Tuesday, December 6, 2011

January 17, 1961 – Eisenhower Confirms Restrictions of a Military-Industrial Complex

During his "Farewell Address," President and former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, as well as first Supreme Commander of NATO, Dwight D. Eisenhower confirmed that his administration had done its part in limiting what he called the "military-industrial complex."

In the 1950s, the United States was in the midst of an ongoing arms-race with the Soviet Union that had continued to maintain unprecedented levels of troop mobilization despite the end of the Second World War. Fear of the spread of Communism fueled government contracts for new and better technology, giving birth to supersonic jet engines and even an artificial satellite in orbit of the Earth. However, during his administration, Eisenhower became concerned over the amount of public funds and interest tied into simply maintaining readiness for a war against Communists who, in Russia, were under collective leadership since the death of Stalin in 1953 and, in China, suffered under accidental famine from ill-planned agricultural Five-Year Plans. The Korean War had shown that conventional warfare mixed with modern politics to create a stalemate, and Eisenhower decided to keep the stalemate overt with America's readied nuclear arsenal capable of Mutually-Assured Destruction.

Citing examples from the 1956 work by sociologist C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite, Eisenhower's new policy turned to limiting the abilities of lobbyists in "The Higher Circles" who had direct influence and adding new levels of visibility to policy-creation as well as methods of direct review and polling upon budgetary issues. Numerous figures said that the policy was watering-down the leadership of America in tough times as Khruschev seized power in the USSR, but those such as Senator Robert Taft loudly questioned the ethics of those he considered fearmongers and warhawks. The FBI gained a new office investigating potential illicit lobbying, and numerous contracts between the government and large businesses were allowed to run out. The military gradually began to downscale, and research was limited to grants to universities only with direct proof of public benefit. Proposals, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which would largely guide civilian space efforts, were kept to what was pertinent given the defense of the United States.

In Eisenhower's last speech, he commented on having cleaned house in Washington and limited the possibility of special interests to dominate Congress under the table. Many believed that if anyone but the highest-ranking general in American history to become president since Washington had tried to decrease military-industrial spending, it would have blown up in his face. Ike's successor, John F. Kennedy, continued the regulation of Washington spending, preferring to use politics rather than numbers to maintain diplomacy. The standoff in the Cuban Missile Crisis proved that MAD was enough to limit Soviet threats to the United States. Some called for a Space Race after the Russians had put Sputnik into orbit as part of the festivities of the International Geophysical Year, but Kennedy noted that American missions to space would be the realm of private enterprise, much like the settling of the West.

As the twentieth century continued, the Domino Theory proved true with Soviet and Chinese power extending through Central and Southeast Asia, respectively. However, within a generation, the USSR had overextend itself with uprisings in Iran and Afghanistan as well as in old Eastern European trouble spots of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Local resistance drained the authority of Moscow, which would collapse in the late 1980s, while China transformed itself with experimental limited capitalism and made acquaintance with the United States during the Nixon era.

By the end of the twentieth century, the world had changed drastically to what many considered a Pax Americana. There were certainly threats, primarily through terrorism, but international policing agencies as well as FBI were tasked with finding and capturing the nation's enemies. Meanwhile, everyday Americans continued improved lives as private funding took up where public funding had left off. As of the year 2000, radio systems are able to incorporate “mobile” phones as long as they were tied to a power source, such as a car. Personal computers have come into many homes, and many technologists predict a network of integration (or “Internet”) in the coming decades, though the investment required would be staggering. Meanwhile, rocket-launching companies have established a number of satellites in orbit to study weather and relay communications, while others hope for a manned mission to the Moon, although it would need to prove to be economically viable.

In reality, Eisenhower only warned America to be on "guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex." His "Farewell Address" made note of the changing America in the heightened time of the Cold War, but America continued its investment in industry, devising new defense technology that would trickle down into public use with items like cell phones, GPS systems, and the Internet.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

January 15, 1919 – Spartacist Uprising Overthrows Weimar Republic

After a humiliating outcry condemning the use of paramilitary soldiers, President Friedrich Ebert was forced to step down and the united workers of Germany created a new, socialist government. It was another phase in what would be a tumultuous decade for what had been the proud and powerful German Empire.

Following the defeat of Russia in 1917, the Kaiser and his generals had great hope for the winter campaigns. The people of Germany had suffered through the Turnip Winter of 1916-17, eating vegetables usually fit only for livestock. It seemed the chance to turn the war around as hundreds of thousands of troops came home from the eastern front and were re-trained with new “storm-trooper” tactics that were designed to break the trench-warfare stalemate before the American soldiers arrived. Unfortunately, the strategy failed in 1918, and Americans began pouring onto the battlefield at a rate of ten thousand a day. Amid the depressed morale of the people and soldiers, orders went out to launch the fleet for a final fight with the Royal Navy, and the sailors refused. The October mutiny spread into outright revolution, and the Kaiser abdicated along with the rest of Germany royalty, which handed control of the state over to the Social Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, the Independent Social Democratic Party (USDP) broke away from the SDP with stronger demands for worker’s rights and an overall socialist state. It was joined by the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) led by the “Spartacist” Karl Liebknecht, newly released from prison, and Rosa Luxemburg, whose ideals would form many of the economic policies of the party. The last chancellor of the Empire, Friedrich Ebert, held his power through popularity with the SDP and was elected president in the carefully timed elections in late 1918. For a time, the USDP worked in an uneasy alliance with the SDP, both wary of the Freikorps, a name dating back to voluntary guerilla soldiers against Napoleon and now meaning paramilitary groups made primarily of retiring soldiers who held very right-wing ideals.

When Ebert fired the Chief of Police for Berlin for not using force against strikers during the Christmas troubles, KPD and USDP began a new revolution, forming a “Revolution Committee” on January 5, 1919, that called for a general strike to show support. More than 500,000 workers in Berlin flooded the streets, and the city shut down. After the initial success, however, the Committee began to falter. No one was able to agree on whether to negotiate with Ebert or began an armed revolt to topple him. Liebknecht and other KPD members worked to gain the support of the Volksmarine who had initially begun revolution the October before as well as the army regiments. Most of the soldiers, however, had either given up their posts or sworn loyalties to the present government.

Seeing the failure to bring real soldiers onto their side and the meager arms taken up by the workers that would have been soundly defeated if Ebert’s government cracked down, a new plan was determined. Just as the KPD and USDP were about to break their Committee on January 8, a flyer was discovered telling that Ebert had made a call for the Freikorps to “take revenge” on the leftists that had lost the war for them. Outrage was shared among the leaders, and Luxemburg suggested the outrage could be spread to the rest of the country. Using expert propaganda as had been perfected over the course of the Great War, the workers were persuaded to put away their weapons and Ebert was portrayed as a backstabber who called up brutes while promising to meet for deliberations (an image of the French turning away the 1916 German offer of armistice just before the bloody Battle of Verdun). When the Freikorps attacked on January 12, the workers refused to fight back and were easily defeated. However, as propaganda of the atrocities by the paramilitary flooded the country, outrage turned public support to the socialists. Freikorps members were pelted with clods of earth in the streets, symbolizing their loss of ground during the fighting, and Ebert was blamed for the deaths of over 100 workers as the strike continued.

Under public pressure, Ebert and his government left Berlin and new elections were held. The united USDP and KPD won overwhelmingly, and their representatives attended the Treaty of Versailles that summer. The resulting treaty would be viewed with great suspicion by the Americans, whose Senate soundly rejected it, and the Germans took it as a solid display that the communists had sold out their country. The Allied blockade had stood for months after the armistice, and more Germans than ever had died of malnutrition, which was also blamed on the communists. While France rested on its laurels, Americans fearful of the expansion of communism called for occupation of Germany to settle the matter there as only a Red Scare could overcome the sense of non-interventionism.

When the Socialist government collapsed in March of 1920 in yet another wave of revolution under Kapp and Lüttwitz, a coalition army marched into Germany aiding the institutions established by and the return of a limited monarchy under Wilhelm III (who famously declared the War “the most stupid, senseless and unnecessary war of modern times” as Crown Prince). The international soldiers were begrudgingly hosted as they kept the peace and supported the flow of aid, particularly money under the Dawes Plan of 1921, which not only stymied potential hyperinflation with capital investment but also tied together the two nations’ economies and political theories. After the Great Crash, the monarchy and its vibrant Chancellor Adolph Hitler were blamed for mismanagement, and Germany fell into a civil war that would later return the Republic.


In reality, there was no plan to oust Ebert peacefully. The workers attempted to fight the Freikorps only briefly before surrender. In 1920, Ebert would use the workers’ general strike to thwart the Kapp Putsch, and the Weimar Republic would continue through foreign aid until the Great Depression brought on hopes of genuine prosperity through fascism.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

January 14, 1858 – Napoleon III Assassinated in Bombing

In an organized attack by Italian independence radicals led by Felice Orsini, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, nephew of the famous Napoleon I and reigning emperor of France since 1852, was killed in a firestorm of bombs. The emperor and his consort, Eugénie de Montijo, were on their way to the opera when Orsini and his fellow assassins hurled bombs that exploded on impact, following a design created by Orsini the year before. The first two bombs struck at the front of their carriage, the second wounding animals and breaking the protective glass, while the third and final landed inside the carriage itself. A policeman was the first to reach the wreckage and cried out, "l'Empereur est mort!"

It was a tragic end to what had seemed an epic life. Louis-Napoléon was born in 1808 as the third son of Napoleon's brother Louis, puppet-ruler of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Holland. After the fall of the French Empire, Louis-Napoléon grew up in Switzerland comfortably while his cousin Napoleon II was held under royal trappings under the Austrian court. Following the deaths of Napoleon II and the earlier generation, Louis-Napoléon became the head of the Bonapartist movement and dedicated his life to reestablishing the glory days under Napoleon I. In 1836, he attempted to begin a coup at Strasbourg much like the Hundred Days, but, rather than join him, the garrison arrested him and sent him back into exile. Another failed coup came in 1840, and Louis-Napoléon was sentenced to perpetual imprisonment in the fortress at Ham.

There, Louis-Napoléon began formulating his ideals of the liberal emperor. He wrote L'extinction du paupérisme, defining Bonapartism as autocracy for the good of the masses and outlining economic policies bordering on socialism. Following six years of imprisonment, he escaped after trading clothes with a mason and came to England, where he remained until the Revolutions of 1848 toppled King Louis-Philippe and established a new republic. Louis-Napoléon returned to Paris after the June Days uprising proved the reforming efforts of the Republic were ineffective, and he won the new presidential election with more than 75% of the total vote. He was wildly popular, "all things to all men" with progressive economic policies for the poor, being dubbed "least bad" by the Monarchists, and holding the historic Napoleon name. His term proved beneficial, but problems began as Louis-Napoléon requested an amendment to the 1848 Constitution so that he might run again after his term ended in 1852. The National Assembly refused and instead amended voting laws with a three-year residency requirement, which would cut out many traveling workers of the lower class who would have voted for him. Calling for maintenance of universal male suffrage, Louis-Napoléon secured the support of the army and at last had his successful coup in 1851.

Now ruler of the Second French Empire, Napoleon III worked to create anew what his uncle once held. A new constitution kept universal male suffrage and the Parliament, but all real power lay with Louis-Napoléon. He exiled political rivals to Devil's Island and other penal colonies and married the Spanish Eugénie de Montijo (after being turned down by higher nobles from the houses of Sweden and Britain) to produce his heir, Louis Napoléon the Prince Impérial, born in 1856. Louis-Napoléon also worked to overcome the colonial restrictions placed on France by aiding European powers in the Crimean War (using Russia as an excuse for the return of French influence) and the Anglo-Persian War. More notably, he also gave influence in the militaristic attempts at Italian unification, such as his providing troops to restore Pope Pius IX and defeat the short-lived Roman Republic of Garibaldi and Mazzini in 1849.

This action had caused an uproar in France (which had been calmed by Louis-Napoléon's popularity), but it had also instilled in the minds of Orsini and others that Louis-Napoléon was a stumbling block to an Italian nation, leading to his assassination. The assassins were caught and executed with Orsini notably going to the guillotine quietly and with a sense of satisfaction. Meanwhile, France became a political vacuum as Napoleon IV was only two years old. Bids for an advisor turned into factionalism, and power gradually fell back to the Parliament, making the young emperor a figurehead. Anti-Italian sentiment led to the French assistance of the Austrians (a large reversal from the old Napoleonic enemy) in the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859, which formed the alliance that narrowly defeated the Prussians in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, giving Emperor Franz Josef political clout to build his Southern German Confederation opposing Prussia and its northern German allies.

Prussia would eventually have its victory in the Great War (spawned from another assassination in 1914 of Austria's archduke) when it joined with Russia and Britain against France, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, leading to the dissolution of the latter two and the formation of South Germany and, finally, an independent unified Italy. With its humiliating defeat, France gave up its empire as the aging Napoleon V abdicated. The new republic lasted only briefly before the fascist Third French Empire arose in the 1930s. The resulting imperialism with its Japanese allies would be opposed by a congress of nations, including the century-old Republic of Mexico and the liberated Vietnamese who suffered under years of Japanese colonialism before becoming a republic under American encouragement.


In reality, the third bomb landed underneath the carriage, injuring the police officer but leaving the imperial couple unscathed. Napoleon III survived to put into action many of his foreign policies including military intervention in Mexico, the conquest of Indochina, and aiding Sardinia in victory over Austria and the unification of Italy. In 1870, he would go to war against Prussia after being pressured by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and the resulting loss would give way to the German Empire while the French collapsed. Napoleon III died from complications in surgery in 1873 while in exile in England.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

January 13, 1950 – Soviet Union Remains Active in the United Nations

Upon the 6 to 3 defeat of his proposal to oust the Nationalist Chinese representatives in the United Nations in favor of the People's Republic, Soviet ambassador Jacob Malik walked out of the voting chamber and announced his boycott of the Security Council. He blamed the United States for "lawlessness" and noted that anyone could see the illegality of refusing to recognize the PRC. Until the Nationalist Chinese were removed, Malik vowed that the Soviet Union would not be bound by UN declarations.

Although Malik was willing to make the gamble, higher-ups in Moscow were not, and he was replaced as the Soviets determined to keep their power of veto that had been part of the original agreements to joining the UN in 1945. The early days of the UN were rife with difficulties as the Soviets initially balked at the inclusion of India and the Philippines, the former colonies who were believed to be just extra votes for the dominant UK and US. Further issues arose when the USSR wanted each of its republics within to gain recognition, but the US countered saying each of its 48 states would then, too. A compromise was met with recognition of Belorussia and Ukraine, and the United States was proposed two additional seats but declined rather than choose among its states.

With the balance of the Cold War thusly struck for the early days, the defining moment of the renewed troubles was the refusal to recognize the People's Republic of China after the Nationalist Republic moved its capital to Taipei. Malik hoped for a shut down of the UN by walking out and relying on the power of the Eastern European Bloc. However, the West had worked to create another political union, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It had begun with the Treaty of Brussels on March 17, 1948, as a mutual defense agreement and continued to expand from the original states of Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, France, and UK. As the Cold War heated up with the tense days of the Berlin Blockade, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Canada, and the United States were included by 1949. Seeing the potential for such an overwhelming position by the West, the Soviets decided to keep their veto with the UN to stymie the spread of renewed imperialism.

The resolute stance soon proved useful as the invasion of South Korea by North Korea arose in debate that June. Korea, which had been occupied by the Empire of Japan for years before its defeat in 1945, was split into occupation zones. The Soviets, who had invaded Manchuria and were much closer to the agreed upon 38th Parallel, held the north while the Americans stationed soldiers in the capital and south. North Korea came under the influence of communism and supported the People's Liberation Army during the Chinese Civil War. After the war ended with the Nationalists retreating to Taiwan and the formation of the People's Republic in 1949, some 70,000 Koreans who had volunteered for service returned to North Korea. North Korean leader Kim Il-sung gained Mao Zedong's blessing in May of 1950, and an invasion took place soon after in retaliation to provocative raids under "bandit traitor Syngman Rhee." They vowed to capture and execute the South Korean leader, who was evacuated, but not before he ordered the Bodo League Massacre in which hundreds of thousands of suspected communists were slaughtered by military and police.

Meanwhile, the invasion came to notice by the United States. Truman and his Secretary of State Dean Acheson agreed that appeasement could not be repeated and the expansion of Communism was a threat to the Free World. They knew that unilateral action would cause a massive upheaval, however, and so the matter was introduced into the United Nations on June 25 with a proposed demand that North Korea remove its forces, which would have been United Nations Security Council Resolution 82, had the Soviet Union not vetoed it. Arguing on the grounds of national sovereignty, the Soviets continued to veto potential resolutions, blocking the US's chance at stopping the flow of Communism. As the months passed and the ambassadors' hands were tied, Kim Il-sung's forces overwhelmed the peninsula, and it was all the US could do to organize a massive evacuation to the heavily militarized American bases in Japan.

Although many were frustrated, the primary mood of the West was one of conservatism. When the People's Republic of China occupied Tibet that November, again the United Nations sat with hands tied although the matter was widely debated. The nation most considered to have grave concern for the matter, India, held that the Chinese would be peaceful and refused to support military action. Truman's doctrine of "containment" seemed to largely fall apart on the impossibility of military action, though it had succeeded with its $400 million donation to support the government of Greece in its civil war. A new form of Dollar Diplomacy, famous from the Taft presidency, came into power during Eisenhower’s terms, fed by the vast economic expansion of the 1950s.

Instead of becoming militarily involved, the United States would invest heavily in surrounding nations, such as the famous New Society programs expanding support for Thailand and Cambodia after the fall of Vietnam under the Johnson administration. Meanwhile, covert CIA operations would aid enemies of communist influence, which would bring about the downfall of the cash-strapped Soviet Union after its invasion of Afghanistan. Despite its overall success, the policies were widely condemned by the often pro-USSR debates in the United Nations as "New Imperialism" and many countries such as Korea continued under what Truman called "totalitarian regimes", evident at night when the bright lights of Japan are compared with the darkness on the whole of the Korean peninsula.


In reality, the Soviet boycott lasted until August, absent from UN SC Resolution 82, 83, 84, and 85, which established the Korean War with peace-keeping forces from around the world, though largely American with General Douglas MacArthur as commander. Years of brutal fighting would return the demilitarized zone to the 38th Parallel, but further wars such as that in Vietnam would expand the fighting of the Cold War.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

January 12, 1904 – Automobile Enthusiast Henry Ford Dies in Crash

Atop the frozen Lake St. Clair near Detroit, Michigan, USA, automobile engineer Henry Ford died when his experimental Ford 999 broke through a spot of unseasonably thin ice. The car flipped at speeds estimated beyond ninety miles per hour, and Ford was instantly killed.

Ford had already built an illustrious career in engineering and was gathering investors for his newly incorporated Ford Motor Company. He had begun on his own farm and sawmill and, in 1891, accepted a job at the Edison Illuminating Company. In 1893, the same year as the birth of his son, Edsel, Ford was made chief engineer, which gave him the resources to experiment with gasoline engines and culminated in the invention of his Ford Quadricyle in 1896. With Edison's encouragement, Ford continued to develop his machine and in 1899 left to found his own company. The initial Detroit Automobile Company did not meet Ford's standards, and he later began again with Alexander Malcolmson, taking in a partnership with the Dodge brothers, whose company produced parts.

As part of his self-publicity, Ford drove his latest automobile design, the "999", which he had perfected from the old model created alongside bicyclist Tom Cooper. It had won races in the past, and Ford meant for it to be a display of his capabilities at setting a new land speed record far and above that made by William Vanderbilt in his internal combustion Mors at seventy-six miles per hour over one kilometer. Although the new record was estimated, it was partially considered out of respect of the late Henry Ford, though L'Automobile Club de France did not recognize it at all as the run had taken place on a frozen lake.

Despite Ford's disaster and numerous other birth pangs, the automobile industry blossomed across the world. Ford's company would shift ownership to the Dodge brothers, who eventually sold the automobile component and put in manufacturing with other Detroit automobile companies such as Olds and Buick before starting their own car line. Other countries such as France, Germany, and Britain manufactured their own automobiles, though America would take up a lead in numbers overall. The growing middle class in America was able to support more of the luxury of an automobile while much of the world transitioned from the horse and buggy to trains. The car remained a badge of wealth, costing between $2000 and $3000, a large amount as the average annual salary in 1910 was $750. Even more expensive luxury cars such as those from Cadillac would cost as much as $5000 by 1920.

Through the Twenties, manufacturing improved and many Americans purchased their cars on credit only to lose them as the Great Depression began. Much of the United States continued using horses, bicycles, and the cheaper motorcycle, but the manufacturing burst of the 1940s set the groundwork that after World War II just about anyone could afford an automobile. Just as prefabricated houses became widely available, so did the many varieties of American cars. Internationally, the American car would continue its lead into the rebuilding of Europe, though every nation seemed to have its own variety.

By the '50s when the industrial sector managed to cross over into mass production of cheap cars, however, the wartime perfection of the rail system and air travel did not leave much interest in long-range driving. President Eisenhower was able to secure some funding for his Interstate Highway System, but the roads would be rarely used by the public who preferred the ease of passenger travel. Cars, meanwhile, were typically saved for leisure on day-trips or commuting for those who lived outside of cities' widespread mass transit systems. Counter-culture beatniks and later hippies popularized the “road trip”, but it would be another generation before it could be considered a family activity.


In reality, Henry Ford's test run was impeccable, and the car went onto a racing tour that spread his name across the country. Ford would be instrumental in the making of the modern world with his Model-T, introduced October 1, 1908, as “a car for the great multitude.” At only $825 initially and as cheap as $360 in 1916, by 1927 over fifteen million Model-Ts had been produced. Ford also helped introduce the moving assembly belt, which revolutionized manufacturing. While severely anti-union, Ford believed in high wages and benefits for employees, hiring and keeping the best workers to maximize efficiency.

July 27, 1794 - Robespierre's Defense Published

At the height of the Reign of Terror, the French Revolution held its climax as forces loyal to the ideals of Maximelien Robespierre overwhelmed the Convention army arranged by men such as Billaud, Barras, and Barère. The loyalist soldiers had been rallied by the overnight and secret publication of Robespierre's speech defending himself from charges of tyranny. Instead, he warned France of a conspiracy to seize power in the Republic, which caused his enemies to leap to action and call for Robespierre's execution, bringing all cards to bear.

It was a harried time in the chaos that seemed to dominate Paris since the storming of the Bastille in 1789. Through the next five years, the National Assembly would attempt to create constitutions, women would march on Paris, property of the Church was publicly seized, the king fled, was captured, and eventually executed, and nearly every king in Europe declared war on the new Republic. Meanwhile, even the forces of revolution began to splinter, forming political clubs such as the Feuillants and the Girondins. Many of them encouraged the wars, hoping for war to be declared against Austria, but lawyer and political leader Robespierre said in 1792, "such a war could only favour the forces of counter-revolution, since it would play into the hands of those who opposed the sovereignty of the people. The risks of Caesarism were clear, for in wartime the powers of the generals would grow at the expense of ordinary soldiers, and the power of the king and court at the expense of the Assembly."

The war began anyway after the death of Leopold II of Austria, but France took major victories in Belgium and the Rhineland, cementing the position of the Republic on the continent. The fledgeling government turned inward to its problems of food shortages, insurrections, and outright treason. The Tribunal was established in 1793, leading to a Committee of Public Safety, and Robespierre was one of the nine elected. Here began a "Reign of Terror" during which Robespierre wrote, "...the spring of that government during a revolution is virtue combined with terror: virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible." The report of enemies of the state became a major part of clearing up the factionalism and counter-revolutionaries of the time, and it grew further with the Law of 22 Prairial on June 10, 1794. By it, the Tribunal could condemn an enemy of the state through direct order and without witnesses. Through the next eight weeks, nearly 1300 people would be guillotined.

Robespierre's system of purification nearly ricocheted back at him when he was called before the Convention, accused of treason. That July, Robespierre had recalled several envoys who had been accused of extravagance with their positions to Paris to account for their actions. One of them, Joseph Fouché, evaded arrest and sneaked from house to house of Convention members, explaining that Robespierre would come for them too. With the groundwork set for a coup d'état, the Convention called in Robespierre on suspicion of tyranny, and he delivered a two-hour speech giving already his knowledge of the conspiracy. The guilty members (though unnamed) hurried to act. The next day, Robespierre's ally Saint-Just (whom Robespierre had been before sent to the front to garner support from the army) was shouted down during his defense. Robespierre also attempted to speak, but the chaos and outright mockery closed him off. At the conclusion, the Convention ordered the arrest of Robespierre and many of his allies.

Commune soldiers under General Coffinhal marched in to defend Robespierre, aiming for the Convention itself, who ordered up soldiers of their own. The soldiers of the Commune began to falter, and it was then that copies of Robespierre's speech was delivered to them, printed in secret after the debate in the Convention had attempted to censor them. Instead, the soldiers realized that they must continue to fight for the good of the revolution against conspiracy and were joined by many free Parisians from the mob. The Battle of Paris raged for only a few hours initially, but when the conspirator's army broke in the early morning, the rioting spread to follow them. Barras, who led the Convention soldiers, was killed in the fighting, Jacques Nicolas Billaud-Varenne was captured and executed, and Bertrand Barère (who had already come under suspicion of treason) managed to escape, eventually ending up in England before disappearing into the Caribbean as an adventurer.

After the Battle of Paris, Robespierre succeeded in his plans to end counter-revolutionary movements. By winter, the Law of 22 Prairial came to an end and the Terror expired. Instead, Robespierre continued his place maintaining the Committee of Public Safety and keeping the political elements of pure to his ideal of republic. Meanwhile, the wars with Europe (and even the Quasi-War with the United States until the matter of privateering was settled) continued until the Treaty of Lunéville with Austria in 1801 and the Treaty of Amiens with Britain in 1802. The war was finished by General Moreau as the great Corsican general Napoleon Bonaparte was dispatched to the West Indies as "punishment" for his lateness in returning from Egypt in 1799 due to poor communication, but also to get a potential tyrant away from the young republic as well as to organize the former slaves who had been freed under the Rights of Man.

Robespierre himself would retire from political office in 1815, but he would continue to lead the Jacobin political party and encourage the spread of Republicanism to other countries. After the success of the Society of United Irishmen liberating the Republic of Ireland and later the Republic of Australia, Robespierre was instrumental creating a Republican Bloc of nations such as Batavia and Saint-Domingue that spurred conservatism in the royal houses of Europe. In 1821, Robespierre left to observe General Simón Bolívar in his carving out of republics from the old Spanish Empire in the Americas, which rejected Robespierre's Cult of the Supreme Being. Elsewhere, primarily in Europe and then in French republican dependencies, the deist Le culte de l'Être suprême remains the state religion with its festival on June 8 as the largest holiday of the year. Robespierre himself led the festivities in Paris until his death in 1836.


In reality, Robespierre's speech was never published, though repeated and applauded at the Jacobin Club. According to Napoleon Bonaparte, "Robespierre was overthrown because he wanted to become a moderator and stop the Revolution. Cambaceres told me that the day before his death, he delivered a wonderful speech that was never printed. Billaud and other terrorists, seeing that he was weakening and he would invariably have their heads, conspired against him and stirred up the so-called decent people to overthrow the 'tyrant,' but in reality to take his place and extend the reign of terror."

*Special thanks to Nicolas Gregoire for idea and background

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

December 20, 1989 – Canal Sabotage as Panama Invasion Commences

As part of the growing War on Drugs that had been declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971 and redoubled by President George Bush, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was indicted on drug-trafficking charges and endangering American nationals in addition to his more obvious crime of suppressing democracy. Sparked by the shooting death of a US Marine at a roadblock on December 16, nine thousand US troops entered Panama in Operation Just Cause, joining the some 12,000 others that were already there as part of the defense of the jointly owned Panama Canal (set to revert to Panamanian control in the year 2000 under the Torrijos–Carter Treaties). Noriega’s pet army of the Panamanian Defense Forces was easily defeated with minimal resistance, except for a devious counterattack with an unassuming small freighter that rested in the Canal near the Gatun Locks.

Rigged with explosives on a timer, the freighter exploded while unoccupied, killing several sailors on nearby boats and one canal worker. While the damage to the Canal was not catastrophic, it would take months to repair back to full capacity, frustrating international shipping and making a noticeable dent on the world economy with the Dow Jones dropping briefly below 1,000 points. News of the strike shocked military commanders and President Bush, who had been largely in control of the situation. Although only twenty-three US soldiers and three American civilians were killed (opposed to 150 PDF and some 500 Panamanian civilians), the invasion would have a black smear in the public view.

While the fighting ended shortly after it had begun, Noriega found asylum in the Vatican anuncio and did not surrender until arrested by US Drug Enforcement agents on January 3. During this time, the US scrambled to polish its image. Polls sponsored by CBS and articles by the New York Times showed that Panamanians were pleased that the dictator had been overthrown and the properly elected Guillermo Endara sworn into office; even those who had suffered property damage or the loss of loved ones supported the US invasion by as much as 80 percent. Other news sources were not as friendly, giving accounts such as those from Paul Eisner of Newsday describing blacklists and “sapo” informers upon neighbors as well as the Miami Herald’s report of "Neighbors saw six U.S. truck loads bringing dozens of bodies to a mass grave” and a mother’s "voice rose over the crowd's silence: 'Damn the Americans.'"

International disapproval arose, made all the louder by the economic fallout of the damaged Canal. The Organization of American States and the European Parliament made formal protests, calling the move a violation of international law. As public criticism grew, more stories began to come out about Noriega’s past. Most recognized him as a money-launderer and drug-trafficker, but the story of his origins by CIA support became widespread. Noriega had been picked by the CIA as a potential block to fears of Central American communism in 1970, but was dropped from the payroll in 1977 after he had become mixed in drugs. Two years later, the Sandinista National Liberation Front came to power in Nicaragua, and Noriega was tapped again to keep communism from spreading and became dictator in 1983. Throughout the Reagan Administration, which came into its own problems with illegal activity in the Iran-Contra Affair, Noriega enjoyed American support as he rigged elections and was condemned by US Senate committee reviews of drug traffic. Upon word that Noriega may have been connected with Cuba and the Sandanistas, he was cut off by the US government. After his arrest in 1989, he would be sentenced in 1992 to federal prison for forty years.

President Bush raced to salvage his administration, citing his own experience with the CIA and admitting that certain intelligence activities were necessary to stop the spread of communism. With the Berlin Wall falling in August and the Soviet departure from Afghanistan earlier in February, he noted that American fears of international instability had been satiated and now was the time to “clean up the mess.” With new policies on cutting international aid from dictators and new CIA transparency, a wave of revolution watched over by UN and largely American forces came in several countries such as Nigeria with free elections. Most famous would be the removal of Saddam Hussein at the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991 after his invasion of Kuwait. The actions would give Bush a narrow election victory for a second term after successfully winning support in Maine and Colorado from Ross Perot’s dropping out of his campaign in July of 1992. The fall of the Soviet Union that December would be a further feather in Bush’s hat.


In reality, there was no strike against the Panama Canal. Although sometimes condemned, Operation Just Cause would remove one of many dictators established by CIA and US support as part of Cold War strategies.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

December 4, 1952 – Weather Settles to Spawn the Great Smog Panic in London

In a somewhat rare weather phenomenon, an anticyclone formed over London during the bitter cold of the late 1952 winter. Something like an inverted hurricane, the anticyclone is a clockwise (counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere) rotation of winds around a high pressure region above a cold pocket. Inside, air becomes even colder and typically drier with clear skies, though it can also produce heavy fog as surface relative humidity increases. The lack of internal wind compounds gasses that would typically escape, which became the key to creating a nightmarish weather condition that plagued London for five days.

As the anticyclone settled over London, most citizens thought little more of the colder weather than an annoyance. They heaped more coal onto their furnaces and turned on lights, which meant more electricity from the coal-power plants around London. As the fires continued, the windless low pressure system did not let the smoke escape, and pollutants like carbon soot, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide began to thicken the growing fog. By December 5, visibility was reduced to a few yards.

Even though it was a thick, smoky fog, Londoners did not raise concern quickly. The old days of “pea soupers” (fogs as metaphorically as thick as pea soup, sometimes even green-tinted fog from industrial pollutants in the nineteenth century) were not far in the past, and London had always been known for its fog. Children were released from school as “parents were advised not to risk letting their children get lost on the way to school,” according to Prime Minister Ken Livingstone, who experienced the Great Smog as a boy. Above-ground traffic came to a standstill, ending all public transport outside of the Underground. Even ambulance services were halted, forcing the ill to get to hospital on their own.

Somewhere amid the haze, a rumor started that the smog was poisonous. It was in fact poisonous, due to its composition of pollutants, but most had fair air quality within their homes and wore handkerchiefs over their mouths and noses when they went out. Young children and people with respiratory problems were the few to face real danger. However, as people saw more and more deaths (estimates calculate that 4,000 more people died than usual), panic began to strike. People attempted to flee their homes, overloading the Underground until it too broke down and was unfixable in the dense fog.

As December 6 and 7 rolled on, the fog became denser. In some places, visibility decreased to less than a foot, making walkers outside unable to see their feet or even their hands with arms outstretched. Smoky fog seeped into buildings where it could, and the panic turned to all-out chaos. Rioters smashed into shops initially looting survival gear and then, after it became obvious police were unable to respond, anything of value. Fires broke out, adding to the smog and sense of Armageddon. As reporters and what newspapers were able to continue to print spread word of the madness, riots spread further.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill called in aid from the armed forces who were able to communicate by radio but unable to react to one another outside of a few yards. They attempted to canvas the city, but resources were stretched too thin to alleviate much of the rioting and damage. Primarily, the soldiers assisted in evacuating the city, a sight not seen since the days of the Blitz, escorting civilians onto special slow-moving trains bound for the North and Southwest.

Finally on December 9, the anticyclone dissipated, and the fog lifted from the scarred remains. An estimated 8,000 more people died due to respiratory complications, and commerce in the city was limited for weeks during cleanup. The government launched into numerous studies on the problems of low-grade coal fires and began legislation promoting paraffin heaters and then electric. Further actions led to the Clean Air Act of 1956, much improving restrictions on pollutants. Meanwhile, other studies questioned the impact of media on spreading the panic. The Conservative government put into effect new regulations managing the emotional coverage of news in times of emergency, reestablishing review boards similar to those during the counterespionage days of WWII.

Although rarely taken into play, numerous fines were handed out for reports on the battles between Mods and Rockers during Whitsun weekend in 1964, giving ironic government support to the youth subcultures as media portrayed them as folk devils.


In reality, there was not much concern over the Great Smog. It was not until after the fog cleared that doctors and coroners began to notice the increased death numbers. Environmentalism came to the forefront of the political discussion, and numerous Clean Air Acts have since been passed.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

December 3, 1839 - Abraham Lincoln Fails his Admission to the US Circuit Court

In another critical moment of failure of famed States Rights advocate Abraham Lincoln, his application to practice law at the federal level was dismissed, possibly due to finagling from Democratic opponents. The grounds for refusal were based in his fiery rhetoric and several challenges of his character, giving examples from his history of scatological humor and rough story telling. Lincoln could not deny these remarks and attempted a defense on First Amendment Free Speech, but he would soon give up as he fell into one of his "melancholies" (believed to be what modern psychologists would call clinical depression).

Lincoln's life had been fraught with hardships. Born in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky in 1809, young Lincoln was the son of Thomas Lincoln, who had become a wealthy and respectable man in the real estate business until he was wiped out in 1816 due to court cases over a faulty title. They moved to Indiana, a state where slavery was banned, and tragedy struck again as milk sickness (tremetol poisoning) took Lincoln's mother. Frontier life was hard, and the Lincolns moved westward again to Illinois to a new homestead. Lincoln left home and worked on a river barge before returning and starting a store that would ultimately fail. After losing a political campaign in 1832 and serving as a captain in the Black Hawk War, Lincoln finally found his path as an orator and lawyer.

He was famously self-educated, stating, "I studied with nobody." Instead, Lincoln read Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, the Revised Statutes of Indiana, the Declaration of Independence, and the United States Constitution while working as a secretary and surveyor in New Salem, Illinois. In 1834, along with his legal firm, he successfully began his career with the Illinois General Assembly as a Whig, following his hero Henry Clay, whose American System ideals he had begun to follow passionately. As a Whig, he would be firmly for investment in infrastructure to improve the nation, voting for projects such as the Illinois and Michigan Canal to connect Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River, roads, and railroads. With the Panic of 1837, however, the projects became bankrupt and Illinois was “littered with unfinished roads and partially dug canals" while its bonds tumbled in value. Lincoln suggested making up the money by Illinois purchasing federal land and selling it for a profit to private citizens, which the federal government refused. These disappointments by federalism would later impact his philosophy of state self-dependence.

Just as his career seemed to be on the proper path, Lincoln's subtly failing strength as a Whig became a stumbling block blamed for costing him the ability to argue cases in the US Circuit Court. His world collapsed as he settled into depression, even skipping offers by John Todd Stuart, a war buddy and benefactor who had inspired Lincoln to take up law, to meet his cousin Mary Todd. Eventually the two would meet and even marry, though they once broke their engagement due to second thoughts. During this time, Lincoln determined his ideas on independence and voluntary mass-agreements, like marriage, and he focused on local items for his legal practice and political career supporting federalism as less important.

In 1847, Lincoln advanced to the federal level as a representative in the US House. He argued bitterly against the Mexican-American War (disgusted with calls for the glories of war, which he called an “attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood”) and reaffirmed his “free soil” stance on slavery saying, "the Congress of the United States has the power, under the constitution, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; but that power ought not to be exercised unless at the request of the people of said District” while still denouncing the evils of slave-holding. He was rewarded with his support during the election of Zachary Taylor with an offering to be governor of the new Oregon Territory, but Lincoln declined, wanting to stay close to his home of Illinois.

Lincoln spent the next decade working to support his home state, running unsuccessfully in the 1858 Senate campaign but becoming famous after his publication of speeches in the Douglas-Lincoln Debates, including “I believe this government can endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will be divided.” He was proven wrong with the secession of the South after the narrow 1860 election of William H. Seward. During the Civil War, Lincoln argued for the rights of Southerners but agreed that a violation of the agreement of Union had taken place. He begrudgingly supported military action and rose significantly to the Illinois Senate, where his aid bills laid groundwork for military planning in decades to come.

After the war and the assassination of Seward, Lincoln became a powerful voice on Reconstruction and the necessity to return the South to normalcy, including the return of many rights. Gathering support from other wings of the Republicans and even former supporters of Douglas as well as revealing much of the corruption of victory-profiteers, Lincoln challenged and would eventually overthrow the Radical Republicans even though he had agreed with them on many anti-slavery issues before. Eventually, Lincoln’s fair-mindedness and disgust of corruption would get him elected President of the United States in 1868. Due to his deteriorating health and the increasing mental illness of his wife, Lincoln would retire from politics at the end of his term, though he had already set a new precedent for the United States with regional interest and a successful plurality of political parties. Many scholars would say this disjointedness did much to limit federal power that could have alleviated social woes in the next century’s Great Depression.


In reality, Lincoln successfully passed on to argue in the US Circuit Court and continued his belief in an American system, championing many Whig and later Republican ideals. His victories through political thought and the Civil War laid much of America’s groundwork of federalism.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

November 30, 1876 - Forward Pass Declared Illegal in American Football

During an early game of American Football, a pivotal moment took place when Yale athletic legend Walter Camp tossed the ball forward while in mid-tackle to his teammate Oliver Thompson, who then went on to score a touchdown. The opposing team, Princeton, protested as only backward passes to teammates. As it was an action performed in a tackle, the beguiled referee determined to settle the decision with a flipped coin. In the end, Princeton was supported, and the touchdown was nullified, along with the notion of a “forward pass” in American-style football.

Americans had been playing various non-codified games for decades already by the time modern football began to take form. Early in the nineteenth century, boys and men alike often played forms of “mob football” that date back to English games of time immemorial. Rules varied from town to town, with the “Boston Game” taking the lead as a hybrid of the diverging “kicking” and “carrying” games that would later evolve into Association Football (soccer) and rugby, respectively. The Oneida Football Club of boys on the Boston Common established rules in 1862 for the first organized take on what would become the modern game. It was an uphill battle, however, as football was routinely being banned from universities as too dangerous or unbecoming of gentlemen, and it would be years until these organized fellows went to college themselves with a proven formula for gameplay.

The bans on football ended, and colleges began to play one another in a loose intercollegiate league including Rutgers, Princeton, Yale, and Columbia. These big four schools met in 1873 to determine a standardized set of rules that would resemble soccer more than rugby. Meanwhile, Harvard, McGill, and Tufts continued the fascination with the Boston Game, more rugby than soccer and incorporating the “try”, which would evolve into the “touchdown” of carrying the ball into the end zone. In 1875, Harvard and Yale met for the first “The Game”, which became an annual event, and a new league was born as they decided to make the hybrid football the new standard for competition. On November 23, 1876, a new conference determined official rules for college football, among them making note of, but not clarifying, the forward pass.

In the Yale-Princeton game the next week, the forward pass would officially be laid to rest. Camp was disappointed with the choice, but he worked to determine a better, faster game where speed became as important as brawn. He created the line of scrimmage and a system of downs to move the game in increments, creating an ordered form of strategy and cleverness where there had once been only mobs. Camp also determined game length, field size, and scoring methods, creating the skeleton of what would be American football today.

Key to the game was the idea of movement, which would prove its most influential piece as the twentieth century dawned. Players typically followed mass formations, moving violently as one unit and often crushing opponents during a charge. In 1905 alone, nineteen young men were killed, and cries arose for safety on the field, even to the point President Theodore Roosevelt threatened to end football nationwide. An attempt to limit scrimmages was made, but the resulting punting game did not work well. With the forward pass having been declared illegal, the solution came to be ending mass formations, making each individual a significant piece to the eleven-member team.

Under Coach “Pop” Warner, one of the most influential football players of all time, Native American Jim Thorpe, would revolutionize the game with his expert moves. Pop did not want the fragile track star to play in football on fears he would be injured, but Thorpe convinced him to try a play against the defensive line and "ran around past and through them not once, but twice." Later that year, Thorpe would single-handedly score all of the points for Carlisle Indian Industrial School in an upset victory over the famed Harvard team, 18-15. Coaches across the nation hurried to emulate the apparent need for speed, finally matching Camp’s dream of a fast game working from a series of plays.

Since that time, American football has grown to enormous popularity and a multi-billion dollar industry. While America’s pastime of baseball became notoriously corrupt and slow, football has grown to be its rival, making key advances in its skillfulness and complex, eager maneuvers in high scoring games. Another rival, basketball, has taken its own season with some players in college crossing over due to the similarities in passing and running, but still with the unique feature of a pausing scrimmage and of course the famed tackles of blinding gymnastic agility.


In reality, the coin toss gave America its first forward pass. While still technically illegal, the pass would happen again in 1895 in a successful attempt by the Tar Heels to break a zero-zero tie between North Carolina and Georgia. After further experimentation, the forward pass was approved in the 1906 revisions and has become a mainstay of American football to this day.

Monday, September 26, 2011

September 26, 1960 - Nixon-Kennedy Debate Faces Technical Difficulties

What would have been the first-ever televised debate among presidential candidates came under technical difficulties that cut out the visual transmission, leaving only the audio and a test pattern, leading many Americans to turn off their TVs.

Television was fast becoming the dominant medium for mass communication. By 1960, the inclusion of televisions in American households had increased some tenfold to 88%. There had been presidential debates broadcast by radio for some time, but this would be the first live coverage of presidential candidates in what would prove to be one of the closest races of the twentieth century. It was estimated that some 70 million people had tuned in for the debate, though they would be disappointed and would have to wait another week to see their candidates.

The Republicans had dominated the White House since former general Dwight Eisenhower had taken over for Truman in '53. Eisenhower's two-time vice-president Richard Nixon was now up to bat, having practically clawed his way up to the top of politics from a childhood of poverty. An economic recession had come into play, weakening the Republican grip and turning the attention to the Democratic Party's new poster boy, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He was son of Joseph Kennedy, Ambassador to Britain before World War II and millionaire spirits-importer. Kennedy was Catholic, which proved to make many Protestants wary of a potential Vatican-dominated Washington but also bolstered the polls with many Catholics who had not participated in politics much before. Both men were young and had served in the Navy, but Kennedy had the advantage of being obviously more physically attractive.

Nixon, however, proved to carry the more powerful voice. At the time of what would have been the first televised debate, Nixon had just recovered from a hospital stay due to illness while campaigning and was pale, skinny, and still looked very exhausted. Attendees took great notice at the difference between the healthy, tanned playboy of Kennedy and the frail Nixon, but when the camera transmission failed, Nixon won handily. He would continue his luck when the second debate successfully went on the air (by this time he would be plumper from his famous "milkshake diet", well rested, and use professional stage makeup) as well as the third, though Kennedy would make up ground and cause the fourth to be pronounced a draw.

The election itself would be fraught with supposed corruption. Mob influence may have pushed Cook County in Chicago to be taken by Kennedy, which nearly tilted the whole of Illinois into his favor. Further questions were raised in Texas, the home of Kennedy's would-be vice-president, Senator Lyndon Johnson. Nixon reportedly refused to point fingers, which many believed would only lead to scandal on even his own end if investigations began about election fraud, such as the conspiracy that his aides had sabotaged the televised debate that September. Key Democratic votes were taken away from Kennedy by electors calling for conservative Democrat Senator Harry Byrd, and it would be enough for Nixon to take the White House the next year.

Nixon's term would be one of international turmoil. He would grant the order for air support at the Cuban exiles' victory at the Bay of Pigs, which would begin the Cuban War that lasted for almost two years before Castro's regime fell. Tensions with the Soviet Union would be constantly high, but the fighter in Nixon refused to ever back down. He poured resources into the American space program, paving the way for a Moon landing by the end of the decade. The Berlin Wall went up, strengthening the Iron Curtain, but Nixon would be instrumental in opening relations with the People's Republic of China, tilting the balance of world power into a wider mix than simply NATO against the Warsaw Pact.

While people debated his “soft on communism” approach, Nixon would continue to be popular and ever more so after his sudden assassination in Dallas while campaigning in November of 1963 with hopes of securing Texas for his next election. His vice-president Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr, would fill out his term and continue Nixon's international diplomacy with East Asia after his own election in 1964. Nixon is routinely ranked among the most loved of American presidents.


In reality, the debate was televised, and Kennedy took the lead in the polls for the first time in the election season. He would win that November in the closest election since 1916. Nixon would refuse to debate again on television during his presidential campaigns in 1968 and '72, both of which he would win.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

November 29, 1944 – Operation Elster Makes American Landfall

On a stormy day, German submarine U-1230 came up from an eight-day rest on the ocean floor off the coast of Maine and delivered its package of two spies to Hancock Point in Frenchman Bay. A freak wave caught the landing craft, however, tossing one of the spies, William Colepaugh, into the cold sea, where he drowned. The surviving spy, Erich Gimpel, determined to go on with Operation Elster (English, “Magpie”) in gathering intelligence on rocketry laboratories, sabotaging the Manhattan Project, and, perhaps most significantly, setting up the radio beacons that would enable the Germans to launch their V-1 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

Gimpel would later say during his interrogation after being caught by coordinated FBI agents and Army MPs outside of Los Alamos, NM, that losing Colepaugh was the best thing to happen to his mission. Colepaugh was an American defector who had been expelled from the US Naval Reserve for, as the official report stated, the good of the service. He was a discontented and seemed unable to apply himself enough to complete tasks, yet when he defected to the German consulate in Portugal after leaving a Merchant Marine ship, Colepaugh was chosen for an espionage mission to the United States. He was paired with Gimpel, a radio-operator at mines in Peru before the war, and the two were trained to be spies at The Hague, still controlled by German forces. They were given orders, transported across the Atlantic via U-boat, and told that a pack of submarines bearing V-1 flying bombs would come behind them.

After managing to get to Boston by foot and hitchhiking, Gimpel took the train to New York City, where he acquired rooms and began construction of his radio transmitter. He was stunted in his chances for espionage without American Colepaugh, so instead he focused on establishing communications with Berlin. By Christmas, he was able to radio messages to Germany, and Hitler became ecstatic at the thought of a vicious strike to America, perhaps one enough to bloody her nose into retreat from Europe. The Fuhrer pressed resources into the Vulkan Docks in Stettin to assemble launch-canisters developed after the experiments with on-board launches in 1943 had been unsuccessful. Many in the German High Command thought the focus was waste and only annoy the American tiger as the end of the war was coming within view, but Hitler personally ensured that the project would go forward.

The United States Government had become aware of the threat the September before, when captured German spy Oscar Mantel had given up information during an FBI interrogation that the Nazis were planning a long-ranged missile attack. In the Department of War, which was largely under the weight of the Army, the recommendation to FDR was that no real threat existed. The Navy disagreed and, on its own, wrote up plans for an “Operation Bumblebee” that would become Operation Teardrop in which a sub-hunting fleet would track down and destroy submarines bearing rockets. Vice Admiral Jonas H. Ingram, commander of the Atlantic Fleet, prepared task forces within the bounds of allowed resource allocation.

Germany went forward with its attack plans. As 1945 began, Albert Speer, German Minister of Armaments and War Production, gave a broadcast stating that flying bombs "would fall on New York by February 1." The propaganda was largely dismissed, and February 1 passed without incident. German spy Gimpel finally established his radio beacons later that month and began his journey west toward Tennessee and New Mexico. In late March, a seven U-boat fleet set out with its hastily prepared launch canisters, and the US took notice of increased radio traffic as April began. Ingram’s ships began a patrol, but it would be too late as the V-1 attacks struck in the early morning of April 3.

Many of the launches would malfunction and at least one rocket would fall far off-target into New Jersey, but several flying-bombs struck home, spreading incendiaries over Manhattan and one landing in the National Mall between the US Capitol and the White House, damaging the Smithsonian Museums. American sentiment flew into angry panic, especially upon news of FDR’s death by stroke only days later. Ingram’s Operation Teardrop was pressed forward, managing to sink five submarines at the cost of one destroyer, the USS Frederick C. Davis. Hitler’s attempt at scaring the Americans into peace only exacerbated a public opinion of revenge akin to after Pearl Harbor, and newly promoted four-star general Patton was directed by now President Harry Truman to take Berlin rather than turning south to liberate Bohemia.

In a combined Soviet-American assault, Berlin fell, and Hitler would be found dead in his bunker from suicide. The war continued in the Pacific and in the minds of many Germans, such as Gimpel in New Mexico where he would be apprehended in late July, supposedly having witnessed the Trinity tests. After the war finally closed, Truman launched his doctrine of American invulnerability, never to allow another such attack on home soil to happen again. Typical post-war conservatism was scarce, and instead massive resources (including captured German scientists) were allocated to defense projects that would be able to take out any missile attack with strategies such as homing counter-measure rockets, supersonic jets, tracking satellites, and focused microwave-rays that could destroy incoming enemy (most likely Soviet) weapons with no fear of a “cold war” becoming hot with a surprise attack.


In reality, Colepaugh survived the landing in Maine. Upon their arrival in New York, Colepaugh turned to womanizing and drink, then changed his mind about defecting and turned himself in to the FBI. His information aided in the capture of Gimpel, ending any hope of success of sabotage in Operation Elster. Rocket attacks proved infeasible; the Germans were never adapt their submarines to launch V-1 flying bombs, and scare tactics of a U-boat pack off the Atlantic seaboard were swiftly defeated by Operation Teardrop.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

December 19, 216 BC – Hannibal Captures Rome

The Second Puno-Roman War had raged for two years, and Rome became desperate after a string of catastrophic defeats at the hand of Hannibal, son of Hamilcar Barca. Hamilcar had served as the great Carthaginian commander in the First Punic War and went into exile in Iberia after angrily killing Hanno II, leader of the peace-mongers of Carthage, who had demobilized the Carthaginian navy and allowed the Romans to rebuild their own fleet. Hamilcar had passed on his distrust and hatred of the Romans to Hannibal, who set off across Gaul in a surprise attack across the Alps that caught the Romans with their sandals untied. The Gauls of northern Italy rose up around him, and Hannibal began a years-long campaign around the Italian peninsula that would end with the defeat of Rome.

Most of the Romans were sent to Iberia or Sicily to fight an imperial war, and the consul Publius Cornelius Scipio scrounged what 42,000 men he could to meet Hannibal in battle at Trebia. Hannibal's cavalry and expert flanking defeated the Romans, sweeping them from northern Italy. They vowed to drive Hannibal from Italy and formed up an army of more than 50,000, which Hannibal ambushed them on the cliff-ringed shores of Lake Trasimene in one of the most famous flanking battles in history. By 216 BC, many of the Roman “allies” erupted in revolt, and Hannibal captured the key supply depot at Cannae, where he and his army rested on the eastern end of Italy.
The Romans were determined to have another, final battle with the largest army anyone had attempted on the peninsula. Working under both consuls, they formed up a force of nearly 90,000 men, which included quaestors, tribunes, and even senators from the 300. The enormous army attacked Hannibal, who feinted a retreat, catching the much larger army in an enveloping maneuver that allowed the Carthaginians to surrounded and again slaughter Romans by the tens of thousands. After the battle, some 50,000 Romans lay dead, including much of the governors of Rome itself. According to legend, every single Roman was related directly to someone killed in battle. Hannibal's army, meanwhile, had only lost some 8,000.

At the victory, Hannibal's Nubian commander of cavalry, Mahrabal, approached him, saying that he would ride ahead of the main army and begin the attack on Rome. Hannibal, however, was slow to agree. His was a field army, and they did not have the siege weapons necessary to take Rome. Moreover, the Romans still had many allies as well as a seemingly unbreakable resolve, and moving on the city would potentially cut off his supply lines. Finally, Hannibal's men had fought long and hard, and he sought to reward them with three days of looting the corpses from the field. Mahrabal responded, “Truly the Gods have not bestowed all things upon the same person. Thou knowest indeed, Hannibal, how to conquer, but thou knowest not how to make use of your victory.”

Hannibal,suffering a migraine from his strained vision after having lost an eye before the Battle of Lake Trasimene, responded that Mahrabal could do as he saw fit, and the Nubian took an army of volunteers to begin the siege of Rome with Hannibal's forces to follow after their days of rest. He sent a case of some 200 rings cut from the fingers of dead Roman nobles to the Carthaginian senate, asking for reinforcements and equipment necessary to finish the war. After much debate, Carthage agreed, and they gained new allies as Grecian Sicily revolted against Rome and Macedon joined Hannibal's cause.

Even with an upgraded army that summer, the siege of Rome was not easy. Rather than a uniform siege line, Hannibal stretched his resources and emulated Mahrabal's tactics of constant patrols on horseback with skirmishers defeating any supply trains attempting to sneak into Rome. The Romans attempted several times to piece together a larger force to drive away the Carthaginian raiders, but Hannibal's superior tactics defeated them over and over. Finally, as winter approached, the Romans gave in. They had done everything they could to resist even moderate peace talks, mobilizing the entire male population including slaves, outlawing the word “peace”, and banning public crying while limited mourning periods to 30 days. Hannibal is noted by historians such as the Roman Livy as saying that want broke the Romans' back, but never military defeat.

The war ended very favorably to the Carthaginians, who raised up opposing cities such as Tarentum and Pisa to cow Roman influence on the peninsula. Carthage's empire would spread as the centuries progressed, south into Africa and eastward through the Mediterranean and Black Seas, using their famous navy to establish colonies and dominance in places such as Greece, Egypt, and Palestine. As a merchant people, their influence was largely cultural with an increase of child-sacrifice seen in archeology, and their empire did not go much beyond the navigable shores. After hundreds of years of dominance, the Carthaginians would eventually fall to invading Vandals, whose King Genseric would establish his capital and center of his state religion of Arian Christianity there in 439.

In reality, Hamilcar never killed Hanno II. In the Second Punic War, Hanno would sway the Carthaginians away from sending reinforcements, and Hannibal would never take Rome itself. He marched on Rome in 211 BC, but the attack was temporary and largely propagandist. For the next thirteen years after Cannae, Hannibal would fight a losing war in Italy before being recalled to defend Carthage from a Roman invasion force under Scipio Africanus, who would defeat him at the Battle of Zama.

Monday, September 12, 2011

278 BC - Pyrrhus Obliviates the Romans

The short-lived days of the Roman Empire came to an end as Greek conqueror Pyrrhus of Epirus determined to finish off the growing city. What had once been a pack of exiles and bandits who could only gain wives by stealing them during a false olympics became Rome, a masterful city-state that had taken in numerous forced allies after years of expansionistic war in Italy.

Originally of the Molossians, Pyrrhus's father had been dethroned, and he grew up in exile, learning the importance of military strength and political prowess. His father-in-law, Ptolemy of Egypt, restored him as king of Epirus in 297 BC, and Pyrrhus determined to expand his power. He attempted to conquer Macedon, but was defeated. In 281 BC, a new chance arose to build a league of allies when Tarentum on the southern end of Italy determined to revolt against the growing influence of Rome. The Oracle at Delphi told him “Aio te, AEacide, Romanos vincere posse”, meaning, "I say, Pyrrhus, that you the Romans can conquer." Armed with 3,000 cavalry, 2,000 archers, 500 slingers, 20,000 infantry and 20 war elephants (much of his forces on lone from Egypt), Pyrrhus set off for his Italian campaign.

In 280 BC, he met the Romans in the Battle of Heraclea, defeating their larger army but taking tremendous losses not easily replaced as he was away from Epirus and his allies were wary of utterly declaring war on Rome. The Romans considered a treaty, but eventually declined and rebuilt a fresh army. The next year, he Pyrrhus again defeated the Romans at Asculum, and again his losses were so large that he commented, "One more such victory, and we shall be undone."

In 278 BC, Pyrrhus came upon two new opportunities. The Greek cities in Sicily approached him to drive out Carthage as he was driving the Romans out of southern Italy, and the Macedonians invited him to take the throne there as their king Ceraunus had been killed by barbarians. Both were glorious, but Pyrrhus determined his most important goal should be utter defeat of his present enemy, lest they counterattack and he lose his position as his father had. Taking up what was left in his coffers and forces, Pyrrhus stormed Rome with a grand army and left the city with no stone on top of another.

With Rome destroyed, Pyrrhus's influence in Italy was secure. He next took up the position as King of Sicily, driving out the Carthaginians and pacifying the Greeks in Sicily to be loyal under his command. Pyrrhus then returned to Macedon, and he was able to build up a system of diplomacy that make the Pyrrhic Empire the great power of the middle Mediterranean. He was invited by Cleonymus of Sparta to overthrow the city there, and Pyrrhus began his last campaign in 272 BC. He would be caught in the street fighting after successfully sneaking his army into the city and killed by a roofing tile thrown by an old woman. It seemed an unfitting end who Hannibal, the great statesman of the Carthaginians and conqueror of Gaul, called the greatest military commander in the world. His strategy of utterly destroying and absorbing his enemies gave birth to the phrase "Pyrrhic victory" in which a conquest is total.


In reality, Pyrrhus left the Romans to rebuild, and they would harass Italy to the point he abandoned Sicily to fight back, but was ultimately defeated after a string of "Pyrrhic victories" in which he won battles only at terrible cost. The unclear message of the Oracle stated that the Romans would conquer him, and they would in later campaigns into Illycrium. Appian noted that Hannibal called Pyrrhus the second greatest commander after Alexander.

* Idea offered by Steve Payne

Saturday, September 10, 2011

November 28, 1943 – Roosevelts Arrive at Tehran Conference

As the Second World War raged, the leaders of the “Big Four” Allied nations sought to meet, even though they would risk life and limb to do so. The Japanese Empire separated America from China, while Nazi Germany divided the USSR from America and Britain. They found a neutral point in Tehran, Persia, where Russian Premier Stalin could come from the north, Chinese Chairman Chang Kai-shek could approach from the east, and American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill could arrive from the west after a meeting shortly before in Cairo. They would discuss strategy for defeating the Axis powers as well as outlining post-war plans.

After a good deal of argument that the meetings would be strictly business between the immediate leaders and that women would not be allowed, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt convinced her husband that she and their daughter Anna would be necessary as future leaders in their own rights (and supposedly asking whether he had anything to hide, which would become more obvious after FDR’s stroke in 1945 where mistress Lucy Rutherfurd was by his side). Roosevelt’s arguments proved hollow as they arrived in Cairo and were surprised to be met by Mrs. Churchill. When they continued on to Tehran, they would be joined by Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Soong May-ling. Joseph Stalin also attended the meeting, though his wife Nadezhda Alliluyeva had died in 1932 from apparent suicide (that was rumored to be actual murder at Stalin’s hand) after the two had a public argument. Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt formed a “Big Three” of the conference, edging out the war with the Japanese on the important matter of finishing off Germany with a European campaign.

While the men conferred, Eleanor gathered Mrs. Churchill and Chiang to tea on a number of occasions, which quickly turned into their own summit. Eleanor had long been a supporter of the Red Cross, while Mrs. Clementine Churchill was currently the Chairman of the Red Cross Aid to Russia Fund as well as a number of home front charitable efforts and Madame Kai-shek had worked to build and fund orphanages and schools for Nationalist "warphans," whose parents had been killed in the dark times of the past decade in China. They agreed on a number of matters that would eventually become important parts of shared efforts worldwide in 1945 when Mrs. Roosevelt became a representative and charter member of the United Nations Organization.

At one point in the conference, Mrs. Churchill noted Mr. Churchill’s worries about how eager FDR seemed to please the stony Stalin. Eleanor related the importance of the Soviet declaration of war against Japan once the Europe question was over, but Soong May-ling voiced concern they all shared that Stalin was working to ensure a powerful Soviet Bloc of buffer territory in Eastern Europe and would most likely soon be funding the communists in China to overthrow the republican government that would serve as the Japanese were driven out. The ladies’ concerns grew, and Eleanor and Clementine voiced their opinions to their husbands. FDR began to rethink his position, and Churchill redoubled his conviction that the world would not be safe from “the scourge and terror of war” as long as oppression in the Soviet Union remained.

Even with the distrust of Stalin growing uniformly, Churchill and FDR put into effect Operation Overlord headed by General Eisenhower that would begin a new front in France. Stalin, in return, promised to declare war on Japan, though the action would not follow until Germany was fully defeated. Meanwhile, the western Allies grew closer to Chiang Kai-shek, whose anti-communist sentiment spread. By the time of the conference in Yalta in February of 1945, feelings had shifted away from giving the Soviets direct control over much of anything outside of their prewar borders. The Morgenthau Plan to de-industrialize Germany was written off to keep down potential resistance, which infuriated Stalin, who began to demand why he bothered to fight a war if the rest of the Allies were simply going to let Germany rest to fight again. Unsatisfactory plans were agreed upon, though it was understood that, after the war, they would quickly be shelved.

After the taking of Berlin, threats of use of the A-bomb caused Stalin to retreat across Europe and acknowledge the International Zones. In China, support from America bolstered the Nationalist armies, which snuffed out the communist forces in China in 1947 after taking their capital at Yan'an. Stalin found himself surrounded with few allies, and he turned inward to develop his own atomic weapons. The “Cold War” standoff would continue for nearly a decade until 1956 brought attempted incursions into Hungary, threats over the Suez Canal, and the internal disputes over leadership after the death of Stalin. The weakness urged NATO to push for the dissolution of the Soviet government, resulting in a swift war that brought on a new Russian constitutional convention. UN aid bolstered the Russian people and eased tensions to ensure the new government would not fall to another predatory dictator.


In reality, FDR objected to the Roosevelt ladies attending the conference in Tehran. He held that no women would be allowed to attend, even though Mrs. Churchill and Madame Chiang Kai-shek both attended, which left Eleanor and Anna most displeased.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

November 26, 1864 – "Alice's Adventures Under Ground" Manuscript Burned

In one of the more dramatic moments of logician Charles Dodgson's fairly private life, he attempted to deliver a handwritten manuscript to his young neighbor Alice Liddell as an early Christmas present. He was caught in a sudden rain shower and approached the Liddell family's home drenched but received graciously. As he was changing into dry clothes offered by Henry Liddell, an argument began. The source of the argument is unknown, though the two had disagreed on a number of occasions on college politics, and Dodgson left the Liddells' in his own clothes. Mr. Liddell proceeded to throw Dodgson's manuscript into the fire and comment, "Children need lessons from moral men."

Dodgson had met the Liddell family when Henry came as dean to Christ Church, Oxford, where Dodgson studied and would serve as a lecturer in mathematics. He suffered a stammer, which is believed to have been what kept him from entering the priesthood. Dodgson and the Liddell family became close, with Dodgson befriending the Liddells' boy Henry and their daughters Lorina, Edith, and Alice. As a family friend, Dodgson would become close to the children in the family, whom he would tell stories, have picnics, and use as models in his photography hobby. The friendship came to Dodgson's advantage in 1862 when he attempted an appeal to halt his taking of priestly orders, interrupting a lifelong plan of his mother's that he would enter the priesthood. As dean, Liddell noted that he should take the appeal to the college ruling body, which might only grant the appeal on grounds of expelling Dodgson. Instead, however, Liddell made the decision himself, allowing Dodgson to end his path to priesthood and remain at Christ Church as a mathematician.

On July 4, 1862, while boating with Mr. Liddell and the girls, Dodgson would tell a series of stories about a girl named "Alice" (in honor of, but not based upon, ten-year-old Alice Liddell) who fell down a rabbit hole and experienced many strange adventures. The Liddells encouraged Dodgson to write out his story, and he obliged, working on it for two years before delivering the manuscript to Alice. In the meantime, Dodgson and Liddells had a falling out. His diary through this time had numerous pages torn out, but it is known that, on June 27, 1863, Mrs. Liddell approached Dodgson on a topic that had been the source of much gossip. Notes suggest it was a questionable relationship, either with the governess or “Ina”, referring to either the oldest girl Lorina or her mother, also Lorina. Whatever the subject, the problem was enough to spur a falling out between Dodgson and the family, which lasted perhaps a year. The problem seemed to have faded enough for Dodgson to present his manuscript to Alice for the upcoming Christmas.

However, a renewed argument with the head of the house (and dean of his college) would cause Dodgson to storm out of the Liddells’ forever. While sometimes threatening to quit his position, Dodgson remained at Christ Church, lecturing and writing in the fields of mathematics and logic. He wrote stories, but none were published more widely than a few relations and acquaintances. Dodgson was encouraged to publish his Alice tales by friend and fantasy novelist George MacDonald, who had read a partial manuscript to his children, but Dodgson was through with it. Instead, he focused on his logic puzzles and completed several important theses on argument up to his death in 1898.

Meanwhile, Victorian children’s literature would remain “moral”, as Mr. Liddell had mentioned. Some scandalous material was produced, but censors were quick to keep publishers respectable. The moral constraints even continued across the Atlantic as L. Frank Baum rewrote his American fairytales to include necessary words of wisdom for children not appreciating home, such as his hero Dylan Gale. J. M. Barrie would be refused on his first draft of Peter and Wendy from his play Peter Pan, the editor saying that children needed deeper moral lessons and explanations that the ambivalence of the ethics of Wonderland would only lead to loneliness and destruction. Even into the 1960s, animated cartoons for children would carry lessons such as the moral responsibility of standing up to predators in Tom and Jerry, although cartoonist Walt Disney defied any sort of logic in his early “Silly Symphonies” of the 1930s, art simply for the sake of enjoyment.


In reality, the manuscript was embraced, and in 1865 Charles Dodgson (as “Lewis Carroll”) published Alice in Wonderland to wide enjoyment, though it was critically snubbed. The silliness of his stories would inspire writers such as L. Frank Baum (whose Dorothy came as a recognition of Dodgson’s female protagonist), J. M. Barrie, and many more with the notion that stories can be simply fun.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

November 21, 1910 - Revolt of the Lash Spurs Race War in Brazil

Brazil, though a large, advancing nation in the early twentieth century and a leader among Latin American countries as part of the ABC Powers (Argentina, Brazil, & Chile), still stood as a culture suffering from racial division. While many French colonies had ended slavery with the Revolution in 1789, England had abolished it by act of Parliament in 1833, and the United States fought its civil war in 1861 partially over the matter, Brazil did not begin gradually ending slavery until 1871 with the passage of the Rio Branco Law (or "The Law of Free Birth") providing freedom for children newborn to slaves, the Saraiva-Cotegipe Law in 1885 freeing slaves over 60 years old, and finally total abolition in 1888 with the Lei Áurea shortly before the emperor was overthrown. While Brazil avoided much of the US's infamous institutionalization of race superiority with Jim Crow, there was still a significant social division of race among the wealthy whites and the blacks, paros (mixed race), and caboclos (mixed Euro-Indians), fed by intellectual “science” of the time.

While minorities were kept at a lower caste in general culture, the most obvious racism was felt in the military. In particular, the Brazilian navy was notorious for white commanders with minority crews held at their whim. Living conditions were poor aboard ship, but the navy was making leaps beyond other navies in comparable nations. In the early days of the Republic, the government focused on the army to quell internal problems, leaving only a handful of naval soldiers and less than 2,000 marines. As tiny as it was, the navy proved instrumental in the Revoltas da Armada of 1891 when President Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca attempted to dissolve Congress and continued to battle against President Marshal Floriano Peixoto who held onto office despite legal need of elections in the next few years. After the turn of the century, calls began for building up the navy and establishing Brazil as a significant power at sea. Other nations such as Britain, Germany, and the United States rushed into the naval arms race, and Brazil was quick to catch up with many new ships and two dreadnoughts, the Minas Gerais and São Paulo, both commissioned in 1910.

Economic downturn struck Brazil just after the completion of their dreadnoughts, causing the third proposed, Rio de Janeiro, to be shelved. The troubled times also turned into harder conditions aboard ship as well as on land with food and supplies cut back to save on expenses. General morale fell, which caused discipline to be sharpened, including the use of racial slurs and corporal punishment, specifically the lash. This aggravated two years of organization and protest against flogging, which involved "leather whips tipped with metal balls", and pushed the sailors into planned mutiny. The men aboard the Minas Gerais chose João Cândido Felisberto (“The Black Admiral”) as leader and watched furiously as a sailor was sentenced to 250 lashes, continuing even after he slipped into unconsciousness.

In the late hours of November 21, the men began their mutiny, killing officers and capturing British engineers as hostages. The revolt spread to the São Paulo as well as the Deodoro and the Bahia. Their demands began simply, but as Cândido saw that the Army was moving to protect the capital Rio de Janeiro and outnumber the coastal defenders who were sympathetic, he decided that the only way to survive was to make wider demands. The issue that tied the bulk of the oppressed together was the problem of race. Most of the sailors (as well as army and manual laborers) were black, many of them former slaves or their sons, forced into place by lack of other options. Cândido and his advisers (including several of the British) wrote up a new list of demands for rights despite race as well as taxes on the rich to support charities for the poor.

The “Letter to Brazil” (Letra a Brasil) was sent by written message, word of mouth, and even wireless, spreading through the country and spawning an upheaval in major cities and areas where minority populations outnumbered the whites. The army quickly came onto the side of the navy, which made the white elites unable to put down the revolt as they had many in the past. Britain began to step in, but when their hostages were cheerfully released home, Brazil was left to itself. Much of the government and the elites fled the country. The remainder invited Cândido ashore, and a new government was built following his manifesto.

Public education became mandatory as a subpoint on the Letter, and the new Brazilian Democratic Republic survived its depression to thrive as it contributed to the rebuilding of Europe after its neutrality in World War I. The Great Depression struck harder, and Getúlio Vargas swept elections with his nationalist rhetoric. He was invited by Adolph Hitler to join the new Axis, but Vargas decided to continue Brazilian elections and relations with the United States, leading to Brazil's participation in World War II. While economic issues arose after the war and rumors circulated about militaristic or even communist uprising in the 1960s, Brazil would ultimately continue to be a social model to the rest of the world.

In reality, the demands of the rebelling sailors were limited to more focused items such as the end of lashing, increased standards on ship, and amnesty for the mutiny, which they saw as a necessary action. The government quickly gave into Cândido's demands on fear of naval bombardment of the city, but they reneged on amnesty with a decree expelling government workers who were "undermining discipline.” Two thousand men were discharged afterward, and hundreds were killed or imprisoned, maintaining the power of the elite. However, the lash was never used again in the Brazilian Navy.

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