11 December…there will be snow here in the Great Lakes soon, if it hasn’t come to your neighborhood already (or mine: this is drafted in September). But on this day, a whole lot happened that, quite frankly, we just need to mention right now. Llewellyn the Last, the last native Prince of Wales, was killed on this day at Cilmeri in 1282. James II, the last Stuart king of England and the last Roman Catholic monarch in England, was captured in Kent on this day in 1688. Louis XVI went on trial in Paris on this day in 1792, but there was very little doubt asw to what the verdict would be. In Hartford, Connecticut on this day in 1844, nitrous oxide was used for the first time as a dental anesthetic. In 1916, while the British Army struggled to pull themselves together after the Somme offensive, David Lloyd George formed another government in London. At Windsor, Edward VIII abdicated the throne of Great Britain in favor of his brother in 1936. And, in 1946, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was founded to provide relief for the millions of children caught up in WWII. But today, we talk about the legal niceties of declaring war, and about noodle rings, in that order.
On 11 December 1941:
- Germany declared war on the United States
- The United States declared war on Germany and Italy
- The Dutch Government in exile in London declared war on Italy
Now, these events were, by their nature, belligerent. The Kellogg-Briand pact of of 1928 pledged the signatories (all of these states) to denounce war as an instrument of national policy. With me so far? Good.
Now, here’s the rub: all of these states were more or less at war with the declared enemies for at least a year before war was officially declared…or, at least, were in a war-like status. See, just issuing a declaration of war does two things:
- Announces that a state of war exists between sovereign states;
- Provides a bully pulpit for the various blowhards to harangue their respective populations.
Simply declaring war doesn’t really do anything other than let everyone know what’s going on.
Note that declaring war has no real effect on the conflict itself, other than to galvanize a population. But it does have an effect on neutrals (which by 1941 mostly meant Latin America). They become constrained in supporting one belligerent or another; witness the naval action outside Montevideo in 1939 that led to the scuttling of Graf Spee. Simply declaring war doesn’t really do anything other than let everyone know what’s going on.
Arguably the US and Germany were already at war.
In the case of Germany declaring war on the United States, there has been some confusion about it, and many scholars have questioned whether it was either required by the Tripartite agreement (it really wasn’t) or if it was a good idea. Even if it wasn’t required, the US Navy had been escorting British convoys as far as mid-ocean since early 1941–how would that not be a war-like act? The Americans and British had met to confer on war planning and measures for nearly two years–again, America already looked like a belligerent anyway. Finally, the Lend-Lease Agreement traded use of British bases in the Caribbean for warships–thin even to American observers. Arguably the US and Germany were already at war. The mutual declarations were merely icing on the cake, as it were.
Unlike in Germany where one person could do it, it was the US Congress who made these declarations in America…
The Americans declaring war on Germany and Italy didn’t provide for 2. above because Roosevelt had already made his war speech three days earlier, calling on Congress to declare a that a state of war existed between the US and Japan on 8 December. Unlike in Germany where one person could do it, it was the US Congress who made these declarations in America, and when Congress voted on 11 December 1941, it was by direct vote in response to the German declaration just hours before, without a presidential call being necessary. Now, the Dutch declaring war on the Italians may not have done much on the outside of it, but it allowed the United States to harbor refugee Dutch warships (both of them) in the West Indies and use them and their bases against the much-feared Italian submarines roaming the Atlantic. Okay, there were only two of them, but it was two more that had to be dealt with, and they had the range to reach Brazil.
The last declaration of war was in 2005 in Chad’s civil war.
All of that aside, there have been far more “undeclared” wars between states than there have been “declared” conflicts. Declaring war was something that certain treaties and agreements of the 19th century required to clarify the status of neutrals, belligerents, noncombatants and other legal niceties that were important when there were neutrals and noncombatants. The last declaration of war was in 2005 in Chad’s civil war. It is important to note, however, that Rome and Carthage were technically at war from 264 BC to 1985, called an “administrative error” in WIkipedia. By such errors whole empires can be lost.
Now, this is serious…just look at my face. Today, 11 December, is National Noodle Ring Day. But I know what you’re thinking: who would want to observe a day for Spaghettios…
No, Noodle Rings are something completely different. Noodle Rings are pasta dishes baked in a ring mold or bundt pan. The ingredients include noodles, flour, breadcrumbs, cheese, eggs and a host of other add-ins, from tuna and broccoli to ham, beef, sausage and even spam. They were more popular in the 1950s than they are today, apparently, but some recipes may go back as far as 4th millennium BC China.
If I didn’t like doing this blog I wouldn’t do it, but the research on this one was interesting. I’m no epicure, but one of the scores of recipes I ran into digging into this may just get made in my kitchen.