.

4) USS MIDWAY, San Diego, CA.  (https://www.midway.org/).  Board a WW2 era Aircraft Carrier.

5) USS PAMPANITO, San Francisco, CA.  (https://maritime.org/uss-pampanito/).  Check out a WW2 era submarine near Fisherman's Wharf in SF.

Cannon
San Pasqual Battlefield Park
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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Xi Must Go / China Must Pay

A Modest Proposal


COVID-19 has, as of this writing, has claimed the lives of over over 328,000 people worldwide and over 90,000 in the USA alone.  It is crystal clear...

1) that this global pandemic originated in China,
2) that the Chinese government covered up the facts about the virulence of the disease (human to human spread and so on) and
3) that the Chinese government facilitated the spread of the disease by NOT shutting down air travel from Wuhan.

These reckless and irresponsible actions have cost lives and brought the global economy to its knees.

In spite of these indisputable facts, neither American 2020 Presidential candidate has been sufficiently forceful in calling for strong actions with regard to the Chinese Communist government.  Neither Trump nor Biden have called for obvious two action items.

Xi Must Go!

First, President Xi Jinping must go.  China's Xi is the head of the Chinese Communist Party that controls China.  Xi has, at a minimum, made horrendously poor decisions that have unleashed this fatal pandemic on our world.  Xi must take responsibility for his actions and inactions.  All of the world, including the Chinese people themselves, should call on Xi to step down.

Last fall I wrote a blog titled Xi who Must be Obeyed (https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2019/09/xi-who-must-be-obeyed.html) about about China's surprising political power and the influence it would have on the upcoming 2020 election in the USA.  In light of the catastrophe that is the Chinese or Wuhan virus, Xi can no longer be obeyed -- Xi must go.  And he must go now.

World Economy 2020: Closed

Second, China must pay for the damage that they have done.  Reparations can be a notoriously tricky business.  The punitive reparations imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles that concluded WWI played a role in the formation of Nazi fascism and led to WW2.  The reparations imposed upon China must not be punitive or harsh; they must be just and suit the crime against global health that they have committed.  Here is my solution...

China must pay the full tab for generously funding the WHO for the next hundred years.  China made the mess and China needs to clean it up.  The 2019 budget for the WHO was $4.4 billion.  China is the second largest economy in the world today and can clearly afford the pay the WHO budget in full which would work out to less than $5 per Chinese citizen based on 2019.  Oversight for the future operations of the WHO need to come from the United Nations (not merely from China).  China created this biological Chernobyl pollutes our world today.  China needs to assume accountability and to atone for its grossly negligent actions by contributing to the promotion of global health throughout the planet.  The victims of China's biological invasion are spread throughout  world.  China needs to act positively on behalf of all its victims for the very long term.

Chloe Wu
This blog is respectfully dedicated to my friend Chloe Wu of Hangzhou who reminds me that the first victims of COVID-19 were the Chinese people.




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Sunday, May 10, 2020

Homeland: An Appreciation

Clare Danes
Carrie Mathison

I must confess at the outset to having a bit of a crush on Clare Danes.  The 8th and final season of Homeland has just concluded (https://www.sho.com/homeland).  Homeland has earned its place as an effective dramatic series that manages to deal with foreign policy and intelligence issues in a serious thoughtful manner.

My historian's perspective dictates that I must consider Homeland from the vantage of multiple threats to the USA over the course of our history.  Hitler's Nazi regime was an existential threat to our homeland in WW2.  Imperial Japan was a threat to our Pacific coast and possessions.  Communist Russia was a nuclear-armed threat during Cold War.   But the very first nation to declare war on the USA was, surprisingly, in the Islamic world.

To really appreciate Homeland it is necessary to jump into the way-back machine and examine the origin of historic foreign threats to our homeland and the responses that these threats created.

Following American victory in the Revolution, we gained our independence.  But we Americans also lost the sheltering protection of the British empire.  American merchants trading around the globe lost the protection of the Royal navy. Barbary pirates based in North Africa preyed on defenseless American merchant vessels.  John Adams was a staunch advocate of a strong navy while Thomas Jefferson was more skeptical about US Naval and military power.   Adams and Jefferson debated over whether the  fledgling republic should build strong navy to deal with the threat of Islamic pirates.   But even Adams had his moments of doubt expressing that "We ought not to fight them at all.  Unless we determine to fight them forever. This thought, I fear, too rugged for our People to bear."   (Source: Six Frigates, Ian Toll, p 28, 2006, www.amzn.com/039333032X) The US Marines, in particular, would clash with the Islamic world in Libya where they were led to victory "on the shores of Tripoli" by  William Eaton, a former sergeant in the Continental army.



In the Libya chapter of America Invades we noted...

"In 1801, Tripoli (now capital of Libya; then, with its surrounding territory, a sort of state on its own) became the first nation to declare war on the United States...Yussef Karamanli, pasha, of Tripoli, had his minions chop down the flagpole at the US consulate in Tripoli. Not the most subtle method of expressing your displeasure with another country, but one bound to get noticed...We had a bit of a pirate problem at the time—or actually quite a lot of a pirate problem. And we weren’t alone. Barbary pirates operating from the North African coast had taken over one million European slaves from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. And between 1785 and 1815, more than six hundred American citizens were captured and enslaved.

We had tried to solve the problem by paying the Barbary States not to seize our ships and our sailors, but finally, Thomas Jefferson had grown weary of paying tribute. Hence the chopped down flagpole. In reply, Jefferson dispatched elements of the tiny USN (six ships in total in 1803) to North Africa to  fight the First Barbary War...
William Eaton
1764 - 1811
Now Jefferson sent William Eaton, a former sergeant in the Continental Army, to go on a secret mission to the Barbary Coast. Eaton had also had diplomatic experience serving as the US consul in Tunis. The dispatch of Eaton represented the first occasion in which the US government attempted to overthrow a foreign government by covert means. It would not, of course, be the last time.



One of the most famous incidents in the history of the USMC took place in Libya in 1805. William Eaton led a group of eight marines and a party of mercenaries on a 520-mile march through the desert from Alexandria in Egypt to Derna in Libya. It was at the battle of Derna on April 27, 1805, that Eaton led his men against the pasha’s forces in a siege that finally culminated with an assault. Eaton personally led a bayonet charge against a larger foe with Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon by his side. This was the first time the fifteen stars and stripes of the US  flag were raised on a foreign shore. It was here that the US Marines famously earned a victory against the pasha on 'the shores of Tripoli'". (Source: www.americainvades.com)

Nearly 200 years after the Battle of Derna was fought, Islamic terrorists picked out targets within the American homeland -- they seized control of commercial jetliners and crashed them into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.  The 9/11 attacks transformed America and, indeed, the world.  The US military, including the Marines, invaded Afghanistan in 2001 where Al Quaeda's Osama Bin Laden had found sanctuary with the Taliban.  This would mark the beginning of America's longest lasting war which persists to the day.  The US-led war in Afghanistan has cost over 3,000 American lives, many more wounded and trillions of dollars.  In 2003 President Bush led a fateful invasion of Iraq which resulted in the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

Damian Lewis
Nicholas Brody

Homeland premiered in 2011 -- ten years after 9/11 and the same year that Osama Bin Laden was killed in a raid inside of Pakistan.  It featured English actor Damian Lewis who played a US Marine named Nicholas Brody.  Initial episodes of the series focussed on the global war on terrorism and America's confrontation with Al Qaeda and the Islamic world.

Mandy Patinkin
Saul Berenson

The strange case of Nick Brody lay at the center of Homeland for its first several seasons.  Brody was an upright US Marine.  He is a warrior of courage faithful to the Corps and his country in the tradition of the shores of Tripoli.  But Brody's encounter with Islam went off the rails.  Disgusted by what he witnesses in Iraq and the Middles East, he experiences a crisis of faith and  becomes a convert to Islam and, ultimately a traitor to his country.  Carrie Mathison, played by Clare Danes, is the CIA officer who investigates and eventually falls in love with Brody.  Brody fathers a child with Carrie.  Brody must pay for his treachery and is hanged at the conclusion of season three.  This same season also saw the introduction of the brilliant actor Mandy Patinkin as Carrie's boss at the CIA Saul Berenson.

Even after the death of Brody, Homeland continued to weave spellbinding drama about US foreign policy and the role of the intelligence services.  The threats to the American homeland expand beyond simply Islamic terrorism.  Putin's Russia comes to play a significant role in the series (https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2019/05/killing-alexander_19.html).

Over the course of eight seasons Homeland strove to be relevant, timely and authentic in its handling of current events.  The producers, writers and cast would routinely debrief with actual intelligence personnel to create their "ripped from the headlines" show.

This is not to say that the series did not make mistakes.  It stumbled in season 6 (premiered in 2017) when a female Hillary Clinton clone was elected President of the United States.  In season 8 John Zabel (played by Hugh Dancy), a hawkish foreign policy adviser who bears a disturbing similarity to John Bolton, is really more of a caricature than a fully rounded character.  Berenson requires a foil.  At times the writing is weak or lazy.  Mandy Patinkin, for example, delivers some rather simplistic bromides on the folly of Bush's Iraq war that echo the established faith of those inside the Beltway and media.

But these are just quibbles.  Overall, Homeland is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful and exciting things to be produced in television today.  It was unafraid to take on real issues.  John Adams fretted over the possibility of endless war with Islam and today the war in Afghanistan is the longest running war in American history.



Homeland gets three important things right.

First Homeland is a salute to that tiny minority of American men and women who have volunteered to serve their country in the US military.  They risk their lives so that our homeland can remain safe and free.  Nick Brody is hanged.  Max Piotrowski, a DOD security analyst and Carrie's friend, pays the ultimate price in season 8.  Many more have suffered grievous wounds to body and mind in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen.  These heirs to the legacy of William Eaton are deployed to bases around the world from the frozen wastes of Northern Greenland to hell holes in the Middle East and Africa.  Their long deployments separate them from their families who also pay a steep price for their vital service.  They deserve our undying gratitude.

Second, Homeland is a tribute to the men, and especially women, of the intelligence services.  At the core of the show is the character of Carrie Mathison.  She is a indomitable though flawed woman.  She is a problem solver who suffers from bipolar disorder.  Her long absences mean that she barely knows her own daughter who is raised by her sister.   It was not martini-swilling James Bond types at the CIA but rather women much like Carrie who, over many years, managed to track down the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  Down the the final frame of the series, Homeland affirms the necessary of the role of our intelligence services in working with our military and foreign service professionals to preserve the security of our nation in a dangerous world.

Third, Homeland depicts the machinations of a political class that directs the activities of the US military and intelligence services that is a far cry from the days of Adams and Jefferson.  John Adams fretted over the possibility of an endless war with Islam but today the longest war in Americans history persists like a costly ulcer in Afghanistan.  The politicians who lead us may be wise but are more often venal agents determined to extend and preserve their own power at all costs.  At times it seems that the greatest threat to our homeland comes, not from sinister forces abroad, but rather from our own elected officials.  Beware the swamp!

Sergeant Gillis
This blog is dedicated to Sergeant Petrova Gillis of the US Army who is currently deployed in Afghanistan and a fan of Homeland.



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Monday, May 4, 2020

Trump Re-Election after over 50,000 COVID-19 Deaths?



Olivia Nuzzi, a New York Magazine reporter recently asked President Trump this question: "If more Americans died in the last six weeks than the entirety of the Vietnam War, do you deserve to be re-elected?"  Clearly it was a gotcha question designed to draw attention to the questioner.  But, hey, she is writing a book and authors need to sell their wares...

But the premise of the question is not altogether without merit.

Vietnam War Memorial
Veteran's Park
Tupelo, MS

58,220 Americans were killed during the length of the Vietnam War.  You can find all their names inscribed in Vietnam memorial in Washington DC and even in another memorial in Tupelo, Mississippi.  As of this writing over 68,000 Americans are reported to have died as a result of the Coronavirus.

Trump kept calm given the incendiary nature of the question, gave his answer and left the podium.  But he might have said this...

Abraham Lincoln statue
Dayton, OH

"Did Abraham Lincoln deserve to be re-elected in 1864?  After all his election in 1860 had helped to precipitate the US Civil War.   This conflict proved to be the bloodiest war in American history costing around 750,000 American lives or 15 X more than Vietnam?  Remember also that Lincoln was, in the early stages of the war, a somewhat inept Commander in Chief of the Union forces.  Bull Run was just one of many Union disasters.  But in 1864 the American people chose to re-elect Lincoln in order to win the war, emancipate the slaves and preserve the Union.
FDR Statue
Grosvenor Square, London

Did Franklin Delano Roosevelt deserve to be re-elected in 1944?  He was running for an unprecedented fourth term in office.  He was running during WW2 which began for Americans on December 7, 1941 with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor -- a colossal intelligence blunder by FDR's administration.  By the time of the 1944 election hundreds of thousands of Americans had been killed in combat in a conflict that would ultimately claim over 405,000 American lives. But in 1944 the American people chose to re-elect President Roosevelt.  They believed that FDR would steer America and the Allies to victory.

In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in Wuhan China, has claimed over 200,000 lives in the USA and around the world.  This devastating pandemic, which was in no way caused by President Trump or any American politician, has brought the world economy to its knees.

In the fall of 2020 it will be the American voting public and not some grandstanding reporter that determines whether of not Trump deserves to be re-elected.  The American electorate can be quite forgiving if they believe that a US President is working with integrity in their best interests."



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Friday, May 1, 2020

1917




With billions of folks now trapped in their homes and hungry for entertainment, we must not neglect to cite 1917 as one of the great war films of recent years (www.amzn.com/B082PQH2P7).  This film, directed by Sam Mendes, was an absolute tour de force.  It is a thrill ride of a movie that grips the viewer immediately.  Its "one take" technique (Like Hitchcock's Rope and others) helped to win a deserved Oscar for best cinematography.



Beyond its evident technical achievement this film deserves credit for taking on a too often neglected or forgotten war in a starkly realistic manner.  The story is loosely based on experiences actually lived by Sam Mendes grandfather who served as a "Tommy" on the Western Front in WWI.   The
topic of WWI is generally disdained in favor of WWII by Hollywood.  No veterans of WWI are still alive.  Our media remains obsessed with what happened yesterday.  Yet WWI has tremendous dramatic and cinematic opportunity as evidenced by Lawrence of Arabia, Sergeant York and many other films.

I opened the Introduction to An Adventure in 1914 with...

"The world can change fundamentally in a single day. It has done so many times. The world changed on September 11, 2001; it changed on December 7, 1941. Earlier in the twentieth century, the world was shaken to its foundations on June 28, 1914, with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo. Of course, it took longer than one day for World War I to erupt—it took a summer. My great-grandfather, Thomas Tileston Wells, was an eyewitness to that refulgent and transformative summer. An Adventure in 1914 is his testament.
Thomas Tileston Wells
An Adventure in 1914
June 28, 1914, marks a sharp dividing line between nineteenth-century ways of thought and the onset of our bleaker modern world. In the space of a few short weeks, the world descended into the maelstrom of the most devastating war in human history up to that point. Mighty empires would be toppled, revolution would radically transform Russia, and millions would be killed. The glory of the Belle Époque would be erased by trench warfare on the Western Front. In the summer of 1914, the waltz ended and a long muddy slog began." (Source: www.anadventurein1914.com)

The film 1917 shows the muddy slog through the trenches of the Western Front in WWI.  Two British Tommies (played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) are charged with bringing an urgent message across no man's land.  Over a mile of trenches were constructed by the production crew on the Salisbury plain near Stonehenge in order to make the film.  Digitally fabricated rats infest these trenches and sometimes interact with the actors.

In addition to the grim horrors of war there are moments of haunting beauty in this film.  A particularly poignant scene depicts a soldier singing "I am a poor wayfarer" while being surrounded by his enraptured comrades.
General Pershing
The year 1917 was remarkable for the belated entry of America into the Great War on the Allied side.  This film, however, is thoroughly British and does not touch on American involvement in the war at all.  I wrote about the reasons behind America's entry into the war earlier...https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2017/03/world-war-i-centennial.html.

Spoiler alert: Lance Corporal Tom Blake, a major character played by Chapman, is killed about half way through the film.  He is brutally stabbed to death by a crashed German pilot whom he had just rescued by pulling from his burning plane.  This seems to be the one false note in an otherwise excellent film.  Would a soldier in combat be likely to immediately murder his savior?   This smacks of Germano-phobia at the least.  We know that there were many instances of astonishing humanity during the Great War -- including the famous Christmas truce of 1914 when soldiers from both sides played soccer and sang carols.
Cenotaph
Auckland, NZ
WWI was a horrific event which claimed the lives of around 18 million souls.  The Spanish Flu which was spread, in part, by the victory parades which followed the war was even more lethal claiming over 50 million lives worldwide.

In this dark days of the COVID-19 global pandemic, 1917 is a reminder that other generations have faced existential challenges that were, in fact, far greater than our own.  Just over a hundred thousand Americans were killed in the Great War and we could lose a similar number of Americans in 2020 due to the Coronavirus...?  The world changed suddenly and catastrophically in the summer of 1914 and it changed again in the spring of 2020.  The sun breaks through the clouds as Lance Corporal William Schofield finally gets his life-saving message through to the British General in command of that sector of the front.  All of us enduring the pandemic of 2020 must emulate his superhuman determination as we traverse the "no man's land" of today.

www.anadventurein1914.c



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