Sunday, January 29, 2017

2017 in American Military History

James Monroe

Two hundred years ago in January 1817 James Monroe was being inaugurated President of the United States.  Monroe is chiefly remembered for the Monroe Doctrine which shaped American foreign policy for the hemisphere.  By 1817 America had grown in terms of strength and independence to the point that it would begin demanding that European powers stay out of the Western hemisphere.  Monroe's Doctrine would have an enormous impact on future American involvements in Central and South America.

First Seminole War
In our upcoming work, America Invaded: A State by State Guide to Fighting on American Soil we note "In 1817, in what came to be known as the First Seminole War General Andrew Jackson invaded Spanish Florida and pushed the Seminoles further south."  The Spaniards had been our allies against the British during the American Revolution.   But two hundred years ago we Americans were fighting the Dons for control of Florida.
US World War I Uniform and Flag
Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA
WORLD WAR I, Centennial of American Involvement 1917-2017
One hundred years ago in April 1917 President Wilson led America into the War to end all Wars.  Americans were incensed by the Germans' use of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare against merchant vessels.  One hundred and twenty eight American were killed, for example, on board the Lusitania when it was sunk by German U-boat torpedoes off the Irish coast in 1915.  Thomas Wells, my own great-grandfather and the author of An Adventure in 1914, had traveled aboard the Lusitania in 1909.  German plots with Mexico, exposed in the Zimmerman telegram, were the catalyst that swept the nation into war.  The American experience in World War I was short but sharp.  America was involved in the war from April 1917 until the war ended on November 11, 1918 -- less than two years.  Yet World War I would claim over 110,000 American lives -- more than the Korean and Vietnam Wars combined.  The Doughboys who went "Over There" paid a steep price.
American Recruitment Poster WWI
Museum of Flight, Seattle WA

The year 1942 was in many ways the most interesting year of the entire war.  1942 was the turning point of the war.  Before 1942 the Axis had been successful everywhere from Poland to France to Pearl Harbor.  In 1942 the tide turned decisively against the Axis.  In April of 1942, 75 years ago, Jimmy Doolittle launched his famous Raid on Tokyo. 

In America Invades we noted, "The American riposte to Pearl Harbor was the spectacular and very daring Doolittle Raid, which took place on April 18, 1942. Sixteen B-25B Mitchell aircraft were launched from the deck of the USS Hornet to bomb Tokyo and proceed to China afterwards. The raiders inflicted minimal physical damage, but the psychological impact was enormous as the Japanese felt compelled to initiate the disastrous (for the Japanese) Midway campaign to prevent future American air attacks on their homeland."

On June 6 and 7, 1942 the Battle of Midway was fought between American and Japanese naval forces in the Pacific.  The Japanese lost four precious and irreplaceable aircraft carriers against a lost of only one on the American side.  The 1942 Rose Bowl featuring Oregon State and Duke was played in Chapel Hill, North Carolina due to fears of imminent Japanese invasion.  After Midway, the Rose Bowl would return to Pasadena.  Japan would never again be in a position to win naval superiority in the Pacific.

1942 was also notable for the triumph of Commonwealth forces at El Alamein in Egypt and the Soviet Red Army at Stalingrad.
Vietnam Memorial
Spokane, WA
1967, VIETNAM, Fifty Years Ago
Fifty years ago the USA was fully engaged in fighting the Vietnam War.  LBJ was micromanaging the war from the White House to the consternation of his generals in the field.  The agony of the Tet offensive would follow in 1968.

In America Invades we wrote, "From 1964 to 1968, LBJ dramatically escalated the US military presence deploying over five hundred thousand troops in Vietnam. American bombers struck North Vietnam while American ground forces fought a counterinsurgency against the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. General William Westmoreland was in command, but LBJ was in the driver’s seat. LBJ, who with his team loved to micromanage the war, famously said, 'Those boys can’t hit an outhouse without my permission.'"

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