Whatever we may think of him, Winston Churchill, who passed fifty years ago this week, never flinched in the face of two of the most notorious tyrants in the 20th century, He was obstinate to the point of being a tyrant himself with Great Britain, defying those who would have made peace with Hitler in the aftermath of the German conquest of Europe. Even as the RAF struggled over Britain, even as the U-boats sank ship after ship, and even as invasion loomed just over the horizon, his defiance was not only insistent and courageous, but heroic.
But with his allies, he could also be insistent, courageous and even heroic. Pressed over and again for a “second front” by Stalin (whose armies were after all killing three of every four Germans who died in the war), he insisted that he and his American partners weren’t ready…especially when they weren’t. And again, after the war when Greece threatened to fall into the Soviet orbit, he insisted from the back benches that Britain’s tattered empire support the Greeks.
In the defense of his empire, his sovereign and his publishing rights, Churchill was a tireless fighter, even pugnacious. Shameless self-promoter, perhaps; stretcher of the truth, occasionally. But during his bouts of genteel poverty, his lonely exiles from the halls of power, even in in his occasional lapses of timelines, he was always the same: a Tory monarchist Amerifile English gentleman. Many of us could learn from his fearless example.
As it happens, 21 January is simultaneously the anniversary of the birth of the (organized) National Guard (in 1903), and of Carter’s draft amnesty (1977). Coincidence, surely.
The Dick Act, as the enabling legislation is popularly known, recast the many state-formed National Guard units into a national image, creating a means to join the Guards into the Regular Army in the event of an emergency. For decades Army reformers had tried different formulas to get the state’s units to look less like social clubs (which they were) and more like adjuncts to the Regulars (which they were supposed to be). The war with Spain in 1898 was the last time the state-organized units (the militias which were not part of the Guard “movement”) were called up, and the halting disasters that followed could be directly attributed to the state’s lack of funding and organization for their militias.
The earliest “National Guard” units were formed more or less spontaneously in the early 19th century. They were separate from the militias (if you really want a glimpse of insanity, take up American militia organization) and at least a third of them were not funded by their states, but by the members themselves or by private benefactors. Many were units only in name, possessing no equipment nor even standardized uniforms. The one thing they had in common was that the units that bore the title “National Guard” were pledged to national service wherever Congress might send them. This is also what distinguished them from many state militias.
By WWI, the Guards had be thoroughly reorganized. The experience on the Mexican frontier had shown the weaknesses of the Guards, and how completely they had to be remade. By the Armistice, the Guards were what we see today: Federally organized and funded units lent to the states in between wars.
The Carter amnesty was the fulfillment of a campaign promise, and is seen by some as “healing a wound” left over from the Vietnam conflict. There was an unknown number of draft evaders (thought by some to be about 200,000) and a much smaller number of deserters (about 70,000) that were covered under the amnesty, but even fewer of these took advantage of the amnesty to return to…something other than what they had been doing for over a decade.
Though well-intentioned (like many things Carter did in office), it was nearly four years after the draft ended, and long after law enforcement and the military had been enforcing the draft and actively pursuing deserters.
On 20 January 1945 Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in for the fourth time as President of the United States. Though he was weak and tired and he had lost a great deal of his edge, it seemed as if he would be president forever.
He had less than three months to live.
The global conflict for which he is so closely associated was reaching its bloody end in Europe and the Pacific. The Germans had expended the last of their mobile reserves in the Ardennes; the Japanese had taken to crashing airplanes into ships. Yet, American factories kept grinding out the weapons of war, Britain and Russia eyed each other warily over the future of Europe, and in the New Mexico desert a handful of scientists had finally figured out how to make a series of explosive implosions that just might trigger an atomic bomb.
The conflict was ending, sooner or later, so what would peace look like? Would war crimes trials cause enough lingering resentment to derail any chance of a lasting peace? Would the nascent United Nations have enough power to prevent this global catastrophe from happening again? Would this new “television” threaten radio’s hold on popular entertainment? Would the Cubs do it this year?
So many questions greeted the new year and the new administration, but wiser heads already knew the answer to the question that no one dared ask: Who would be the next president, and when? Harry S Truman, the investigating senator from Missouri, had been chosen in 1944 to be the next vice-president, and almost anyone in FDR’s inner circle knew, watching him give his last inaugural address–his first from his chair for he was too weak to stand–that he would not last another summer, even if he lasted out the spring.
JDB Communications’s latest book, Crop Duster: A Novel of World War Two, has received rave reviews from everyone who’s read it, but apparently no one’s buying it. Even more baffling, Amazon shows more “used” copies for sale than have actually been sold over the counter…some as far afield as Great Britain.
Mighty good trick for a print-on-demand book that has only had a few domestic sales.
But enough whining. This blog is intended to entice you, my good readers, to buy JDBCOM books and articles. Today, we talk about Crop Duster, JDBCOM’s first foray into book-length fiction.
If what interests you is action, suspense, romance, drama, light comedy and a page-turning read, then Crop Duster is for you. Imagine B-17s and FW-190s mixing it up high over Germany amid murderous flak, deadly cold, and screaming metal. See in your mind’s eye a firestorm rising over Hamburg, a crippled JU-88 wafting through the fog onto an English field; a fuel-starved Fortress with no rados pounding through an Atlantic storm with a beautiful VIP aboard.
Yes, you’ll find all of that and more in Crop Duster. Available in paperback and E-book wherever fine books are sold.