Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Putin's Invasion of Ukraine

Winston Churchill Bust
Queen Mary 2

Let us begin with some sage advice from Winston Churchill, "Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events."

Clearly Putin did not give this quote much consideration before he launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in March of 2022.  He did not realize that Russia would incur the enormous casualties that they have sustained.  He did not predict the death of at least five Russian generals and one admiral.  He did not predict the desertion of Russian troops on Russian territory.  He saw only smooth sailing when huge storm clouds loomed.  He did not foresee that Zelenski would emerge as a global champion of freedom.  He did not seem to foresee that his attacks on civilian targets would mobilize the sane world in opposition to his aggression.

Though modern media likes to focus on what happened only in the last two minutes, History does provide some insight into the current situation in Ukraine.  There has been a long historic track record of Russian ineptitude in bilateral military actions...

Battle of Tsushima
May 27-28, 1905

1) The Japanese humiliated Tsarist Russia in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5.  Port Arthur was captured by the Japanese and the Russian fleet, which had sailed around the world from Europe, was annihilated at the Battle of Tsushima.  President Teddy Roosevelt earned a Nobel prize for mediating the peace between Russia and Japan (Biden take note!).

2) In 1940 Stalin's Soviet Union invaded Finland hoping for a walkover. Instead he got a bloody nose losing over 120,000 lives along the Mannerheim line.  Adolph Hitler, based partly on this war, assumed that the Soviet Union was a broken nation.  The intrepid correspondent Virginia Cowles (See earlier blog... traveled to Finland and wrote this description of "the most ghastly spectacle" she'd ever seen...

Virginia Cowles 
Eyewitness to Russo-Finnish War of 1940

"For four miles the road and forests were strewn with the bodies of men and horses; with wrecked tanks, field kitchens, trucks, gun carriages, maps, books and articles of clothing.  The corpses were frozen as hard as petrified wood and the color of the skin was mahogany.  Some of the bodies were piled on top of each other like a heap of rubbish, covered only by a merciful blanket of snow; others were sprawled against the treason grotesque attitudes."  (Source Looking For Trouble, Cowles, 1941).

"Patience, Gentlemen, Patience!"

3) In 1979 the Brezhnev's Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan which soon became their nation's Vietnam.  Over the course of ten years this war killed over 25,000 Soviet troops and drained the Soviet treasury.  Ultimately, the Afghan ulcer was a factor, along with Chernobyl and the stagnant economy, that brought down the Berlin Wall and pushed Soviet Communism into the dustbin of history.

Moreover, even Russia's wars with allies have not gone particularly well.  In World War I Tsarist Russia managed to lose despite being on the winning Allied side!  Nicholas II and his family were killed at Yekaterinburg.  In World War II Stalin's Soviet Union prevailed but only after sustaining well over 13 million casualties.

Vladimir Putin

Putin is clearly a liar and a killer ( See Killing Alexander...  He presides over a kleptocratic oligarchy in which he is the principal criminal.   Putin is one third Rasputin, one third Al Capone and one third Moriarty.

Clearly Putin failed the measure the "tides and hurricanes" (see Churchill quote above) of the war with Ukraine.  As of this writing Russia seems to have sustained around 15,300 casualties in the conflict including the deaths of six general officers and one admiral.  Over 100 Russian planes have been shot down.  The Jerusalem Post now reports that Russian casualties in Ukraine have now exceeded those sustained over ten years in Afghanistan (!  Putin is not just a thief -- he is a blunderer.

The full scope of the blame does not rest with Putin alone.  Clearly there has also been a failure on the part of the West to deter Russian aggression in the first place.  This is not entirely due to Biden's bumbling though he has much to answer for (disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal etc.).  Angela Merkel and the German SDP led her country in the wrong direction for many years encouraging the notion that NATO would allow an invasion of Ukraine.  Defense spending among NATO members was allowed to sag for years.

Moreover, what Churchill said about yielding to war fever applies equally to Biden and the USA and the West.  

The principle foreign policy task of every US president since Harry Truman has been the necessity of avoiding World War III.  Any use of nuclear weapons would be an almost unimaginable catastrophe for the entire world.

Biden cannot afford to escalate the war in Ukraine to the point where it involves a super power showdown.  But, equally, he cannot afford to not stand up for western values of democracy and self determination epitomized by Zelenski.

It must, however, be noted that Zelenski's Ukraine is hardly a perfect vessel for western ideals.  The Azov battalion, with its Neo-nazis, is a part of the Ukraine defense forces (  Another Churchill quote explains the Azov battalion best: "It isn't only the good boys who help win wars; it is the sneaks and stinkers as well."  Moreover, a smattering of unsavory Ukranians is insignificant compared with  the ruthless over the top brutality of the Putin's invasion in targeting civilians.

Biden now faces the greatest challenge of his presidency; he must support Ukraine but not ignite the fuse on World War III.  He must emerge as the "Master of events" and not "the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events."  God help us all!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Invading Grenada!

Commander K "Invades" Grenada!

Thanks to Cunard and the Queen Mary 2, I had a chance to launch an entirely peaceful albeit brief "invasion" of Grenada this March (  I disembarked at St. George's and had a chance to do some hiking on this verdant Caribbean island.  We hiked through an area that was fought in by US soldiers in the 1983 invasion.  We did not run into any Cuban revolutionaries but there were a few treacherous river crossings to negotiate with my fellow Cunard passengers...

River Crossing Grenada

The Grenadians are remarkably friendly to American tourists.  A Catholic priest friend of mine from New Hampshire (Monsignor Peter Dumont) who visited St George's told me that he was high-fived and thanked just for being an American!  Why are Grenadians so grateful? 

Perhaps with Putin's brutal an unprovoked 2022 invasion of Ukraine it is more important than ever to remember that some invasions are truly liberations.  It is nice to also recall a time when American leadership under Reagan focused on Peace through Strength and was able to deter...

This is what we had to say about Grenada in 2014's America Invades (

Fresh Nutmeg from
The Island of Spice

"Grenada is a beautiful small island in the Caribbean with a population of about one hundred thousand, which is also known as the “Island of Spice”—it produces cinnamon, cloves, and about 20 percent of the world’s nutmeg. It’s a popular tourist destination, especially for cruise ships to its capital, St. George’s. And yes, as you already know, we have invaded it.

Grenada was a former French and, then from 1763, British colony. So inevitably there was a certain amount of French and British invading that went on then. During the British period, we first got involved militarily with Grenada. Nothing major but still worth mentioning.

During the Revolutionary War, for instance, American privateers targeted ships leaving Grenada’s ports. Mind you, we didn’t have it all our own way. There were also privateers operating out of Grenada that preyed upon American shipping.

Then during World War II, US forces occasionally visited the island, on one occasion allegedly attempting to set up an artillery post on Richmond Hill, but finding no suitable site.

Grenada gained its independence from Britain in 1974 but remains part of the Commonwealth.

Reagan did put "boots on the ground" in Grenada...
Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, CA

In 1983, Grenada was the site of America’s largest military intervention since the Vietnam War. Ronald Reagan had defeated Jimmy Carter in the election of 1980 to become our fortieth president. Reagan took a more aggressive view about confronting Communism than his Cold War predecessors. Political upheaval on the island of Grenada gave Reagan an opportunity to reverse militarily what he saw as a dangerous expansion of Cuban and Soviet influence.

Reagan avenged the death of
Grenada's Maurice Bishop

On October 19, 1983, Bernard Coard, a hard-line Communist deputy prime minister, led a coup against Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, a Marxist who had assumed power after a coup in 1979. A few days later, Bishop and two other members of his cabinet were assassinated.

Even before the coup, Reagan had been agonizing about exactly what was happening on Grenada and what it meant for the United States. There were intelligence reports indicating that Russia and Cuba had been building military infrastructure, in particular a ten-thousand-foot airstrip. That summer, he had already told vice president George Bush to make contingency plans, and now Reagan didn’t hesitate for long in enacting them.

With the Organization of East Caribbean States calling for a military response from the United States and despite being warned that there would be “a harsh political reaction” to a US invasion, on October 22, just a few days after the coup, Reagan decided the invasion should go ahead.

Navy Seal Badge
US Navy Seal Museum
Fort Pierce, FL

Operation Urgent Fury was launched on October 25, 1983. The US Army Rapid Deployment Force, including Ranger battalions, the 82nd Airborne Division, marines, and Navy SEALs (see..., was augmented by a few hundred troops from Jamaica and other countries. These forces engaged about fifteen hundred troops from the Grenadian Army and about a few hundred Cuban military special forces. The fighting was short (three days) and sometimes sharp, costing nineteen American lives and over one hundred total fatalities, including some civilians.

Grenada tested the "Special" Relationship
Reagan Presidential Library
Simi Valley, CA

The UN General Assembly condemned the US invasion calling it “a flagrant violation of international law” and voting 108 to 9 against it. Reagan’s ideological soulmate, Prime Minister Thatcher, was thrust into an awkward position by the US invasion as Grenada was still a member of the Commonwealth. Thatcher was disappointed by the American lack of consultation prior to taking action in Grenada.

However, there was also widespread American support for the invasion, particularly after the ABC broadcast Nightline featured an interview with American medical students from St. George’s University School of Medicine who expressed their gratitude for the invasion and towards the US Army Rangers. Americans were obviously particularly anxious about the potential for hostage taking after the Iranian crisis of 1979, so anything that took Americans out of a potentially dangerous political situation was likely to be popular.

US troops were withdrawn in December of 1983, and Grenada held elections in December of 1984. The operation can be seen as having laid to rest some of the inevitable reluctance for overseas military interventions evident in the period after the end of the Vietnam War.

October 25, the day American forces arrived, is celebrated in Grenada as a national holiday—Thanksgiving Day. The airport has been renamed “Maurice Bishop International Airport” in honor of the assassinated prime minister."  (Source:

Beautiful Grenada!


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Thursday, March 17, 2022

Hitler: Only the World Was Enough

Only the World was Enough

The old rule of debating holds that the first side to use the word "Hitler" automatically loses!

Putin's invasion of Ukraine, however, makes it more important than ever for us to gain a better understanding of Hitler, dictators and the use of propaganda in human conflict.

Brendan Simms' Hitler (published in 2019) is a fascinating reexamination of the life of history's greatest villain (  Simms is a Cambridge history professor who has tapped a huge mine of new research to develop a new take on the Fuhrer -- the man who, more than any other, propelled the world into the bloodiest war in human history..

Simms' central thesis is that Hitler was obsessed with America and the British Empire from his experiences as a soldier in the trenches in World War I.  This obsession with and opposition to the Anglosphere was the driving force behind so many of his later actions.  As a private in the 12th Royal Bavarian Infantry brigade, Hitler came into contact with two American prisoners in July 1918.  Simms writes, "Hitler  was convinced that these 'doughboys' were the descendants of German emigrants, lost to the Fatherland for lack of 'living space' to feed them, who had returned as avengers in the ranks of an unstoppable enemy army."  Hitler's mission would be to reforge Germany in order to take on the Anglo-American world order -- a capitalist system that he both envied and detested.  His virulent anti-semitism was a product of his disdain for the Anglo-American system as he believed that Jews ran the economies of all western allied nations.

There is no evidence that Adolph Hitler, born in Austria on April 10, 1889, was abused as a child, nor was he the product of a 'broken' home.  His father Alois, Roman Catholic and not anti-semitic, died in 1903.  Hitler expressed gratitude to Eduard Bloch, the Jewish doctor who unsuccessfully cared for his cancer-stricken mother who died in 1907.  The start of World War I in 1914 saw him join the Bavarian army with some enthusiasm.  His experiences in the trenches on the western front were formative in shaping his outlook for the rest of his life.  He served for four years in the war as a regimental dispatch runner, where he was wounded, gassed and decorated.  But he showed almost no early signs of leadership ability during the four years of the Great war.

The "humiliation" and occupation of Germany which followed the Treaty of Versailles would provide grist for Hitler's political career in the 1920s and beyond.  He famously launched a beer hall putsch in Munich in the fall of 1923.  Imprisoned at Landesberg, he wrote the first volume of his famous tortured work Mein Kampf.   Early readers could already discern his desire to get rid of "international Jewry" and his faith in the need for Lebensraum for the resettlement of the German people.  The rise of Mussolini it Italy with the 1922 March on Rome provided inspiration for those with fascist sympathies though little tangible assistance for his Nazi party.

Hitler would likely have remained a minor footnote in Weimar political history had it not been for the onset of the Great Depression which was kicked off with the Wall Street crash of October 1929.  High unemployment swelled the ranks of the Nazi party bringing them to power in 1933.

Simms argues, convincingly, that Hitler was obsessed throughout his adult life by the economic and military power of the British Empire and the United States of America.  He admired their control of vast amounts of land and their 'Anglo-Saxon' work ethic.  He deplored the migration of Germans to lands under their control.  He saw America's Great Plains as a perfect answer to the challenge of Lebensraum.  During WW2, he directed German industry to construct Amerika jet bombers for the Luftwaffe despite the fact that jet fighters / interceptors would have been much better for the war effort.  Yet, almost inexplicably, Hitler never bothered to actually visit Britain, the USA or any English speaking country during his lifetime.  How would history and our world have been different had he done so?

Dwight Eisenhower
1890 - 1969
Grosvenor Square, London

Simms' work becomes particularly intriguing when it focuses on the many Americans of German descent who helped enormously to defat the Nazis.  Dwight Eisenhower, architect of the D-day landings, was the descendant of "pacifist Menonites who left the Saarland for Pennsylvania in the 18th century".  General Clarence Hubner (commander of US V Corps) has a grandfather from Stuttgart.  Carl Spatz (later 'Spaatz') , commander of the US Strategic Air Forces in Europe that pounded German cities into dust, was of German ancestry.  Bertram Hoffmeister (Canadian 5th Armored Division) had a grandfather from Hamburg.  Simms neglects to mention Admiral Chester Nimitz of the US navy who commanded American forces at the decisive battle of Midway; Nimitz was from the German community in Fredericksburg, Texas.

John Basilone
Italian-American Medal of Honor winner

Understandably in a Hitler biography, Simms does not elaborate on the contributions to the Allied war effort made by other "Axis-Americans".  Around one out of twelve American servicemen in the war were of Italian-America descent (see Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World for much  Enrico Fermi was an Italian physicist who helped make the American atomic bomb.  Japanese-Americans serving in the 442nd regimental combat team ("Go For Broke") won an extraordinary number of medals.  And so on...

442nd Medal
"Go For Broke"

Simms emphasizes Hitler's prioritization of politics over economics.  Hitler explains, "The economy is only of secondary importance.  The main thing is national pride, love of country."  Hitler consistently opposed free trade and capitalism.  He wanted to exert national control over the levers of international financial manipulation to supplant what he perceived, or really misperceived, to be a lurking Jewish cabal.

Hitler held deeply ambivalent views about the German Volk or people.  He fretted over the racial coherence of the Fatherland.  He worried that that the best elements of the Reich had emigrated weakening the Volk.  He was more than willing to destroy those of his confederates who were most loyal to him -- in June of 1934 he personally arrested at gunpoint Ernst Rohm of the SA who was murdered in custody soon after.  He later forced Rommel to commit suicide.  He was always willing to ruthlessly crush anyone who opposed him, regardless of ideology or nationality.

As a strategist in World War II, Hitler displayed, to put the matter in chess terms, a strong opening game, a flawed middle game and a catastrophic end game. (It seems that Putin, by contrast, cannot even manage a strong open with his invasion of Ukraine.).  Hitler essentially used the German Volk as his pawns in the world war.  See also...

Simms concludes that "If Hitler's relationship with the British Empire and the United States was ultimately antagonistic, it was also admiring and entangled,  He long hoped for a British alliance and he never ceased to exalt the supposed racial qualities of the 'Anglo-Saxons' on both sides fo the Atlantic, and to believe that they represented Germany's 'better' racial half.  Anglo-America was Hitler's model, much more so than Stalin's Russia or even Mussolini's Italy.  The original for the Lebensraum project was the British Empire, and especially the American colonization of the west.  Hitler and the Third Reich were thus a reaction not to the Russian Revolution but to the dominance of Anglo-America and global capitalism.  The Holocaust was not a distorted copy of Stalin's Great Terror. but a pre-emptive strike against Roosevelt's America."

Ironically, Hitler's Reich would be pulverized by the industrial capacity and aerial might of 'Anglo-Saxon' nations that were his model (See Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe...  Hitler, in conversations with Albert Speer, shared his fevered dreams about a New York in flames.  Instead of putting a torch to Manhattan with his new super jets, the Fuhrer managed 1) to nearly annihilate the German people, 2) to welcome Stalin into Eastern Europe and 3) to set America on a path to becoming a superpower.


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Monday, March 14, 2022

Looking For Trouble

Virginia Cowles was an astonishing woman who wrote an amazing memoir about her experiences as a war correspondent in Europe from 1936 until 1941.  She called her memoir Looking For Trouble/The classic memoir of a trailblazing war correspondent...

Reading her memoir in the uncertain times in which we live is a refreshing and ultimately hopeful experience.  She writes about times that were unquestionably dark.  She met Mussolini.  She attended a Nazi rally.  She covered both sides of the Spanish Civil War which was an extremely dangerous thing to do.  She visited Stalin's Soviet Union.

Virginia Cowles
1910 - 1983

She began her career as a war correspondent with virtually no prior experience.  She had covered the fashion and society beat for the Hearst papers.  Yet she was determined to be even handed in her coverage of the Spanish Civil War.  She toured Republican Spain which was subdivided into many factions ranging from Trotskyites to Socialists.  She also visited with Franco's Nationalist forces who were aided by significant support from Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany.

She met Ernest Hemingway and was a friend of his wife Martha Gelhorn.  Hemingway confided in her declaring that war was "the nastiest thing that human beings can do to each other...but the most exciting."  Ghoulish but accurate!

Benito Mussolini
1883 - 1945

Cowles met Mussolini in Rome at his Palazzo for a personal interview.  She found the Italian dictator to be aggressive and flamboyant.  Cowles concluded, "You can the Italians what to do, but, thank God, you can't tell me!"  

She attended a rally of Nazis at Nuremberg, taking note of the flaming torches and fanaticism of the participants.  

Cowles tried to be scrupulously fair and open minded.  She visited Stalin's Soviet Union where she discovered totalitarianism of the Left to be anything but a worker's paradise. 

Again and again Cowles goes looking for trouble.  She was in Czechoslovakia before the Germans took it over in 1938.  She was in Paris just before the fall of France in 1940.  She was an eyewitness to war and the humanitarian disasters that inevitably follow in its wake.  

In analyzing fictional works there is often a discussion of the progress of a character through the work.  Perhaps the most astonishing thing about Cowles' work is her own progress through this volume.  She begins in 1936 as earnest reporter attempting to portray both sides of the Spanish Civil War. By late 1940 (following the invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940) Cowles emerges as an eloquent advocate for American intervention on the Allied side against the Axis.  She was clearly repelled the extreme cynicism of the dictators (sound familiar in the context of Putin's propaganda against Ukraine now?).  Hitler claims to be interested in the minority rights of the Sudeten Germans while he wants simply to devour Czechoslovakia whole.  Stalin's Soviet Union supports Republican Spain but also holds onto Spain's gold reserve.  Hitler and Stalin dispense with ideological differences in order to carve up Poland with the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

Cowles the journalist was disgusted by the grotesque propaganda deployed by Hitler and others.  She wrote, "To-day, it is no exaggeration to claim that out of the eleven countries smashed and overrun by Germany, half of them were destroyed, not by tanks, but by propaganda."

RAF Bomber Command Memorial
Green Park, London

It was not, of course, Cowles's eloquence or Murrow's reporting that propelled the United States into war but rather the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  But Cowles, Murrow and others laid the groundwork for the Anglo-American alliance the would eventually ground Germany into dust.  Cowles herself formed her own "special relationship" marrying an RAF pilot (Aidan Crawley) in 1945.

With Putin's invasion of Ukraine it is abundantly clear that we live in uncertain and worrying times. Remember the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times!"  We certainly do live in interesting times.  The dictator Putin is now employing propaganda tactics that would make Goebbels blush (Ukraine requires denazification, etc.).  

Perhaps the ultimate value of a work such as Cowles' work Looking For Trouble is the reassuring message that other women and men have faced similar challenges with honesty and courage, endured much suffering but eventually emerged triumphant.  The West can and must rise to the challenge posed by the cynical propaganda-spouting dictators of the 21st century.

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Friday, January 14, 2022

Mutually Assured Destruction

Titan Missile Museum
Sahuarita, Arizona

Today we live in an age of vast and growing uncertainty.  When will the brutal Covid-19 pandemic end?  Will Putin send his tanks into the Ukraine?  Will Chinese paratroopers start falling from the skies over Taiwan?  Will North Korea or Iran do something crazy?  No one can really provide satisfactory answers to these questions.  And so we tramp on through a forest of doubt.

During the Cold War, however, things were different.  We enjoyed the certainty of Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD.  All of us, on both sides of the Berlin Wall, knew that a third World War would mean the extinction of humanity.  As Tom Lehrer out it, "We'll all go together when we go."

Commander K at the Control!
Titan Missile Museum
Sahuarita, Arizona

A visit to the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson Arizona demonstrates the hardware that created these Cold War certainties...  This abandoned missile silo for a Titan rocket was converted into a museum that gives us a glimpse into the Cold War.  The Strategic Air Command had Missile locations built in three states...Arizona, Kansas and Arkansas.

Titan Missile Museum
Sahuarita, Arizona

Very young men, and later women, manned these bases.  The Air Force tested them on a weekly basis for mental stability.  They worked underground in 24 hour shifts.  Cigarette smoke was ubiquitous.

The Titan missiles were fairly safe though one 1965 accident in Arkansas did claim fifty-three lives.  A welding rod was apparently tossed into a hydraulic line igniting a fire with the oxidizer.  Most of the victims were asphyxiated.

Don't High Five a Cactus!
Green Valley, AZ

Tom Lehrer got it essentially correct in his 1960 song The Wild West is Where I Want to Be.  "'Mid the yucca and the thistles, I'll watch the guided missiles while the old FBI watches me..."

Strategic Air Command
Titan Missile Museum
Sahuarita, Arizona

Eventually the Titan missile program was replaced by the Minuteman ICBM Missile program.  The third iteration of Boeing-built missiles remain in active service in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.  Each missile can deliver a 300+ kiloton payload (equivalent to about 20 Hiroshimas) around 8,700 miles with an accuracy of around 800 feet.  These are slated for replacement by a new generation of Northrop ICBMs around 2030.

So the air in Arizona is no longer "radioactive," leaving the fortunate residents of nearby Green Valley safe to play pickle ball.  All of the fissionable materials were removed long ago from the Titan missile locations.  Many of these abandoned Titan sites have been purchased by private citizens.  A decommissioned site in Arkansas has been turned into a luxury Cold War hotel...!

This may have been MAD but it all seemed to work.  The fear of Mutually Assured Destruction deterred both superpowers from ever pushing the nuclear button.  Nixon bombed Hanoi but he never authorized the use of atomic weapons.  Nor did the Soviets turn Kabul into glass.

Now in 2022 the Nuclear Club is much larger than during the Cold War.  It includes India, Pakistan, North Korea and soon it seems Iran.  Mutually Assured Destruction depended upon the rationality of the participants in order to work.  Can we count upon the rationality of Kim Jung Un and other leaders?  The future is murky and foreboding leaving us nostalgic for the Cold War. 

We live in an age on uncertainty.  Of this we are certain.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Battle of Elwood

Commander K at Haskell's Beach
Goleta, California
Near Ritz Carlton Baccara

California, my home state, prides itself upon its peaceful laid back attitudes.  But California has not always been peaceful.  The state was, for example, fought over during the Mexican-American War.  The Battle of San Pascqual, fought near San Diego, featured the legendary frontiersman Kit Carson who walked some thirty miles in his bare feet to call for reinforcements.   I have written earlier invasions of California that have shaped the Golden state in numerous ways...

Many Californians seem to prefer to ignore the state's violent and colorful history.  But we must remember ALL history if we are to truly understand the past -- the good the bad and the ugly.  Everyone knows about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 -- the 1942 Rose Bowl was played in North Carolina as a result!  But many would be astonished to learn that the beautiful California coastline was actually attacked during World War II.  The "Battle of Elwood" was fought almost eighty years ago near the town of Goleta.  This is what we had to say in the California chapter of America Invaded: A State by State Guide to Fighting on American Soil...

"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.”

Battle of Elwood Plaque
Sandpiper Golf Club
Goleta, California

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 fired 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." (Source:

Oil had been discovered in the Santa Barbara area in 1927.   An ARCO oil refinery was built in Goleta in 1938.  This was the target of the 1942 submarine bombardment.  In 1972 the site ws developed by Ken Hunter as the Sandpiper golf course.  In 2003 billionaire Ty Warner purchased Sandpiper Golf Club...

Battle of Elwood Plaque
Sandpiper Golf Club
Goleta, California

A plaque by the clubhouse of the Sandpiper golf club reads: "Near this site at 7:07 PM February 23, 1942 the California coast at Elwood received the first naval bombardment of the United States mainland since the War of 1812..."

The bombardment of Elwood, eighty years later, may seem somewhat trivial.  But actions have consequences.  Though no one was killed or even injured by the bombardment, there were consequences.  This attack provided an excuse for media to whip up anti Japanese-American hysteria up and down the West coast.  The incident at Elwood contributed to the subsequent incarceration of thousands of Japanese American citizens in internment camps.   

Visitors to and residents of Santa Barbara can find signed copies of all four of my books at these fine independent book stores...

1) Tecolote Book Shop...

2) Chaucer's Books...

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