Category: Around the World (Page 1 of 22)

11-November

A preface: I became interested in World War One history about 40 years ago, reading Elleston Trevor’s “Bury Him Among Kings,” a novel (undoubtedly my favorite of all time) with a title which referenced an epitaph mentioned below. From around high school on, I’ve read and studied and absorbed (and suffered through college courses) all I could about German history from 1815 to 1945. It’s endlessly fascinating (and disturbingly prophetic) study.

But it’s never really packed a personal punch. While many in our extended families fought in the Civil War, most were too young or too old for the world wars. One exception was our Uncle Louie Webb, who served in World War Two (and how I wish I could ask him about it!) and our Grandpa Pollock’s oldest brother Mearon Edgar, who was born in 1894 and is our father’s namesake. Edgar (as Dad called him) was a World War One veteran and he placed a small ad in the American Legion Magazine of August, 1937: “800th Aero Repair Squadron—Proposed reunion, Los Angeles, Calif., late summer or fall. Mearon E. Pollock, 306 N. Maple dr., Beverly Hills, Calif.” He was apparently the principal organizer of such squadron reunions up until World War Two. After the first war, he and his wife moved to Beverly Hills from Oklahoma. He was a barber with a shop on Wilshire Boulevard; she was a Beverly Hills public school teacher. They later farmed in Oregon and California, where he died around 1977. Interesting stuff, albeit a bit dry. The history of war should never be dry and dusty and divorced from our emotions. It should be as war itself: visceral, devastating, obscene to sight, offensive to smell, deafening to hearing. Hence the following post.

100 years ago today, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the guns along the 440-mile line stretching from Switzerland to the North Sea fell silent. The war started 1 August 1914 just as German Chancellor Otto von Bismark once famously predicted around 1884, by “some damned fool thing in the Balkans;” in this case, the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, a city of agony in the 20th century). But on 11 November 1918, it was finally “all quiet on the Western Front.”

We remember all this today because as Polish poet Czesław Miłosz wrote, “The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.”

But sometimes, the living forget those who can no longer speak and instead harness them in service of the political or the feel-good, using their severed limbs to pat ourselves on our collective backs. This rather florid inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, London, is an example of how remembrance can often be lofty, nebulous, nameless and faceless and sanitized and ultimately divorced from the nightmare reality of the war and how it was experienced by the men and women caught in it:

“Beneath this stone rests the body of a British warrior, unknown by name or rank, brought from France to lie among the most illustrious of the land and buried here on Armistice Day, 11 Nov: 1920, in the presence of His Majesty King George V, his Ministers of State, the Chiefs of his forces and a vast concourse of the nation. Thus are commemorated the many multitudes who during the Great War of 1914 – 1918 gave the most that Man can give, life itself; for God, for King and country, for loved ones, home and empire, for the sacred cause of justice and the freedom of the world. They buried him among the kings because he had done good toward God and toward his house.”

That was the official, sanitized, God-and-Country pablum version of the war. It’s fine as it goes, but the soldiers of the line saw things quite differently, and epitaphs like these tend to mute them, hide them from sight, rob them of existence.

So what’s a better way to remember then? How about starting with accounts left to us such as the prose and poetry of two British officers and a German soldier. It is their raw experiences which we should remember today, not “George V and his Ministers of State and the Chiefs of his forces” (who botched the entire affair so badly that it became an unprecedented slaughter), nor leaders gathered today at Compiegne, site of the signing of Armistice, nor the American leader shamefully cowering in his hotel in Paris, apparently afraid of rain.

Wrote British Captain Siegfried Sassoon in one of his best, sharpest, brightest harpooning poems of the “Chiefs of His Majesty’s forces”:

The General

“‘Good-morning, good-morning!’ the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

“But he did for them both by his plan of attack.”

Siegfried Sassoon

British Second Lieutenant Wilfred Owen, who was killed in action just one week before the Armistice was signed, summed up his generation’s experience and wondered who would mourn them in extremely powerful poems:

Anthem for Doomed Youth

“What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

“What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.”

Wilfrid Owen

The German Erich Maria Remarque, in “All Quiet on the Western Front,” a book which was later burned by Hitler, added his own voice in prose:

“I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.”

“A man cannot realize that above such shattered bodies there are still human faces in which life goes its daily round. And this is only one hospital, a single station; there are hundreds of thousands in Germany, hundreds of thousands in France, hundreds of thousands in Russia. How senseless is everything that can ever be written, done, or thought, when such things are possible. It must be all lies and of no account when the culture of a thousand years could not prevent this stream of blood being poured out, these torture chambers in their hundreds of thousands. A hospital alone shows what war is.”

Erich Maria Remarque

Finally, it’s worth reading what is probably Owens’ finest poem:

Dulce et Decorum Est

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

“Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

“In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

“If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: ‘Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.'”

Wilfrid Owen

The old lie: “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” roughly translates to “It is sweet and honorable to die for one’s country.” As Owen wrote, dying like cattle in warfare conducted in the cause of nationalism or patriotism is never sweet. It is an obscenity. Just see the attached photos. You should not be squeamish; stare at them and memorize them. If you vote for war, support its waging or cheer for capital punishment, you should be able to look unflinchingly at the black and white images of the consequences of bloodthirst.)

As violent forces of chauvinistic nationalism rise around us, we would do well to remember not Kings and generals, but the experience and judgement of the many Owens, Sassoons and Remarques as the central lesson of this eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 2018.

[Photo: First World War infantrymen whose faces had been mutilated in trench warfare. They were known as the “gueules cassées”.]

Ausrufung Republik: Philipp Scheidemann proclaims the Republik, 9 November 1918

9 November: Schicksalstag

In the next few days, there will be much remembrance of the events of 100 years ago—the end of World War I. Not as much in the U.S., where World War I is like the Korean War, a largely forgotten conflict, even though 115,516 Americans died between 1917-1918, along with over 320,000 sickened, most in the influenza epidemic of 1918.

But for Europe and the world including the U.S. in spite of our isolationism, the end of World War One is momentous, remembered, and memorialized.

From the German perspective, several 9 Novembers during the 20th century were extremely fateful; in fact, today is known in Germany as the Schicksalstag, or Day of Fate.

100 years ago today, after German sailors began to revolt against orders by the Imperial High Command to sail out for a final, climatic battle with the British Royal Navy (which the sailors considered suicidal), Chancellor Prince Max von Baden somewhat prematurely published news that Kaiser Wilhelm II had abdicated. Also prematurely, State Secretary Phlipp Scheidemann, part of the leadership of SPD, announced the formation of a new German republic: “The old and rotten, the monarchy has collapsed. The new may live. Long live the German Republic!” Events afterwards gathered speed; revolution toppled all the monarchical regimes of the German Reich, and the Germans sued for peace on the western front.

These events gave rise to a rightwing article of faith in future years: the Dolchstoßlegende, or the Stab in the Back legend, which the National Socialists would use as a foundational belief. According to the German right, the German army was still in its positions on the Western Front, undefeated, until (mainly Jewish and Socialist) politicians back in Berlin, such as Scheidemann, overthrew the Kaiser and declared the Republic, thus “stabbing in the back” the German army and navy. In spite of the fact that the Navy had mutinied and was no longer a fighting force and the German army was actually disintegrating in France and Belgium, the Dolchstoßlegende helped the German right delegitimize the Republic and prepare the way for its destruction.

An attempt at that destruction was made 95 years ago today when National Socialists and members of other nationalist parties attempted a coup in Munich. In what is now known as the Beer Hall Putsch, NSDAP leader Adolf Hitler declared himself leader in Bavaria, but the march through Munich originating in several beer halls was stopped by Bavarian police. Sixteen nationalists and four policemen were killed, the NSDAP was disbanded and Hitler was jailed. After the party’s ascent to power in 1933, 9 November was celebrated as a national holiday to remember the fallen of the putsch; any mention of the 9 November of 1918 was forbidden, unless it was a repetition of the Dolchstoßlegende.

The Dolchstoßlegende and years of similar lies and antisemitism were part of what ignited Reichskristallnacht on this day 80 years ago in 1938. Jewish synagogues and property were burned and destroyed throughout the Reich; more than 400 Jews were killed or committed suicide. About 30,000 Jews and other “undesirables” were arrested. Many later died in concentration camps. “Crystal Night” was named for the large amount of shattered glass that littered streets around the country. A final humiliation came when Jews were made responsible for the damage and those who collected on insured damages were forced to sign over insurance payments to the Reich.

And finally, on this day in 1989 29 years ago, after decades of war, destruction, the Holocaust, the Cold War and much lost territory, the Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall) was breached and East and West Germany were reunited. Because the actual reunification occurred on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the more formal date of 3 October 1990 is now celebrated as the official holiday.

Given that 100-150 million lives were lost around the world between roughly 1912 and 1989, 9 November is an appropriate day for a worldwide mourning.

Steve Bell political cartoon on the Jamal Khashoggi crisis

Tragically Brilliant

Steve Bell’s ‘toons for The Guardian are always brilliant. But «in this one», he’s surpassed himself.

Every Building in America, Mapped by the New York Times

Every Building

I’ve always loved maps and could spend hours poring over them. From the old gas station maps at my father’s Malco station in Roswell to Google Earth, there’s always something fascinating in maps and data and all that.

The New York Times recently posted«a map of every building in America» and it’s worth many hours of your time. Awesome stuff! Have a look.

“On this page you will find maps showing almost every building in the United States. Why did we make such a thing? We did it as an opportunity for you to connect with the country’s cities and explore them in detail. To find the familiar, and to discover the unfamiliar. So … look. Every black speck on the map below is a building, reflecting the built legacy of the United States.”

Golden stuff for map/data nerds like me.

Message in a Bottle picture

German Roofer Finds Message from Grandfather

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=12129102
German roofer discovers message in a bottle – written by his grandfather

A message in a bottle on the roof of a Goslar, Germany, cathedral was found by the grandson of the writer. An authentic lesson from history:

“On March 26, 1930, four roofers in this small west German town inscribed a message to the future. “Difficult times of war lie behind us,” they wrote. After describing the soaring inflation and unemployment that followed the First World War, they concluded, “We hope for better times soon to come.”

“The roofers rolled up the message, slid it into a clear glass bottle and hid it in the roof of the town’s 12th-century cathedral. Then they patched up the roof’s only opening.

“Eighty-eight years later, while doing maintenance work, 52-year-old roofer Peter Brandt happened upon the bottle. He recognised the letterhead of the receipt paper on which the note was written, as well as the name of one of the signatories: Willi Brandt – a shy, 18-year old roofing apprentice at the time of the note’s creation – was Peter’s grandfather.

“‘It was an exciting find,’ Peter Brandt said, given the improbability of discovering the bottle in the same roof his grandfather had repaired almost a century earlier. The letter, Brandt said, is from a dark chapter of Germany’s past. But its discovery offered an opportunity to reflect on the relative peace and prosperity of the present.

“Just a few years after his grandfather – who is not related to former West German chancellor Willy Brandt – signed the note, he enlisted as a soldier during World War II. He was later captured and imprisoned by the Russians. After returning to Goslar, Willi resumed his profession as a roofer but never talked about the war.”

New Zealand Herald

That the message survived the war shows that even amidst great destruction and degradation, something always survives. Humans press on, even if they have to leave their homes and try to find peace in hostile lands. Goslar’s mayor understands:

“The unemployment problems that Willi Brandt described have largely disappeared, according to Goslar Mayor Oliver Junk.

“Still, Goslar residents are moving to larger places to attend university or find work, said Ulrich Albers, head of the local archives. Stores and entire housing blocks stand empty in some parts of town.

“Three years ago, during the height of Germany’s refugee crisis, Junk made headlines when he proposed that Goslar take in additional refugees, citing the housing shortage in bigger cities. ‘It’s mad that in Göttingen they are having to build new accommodations, and are tearing their hair out as to where to put everyone, while we have empty properties and employers who are desperate for skilled workers,’ Junk told the Guardian newspaper in August 2015, referring to a nearby more populous city.

“Junk said he doesn’t regret that decision – and that the contents of Willi Brandt’s letter put it in a new perspective. ‘Every day, we’re discussing the many problems we have as a city that are allegedly very, very difficult. But with this letter from 1930, we can see that the many problems that we perceive aren’t really problems,’ he said.”

Ibid

As the line immortalized in Casablanca goes, “… it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

Maybe not in the grand scheme of things perhaps, but I’m sure the problems Willi Brandt experienced on the Ostfront mattered to him … a great deal. And the problems he and others created on the Ostfront mattered to those they impacted even more.

Cramped | Photo by Gerrie van der Walt on Unsplash

Squeezed to Death

If you have to evacuate an airliner in a hurry, can you get out of your extremely cramped seat and row fast enough? Probably not. And then you have to dodge all the idiots trying to save all their luggage and personal electronic devices at glacial paces.

But it’s the ever-shrinking seat and row size that will probably be the deadliest problem if there’s a problem with the over-stuffed aluminum tube in which you’re squeezed because most of the country is too damn cheap to pay more than $29 to get from Dubuque to Miami. « At least one editorial » (which was probably ignored and forgotten faster than that flight took to get from Dubuque to Miami) sounded an alarm:

“Given how passengers have grown in inverse proportion to the spaciousness of airliner seats, anything like ‘expeditious’ evacuation of an entire airliner seems doubtful. … Under such constraints, can today’s jets be evacuated in the 90 seconds mandated by the F.A.A.? Not according to passenger advocacy groups like Flyers Rights, which has repeatedly and unsuccessfully petitioned the F.A.A. to use its rule-making authority to stop airlines from shrinking seats and passenger space. Not according to Representatives Peter DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon, and Rick Larsen, Democrat of Washington, who have asked the Transportation Department’s inspector general to investigate F.A.A. safety standards that haven’t been updated in decades. Incredibly, it will require an act of Congress to ensure that the F.A.A. does something, because the agency has denied that seat sizes and body mass index are factors in emergencies. The agency has even denied that it has the authority to regulate airliner seat size.”

The New York Times

As always in this country, it will take a massive tragedy and lots of unnecessarily burned/maimed/dead people before we do something about this. Pity.

Photo of HIroshima destruction in 1945

Of Manifestoes and Buildings and Truman and Stuff

[Edited two days later to fix some typos and unclear, stream-of-consciousness-type unclear phrases.]

During the recent effort to rename the Russell Senate Office Building, it would have been nice to remember that both Richard Russell, the building’s current namesake, and John McCain, the proposed replacement namesake, (while useful tools to poke the likes of President Orange Poopy Pants and the Supreme Court), weren’t total paragons of virtue all the time.

Where McCain is concerned, his virtues are many and have been told rather exhaustively this past week. As for his vices, well, two words should be highlighted when his legacy is recounted: “Sarah” and “Palin.”

As for the namesake guy, Richard Brevard Russell Jr., United States Senator from the Peach State of Georgia, well, his legacy needs a few more words than just two (although if you want to stick to just two, how about “white” and “supremacist”?). Let’s just look on the ol’ internettubesweb, shall we and see what we can see about ol’ RBR?

“Russell supported racial segregation and co-authored the Southern Manifesto with Strom Thurmond. Russell and 17 fellow Democratic and one Republican senators blocked the passage of civil rights legislation via the filibuster. After Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Russell led a Southern boycott of the 1964 Democratic National Convention.”

Wikipedia (ugh; sorry, lazy reference)

The “Southern Manifesto” was, what, exactly? Stay with me here. The Supreme Court ended “separate but equal” educational facilities and opportunities for different races in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. This pissed off a lot of people (and they and their grandkids are still pissed off about it in 2018), so, in 1956, a bunch of pissed off Congress critters got together and said they supported the Constitution, just not certain parts of it, like the Supreme Court deciding on the Constitutionality of stuff that the Congress critters decreed.

The pissed-off Congress critters also supported, of course, the Only Amendments Which Count: the Second [genuflect when you say that] and the Tenth [look bewildered and take their word for it; be prepared to genuflect when they tell you to genuflect]. Therefore, they, the pissed off Congress critters, would Just. Not. Have. Any. Of. Brown v. Board.

So, like outraged teenagers who for the first time have learned about stuff like the existence of poverty or CIA assassinations or student loan debt or their university’s investments in repressive regimes such as South Africa or Israel or the U.S., they (stay with me here: “they” means the pissed-off Congress critters) got together and issued forth AN MANIFESTO, in which they laid down the law.

Here are the choicest excerpts, with my sarcastic comments in brackets:

“We commend the motives of those States which have declared the intention to resist forced integration by any lawful means.” [I suppose that in the South it was lawful to throw yourself bodily across the entrance to schools and universities when negroes show up, so I give ’em that point.]

“We appeal to the States and people who are not directly affected by these decisions to consider the constitutional principles involved against the time when they too, on issues vital to them may be the victims of judicial encroachment. [Slippery, slippery!! Today: Miscegenation in Miss-ssippi; tomorrow: Legal cocksucking in Boston!]

“Even though we constitute a minority in the present Congress, we have full faith that a majority of the American people believe in the dual system of government which has enabled us to achieve our greatness and will in time demand that the reserved rights of the States and of the people be made secure against judicial usurpation. [We have a tripartite system of guv’mint, not a dual, dumbasses, but let’s not quibble over our greatness being derived from two or three systems. These pissed-off Congress critters are saying that even though a majority rejected their being in the majority in the Congress, they were certain that the majority supported their minority in believing …something something about the Tenth Amendment. As for “Judicial usurpation,” that term has been gradually replaced with the more down-to-earth term “judicial activism,” which now means “any court’s decision we don’t like, especially the ones about equal negroes, women in control of their bodies, brown-skinned immigration, prying guns from our cold dead hands, and … those other ones, like the ones letting queers live and shit, yeah, those.”]

“We pledge ourselves to use all lawful means to bring about a reversal of this decision which is contrary to the Constitution and to prevent the use of force in its implementation. [Now here, the pissed-off Congress critters were on to something. Under the rubric of invoking “Massive Resistance,” they noted that it was lawful for whites to take their children and their money to whites-only private schools in redlined housing developments, meaning Brown v. Board was pretty much dead from the get-go. As for the last clause in the MANIFESTO, the pissed off Congress critters failed to prevent the usage of the National Guard a few times to enforce the decision (damnit John F. Kennedy and, er, um, Dwight Eisenhower!!), then got all friendly with the same National Guard when it executed four dirty hippies at Kent State. [Sarcasm ahead] “Use your guns to kill the hippies, just don’t use them to make my precious pale son sit next to an icky black nappy-headed five-year-old negress in kindergarten show-and-tell.”[/Sarcasm]]

“In this trying period, as we all seek to right this wrong, we appeal to our people not to be provoked by the agitators and troublemakers invading our States and to scrupulously refrain from disorder and lawless acts.” [“Sons and Daughters of the South! This is a “trying” period as we seek to save the White Race from extinction through the diabolical use of court orders to force our chill’run to share their coloring books and colors with the Colored! Be on the lookout for: Agitators! Troublemakers! Fifth Columnists! Carpetbaggers! Miscegenationists! Thugs! MS-13ers! But even as these Yankees sack and pillage our fair Southern lands for the second time in a hundred years and threaten a formal Second War of Northern Aggression, you all should scrupulously refrain from touching a hair on their comma-nist heads in a disorderly and lawless fashion. Mess ’em up while they “resist arrest,” then haul their asses to Parchman and shoot ’em “while trying to escape.” Just do it all in a lawful fashion.]

Declaration of Constitutional Principles, or, “The Southern Manifesto,” the start of “Massive Resistance” to Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1956. Bracketed words are my own sarcastic commentary and not in the original document.

So this is fun! Oh, but wait! This just in …

“[Richard Russell] proclaimed his faith in the “family farm” and supported most New Deal programs for parity, rural electrification, and farm loans, and supported promoting agricultural research, providing school lunches and giving surplus commodities to the poor. He was the chief sponsor of the National School Lunch Act of 1946 with the dual goals of providing proper nutrition for all children and of subsidizing agriculture.”

Wikipedia (ugh again I say ugh)

Oh! That puts a better light on him …

But wait again! School lunches for negroes weren’t, er, they were the same but just separately equal, you see. And Russell’s political heirs are trying mightily as we speak to trash what is left of the school lunch program. With Imperial Queen Betsy “If You Don’t Buy Some Amway, My Crazy Creepy Mercenary Brother Will Shoot Your Ass” DeVos in charge of the Dept. of Ed. and Sonny “Negro Slaves Served in the Confederate Armies and Loved It!” Perdue in charge of the Dept. of Ag, that children are learning and anyone is eating is rather a major Jesus-sized miracle at this point. But I digress as always.

Okay, you get the point. Man is always, unlike our system of government, a duality: good/evil, light/dark, well-intentioned/malevolent. Russell was no different. There was some good mixed in with the … wait, what’s this? … “In the 1930s and 1940s, Russell participated in Southern filibusters to block federal bills aimed at suppressing lynchings and poll taxes” [Hartford Courant]. Well hell’s bells! Screw it. Alright, Russell was an asshole and the building should be renamed. Maybe not for John “Sarah Palin” McCain and maybe not as an intentional tweak on the nose of President Orange Tantrum Pants, but for someone of better moral fiber. I propose “The Colin Kaepernick Senate Office Building.”

What brought this tirade on? Actually, I just finished The Accidental President, A.J. Baime’s very good detailing of Harry Truman’s incredibly historic first four months as president in 1945. In the book, it seems the very same pissed-off Senator Richard Russell makes an appearance at the end. While Truman was dealing with everything from the atom bomb to Joseph Stalin to the Japanese to the Chicago Tribune to the very pissed off Reluctant First Lady Bess (a.k.a. The Boss), he had to deal with Richard Russell.

Russell, ever-outraged Southern Belle whose barrel hoops have become hopelessly entangled in several of his seven layers of petticoats, sent a letter to Truman telling Harry S., nay, DEMANDING that Harry S. grab that [sarcasm ahead warning] slanty-eyed Jap bastard Emperor Hirohito and hang him like he was a negro attempting to enter an elementary school, [/sarcasm] er, uh, rather, hang him like a war criminal.

In response, Harry S. delivered a perfect, vintage “Give ’em hell, Harry!” response:

“Truman had received a missive from Senator Richard Russell, Democrat of Georgia, who asked that the United States continue bombing until the Japanese ‘beg us to accept unconditional surrender.’ Russell believed ‘the vast majority of the American people’ thought the emperor ‘should go,’ and that ‘if we do not have available a sufficient number of atomic bombs with which to finish the job immediately, let us carry on with TNT and fire bombs until we can produce them.’

“(To this, Truman responded: ‘I certainly regret the necessity of wiping out whole populations because of the “pigheadedness” of the leaders of a nation and, for your information, I am not going to do it unless it is absolutely necessary . . . My objective is to save as many American lives as possible but I also have a humane feeling for the women and children of Japan.’)”

A. J. Baime. The Accidental President New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2018

And so, we have a major government office building named after a white supremacist/professional outrage machine/snowflake who voted to let small children have lunch but who was on the receiving end of one of Harry’s best “Give ’em Hell” smackdowns. I’ll bet he sure lost his pantaloons over Harry’s 1947 integration of the armed forces. Plus, he was probably a beta cuck.

“America, America, God spread they stupidity on thee!”

————————

[By the way, Russell may or may not have known it, but Truman had two options in August 1945:

1. Use the bomb and then allow the Japanese to accept reality, surrendering unconditionally while keeping their emperor, or

2. Continue the war with an invasion of the Japanese home islands with a planned 766,600 troops, not winning the war until approximately November 15 of 1946 (!), which would have cost an untold number of American casualties (we incurred 3/4 of a million casualties in the war. A doubling of that figure for the invasion of Japan is not unreasonable). For reference, the 1945 fight for Iwo Jima resulted in 20,000 U.S. and 25,000 Japanese casualties. Iwo Jima is approximately 8.1 square miles. The Battle for Okinawa cost over 40,000 U.S. and over 80,000 Japanese casualties.  Okinawa is 466 square miles. The square mileage of Japan is over 145,000. Half-a-million American casualties and another year-and-a-half of war … Russell might have welcomed it.]

————————

[I should also highlight what I was told in a 1989 interview by John Smith of Marlow, Oklahoma, a survivor of the Japanese invasion of Wake Island, Dec. 1941-Feb. 1942: “Thank God for Harry Truman and thank god for the atomic bomb.” The other nine Wake Island vets who were gathered in his home for one of their periodic reunions agreed with John unanimously.

Harry’s use of two bombs did indeed greatly reduce Japanese casualties and more of the destruction Richard Russell wanted. And it saved 3/4 of a million American men another year-and-a-half of hell and possible injury and death, as well as releasing P.O.W.s like John Smith from almost four years of hell, mistreatment and starvation. Some of those P.O.W.s weighed less than 100 pounds when they were finally were freed—their freedom thanks to God, Harry S. and the atomic bomb.

Richard Russell’s preference would almost certainly have consigned them and countless others to death, if not by American bomb hits on prison compounds or by the complete incendiary destruction of Japan, then by the long, slow agony of starvation, a situation that was getting worse the longer Japan hung on.

Richard Russell, like Robert E. Lee, was a fool. Get his name off the Senate Office Building and put it in the history books under “Pompous racist ass who maybe did one or maybe two decent things his whole life.” And since I brought him up, the traitor Robert E. Lee should have met Joseph Goebbels’ end: his body dug up, cremated, and the ashes thrown into the nearest river. What? Too much?]

Small flame on black background

Atomic Poetry

On 1-Jun-1945, six weeks after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, new U.S. President Harry Truman convened a meeting to update the status on and debate the use of the soon-to-be-born atomic bomb. But first, at the Pentagon, a group consisting of James Byrnes (soon to be Secretary of State), generals George C. Marshall and Leslie Groves, Robert Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi, among others, convened to make a decision on how to advise the new president on the bomb.

Secretary of War Henry Stimson was also present … and well prepared:

“Stimson was now focused exclusively on the atomic bomb. He had become transfixed by its potential historical impact. He had prepared handwritten notes for these meetings, which curiously read like modernist poetry. The verse was a window into the secretary of war’s state of mind.”

His notes:

Its size and character
We don’t think it mere new weapon
Revolutionary Discovery of Relation of man to universe
Great History Landmark like
Gravitation
Copernican Theory
But, Bids fair infinitely greater, in respect to its
Effect
—on the ordinary affairs of man’s life.
May destroy or perfect International
Civilization
May[be] Frankenstein or means for World Peace

—Secretary of War Henry Stimson | 1-Jun-45
As quoted by A. J. Baime, The Accidental President. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.

The Accidental President is fascinating reading, while the jury is still out on Stimson’s poetic questions.

Remembering the Past

Remembering Bill Schock on his 100th birthday … and the 52nd anniversary of Braniff 250 in Falls City. Also … feeling old from … time flying and stuff.

Since the AM2431 crash in Durango a few days ago appears to be from weather-related causes, never forgetting the lessons of BN250, as well as CO426, OZ809, EA66, PA759, DL191, and US1016 is as important as ever. Hope today’s flight crews are paying attention.

Cuba Slogans on a Wall

Treading a Careful Path in Post-Castro Cuba

«Here’s a fascinating, albeit rather eye-crossing, analysis» of what is happening in Cuba from a Communist perspective. Whatever happens, the way forward is difficult regardless of where one sits on the left-right political spectrum. Will it be a longer-drawn-out 1989 followed by a Franco-Batista-Bolsanaro triumph and bloodbath? Will it become Venezuela? Or will a Scandinavian socialism settle in? Whichever, it’s going to be an interesting new era.

“… we should not resort to useless and ultimately pedantic whining particularly virulent among many left-communist sects. We should organize our thoughts in helpful and productive ways, not just stating the facts, but analyzing them. There is a discrete left-opportunist trend that seeks to throw all developments in Cuba post-1959 into the dustbin and forget about it. This does as little for us as the right-opportunist line; both fail to grasp the full reality of revisionist corrosion and capitalist restoration in Cuba, although one cloaks itself in stultified theory. We should not stop at holding out hope for the legitimate Communists in Cuba, but should actively unite with them and learn from them.”

AntiImperialism.org

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