Friday, July 26, 2019

Invading South Dakota

Mount Rushmore

Those who love history are gravitationally drawn to South Dakota.  History has been literally carved into the face of the natural splendor of South Dakota  Here visitors flock to the magnificent site of Mount Rushmore that honors four great American Presidents.  They can also explore the Wild West town of Deadwood where Wild Bill Hickok was murdered in 1876 while playing a game of cards.  They can even visit Mitchell South Dakota's Corn Palace and also learn about South Dakota's native son George McGovern who was a B-24 bomber pilot in World War II before he became a famous dove during the Vietnam War.  McGovern, a Fighting Celt of Irish ancestry, opposed the Vietnam War and Nixon in 1972.  He was a History professor before he turned to politics.

Commander K. with George & Eleanor McGovern
Mitchell, SD

McGovern was among many South Dakotans who have served their country.  The history of fighting in South Dakota precedes the arrival of Europeans on the North American plain.  There was considerable conflict in the state between European settlers and Native Americans.  The town of Deadwood with its combination of gold, guns and greed was notable for its violence.  Wild Bill Hickok was murdered on August 2, 1876 while playing cards in a Deadwood saloon.  Today Deadwood, celebrated in film and television, offers casino gambling and tours of the ghosts who supposedly inhabit what was once a red light district.

Commander K. and Wild Bill Hickok
Deadwood, SD

We had this to say about fighting in the South Dakota in our book America Invaded (

"South Dakota, the home of Mount Rushmore, is named after Native American tribes. Before the arrival of Europeans in what is now South Dakota, the area had already seen different Native American peoples
competing for control of territory, as Sioux migrated westward and came into contact with peoples like the Arikara.

It was the French who were the first Europeans to venture into the area. Contact began in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, and in 1743, the Vérendrye brothers set o from Lake Manitoba on a journey intended to take them as far as the Paci c. En route, they buried a lead plaque near what is now Fort Pierre. Today Pierre, named after the French fur trader Pierre Chouteau, is the state capital.

Soon after that, though, the French were temporarily out of the picture. They handed over their claims to the area to Spain under a deal made in 1762, though a lot of the locals didn’t find out about it until 1764. In some locations, power wasn’t handed over until 1770.

The Spanish had (among others) two major problems. Firstly, exploring and exploiting the territory Spain claimed to control; and secondly, preventing Britain from exploring and exploiting the territory Spain claimed to control. In 1793, what is often known as the Missouri Company was formed in St. Louis to explore areas, including parts of what is now South Dakota. In autumn 1794, an expedition under Jean-Baptiste Truteau established Ponca House on the Missouri. And in the spring of 1795, a more ambitious expedition set off under Antoine Simon Lecuyer. However, the Poncas were not happy about it, and Lecuyer didn’t entirely distinguish himself. And worse (from the Spanish point of view) was to come. News arrived that the British and Canadians were expanding their links with the Mandan people.

Somewhat confusingly, at this point the Missouri Company in Spanish St. Louis sent an expedition led by Scotsman James Mackay and Welshman John Thomas Evans to counter the growing British influence. Well, business is business.

This latest expedition built Fort Charles near present-day Sioux City; and a team under Evans made it as far as the mouth of the White River before being forced by local opposition to withdraw. In the summer of 1796, Evans finally made it as far as the territory of the Mandan and temporarily expelled the Canadian traders. But elsewhere, Mackay was withdrawing to St. Louis and the Missouri Company was going bankrupt. In the end, Evans too retreated to St. Louis.

There wasn’t much future for the Spanish colonial authorities in the region. In 1800, Spain handed over Louisiana to France again, and in 1803, the young United States bought it in the Louisiana Purchase. It would be the United States, not France or Spain or Britain, that would, as an invading power, take full control of the area.
Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery
Iowa Rest Stop

At this point, we come to, yes, Lewis and Clark again. Their expedition set out  from St. Louis in 1804, and they passed through what is now South Dakota both en route to the Paci c and on their return journey as well. They had various encounters with the local peoples of the area, and they held a meeting with the Teton Sioux near what is now Fort Pierre, trying to ensure that the United States would have more influence in the area than Britain.

In the period after Lewis and Clark’s historic expedition, American traders and trappers began to explore and exploit the area. Among others interested in the territory were William Henry Ashley and Andrew Henry, who established the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. And after the arrival of the traders and trappers, the US Army showed up. By 1856, they had established Fort Randall. Demands for the area to be opened up to American settlement grew and, in the end, the Yankton Sioux decided that selling millions of acres in eastern South Dakota and moving to a reservation was better than trying to stop, by force, the overwhelming military might of the expanding United States. In 1858, Struck-by-the-Ree and other leaders signed the deal. In 1859, it was implemented.

But war would come to the region. In 1862, the Sioux Uprising erupted in Minnesota, and as it was crushed there, fighting spread westward. the main focus of this phase of fighting was in North Dakota, but South Dakota also saw battles.
George Armstrong Custer

In 1874, an expedition led by George Armstrong Custer entered the Black Hills. It found gold, and miners raced into the area in search of riches, despite the fact that the western half of South Dakota was a Sioux reservation. Soon the US government was putting pressure on the Lakota to sell their land. When the Lakota refused, the US Army advanced. Most of the fighting, including Custer’s defeat at Little Bighorn in Montana, took place elsewhere; but in September 1876, Brigadier General George Crook destroyed an Oglala village at Slim Buttes and then brushed aside an assault led by Crazy Horse. In the end, Native American resistance could not sustain itself against greater American military power. By 1877, the fighting was over as the Native American war bands surrendered, scattered, or fled.

Wild Bill Hickock gravesite
Deadwood Cemetery

But even this was not the end of Native American resistance to the invaders. In 1890, about 3,000 Ghost Dancers, consisting of Lakota, Oglala, and Sicangu, gathered in a place called the Stronghold. Sitting Bull was killed during an attempt to arrest him because it was feared he was about to join them. In December of that year, a group of Lakota under Chief Big Foot, the majority of whom were women and children, were stopped by the US Army and ordered to camp at Wounded Knee Creek. They complied, and forces from the 7th Cavalry surrounded them. When soldiers attempted to search for weapons and disarm the Lakota, fighting broke out, and the US forces turned their devastating Hotchkiss machine guns on the Lakota, massacring 153 of them. More violent actions occurred, including at White Clay Creek; and by the time it was all over, armed, organized Native American resistance in South Dakota was effectively at an end.

However, South Dakota was to see one more attack from abroad. During the Japanese balloon-bombing campaign of World War II, at least eight balloons reached South Dakota, including one that landed near Buffalo.

And the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee by Oglala Lakota would show that ghosts from the past live on in the present."

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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Invading Idaho

Commander K. at the Idaho Military Museum
Boise Idaho

A visitor to Idaho is immediately struck by the state's deep pride in its military history.  Major highways that criss cross the state honor Medal of Honor winners from the state and Vietnam veterans.  Astonishingly nearly 300,000 US Naval personnel trained at Farragut Naval Training Station in Northern Idaho on beautiful Lake Pend Oreille during World War II.  Even President Roosevelt himself visited the state during the war.  The state has fine military attractions such as the Idaho Military Museum in Boise ( and the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa (

Farragut Naval Training Stati
In our book America Invaded  ( we had this to say about fighting that has taken place in the state of Idaho...

"Idaho is more famous for her potatoes than for invasions, but fighting has taken place within her borders . Humans have inhabited the area we know today as Idaho for thousands and thousands of years. The Nez Perce and Coeur d’Alene tribes were established in the region long before the arrival of Europeans. Idaho’s rugged mountain terrain and lack of a coastline delayed the arrival of Europeans until the nineteenth century.

In 1803, David Thompson, a British fur trader with the Hudson’s Bay Company, arrived in what is now Idaho. Fort Boise was established in 1834 on the Snake River by the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Not long after Thompson, Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery made its way through Idaho. In August 1805, Lewis described what he saw along what is today the Idaho-Montana border: “We proceeded on to the top of the dividing ridge from which I discovered immense ranges of high mountains still to the West of us with their tops partially covered with snow.” Later, Lewis and Clark camped near the present site of Lewiston. Lewis and Clark State College can be found in Lewiston today.

Fur Trader Statue
Idaho Falls, ID

Andrew Henry, an American fur trader, explored Idaho and founded Fort Henry around 1810. is was the rst fur-trading post west of the Mississippi River.

A man who would feature large in the early history of Idaho, and who would exemplify the competition for power in the region, was Donald Mackenzie. He was born in Scotland and was working for the Canadian North West Company when he arrived in the area. He eventually signed up with the American Paci c Fur Company. However, during the War of 1812, American fur-trading operations in the area were curtailed due to fear of British actions. Mackenzie rejoined the North West Company and did more exploring in their service.
And in the period after the war, Britons and Americans continued to compete in the area. In the 1820s, American fur traders and explorers William H. Ashley and Jedediah Smith arrived in Idaho.

The Battle of Pierre’s Hole in 1832 saw a group of American trappers with Native American allies clash with a party of Gros Ventre, another Native American tribe.

French Canadians may have played a role in naming Idaho’s capital city of Boise, exclaiming “Les bois, les bois” on seeing its tree-lined riverbank in the 1820s. French fur traders named the Indians they encountered Nez Perce or “Pierced Nose,” although it remains a matter of dispute whether they did actually pierce their noses. e name of the Coeur d’Alene tribe (and also an Idaho city) is French and means “Heart of an Awl,” and was given by French Canadian fur traders.

Commander K. Idaho Falls

Idaho was part of the Oregon Country that was claimed by both Britain and the United States. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 established the American claim on Idaho.

As settlers increasingly moved into the area, occasional clashes with local Native Americans erupted. For instance, in 1851, the so-called Clark Massacre saw Shoshone attack a wagon train, killing some of its members and seizing horses.

Gold was rst discovered in the Idaho territory in 1860 along Clearwater River. A gold rush was ignited, bringing more American settlers to the territory. is led directly to more encroachment onto lands that belonged to Native Americans.

The largest battle recorded in the state was the Bear River Massacre, which took place during the US Civil War on January 29, 1863, in south- eastern Idaho. Colonel Patrick Connor, a native of Ireland, led US Army forces against the Shoshone tribe in response to attacks on American miners. Twenty-one American soldiers, mostly from California, were killed, along with at least ten times as many Shoshone, including many women and
children. Bear Hunter, the Shoshone chief, was among those killed that day. A second Fort Boise was built in Boise by the Union Army in 1863 to help secure the Oregon Trail. e facility was closed in 1912. Gold from Idaho helped to nance the Union cause during the Civil War. Idaho was part of the Territory of Washington until the Idaho Territory was formed in 1863.

Idaho would see some action during the so-called Snake War of 
1864–1868. As tensions between Native Americans and miners continued, a series of clashes erupted. At first, volunteers and then, increasingly after the end of the Civil War, US troops tried to counter occasional Native American raids.

Lewis and Clark
The Nez Perce tribe had welcomed Lewis and Clark when they passed through Idaho in 1805, providing food and materiel support for their journey. In their journals, Clark described Twisted Hair, a Nez Perce chief, as being “A Chearfull man with apparent Siencerity.” An 1855 treaty between the US government and the Nez Perce tribe seemed to guarantee the preservation of their homelands. Gold fever, however, would alter the arrangement. A revised 1863 treaty reduced the Nez Perce lands by 90 percent. Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce was a voice counseling patience and moderation. Violence, however, flared up on June 14, 1877, when Nez Perce warriors killed four settlers. American soldiers responded quickly.

The Battle of White Bird Canyon, fought on June 17, 1877, during the Nez Perce War, was a rare defeat for American forces during the Indian wars. thirty-four soldiers under Captain David Perry were killed while only three men of the Nez Perce were wounded. US forces would once again su er at the hands of the Nez Perce at the Battle of Camas Creek in southeastern Idaho on August 20, 1877. The Nez Perce were later defeated at the Battle of Big Hole, and many ed into Canada. Chief Joseph was resettled onto a reservation in Colville, Washington.

In 1890, Idaho became the forty-third state to join the Union.

Commander K. at the Warhawk Air Museum
Nampa, Idaho

The USS Idaho was a New Mexico-class battleship that served in both world wars and was nicknamed Big Spud. United States Army Air Force crews began training in Mountain Home in 1943.

A Japanese balloon bomb, or Fu-Go, landed in Boise in February 1945, along with more than half a dozen throughout the state. Little damage was done."

For much more on Fighting in the other 49 states please get your copy of America Invaded ( 

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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Did America Invade the Moon 50 years ago?

When Neil Armstrong planted his foot in the lunar soil fifty years ago today was it an "Invasion"?  The question may not be quite as ludicrous as it first appears.

The distinction between exploration and invasion has, at times, been a fine line indeed.  Many famous discoverers have also been military men.  Hernán Cortés conquered the Aztec Empire.  Captain Cook, a captain in the Royal Navy, was the first European to discover Hawaii where he was killed in 1779 by the indigenous people.  Lewis and Clark were officers in the US Army as well as explorers.

Spielberg's 2018 film First Man about Neil Armstrong almost completely ignores his military background.  But, in fact, Neil Armstrong comes from a long line of Fighting Celts stretching from William Wallace to Douglas MacArthur (101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur is coming soon!).  Armstrong was a naval aviator who served during the Korean War flying off of carriers such as the USS Essex.  He flew 78 combat missions during the conflict.  He was forced to eject from his Grumman F9F Panther after either being hit by anti-aircraft fire or striking a pole or cable (accounts differ).  Lieutenant Armstrong earned numerous decorations including three Air Medals and two Gold Stars.

Armstrong clearly planted the American flag on the lunar surface.  Some would construe this as an imperialistic gesture.

At the time of the moon landing the United States was engaged in a brutal and tragic war in Vietnam that would claim over 50,000 American lives.  Reports from Vietnam preoccupied the media of the day alongside coverage of NASA's Apollo 11 program.

The American Space program was also a major propaganda component of the Cold War duel with with the Soviet Union.  Landing the first men on the moon was a major American propaganda coup that riveted the world's attention.

In our 2014 book, America Invades, we detailed American military involvement in nearly every country in the world.  The only three countries we seem to have missed entirely are Andorra, Bhutan and the principality of Liechtenstein!

So, at the end of the day, was Neil Armstrong an American invader of the moon?

I would argue that, fundamentally, the moon landing was, despite some military aspects, NOT an American invasion.  In America Invades "we decided to define an 'American invasion' as an 'armed attack or intervention in a country by American forces.'" Well, clearly the moon is not a sovereign nation.  No fighting took place on the moon.  There are no "moonlings" whose rights might have been trampled.  The only moon dwellers to be disturbed by the arrival of Eagle One were...some rocks.

At the end of the day, Armstrong was not really a conqueror like Cortés or even Captain Cook.  The 1969 Moon landing was perhaps no more of an invasion than Juan de Bermúdez' 1505 arrival in the uninhabited island of Bermuda.

Armstrong's step onto the moon was, as he described it, "a giant leap for all mankind."

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And Coming soon...