Friday, December 28, 2018

Spike Lee's Fake Klan History

The New York Times writes that "BlacKkKlansman is a furious,...blunt and brilliant confrontation with the truth."

In fact Spike Lee's Black KkKlansman avoids the truth by distorting history and the true story from which it was derived in a transparent attempt to score political points against the Trump administration.  In 2014 Ron Stallworth, the first black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department, published his memoir about his amazing life (  Stallworth is an American law enforcement hero who managed to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan and embarrass the Klan's Grand Wizard David Duke.

Movies are not documentaries and one understands the need for dramatic license.  But Spike Lee fundamentally altered Stallworth's account in order to create a clumsy leftist agitprop against the Trump administration and all Republicans.

What did Spike Lee get wrong?  Nearly everything.

The first sentence of Stallworth's memoir gives us a clue -- "All of this began in October 1978."  The events in the film take place in 1972 with Nixon and Agnew election signs prominently featured with the Klan supporters.  In fact, however, Stallworth's undercover operation and David Duke's visit to Colorado took place in the late 1970s during the Carter administration long after Nixon had resigned from office.  Clearly the time was shifted in an attempt to blame Republicans for the despicable race hatred of the KKK.  The central historic fact about the Klan is that is that this organization was the extremist wing of the Democratic party in the South.  The KKK was a response by Southerners to the Reconstruction imposed after their defeat in the Civil War.  It was Democratic President Wilson who, after screening Birth of a Nation in the White House described it as "writing history with only regret is that it is all so terribly true."  Harry Truman paid $10 for his brief Klan membership in the 1920s.  David Duke himself was a member of Democratic party at the time of his visit to Colorado in 1979 and he ran for President in 1988 as a Democrat.  (It must be noted that Duke, a convicted felon, was a political opportunist and chameleon who has affiliated himself with the American Nazi Party, the Democratic Party, the Populist Party and the Republican Party.  His only electoral victory over the course of his sordid career was a one term as a Republican in the Louisiana State legislature.)

Read the book, Skip the movie!

According to Spike Lee's film, Klan members plant explosives and blow up a vehicle in Colorado Springs.  Thanks to the Black Klansman arrests were made.  This is all nonsense.  Stallworth explicitly notes that by the 1970s David Duke had, ironically, taken a page from the playbook of Gandhi and Martin Luther King by adopting the tactics of non-violence in his effort to fashion a new image for the Klan.   There were no explosions or violent incidents during Duke's visit to Colorado.  No arrests made as a result of Stallworth's investigation (though two stupid klansmen working for NORAD were re-assigned by their black Colonel).  And the overweight Klan wife and mad bomber portrayed byAshlie Atkinson was, in fact, based on a woman who was Mexican.

Spike Lee cast Adam Driver as Stallworth's white Jewish partner despite the fact that Stallworth's real partner, "Chuck" (a pseudonym) was gentile.  Lee portrays the KKK accurately as being rabidly antisemitic.

Spike Lee depicts Stokely Carmichael as a righteous Civil Rights activist with a bit of vaseline around the lens to preserve his halo.  Black KkKlansman features Carmichael protesting the Vietnam War during his 1974 visit to Colorado Springs ignoring the fact that the last American troops actually withdrew from South Vietnam in March of 1973.  Stallworth more accurately depicts Carmichael as a "Marxist revolutionary" who sought to "destroy the American political system."  Stallworth depicts Stokely accurately as an advocate of violence who told him "we're gonna have to kill whitey."  Neither Lee nor Stallworth mention Carmichael's virulent anti-semitism.  Carmichael infamously said, "I have never admired a White man, but the greatest of them was Hitler."  Carmichael even blamed the FBI for infecting him with the cancer that killed him.

It becomes very clear why Lee made this film towards the end.  Black KkKlansman has Klansmen chanting "America First" and even one of them muttering "Make America Great Again".  Lee is trying to impose a Trumpian construction on the events of Stallworth's account.  Lee is using Stallworth's account to launch, as the NY Times called it "a direct, furious protest against the Trump era."

We can admit that Trump's ham-fisted and tone deaf reaction to the 2017 events at Charlottesville were the moral low point (thus far) of his administration.  If Spike Lee was upset about Charlottesville he could have made a movie about Charlottesville.  Instead he chose to inject Charlottesville into a movie about events that took place during the Carter era.  If Donald Trump is guilty of all acts of racial hatred that occur anywhere in America, then surely Jimmy Carter was equally guilty of allowing David Duke to visit Colorado Springs in 1979...?

Ron Stallworth

Lee's many distortions of reality in this film rob what could have been a fascinating look into the life of man caught between his racial identity and his professional career of its central point.  In the late 1970s a pioneering black police officer made a fool of white supremacist David Duke and joined the KKK.  The truth shall make us free but Hollywood lies and distortions will keep us in bondage.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

American and British Politics 2018

We Americans, on both sides of the aisle, tend to believe that we are mired in the worst of all political landscapes.  The country is bitterly divided.  Some Americans strongly support Trump while others feel he should be impeached.  The Midterms gave us divided government and nothing seems likely to get done about any of the urgent issues confronting our nation.  The prospect of Special Counsel reports and potential impeachment hearings make the political prospects for 2019 messy at the very least.  Only the death of a kind and gracious former president (GHWB) bought us the briefest of reprieves from the incessant political division within the USA. And so on.

But we need only look across the pond to see that this is essentially an illusion caused by our perennial national insularity.

The current British political scene is MUCH WORSE than anything we face in America right now for several reasons.

Theresa May's popularity, in spite of not having cavorted with porn stars, is far LOWER than Trump's range.  In fact only about 25% of Britons approve of the current British Prime Minister (  Trump's popularity, on the other hand, hovers in the 40s (

America confronts a potentially dangerous trade war with China and Trump is determined to play his game of chicken with President Xi.  But Britain has already lost a self-inflicted trade war with the European Union due to Brexit.  The Pound has been hammered and is now hitting a 20 year low with regard to the dollar (  Property prices, a cornerstone of the UK economy, are now actually falling since the 2016 Brexit referendum  By contrast, growth in the US economy has accelerated since 2016 and we have recently seen 3.6% unemployment - the lowest since the 1960s.

The media breathlessly inform us that some blue states in America such as California are so miffed with Trump that they are looking to leave the Union (  While Cal-Exit is laughable fairy tale, there is a very real possibility that the United Kingdom could lose both Scotland and Northern Ireland over the next ten years ( Scotland could renew its call for a referendum while Northern Ireland could be driven into the arms of the Irish Republic which was provided for in the Belfast accords that ended The Troubles in the 1990s ( .  Would England and Wales really amount to a Great Britain?

Given the Republican control of the US Senate, it is highly unlikely that Trump will be impeached by Congress in 2019.  But even if he were successfully impeached, we all know that the result would be...President Pence.  The same Pence who recently did an outstanding job speaking at the Bush funeral service.  Pence, regardless of whether you like or agree with his politics, is a highly credible individual with a lifetime of public service experience.

Jeremy Corbyn: The Devil we don't Know

Who is waiting in the wings in the UK should (as now seems likely) the May government fall?  The distressing answer is...Jeremy Corbyn.  If you want to understand Corbyn just imagine a virulently anti-semitic humorless version of Bernie Sanders (  The prospect that May's foundering over Brexit could lead to a Corbyn premiership has the UK financial markets spooked for the best of reasons.  There may still be a hundred pence in the Pound but I'd take Pence over a pounding by Corbyn any day!  Corbyn (and not really Brexit) is the guillotine poised to drop on the British economy.

5) FRANCE...?
Speaking of guillotines, the political and economic situation in France under Macron is arguably even worse than the turmoil in the United States or Britain!  Violence is spilling into the streets of Paris with the Yellow Vest protestors with every sign that much worse is to come (

As we pause in the US to celebrate the 2018 holiday season, perhaps, rather than sparring with our in-laws about politics over the Christmas turkey, we should count our political blessings and be comforted a bit by the waves of political shadenfreude wafting across the Atlantic!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and 
Peace on Earth from the Commander!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Churchill: Walking With History

Andrew Roberts' latest work, Churchill: Walking with Destiny (, is a monumental biography on Winston Churchill.  Just when you thought everything possible had been exhausted on the subject along comes Roberts with a host of new sources on Churchill, new insights on the man who is considered to be the greatest Briton of all time; all delivered with the masterful grace we have come to expect from Andrew Roberts.

We live in an age that loves to tear down and devour its heroes.  Churchill, due his larger than life stature, has been subject to many conspiratorial attacks for many years.  He allowed Coventry to be bombarded even though he knew about it to protect the Ultra secret.  He, along with FDR, sold out the interests of the West at Yalta.  Even the Washington Post has published editorials alleging that Churchill was a mass murderer who "caused" the 1943 Punjabi famine (  Roberts demolishes all of these and much more "Fake History" that surrounds the figure of Winston Churchill.

If, however, you are seeking a mere hagiography of Churchill then Roberts book is bound to disappoint.  Churchill's many public policy mistakes are laid out fully in this new biography -- the Gallipoli campaign, return the the gold standard, opposition to dominion status for India, unwavering support for Edward VIII are just a few.  Nor are Churchill's personal shortcomings neglected.  Churchill had a lifelong infatuation with his pretty rotten father.  He could be excessively loyal to some of his cronies.  He had virtually no party loyalty crossing the aisle multiple times (a weakness and a strength).  He did have undeniably racist attitudes and did, pretty much, worship the British Empire.  He was a man of his time -- a Victorian who lived to see the Beatles.

In a sense Churchill needed to get many things wrong in order to get the most important things right.  Churchill was always an independent minded thinker who was willing to voice unpleasant truths regardless of the consequences.  In the 1930s he warned of the rise of Adolph Hitler and the rearmament of Germany when much of his nation was embracing a dishonorable pacifism.  In 1940, rather than offering consolation, he told the British people that they could expect "blood, sweat and tears" in the war that threatened to engulf their island.  At Fulton, Missouri in 1946 he raised a political firestorm when he told the world that "from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic and iron curtain has descended cross the Continent."

WSC's grave, Bladon

As an American reader I particularly enjoyed Roberts' illuminating discussion of Churchill's complex and evolving relationship with the United States of America.  His mother, Jenny Jerome, was American.  After World War I Churchill had an extensive anti-American period.  Churchill grew to love FDR but did not attend his funeral.  Churchill and Eisenhower worked closely together but Churchill had grave reservations about Ike's strategic ability.  Churchill was more willing than Eisenhower to trade Allied casualties for political gain (e.g. capturing Berlin).  Churchill's strategic instincts were usually excellent making him the ideal wartime prime minister and a principle architect of Allied victory in WW2. Churchill sensibly resisted Stalin's call for a cross channel invasion in 1942 and 1943 -- a concept that undoubtedly save many Allied lives.

At the end of the day, many myths are peeled away and it is Churchill's humanity and good humor that shine forth from Roberts' new biography.  Churchill was eminently quotable and Robert offers many examples of the man's extraordinary wit. It is difficult to argue Roberts' conclusion that the battles this great and greatly flawed man won "saved liberty".

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

George H.W. Bush RIP

George H. W. Bush statue
Houston Airport

His funeral services are over now.  "41" is now at rest next to his beloved Barbara and daughter Robin.  His enduring historical monument will forever be his incredible performance as Commander of Chief in assembling and leading the coalition that drove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991.  Very few Allied lives were lost and he even got the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to foot most of the bill!

George H.W. Bush was a warrior, a gentleman, a loving husband and father. Let us never forget his devoted service to our country.

In honor of George H. W. Bush, a true American hero, I present the full Kuwait chapter of America Invades.  George H.W. Bush RIP.

"Kuwait is a small oil-rich (very oil-rich) nation on the northeastern corner of the Persian Gulf that has borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The Al- Sabah family has ruled since 1938. From 1899 until 1961, it was a British protectorate. The United States recognized it as an independent nation in 1961.
Iraq has a long-standing claim to Kuwait and traditionally saw as part of its territory. Almost as soon as Kuwait was independent, Iraq made threatening moves against it. British troops had to rush in once again until things settled down.

American oil companies established trading links with Kuwait and other Gulf states early on, and after Britain’s retreat from empire, the United States eventually took over the British position as the chief protector of Kuwait.

Our  first major military action in support of Kuwait took place during the long, bitter Iran-Iraq war. Fearing that revolutionary Iran’s influence might spread in the Gulf, Kuwait was, despite Iraq’s claims on Kuwait, supportive of the Iraqi war effort. Iran, angered by this and by Iraqi attacks on its oil industry, started to target oil tankers linked to places it regarded as supportive of Saddam. Kuwait requested American protection for its tankers, and to protect vital oil supplies to the world, we gave it. Operation Earnest Will starting in the summer of 1987 involved reflagging Kuwaiti ships with the American flag and then the USN escorting them through waters where they were vulnerable to Iranian attack. The mission came to an end after the war did in the summer of 1988.

However, this is not the main operation people tend to think about in association with American military operations and Kuwait.

Saddam Hussein decided to do something about Iraq’s long-standing claims to Kuwait and launched his invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. Saddam had, however, seriously miscalculated America’s intentions and capabilities. Only six days later, President George H. W. Bush announced the deployment of US troops to Saudi Arabia to preempt further Iraqi aggression. Eventually, over half a million US troops were deployed to the Middle East.

Operation Desert Shield was to be a multi-lateral coalition force deployment with the armed forces of thirty-four different nations. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War had made multi-lateral action possible. Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait was viewed as a direct challenge to the central mandate of the United Nations. Shortly after Saddam’s invasion, the UN Security Council, in a series of resolutions, condemned Iraq, issued trade embargoes, demanded an immediate withdrawal from Kuwait, and authorized the use of “all necessary means” to liberate that country. Saddam, however, ignored the UN threats.

An intensive six-week air campaign began on January 17, 1991, targeting vital Iraqi infrastructure and military forces both inside Iraq and in Kuwait itself. Despite  ring Scuds at Saudi Arabia and Israel in an attempt to drag Israel into the conflict, Iraq had little answer to the onslaught from cruise missiles, stealth aircraft, B-52s, and a wide range of other aircraft. Even before the ground war began, Iraq’s ability to resist had been seriously weakened.

The ground assault, Operation Desert Storm, began on February 24, 1991, and lasted only about one hundred hours. Much of the actual combat took place in Iraq as a massive allied thrust penetrated Iraqi territory to the west of Kuwait and then swung round towards Kuwait from that direction. The campaign was a complete mismatch. The American main battle tank, the M1 Abrams, destroyed over two thousand Iraqi tanks without a single Abrams destroyed by enemy fire.

Dire predictions of massive coalition casualties at the hands of the “elite” Republican Guard in the end proved unfounded. A total of 482 coalition deaths were reported in the First Gulf War, most of them due to accidents or friendly fire. By contrast, over twenty- ve thousand Iraqis were also killed in the course of the campaign, many on the “highway of death” as they attempted to retreat to Iraq. Iraq’s chemical weapons were never used.

A cease fire was agreed to in April of 1991. Coalition forces agreed to permit Saddam use of helicopters allegedly for humanitarian purposes. Uprisings against Saddam’s regime in Kurdistan and elsewhere, which might have toppled the regime, were brutally repressed by Saddam’s helicopter gunships.

The Kuwaiti government and Al-Sabah family were restored to power. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia largely financed the entire liberation of Kuwait (paying thirty-six billion dollars out of the sixty-billion-dollar total cost).

In 1993, Saddam was accused of authorizing an assassination attempt on President Bush while he visited Kuwait. Accordingly, in June 1993, President Clinton ordered a cruise missile strike on Baghdad.

When we invaded Iraq in 2003, Kuwait was where most of the invasion force assembled, and when the last US forces left Iraq almost nine years later, they crossed the border into Kuwait, the gate was closed behind them, and US and Kuwaiti forces shook hands and posed for photos.
Kuwait today remains a major non-NATO ally of the United States and a supporter of the global war on terror. We continue to have close military links with the country. For instance, Kuwait will host the major US multilateral exercise Eagle Resolve in 2015."

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Paul Allen RIP

Paul Allen RIP

Paul Allen died yesterday at age 65 of complications from Hodgkin's lymphoma.  Tributes have been paid to him by Bill Gates and many others in the technology world.  Allen was a co-founder of Microsoft which revolutionized the computer world.  He made a vast fortune and was, by all accounts, enormously generous.

I regret that I never met Allen so I do not have any personal recollections to share about the man.  But he touched my life and lives of millions around the world and particularly those in the Northwest.

Superbowl 2013

Allen was a son of the Northwest who had a profound beneficial influence on his local community.  He owned the Portland Trailblazers and the Seattle Seahawks.  He seemed to derive real joy from his personal wealth -- he would have the Trailblazers practice at his home in Seattle.  A lover of music, he liked performing at Seahawks Christmas parties.  As owner of the Seahawks he guided them to three Superbowls, winning their first (and only thus far) in 2013 over the Denver Broncos (  Like so many Seahawk fans, I appreciate his wise stewardship of the Seahawks organization.

Allen's father was a World War II US Army veteran who served in the Normandy campaign.  Allen believed that it is important to preserve history for future generations.  He built the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum in Everett, Washington which has an amazing collection of flyable World War II aircraft.  In the summer months these incredible warbirds take to the air to recreate historic chapters such as the Battle of Britain.

I salute Paul Allen, not merely for his undoubted entrepreneurial skill, but for his generous devotion to History.

Here are my past blogs on Allen's FHCAM...;postID=7138541776093913920;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=4;src=link

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Centennial of the End of WWI

Where will you be on November 11, 2018?  This day will mark the one hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I.  In America it will be a very special Veteran's Day.  In Britain it will be a very special Remembrance Day.  The occasion will be observed around the world to remember a war that tore asunder the peace of the world beginning in August of 1914.

In 2016 I edited and published An Adventure in 1914 a memoir about my great-grandfather's eyewitness account of the start of World War I.  He was a New York lawyer who was traveling with his family in Europe in the summer of 1914.  They had been crossing the Atlantic on June 28, 1911 when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo.  This horrific event proved to be the catalyst for the start of World War I.

In An Adventure in 1914's Epilogue I wrote, "It was the original catastrophe of the twentieth century that sowed the seeds for future tragedies. The war shattered the stability of much of the world and destroyed four empires: Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, and Russian. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia would have bloody consequences for the remainder of the twentieth century. The bitter peace of Versailles would lay the groundwork for World War II. France’s Marshal Ferdinand Foch proved to be a modern Cassandra when he declared, “This is not peace. It is an armistice for twenty years."

After over four years of war on the Western Front and in battlefields around the world the guns finally fell silent on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.  All was finally quiet on the Western Front.

Cenotaph, London

On November 11, 2018 people will gather around the world to commemorate the end of this momentous conflict that shaped our world.  They will gather at the Cenotaph in London which notes  The Glorious Dead" who perished in that fearsome war.  They will gather at Arlington cemetery, St. Mihiel in France and many other American cemeteries overseas to mark the solemn occasion.  They will gather in Yekaterinburg, Russia to remember the execution of the Romanov family one hundred years ago.

SS Canopic

I am honored and excited to announce that I will be on board the Azamara Pursuit crossing the Atlantic on November 11, 2018.  We will be following in the footsteps of Thomas Wells, my great-grandfather, who took his family from Naples, Italy to Boston on board the SS Canopic which was a ship in the White Star line.  On November 6, 2018 we will journey from Barcelona, Spain arriving in  Miami, Florida on November 20, 2018. The SS Canopic made a port call at Gibraltar in 1914 and we will do the same in 2018.  Unlike Wells and his fellow passengers in 1914, we will not fear that any ship on the horizon could prove to be an Imperial German Cruiser determined to sink us!

The Azamara Pursuit is a luxury liner that has been newly refurbished earlier this year.

I am excited to be giving a series of lectures on historical topics throughout the cruise...

Azamara Pursuit
Barcelona to Miami
11/6 /18– 11/20/18

I) Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World.  Why did the Romans call the Mediterranean Mare Nostrum – Our Sea?  How did Italian soldiers fight in Spain the 20th century?  Explore the Italian impact on our world.

II) An Adventure in 1914: In the summer of 1914 my great grandfather (Thomas Wells) journeyed from America to Europe (by ship of course!) with his family.    What ought to have been a dream vacation turned into a nightmare as he witnessed the start of World War I.  We in the Azamara Pursuit are traveling along some of the route taken by him 104 years ago (e.g. stopping in Gibraltar)!  Based on my most personal book…An Adventure in 1914.

III) The Peninsular War:  In 1808 Napoleon invaded his own Ally – the kingdom of Spain.  Over the next six years a war would erupt for control of Iberia.  The “Spanish Ulcer” weakened Napoleon and saw the rise of the Duke of Wellington.

IV) America Invades: In World War II the USA established bases in the Azores to combat the Nazi U-boat menace – they are still there today.  Today we will examine America’s surprising military role in throughout her history.

V) Christopher Columbus: Hero or Villain?  In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  Today some think that he brought genocide to the New World while others regard him as a hero.  What is the truth about Columbus?  What do cigars, hammocks and chocolate owe to Columbus?

VI) Real Pirates of the Caribbean!  The waters of the Caribbean have been visited by pirates such as Henry Morgan and Anne Bonny.  In the 20th century underwater pirates preyed on merchant shipping in two World War.

VII) Invading Florida: Has Florida ever been Invaded?  Many times.  By the Spanish who built St. Augustine – the oldest European citadel on the North American continent.  By the English.  By the Americans led by Andrew Jackson (Jacksonville).   German U-boats terrorized the Florida coast and even landed spies on Florida beaches in WW2.

You are hereby invited to join me as a cross the Atlantic in the footsteps of my ancestor to commemorate the end of the Great War.  For much more information click on this link...

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Sunday, October 7, 2018

Turn: Washington's Spies

George Washington Statue
Boston Common
George Washington said, "The necessity of procuring good intelligence is apparent and need not be further argued."  No serious student of military history would argue the proposition.  Accurate intelligence is critical to the business of waging war.  George Washington did try to create an effective intelligence service on the patriot side to counter the enormous advantages (financial, historical, etc. ) that were enjoyed by the British during the American Revolution.  Major Benjamin Tallmadge, who was Washington's chief of intelligence after 1778, did create a codebook to enable secret correspondence with agents in the Culper ring.

The TV mini-series Turn: Washington's Spies dramatically represents the activities of the Culper ring during the American Revolution.  Turn is, of course. not a documentary but rather a dramatization of historical events.  The Colonial period, while tremendously important, has been sadly neglected by popular culture.  The Founding Fathers are routinely represented in superhuman terms.  The huge success of Hamilton the musical has gone some way towards redressing the imbalance.  Turn shines the light onto the espionage activity which helped to win the war of the 13 colonies against the greatest empire in the world at the time.  The series is based upon a book by Alexander Rose and was developed by Craig Silverstein.

History often gets a bad wrap for being dry and tedious.  This drama amply demonstrates the power of History to entertain.  Over the course of four seasons (40 episodes) there are many twists and turns.  There is romance.  There is plenty of action.  An American family is forced to navigate through the treacherous times of the American Revolution.  We Americans often tend to view the American Revolution through rosy-hued spectacles and miss the conflict's brutality.   In many respects the American Revolution was a Civil War with all of the brutality that this implies.  This is depicted quite well in Turn where the British and those with Tory sympathies are not simply demonized but are given a more balanced portrayal.

Turn is very well done but is should not be confused with documentary film-making.  Many liberties are taken with historic veracity in order the enhance entertainment value.  The character of Robert Rogers, who founded the American Rangers, is portrayed very effectively by the Scottish actor Angus Macfadyen though Rogers was, in fact, of Irish descent.  There is no evidence to suggest that the real Anna Strong ever had an affair with the real Caleb Brewster who was ten years her junior.  And so on.

Another quibble is the inconsistency of the series.  With the execution of Major John AndrĂ© (the British spy is played brilliantly by JJ Feild) at the end of season three much of the air seems to go out of the balloon on the show which limps along until Yorktown.  Ian Kahn is superb as George Washington.  Ksenia Solo adds spice as a gorgeous and luminous Peggy Shippen.  Samuel Roukin plays an over the top psychotic version of John Graves Simcoe which is dramatically effective though not not historically persuasive -- Simcoe was later a founding father of Canada.

As with most espionage dramas, Turn tends to overemphasize the importance of spying in the conflict.  Washington was right that good intelligence is a necessity in war, but it forms only a part of military success that requires willing soldiers, finance, allies, sound strategy etc.  Benedict Arnold's actions at the Battles of Saratoga, for example, did more to win the Revolution for the Patriot side than all the activities of the Culper Ring.

These are, however, minor objections to a program that is stylishly produced, historically overlooked and vastly entertaining.

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Monday, July 9, 2018

Operation Husky + 75

Smaug the Dragon

Seventy-five years ago on this day in 1943 (written July 10, 2018) Allied troops began the invasion of Sicily.  Churchill sought to attack the "soft underbelly of Europe" in much the same way that Bard the Bowman kills Smaug with an arrow to the belly in The Hobbit.  The invasion of Sicily would, however, prove to be infinitely more complicated than Tolkein's novel.  It was the largest amphibious invasion ever attempted at that point in history.  Mussolini's Fascist regime was a house of cards that needed to be toppled with a violent push.  But Nazi Germany would not give up on Italy so easily and a grinding campaign fought up the spine of the Italian peninsula that would result in more Allied deaths than the more famous northern campaign that began on June 6, 1944.

George S Patton

Paton and Montgomery would compete in the "Race to Messina" to liberate the island of Sicily.  Alec Guinness of the Royal Navy would pilot amphibious vehicles that stormed ashore on July 10, 1944.  Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier of WW2, would also fight in Sicily.  All of these were of Celtic ancestry and many will be discussed in our forthcoming 100 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur (out in 2019).

Bernard Law Montgomery

We wrote about the American involvement in the invasion of Italy in our book America Invades (

"It all started on July 10, 1943, with Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. The first day of the campaign was also one of the worst when the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of Matthew Ridgway’s 82nd Airborne was decimated by friendly fire. About fourteen hundred Americans were tragically killed by  re from anti-aircraft batteries on allied naval vessels. From this painful experience, the Allies learned a valuable lesson. All Allied aircraft participating in the D-Day invasion were painted with black and white stripes prior to the Normandy invasion.
Once ashore, General Patton and British General Montgomery competed in the famous “Race to Messina” on the other side of the island. To Montgomery’s irritation, the indefatigable Patton won, but he didn’t have it all his way ending up being very nearly court-martialled for slapping a soldier suffering from battle fatigue.

With Sicily under Allied control, it was on to mainland Italy. The Second World War in Italy was a long grueling affair in which Americans fought with great tenacity and bravery. For instance, The 442nd Regimental Combat Unit, composed mainly of Japanese-Americans, became the most decorated American military unit in our history winning a staggering 9,486 Purple Hearts. There were times when the possibility of a rapid advance north towards the heart of Europe seemed possible, for instance, after the Germans were initially surprised by the Allied landings at Anzio, but somehow the enemy collapse never came, at least not until right at the end of the war itself.

In spite of the surrender of the Italian government and their switching sides to the Allies, the German defense of Italy under the able “Smiling Albert” Kesselring was stubborn and tenacious. After Southern Italy was cleared, the Americans used airbases in Italy to bomb Axis targets, such as the Ploesti oil fields in Romania. George McGovern, the future presidential candidate, piloted his B-24 Liberator bomber on thirty-five missions from San Giovanni Air Base in Apulia.

Rome, Mussolini’s former capital, was liberated by American forces on June 4, 1944, an extremely newsworthy event but preempted by what came two days later far to the north—D-Day. As Allied armies swept across northern Europe towards the Reich, American and other Allied armies continued their slow, tough advance north through Italy. In fact, fighting was to continue in Italy all the way until May 8, 1945—V-E Day.

Victory in Italy came at a heavy price. There were about 114,000 US casualties in the Italian campaign. Today you will find two American Battle Commission cemeteries in Italy, one in Florence and another near Anzio (Nettuno) where visitors can sit and think about the huge sacrifice made by many young troops." Source:

Remember ALL those brave Allied troops, American, British, Canadian, etc. that fought to slay the dragon of fascism in Europe from July of 1943 until the end of the war.  Never forget their sacrifice!

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