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    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 14th February 2014 (All posts by )

    A Valentine’s Day story from Sheila O’Malley

    Some thoughts on the color green from Gerard Van der Leun

    Germany’s war against homeschooling, and Obama’s complicity therein

    Early industrial capitalism: myths and realities

    Cashing in on connections in Washington

    The crisis of the administrative state

    Is Common Core encouraging a generic and simplistic approach to literature?

    Why does the question “do you like horror movies?” have predictive power when it comes to how long a relationship will last?

    Liberalism and the credentialist conceit

     

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Economics & Finance, Education, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Political Philosophy, Politics | 2 Comments »

    History Friday – Becoming the Other, Part 2

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th February 2014 (All posts by )

    Part one is here – a meditation on how suddenly a group of citizens became the ‘other’ during the Civil War.

    In the wake of a military crackdown on a region perceived to be in rebellion – philosophically and perhaps politically – against the State of Texas and the Confederacy, a series of military trials of an assortment of civilians and local militia volunteers was held in San Antonio in the late summer and early autumn of 1862. Storekeeper Julius Schlickum was the first convicted, although no one testifying at his trial could say anything worse of him than his enthusiasm for the Confederacy was markedly restrained. The second prisoner convicted in the commission hearings had considerably more meat and justification to the charges laid against him; Philip Braubach, formerly elected sheriff of Gillespie County. Braubach was an outspoken Unionist, an associate of Jacob Keuchler – another Unionist, a farmer and surveyor who had trained as a forester in Germany.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Germany, History, Politics, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    To Become the ‘Other’

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd February 2014 (All posts by )

    I suppose that my thoughts were running this week on the theory and practice of ‘otherizing’ because my work in the Tiny Bidness has brought me full-face with a prime example of how upright good citizens, patriotic as they saw it, were brought by a turn of the political wheel into being accused criminals, brought before a military commission and charged with crimes which – if found guilty of by the tribunal – could have drawn a capital sentence. That the several found guilty of disloyalty to the régime and sentenced to death, imprisonment, exile or a heavy fine did in most cases, escape the worst of it and return to lives of post-war prosperity and respect must have been of cold comfort at the time.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement | 8 Comments »

    Tarawa and the Role of the USN’s Visual Communication Style

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 31st January 2014 (All posts by )

    In my last column I spoke of the impact of the US Navy’s visual communication style on the night fighting in the Solomons, and how it negatively impacted the “Black Shoe” surface ship officer’s ability to adapt to the radar and radio centered reality of night combat with the Imperial Japanese Navy. This column will explore how this communication style impacted the use of LVTs, or “Landing Vehicle Tracked” at Tarawa, and compare and contrast how that style interacted with how the US Army and US Marine Corps approached fighting with LVTs later in the Pacific War, and what it meant for the future.

    THE BLOODLETTING
    The assault on the island of Betio, in the Tarawa atoll, was the worst 76 hours of bloodletting in the history of the USMC. In the words of Colonel Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret):

    The final casualty figures for the 2d Marine Division in Operation Galvanic were 997 Marines and 30 sailors (organic medical personnel) dead; 88 Marines missing and presumed dead; and 2,233 Marines and 59 sailors wounded. Total casualties: 3,407. The Guadalcanal campaign had cost a comparable amount of Marine casualties over six months; Tarawa’s losses occurred in a period of 76 hours. Moreover, the ratio of killed to wounded at Tarawa was significantly high, reflecting the savagery of the fighting. The overall proportion of casualties among those Marines engaged in the assault was about 19 percent, a steep but “acceptable” price. But some battalions suffered much higher losses. The 2d Amphibian Tractor Battalion lost over half the command. The battalion also lost all but 35 of the 125 LVT’s employed at Betio.

    Two destroyed LVT's in the Tarawa Lagoon in 1943.  They lacked radios and their crews were untrained in US naval visual signals

    Two destroyed LVT’s in the Tarawa Lagoon in 1943. They lacked radios and their crews were untrained in US naval visual signals

    The Marines lost roughly 333 men killed a day, or 13.25 men killed an hour for every hour for the assault at Betio. And for every man killed, two more fell wounded.

    There were a number of reasons for this. The standard narrative speaks to inadequate naval fire support and bombing by the air forces of the Army and Navy, of Betio being surrounded by reefs that cut off the LCVP Higgins boats from the island, save at high tide, and a once in several decades “super neap tide” — where the combination of a strong solar perihelion tide, weak lunar apogean tide plus the expected last-quarter moon neap tide could combine for a no-tide period — that prevented the high tide from rising enough, thus forcing troops to cover hundreds of yards of machine gun and artillery swept shallows just to get to shore.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, National Security, Okinawa 65, USA, War and Peace | 30 Comments »

    Otherizing

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 29th January 2014 (All posts by )

    To put it in simple terms, that’s what I call it when a whole group, or sub-set of people are deemed the Emmanuel Goldstein of the moment by a dominant group, and set up as a focus for free-wheeling hate. In practice, this hate may range all the way from a mild disinclination to associate professionally or socially, all the way to 11 in marking the object of that hate as a suitable target for murder, either singly or in wholesale lots – and sometimes with the cooperation and blessing of the state. It’s more something that I have read about – either in the pages of history books, or in the newspapers – and increasingly on-line. Still, it is no end distressing to see it developing here in these United States in this century. Am I paranoid about this current bout of ‘otherizing’? Perhaps – but don’t tell me that it cannot happen here.

    Some hundred and fifty years ago, the ‘otherizing’ reached such a pitch that young men marched against their countrymen – they were clad in blue and grey, and fell on battlefields so contested that lead shot fell like a hailstorm, and swept away a large portion of men recruited by regional-based units. Passionate feelings, words and small deeds, public and private regarding slavery were balanced against states’ rights. The pressure built up and up, like steam in a boiler – and finally there was no means for them to be expressed but in death wished upon the ‘other’. By the end of twenty years of editorials, speeches, and political campaigns had been worked to a fever pitch. Civil war became not only possible – but in the eyes of the editorialists, the speech-makers and the politicians – a wholly desirable outcome. And a goodly portion of a generation lay dead, as if a scythe had swept over a wheat-field. Everyone was very sorry afterwards, but the words could not be unspoken, the hatred and resentment re-bottled in a flask, or the dead re-animated, to go about their ordinary lives as if the great divisive issue of mid-19th century America had never been.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, History, Just Unbelievable, Leftism, Media, North America, Tea Party | 49 Comments »

    World War 2.5

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 26th January 2014 (All posts by )

    UPDATE: I don’t seem to be the only one worried about a 1914 situation.

    China’s current coercion of Japan over the islands is but a symptom of a larger illness in the international system. China has been leveraging its naval modernization to increase its movements through the seas and choke points surrounding Japan to break out into the Pacific. Last November, for example, flotillas of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy destroyers and submarines backed by air power encircled Japan for the first time, as PLA officers bragged about splitting and demolishing the first island chain. China is changing the regional balance with little resistance from the United States. Counter to Chinese public claims of surprise at a U.S. “overreaction,” recent discussions with Chinese officials over Beijing’s December air defense identification zone announcement suggests that the United States’ response was much weaker than the response the Chinese leadership had expected.

    This is worrisome.

    Last month I posted an observation that another world war may be coming. I noted that this summer is the 100th anniversary of the First World War and that the present situation is similar to that which preceded the 1914 war. I may not be the only one.

    I concluded last month’s post as follows: The “two Ps” are Pakistan and the Palestinians. We live in an incredibly dangerous era and we are seeing an American president who does not understand geopolitics. God help us.

    screen shot 2014-01-22 at 9.29.47 am

    A recent column provided from someone attending the Davos Economic Forum discusses yet another potential fuse that is sputtering.

    During the dinner, the hosts passed a microphone around the table and asked guests to speak briefly about something that they thought would interest the group.

    One of the guests, an influential Chinese professional, talked about the simmering conflict between China and Japan over a group of tiny islands in the Pacific.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, Europe, History, Middle East, Obama | 20 Comments »

    History Friday – The Man With a Past

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th January 2014 (All posts by )

    It was one of the clichés in the old Wild West – that part of it which featured in dime novels, silent serial movies, Wild West Shows, and television shows – the crooked lawman. It did have some basis in fact, though; the recently established cow-towns and mining towns were tough places. Very often the natural choice for keeping the local bad-hats in some kind of seemly order was to co-opt the biggest, meanest baddest bad-hat of them all to administer order as sheriff. Not infrequently, said bad-hat was also a gambler, owned a saloon or an establishment of negotiable affections, and alternated between managing said establishment or the cards and keeping law and order. Other law officers started off on the side of the angels and went to the bad – such as the sheriff of Bannock, Montana, Henry Plummer, who was hanged by the local Vigilante organization in Virginia City. (The vigilantes were convinced by evidence that he was the head of a gang of road-agents, stock thieves and murderers.) In other words, the path wavering back and forth between the darkness and the light was a pretty well-trodden one, and so was the one-way path from light to darkness. But for one who walked from darkness of a criminal life, into the light of upholding the law – and remained there for most of his life, nothing quite comes close to the life of one particular lawman.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, History | 5 Comments »

    History Friday: Pacific Paradigm Shift in the US Navy

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 24th January 2014 (All posts by )

    I have written in my columns on the end of WW2 in the Pacific about institutional or personally motivated false narratives, hagiography narratives, forgotten via classification narratives and forgotten via extinct organization narratives. Today’s column is revisiting the theme of how generational changes in every day technology make it almost impossible to understand what the World War II (WW2) generation is telling us about it’s times without a lot of research. Recent books on the like John Prados’ “ISLANDS OF DESTINY: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun” and James D. Hornesfischer’s “NEPTUNES INFERNO: The US Navy at Guadalcanal” focus in the importance of intelligence and the “learning by dying” use of Radar in the Solomons Campaign. Both are cracking good reads and can teach you a lot about that period. Yet they are both missing some very important, generationally specific, professional reasons that the US Navy did so poorly at night combat in the Solomons. These reasons have to do with a transition of technology and how that technology was tied into a military service’s training and promotion policies.

    WW2 saw a huge paradigm shift in the US Navy from battleships to aircraft carriers and from surface warship officers, AKA the Black Shoe wearing “Gun Club,” to naval aviators or the Brown Shoe wearing “Airdales.” Most people see this as an abrupt Pearl Harbor related shift. To some extent that was true, but there is an additional “Detailed Reality” hiding behind this shift that US Army officers familiar with both the 4th Infantry Division Task Force XXI experiments in 1997 and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq will understand all too well. Naval officers in 1942-1945, just like Army officers in 1997-2003 were facing a complete change in their basic mode of communications that were utterly against their professional training, in the heat of combat. Navy officers in 1942-1945 were going from a visual communications with flag semaphore and blinking coded signal lamps on high ship bridges to a radio voice and radar screen in a “Combat Information Center” (CIC) hidden below decks. US Army officers, on the other hand, in 1997-2003 were switching from a radio-audio and paper map battlefield view to digital electronic screens. Both switches of communications caused cognitive dissonance driven poor decisions by their users. However, the difference in final results was driven by the training incentives built into these respective military services promotion policies.

     In many ship photographs taken between about 1916 and 1940, there are what appear to be large clocks on the front and rear superstructures or masts. These are actually devices to tell the other ships in the formation at what range that ship is firing at. Together with "Declination Marks" on the sides of turrets; these mechanisms allowed the other ships in the formation, whose view of the target may be obscured by fog, gun smoke or funnel smoke, to have their guns at the proper elevation and bearing when their view becomes unobstructed. This greatly reduced the time needed before they were ready to fire

    In many ship photographs taken between about 1916 and 1940, there are what appear to be large clocks on the front and rear superstructures or masts. These are actually devices to tell the other ships in the formation at what range that ship is firing at. Together with “Declination Marks” on the sides of turrets; these mechanisms allowed the other ships in the formation, whose view of the target may be obscured by fog, gun smoke or funnel smoke, to have their guns at the proper elevation and bearing when their view becomes unobstructed. This greatly reduced the time needed before they were ready to fire. Source — http://www.patriotfiles.com/forum/showthread.php?t=111568

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, History, Military Affairs, National Security, Uncategorized, USA, War and Peace | 42 Comments »

    Selected Posts from 2013, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 17th January 2014 (All posts by )

    One more batch…

    Freedom, the Village, and the Internet. Will social media re-create the kind of social control once often found in the village community?

    301 Years of Steam Power. What they told you in school about James Watt and the invention of the steam engine was very likely wrong.  Related: 175 Years of Transatlantic Steam.

    An Age of Decline? Is America in one, and is the situation irretrievable?

    The Baroque Computers of the Apocalypse. The remarkable air defense system known as SAGE.

    Book and Video Reviews:

    Fly the Airplane. Two flight instructors write about their romance, their flight around the country in a 1938 Piper Cub, and the life lessons that can be derived from aviation.

    Elective Affinities. Goethe’s novel about a love quadrangle.

    Wish Me Luck. A very good TV series about Special Operations Executive agents working in occupied France during WWII.

    Author Appreciation: Rose Wilder Lane. RWL was both an astute and thoughtful political philosopher and a pretty good novelist.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Aviation, Civil Society, Energy & Power Generation, History, Human Behavior, Military Affairs, Political Philosophy, Tech, Transportation, USA, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    Well, Here’s Something Out of the Ordinary…

    Posted by David Foster on 12th January 2014 (All posts by )

    an F-86 Sabrejet for sale.

    There aren’t too many of these around.

    I don’t think there were ever any two-seat versions of the F-86 built, so a pilot’s first flight in the Sabrejet is going to have to be solo.

    Posted in Aviation, History, Military Affairs | 17 Comments »

    History Saturday – The Two Samuels

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th January 2014 (All posts by )

    (OK, so I am late with the my usual History Friday segment. Stuff to work on in the real world, you know.)

    The annexation of Texas to the United States – the culmination of nearly a decade of mostly-back-stairs campaigning by Sam Houston – kicked off a war with Mexico, which had never really gotten over the loss of Coahuila-Tejas. Nearly half the Mexican states had rebelled violently when General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had abrogated the Mexican constitution of 1824 and established himself as dictator. Santa Anna put down the resulting rebellion with particular brutality, but thanks to the luck and skill of Sam Houston, and Santa Anna’s own miscalculations, Texas slipped from his grasp, maintaining a precarious state as an independent republic. Mexico threatened war, if annexation was accomplished and when it was, practically everyone directly involved was spoiling for a fight. (Although many Americans were anti-war in this particular case, including many northern Whigs like soon-to-be statesman Abraham Lincoln, and abolitionists, all of whom detested the addition of a slave-state to the union.)

    Among those most keen to have it done and get it over with were the volunteer Texas Rangers. Jack Hays had recruited a Texas force to serve along with Zachary Taylor’s command as spies and scouts. Two veterans of Jack Hays’ legendary Big Fight were along with him – Samuel Walker and Robert Addison ‘Ad’ Gillespie – when Taylor’s army took Matamoros and Camargo, and converged in several columns on Monterray. That city-stronghold was protected by fortified heights; Independence Hill, Fort Soldado, the Bishop’s Palace – and there the U.S. Army fought a savage battle at the gates of the city and in the surrounding heights, until the Mexican commanders offered an 8-week long truce. They would surrender the city, if they would allow the American army to allow them to evacuate their surviving troops. At the start of the siege, the Rangers were reported to have amused themselves by riding out to the walls, making flamboyant demonstrations of their horsemanship, provoking the Mexican gunners into firing, and then skillfully dodging the resulting cannon-balls aimed at them. By the time the truce was over, many of the Rangers’s limited enlistments were up, and they returned home to Texas. (So did Ad Gillespie – fatally wounded in the assault on the Bishop’s Palace fortifications. His body was returned for burial in a cemetery in San Antonio; Gillespie County, in the Texas Hill Country, is named for him.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Diversions, History | 4 Comments »

    History Friday: Operation Olympic – Something Forgotten & Something Familiar

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 10th January 2014 (All posts by )

    One of the objectives when I started writing my “History Friday” columns was to improve the public’s understanding about the “cancelled by atomic bomb” November 1945 invasion of Japan. A recurring focal point has been trying to answer the “counterfactual” or “What If” question “How would the American military have fought the Imperial Japanese in November 1945 if the A-bomb failed?” in ways that challenge current academic narratives about the end of World War 2 in the Pacific.

    This History Friday column returns to that theme by examining a technology forgotten and a technology familiar and using the combination to challenge the standing academic narrative of “If America invaded Japan in 1945 without the A-bomb, Japan had a chance of winning.” The “Forgotten” is the “Brodie Device” a “cableway” technology for launching and landing small fixed wing aircraft. The “Familiar” are small general aviation planes of the Piper Cub class and television. Early television created in the form of the “Block III” missile guidance seeker of R.C.A.’s WW2 era chief scientist Dr. Vladimir Zworykin. And taken together, they represented the qualitative aspect of the American materialschlacht – battle of material – that was actually on a sharp upward slope in the closing months of WW2. Creating for the cancelled Operation Olympic Invasion of Japan something that looked like a direct ancestor of the 2013 Robert J. Collier Trophy winning MC-12 Liberty. A Hawker Beechcraft King Air “Manned UAV,” which is flying combat missions over Afghanistan today.

    This is the Brodie Device in it's land based and alternate se based configurations

    This is the Brodie Device in its land based, freighter and LST configurations

    Brodie Device
    The “Brodie Device” was the invention of one Lieutenant, later decorated with the Legion of Merit and promoted Captain, James H Brodie of the USAAF Transportation Corps. Brodie’s day job was redesigning freighters in the Port of New Orleans to carry aircraft to the front. He saw any number of ships with his work torpedoed and sunk by U-boats, and unlike most, he could and did something about it. He designed a cableway device to give his freighters their own Piper Cub air spotters. With much politicking on his part, he was given $10,000 and designed a 7,000 lbs (3,175 kg) cableway launch and landing system that began testing in April 1943. By July 1943 he was pestering transient USAAF pilots to test fly an L-4 “Grasshopper” Piper Cub into his contraption. Finally he found a B-26 pilot, named Maj James D Kemp, with enough bravery and shear craziness to do both a take-off and landing on 3 Sept 1943.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, National Security, Okinawa 65, USA, War and Peace | 16 Comments »

    The Hillary Campaign, step two.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th January 2014 (All posts by )

    The New Yorker has an interesting short piece about al Qeada, this week by Lawrence Wright. It concerns the recent court rulings about NSA metadata collection.

    Judge Pauley invoked the example of Khalid al-Mihdhar, a Saudi jihadist who worked for Al Qaeda. On 9/11, he was one of the five hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. In early 2000, Mihdhar made seven calls from San Diego to an Al Qaeda safe house in Yemen. According to Pauley, the N.S.A. intercepted the calls, but couldn’t identify where Mihdhar was calling from. Relying on testimony by Robert Mueller, the former director of the F.B.I., Pauley concluded that metadata collection could have allowed the bureau to discover that the calls were being made from the U.S., in which case the bureau could have stopped 9/11.

    Fair enough but Wright has another point.

    But the Mihdhar calls tell a different story about why the bureau failed to prevent the catastrophe. The C.I.A. withheld crucial intelligence from the F.B.I., which has the ultimate authority to investigate terrorism in the U.S. and attacks on Americans abroad.

    In August, 1998, truck bombs destroyed two American Embassies, in Kenya and Tanzania, killing two hundred and twenty-four people. Three days later, F.B.I. investigators captured a young Saudi named Mohammad al-‘Owhali at a hotel outside Nairobi. He had fresh stitches in his forehead and bloody bandages on his hands. In his pocket were eight brand-new hundred-dollar bills. Two skilled interrogators, Steve Gaudin and John Anticev, persuaded ‘Owhali to write down the number he called after the bombing. It belonged to Khalid al-Mihdhar’s father-in-law, Ahmed al-Hada, and was one of the most important pieces of information ever obtained in the effort to prevent terrorist acts in the U.S. It became known as the Al Qaeda switchboard.

    The title of Wright’s piece is “The al Qeada Switchboard.”

    The N.S.A.’s tracking of calls to and from the Hada household allowed the F.B.I. to map the global network of Al Qaeda. But not all the information was shared. In 1999, Mihdhar’s name surfaced in one of the recorded calls, linking him to Al Qaeda. “Something nefarious might be afoot,” an N.S.A. analyst wrote, but Mihdhar’s name was not passed on to the F.B.I.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Islam, Law Enforcement, Middle East, Politics, Terrorism | 2 Comments »

    History Friday: Admiral Nimitz’s Kiwi Radars & Power Politics in the South Pacific

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 3rd January 2014 (All posts by )

    As I opened my previous column, I will state again, one of the strangest experiences doing historical research is following a trail of research on something you think you know, and then suddenly you go down Alice’s rabbit hole and find a “Detailed Reality” that was something completely different. This trip into “Detailed Reality” started as a search for how the US Navy used land based radar to control fighters in World War II (WW2) and turned into a story of institutional power politics between the American government and both its New Zealand and Australian allies. Power politics that resulted in another “convenient lie” from the US Navy, New Zealand and Australian governments being parked on General Douglas Mac Arthur’s post-war reputation.

    Radar in WW2 was a classified subject. Some portions of that Pacific theater’s wartime records for radar were declassified at the end of the war as a part of the normal jockeying for post war budgets. The US Navy emphasized, naturally enough, the ship based radars in its institutional history. Land based radars in the Pacific were a different matter. There were numerous US Navy, US Army, US Army Air Force and US Marne Corps radar units in the course of WW2 in the Pacific, and much of their story remained classified through the late 1980s and early 1990s. The failure of many historians to go there after that declassification was a methodological cue for me to follow up that line of investigation to “peer around the established institutional narrative.” The place to start with the land based radar narrative in the Pacific was Guadalcanal. It was here that the US Navy learned to use radar to fight ships at night, and to a lessor extent to use ship mounted radar to direct fighters. The key radar development at Guadalcanal, however, wasn’t either of those. It was the use of radar directed fighters by the “Cactus Air Force” out of Henderson Field in 1942-1943, which birthed all the wartime US Navy Department land-based radar organizations. And both the US Navy and USMC learned much of this trade from radars produced and maintained by the New Zealand Radio Development Laboratory (RDL) scientists and the radar controllers of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

    A New Zealand Long Range Air Warning (LRAW) Radar -- from Echos Over The Pacific

    A New Zealand Long Range Air Warning (LRAW) Radar, Alternative broadside aerial on left. Truck with double Yagi ‘assault’ aerial and equipment to the right, in front of radio truck. — Photo Dr R S Unwin from page 11 of “Echos Over The Pacific”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    History Friday Book Review: In the Garden of Beasts

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd January 2014 (All posts by )

    This is not so much a compendium of the experiences of those Americans present in Germany when the Third Reich began it’s ascent to power, but a character study of a particular family. There were a fair number Americans resident in Germany at that time, or just passing through; diplomatic personnel and their families, scholars, newspaper and radio reporters, travelers, businessmen, expatriates of all sorts, or even German-Americans paying extended visits to kin. The family of Ambassador William Dodd falls into the first category and Dodd himself into the second as well. He was an academic, a historian who earned his PhD at the University of Leipzig at the turn of the turn of the century, where he picked up fluency in the language and a deep affection for the country. He was a friend of Woodrow Wilson and when FDR’s administration was stuck to name an ambassador (when their first two choices declined) Dodd was tasked with the honor, which he took up from 1933-1937. Dodd was not a professional diplomat, and it soon emerged that those whom he had to work with at State Department didn’t think all that much of him. For one – he was not particularly wealthy and vowed to live in modest fashion while carrying out his assignment, which lasted from 1933 to 1937. This was rather a strike against him in the circles that he was expected to move; if the professionals had to put up with a patronage appointment, a rich one who would spend lavishly from his or her own purse while in pursuit of diplomatic objectives would make up in some fashion for the bother of conducting business with the host nation through an amateur.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Germany, History | 16 Comments »

    Selected Posts from 2013, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd January 2014 (All posts by )

    Western Civilization and the First World War…with a very good comment thread.

    The Power of Metaphor and Analogy.

    The Normalization of Abusive Government.

    Would You Trust Your Financial Future to This Woman? Patty Murray, a U.S. Senator and an obvious moron and bigot..as the quotes in this post clearly demonstrate…is head of the Senate Budget Committee.

    Whose Interests Will Jack Lew be Representing? There were some rather interesting clauses in the Treasury Secretary’s employment agreement with Citigroup.

    Time Travel. Some personal connections with the past.

     

    Posted in Britain, Economics & Finance, Europe, France, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Political Philosophy, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    ETAOIN SHRDLU

    Posted by David Foster on 1st January 2014 (All posts by )

    I was trying to figure out the not-very-intuitive interface for presetting stations on my car radio, and remembered a car radio we had when I was a kid: it could “memorize” the frequencies of selected stations in an entirely mechanical manner. IIRC, you pulled out a setting button when the radio was on a station you wanted to “remember,” and when you later wanted to return to that station, you simply pushed the appropriate button in. (I believe this feature was mechanized via clamps gripping a continuous string that drove the tuning mechanism.)

    Which got me thinking: there was once a whole range of cunning mechanical devices that performed memory, logic, and arithmetic tasks that would now be done with a microprocessor or some other form of digital logic. Things that come to mind include railway signal interlocking systems, Linotype and other typesetting machines, mechanical calculators, mechanical analog computers, and ship and aircraft autopilots.

    Googling around, I found that there is actually a feature film about the Linotype:  a bit about the history of typesetting, the development of the Linotype machine, the basics of how it works, some of the social/economic implications, and much nostalgia from former Linotype operators (and also from younger operators, who are working to keep the trade/technology alive.) The film is available free to those who have an Amazon Prime membership.

    This video explains how the Linotype works and then goes into considerable detail about the mechanism.

    Regarding the social/economic implications, the first video notes that while Linotype reduced typesetting labor requirements by a factor of 6:1, it also drove an explosion in the volume of printed material, and a concurrent increase in literacy, and wound up actually increasing the number of people involved in the printing trade. I would also suspect that the high capital cost of Linotype equipment was one factor that drove a consolidation of the newspaper industry toward a small number of highly dominant papers in each city.

    One place where a Linotype can be seen in operation today is the Baltimore Museum of Industry, which has a machine which is periodically activated.

     

    Posted in History, Media, Tech | 11 Comments »

    The Next World War

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 31st December 2013 (All posts by )

    Bumper-Stickers-MA-Deport-620x343

    This next summer will be 100 years since the fatal August of 1914. We live in a similar era of “history is over and everybody is happy.” See above. In August 1914, Germany’s major trading partners were Britain and France, as well as the US. There were people who believed that democracies that did business with each other never went to war. Sound familiar ?

    UPDATE: I am not the only one thinking about this, of course. Here is another version. I worry less about China as a geopolitical rival to the US but a China Japan conflict would not be impossible.

    The Telegraph has an excellent piece on the present world situation.

    As we look forward to the First World War commemorations, three stark conclusions are hard to refute. First, that in the course of this century we will need a great deal of luck to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. Second, that the Enlightenment has failed. Third, that this can all be traced back to the Great War.

    As a result of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, it seemed that mankind might make a decisive break with the scarcity and oppression that had characterised previous eras. There was, admittedly, one early warning. The French Revolution proved that a radical reconstruction of society on abstract principles was likely to end in tyranny and bloodshed. But after 1815, the 19th century developed into one of the most successful epochs in history. Living standards, life expectancy, productivity, medicine, the rule of law, constitutional government, versions of democracy – there was dramatic progress on all fronts, and in the spread of civilisation across the globe.

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    Posted in Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, International Affairs, Iran, Leftism, Military Affairs, National Security | 27 Comments »

    Book Review – Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the US Navy by Ian W. Toll

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 31st December 2013 (All posts by )

    Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy by Ian W. Toll

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    I had some time to kill a few months ago and was stumbling around a local bookstore when this book caught my eye. I went ahead and bought it and am very glad that I did.

    Six Frigates is a fairly long book that takes a deep dive into the origins of the US Navy. The book is very well written, easy to read, and tells some great stories for those interested in the subject matter.

    The book gives in detail how the original six frigates were paid for, why they were conceived, and the associated debates that went along with those appropriations. Toll blends perfectly in the book a balance of the politics of the day along with the realities of sailing vessels in this era. It is rare in my experience to find a book that balances these things so well. It is clear that Toll spent a LOT of time researching the presidential and congressional archives to pick the correspondences and events out that were appropriate for the subject matter of the book. Toll lets the statesmen of the past speak for themselves during the debates about the original appropriations and also enlightens the reader as to the politics of the day. Also mentioned are the debates about the continuing maintenance of the frigates.

    There is a detailed section about the construction and engineering of the frigates. Toll explains very well how the boats were made and how the raw materials had to be obtained – again, just enough information for a relative layman such as myself to understand the how’s and why’s.

    Now that the frigates were built, Toll explains how they were used, and again blends in the politics of the day so the reader can understand why the ships were where they were. Along with this, he recreates many of the battles that the frigates were involved in. This part was to me the most enlightening.

    I have read many times of the famous battles of some of these frigates, the most famous being the Constitution. However, I never understood how insanely bloody and violent these ship to ship battles were. Toll goes into full on gore mode, sparing no adjective to make the reader get a feel for how the sailors felt and what actually went on. This book is extremely bloody so if you can’t handle that sort of thing, I would perhaps not recommend it. But it was a very good dose of reality for me, as I had never fully understood the power of the cannon they used, and how they used it. Also enlightening were Toll’s descriptions of the marine actions during battle. It was very interesting to hear how each side would use sharpshooters to try to pick off officers on the decks of the ships during battle.

    Great detail is given to the first Tripolitan war. This is a subject that has always interested me, and it was amazing how Toll was able to even blend in the politics of the Tripolitans into his narrative.

    Finally, we move to the War of 1812. Most readers here probably know the basics, but again, Toll is masterful blending in the politics of not only the US, but of Great Britain into the narrative.

    The book uses a LOT of sailing terms which I, not being a sailor of any sort, didn’t understand. This was on purpose. In the beginning of the book, Toll puts out for the reader his reasons for this. Basically he says that he could explain each term and have the book be twice as long, or let the reader pick and choose what they wanted to research as far as terms went. I think he took the correct approach. I have no clue what this sentence from page 348 means:

    Constitution stood on to leeward before the freshening northeast breeze, wearing double-reefed topsails and courses, with her royal yards struck down on deck.

    However, it is easy to imagine a ball park idea of what Toll is saying in the context of the overall topic – that the Constitution was getting ready, somehow, to engage the HMS Guerrierre in battle. It was really no big deal after you got used to the flow of the text. I did look up a few terms along the way, but not many.

    It is very clear that Toll spent a long time researching and writing this marvelous book. It is easily one of the top ten books I have ever read on any subject and I highly recommend it if you have any sort of interest in sailing, or early 19th century politics or even just to get a flavor of those times. Toll also speaks about the early cities and how they worked to a certain degree although the focus is on the Frigates, their battles, and the politics surrounding them.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, History, USA, War and Peace | 18 Comments »

    Book Review: Herman the German, by Gerhard Neumann

    Posted by David Foster on 27th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Herman the German by Gerhard Neumann

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    This is the autobiography of a man who was born to a Jewish family in Germany, apprenticed as an auto mechanic, attended engineering school, moved to China in 1938, was interned by the British as an enemy alien in 1939, transferred to the American forces, joined Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers, repaired the first Japanese Zero fighter to be captured in potentially-flyable condition, became a U.S. citizen by special act of Congress, and went on to run GE’s entire jet engine business, which he played a major role in creating. (The preceding may be the longest single sentence I’ve ever written in  a blog post.) The book should be of interest to those interested in aviation, technology, management, social history, the WWII era, and/or China.

    Gerhard Neumann was born in Frankfurt/Oder in 1917, where his father was owner of a factory that processed feathers and down. Gerhard’s parents were Jewish but nonpracticing–a Christmas tree was traditional in the Neumann home–and their approach to child-raising was closer to stereotypically Prussian than to stereotypically Jewish:  ”You did exactly as you were told by your parents. There was no such thing as saying no to them!…You were not to have a hand in your pocket while talking to grown-ups…Showing any emotion in Prussia was considered sissyish. There was no kissing between parents and children–only a peck on the cheek before going upstairs punctually at nine o’clock; and there was absolutely no crying.”

    On the other hand, Neumann could do pretty much what he wanted with his spare time. In 1927, at the age of 10, he rode his bike out to a grass strip where someone was giving airplane rides for 5 marks, which he paid with money from his piggy bank. His parents weren’t angry at him for taking this flight without permission; indeed, they were so entranced with his description of the way the town looked from the air that they soon took an airplane ride themselves! At the age of 13, Neumann bought a folding kayak and, with some camping gear and a 12-year-old friend, took long journeys on the Oder River, all the way to the Baltic Sea. Few parents in America today–or in Germany either, I’d bet–would now allow this level of independence to a 12- or 13-year old.

    Neumann had no interest in the family feather business; he wanted to be an engineer. A 2- or 3-year machinist or mechanic apprenticeship was mandatory for admission to any German engineering academy: Neumann’s father asked the 10 cab drivers of Frankfurt/Oder to recommend the garage where they thought the boy would learn the most, and the answers were unanimous: Albert Schroth’s. So began Gerhard Neumann’s apprenticeship, which, other than the technologies involved, could have been something out of the Middle Ages. “In winter my hands were frozen purple. Wear work gloves? ‘What’s the matter, boy, are you a girl?’ When my hands were bleeding, Herr Schroth pointed to the large bottle of iodine in the backroom and mumbled something about faules Fleisch (lazy flesh.) No Band-Aids, no pitying, no time out.”

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    Posted in Aviation, Business, China, Germany, History, USA, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    History Friday – Spoiled for the Movie

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 27th December 2013 (All posts by )

    I’ve written now and again of how I’ve been spoiled when it comes to watching movies set in the 19th century American west – also known as Westerns – by my own knowledge of the setting and time. Yes, if a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, a lot of it is like the Tunguska Explosion, with pretty much the same results – even if the movie in question is one of those high-cost, well-acted, beautifully filmed award-winning extravaganzas.

    The latest movie which has been destroyed for me is Dances With Wolves– which we decided to watch the other night. Beautiful-looking movie, scenic panoramic sweeps of the Northern Plains, attractive and interesting actors – especially those portraying Sioux – and as for the look and conduct of the tribe as portrayed? I’ve always thought there was nothing better for getting an idea of what a Sioux village and its inhabitants looked like in the mid-19th century. No, really – it was marvelous, almost a living history exhibit; everyone was always doing something; working, recreating, celebrating. Alas – everything else about Dances just falls apart on closer examination.

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    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Diversions, History, Media | 11 Comments »

    Father Christmas and the Provost

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th December 2013 (All posts by )

    (This is actually an episode from one of my books, redone as a free-standing short story for an anthology of Christmas stories by other indy authors, which never went anywhere, so is posted here as my own Christmas contribution.)

    It was Vati’s idea to have a splendid Christmas Eve and he broached it to his family in November. Christian Friedrich Steinmetz to everyone else but always Vati to his family; once the clockmaker of Ulm in Bavaria, Vati had come to Texas with the Verein nearly twenty years before with his sons and his three daughters.
    “For the children, of course,” he said, polishing his glasses and looking most particularly like an earnest and kindly gnome, “This year past has been so dreadful, such tragedies all around – but it is within our capabilities to give them a single good memory of 1862! I shall arrange for Father Christmas to make a visit, and we shall have as fine a feast as we ever did, back in Germany. Can we not do this, my dears?”
    “How splendid, Vati! Oh, we shall, we shall!” his youngest daughter Rosalie kissed her father’s cheek with her usual degree of happy exuberance, “With the house full of children – even the babies will have a wonderful memory, I am sure!” Her older sisters, Magda and Liesel exchanged fond but exasperated glances; dear, vague well-meaning Vati! All of Gillespie County was under martial law and Duff’s Partisan Rangers had despoiled so many farmsteads, claiming they were owned by Union sympathizers. Men of the town had been arrested for refusing to take the loyalty oath, refusing service in the Confederate Army, for even speaking against secession or refusing to accept Confederate money. How could a happy Christmas make up for all that?
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    Posted in Book Notes, History, Holidays | Comments Off

    Christmas 2013

    Posted by David Foster on 24th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Newgrange is an ancient structure in Ireland so constructed that the sun, at the exact time of the winter solstice, shines directly down a long corridor and illuminates the inner chamber. More about Newgrange here and here.

    Grim has an Arthurian passage about the Solstice.

    Don Sensing has thoughts astronomical, historical, and theological about the Star of Bethlehem.

    A wonderful 3-D representation of the Iglesia San Luis De Los Franceses. Just click on the link–then you can look around inside the cathedral. Use arrow keys or mouse to move left/right, up/down, and shift to zoom in, ctrl to zoom out.

    Vienna Boys Choir, from Maggie’s Farm

    Lappland in pictures, from Neptunus Lex

    Snowflakes and snow crystals, from Cal Tech. Lots of great photos

    A Romanian Christmas carol, from The Assistant Village Idiot

    In the bleak midwinter, from The Anchoress

    Rick Darby has some thoughts on the season. More here.

    A Christmas reading from Thomas Pynchon.

    The first radio broadcast of voice and music took place on Christmas Eve, 1906. Or maybe not. But on the other hand

    An air traffic control version of The Night Before Christmas.

    Ice sculptures from the St Paul winter carnival

    O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, sung by Enya

    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    Jeff Sypeck on a winter garden

    Posted in History, Holidays, Music, Religion | 6 Comments »

    Kipling on Income Inequality, Continued

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd December 2013 (All posts by )

    A couple of weeks ago, Chicago Girl Margaret excerpted a little-known poem by Kipling…the poem’s context being a proposal (circa 1890) by the new German Kaiser for an expanded social-welfare system, ideally to encompass other European countries in addition to Germany and to limit “destructive competition” in industry. The poem seemed relevant to Stuart Schneiderman’s post this morning, so I posted the whole thing in comments there.

    Posted in Europe, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Leftism | 2 Comments »

    History Friday: Claire Lee Chennault — SECRET AGENT MAN!

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 20th December 2013 (All posts by )

    One of the strangest experiences doing historical research is following a trail of research on something you think you know, and then suddenly you go down Alice’s rabbit hole and find a “detailed reality” that was something completely different. So it was researching General Claire Chennault’s ground observer network in World War II (WW2). I went looking for the nuts and bolts organizational creation of an air power genius…and what I found instead was “Claire Lee Chennault — SECRET AGENT MAN!!!”

    Chennault's 1933 Ft. Knox air Defense Observer Network

    Then Captain Claire Chennault’s 1933 Ft. Knox air Defense Observer Network. It was so successful in catching bombardment formations that Chennault was black balled by the “Bomber Mafia” of two Air Chiefs of Staff. This network was the basis of a human intelligence network Chennault formed in China despite orders forbidding such a service by China-Burma-India senior US commander General Stilwell. Photo Source: Coast Artillery Journal Mar-Apr 1934, pg. 39

    It turns out that Chennault’s anti-aircraft ground observer network evolved in China from 1937 through 1945 from an air-warning network into a full scale human intelligence service. A human intelligence service that was operationally annexed by General William “Wild Bill” Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in the Spring of 1945.

    When I started this thread of research, I was looking for a copy of then Captain Chennault’s “THE ROLE OF DEFENSIVE PURSUIT.” The institutional histories of the US Air Force on World War II (WW2) mention the existence of the anti-aircraft ground observer network called for by “THE ROLE OF DEFENSIVE PURSUIT” in China, but not much more. “THE ROLE OF DEFENSIVE PURSUIT” was also mentioned prominently in the first chapter of Paul A. Ludwig’s book “P-51 Mustang: Development of the the Long Range Escort Fighter” which I received as a gift recently, and the author makes the point General Arnold’s Army Air Corps threw out this ground observer network along with the only man in its service that knew the heavy bomber wasn’t invincible. They did so for the heresy of speaking that truth.

    The lack of historical coverage of a past military institution in military institutional histories, and the lack of a modern equivalent to tell their stories, are always good cues to go researching. My internet searches to that end yielded both “THE ROLE OF DEFENSIVE PURSUIT” and an article by Bob Bergin titled “Claire Lee Chennault and the Problem of Intelligence in China,” in the June 2010 issue of Studies in Intelligence. What I didn’t expect to happen by reading the article was to fall down Alice’s “rabbit hole” into an espionage wonderland.

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    Posted in History, Military Affairs, USA, War and Peace | 7 Comments »