HST and the Cold War in the Far East

If Harry Truman had had his way he would have continued being a senator from Missouri instead of presiding over the Senate as Vice President of the United States.  One rainy afternoon on April 12 1945, while Truman was gathered with Democratic bigwigs in the Speaker of the House’s office for a drink and some gossip,  he received a message to call the White House as soon he could.  He made the call and was told told to get to the Executive Mansion as fast as possible.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt had died in Hot Springs, Georgia.  Harry Truman was now the President of the United States.  In a few minutes he had gone from the presiding officer of the United States Senate to Commander in Chief of American armed forces worldwide.

Truman would be president for the last four months of World War II.  He would be the one who made the decision to drop two atom bombs on Japan to bring the war to a sudden close.  To the west of Japan, the Korean peninsula, which had been under control of Japan, was liberated in the north by the Soviet Union and in south by the United States.  The Americans and the Russians agreed on the 38th parallel as the border between South Korea and North Korea.  Both countries withdrew their troops in 1948, the same year Harry Truman pulled a political upset and beat New York governor  Thomas Dewey in a close presidential election. The president wanted to get the United States off the war footing where it had been for the last nine years.  He thought it was time for federal government to spend money on the domestic front:  housing, schools, etc.  After his election, Truman submitted a budget that cut the military expenses by a lot.  Most of the defense dollars went to support the American military in Europe, where the Russians had gained control of Eastern Europe and closed the border between East and West Germany  (with British, French, and American sectors of occupancy).  By this time the Russians had successfully tested their own atom bomb, causing the men who advised the president on national security to pause and reflect the course the nation was taking with its foreign policy.

So soon after the close of World War II, the President of the United States did not have the security advisers the occupant of the White House does today.  The National Security Council was only three years old in 1950, and this period was before  the likes of Henry Kissinger,  Zbigniew Brzezinski, and other global security experts. The  United States and its western allies had won World War II along with the Soviet Union, who had taken  over Eastern Europe and as Winston Churchill had said famously in the speech had gave at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri on March 5, 1946:

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an ‘Iron Curtain’ has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia;...”(1)

Two years later, the Chinese Communists sent the Nationalists high tailing to Formosa, thereby winning the Chinese Civil War.

Even though the United States had been involved in the liberation of  South Korea from the Japanese, that part of Korea was not included in the nation’s defense plans.  At this point, the United States had it’s hands full governing Japan as part of its occupation duties, so President Truman and his Secretary of State Dean Acheson decided to leave South Korea to the United Nations, who wanted to hold elections across the entire country, both north or south.  The Communists in the north opposed this as they had in eastern Europe.   The chief executive of the Republic of Korea, Syngman Rhee, agreed with the UN, and threatened to invade the People’s Republic of Korea, so when the United States withdrew their troops from the south, they left the South Korean leader with limited arms for his army.   One volume of the  Foreign Relations of the United States for 1950(2) describes the status of the Republic of Korea (ROK) from the point of the United States Department of State in the six months prior to the start of the Korean War.

The correspondence between the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Department of State personnel  revealed two problems causing dissension   between the two countries:  inflation in ROK and that nation’s movement  away from democratic processes. (3)   In April 1950, the focus changed markedly when Secretary Acheson received a communication from Korea describing the Korean Army ‘s victory over an estimated 600 North Korean trained guerrillas near the border. (4)

In a May issue of U. S. News and World Report, Senator Tom Connelly (D. Tex), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated that the United States would eventually abandon South Korea to the Communists.  The Secretary, Mr. Acheson, and others in the State Department fought back, denying that Connelly’s opinion was the policy of the United States government.   President Rhee told Ambassador John Muccio he resented the United States’ reluctance to supply his armed forces with surplus F-51 planes, particularly when the North Koreans were building their armed forces. (5)   Within weeks the American Embassy in Seoul sent recommendations for furnishing F-51s to the South Koreans. (6)

Throughout May 1950, Ambassador Muccio tried to get the Secretary and other top officials of the State Department to mention Korea in speeches and other communications with the press and invite people from other government departments to visit Korea when they were in the Far East. (7)

On June 23,  the State Department received a recommendation from the embassy to reduce personnel in KMAG (U.S. Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea) because the ROK Army was doing so well on its own. (8)  Early the next morning the North Korean  Army attacked across the 38th parallel.

My next blog:  “HST and Korean War”

(1) William Manchester and Paul Reid,  The Last Lion:  Defender of the Realm, p. 960.

(2) Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950: Korea, Documents 1-58 https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1950v07/comp1

(3)Documents 1-24.

(4)Document  25

(5) Documents 31- 33, 35-38.

(6) Document 41

(7) Documents 45, 54

(8) Document 58

For further reading

Clay Blair.  The Forgotten War:  America in Korea, 1950-1953.   Part I,  pages 3-59

Robert J. Dovonan.  Conflict and Crisis:  The Presidency of Harry Truman

Eric F. Goldman.  The Crucial Decade and After:  America, 1945-1960.

Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas.  The Wise Men:  Six Friends and the World They Made.

David McCullough.  Truman.

Cabell Phillips.  The Truman Presidency.

The Lusitania: United States One Step Closer to War

April is the 100th anniversary of the United States declaring war on Germany and its allies the Great Powers.   The Wilson administration’s decision to go to war was not taken lightly or in haste. In fact, it was almost two years after the sinking of the Lusitania that  The president  appeared before a joint session of Congress on April 2, 1917 and asked that body to declare war.  Woodrow Wilson’s  speech outlined a number German actions – specifically unrestricted submarine warfare, committing sabotage in the United States and attempting to lure Mexico into the war on their side –  that justified this country being involved in what many Americans viewed as a European conflict.   This will be a two-part blog:  the first dealing with the sinking of the Lusitania;  the second,   German efforts at sabotage in the United States  and the  Zimmermann Telegram.

The submarine brought a new dimension to warfare on the world’s oceans.   A vessel that traveled under the water, out of sight of other vessels, had an advantage over the ships they were targeting.   Before the submarine, if a warship stopped a merchant vessel belonging to an adversary or a neutral nation, their crew would board that ship, determine it was carrying forbidden cargo, send the crew safely off, and then sink it.   During the the early part of the Great War, submarines would surface, would use that procedure and sink the ship with a torpedo.   Neutral shipping would be left alone by the Germans as long they were not carrying contraband.   That is until the British started using neutral nations’ ships, such as American freighters, to carry war materials.  Early in February 2015, the German government stated that the area around the British Isles would be considered to a war zone and ships carrying contraband would be targets for U boats.  The German action was partly in response to the Royal Navy blockade of Germany’s coast. (1)

 The RMS Lusitania was scheduled to sail from New York on May 1, 1915, with cargo and passengers on board and Liverpool as her destination.  The German Embassy in the United States took out an advertisement in the New York newspapers warning Americans not to sail on British ships.   For the most part that warning was ignored by the Americans who had booked passage on her.

The day before the  Lusitania sailed out of New York harbor, a U boat backed out of its berth at Emden, Germany, followed the estuary of the Ems River into the North Sea, and set a northerly course that would eventually take it around the British Isles and Ireland to it’s patrol sector in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland.   Periodically the U-20  would send radio messages back to it’s base in Germany, unaware that the Royal Navy code breakers in Room 40 in the Admiralty in London were intercepting them. Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger and the commanders of  the six other U boats at sea were under orders from the Hochseeflotte (High Seas Fleet) to hunt British ships and sink them without warning. ( 1 )

While the codebreakers in Room 40 knew the approximate location of the German U boats, they had no knowledge of the position of British passenger or merchant ships in the waters around the British Isles, where the submarines were on the prowl looking for targets.  Messages had been sent to masters of British vessels whose voyages took them past the south coast of Ireland to avoid headlands, choose a course that took up the middle of St. George’s Channel,  zigzag to minimize their ships as targets,  and to time their arrival at the Liverpool bar so they wouldn’t to stop to take on a pilot.

Meanwhile, in the United States, President Woodward Wilson was trying to find a way for the United States to bring peace to the war fought mostly in Europe.  When the conflict had broken out in the summer of 1914, Wilson had told the American people to be “neutral in thought as well as action.”   President Wilson sent his closest advisor Colonel Edward M. House on a peace mission to Europe  in January 1915 on the Lusitania.  On that voyage, the captain raised the United States flag when the vessel approached the Irish coast.

Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger’s U boat reached the southern coast of Ireland on 5 May.  Before he encountered the Lusitania on 7 May,  Schwieger attacked four other vessels.  He sunk two of them with torpedoes, shelled one after sending its crew away,  the torpedo he used for the fourth  mis-fired.  When the Lusitania appeared in his periscope, Schwieger released a torpedo.  It struck the ship on the starboard side, causing an explosion.  There was a second explosion minutes later causing the liner to sink in eighteen minutes.   Only 764 persons of the 1962 total of passengers and crew survived.  Of the dead a number were women and children,  and 128 were Americans.  After the fact, the U boat commander claimed he didn’t recognize the profile of the liner until after he had launched the torpedo and a crew member recognized her.   Most authors who have written about the tragedy claim Schwieger was being disingenuous. The German government justified the sinking by claiming the liner was carry munitions in its cargo holds, pointing to the second explosion as proof. In Great Britain, the sinking raised a number of questions; primarily, why hadn’t the Royal Navy sent destroyers to guide the Lusitania through treacherous waters where German submarines had been active.   On 10 May, the First Lord of the Admiralty (Winston Churchill) appeared at the Dispatch Box in the House of Commons to answer members’ questions.  Part of  one of  Churchill’s answers: “I have stated that two warnings were sent to the vessel, together with directions as to her course. I made that quite clear. If the hon. Member asks if a special escort was sent out my reply is “No.” No exception was made to the regular method by which our seaborne commerce is conducted.” (2 )

For almost a year extensive diplomatic correspondence was carried out between the American State Department and the German Foreign Office. (4 ) In February 1916, the Germans agreed to quit sinking neutral vessels.  America stepped back from war, for at the least time being.

(1) For those readers who want to read the German government’s note, use the following: https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1915Supp/subch1

(2) Patrick Beesly, Room 40: British Naval Intelligence, 1914-1918, is the best source on Room 40, but the only copy in Cardinal in owned by Forsyth County’s Central Library, which is closed for renovation.   Beesly lists the reasons that could have contributed to the liner sinking so fast and questions the disappearance of documents that could answer several question relating to the Lusitania.

(3) For the full transcript of Churchill’s statement, use this link:   http:n//hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1915/may/10/statement-by-mr-churchi

(4)To read this correspondence: https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1915Supp/ch8

For further reading:

Christopher Andrew,  Her Majesty’s Secret Service,  pp. 86-127.

A. Scott Berg,   Wilson,  pp. 362-369.

Erik Larson, Dead Wake:  The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.

Diana Preston, Lusitania, an Epic Tragedy.

 

Churchill’s “The World Crisis”

As we get closer to November 11, Veteran’s Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in the UK, we need to remember those have sacrificed their lives so we can live in freedom.  One hundred years ago the Great War was being fought in Europe and the Middle East.  As I do every year at this time, I remember my uncle, Patrick Morrison, who served in the Seaforth Highlanders and survived the Great War, both on the western front and at  Gallipoli, which is the subject of this blog!

Followers of my blog will have deduced by now I am a admirer of Winston Churchill.  I have in my personal library most of his important works of history and a lot of books written about him.  The one book of Churchill’s I was missing and wanted was his The World Crisis , a four volume history of the Great War.   A few months ago, I thought about buying the one volume paperback edition of his abridgement, but before I could, a co-worker found a hardback copy at an estate sale and presented it to me without knowing  how much I desired that particular  volume.

In the earlier  world war, Churchill was not the hero he was to the British people he was in the Second World War.  To be sure he was in the top ranks of the government, but not as prime minister.  He started out the conflict as First Lord of the Admiralty (the political head of the Royal Navy), running the most powerful arm of the British armed forces, scattered all over the world; working with the sea lords, the professional commanders of the fleet.

For more than a century the enemy lay just across the English Channel in France, but now the foe was the German High Seas fleet based on the east side of the North Sea, and the ally was the French.   Accordingly, when the threat of war became clear in August 1914, the fleet was dispatched to a base at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands just north of Scotland, where it could easily confront the Germans on the North Sea.  Great Britain was drawn into the war by guaranteeing the neutrality of Belgium from invasion by the Huns, as the Germans were called then.  An ultimatum was sent to the German government, due to expire at midnight August 4, 1914.  Churchill describes the final minutes leading up to that fatal midnight thusly:

 “It was 11 o’clock at night–12 by German time–when the ultimatum expired.  The windows of the Admiralty were thrown open in the warm night air.  Under the roof…were gathered a small group of Admirals and Captains and a cluster of clerks, pencil in hand,  waiting.  Along the Mall from the direction of the Palace the sound of an immense concourse singing ‘God Save the King’ floated in.  On this deep wave there broke the chimes of Big Ben; and, as the first stroke boomed out, a rustle of movement swept the across the room.  The war telegram, which meant ‘Commence hostilities against Germany’ was flashed to ships and and establishments  under the White Ensign all over the world.  I walked across Horse Guard’s Parade to the Cabinet room [at 10 Downing Street] and reported to the Prime Minister and the Ministers who were assembled there that the deed was done.”

Churchill’s main contribution, and perhaps downfall, at the Admiralty was the Dardanelles campaign.  The Dardanelles is the body of water that connects the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara in northwest Turkey.  As long as the Dardanelles was in the hands of the Turks, the Russians were blocked from a southern all year route out of Black Sea past Constantinople  and westward to the Aegean Sea.  Of all the Allies’ ill gotten attacks against Germany and its supporters, the Dardanelles was one of the most unfortunate and Churchill was at the heart of the planning of this fiasco.

At the heart of this unfortunate plan was the fact that the land war on the Western Front had reached a stalemate barely four months into the war.  Churchill wanted, as he did in World War II, to advance allied forces in the Mediterranean, this time  against the Austrians and Turks, who were both a part of the Central Powers.   According to Churchill, the planning for attacks against what was left of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) began in January 1915.   Churchill convinced the First Sea Lord, Admiral Fisher, of his plan to use an Allied fleet made up partially of older dreadnoughts and some modern ships to force their way up the Dardanelles toward Constantinople.    There were differing opinions as to whether this could be accomplished by the Navy alone or whether troops would be needed to land on the Gallipoli Peninsula which bordered on the left side of the Dardanelles.

After two months of planning, the Royal Navy, along with a smaller group of French ships, attacked the Turkish forts along the waterway.  The Turks, expecting a attack, mined the Dardanelles between its opening to the Aegean Sea and the Narrows, which guarded to entrance to the Sea of Marmara.    The modern battleships of the British fleet were out of range of the Turkish forts until they entered the Dardanelles and came in contact with the Turkish mines, some of which the Allies did not know the location of.   The French admiral’s flagship was sunk with virtually all hands lost.  Some of the British ships were severely damaged and retreated.  The War Council, at Churchill’s behest, voted to use troops to invade the Gallipoli Peninsula.    The causalities from the invasion were horrific and Churchill was the scapegoat and he was sacked from the Admiralty.

Reading Churchill’s version of  events while he was First Lord of the Admiralty reminded me of a Max Hastings quote I used before when I was the discussing Churchill’s role in the Dardanelles/Gallipoli affair:  “Churchill believed himself exceptionally fitted for the direction of armies, navies, and air forces.  He perceived no barrier to such a role in the fact that he possessed neither military staff training nor experience of higher field command.”   Comparing his activities in both the world wars, he made his greatest errors in the Mediterranean theater.   When you are reading Churchill’s account of both wars, Hastings’ opinion  is very apt.

 

GALLIPOLI

This is a post I’ve done before, last year in fact.  But, this past Monday,April 25, was the 100 years anniversary since the Allies landed troops on the Gallipoli peninsula, primarily  the Anzacs, men from Australasia and New Zealand.   Memorial services were held this week those two countries, as well in London, where the Queen placed a wreath at Cenotaph on Whitehall.   Gallipoli has family connection for me.  My uncle Patrick Morrison, served in the Gordon Highlanders, part of the troops from Great Britain that were stationed there, in addition to the men from the South Pacific.   These are the reasons I thought it appropriate to repeat it.

The Gallipoli campaign was a side bar in 1915, the second year of the First World War .  Gallipoli is a peninsula in northwest Turkey on the west side of a waterway leading from the Black Sea past Istanbul (it was called Constantinople in 1915) to the Adriatic Sea.   Because Russia was fighting on the side the Allies in the Great War, Turkey chose to side with the Central Powers and blocked Russia’s outlet  through the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles to the Adriatic Sea.   To restore Russia’s outlet to the west, and to take the focus off the stalemate on the Western Front, the Allies planned an attack on the Gallipoli and the Dardanelles in the spring of 1915.

The chief advocate of this plan was Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty¹.  At first, a fleet of obsolete  British and French battle cruisers and battleships would attack the Turkish forts lining  both sides of the Dardanelles, and with accompanying minesweepers would force their force way to the Turkish capital.  But, with help their German allies, the Turkish army had strengthen the fortresses and laid mines in the waterway. As a result, the naval attack failed:  three ships were sunk, one with over 600 men on board, and several more damaged.

The next step was to land troops on the Cape Hellos end  of  the peninsula and it’s western shore, where Churchill and his colleagues didn’t think there would be much opposition.   But the Turks were dug in the high cliffs overlooking the beaches where the landings were taking place. The Allied force, including members of the French Foreign Legion, Anzac troops from Australia and New Zealand,  as well as British forces from India and the Western Front, was pinned down as soon as it landed. The casualties were high at the outset and continued   in this vein for the next eight months. The planning for this expedition was faulty, and the commanders chosen to lead it  were not given the resources necessary to carry out the objectives of their mission.  As a result, two  offenses, one soon after the landings and one in August,  failed with even heavier casualties. Eventually, like on the Western Front, Gallipoli devolved into a stalemate with both sides ensconced in their trenches, until February 1916, when all Allied personnel were withdrawn.

The British Government, looking for a scapegoat, after the initial attack, sacked Churchill from his post as First Lord of the Admiralty,  but kept him in the government.   The August failure toppled the government and Churchill,  who was also out, was offered a command in the Western Front in Belgium.    At end of the war, he was eventually was posted to the Colonial Office, where he presided over the founding of  the modern Iraq.  In writing about Churchill  during World War II, Max Hastings said this, “Churchill believed himself exceptionally fitted for the direction of armies, navies, and air forces.  He perceived no barrier to such a role in the fact, that he possessed neither military staff training nor experience of higher field command.”²   In this context, he evidently didn’t learn his lesson after Gallipoli.  More on Churchill in my next blog.

¹The political head of the Royal Navy.  The person holding this office was a Member of Parliament, part of cabinet and served under the Prime Minister.

²Max Hastings, Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945, p. 102.

John Keegan, The First World War, Pages 234 -249

Martin Gilbert,  The First World WarPages 105-06, 140-41, 146-153, 161-171, 180-85, 188-91, 207-11.

Carlo D’Este, Warlord, Pages 237-262

William Manchester, The Last Lion,  Pages 511-576

The Marshall Cavendish Illustrated Encyclopedia of World War I:  3: 716-732, 761-777  4: 1130-1141

Line of Fire:  Gallipoli (Video)

BOOKS AND MORE BOOKS

This, I believe, is the 50th blog in this series, so I thought I would review, to the best of my memory, some of books I have read over my lifetime.  I have always had books at home.  Being I was a history major in undergraduate and graduate school (not counting MSLS degree) and history is a reading intensive subject, my education brought me in contact with even more books.
Like me, Emily Dickinson loved books and even wrote a poem about them:

There is no Frigate like a Book

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –
                                        EMILY DICKINSON
 I do not recall what my parents read to me before I could read.  Babar is the first character in book I can remember.  Enid Blyton, who was a famous author of children’s adventure stories in Great Britain, had published six of the “Famous Five” series by the time I left Scotland in 1948. I think I had read them all.
When we moved to Memphis in 1949, one the first things my mother did was to visit the old Cossitt Library downtown to get us both a library card.     There I discovered Joseph Altsheler, who wrote a number of series of historical novels for what we now call middle school boys. (I was delighted to discover Altsheler’s books are still available in either paperback or Kindle editions from Amazon.)  As a sixth grader and on into junior high I read his books and a series of biographies of famous baseball players and managers and other sports figures.   In fiction my choice was also sports including John Tunis, who wrote about all sports, not  just basketball, baseball, and football.
In high school and college I had little time for pleasure reading, but when I did, I read Leon Uris, James Jones, and James Michener each of whom wrote historical novels, some based on their experiences in World War II.  Meantime, in classes, I was introduced to a number books I still have in my personal library:  The Tennessee: the Old River by Donald Davidson, which I had to read for class in Tennessee History;  and  Mont Saint Michel and Chartres by Henry Adams, which was required reading for Medieval History.  A graduate reading course in Southern history made me familiar with William Faulkner’s  Absalom, Absalom!, Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, and Eugene Genovese’s powerful study of the world slaves lived in Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made.    For other classes I read Nixon Agonistes by Gary Wills and The Quiet American by Graham Greene.
In the mid-1970s a colleague introduced me to a genre of fiction that has given me pleasure ever since:  the mystery.  In this vein, I just learned that one of favourite mystery writers, Ruth Rendell, died last May.   She was equally at home with psychological mysteries or police procedural  novels.  In fact, her Inspector Wexford series was adapted for television.   Anne PerryTess Gerritsen, Rhys  Bowen, Jacqueline Winspear, and, of course Agatha Christie, are a just a few of my favourite mystery authors.
Mysteries are my habitual fiction reading tastes.  In non-fiction I tend to read military (mainly Civil War, WWI and WWII) history and biography.  Such interests have seeped through onto this blog.  See, for example, previous  blogs on Shelby Foote, Winston Churchill, and John Keegan.  During the last few years, when I’ve evidently have had more time,  I have read and am reading multi-volume works such as Foote’s The Civil War, Douglas Southall Freeman’s Lee’s Lieutenants: a Study in Command, Rick Atkinson’s The Liberation Trilogy,  about the American army in North Africa and Europe, Volumes 1 and 2 of Ian W, Toll’s in progress Pacific War Trilogyand Carl Sandburg’s massive biography of Abraham Lincoln, The Prairie Years and The War Years.
About fifteen years ago, I decided to keep a log showing what I had read and the date I finished the book.   Beginning in 2002, I have, on my computer, a complete list of books I have read each year.  I also keep a record of the number of pages in each volume so I can see how many pages I have read.  (BWT: I don’t tell my wife because she thinks I read too much already!)  That came in handy a few years ago when a friend accused me of reading nothing but boring history books, I could tell that person that over the past few years I had read fiction and non-fiction equally.   And I plan on doing that as long I can read!

CHURCHILL II, 1939-1965

When Winston Churchill became the First Lord of the Admiralty for the second time in 1939, he ended his decade exile from government.   Then Neville Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister on May 10, 1940 and Winston Churchill assumed that office.   Soon afterwards he addressed the British people and later the House of Commons.  He told both groups he could only offer, “blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”   As Prime Minister he announced to the Commons he had formed a government made up representatives of Tories and Labour to meet the crisis  situation on the continent caused by the German blitzkrieg.   The French forces and BEF (British Expeditionary Force) were retreating, with the latter in the danger of being surrounded with their backs to the English Channel at Dunkirk. Eventually, the French government surrendered and BEF was rescued by an armada of boats of all sizes and shapes. Later, in September 1940, the blitz, the bombing of English cities, began;  the aerial Battle of Britain was underway.  The Royal Air Force (RAF) kept the Germans from gaining air superiority over England and forced Hitler to postpone Operation Sea Lion, the cross-channel invasion.

Earlier, when Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty, he opened correspondence with Franklin D. Roosevelt, the President of the United States.  The two men kept the communication open throughout the blitz and into 1941.  In June that year, Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, turning his military might  eastward, away from Britain.  Two months later, Churchill boarded a battleship, sailing to Newfoundland to meet with FDR.   That was the first of eleven times during the war that the two men met, including lengthy stays at the White House and the president’s estate in the Hudson Valley in New York and twice in North Africa, once in Iran, and once in Crimea, in the southern part of the Soviet Union.   Stalin joined Roosevelt and Churchill in the last two conferences.  Churchill as met with Stalin without Roosevelt.

After the United States joined the war in December 1941, Churchill tried to convince Roosevelt to commit American troops and resources to defeating Hitler’s Germany instead of going after the Japanese, whose attack on Pearl Harbor brought America into the conflict.   Roosevelt was convinced that crossing the English Channel to attack German forces in Europe was the best way to introduce American troops into the European theater.   Churchill and his military staff convinced the Americans to land in North Africa, to help the British fight Gen. Rommel’s German army in the desert.  With Stalin trying to the Allies to commit to a second front in Western Europe, it was decided the invasion would take place in the spring of 1944 with Gen. Dwight Eisenhower  as the commander.

As the war processed, Churchill felt his relationship with Roosevelt was getting strained.  There were a number of reasons for this:  first, after Stalin joined the summits, Churchill found himself playing a less significant role in the meetings;  Roosevelt was playing more attention to the Russian leader and less to the British Prime Minister.   Another factor was Churchill’s determination to keep the British empire together in a post-war world, which countered  Roosevelt’s policy to free nations from the British yoke after the defeat of Germany and Japan.   A final reason was the British military was having less of say in the strategic decisions how the war was being fought.  At any rate, when Roosevelt died in April 1945, Churchill felt he had lost a dear friend.

As the the Allies were getting closer to defeating Germany, the British Labour Party decided  to end its participation in the War Cabinet and got Churchill to call a General Election, that was to take place in the summer of 1945.    The election was held on 5 July, but the votes were not counted until 26 July to allow for the votes of service men and women who were abroad to be counted.  In the meantime Churchill went to Germany to meet with Stalin and Harry Truman, who succeeded Roosevelt, taking Clement Attlee, the leader of the Labour Party with him.   The two returned to London for the vote count, which gave the Labour Party a solid majority in Commons.  The British people had rejected Churchill, who now was the leader of the Opposition.  However, six years later, Churchill was back in power.

In his second term as Prime Minister, Churchill lost an other close supporter, George VI.   The monarch died of lung cancer in February 1952, while his eldest daughter was on tour in South Africa.   Churchill became the first of twelve Prime Ministers who have served under Elizabeth II.  Churchill remained her as Prime Minister until 1954, when his health became an issue.

In the post-war years, Churchill continued to write, finishing his History of the English Speaking People and publishing his memoirs of World War II.  He also traveled abroad, notably giving his famous “Iron Curtain” speech in the  United States.   In 1952, he had a re-recurrence of the heart problems that had bothered him during the war.   In 1953, at the age of 78, he had a stroke.  In the spring of the following year, he resigned.  Following four additional strokes, Churchill died at 90 years of  age in January 1965.

Max Hastings.  Winston’s War.

John Keegan.  Winston Churchill.

John Lukas.  Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat.

William Manchester and John Reid.  The Last Lion, Vol. 3.

Secrets of Leadership: Churchill (Video)

Winston Churchill: The Whole Truth (Video)

Gallipoli Campaign

The Gallipoli campaign was a side bar in 1915, the second year of the First World War .  Gallipoli is a peninsula in northwest Turkey on the west side of a waterway leading from the Black Sea past Istanbul (it was called Constantinople in 1915) to the Adriatic Sea.   Because Russia was fighting on the side the Allies in the Great War, Turkey chose to side with the Central Powers and blocked Russia’s outlet  through the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles to the Adriatic Sea.   To restore Russia’s outlet to the west, and to take the focus off the stalemate on the Western Front, the Allies planned an attack on the Gallipoli and the Dardanelles in the spring of 1915.

The chief advocate of this plan was Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty¹.  At first, a fleet of obsolete  British and French battle cruisers and battleships would attack the Turkish forts lining  both sides of the Dardanelles, and with accompanying minesweepers would force their force way to the Turkish capital.  But, with help their German allies, the Turkish army had strengthen the fortresses and laid mines in the waterway. As a result, the naval attack failed:  three ships were sunk, one with over 600 men on board, and several more damaged.

The next step was to land troops on the Cape Hellos end  of  the peninsula and it’s western shore, where Churchill and his colleagues didn’t think there would be much opposition.   But the Turks were dug in the high cliffs overlooking the beaches where the landings were taking place. The Allied force, including members of the French Foreign Legion, Anzac troops from Australia and New Zealand,  as well as British forces from India and the Western Front, was pinned down as soon as it landed. The casualties were high at the outset and continued   in this vein for the next eight months. The planning for this expedition was faulty, and the commanders chosen to lead it  were not given the resources necessary to carry out the objectives of their mission.  As a result, two  offenses, one soon after the landings and one in August,  failed with even heavier casualties. Eventually, like on the Western Front, Gallipoli devolved into a stalemate with both sides ensconced in their trenches, until February 1916, when all Allied personnel were withdrawn.

The British Government, looking for a scapegoat, after the initial attack, sacked Churchill from his post as First Lord of the Admiralty,  but kept him in the government.   The August failure toppled the government and Churchill,  who was also out, was offered a command in the Western Front in Belgium.    At end of the war, he was eventually was posted to the Colonial Office, where he presided over the founding of  the modern Iraq.  In writing about Churchill  during World War II, Max Hastings said this, “Churchill believed himself exceptionally fitted for the direction of armies, navies, and air forces.  He perceived no barrier to such a role in the fact that he possessed neither military staff training nor experience of higher field command.”²   In this context, he evidently didn’t learn his lesson after Gallipoli.  More on Churchill in my next blog.

¹The political head of the Royal Navy.  The person holding this office was a Member of Parliament, part of cabinet and served under the Prime Minister.

²Max Hastings, Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945, p. 102.

John Keegan, The First World War, Pages 234 -249

Martin Gilbert,  The First World WarPages 105-06, 140-41, 146-153, 161-171, 180-85, 188-91, 207-11.

Carlo D’Este, Warlord, Pages 237-262

William Manchester, The Last Lion,  Pages 511-576

The Marshall Cavendish Illustrated Encyclopedia of World War I:  3: 716-732, 761-777  4: 1130-1141

 Line of Fire:  Gallipoli (Video)

JCOC: The Jim Casada Outdoor Collection

Most of the adult book collection at the Marianna Black Library in Bryson City is housed in the main reading room, but if you step to the right, go through the opening framed by the flags into the room that houses the reference collection, you will find the Jim Casada Outdoor Collection (JCOC).   Casada grew up living next door to Marianna Black, the founder of the Bryson City library.  He went on to become a history professor while not losing his love for hunting and fishing he learned from his father.    At present, retired from the classroom, he contributes a weekly column to the Smoky Mountain Times that combines local history and outdoor lore.   The book collection, named for him, consists of  books from his personal library on hunting, fishing, other types of outdoor recreation, geography, history, biography,  science, and travel he donated to the library.  Instead of discussing the whole collection I am going to spotlight a few  individual books of general interest that can be only found in the JCOC.

For example, Mary Roberts Rinehart was better known as a writer of mystery novels, but her inclusion in the JCOC is a non-fiction work detailing her experiences camping, mainly in the western United States.  The book titled Out Trail is obviously a collection  of articles Mrs. Rinehart had published in Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan in the early 1920s.  A greater part of the book describes a automobile trip she took into the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona with about twenty other people.  When reading her descriptions, one has to remember she was doing this almost a hundred years ago when highways were not what they are today.  One other  chapter details a trip she made with a female companion and an armed escort into the Mexico of Pancho Villa, hunting long horn sheep in or about 1917.

Mary Roberts Rinehart is not only adventurous woman with a presence in the JCOC.  Gertrude Bell, an English woman, who spent most her life in in the Middle East, first as traveler, then as an archeologist, before become a British spy in that region during World War I,   During that period she was friends with Lawrence of Arabia and Winston Churchill, while he was in the Colonial Office.  Along with Churchill, Bell is given credit for the founding of the modern Iraq.  H. V. F. Winstone’s biography of Bell, titled Gertrude Bell is almost 40 years old and was published well before  Western governments’  current interest Iraq’s politics.

If you were wondering why Texas  was having trouble with flooding recently, you can deduct at least part of the reason from reading Verne Huser’s Rivers of Texas.   He points out the four branches of the Trinity River have been prone to flooding.   Plus the fact that this river travels through the two populous urban areas of the state:  Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, where development is still going in the floodplain and you have a recipe for disaster as happened this year.  Beside the Trinity, Huser discusses the other  river basins in the state.

I have feeling A Boy and His Gun , by E. C. Janes has been a classic in its genre ever since it was published in 1951.   The author gives advice in this book to all boys interested in hunting with guns that he first gave to his nephew, who was killed in World War II.  Janes goes into details of a care and safe use of different kinds of guns from air rifle to the shotgun.   The reader also learn which game are better hunted with which weapon.

 Jerry Dennis fills The River Home:  an Angler’s Explorations with essays and stories about fishing.   Dennis lives  near Traverse City, Michigan on the Old Mission Peninsula  that juts out into Lake Michigan.   The essays and stories in this are not restricted to the United States for settings:  Dennis goes fishing in Iceland and southern Chile, for example.   Some of his experiences are humorous, such the couple he and fishing buddy ran into fishing in the all together  in the Yellowstone River.

Last,  I’ll close with a book filled with quotes related to the outdoor pursuits that the greater part of Jim Casada’s collection  targets:  Passages:  The Greatest Quotations From Sporting Literature published by “Sporting Classics,” edited by Chuck Wechsler  and Jim Casada.  In this book you will  see quotations from  such notables as Zane Grey, Robert Ruark, Herbert Hoover, Jose Ortega y  Gasset, William Faulkner, and some writers the average reader is not familiar with .

I hope the above listed books will whet some reader’s appetite The next time you are the Marianna Black Library in Bryson City, visit the Jim Casada Outdoor Collection.  I’ll bet you will come away with something to read.

The Roosevelts II: Franklin and Eleanor

A wedding in which the President of United States gives away the bride who is not his daughter is rare.  That is what happened when Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt married in 1905.   The bride was President Theodore Roosevelt’s niece and the groom his fifth cousin.  Franklin and Eleanor were fifth cousins, once removed.   Franklin was raised by possessive mother, Sara.  This caused some problems when he chose his bride to be.  Sara didn’t like Eleanor and tried break up their relationship before the wedding.

Both Theodore and Franklin traveled similar political paths to the presidency. As young men each served in the state assembly of New York and later as  the governor of the state.   On the national level both occupied the post of Assistant Secretary of the Navy.  Franklin held that office during World War I.  It was after he returned from a fact finding trip to Europe that Eleanor found he had betrayed her by carrying an on an affair with  Lucy Mercer, who was Eleanor’s social secretary.

When Roosevelt was 39, while vacationing with his family on the Atlantic coast near the Canadian border, he became ill and suffered paralysis of his lower body.   After he became president, most Americans did not realize how incapacitated he was.  The press respected his condition and never took pictures of him in his wheelchair.    While he was in the White House, he vacationed at Warm Springs, Georgia, where he mingled with others in similar condition.

Franklin, becoming president in the midst of the most serious economic crisis the United States has ever faced, started programs such as New Deal to benefit the average citizen. When campaigning for president in the heart of the Great Depression, Franklin attacked President Herbert Hoover for his indecisive policies  during the economic panic that started with collapse of the stock market in 1929.   Then, in his inaugural speech, FDR told the American people, “The only we have to fear, is fear itself.” He then declared a Bank Holiday to  stop the run on the nation’s banks.

Likewise, when confronted by the crisis brought about by the growth of Japanese power in the western Pacific, Franklin Roosevelt dealt with it by decisive action.  He decided to  limit shipments of oil to Japan, especially when that nation invaded China in the mid-1930s.  Meanwhile in Europe, Hitler came to power and gradually expanded German territory before France and Great Britain supported Poland after the Germans invaded there in September, 1939.   Roosevelt used the example of lending his neighbor a hose if his neighbor’s house was on fire to justify sending help to Britain prior to the Japanese attack  on Pearl Harbor 1941.

Roosevelt and Winston Churchill became the leaders of the allied effort to defeat both Japan and Germany.  The Russians, under Stalin, who the victim of a double-cross by the German leader, kept advocating for a second front in Europe, but that was not to come until the spring of 1944. The war in the European theater ended less than a year later. Meanwhile, the Allies began to march across the Pacific, island by island, toward the Japanese home islands, where the war ended in August 1944, after two A-bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

President Roosevelt was not in good health when he ran for re-election in unprecedented third and fourth terms in the elections 0f 1940 and 1944, but he and his advisors kept his real condition from the public.  His health was not helped by the traveling he had to do to attend the many conferences held abroad to plan allied strategy. After he returned from the Yalta Conference early in 1945, his health had obviously deteriorated, as evidenced by the fact he had to sit while giving his report to Congress.  Within two months he was dead at 63.   Eleanor was shocked with the revelation that Franklin’s former mistress, Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd,  had been with him at Warm Springs, Georgia, when he died.  FDR’s funeral train took his body to Washington and on to Hyde Park, New York, where he was buried.

Eleanor, who had been Franklin’s eyes and ears during the depression and the  war developed an active life of her own.  She continued to write her daily newspaper column  and was later appointed an envoy to the United Nations.  She lived a full life until she died in 1962 at the age of 78.

Stephen

For further reading:

Conrad Black.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Blanche W. Cook.  Eleanor Roosevelt,  Volume 1, 1884-1932.         Volume 2, 1933-1938.

Doris Kearns Goodwin.  No Ordinary Time.

Robert Klara.  FDR’s Funeral Train.

Joseph Lash.  Eleanor and Franklin.

Joseph Persico.  Franklin and Lucy.

Jean Edward Smith.  FDR.

D-Day, Part One

By Stephen

Early in June 1944, seventy years ago, Southern England saw thousands of Allied troops gathering in preparation for the invasion of Europe.  Over 400 miles to the north I was a Scottish schoolboy approaching my sixth birthday in Aberdeen.  I don’t remember, but I am sure I heard reports  on the progress of the war from the BBC on the wireless (radio). By June, 1944, we felt safer on the north-east coast of Scotland,  because Aberdeen had not been bombed in over a year, after having attacked 25 times from late 1939 until April 1943.  A year later, preparations for the invasion of Europe was going forth far to the south.*

Ever since the United States entered the war in December 1941, Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minster, was trying to convince President Roosevelt to agree to a cross-channel invasion as early as 1943 to help take the pressure of the Soviet Union.  However, he had to settle for American troops landing in North Africa in late 1942.   After driving the Germans out, from there the Allies, under the command Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower invaded Sicily and Italy. Eisenhower was then promoted to the Supreme Commander, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF).

On the other side of the English Channel, German intelligence was trying to determine where enemy troops were going to land.  In the meantime the German army were building formidable  defenses to block Allied landing where ever they planned to invade. These defenses were under the command of the “Desert Fox,”  Erwin Rommel. Once the decision was made to invade and the site selected, the SHAEF intelligence did everything possible to mislead the Germans as to where the landings would take place.     The Allies were trying to get the Germans to believe the invasion would take place in either Norway or Pas de Calais on the English Channel.   Actually, the landings were to take place on Normandy coast in northwest France.

Initially, June 5, was the date picked for the invasion, but the weather worsened, postponing the operation for twenty-four hours.  In  the greatest armada ever assembled, 5, 000 vessels  set sail for the coast of Normandy, carrying ammunition, transportation, food and other supplies for the 160,000 troops that were landing.  In the darkness before dawn, Allied soldiers and machines were loaded onto landing craft, which circled in rough seas 13 miles off the coast of Normandy, before heading to the beaches.

There were five landing zones in Normandy,  east to west:  Sword, Juno,  Gold, Omaha and Utah.  The first three were British and Canadian and the last two American. Allied paratroopers were dropped a few miles inland before the landings started.  From the skies, Allied bombers were dropping heavy explosives on the German defenses.  Behind the invading forces, at sea, was a barrage of artillery coming from everything from battleships to destroyers.  Between Omaha and Utah Beaches was Pointe du Hoc,  a steep cliff that housed a large caliber German gun.   American Army Rangers had the task of silencing that weapon.

H hour was 6:30 A.M., June 6, 1944.

To be continued!

*Les Taylor, Luftwaffe Over Scotland, 2010.  (Not available on Cardinal)

For further reading:

Rick Atkinson,  The Guns at Last Light, Part One

Anthony Beevor,  D-Day: The Battle for Normandy

Max Hastings,  Overlord:  D-Day and the Battle for Normandy

John Keegan.  Six Armies in Normandy

Adrian R. Lewis, Omaha Beach: a Flawed Victory

Ben MacIntyre,  Double Cross:  The True Story of the D-Day Spies

Cornelius Ryan,  The Longest Day, June 6, 1944

Stephan Talty,  Agent Garbo

Military History Online