Truman Warns Japan to Surrender

The above was filmed on June 7, 1945.  In July the Army Air Corps dropped sixteen million leaflets on Japanese cities warning the Japanese to evacuate their cities.  The leaflets varied, but the message in Japanese on the leaflets was substantially as follows: (more…)

Published in: on July 30, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Truman Warns Japan to Surrender  
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North America: 240 Years in Four Minutes

 

Quite a bit of stability in the map of North America since the 19th century, a testament to how peaceful the area has been, other than internal strife in Mexico in the first third of the 20th century, and internal strife in Central America in the seventies and the eighties.

 

 

Published in: on July 27, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on North America: 240 Years in Four Minutes  
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Action of July 24, 1945

One of the last naval actions in the Pacific War, the Action of July 24, 1945 was a Japanese victory.  Among the suicide weapons implemented by the Japanese at the end of the War were kaitens, manned torpedoes.  The I-53 was manned with kaitens, and launched six of them on an attack on an American troop convoyed escorted by Destroyer Escort USS Underhill, six sub chasers and a patrol boat.  The Underhill took out two of the kaitens before being sunk by the explosion of the second kaiten, as it was rammed by the Underhill.  The Underhill suffered casualties of 112 killed and 122 wounded.

Published in: on July 24, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Action of July 24, 1945  
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Top Movie Battle Speeches

An interesting list hampered by a narrator who obviously had no depth of knowledge of the films.  (The 54th “Army” instead of the 54th Massachusetts.)

 

Here are some other picks:

 

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9fa3HFR02E (more…)

Published in: on July 23, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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Of Mockingbirds and Consciences

 

They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)

(I originally posted this on The American Catholic, and I thought the Literary Mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

As I slave away in the law mines, I take my flashes of amusement where I can find them.  One thing that has often amused me is the bizarre names that people these days often curse their children with.  I often find when questioning the mother that the name was from some television show, film, video or song, often with a spelling variant to ensure that the child will be a special little snowflake and have his or her name misspelled for the remainder of the time God allots the child in this Vale of Tears.

Naming kids after a fictional character has always struck me as bizarre:  real people always being so much more interesting than two-dimensional fictional puppets.

An example of the drawbacks of naming a child after a fictional character has been illustrated this week by an interesting little literary-morality tempest being played out this week.  Harper Lee, a one book wonder, To Kill a Mockingbird, has released another book, Go Set a Watchman.  The story behind this book is perhaps more interesting than the tome itself.  Ms. Lee, 89 years old, lives in an assisted living facility, and is perhaps in her dotage.  Go Set a Watchman was written in 1957, the year of my birth, before To Kill a Mockingbird.  It was rejected by a publisher at the time as showing promise but not ready for publication, an accurate assessment I think.  That the book is now being published 58 years later might cause some to suspect the motivations of those now in control of Ms. Lee’s affairs, since for more than a half century she made no effort to have this early work published.  No doubt a book about the behind the scenes machinations that led to the publication of Go Set a Watchman will be forthcoming eventually, doubtless not written by Ms. Lee, alas.  More on this below the fold, with spoilers in regard to Go Set a Watchman. (more…)

Published in: on July 21, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Of Mockingbirds and Consciences  
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Manhattan Project Failure

 

Security around the Manhattan Project was quite intense.  No doubt as a result of this Truman assumed that the Soviets had no inkling about the bomb.  Perhaps he was therefore surprised when Stalin had little reaction when Truman at the Potsdam Conference told him that the US had developed an atomic bomb.  Notwithstanding the intense security, the Soviets were kept quite informed about the steps the United States was taking to develop the Atomic Bomb, thanks to various spies and traitors:

1. Klaus Fuchs-A German anti-Nazi refugee to Britain, and a physicist, Fuchs worked at Los Alamos among the elite of the physicists.  A convinced Communist, Fuchs had his information sent on the Soviets, courtesy of Harry Gold.

2.  Harry Gold-An American laboratory assistant, Gold had been passing information to the Soviets since 1934.  Here is his report on his first meeting with Fuchs:

He (Fuchs) obviously worked with our people before and he is fully aware of what he is doing… He is a mathematical physicist… most likely a very brilliant man to have such a position at his age (he looks about 30). We took a long walk after dinner… He is a member of a British mission to the U.S. working under the direct control of the U.S. Army… The work involves mainly separating the isotopes… and is being done thusly: The electronic method has been developed at Berkeley, California, and is being carried out at a place known only as Camp Y… Simultaneously, the diffusion method is being tried here in the East… Should the diffusion method prove successful, it will be used as a preliminary step in the separation, with the final work being done by the electronic method. They hope to have the electronic method ready early in 1945 and the diffusion method in July 1945, but (Fuchs) says the latter estimate is optimistic. (Fuchs) says there is much being withheld from the British. Even Niels Bohr, who is now in the country incognito as Nicholas Baker, has not been told everything.

3.  David Greenglass-A machinist at Los Alamos, he passed information on to his sister Ethel Rosenberg and her husband Julius Rosenberg who passed it on to the Soviets.

4.  Theodore Hall-An American physicist working at Los Alamos.  Perhaps the most important of the atomic spies, beginning in October 1944 he passed on detailed information to the Soviets about the construction of the atomic bomb code-named “Fat Boy”. (more…)

Published in: on July 19, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Manhattan Project Failure  
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The Maid of Monterrey

Something for the weekend.  Almost all Mexican War songs have vanished into historical obscurity.  A possible exception is The Maid of Monterrey.  Written in 1848 by J. H. Hewitt, it was not published until 1851, so its claim to be a Mexican War song, as opposed to a song about the Mexican War, is dubious.  It memorializes a Mexican senorita who tended the wounded of the battle of Monterrey on both sides until she was killed: (more…)

Published in: on July 18, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Maid of Monterrey  
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July 16, 1945: Trinity Test

Batter my heart, three person’d God.

John Donne

At 5:29 AM Mountain War Time, seventy years ago, the first atomic bomb, nicknamed The Gadget, exploded with the force of 20 kilotons of TNT.  The test was called Trinity.  J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, gave the test its name.  He couldn’t recall why he chose the name, but suspected that his interest in some of the religious poetry of John Donne played a role, pointing to the verse at the beginning of this post as a possible source.

A brilliant physicist, Oppenheimer was inclined to be melancholy and had an eclectic interest in religious mysticism, rather at odds with his secular Jewish upbringing and the leftist academic milieu in which he led his life.

His visible reaction to the success of the test was rather prosaic:  “It worked.”

Twenty years later he said this was going through his mind:

I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that, one way or another. (more…)

Published in: on July 16, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on July 16, 1945: Trinity Test  
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Last Voyage of the Indianapolis

 

Hours after the successful test of the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945, the USS Indianapolis left San Francisco with a top secret cargo that mystified the crew.  The cruiser delivered Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, to Tinian on July 26, 1945.  On July 30, 1945 it was sunk by Japanese sub I-58.  900 of the crew made it into the water.  SOS signals, contrary to the Jaws video clip, were sent off.  Three Navy stations received the SOS signal.  At the first station the commander was drunk.  At the second station the commander had left orders not to be disturbed.    The third station wrote off the SOS signal as a Japanese prank.  The Navy denied that the SOS signals had been received for years, and only the release of declassified material revealed the criminal negligence involved.  When the ship failed to dock at Leyte as expected on July 31, 1944, the port operations director Lieutenant Stuart B. Gibson inexplicably failed to report that the Indianapolis had gone missing.

This resulted in the men of the Indianapolis being in the water for 3 and a half days until they were spotted by a routine air patrol.  Heroic efforts were then undertaken to rescue the survivors.  321 men were rescued, four of whom died soon thereafter.  Most of the almost 600 men who escaped the ship and died in the water had been killed by hundreds of sharks who swarmed about the survivors.  Among the dead was Lieutenant Thomas Conway, the ship’s Catholic chaplain.  He spent his time in the water swimming from group to group, praying with the men, encouraging them, and reasoning with men driven to despair.  When Father Conway died on August 2, 1945, he was the last American chaplain killed in World War II.

Captain Charles B. McVay III, the skipper of the Indianapolis, had been wounded in the sinking and was among those who survived to be rescued.  He repeatedly asked why it took so long for the Navy to rescue his men, a question the Navy did not answer.  Instead, McVay  was court martialed, a scapegoat for an episode that had tarnished the image of the Navy.  He was convicted for not zigzagging, which was farcical since he had been told to use his discretion in regard to zigzagging, and with high-speed torpedoes and improved aiming devices aboard subs, zigzagging was not an effective technique for a ship to avoid being torpedoed by the end of World War II.

Admiral Chester Nimitz, the commander of the Pacific Fleet, recognizing the fundamental injustice of the court martial, restored McVay to duty and he retired as a Rear Admiral in 1949.  Although most of the surviving crewmen of the Indianapolis regarded him as a hero, McVay was eaten away by guilt over the deaths of his crewmen, guilt that was exacerbated by hate mail and hate phone calls he periodically revealed from a few of the families of some of the men who died in the sinking and its aftermath.

After the death of his wife in 1966, McVay took his own life, clutching in his hand a toy sailor given to him by his father.  In 1996 a twelve year old school boy, Hunter Scott, launched a campaign to clear McVay’s name.  The campaign to clear McVay was supported by former Lieutenant Commander Mochitsura Hashimoto who had commanded the I-58 and who noted in a letter that zigzagging would have had no impact on his torpedo attack. (more…)

Published in: on July 15, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Franco-American Fighters

We will wait for the Americans and the tanks.

General Philippe Petain, 1917

 

Today is Bastille Day.  Our relationship with our oldest ally has been frequently rocky over the years, in spite of the aid France gave us in winning our independence and the fact that the US was instrumental in saving France in two World Wars.  As we commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Great War, it is good to recall a time when French and Americans fought so closely together that at times they seemed to be one army.

By 1917 the French Army was in a mutinous state.  Millions of Frenchmen were wounded and dead with little to show for it.  Petain, the victor of Verdun, was made commander in chief of the French army.  He constantly visited units and told them that wasteful, ill-prepared offensives were a thing of the past.  Petain had enjoyed a great deal of success with intensively prepared small scale offensives where he could mass overwhelming force against a small enemy section of the immense line of trenches that stretched from Switzerland to the North Sea.  He had these type of offensives on a grand scale in mind for a rejuvenated French army in 1918.  He also knew two other things:  Allied factories were beginning to produce massive amounts of tanks that could spearhead future offensives and America had entered the War:  the Yanks were coming!  At the conclusion of most of his speeches in 1917 he told his men that they would wait for the Americans and the tanks, a line that never failed to receive thunderous applause from the troops.  The average poilu was a brave man and he was willing to die, if need be, to win the War.  He was no longer willing to die in useless offensives that accomplished nothing, and Petain understood that.

American troops trickled in during 1917 and received a tumultuous reception from the French.  When Colonel Charles E. Stanton, nephew of Lincoln’s Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, said at the tomb of Lafayette on July 4, 1917:  “Lafayette we are here!” both nations were electrified.

America sent over endless amounts of food in 1917 and 1918 that kept the French from starving.  The American Navy helped to master the U-boat threat.

By October 1917 four American divisions were deployed to France.  French combat veterans acted as instructors for the troops and much of the artillery was provided by the French.  This of course was only the first wave of millions of Americans training in the US to be shipped across the Atlantic in 1918. (more…)

Published in: on July 14, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Franco-American Fighters  
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