Sunday, June 25, 2017

Midway + 75

Japanese Zero

Seventy-five years ago this month the Battle of Midway was fought in the Pacific by the Imperial Japanese Navy and the US Navy.

Jimmy Doolittle Bust
IWM Duxford, UK
The Japanese launched the Midway campaign as a direct result of Jimmy Doolittle's raid on Tokyo.  The defensive perimeter of the Empire needed to be expanded in order to prevent further American raids onto the home islands.  In the Midway campaign Japanese forces struck north seizing the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska.  The US had no carriers assigned to the Alaskan theater.  Dutch Harbor was bombed.  American soil was invaded and occupied.

But the major thrust of the campaign was aimed at Midway Atoll -- a small island in the Hawaiian archipelago.  Control of this island would allow Japanese land based bombers to strike Pearl Harbor at will.

Admiral Chester Nimitz

The Battle of Midway was fought over three days from June 4 to June 7.  Chester Nimitz of Fredericksburg Texas was in command of US Naval forces.  The result was a decisive American victory.  Four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk while the Americans lost only one carrier -- the Yorktown.

Midway meant that Japan would never again contest naval supremacy in the Pacific.  As a result of the battle Japan would be forced to fight a defensive struggle to hold onto the massive territorial gains it had made in the six months since the Pearl Harbor attack.

1942 was the turning point of the war.  Prior to 1942 the Axis was triumphant on all fronts.  During 1942 the Axis lost at Midway, at El Alamein in the Egyptian desert and at Stalingrad.  After 1942 the Axis had no major victories. World History turned decisively at Midway seventy-five years ago.

The "inevitability" of Allied victory is a illusion caused by the passage of time and a failure of the imagination.  Those sailors, officers and airmen at Midway, regardless of which side on which they fought, certainly did not enjoy any feeling of inevitable victory or defeat.

Midway was a Japanese strategic roll of the dice that came up craps.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Waterloo Day

Duke of Wellington
London, UK

June 18th is known as Waterloo day.  Many in the UK still celebrate and remember their nation's victory against Napoleon and the French on June 18, 1815.  The Duke of Wellington was rewarded with a fine house ( by a grateful nation went on the become Prime Minister of Britain.

London Underground

Most Americans do not give Waterloo Day much thought.  Americans DID, however, serve at the Battle of Waterloo.  We mentioned one American who served in a prominent capacity at Waterloo in the Belgium chapter of America Invades...

Duke of Wellington
London Underground

"In June of 1815, Sir William Howe De Lancey and his new bride, Magdalene Hall, were invited, but did not attend, the famous Duchess of Richmond’s ball in Brussels that preceded the Battle of Waterloo. De Lancey, born in New York City, served as the British Duke of Wellington’s deputy quartermaster general in the Waterloo campaign. His father, Stephen De Lancey, had also served as an officer in the 1st New Jersey Loyal Volunteers in the American Revolution. Sadly, while accompanying the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815, De Lancey was struck by a bouncing canon ball and fatally wounded."

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Friday, June 16, 2017

The Carolinian

I enjoyed my recent print interview with Catie Byrne of The Carolinian.  I hope to make it to North Carolina on my upcoming book tour for America Invaded: A State by State Guide to Fighting on American Soil.

Here is the

Best wishes to all my friends in the Carolinas!

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

4th of July 2017

Minuteman Statue
Old North Bridge, Concord MA

As we pause to celebrate the anniversary of our nation’s independence, it seems appropriate to consider the vital role played by the American military in the creation of our nation and its transformation of our world.

We are not a militaristic nation, but we are a nation that is deeply proud of our military. We also are not a perfect people. We have made many mistakes. We have not always lived up to our noble ideals. It is important to remember what happened at Wounded Knee, My Lai, and Abu Ghraib. But we must also remember the amazing things the US military has done for our world.

It all began in Massachusetts with “the shot heard round the world” on Concord’s Old North Bridge. On April 19, 1775, British soldiers marched from Boston to Lexington and Concord to seize a cache of arms. They were confronted on the Lexington Green by citizen soldiers who were farmers, merchants, and tradesmen. Liberty was not a gift of the English crown; she had to be taken by force with an armed rebellion.

With my ancestor's letter

Later that year, American forces invaded British Canada. My own ancestor, James Van Rensselaer, was a citizen soldier in the siege of Quebec, and his commanding officer was Benedict Arnold.

The American Revolution is often portrayed in rosy hues due to its remoteness and patriotic outcome. It was, in fact, a horrendously bloody conflict. Recent scholarship has placed the total number of Americans killed in the American Revolution at around 25,000. The total US population of the thirteen colonies in 1775 was 2.4 million. Thus, over 1 percent of the population was killed over the course of the nearly eight-and-half-year war. Nearly 5 percent of the soldiers in the Continental Army were of African descent.

After the American Revolution, we would fight Britain again in the War of 1812. The White House was burned, but Major General Andrew Jackson rallied a diverse band of soldiers that included blacks, Native Americans, and even pirates to win the Battle of New Orleans.

Polk Flag
Smithsonian Museum of American History

In 1846, President Polk launched a war against Mexico. This was and remains a controversial chapter in American history. Congressman Abraham Lincoln opposed the war. Henry David Thoreau refused to pay taxes to support the war, and was briefly jailed. Even Ulysses Grant, who fought in the war, condemned its prosecution in his memoirs.  But without the Mexican-American War, the states of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico would never have been added to the Union. Without the Mexican-American War, the United States might never have become a coast-to-coast superpower.

Without that American superpower, the twin scourges of the twentieth century, fascism and communism, might never have been defeated.

Imagine for a moment a counterfactual history in which Polk did not fight the Mexican-American War. How would World War II, for example, have been different? The Japanese would never have sunk the Arizona at Pearl Harbor to start the war, because Arizona would have belonged to Mexico.  It is unlikely that American power, lacking California, would have even stretched to the Hawaiian Islands. Without Polk’s war, an American naval base at Pearl Harbor would likely never have been built. The atomic bomb would never have been dropped on Hiroshima to finish the war, as it could not have been tested at the Trinity site in New Mexico.

Just over a hundred years ago, in 1917, President Wilson led us into the “war to end all wars.”  American citizen soldiers (including my great-uncle Jacks Wells, who served in the 27th Infantry Division) were shipped “over there” with the American Expeditionary Force to turn the tide of battle against the Central Powers (see By 1918, the German Kaiser was forced to abdicate his throne. In 1941, following the Pearl Harbor attack, Americans would again be called on to fight on foreign shores, this time against Hitler and Imperial Japan. Just over 72 years ago, American soldiers liberated Nazi concentration camps like Buchenwald and Dachau, thereby helping to end the Holocaust. Without American invasions at places like the beaches of Omaha and Anzio, the world would undoubtedly be a darker place.

After World War II, American forces remained engaged with Europe, garrisoning the nations of former adversaries during the Cold War. NATO, the most successful alliance in history, was founded, and the Cold War was won without a shot being fired.

Today we face the threat of global terror networks that have perpetrated horrors in, among other places, Manchester and London in the United Kingdom, and Orlando, Florida, in the United States. We confront ISIS in the Middle East. North Korea’s Kim Jung Un continues to develop weapons that could be capable of striking our homeland. And Putin’s Russia rearms at home and attempts to disrupt electoral processes in the West.

Our enemies must know that Americans do not love war for war’s sake. To do so is the definition of fascism. We are and always have been reluctant warriors. But, when provoked, we know how to fight, and we will persevere until victory and an enduring peace is won.

Thanks to the courage and sacrifice of those American patriots who have served in our military in the past and those that serve today, we are able to celebrate the 4th of July and to continue to confront the challenges that face us around the world.

Thanks War History

Thanks Small Wars Journal...

Thanks Richland Source...

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

D-Day + 75!

A study of history over the past several years has made me more convinced than ever that the perceived "inevitability" of past events is a distorting lens created by the passage of time.  Fundamentally, History is Contingent and NOT Inevitable.   It was not inevitable that the Allies would win World War II.  It was contingent upon the decisions made by millions of individuals.  Had the Japanese prevailed at Midway and the Germans at Stalingrad the outcome of the war might have been dramatically different and the Axis might even have won the war.  Had Churchill, FDR and Stalin not collaborated and cooperated as Allies fascist forces could have won World War II (  Had millions of Allied soldiers and sailors not landed on June 6, 1944 in Normandy the war would have taken much longer and cost even more lives on both sides.

The world would be a much darker place had it not been for the Allied invasion at Normandy that was kicked off 75 years ago today.  Less than a year after the June 6 invasion the Nazi death camps were liberated, Hitler committed suicide in his bunker and the war in Europe was at an end.

From Christchurch to Sri Lanka, global terror is a world wide problem that plagues our world in 2019.  The past teaches us valuable lessons about how evil can and must be defeated.  It teaches us that it is better to fight a war with allies rather than isolated and on our own.  On D-Day 1944 British (Sword, Gold beaches) and Canadian forces (Juno beach) played a major part in the successful landings.

The French Remember
Americans have surely invaded France.  In the France chapter of America Invades (www.americainvades.comwe discussed the American role in fighting World War II in France from the landings on Corsica that preceded D-Day to the liberation of Paris...

"Even before D-Day, Americans began the liberation of France with the invasion of Corsica in the fall of 1943. Joseph Heller, the author of Catch 22, served as a bombardier on a B-25 based on Corsica. The USAAF dropped its share of the six hundred thousand tons of bombs on occupied France. The French national railway system was smashed to prevent the Germans from making a strategic redeployment against the Normandy landings.

Ike with Airborne
Airborne Museum, St. Mere Eglise, France
D-Day, June 6, 1944, marked the start of the most famous American invasion in all history. With a terse, “OK, let’s go,” Eisenhower had resolved all doubts in the Allied deliberations over weather conditions prior to the invasion. The time had finally arrived. Ike later wrote comparing the invasion force to a coiled spring ready to “vault the English Channel.”

John Steele Mannequin
St. Mere Eglise

The vaulting began on the night of June 5 when private John Steele, a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, got his chute caught on the tower of the church at Ste.-Mère-Église. He survived the conflagration and firefight that shook the sleepy Norman town that night by playing dead. A visitor to Ste.-Mère-Église today will find a stained-glass window in the church has the Virgin Mary surrounded by American paratroopers. The American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Divisions would secure the western flank of the Normandy invasion.
Pointe du Hoc
Normandy, France
On Utah Beach, fifty-six-year-old Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. (oldest son of President TR) was landed about a mile away from his intended target and, when asked whether to re-embark the 4th Infantry Division, said simply, “We’ll start the war from right here!” Bloody Omaha had received an abbreviated naval bombardment from ships such as the battleship Texas lasting only thirty-five minutes. Its bare beaches offered no cover for the American invaders as German machine guns from fortified gun emplacements swept the beaches. The US Rangers, who had trained earlier on the cliffs of Dorset, scaled the sheer cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc while being shot at by German soldiers; their mission was to destroy artillery pieces that threatened to sweep the landing zones. Their commander that day was Lieutenant Colonel James Rudder. Unknown to Rudder’s Rangers, most of the artillery had already been moved by the Germans. They held the position for two days in the face of fierce counterattacks by the 916th Grenadiers. At the Ranger memorial at Pointe du Hoc, one can still see massive craters created by Allied naval bombardment on D-Day.

With Patton
Luxembourg American Cemetery

As commander of the US Third Army after D-Day, Patton, led an army that advanced farther and faster than just about any army in military history, crossing twenty-four major rivers and capturing 81,500 square miles of territory, including more than twelve thousand cities and towns. Patton loved to quote Danton who said, “De l’audace, et encore de l’audace, toujours de l’audace!” (“Audacity, more audacity, always audacity”).

In August of 1944, American troops participated in a much less widely known invasion, Operation Dragoon that landed in the south of France. Everyone knows about June 6, 1944, but how many know about August 15, 1944? Yet the parachute drop by the 1st Airborne Task Force, landings by American troops, primarily the 3rd, 36th, and 45th Infantry Divisions, and a French armored division were highly successful. Allied casualties were light, and German resistance mainly crumbled fairly fast. By mid- September, they had pushed their way up the Rhone Valley near the German border. Some of the invasion targets, like the beach of St. Tropez, famous for film stars in the post-war era, are now more readily associated with pleasure than with war, which may be one reason Dragoon is less familiar to Americans.

Commander Kelly with DeGaulle
London, UK

Meanwhile to the north, on August 25, 1944, the French 2nd Armored Division, led by General Leclerc, was allowed the honor of being the first Allied force to liberate Paris. Ernest Hemingway personally led a group of irregulars that liberated the Ritz Hotel drinking seventy-three martinis that night in its bar. General de Gaulle spoke from a balcony at the Hotel de Ville, “Paris outraged! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris liberated! Liberated by itself, liberated by its people, with the help of the whole of France!” De Gaulle seems to have temporarily ignored the contribution of the Americans, British, Polish, Canadian, and other Allied troops that fought so hard to liberate France.

Robert Capa, the famous war photographer, rode into Paris on an American-built tank that day."

Source: America