"Any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it."
Oscar Wilde

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Victory in Korea

The Korean War is a very interesting topic for me, mostly because I hold a very controversial opinion about it. I wish to prove that the Korean War was an American victory.
Allow me to explain:  the American goal in this war was to push the invading North Koreans back across the 38th parallel, and by doing so prevent the spread of communism in Asia. Now, our troops rolled into South Korea when North Korea was on the point of triumph. They had pushed the South Korean forces back onto a small pennisula in the southeastern corner of the country. Our front line of troops charged onto the North Koreans, and with the help of a brilliant strategem by General Macarthur, pushed the North Koreans back across the 38th parallel. We eventually went on to the border of North Korea and China, where we were struck with disaster. China invaded North Korea and pushed the us all the way back to the 38th parallel. We can blame this wholesale Chinese victory on General Macarthur and his amazing levels of egoism. However, our troops regrouped at the 38th parallel and inflicted a total of 900,000 casualties on the Chinese and 520,000 on the North Koreans. Despite the wholesale route from the border of North Korea and China, the U.S. only lost 52,000 men. This is obviously a horrendous number, but compared to the enemy losses, it is relatively trivial.
After signing a treaty with North Korea, we departed, having made our point. I believe we certainly halted the flow of communism in Asia, as we showed that we would ravage any Communist enemy who attempted to invade an innocent country. Now some may say that  Vietnam became Communist as well, but I will state that during this war they were already Communist, and fighting a war with the French. Having made this point, no country in Asia turned Communist after the Korean War.
Is that not a victory? We did what we were there to do! Just because we suffered heavy casualties and were whipped all the way back to the 38th parallel by China should not mean that we lost. Keep in mind that we whipped North Korea all the way to the border of China. I do not consider the Korean War a tie, or a draw, or a loss, I consider it a victory!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Homecoming of Heroes

Recently I have been reading the papers and the news, and I have seen how many people oppose the War in Afghanistan. Several weeks ago, anti-war protestors made a demonstration at the funeral of a U.S. soldier. The funeral of a U.S. soldier! This, in my opinion, is when anti-war protests have gone too far. The people that I respect and admire most, other than my parents, are those serving their country. Soldiers, firemen, and policemen are the people who make a stand on the front lines of American liberty and freedom. When I see something like anti-war protestors complaining about the War during the funeral of a soldier, it makes me furious. Look out! I may become a raging maniac before you know it! There is a proper time and place to voice your dissatisfaction with the War; a funeral is clearly not one of them.
I read America and Vietnam: The Elephant and the Tiger several months ago, and it was all very well until I got to the end of the book. That was when the writer, Albert Marrin, started talking about the anti-war protestors. During the Vietnam War, the protestors spat on U.S. soldier coffins, kicked maimed U.S. soldiers, taunted maimed U.S. soldiers, and even shared quarters with the enemy. Joan Baez, an excellent singer, toured North Vietnam during the U.S. offensive. This is a form of treason. In my opinion, anyone who violently disrespects an American Soldier during an American War is acting in terribly bad taste and should be placed in jail. We cannot force people to respect soldiers, but at least we can appreciate the fact that they risked their lives in the name of their country. It is fine if someone wishes to oppose the war, but disrespecting a soldier is disrespecting your country! Violently disrespecting a soldier means that you do not deserve the right to freedom! After all, they are trying to preserve our right to freedom.
I wish that anti-war activism has toned down enough over the past few decades so as to ensure a welcoming return home for our soldiers. I can only hope. However, I do believe that there are enough people in America who are ready to welcome and appreciate, if not respect the returning soldiers. If it was up to me, every soldier would receive a Medal of Honor, and get a ticker tape parade.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Goeben's Great Getaway: Part 2

Here it is everyone! Part 2 of the daring and dangerous chase! Enjoy!
During the night, the Goeben and Breslau charged out of Italian waters and maintaining full speed, zipped towards Turkey, hoping to avoid what might be an encounter with the whole British navy. Instead, they encountered only one small ship that Admiral Milne posted there as a precaution. The British navy was waiting on the wrong side of Sicily! The small British ship, the Gloucester, immediately radioed its superiors informing them of the Goeben’s course and silently followed the Germans. As war had not yet been declared, neither side dared to fire. That midnight, the British declared war on Germany, and the captain of the Gloucester received word that he was free to fire.
 In the morning, the Gloucester opened fire on the Breslau, and the Goeben stopped to give support to its smaller companion. The Gloucester veered off as its’ small guns could not match those of the powerful warship. Four more ships soon joined the Gloucester, but failed to engage as they thought that the Goeben’s longer range guns could pick them off before they were even able to fire.
Confident that the German ships were trapped in the eastern Mediterranean, Admiral Milne ordered the Gloucester and the other pursuing battleships to give up the chase. Never suspecting that Souchon might be headed for Turkey, Milne sent some ships to the southeast to guard the Suez Canal from possible German attack. At 5:00 pm on August 10, the Goeben and the Breslau reached the entrance to the port of Constantinople. In this manner, the enterprising, audacious and breathtaking chase comes to an end; but what would become of the Goeben and Breslau, now blocked by the English inside the harbor of Istanbul?
Lodged safely inside the neutral port of Istanbul, the mighty guns of the Goeben loomed ominously, causing the Turkish government to rethink their neutrality in the War. German diplomats rushed to the capital to take advantage of the wavering situation of the Turks. They reminded them of Britain’s confiscation of two newly-made warships upon the declaration of Turkish neutrality. Finally, a proposition between the Germans and Turks was agreed upon. The Germans would sell the Goeben and Breslau to the Turks, their German crews would be retained, and the Turks would ally themselves with Germany. Renamed the Yavuz Sultan Selim and the Midili, the two battleships were still commanded by Admiral Souchon, who conveniently became the Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish navy. After finally exhuming the Goeben’s boilers, Admiral Souchon set out with the Midili and bombarded several Russian ports. With this, Turkey joined the First World War.
This meant disaster for the Russians as, with the Black Sea closed to Russia, her imports dropped by 95% and her exports by 98%. According to Barbara W. Tuchman in her book The Guns of August, Turkey’s alliance with the Central Powers allowed them to cut off Russia, having many consequences.  Among these consequences were “the vain and sanguinary tragedy of Gallipoli, the diversion of Allied strength in the campaigns of Mesopotamia, Suez, and Palestine, the ultimate breakup of the Ottoman Empire, the subsequent history of the Middle East, followed from the voyage of the Goeben. The escape of the Goeben and Breslau ended the career of Admiral Milne and embarrassed English sea power. Milne was assigned to land-based duty and served on half-pay for the rest of the war. Only the Gloucester actually received commendation for having at least exchanged fire with the two fleeing German ships.
Thus this daring chase resulted in a satisfactory victory for Germany and Turkey, but a rather embarrassing and unfortunate incident for England. The mighty guns of the Goeben had done their work in the harbor of Istanbul. Now Turkey had joined sides with the Central Powers and officially entered the First World War due to the exciting, daring and action-packed chase of the Goeben and Breslau.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Goeben's Great Getaway: Part 1

 The Goeben was a huge battleship that the Germans had constructed to give them naval superiority in World War One. As I was searching for military stories, I read about this adventurous happening in the Guns of August, a fantastic book about the first month of World War One. It struck me as a fantastic story that really displayed some of the adventures of military life. The original paper that I wrote was too long for the post, so I decided to split it up to make it easier to read. I hope you will be caught up, as I was, in the terrific suspense of this true story. Hopefully my description of this enterprise will captivate my readers as well as the Guns of August did me.
In 1914, Germany had only two warships in the Mediterranean. Named the Goeben and the Breslau, they were commanded by Admiral Wilhelm Souchon. The Chase of the Goeben played a dramatic role during the First World War by coercing Turkey to choose sides. As the tensions in Europe heightened, Admiral Souchon found himself in a hot spot as Britain, a potential enemy in a war, controlled a massive fleet of twenty-seven war ships in the Mediterranean. When the heir to the Austrian throne was assassinated, starting World War I, Souchon repaired the Goeben and prepared for combat.
The Goeben, considered one of the most powerful ships of its time, carried thirty-four guns and a thousand crewmen. The strongest guns on this monster warship could accurately fire explosive shells at targets fifteen miles away and at maximum speed, the Goeben could reach 27 knots (approximately thirty miles per hour), a very high speed for the time. Unfortunately for the Germans, the Goeben needed repairs and suffered faulty boilers, which significantly lessened its speed. The other ship in this small squadron, christened the Breslau, was much smaller and less powerful but not in need of repairs. On August 3, 1914, Admiral Souchon received the news of Germany’s declaration of war on France. His orders commanded him to attack the Algerian coast, where many French colonies prospered, and then continue east to Turkey and persuade its neutral government to join the Central powers with a show of force. Souchon carried out the first part of his orders with perfect precision and bombarded several French colonies into submission. Immediately after his bombardment, Souchon headed for Istanbul. The British were now on the verge of a war with Germany, and when the Goeben and Breslau passed a squadron of two British warships, the British received commands to follow them. After obtaining this order, the British Indomitable and Indefatigable swung around and shadowed the two German warships. Britain had not declared war on Germany yet, so neither the British nor the German ships opened fire but steamed on in hostile silence. What would the result be? So began a chase through the serene waters of the Mediterranean that would play significant role in the outcome of the First World War.   
Seeing the British ships following him at a distance, Admiral Souchon at once ordered full speed, and rushed ahead, beginning an exciting, daring, and heart pounding chase. However, the Goeben continued having serious issues with its engine; the continuous high speed and heat resulting in the engine room caused several men to pass out while shoveling coal. This constant labor in the abject engine room led to exhaustion and four sailors even died after a pipe burst and spewed super-heated steam everywhere. Despite the defective engine, the Goeben managed to outrun the British ships, and it soon disappeared below the horizon. Ignoring international law, Souchon entered neutral Italian waters and anchored his ships at the port of Messina, where he took coal from German merchant ships.
Uncomfortable with the powerful Goeben in port and ruffled that it violated neutral waters, Italian authorities gave Souchon twenty-four hours to refuel and leave. Admiral Milne, meanwhile, not willing to violate international law, did not pursue the German ships into the neutral waters. Instead, he placed the Indomitable and Indefatigable just outside Italian waters and waited for Admiral Souchon to leave. Mistakenly thinking that Souchon’s plan included a break for the Atlantic, Milne failed to block the German's route toward Turkey. While Souchon took in fuel, he received a telegram from Germany ordering him not to sail to Istanbul, as the Turks still were neutral. However, Souchon obdurately chose to disobey orders and sail to Istanbul anyway with the intention of forcing the Turks, “even again their will, to spread the war to the Black Sea against their ancient enemy, Russia.”

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ode to the Horse

I personally admire the bravery and stoicism of the battlehorse. I do not own one, as I hold the opinion that horses are extremely high-maintenance, not to mention that they are pooping machines; however, I do hold them in great respect. They charged through the Greek phalanx in the Peloponnesian Wars, they rode bravely with the first settlers to the New World, they galloped into lowered bayonets, they hurtled across plains in the face of cannon fire, and they even (and most recently) attacked German tanks in World War II.
Now one may argue that the horses simply did what they were told, "theirs was not to reason why, theirs was but to do and die." However, I must point out that horses did have ears, nerves, and eyes, just like humans! They could hear the tremendous clash of shields, gunfire, or cannon fire as they swerved onto the battlefield, they could feel their nervous rider, and they could see fellow horses being mowed down around them. I argue that it was just as brave for a horse to ride into combat as it was for a man! Perhaps even more so. How would you like to ride into a combat situation while being controled? The horses were being controlled by their rider, and so if told to go right, they had to assume that their rider knew what he was doing. If I was on a battlefield, I can tell you right now my first instinct would be to courageously dive into the nearest trench and stay there until the battle was over. If I was being controlled, my first instinct would be to courageously throw my rider, and then dive into the nearest trench. Yet, most battlehorses did not do this, as we can see by the fact that cavalry units became a very important part of armies in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Approximately 77,000 horses were killed in the American Civil War, mostly because the officers rode on them, so the soldiers would aim at the horses, as they were larger targets. Also, an artillery battery pulled by horses could be brought to a complete stop if the horses pulling it were shot down.
These 77,000 horses were just the ones killed in action, countless more were killed by disease. Obviously, this is no comparison to the human loss of life in this war. I respect and admire the sacrifices of humans far more than those of animals, but that will have to be the subject of another post.

Animals in Warfare

I have been trying to convince my parents to let me get a cat for a year now. Ever since I moved back to the good old USA from the Middle East, I have been dying for one. DYING I tell you!
Anyway, I was searching for anything relating to cats, kittens, or cute fluffy mammals, when I came across a very interesting article. In 522 B.C. the Persian army was invading Egypt. Cambyses II, the King of Persia at the time, knew how deeply his Egyptian foes revered cats. (Who wouldn't?!?!?!?!) However, Cambyses II must have been more of a dog lover, because he placed thousands of cats ahead of his advancing army. The cats, scattering all throughout the Egyptian ranks, froze them. The Egyptians, afraid to move for fear of crushing a cat, and afraid to defend themselves, for fear of impaling a cat, had no choice but to surrender the city which they were defending, Pelusium in this case.
Now, I began to think about this, and I was wondering if it could have been used in more recent conflicts. For example, in the Crimean War (1854-1856), the French, English, and Scottish forces were cooped up on the little Crimean Pennisula, jutting into the Black Sea. There were thousands of Russians holding them off. For several years they desperately tryed to break through the Russian lines, but to no avail. After some time, conditions on the pennisula became horrible. Plagues broke out and winter froze many of the men. It was terrible, with up to 300,000 deaths.
Now, I wonder, could all of this have been avoided had the British, French and Scottish generals followed Cambyses II ideas? The Russians' sacred animal is the bear. They do not worship it, but they revere it and respect it. Recently some pyscho in Russia shot a zoo bear and he was mobbed by Russian civilians! Back to the point, what if the British and French had rounded up some 500 bears, and drove them at the weakest point in Russian lines. There would certainly have been some hesitation, and that hesitation may have been enough for British and French troops to sweep into the fortifications. Obviously, once the Russians realized what had happened, they would send thousands of men to repulse the British and French, but that can be dealt with. The hardest part for the British and French in the Crimean War was actually getting to a fortification with few casualties (they attempted to take one at the Battle of Balaclava when the British Light Brigade swept upon a Russian artillery fortification. The Light Brigade was completely shredded but they took the fortification and held it for some time). 
Not only could animals have been used more often in history, but even in current times. I believe that if a group of radical people we are fighting have a sacred animal, then we should use it against them. War is not a gentleman's game, its a game of who can win!