The Marshall Islands & the Bomb

Pacific Paratrooper

Marshall Islands

Between 1946 and 1958, the United States detonated 67 nuclear bombs on, in and above the Marshall Islands — vaporizing whole islands, carving craters into its shallow lagoons and exiling hundreds of people from their homes.

Operation Crossroads                

The first testing series in the Marshall Islands occurred under Operation Crossroads. The purpose of Operation Crossroads was to investigate the effect of nuclear weapons on naval warships. Testing in the islands began at Bikini Atoll with the Shot Able test, on July 1, 1946. After Shot Able, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists confirmed the power of these weapons. They determined that soldiers on ships up to a mile away from this explosion would be instantly be killed.

The U.S. then conducted the Shot Baker test on July 25.

From the Youtube video on Operation Crossroads

These tests were the first time that the U.S. tested nuclear weapons since…

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Movie Review- Hostiles, 2017

Entertainment Studios, 2017

Scott Cooper’s revisionist western struggles to find itself.

“Hostiles” begins with a brutal scene hearkening back to John Ford’s classic, “The Searchers.” A frontier family is massacred by Comanches, and only Rosamund Pike’s character, Rosalie Quaid survives. Cut to Christian Bale’s grizzled Cavalry Captain, Joseph Blocker; he and his men abusing an Apache captive while his family screams in fear. Writer/Director Scott Cooper wants the audience to understand there were atrocities committed by both sides in the struggle for the American West. A revision to the revisionist Westerns of the 1970’s.

Cooper’s film struggles to find its identity as it follows Blocker’s mission to deliver a Cheyenne Chief(Wes Studi) to Montana territory at the Government’s behest. Blocker witnessed the Chief kill his men, and wants no part of the President’s PR stunt. The mission assaults everything his storied Indian fighting career stood for, yet his desire to retire with dignity compels him to accept. Bale’s strong performance captures Blocker’s transformation from stoic killer to noble savior, but inconsistencies in the script give the film an unbalanced tone. One part gritty realism, another an enemies- to- friends journey, yet all-the-while a personal redemption tale- “Hostiles” wants to be all three. There is just enough clarity, found in the performances, to make the film effective.

Cooper is at his best when orchestrating onscreen action with the beautiful New Mexico scenery. There is a palpable homage to the classic westerns of the 1960’s throughout the film. The script should also be commended for its stirring portrayal of post traumatic stress in the characters exposed to unimaginable violence. Pike and Studi’s considerable talents get lost in the redemptive glow of Bale’s transformation. Studi is understated yet noble, but definitely needed more from the script. Pike’s Mrs. Quaid fades into the scenery during the final third of the film. The presence of a black soldier in the squad is never adequately explained, considering the film is set 56 years before the military was desegregated.

The film should have stopped when the journey was completed. A violently disjointed coda fails to provide a satisfying ending to the story. Blocker and his prisoner achieve a noble understanding; though both guilty of horrific violence, they found common ground in an unforgiving world.

Britain Lost the War of 1812

Why did the British lose the War of 1812… consensus history teaches that the Napoleonic wars kept mighty England from crushing the upstart Americans.  As expected, consensus historical lessons are wrapped too tightly, strangling the complexities from our past.  America won the war, but Britain lost it just as much.  We cannot pin this all on the French.

  • Poor strategy and execution– As in the Revolutionary War, Britain attempted a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy.  Simultaneous invasions would divide American forces and allow the British to defeat the disorganized American armies.  Unfortunately, the invasions were far from timely; poorly organized and executed, British forces were unable achieve any strategic success during the invasions of upstate New York and Maryland.  The third invasion at New Orleans ended in disaster.  The first graduates from the American military academy (like Winfield Scott)  were able to rally American forces, including the unreliable militiamen, to resist the uncoordinated assaults.
  • Political disunity– The government of Spencer Perceval had taken a stand against American attempts to trade with France their during the war.  Perceval’s ministers enacted the Orders in Council and did little as the tensions with America continued to rise.  Diplomats serving in Washington did a poor job communicating Britain’s positions on key issues.  Perceval’s assassination on May 11, 1812 brought to power Lord Liverpool, who sought to ease tensions with America.  The repeal of the Orders in Council just two days before America’s declaration of war was not accepted by all British ministers.  The disunity in  Liverpool’s government continued as the hostilities escalated.
  • Swatting flies– The British military machine was not built to fight an enemy like the United States.  The British army was recruited and trained to fight on the sweeping fields of Europe, not the wilds of North America; geography proved to be a keen enemy in both wars Britain fought in America.  The small, but powerful American fleet did not give the Royal Navy its Trafalgar of the west.  The power frigates of the US fleet held their own in ship to ship combat.  These small victories boosted American morale during the dark days of the conflict.  The British dependence on its Indian allies on the frontier proved as detrimental as in the Seven Years War.  The United States used its home field advantage to keep the British war machine from operating efficiently.

But it is said that we are not prepared for war, and ought therefore not to declare it. This is an idle objection, which can have weight with the timid and pusillanimous only. The fact is otherwise. Our preparations are adequate to every essential object. Do we apprehend danger to ourselves? From what quarter will it assail us? From England, and by invasion? The idea is too absurd to merit a moment’s consideration. –Henry Clay, 1811

1812- War was the Only Choice

National pride had plenty to do with… starting the War of 1812.  Britain refused to honor its commitments set down in the original treaty of 1783.   Despite reaffirming those pledges in Jay’s Treaty of 1794, Britain continued to deny America the equal station it desired.  The Royal Navy provided the greatest obstacle to American sovereignty, impeding America’s lifeblood, commerce.  The 1807 attack on the USS Chesapeake in American waters was the most egregious violation in a consistent campaign to cripple our shipping.  The trade restrictions laid down in the Orders in Council (blockade of Europe) were the final straw for many Americans.

  1. Neutrality- America wanted to be left alone,  and the British were having none of it.  The early disputes between Federalists and Jeffersonians over foreign policy matters were rendered moot by ascension of Bonaparte.  The Adams administration had deeply strained US/French relations and Jay’s Treaty had failed badly.  The Anglo/American alliance never truly formed after 1783.  The British were not going to allow the upstart republic to trade with its enemy during a time of war.  The heavy-handed provisions of the Orders in Council, the Royal Navy’s blockade of Europe, was the final straw.
  2. The Frontier- The British army was a powerful force on the American frontier, proving difficult to withdraw its presence as stipulated in the treaty of 1783.  British troops remained assisting in the Indian resistance to American settlement west of Ohio.  American military intervention proved time and again that Indian alliances were receiving British military support.  The Tecumseh War was the final straw in a long string of British interference.  The British troops were compounding an already volatile situation; in addition to violating the most basic elements of territorial sovereignty.
  3. Piracy- The tradition of the ‘press’ as a recruitment tool for the Royal Navy divided the two nations even further.  The British denied America’s right to naturalize foreigners serving in its merchant fleet.  American ships were subject to searches and all sailors could be taken against their will.  Historians estimate that over 10,000 American sailors were impressed between 1794-1814.  60% of the ‘British’ subjects taken off American ships were in fact Irish.  Despite two treaties guaranteeing safety to American seamen, the Royal Navy searched American ships at will.

Library of Congress

“Such is the spectacle of injuries and indignities which have been heaped on our country, and such the crisis which its unexampled forbearance and conciliatory efforts have not been able to avert.” – James Madison, June 1, 1812

1812 Saber Rattling

Pop history proclaims that eager “War Hawks” … in the United States forced the War of 1812 upon the American people.  Jeffersonians long antagonistic to the British empire wanted to strengthen our bonds with the French through a war.  Claims are also made stating that expansionists wanted to use the war as a vehicle to finally take possession of Canada.  Could all this be possible?  Did American statesman foolishly risk our republic for such dubious motives?……the historical record can answer those questions….

LITTLE jEMMY

Does James Madison sound like a saber-rattling tyrant … in his war message delivered June 1, 1812 ?

We behold, in fine, on the side of Great Britain, a state of war against the United States, and on the side of the United States a state of peace toward Great Britain…Whether the United States shall continue passive under these progressive usurpations and these accumulating wrongs, or, opposing force to force in defense of their national rights,  is a solemn question which the Constitution wisely confides to the legislative department of the Government.  In recommending it to their early deliberations I am happy in the assurance that the decision will be worthy the enlightened and patriotic councils of a virtuous, a free, and a powerful nation.

Seems rational

WAR HAWK

War Hawk and Speaker of the House Henry Clay… stated the case for war clearly in 1811

What are we to gain by war, has been emphatically asked? In reply, he would ask, what are we not to lose by peace?—commerce, character, a nation’s best treasure, honor!  Let those who contend for this humiliating doctrine, read its refutation in the history of the very man against whose insatiable thirst of dominion we are warned.  Let us come home to our own history. It was not by submission that our fathers achieved our independence.

Looking to our history

Review of “Man of Destiny: FDR and the Making of the American Century” by Alonzo Hamby

My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies

Alonza Hamby’s “Man of Destiny: FDR and the Making of the American Century” was published in 2015 and is one of only two comprehensive, single-volume biographies of FDR published recently.  Hamby is a historian, author and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at Ohio University. He is the author of a biography of Harry S. Truman I read and reviewed in 2016.

While acknowledging there is no shortage of FDR biographies, Hamby felt compelled to write this book given his view that most coverage of FDR is excessively friendly and insufficiently critical. His goal, therefore, was to produce an objective – and efficient – biography of FDR’s entire life. But while this book is judiciously balanced and comparatively short (with 436 pages of text), it almost entirely fails to humanize Roosevelt, offers inadequate coverage of his pre-presidency and exudes a disappointingly antiseptic style.

Franklin Roosevelt’s complicated and contradictory persona…

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Robert E. Lee's Greatest Military Blunders

M.A. Kleen

By many accounts, Robert E. Lee was the greatest Civil War general, certainly for the South but arguably on both sides. But Lee’s record is not spotless, and he had his share of grave military errors. When Lee was in command of the Army of Northern Virginia, he racked up a total of 209,000 casualties (55,000 more than Ulysses S. Grant, who’s been derided as a “butcher”). Lee’s aggressive tactics were responsible for more than one bloody affair, in which he needlessly sacrificed the lives of his troops with no gain. The following were some of Lee’s biggest military blunders:

Cheat Mountain

Before Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia, he was overall commander of Virginia’s militia. In 1861, the Confederacy’s prospects were dim in western Virginia, and President Jefferson Davis sent Lee to rectify the situation. That resulted in the “battle” of Cheat Mountain

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