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Executions and Department Store Day

Eh? What’s one to do with the other? Ever gone shopping in a department store with a significant other?  Nuff said.

Nah, you know what they have to do with each other…or at least you will.  16 October saw James II of Scotland born in 1430; Noah Webster (of the dictionary) born in 1758; Hirobumi Ito (Japan’s first prime minister under the Meiji Constitution) born in 1841; and David Ben-Gurion (Israel’s first prime minister) born in 1886.  And on this day in 1773 the Philadelphia Resolutions were published; the battle of Leipzig in 1813; US Grant assuming command of the Union’s western armies in 1863; the Russian Baltic fleet departing St. Petersburg for their meeting with destiny in 1904; and the election of John Paul II as the first non-Italian pontiff in four centuries in 1976.  It’s also National Clean Off Your Virtual Desktop Day (First Monday after Labor Day), Boss’s Day and National Liqueur Day.  But today we talk about executions, real and imagined.

The famous “let them eat cake” quotation actually came from one of her maids

Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna, Archduchess of Austria, was born in Vienna on 2 November 1755, the fifteenth of sixteen children of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Francis I of the Holy Roman Empire.  As Marie Antoinette, she was the last Queen Consort of France before the Bourbon Restoration. Marie used her considerable influence at court to try to reform not only the courts but the financial system of France, best described as pre-medieval.  The famous “let them eat cake” quotation actually came from one of her maids, but had nothing to do with the starving French. While the French Revolution devolved into chaos, and nobles were being sent to the guillotine in large numbers, Louis XVI was executed on 21 January 1793.  Locked in a tower, Marie was eventually condemned for treason against the Revolution (she did try to throttle it at birth) and executed 16 October 1793.

The trials were not a slam-dunk, as five of the indicted were either acquitted or never charged, and seven were given prison sentences.

While as often criticized as victor’s justice, the Nuremberg trials that began in November 1945 were held largely at the behest of the UK, US and USSR to punish the main perpetrators of WWII.  The trials were not, as some have put it, a slam-dunk, as five of the indicted were either acquitted or never charged, and seven were given prison sentences. The biggest targets of the intended trials, Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels, had all beat the hangman, killing themselves either before or shortly after capture. Martin Bormann was tried and condemned to death in absentia, but unknown to the court he was already dead (his remains were found in 1972, and dated to May 1945). But the other eleven were condemned to die, and despite protests about “victor’s justice,” they went to the gallows on 16 October, 1947.

  • Joachim von Ribbentrop, foreign minister;
  • Wilhelm Keitel, head of the German Armed Forces (OKW);
  • Ernst Kaltenbrunner, head of the RSHA;
  • Alfred Rosenberg, Minister of the Eastern Territories and leading Nazi race theorist;
  • Hans Frank, gauleiter of Poland;
  • Wilhelm Frick, Minister of the Interior who co-authored the Niremberg Laws;
  • Fritz Sauckel, plenipotentiary of the Nazi slave labor program;
  • Alfred Jodl, Chief of OKW operations–signed the order for the summary execution of Soviet commissars and Allied commandos;
  • Julius Streicher, publisher of Der Sturmer, anti-semitic tabloid published throughout the war calling for the liquidation of Jews as early as 1933;
  • Arthur Seyss-Inquart, instrumental in the Anschluss of Austria and Governor-General of the Netherlands.

The “star” of the tribunal, Hermann Goering, beat the hangman by killing himself with poison the day before. All eleven were cremated in Munich and their ashes spread over the Isar River, leaving no shrines for latter-day Nazis to worship. Of all of them, only Jodl was subsequently been “rehabilitated,” only to be reversed later.  Apparently no one  objected to seeing the rest swing, “victor’s justice” or not.

By the 1920s every major city in America had one or more successful department stores

The department store as most of us knew it in its heyday originated in the late 18th century in Britain.  As social mobility and leisure time for urban women increased during the Industrial Revolution, and the spending power of wages multiplied exponentially during the first Retail Revolution of the early 19th century (when cash registers kept track of sales and made returns possible), so too did the appeal of having stores sell multiple lines of dry goods, and where husbands, boyfriends and sons were compelled by circumstances to hold purses for wives, girlfriends and mothers for hours on end.  By the 1920s every major city in America had one or more successful department stores; some had more than one store.  Soon the discount stores like FW Woolworth and SS Kresge crowded the retail space, and by mid-20th century there was nothing that couldn’t be had in some department store somewhere.

Older, established businesses like Hudson’s of Detroit featured above, have been killed by various factors, including foreign competition and the Discount Brothers Mart (Wal, K, and Targ), but more by pilferage.  At this writing a second Retail Revolution is threatening to replace them all with online shopping, with no purses involved.  Anyone with any information whatsoever is asked to come up with some explanation as to why today is Department Store Day is asked to let someone else know.

A few of you know that this blog now appears on a budding web site, JDBCOM.COM, or if you didn’t you know now. Unlike the rest of the platforms I’ve tried to build web sites on over the years, this one at WordPress is well within my skill set, patience and price range. If the appearance of the site changes significantly between now and the end of the year, sorry, price of progress.  For the rest of you, check in once in awhile to see what’s going on.  There will soon be new books, old books and other items for sale there.



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Benjamin Banneker and a Cascade of Coincidences

Well, even I have to take a day off…sort of.  So, 9 October, a whole lot of things happened.  Charlemagne and his brother Carloman were crowned Kings of the Franks in 768; Louis VII of France married the only daughter of Henry VII of England, Mary, in 1514; Gabriel Fallopius (the guy who named the fallopian tubes) died in 1562;  the siege of Yorktown, Virginia ended in 1781; the first calliope was patented in 1855; Montgomery Ward mailed his first catalog in 1872; the Hoover Dam started sending power to Los Angeles in 1936; WXYZ TV began broadcasting in Detroit in 1948 (famous for giving Soupy Sales (above) his national start); Che Guevara was executed in Columbia in 1967; and Andrei Sakharov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.  Today is also National Chess Day (for reasons beyond my understanding), National Kick Butt Day (I kid you not…somebody actually named it that); and National Mouldy Cheese Day (I’m…speechless).  But today I’m going to talk about surveying, and a whole slew of coincidences.

At age 22 Banneker finished building a clock that struck the hour, scaled up from a pocket watch.

Benjamin Banneker, like many men of his time, was largely self-taught. In his time and place, however, that says a great deal, because Banneker was born of a free black woman and a former slave on 9 November 1731 in Baltimore County, Maryland. We know very little for certain of his early life.  He may have been schooled by Quaker Abolitionist Paul Heinrichs, but it’s hard to say for sure. At age 22 Banneker finished building a clock that struck the hour, scaled up from a pocket watch. This is remarkable for someone without formal horology training, but most early chronometers were made substantially of wood so that kind of construction was common.

Banneker was an inveterate tinkerer, astronomer and mathematician, for he studied a grist mill as it was being built near his home, and made some calculations for a solar eclipse in 1789

Banneker was an inveterate tinkerer, and a diligent astronomer and mathematician, for he studied a grist mill as it was being built near his home, and made some calculations for a solar eclipse in 1789. He tried to publish an ephemeris (a set of celestial tabulations) in 1780 but failed to find a printer. Until the 20th century, if you really wanted accurate time you got yourself an almanac, calculated your latitude and longitude (a sextant helped, but was not necessary), and observed stars and planets as they rolled across the heavens, and the sunrise and sunset for a few clear days and nights.  If you’re so inclined you can still do so if you’re far enough away from city lights to see the horizon.

Banneker left the team in April of the same year due to illness and the difficulties of such work at age 59

In February 1791, Andrew Endicott hired Banneker to make astronomical observations for his survey team that laid out the boundaries of what would become Washington, District of Columbia.  Banneker left the team in April of the same year due to illness and the difficulties of such work at age 59. He published a highly-regarded ephemeris and tide tables for Chesapeake Bay in 1791, having finally gained enough recognition for his talents.

Many myths have grown up over the years, most having to do with the District of Columbia survey

In later life he corresponded with Thomas Jefferson and published several anti-slavery tracts. Banneker died in his cabin on 9 October 1807, a month before his 75th birthday.  Most of his papers and personal belongings burned on the day of his funeral. Many myths have grown up over the years, most having to do with the District of Columbia survey.  Banneker’s contribution was, in itself, remarkable in that it provided a baseline for the survey, but it was also very brief. As a self-taught astronomer/mathematician, this son of a former slave already has much to be remembered for. As a mathematical moron, I’m fascinated by anyone who managed to move beyond the rudimentary arithmetic that I can barely manage myself.

The non-breathtaking thing about coincidences is that they happen whether you want them to or not, and, depending on how you define zero (counting number in the middle of a range or the beginning and end of everything), are either signs of a cosmic creator or the inevitable happenings of the universe.  On 9 October:

  • In 1000, Leif Ericsson is thought to have landed on Newfoundland. In 2017, 9 October is also the second Tuesday in October, making it Landing Day/Columbus Day (since 1970) in the US, that is also Native American/Indigenous People’s Day.  9 October is also National Leif Ericsson Day.
  • In 1876, the first two-way (duplex) telephone conversation was held; in 1947 the first telephone conversation between a moving car and an airplane took place.
  • In 1906, Joseph Glidden died.  His best known invention was the first commercially successful, ready-made barbed wire. In 1941, President Roosevelt approved a project to develop an atomic weapon, the final divorce from the marriage made in hell–barbed wire and the machine gun.  Also, in 2006 North Korea is thought to have tested their first nuclear weapon.
  • In 1980, the first home computer banking transaction took place in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Because of this, not coincidentally, 9 October is also National Online Bank Day.  Thank Ally Bank for this one, registering it in 2015 in commemoration of their millionth customer.  No, not a coincidence, but my wife the banker wouldn’t let me forget it.

As most of you know, this blog is added to a web site (hopefully) by now: this entry is written in early September.  If you’re so inclined you can check out the site, JDBCOM.COM, and look at some of the other content as it’s being built.

Or not.

On a personal note, I just got word that one of my oldest friends, Bill Crum (aka flooglestreet) passed away this morning. Everyone who’s a veteran knows what losing a buddy of more than…well a lot of years anyway…means.  Taps for SFC William Crum, USA Ret, RVN 1969-71 (1st ID), USAR 1972-95 (84th DIV ((TNG)); hoist one for me and smoke ’em if you’ve got’ em.

RIP buddy, see you on the other side.

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Ferdinand Foch, National Child Health Day, and The Mess in Korea

Well, it comes around every year at exactly the same time: 2 October.  No malice, no threat implied or intended, but around it comes.  And, providing North Korea doesn’t do something stupid, it will come around again.  But, on this day in 1187 Saladin captured Jerusalem; John Andre was hanged in Tappan, New York in 1780; the Texas War for Independence started at Gonzales in 1835; Mohandas Gandhi was born in India in 1869; Operation Typhoon (Fall Taifun for you purists out there), the last German offensive towards Moscow, began in 1941; the comic strip “Peanuts” was first published in the US in 1950; and Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court in 1967.  Also today, for whatever reason, is National Fried Scallops Day in the US.  But, today, I’m talking about one of the boldest commanders that many of you have never heard of, and the health of children.

Foch instilled a renewed interest in French military history while commanding the French War College, and a pragmatic approach to the Napoleonic campaigns and the disasters of 1870-71.

Ferdinand Foch was born at Tarbes, in the Hautes-Pyrénées region of southwestern France in 1851, a year of great turmoil in France.  Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew to the first emperor, dissolved the National Assembly and proclaimed himself Emperor of the French weeks after Foch was born, not that one had anything to do with the other.  Foch’s father was a French civil servant, and in the early years of his life Ferdinand might have followed his father, but the Franco-Prussian War intervened.  Young Ferdinand, nearly nineteen when the war began, joined an infantry regiment in 1870 but saw no action.  Still, the military bug must have bit him hard, as he managed to enter the elite École Polytechnique in 1871, selecting the artillery branch. Because there was a shortage of junior officers, Foch was commissioned in 1873.  Later, Foch attended the cavalry school at Samur.  Apparently keeping clear of the Dreyfus affair, Foch instilled a renewed interest in French military history while commanding the French War College, and a pragmatic approach to the Napoleonic campaigns and the disasters of 1870-71 against the Germans. He may have had some influence on Plan XVII in 1913, the same year he took command of XX Corps at Nancy.

…my center is yielding, my right is retreating; situation excellent, I am attacking.

Exactly a year after his appointment to corps command, Foch led his troops into battle against the Germans.  Soon he was commanding an army, and before long his famous “my center is yielding, my right is retreating; situation excellent, I am attacking” message flashed across newspapers all over France.  Soon, Foch was second in command of half the French Army.  While the northern front held in no small part because of Foch’s tenacity, his superior’s heavy-handed lack of imagination was in part responsible for the failed Artois offensive in 1915, but Foch was soon packed off to Italy because of it.

Of the Versailles treaty,  Foch prophetically referred to it as a twenty-year armistice.

Despite his boss’s dislike of Foch, the British and Belgians thought highly of him, as did most of the rest of the French Army because he consistently won against the odds.  After the disastrous Nivelle offensive of 1917 and the work stoppage/mutiny that followed, Foch was called back to Paris as Chief of Staff of the French Army.  In 1918, as the crisis of the German 1918 offensives eased, the Allies agreed to serve under a single military chieftain–Foch. It was Foch who approved the American Meuse-Argonne Offensive, who exhorted the Allies to keep the pressure on the collapsing Germans in the last summer of the war, and it was Foch who accepted the German surrender at Compiegne. Of the Versailles treaty,  Foch prophetically referred to it as a twenty-year armistice.  Ferdinand Foch died in Paris 20 March 1929, and was buried with Napoleon at Les Invalides.

…a gentle reminder from the Health Resources and Services Administration that there are more than 74 million children living in the US.

National Child Health Day was proclaimed by the US Congress in 1928, and originally was on 1 May.  In 1960 it was changed to the first Monday in October, likely because of the May Day association with the USSR’s annual celebrations of their military might.  While no one can say with a straight face that they don’t want to observe such a thing, a gentle reminder from the Health Resources and Services Administration that there are more than 74 million children living in the US. The HRSA is the primary federal agency to improve access to health care in the United States. Begun under the Reagan Administration in 1982, the agency also oversees the blood, organ and bone marrow programs in the US.  One of the goals of the HRSA is to “improve health equity.”  Now, “equity” is defined simply as “ownership.”  Who would be responsible for health if not the individual, in which case…huh?  I can see it in children, but for grownups?  If we are not the masters of our own fate…who is?

Though I don’t believe that any national leader would want to immolate his country–seriously–it would appear as if Kim Dong Il no longer cares.  

This is being written the day after Labor Day, 2017, and as of this morning there still was a North Korea.  Though I don’t believe that any national leader would want to immolate his country–seriously–it would appear as if Kim Dong Il no longer cares.  Yes, he wants more resources for his stumbling economy, and he wants to be treated as a player in East Asia.  But if he keeps on his current course, he doesn’t have the resources or the time to do anything but make a mess, if a large one, and assure that his will be the last Kim regime in Korea.

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Meuse-Argonne Begins and National One-Hit Wonder Day

And now, finally, on to 25 September, that famous date in history where so much happened.  What, you ask?  Well, there’s the battle at Stamford Bridge in 1066, where Harold the Unlucky beat back the last Dane/Norse invasion of England (before he lost it to the Normans a few weeks later; then there’s the birth of Robert Clive in England (you remember–explorer, first viceroy of India) in 1725; and Benedict Arnold went over to the British in 1780; and Henry Ford announced that his plants were to adopt a 40-hour, 5 day a week workweek in 1926; Smolensk was liberated in 1943, for the last time, as it happened; and finally, Sandra Day O’COnnor was sworn in as the first woman Supreme Court Justice of the United States.  Too, who can forget that today is Math Storytelling Day (for the real geeks), and National Lobster Day (for…whatever).  But today we talk about America in World War One, and one-hit wonders.

The United States only reluctantly entered the Great War in Europe (which took place from the mouth of the Yalu to the English Channel, and from the North Sea to the Horn of Africa), and then not as an ally but as an “associated power,” whatever that meant.  Indeed, it took most of the summer of 1917 just to decide to send a sizable force.  John J. Pershing was the best general the US had to offer, and he had enough political pull to be assigned as head of the BEF in June 1917.  Because they had been pummeling each other for three years with little to show for it, both the British and the French wanted the Americans to become reinforcements for their battered units, but that was not what President Woodrow Wilson wanted.  Wilson told Pershing, essentially, that he wanted a seat at the conference table when the war was over.  To do that, Pershing was told, an independent American force had to make a significant enough contribution to end the conflict as it could possibly make.

At first the Americans arrived in driblets in 1917, drawing their first blood in a trench raid in November 1917.  Gradually the pace increased, and by the summer of 1918 it was a flood.  By September 1918, 1.4 million Americans were under arms in France. By that time Pershing had enough men to launch an offensive to the north of the old Verdun battlefield, a sector dominated by the Meuse River and the Argonne Forest. The Germans had been there since 1914, more or less undisturbed since 1916, and had built a line of pillboxes, wire entanglements, and prepositioned artillery strongpoints that made it a five-mile deep fortress.  But behind it was Pershing’s objective–the railway hub at Sedan, through which most of the German supplies to the entire Hindenburg Line flowed.

But the Americans had had very little experience in the kind of warfare that had developed in France and Flanders.  They had taken their first objective of the war, the small town of Cantigny, with the support of British planes and French artillery and three days of savage fighting that reduced the attacking companies to squads.  They had performed well enough in a relatively small offensive at St Mihiel, and were considered to be stable, but not “savage” enough to do what the Canadians and Australians were doing in the Hundred Day’s offensives that had started in August.  But this wasn’t a limited push: this was seventeen divisions in what would become two field armies totaling nearly three fourths of a million men. It was to be the biggest battle in American military history between Appomattox in 1865 and the invasion of Sicily in 1943.

The opening moves were small parties of doughboy engineers that crawled forward on the night of 25 September to the first band of German barbed wire, cutting as much as they could and marking what they could not.  At 2:35 AM on 26 September, over 1,400 American, French and British artillery pieces from 75mm to 15 inch railway guns opened up on a five-mile wide by three-mile deep band, expending more ordnance in that first three hours than both armies had used up in the whole four years of the American Civil War.  Then, at 5:30, the ground troops started moving ahead.  Then the bloodletting began.

In proportion to the French and British and even the Germans and Belgians, the American casualties from WWI were small. But, what the wags who argue that body count is the measure of sacrifice don’t say is that the Americans lost half (26k) of their total combat deaths (53k) in WWI during the last ten weeks of the war, at the Meuse-Argonne.

But the Americans barely knew what they were doing, and in their untutored zeal they died by the scores in open ground, where Pershing said they would be victorious because in the trenches lay fear and exhaustion.  He was right, but just getting to that open-country warfare took hundreds of thousands of gallons of American blood.  By the first week in November, American artillery was ranging across the Luxembourg frontier, and American troops had penetrated the Hindenburg Line.  By then the German government had fallen, the politicians were taking over the scene, and by the time the first Americans were out of France and within a day’s march of Germany, the armistice came.

Scholars (myself included) have argued ever since as to whether the Meuse-Argonne was in any way decisive in itself.  Part of the title for my essay for A Companion to the Meuse-Argonne Campaign (Wiley-Blackwell 2014) is “We Can Kill Them But We Cannot Stop Them,” taken from a letter by a German lieutenant in the Meuse-Argonne sector to his wife.  He was referring to the Americans, who in their ignorance kept getting killed while they continued to take ground. After the war, Paul von Hindenburg, the victor of Tannenberg and the architect of Russia’s defeat in WWI, said that it was the Americans, after all, who were most to be feared, not because of their fighting abilities (which he admitted improved with time), but because of their raw numbers and energy.

And, from his perspective and from that of all of Europe, he was right.  There were plans to have two million American soldiers, sailors and Marines in France by the end of 1918, and by the spring of 1919, as many as three million (influenza notwithstanding).  By the end of 1919 as many as four million Americans could have been under arms and either in Europe or on the way; more than Germany and France could field combined.  If Germany had continued to fight after that disastrous fall of 1918, and the Allies had not accepted the armistice offered (and some senior officers did not want to), most of Europe might have been bystanders in an American victory parade through Berlin, Vienna and Budapest.  Thus followed the Peace of Versailles, where Wilson was the first American president to not only leave the country while in office, but was the first to negotiate foreign treaties in Europe.  That American victory parade through western Europe was delayed by a generation, even if the Soviets had captured Berlin, Vienna and Budapest.

Also, 25 September is National One-Hit Wonder Day:

MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark 
All the sweet, green icing flowing down…

Say what, we said. What in the name of…and who is that, anyway?

We all (most of us, anyway) first heard the self-taught Irish actor Richard Harris belt out those immortal Jimmy Webb lines in April 1968.  And, for most of us, those nonsensical lines and the rest of the lyrics stick in our heads as many One-Hit Wonders and ad jingles do. MacArthur’s Park was covered by Glenn Campbell, Donna Summer and Waylon Jennings amog others, but Dave Barry called it the worst song ever recorded in 1992, and Weird Al Yankovic parodied it a year later.  Often forgotten by the industry, these tunes caught on for some reason, but the original artist was never able to duplicate that success with another song. Mungo Jerry’s In the Summertime;  One Tin Soldier by The Original Caste; One Toke Over the Line by Brewer and Shipley; and of course Brandy by Looking Glass are only a few. One-Hit Wonders have often been covered by other, better-known artists.  Sad, but, like the Meuse-Argonne, necessary for everything to move on.


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Happy Birthday Chiropractic, DoD and USAF

For some reason, this blog wasn’t finished before it posted. Sorry.

And today we have—18 September…let’s see…Chris Columbus on his fourth voyage to the New World (still not convinced it was a new world) landing on Costa Rica; the death of the Chancellor of Japan Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1598, ending the Momoyama period of Japan and setting of a bitter struggle for supremacy that ended with the founding of the Tokugawa shogunate; the construction of the first spinet piano in Boston in 1769; the beginning of the battle of Chickamauga in Georgia in 1863; the publication of Huck Finn in 1885; the Great Fresno Drop, mailing out the first BankAmericards in 1958; the capture of Patty Hearst in San Francisco in 1975; and the first of the “anthrax letters” were mailed from Trenton, New Jersey in 2001.  Too, for some unaccountable reason, 18 September is National Cheeseburger Day, and National Aging/AIDS Awareness Day.  But today, we’re going to talk about bending bones, and national defense, and the airedales.

Chiropractic medicine (hey, it’s the only thing to call it) has been around, some say, since the Egyptians built the pyramids. And ever since the development of the practice of science-based medicine in the 19th century, folks have been calling chiropractic pseudo-scientific quackery.  The modern more-or-less science began roughly on 18 September 1895, when the Palmer School of Chiropractic opened in Davenport, Iowa.  At the time, those using chiropractic were inclined to treat it as a religion, which may have saved themselves a lot of trouble later on, but as future history would show, would have diminished its benefits to millions.

The reader must be aware that there are several “schools’ of chiropractic that are practiced worldwide, and in the US there are several that don’t call it “medicine” at all. It starts with the idea of subluxation, which is the practice of manipulating the spine and other joints into a “natural” position that, some say, makes for better overall health.  A few practitioners also hold that chiropractic can treat and cure any and all human ailments, and that vaccinations would be unnecessary if infants were treated at or near birth, and are consistently manipulated in their formative years.

Understand something: not all chiropractors are alike.  I’ve been using chiropractic for my aching joints for…well, a long time, anyway.  I’ve had several practitioners bend and twist my bones, in large part because I’ve used some for a time and as soon as they recommending chiropractic for allergy treatment, cancer, and even cavities in the teeth, I spend no more time with them.  My current practitioner and his wife have orthopedists on speed-dial, spend no time at all treating any patients without informed consent, and proudly show their vaccination scars.

There are several institutions teaching chiropractic, but every one has a different theory…generally. The Palmer method is the most common, the most widespread, and in my case the most effective.  As I understand it, Palmer-related treatments are those that have been most heavily studied, mostly approved by insurance companies (including Medicare and Medicaid), and is what the uniformed services allow their chiropractors to use since 2001.  While many skeptics still cry “pseudoscience” at the top of their lungs, I have never had a clinician declare it to be without at least some merit for some aches and pains.  I’ve had several MDs who also went to a Palmer School to learn what they had to teach about spinal positioning.

Today is also the birthday of the US Department of Defense, and the official and complete and total divorce of the US Army Air Forces from its parent, creating the US Air Force on this day in 1947.  The Air Force had been functionally separate since the late 1930s, and had representation at the executive level since the formation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The Department of Defense, furthermore, created separate service secretariats for each branch, thus adding hundreds if not thousands of patronage jobs.  Thus, if you ever feel the need to start draining the swamp in DC, start there by merging the services.  The Air Force has its own infantry (Base Emergency Engineering Forces, BEEFs); the Navy its own air force and infantry (and the Marines even have their own air force); the Army its own navy and air forces.  Why?

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Britain and the American Revolution now Available in Paperback

JDB Communications LLC is proud to announce the publication of Britain and the American Revolution, another collection of essays by John D. Beatty, author of The Devil’s Own Day: Shiloh and the American Civil War.

Most scholars—especially Americans—when writing about the American Revolution (also called the American War) emphasize the Western Hemisphere when considering the effects.  However, in this scribe’s opinion this view is short-sighted.  Great Britain, after all, is still around, and its Empire indeed flourished a century after it lost its then-largest and most prosperous colonies.  The Empire may have steadily degraded after Victoria’s diamond jubilee gala in 1897, but by the much-ballyhooed “Brexit” from the European Community in 2016, Britain herself was still a force to be reckoned with.

Recent writers, especially Steven Sears in The British Empire, have suggested that the British Empire was really nothing more than a jobs program for the English middle and upper classes.  In some ways, this is arguably true.  However trivial this may seem in the great scheme of things, it was also the largest single influence on human civilization between the fall of Rome and the triumph of the United States and the Soviet Union in 1945.  As these essays argue, this influence was in part because of the sheer genius of hard-pressed Britons to survive on their harsh, rocky islands.

“Changing the Great Game” is an exploration of how the concept of “rights” was grudgingly preserved by dynasty after dynasty ruling the British Isles.  Even if the Scots, Irish and other ethnic groups didn’t recognize it, the rights enjoyed by Englishmen that were unique to their legal system did rub off on them as well, if only in small doses from time to time.  The ancient legends of Arthur, Alfred and the rest of the traditional lawgivers may have been perfected in the 19th century, but their origins are clearly much older.  The legal tradition that no sovereign is above his own laws far predate the Normans.

“Kings, Kin and Killers” is something of an experiment.  Steven Pincus in 1688: The First Modern Revolution talks extensively about the motives of the supporters of the Stuarts and those who…well, did not support the monarch.  They hadn’t yet expressed a desire to throw out the monarchy as they would later, but the non-supporters of the Stuart kings were far more interested in the power of capital than that of land.  Their arguments were eerily similar to those that would take place in America before the shooting started in 1861.  It is almost certain that many of the philosophical animosities in English society between country and town, between farm and workshop, were locked into American society after the Revolution, and hung on in animus for another three generations.

“The Limits of Empire” is explicitly that: an essay into the administrative and technical limitations of imperial administration in the late 18th century.  Law, trade, finance, and community administration all depended on communications, and there was simply no good or reliable way to improve trans-Atlantic communications in the 1770s such that the Revolution, or one like it, could be put down.  Even if India were to become the most prosperous of all of Britain’s imperial properties, it wasn’t yet.  If the Gandhi revolution had come two centuries earlier, by that remove it may have succeeded much faster.

“Copper-Bottomed Wizardry” began as a challenge—a sort of a bet.  This writer was wagered that he could not find enough technological innovation between 1775 and 1805 to explain how Britain defeated France at Trafalgar.  Knowing that coppering became standard by 1783, the research started there and produced this essay.  The carronade, the short-barreled “smasher” that was the terror of small-vessel warfare before the shell gun, was intentionally left out because of other innovations that made British ships not only reliable and easier to handle, but overall better vessels.  Any sailor can tell you that, pound for pound, any well-handled warship in peacetime is worth three that are better gunned.  In wartime, it’s how well the guns are laid and how long they can stay on station, not just how well they can blast a target.

Four essays are hardly a working thesis, but they may point to one: Britain was strengthened by the conflict that resulted in the loss of her thirteen colonies that would eventually become the United States.  Both she and the United States, ultimately, resolved the last of a conflict in Anglo-Saxon society that had raged since the Tudors: Do governments have a right to rule, or a duty?  Is society the master of an economic structure, or a servant or product of it?

Let these essays inform the reader’s viewpoint. Available in paperbound and PDF at The Book Patch. Personally autographed copies will be available at JDBCOM.COM soon.

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Miss America on TV and Patriot Day

Well, here it is, another September 11th.  Most of us remember where we were and what we were doing on that particular day in 2001, so I won’t belabor it–yet.  But, there were other events on 11 September in other years, like the battle of Stirling Bridge in 1287 made famous by Mel Gibson’s Braveheart; the beginning of the battle of Brandywine in 1777; the end of the Plattsburgh battle in 1779; the appointment of Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury in 1789; the patenting of the mail chute in 1883; and the beginning of the building of the Pentagon in 1941.  But today, we talk about beautiful women on television and tragedies on beautiful days.

Though it is the best known of many, Miss America wasn’t the first of its kind: the first beauty pageant was held in Scotland in 1839; showman PT Barnum staged another contest in 1859 that was shut down after protests over their degradation of public morals–a common theme against Barnum at the time. There were many in the 19th century, especially in America, but none were recurring.

The Miss America pageant started out as a publicity stunt on 25 September 1920, intended to bring business to the Atlantic City Boardwalk. There was no real competition, just a bunch of beautiful girls pushed around in chairs on wheels.  The next year, after the enthusiastic reception and increased traffic, the pageant became an annual event in Atlantic City.  Other milestones include:

  • 1933,  the youngest Miss America, 15-year-old Marion Bergeron, won the contest.
  • 1944, the compensation switched from furs and movie contracts to a college scholarship.
  • 11 September 1954, Evelyn Ayr (above) was crowned for the first time on live TV.
  • 1971, Cheryl Browne was the first African-American to compete.
  • 1984, Vanessa Williams was the first African-American woman to win.  Williams was also the first asked to resign for posing in Penthouse.
  • 2014, Nina Davuluri was the first Indian-American woman to win the crown.

Some of the winners have gone on to fame and fortune in Hollywood and other entertainment industries, but most finish their rounds of publicity, take their scholarships and sink back into obscurity.  The pageant/scholarship program has been under fire for most of its history for being “out of step” with… something.  It is also criticized for exalting body types that are unachievable without great sacrifice and potential damage to a woman’s health.  While the last may be true, I don’t believe the pageant has ever held itself out as anything other than a way for women to win scholarships, and for businesses to make money on advertising.   Women compete of their own free will, and people watch of their own free will.

There’s a great deal that could be said about 9/11, but what I recall most vividly was not the planes crashing into buildings, but what headlines quickly disappeared.

  • Some overrated interchangeable blonde starlet published an autobiography that stated that she was at one time possessed by space aliens.
  • Some congressman was suspected of killing a female intern with whom he may or may not have had an affair, a crime that was later was pinned on some other poor schmuck.
  • Someone started another petition to recount ballots in Florida from the 2000 election after the last recount indicated that GW Bush’s margin of victory there was larger than initially thought.

Watching the carnage in New York and Arlington on a spectacularly gorgeous Tuesday in southeastern Wisconsin was like watching a bad movie…another one that blew up buildings for no apparent reason.  But Shanksville, Pennsylvania, that was different.  According to everything we know, United Airlines Flight 93 out of Newark destined for San Francisco was hijacked by four men and diverted to…this is where it gets fuzzy. Popular wisdom says the hijacker’s target was the White House, but it is just as likely that the target was the Capital, which would have been in the same area, or another, double hit on the Pentagon, which would make military sense.

In 2013 my wife and I were headed to Washington to pick up my MA in history, and happened to stop for the night in Pennsylvania.  On the way to the motel I saw a sign that said “Flight 93 Memorial 16 Miles.” OK, we decide, we’ve got a few hours to spare tomorrow.  We’ll have a look.  So we follow the signs (there are none on the turnpike, and most of the pointers are very small) down very rural hardball roads to the memorial, which is at an old open-pit mine that was closed when Flight 93 crashed.

Shanksville, Pennsylvania is little more than a wide spot in a two-lane road, literally, and its two miles from the crash site.   It may have been more prosperous before the mine closed, but by the time we saw it, but in the spring of 2013 there just wasn’t much there.  As we went through the Flight 93 Memorial, I couldn’t help but think that the army of investigators that descended on Stonycreek Township would have overwhelmed the public facilities there very quickly. And so I walked the concrete walkways of the Classroom Without Walls (as NPS bills it), looked at the pictures of the victims/heroes, looked into the actual crash site (the memorial is next to it; the crash site itself is still treated as a crime scene), then thought about one of the pictures.  Then I looked again.

Maybe, I thought.  Maybe.  One of the passengers on Flight 93 looked more than vaguely familiar.  And the name.  I looked it up later…no, not him.  Resembled a guy I served with in the Army in Florida in the ’70s.  Name was similar, too.  But, no. Still, might have been sad and at the same time good to have known that one of my old comrades did his duty…we’re not relieved of our oaths at discharge, ya know.

Patriot Day was first observed in 2002. Now, to add to the confusion of 9/11, there’s a Patriot’s Day observed in the Boston area on the third Monday in April. But that one’s been around for decades. 9/11 isn’t a federal holiday; no offices are closed except the Flight 93 Memorial from 9 to noon.  But if you ever get the chance, you should go.  There’s something noble about citizens taking their implicit duty to protect and defend seriously enough to sacrifice themselves like that.  That deserves a look, and some contemplation.

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Wake Ends and National Newspaper Carrier Day

The 4th of September is remarkable for a number of things, among them being the end of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE when Romulus Augustus abdicated at Ravenna; the founding of Los Angeles in 1781; and the Yugo prototype known as the Ford Edsel first hit the showrooms like a brick in 1959.  But today, we talk about the end of Wake Island’s drama, and news kids.

The fighting for Wake Island was something of a sensation in the dark days of December 1941.  On the morning of 8 December Japanese planes out of the Marianas (probably Saipan) bombed the island, destroying 8 of 12 defending fighters.  Air raids continued until 11 December, when the first landing attempt was decisively thwarted by the outnumbered Marines and civilians on the island, which sank the first Japanese warships of the Pacific War.  The garrison’s message, “Send Us More Japs” (actually message padding that was put together in Hawaii and released to the newspapers) was repeated in every headline in every newspaper across America, the only good war news in a dismal month.

But defiant Wake Island was too close to too many Japanese bases, including the Marianas. the Marshalls and the Carolines to be allowed to just hang around.  A second invasion force on 23 December overran the island defences after about twelve hours of bitter and brutal fighting. The Japanese suffered something over a thousand casualties; the Americans had something around 150 military and civilian killed and wounded, and some 1500 were captured.

But there was worse yet to come.  Most of the prisoners were removed to mainland Asia, but nearly a hundred American civilians were kept on the island for forced labor.  Fearing imminent invasion, the Japanese built up the island’s defenses, but the Americans chose not to go back to Wake, instead imposing a submarine blockade and using it as a sort of a bombing range.  From February 1942 to the end of the war Wake was irregularly raided by Navy carrier aircraft and by Army bombers. After one raid on 5 October 1943, Sakaibara Shigematsu, the island’s commander, ordered the prisoners killed.  One forever-anonymous prisoner escaped the machine-gunning and wrote “98 PW 5-10-43” on a coral rock near the mass grave.  The memorialist was captured and personally beheaded by Sakaibara.

The US blockade caused severe food shortages on Wake soon after it was implemented, causing the Japanese and their captives to hunt the Wake Island Rail (a small bird found only on the Wake Atoll) to extinction by 1945.  On 4 September 1945, a detachment of the 4th Marines under the command of Lawson Sanderson landed on Wake and took the remaining Japanese prisoner. Sakaibara was hanged for war crimes on 18 June 1947.

Also on 4 September in 1833, Barney Flaherty was hired to carry (or hawk; the record is unclear) the New York Sun newspaper.  News-kids, often boys but also girls, was for generations the first paying job teens could have.  Paid circulation/home delivery of newspapers has an unclear origin, but Barney was probably not a corner hawker because they had been around for some time before 1833.  In any event, the news-kid is something of a thing of the past now, though not entirely extinct.  Physical paper circulation had fallen dramatically since the internet took over in the early 21st century, and these days home delivery is likely to be done by a regular adult employee.  Still, in those bygone days that I can still recall…ah, you get it.  If you’ve still got a paper-kid, give him/her a bigger tip this week because 4 September is National Newspaper Carrier Day; International Newspaper Carrier Day is the first Saturday in the first full week in October.  I didn’t make that up.

Today, the first Monday in September, is Labor Day in the United States, the traditional End of Summer, though it’s supposed to be the day that we recognize the value of organized labor to the workforce.  WIth union membership dwindling worldwide, that seems a stretch, but there was a time when those of us who have toiled for others would have worked six and a half days a week and 12 hours a day and barely be able to keep the lights on.  Admittedly, it was a lot cheaper to keep those candles burning than it does to run the LEDs…no, actually it doesn’t.

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The Occupation of Japan Begins and Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day

So, today, 28 August.  Lots of momentous stuff, like the beginning of the American invasion of Quebec in 1775, the birth of Charles Rolls in 1877, the German naval disaster against the British at the Heligoland Bight in 1914, Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream” speech in Washington in 1963, the “Battle of Chicago” between police and Vietnam war protesters broke out in 1968, and Charles and Diana officially called it quits in 1996.  But on this date in 1945, the world held its breath as the first Americans–Navy and Marines from Task Force 31, and Army paratroopers from the 11th Airborne Division–landed on the Japanese home islands.

Japan had announced its intention to surrender, and a delegation of senior Japanese officials had flown to Manila and returned with details on the occupation, the surrender itself, and had hammered out a timetable for the events, but no one was quite sure what was to come once the Americans actually started to land.  Even though the Japanese the negotiators who pinpointed every ship, every Army unit, and every major armory in Japan, they were still concerned that the initial date of 25 August was too soon.  There were still Shishi–young men of purpose–in the Army who were plotting to continue the war at whatever the cost.  In the event, a typhoon prevented the Americans from arriving on that day, and the date was reset to 28 August, though Japanese officials pleaded for another week to cool or neutralize the hotheads.  Nothing doing: the American would land on the 28th.

The leading elements of the American occupation arrived in the early morning hours of 28 August at the Atsugi airfield outside Tokyo.  First, a train of forty-five C-47 cargo planes landed two hours early.  Led by Charles Tench of Douglas MacArthur’s staff, the Skytrains were packed with nervous paratroopers, communications gear, and a small hospital unit.  Seizo Arisue commanding the men who guarded the airfield against the Shishi that lurked within miles, if not yards, scrambled to receive their “guests.” But the opening SNAFU of the day was spectacular in a much different way that restarting the war: the lead C-47 pilot misread the wind marker and landed in the wrong direction, putting the reception committee on the wrong end of the field.  “Just how in the hell does one begin an occupation,” Tench later remembered as he watched the Japanese hastily approaching his airplane.

“Just how in the hell does one begin an occupation?” — Charles Tench

Near the same time, the Atlanta class light cruiser USS San Diego (CL53), the flagship of Oscar C Badger who was commanding Task Force 31, entered Tokyo Bay leading the minesweepers and other combat elements of TF 31.  The task force included USS Missouri (BB-63), at least nine destroyers, and an amphibious task force carrying the 4th Marines, who would land on the Tokyo waterfront on 30 August, liberating the POW camp at Omari in the process.  The Marines would save a young American with a hot appendix that the Japanese could not treat. When the Japanese prison camp commandant opined that he had no authority to release his prisoners, Harold Stassen, William Halsey’s assistant chief of staff who was in charge of repatriating the American POWs and would later run for president, kicked the general in the posterior and growled “You have no authority, period.”

“You have no authority, period” — Harold Stassen

Despite a great deal of tension, fear and suspicion in Japan and amogh the allies as they arrived, the occupation and the surrender ceremonies would come off without a significant hitch.

Today, 28 August, ironically given the circumstances, is also Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day, a day that Deborah Barnes founded in 2015 in memory of one of her many feline friends. Since then, 28 August has become something of a minor sensation in social media, spawning tributes to our furry, finny, feathery, scaley and other -y friends that have gone to their rewards.  Having lost five gerbils, four dogs, three cats and a spider myself, I get it. So today, spend some extra time with your family pets, and unless they’re tarantulas or fish, they’ll appreciate it.  If they are all gone, give an hour or two to your local animal shelter. Are there no Fish Whisperers out there?

Are there no Fish Whisperers out there?

For those of you who follow this blog on a regular basis, welcome back.  For the rest, thanks for stopping by; hope you come back next week. For everyone, there’s going to be some design changes over the next few months. Hopefully it will help me to streamline my business communications, consolidating everything on one WordPress site.  Stay tuned…

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Laura Baugh and National Senior Citizen’s Day

The twenty-first day of August marks a number of auspicious, famous and infamous events.  The Nat Turner slave revolt began in Virginia in 1831;  the Lawrence, Kansas massacre was perpetrated in 1863, the Olds Motor Works was founded in Lansing, Michigan in 1897; Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959; and in 1991 the attempted coup against the government of Mikhail Gorbachev collapsed in Moscow.

So, today, I’m gonna talk about…golf, about which I know nearly nothing other than I can’t play it.  My hands, you see…can’t hold anything that long, and of course my neck…doesn’t move that way anymore.  But, I appreciate accomplishment when I see it.

Laura Baugh was born in 1955, and was introduced to the game early by her father, Hale Baugh, a gifted amateur in his own right.  While I was hanging around truck and car shops, Laura won the National Peewee Golf Championship (under eighteen) five times, and the Los Angeles Women’s City Golf Championship (the first at fourteen). On 21 August 1971 Baugh was sixteen (and so was I), and won the US Women’s Amateur Tournament, the youngest woman up to then to have won that particular honor (and I was portering used trucks in Detroit).

Laura Baugh turned down college scholarships and turned pro at eighteen.  She made a good living and was Rookie of the Year in 1973, but never won an LPGA Tournament.  She turned instead to alcohol until about 1996, wrote an autobiography in 1999, bore seven children, and at this writing is 62 and an announcer for The Golf Channel.

I think I’m an underachiever: I’ve only written ten books, finished two degrees, did a quarter century in the Army and earned two college degrees.  But, I digress…

Today is also National Senior Citizen’s Day in the US, signed into commemorative law by Ronald Reagan in 1988, when he himself was 77.  Now, the term “Senior Citizen” has come to mean different things to a lot of different people: AARP allows members as young as 55 (and will they ever stop sending me stuff); our favorite movie theater says “senior” is 62 for tickets, seating and parking; our favorite restaurant says “well, if your wait-person thinks so”; and of course most insurance companies start the “senior” clock at 60.  But if you don’t play golf, and you’re not considered “senior” at your favorite watering hole, eatery or anywhere else, you’ll have to spend the day not commemorating anything at all today.  But if you know a “senior” or two take some time to do something nice for them.  Just remember: old age and treachery always beats youth and a bad haircut…unless you’re up against Laura Baugh in 1971.

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Ending a Nightmare

14 August marks quite a few ironies.  It was the day in 1791 that the slave revolt in Santo Domingo began, and the date in 1852 when the Second Seminole War ended in Florida.  And, in 1281, it was the day that the second divine wind–kamikaze–in the Straits of Korea wrecked much of a Mongol fleet that was headed for Japan.  And, in 1941, it was the day that the Atlantic Charter was announced after reporters found FDR and Churchill hugger-muggering in Newfoundland while the US was still neutral.  But much of the world would remember the 15 August 1945 radio broadcast that was recorded the day before: the Showa Emperor Hirohito of Japan recorded the Jewel Voice Broadcast of his Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the War on 14 August 1945.

The actual date of the recording is in some dispute, but the timing and the seal imprint is dated the 14th.  The Rescript ended not just World War Two in the Pacific and East Asia, but it also ended the power of the latter-day bakufu–military government–that had dominated Japan since 1941.

The quotes in the rest of this missive are from the Rescript as it appears on WIkipedia in the entry for the Jewel Voice Broadcast.  The blather in between is from the research that Lee Rochwerger and I are doing on Why the Samurai Lost, a retooling of our original What Were They Thinking?


After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

This was the first time that 99.9 percent of Japan, and 99.999% of the entire world would hear the voice of Hirohito, the Showa Emperor of Japan.  The reasons for creating a recording and not doing it live were several, but the most important was that the powers behind the throne–collectively, the jushin–felt it important that a recording of his actual intent be made available just in case the Americans struck again.

We have ordered our government to communicate to the governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that our empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.

He refers here to the Potsdam Declaration of 26 July 1945 that, only at the end of the Declaration, is the phrase “unconditional surrender” used. The Potsdam Declaration was an official rejection of the unofficial “peace” feelers–actually offering nothing more than an armistice in place with no authority from Tokyo–that had been floating around Europe since the summer of 1944. The Potsdam Declaration did not assure the imperial polity, but that was agreed to during negotiations that started 10 August, when the Japanese embassy in Switzerland informed the Americans and British that Potsdam would be accepted if the Imperial polity would be maintained.  The Rescript, therefore, isn’t a formal surrender, but the announcement to the world that Japan would stop fighting.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by our imperial ancestors and which lies close to our heart.

In this passage, the Showa is calling upon his duty–as he saw it–to keep Japan from becoming extinct, which he finally realized was a possibility after the Soviets declared war on 9 August. In the all-out fight in the Home Islands that the Army and Navy were planning  against the Soviet and American invasions that would come that fall, it was planned to turn every square inch of Japan and the surrounding waters into an abattoir.

Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to ensure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.

He’s speaking from a victim’s standpoint, but Japan was in serious economic straits, and had been since 1920.  Not to excuse the war and Japan’s aggression, but Japan went to war in 1931, 1937 and 1941 because they desperately needed raw materials and fuel just to keep the entire economy, not just the military, going.  Japan had been a feudal, agrarian country that had an industrial impetus with a parliamentary democracy thrust on it less than a century before, and they could barely afford to feed their burgeoning population, let alone continue to build a modern industrial state.

But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone – the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of our servants of the state, and the devoted service of our one hundred million people – the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

Japan had lost something like 2.7 million people in the wars between 1931 and 1945. Over forty countries eventually declared war on Japan: the last, Mongolia, on 9 August.

The phrase “…not necessarily to Japan’s advantage” was as close as he could come to “Japan has been beaten like a red-headed step-child and will not rise again.”

“Our hundred million” was a common theme in Japan starting in the 1930’s, but by 1941 there were only about 72 million Japanese in the archipelago and its possessions from the Ryukyus and the Bonins to the Marianas and Manchuria.

Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

Yes, he is acknowledging that the A-bomb had an influence on his decision, but again, he had decided that the war had to end as early as March 1945, but for reasons outlined below he couldn’t have done this that early.

What he wanted to do was save his country from annihilation from all causes–bloody great bombs, starvation, useless sacrifice and direct combat.  The Japanese Army believed that wearing light-colored clothing would save many from the effects of the flash and heat of nuclear weapons.  But, it may have been this very idea, announced in the last Imperial Conference on 9 August, that pushed the Showa over the edge, that made him instruct the government to accept the Potsdam terms, and to endorse the Marquis Kido’s idea of a Rescript and make this recording.  It was clear that Japan’s military leadership did not want to end the war, so he knew that he had to.

Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, or to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our imperial ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the powers.

What’s important here is that the Showa Emperor, like his grandfather the Meiji Emperor had in 1867, had taken direct charge of the country.  That it was necessary for him to do this is a real long story…just buy our new book when it comes out.

We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire towards the emancipation of East Asia.

The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met with untimely death and all their bereaved families, pains our heart night and day.

The welfare of the wounded and the war-sufferers, and of those who have lost their homes and livelihood, are the objects of our profound solicitude.

The hardships and sufferings to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable.

The Showa is being absolutely sincere .  After viewing the damage done by the B-29 fire raids in Tokyo in March and April of 1945, he had become convinced that the war had to end or his people would suffer even more.  But there were young men who stalked the halls of government and the barracks who would kill anyone who would wish to get some common sense and stop the fighting.  These officers believed in the tradition of Gekokujo, roughly meaning “the lower shall rule the higher,” among other translations.  This was a centuries-old tradition in Japan that refused to die, that inspired the assassinations that exhausted and frightened the civil government in the 1930s, and that triggered the incidents that led up to the China War.  The “unendurable” and the “unsufferable” here are to stop these Shishi–young men of purpose–from fighting and acquiesce to whatever comes next.

Having been able to safeguard and maintain the Kokutai, We are always with you, our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity.

Kokutai can mean a lot of different things (click the link), but for his purposes it means “national polity.”  It was an 18th century term/concept that caused a great deal of trouble in prewar Japan because of its different interpretations.

Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion which may engender needless complications, or any fraternal contention and strife which may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.

Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishability of its sacred land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibility, and of the long road before it.

Unite your total strength, to be devoted to construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, foster nobility of spirit, and work with resolution – so that you may enhance the innate glory of the imperial state and keep pace with the progress of the world.

Here the Showa is sincerely begging his people–Shishi included–to have courage in the days and years to come: occupation was certain, as humiliating as that would be.  The record is clear that by the time he made this recording the Showa no longer cared what happened to him personally, but he cared deeply about what happened to everyone else.  There were at least four attempts on his life by Japanese officers between 9 August and the time the recording was made in the wee hours of 14 August, and one attempt to destroy the recordings.

In all the above, I urge the reader to find the word “surrender” in any of the quotations.  This is the complete text: look it up for yourself.

The next day, when the cease-fire actually started, would be VJ Day in most of the world.  But today, we need to celebrate the fact that this frail, timid man realized that the only way to save his people was to take charge, to tell his subordinates that they were, indeed, subordinates, and tell the entire world that, like Chief Joseph, Japan would fight no more, forever.

So, to honor this auspicious day, do like Edith Shaine and Glenn McDuffie above at Times Square when they heard the news, and kiss someone with genuine relief, or joy failing that.  Just make that sure that, whoever your participant happens to be, unlike Glenn before he grabbed Edith, you know who they are before you do the smooching so that you don’t get bit, slapped or accused of sexual assault decades later.


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Essays on the American Civil War Now Available in Paperback and PDF

JDB Communications, LLC, is pleased to announce the availability of a new edition of Essays on the American Civil War by John D. Beatty in paperback and PDF at The Book Patch, while the first edition in Kindle will still be available for a limited time.  From the Introduction:

The American Civil War (even the way it is written: always capital “C,” capital “W”) sits isolated in a pristine crystal dome of American history, separate from all other events.  There are certain ways to write about it that make it acceptable to Civil War scholars and their audiences, and these rules must be observed else the offending material will be relegated to the isle of broken essays.

As the “Forlorn Hope” essay explains, American treatment of the 1861-65 conflict is always an exception to every rule of writing history, and American writers at all levels treat it as their private preserve.  Parallels with any other conflict are impossible for many Civil War buffs and not a few scholars, as are ties with any other non-American conflict.  Suggestions that the economic and political issues not related to slavery were eerily similar to those surfacing during the Tudor and Stuart periods in England—and may actually be connected—were dismissed with derision, ridicule, and often, suggestions of racism on those heretics with such insolent ideas.

How casualties were created should be a no-brainer, but as “The Butcher’s Bill” explains, for 19th century warfare that just ain’t so.  The mechanics of cavalry, too, should be obvious, but as “Cavalry in Blue and Gray” shows, it’s a lot harder when there was no real need for it in its wartime form before the war.

The distinct and contrarian position in some of these essays is unacceptable to “mainstream” Civil War scholarship: Civil War battlefield presentation isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, as “Of Parks and Excuses” explains; the Southern Confederacy, always a “Forlorn Hope,” could not have gotten what she wanted by military means.  Grant and Lee’s legacy to history is both more and less than many want to think, as “Bigger than History” explains.

Finally, “The Turning Point” and “The Unknown Gettysburg” are, again, my attempts at jousting with the immortal dragon that is Gettysburg. That one fight in Pennsylvania has so much emotional baggage attached to it that…well, it’s a tempting target.

Essays on the American Civil War retails at $4.99 in paperback, $1.99 in PDF exclusively at The Book Patch.