Canadians in the American Civil War

A little known fact about our Civil War is how many of our neighbors to the North participated in it.  Some 33,000-55,000 Canadians came south to fight for the Union, and a few hundred Canadians went further south to fight for the Confederacy. Some 29 Canadian soldiers fighting for the Union earned the newly created Medal of Honor.  The Civil War had a major impact on Canadian history.  The confederation of Canada was created in 1867, and the fathers of the confederation, believing that too strong states had helped lead to the American Civil War, ensured the establishment of a strong federal government in Canada. (more…)

Published in: on December 18, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Washington at Bay

Each year, as Christmas is approaching, I think of a Christmas long ago in 1776.  The year in which we declared our independence from Great Britain was a year of military disaster for the United States.  Washington and his troops had been beaten time after time, and as the end of the year approached the Revolution seemed to be dying.  The British controlled New York, the largest city in the colonies and the major port.  New Jersey had been conquered.  The Continental Congress was in flight from Philadelphia, in expectation that the British would next move on that city.  Washington’s army had been reduced to around 3,000 ill-clad and ill-fed poorly trained troops, vastly outnumbered by their British adversaries and their Hessian mercenaries, all well-trained, well equipped, well clad and well fed.  Defeat seemed all but inevitable to all but Washington.  In this hour of doom, he rallied his troops and launched the Trenton-Princeton campaign, which restored the morale of his Army, liberated much of New Jersey, and put new heart to American patriots everywhere.  Washington had worked a military miracle.

The feat is all the more impressive, in that privately Washington was well-aware of the odds against him, and feared that defeat was probably likely.  We see that in two letters he wrote on December 10 and 17, 1776, to his nephew Lund Washington, who ran Mount Vernon in his absence: (more…)

Published in: on December 16, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Washington at Bay  
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Ernie Pyle Remembers Clark Kent

Withywindle at Athens and Jerusalem has a spectacular reminiscence by reporter Ernie Pyle of his encounters with Clark Kent during World War II:

We were on a press plane flying from England down to North Africa just after the troops landed in forty two. The ride was bumpy and we were passing around a bottle of whiskey. I offered it to this big man in the back, and he said, “No thanks, Mr. Pyle, I’m tee-total.” But he said it in a friendly way that didn’t seem stuck up at all. I said, “You know my name, but I don’t know yours. Who are you?” Somebody else said, “You don’t know him, Ernie? That’s Clark Kent, the one who did all those Superman stories.” I whistled, because those had been good pieces, and because I could see how young Kent must have been when he wrote them. I took a longer look at him. Big man, handsome man. He looked like he could have been a football player or a movie star. Half Johnny Weissmuller, half Gregory Peck. “I liked those,” I said. “I always wondered how you got that particular interview.” “It wasn’t easy,” Kent said to me solemnly. “First I had to find out where his favorite bar was. Then I had to buy him a drink. And he wouldn’t talk to me until I put a cape on.” He looked at me so seriously that I knew this was God’s own truth—and then he grinned, that wonderful smile that lit up his face and made everyone fall in love with him, even sergeants soaked in vinegar who weren’t that fond of their own mothers. I whooped until my guts hurt and after that he was the best friend I had in the war. (more…)

Published in: on December 15, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Ernie Pyle Remembers Clark Kent  
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December 14, 1861: Death of Prince Albert

Prince Albert, husband and consort of Queen Victoria, died one hundred and fifty years ago.  Only 42, he died of typhoid fever, a mass killer in the nineteenth century in crowded cities like London.  In November of 1861 he had arisen from what would become his death-bed to tone down a British ultimatum over the seizure of two Confederate diplomats, Mason and Slidell, from a British mail steamer the Trent by the USS San Jacinto, in what has come down in history as the Trent Affair: (more…)

Published in: on December 14, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on December 14, 1861: Death of Prince Albert  
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Obama =Theodore Roosevelt

(We normally avoid current politics here at Almost Chosen People, but I posted this at The American Catholic and I thought our history mavens here might get a kick out of it.)

The death-knell of the Republic had rung as soon as the active power became lodged in the hands of those who sought, not to do justice to all citizens, rich and poor alike, but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others.

                                     Theodore Roosevelt

Well, I see that President Obama is seeking to emulate Theodore Roosevelt.   I have been thinking about it, and Obama is exactly the same as Roosevelt.  Let us count the ways:

1.   Theodore Roosevelt raised the Rough Riders regiment and was awarded the medal of honor for his extreme heroism in leading the charges of the Rough Riders up Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War.  He was the only man mounted in that fight and it is a miracle he survived.  All accounts testify to his complete contempt for death that day.  Obama was a community organizer in Chicago, a town noted for inclement weather.

2.   Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for taking the lead in the negotiations which led to the treaty ending the Russo-Japanese War.  Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for not being George Bush.

3.    Theodore Roosevelt wrote 43 books, his favorite topic being America, the land that he loved.  Obama has thus far written two books on the subject that he loves above all else, himself.

4.     Theodore Roosevelt was a highly religious man who regularly attended church.  Obama engages in regular morning worship when he looks in the mirror to shave.

5.    Theodore Roosevelt engaged in a never-ending battle against political corruption throughout his career.  Obama and his associates have helped provide work for prosecutors investigating political corruption. (more…)

Published in: on December 13, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (5)  
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Go For Broke

My wife gave me for my birthday  last year a compilation collection of 15 World War II films.  I immediately noticed one of the titles:  Go For Broke (1951).  It had been over thirty years since I last viewed that film and I watched it and greatly enjoyed it.

Go For Broke, tells the story of the 442nd regimental combat team during World War II.  Made up of first generation Japanese-Americans, Nisei, the 442nd, along with the 100th Infantry battalion, made up of Nisei from Hawaii and which became associated with the 442nd, fought in Italy, France and Germany.   Many of the Japanese-American actors in the film were combat veterans of the 442nd which lends the film a very realistic, almost documentary feel, especially in the combat sequences.

The film opens in 1943 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi where the men of the 442nd are being trained. Van Johnson, portraying Lieutenant Michael Grayson, is a “90 day wonder”, an enlisted man commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant after completing a 90 days officer’s candidate school.  Prior to officer’s candidate school he had been a member of the 36th National Guard Division, one of several National Guard units from Texas that fought in World War II, sometimes waggishly refered to as the Texan Army.   Grayson was hoping that he would be reassigned to the 36th and is dismayed to find that he will be leading Japanese-American troops, sharing to the full the prejudice that most Americans felt against everything Japanese following Pearl Harbor.  He immediately asks Colonel Charles W. Pence, portrayed by Warner Anderson, for a transfer to the 36th.  Pence quickly realizes, despite the denials of Grayson, that he is prejudiced against the Japanese-Americans, and informs him in no uncertain terms that his men are loyal Americans, that there will no be transfer, and that he is to take up his duties as a platoon commander, a 40 man unit, immediately.  The scene shifts to the platoon, where the men are relaxing in the barracks.  Other than their ancestry, and different slang, viewers quickly realize that they are like other American soldiers, griping about the Army, wondering what is going on back home, playing craps, etc.  Grayson and his men are a poor fit initially, but he does his job and helps turn them into soldiers. (more…)

Published in: on December 12, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Go For Broke  
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Sunday in Paradise

aloysius-h-schmitt

Lieutenant j.g. Aloysius Schmitt had just finished morning mass aboard the USS Oklahoma.  Acting chaplain of the Okie, a Sunday meant a busy day for him, a relaxed day for almost everyone else on board the ship.  Since they were in port and the country was at peace a Sunday was a day of rest.  Besides,  the port was a tropical paradise.  Life was good for the crew of the Okie.

Father Schmitt, born on December 4, 1909, was an Iowan, about as far from the sea as it is possible to be in the US.  Studying in Rome for the priesthood, he was ordained on December 8, 1935.  After serving at parishes in Dubuque Iowa and Cheyenne, Wyoming, Father Schmitt received permission to join the Navy and was commissioned a Lieutenant j.g. on June 28, 1939.

On December 7, 1941 at 8:00 AM the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor began.  The Oklahoma and the other battleships on battleship row were the primary targets.  Alarms began to sound on the Oklahoma, and the ship was hit almost immediately by nine torpedoes from Japanese torpedo bombers.  The ship began to list badly and every sailor knew that it was probably just a few minutes before the Okie would capsize. (more…)

Published in: on December 9, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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70 Years Ago: A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace. (more…)

Published in: on December 8, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on 70 Years Ago: A Date Which Will Live In Infamy  
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To Awaken A Sleeping Giant

At the end of the epic movie Tora, Tora, Tora, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the head of the combined Japanese fleet, after the successful attack on Pearl Harbor, refuses to join in the elation of his staff, and makes this haunting observation:  “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”  The line is almost certainly apocryphal.  The director of the film, Elmo Williams, claimed that Larry Forester, the film’s screenwriter, had found the line in a 1943 letter written by Yamamoto.   However, he has been unable to produce the letter, and there is no other evidence that such a letter exists.

However, there is no doubt that Yamamoto would fully have endorsed the sentiment that the line contained.  He had studied at Harvard in 1919-1921, and served two tours as a naval attache at the Japanese embassy in Washington DC.  He spoke fluent English, and his stays in the US had convinced him of that nation’s vast wealth and industrial power.  He had also developed a fondness for both America and Americans. 

In the 1930’s Yamamoto spoke out against Japan allying with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, fearing that such an alliance would lead inevitably to a war with the US that Japan would lose.  He received frequent death threats as a result from fanatical Japanese nationalists.  These were not idle threats, as such nationalists did assassinate a fair number of Japanese politicians and military men during the Thirties who were against war with the US.  Yamamoto ignored the threats with studied contempt, viewing it as his duty to the Emperor and Japan to speak out against a disastrous course.  Yamamoto wrote in a letter to one nationalist: 

Should hostilities once break out between Japan and the United States, it would not be enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. To make victory certain, we would have to march into Washington and dictate the terms of peace in the White House. I wonder if our politicians (who speak so lightly of a Japanese-American war) have confidence as to the final outcome and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices. (more…)

Published in: on December 7, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on To Awaken A Sleeping Giant  

Edgar Rice Burroughs and Pearl Harbor

A trailer from the John Carter Warlord of Mars movie due out in March of next year, a tribute to the continuing popularity of the literary creations of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who died 61 years ago.

Tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.  Burroughs was living in Hawaii at the time, and wrote a first hand account of the attack.  An ardent patriot, the 66 year old Burroughs was too old to see military service in World War II, but he did the next best thing by being a war correspondent and spending the War covering the troops as they advanced island by island.  His account of Pearl Harbor: (more…)

Published in: on December 6, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Edgar Rice Burroughs and Pearl Harbor  
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