Wednesday, November 25, 2015

June 16, 1906 – Sequoyah Enabling Act

In a surprising turn, the delegation from the Sequoyah Constitutional Convention to Washington was greeted by sudden support by President Theodore Roosevelt and won their chance to be named the 46th US state.

The land between Texas and what would become Kansas had been designated as “Indian Territory” since the days of removal under President Andrew Jackson. Following the Civil War, Reconstruction of the tribes who had made agreements with the rebelling Confederate States resulted in an eastward compression of land designated for Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Seminole, and Chickasaw. The western lands of “Oklahoma Territory” served as reservations for other tribes such as the Kiowa, Cheyenne-Arapaho, and Pawnee. The remaining Unassigned Lands were empty for years until opened up for general settlement in the Land Run of 1889. More land runs and lotteries quickly populated the west with burgeoning cities and farms where there had once been rolling prairie.

The Twin Territories soon turned to the idea of statehood, with Indian Territory hosting conventions in 1902, 1903, and 1905. They outlined a proposed state called “Sequoyah” after the famous Cherokee linguist. When the proposal came to Washington, however, politicians there were skeptical, especially since Oklahoma Territory was preparing its own convention to be held in the capital, Guthrie, the next year. Western states had proven to be something of a wildcard, such as the 22 electoral votes going to James Weaver of the short-lived Populist Party, potentially costing Benjamin Harrison the win over Grover Cleveland. The more formal Eastern political leaders determined unifying the two territories into one more predictable state would be the solution.

However, as men in the Republican Party’s back room attempted to predict how this state would actually act, they came upon curious numbers from the US Census Bureau. Indian Territory was overwhelmingly Democratic, including the delegation’s own representatives like Charles Haskell from the Creek and William Murray from the Chickasaw. Oklahoma Territory, which had been populated largely from the Midwest, was much more Republican. The territories had nearly identical populations near 400,000, but the overall Democratic population could form a majority in the state. They recommended separate states to maximize Republican seats in the House of Representatives, where the Republicans were losing ground.

The political gamble paid off. In 1908, after welcoming in Sequoyah and Oklahoma the year before, the Republicans maintained a majority in the Senate while stymieing losses in the House. The Oklahomans proved to continue their loyalty in 1912, granting a handful more electoral votes to Taft, although it was hardly enough to overcome Wilson’s majority. Throughout the years, the former Twin Territories could be counted upon for predictable votes.

Yet ultimately the “investment” proved a bad one for the GOP when, in 2000, Democrat former vice-president Al Gore was elected by a single vote despite Republican George W. Bush’s secure hold on Florida.


In reality, the Enabling Act mandated that the territories would be entered into the Union as a single state. Although widely Democratic for its first years, Oklahoma is now solidly a red state.

Monday, November 9, 2015

“Twilight of the Tudors” – An English Theocracy

This piece appeared as a thread on Today in Alternate History. Here we've woven it together with speculation of the timeline.

November, 1534 – Act of Supremacy names English Pope

Henry Tudor, who finally settled generations of civil war in England as the unquestioned Henry VII, strove to create a lasting dynasty through his oldest son, Arthur. To add international political clout and a great deal of military might to this, he arranged Arthur’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The plan went awry, however, upon Arthur’s untimely death of an unknown ailment just six years after the two teens were wed.

One year after Arthur's death, Henry VII renewed his efforts of sealing a marital alliance with Spain by arranging for Catherine to marry Arthur's brother Henry, the new Prince of Wales. Catherine claimed that there had been no consummation of her previous marriage, so Pope Julius II annulled it. The younger Henry was opposed to the marriage, but in 1509 soon after ascending the throne, he determined to go forward with it. Catherine and Henry soon began having children of their own including several boys, but they all died young. Only their daughter Mary survived.

Henry was notably tortured by the passage from Leviticus 20:21, “If a man shall take his brother's wife it is an unclean thing ... they shall be childless.” With a potential male heir on the way from his girlfriend Anne Boleyn and Catherine growing old, Henry requested an annulment from the pope as Catherine had once gotten. Although Henry had been proclaimed “Defender of the Faith” by Leo X for his rebuttal of Martin Luther’s attempts at Reformation, Pope Clement VII refused. Henry’s arguments were feeble, and moreover Clement was virtual prisoner in the Vatican, that is, of his political master Charles V of Spain who controlled the Papacy for his own purposes.

To obtain the divorce Henry created an Anglican Church with its own pope that might grant him the annulment and thus (he hoped) save the royal line. Although he chose to rid England of Catholic Popery, indeed might even have done so for political reasons anyway, he was reluctant to assume Spiritual Leadership of an Anglican Church himself. He reasoned that no King or Emperor had ever expressed the slightest interest in actually being Pope, and, furthermore, there might arise questions of celibacy for spiritual purity, although that would be settled later by acts allowing priests to marry. In searching for a solution he prized upon the Avignon Papacy, a similar situation which had arisen from the conflict between the Papacy and the French crown. So, Henry saw it as being in his interest not to displace the Pope, but to make the Roman Pope irrelevant, at least temporarily.

The Act of Supremacy was the last of a string of acts by the “Reformation Parliament” that severed England from Rome and installed a new church based in Canterbury headed by the tame Pope-let Thomas Cramner. As the Anglican Church grew, so did Henry’s family by a daughter Elizabeth (by Anne Boleyn, who would soon be executed for treason), and later a son Edward (by Jane Seymour). Edward VI ascended upon his father’s death, but the teenager’s power was largely overshadowed by Pope Thomas, who instilled reforms such as the Common Book of Prayer.

Upon young Edward’s dead after only six years of rule, Catherine’s daughter Mary assumed the throne. She attempted to revive Catholicism in the country and return its attention to Rome, but this proved impossible due to the separation with the Crown, in fact it would have been far better for Mary if Henry VIII had made himself Spiritual Leader of a Church of England. Despite her marriage to Prince Philip of Spain, her military power could not circumvent the spiritual law set in place. Pope Thomas worked in his final years to pass over Mary’s anticipated pope Reginald Pole whose Catholic loyalty might restore Catholic authority and hold an election in 1556 to name England’s second pope, Matthew Parker. The political struggle ended with the death of Mary and the crowning of Elizabeth, who largely distanced herself from spiritual turmoil.

Not exactly known for having a low opinion of his own importance in the scheme of things, even Henry VIII could not imagine the succession crisis that followed his demise. If Edward VI had perhaps lived longer to come into his own and step beyond Cranmer’s power, history may have been different, but the crisis in fact affirmed the English pope’s position. During this period known as the "Twilight of the Tudors" a powerful theocracy rose and the crown for a century would be under the thumb of the Anglican Church, leading to bloody civil war in the mid-1600s and recurring revolts in Calvinist Scotland.

In the long-run, the enactment would encourage France to revive its own pope at Avignon, and even the Hapsburgs in Austria to name a pope in Vienna while Spain controlled the Vatican to take similar actions themselves for achieving greater monarchical rule. The Italian Peninsula would be torn apart for centuries as the Catholic heads of Europe attempted to seize Rome, despite ground lost to the north to Protestantism.


Author's Note: in reality Henry instituted a number of statutes that dealt with the relationship between king and pope and hence the structure of the nascent Church of England. Supreme Head of the Church of England was a title held by Kings Henry VIII and Edward VI of England, signifying their leadership, although Elizabeth I revised the Oath of Supremacy changing Supreme Governor of the church rather than Supreme Head, a move designed to be more inclusive of Catholics.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Guest Post: Pearl Harbor What-Ifs

What if the US's aircraft carriers had been wiped out at Pearl Harbor in 1941? What if the Nevada had been sunk to block Pearl's entry? What if a third wave had been launched? This post from Francisco Meza at Hoku Tours explores what could have been.

Did the Japanese Navy Cripple US Navy Fleet During Pearl Harbor Bombing?

No! An emphatic No!

Fortunately for the Americans, the US Navy’s aircraft carriers weren’t touched in the Japanese surprise attack. Otherwise, the Pacific Fleet’s capability to conduct offensive missions would’ve been crippled for over a year (assuming no diversions were made from the Atlantic Fleet). The complete destruction of some battleships at Pearl Harbor and the partial damage of some more was a blessing for the Americans. Just six months after Pearl Harbor, the Pacific Fleet had to rely solely on its submarines and aircraft carriers in the most decisive naval battle of WWII, the Battle of Midway Islands. The Americans sunk 4 Japanese aircraft carriers. The US Navy not only halted the Japanese advance but also dealt the Imperial Japanese Navy a stunning defeat  from which the Japanese never recovered.

Even before Pearl Harbor, it was evident that the real queens of naval warfare were the aircraft carriers. A single aircraft carrier was capable of sinking half a dozen battleships and winning a naval battle without firing its guns.

The Pearl Harbor Attack

On December 7, 1941, around 8 am, over 350 Japanese fighter planes mounted a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, a US Naval base. Although the barrage lasted under two hours, it was devastating. The Japanese carrier-based planes destroyed almost 20 vessels, including 8 prized battleships and around 200 aircraft. Over 2,400 US sailors and soldiers died in the attack. One thousand more personnel were injured.

Japan Forces US to Enter WWII Arena

The next day, the US President declared war on Japan. The US had deliberately stayed out of this messy war for over two years. But Imperial Japan’s ambitious ventures in the Pacific region resulted in this foolhardy attack on the world’s number one naval power. Three days later, Germany and Italy, the allies of Japan in WWII declared war on the US. So, the US finally joined WWII in the Atlantic as well as Pacific coasts.

Imperial Japan Inflicts Massive Damage

The Japanese had damaged and or destroyed 18 US warships and almost 200 aircraft. For the US Navy, the most important loss was, of course, over 2,400 personnel who lost their lives and another 1,000 personnel who were wounded.

What if the Japanese planes had been successful in sinking the USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor's entry point?

Fires were raging when the USS Nevada received orders at 0810 to get underway. The USS Arizona had just exploded near her and the spilled oil was burning in the adjacent waters. So this provided the urgency for Nevada to get moving. She got underway at 0840. And Nevada was the sole battleship to get underway!

The Japanese aviators were alerted about any warship attempting to escape from the harbor. They had been specifically instructed to sink any ship attempting to escape in the harbor entrance so that other warships would be effectively bottled. So, when they saw the USS Nevada’s swift sortie, they followed orders. Nevada was targeted.

However, the Japanese target selection was questionable. Even if they had managed to sink the USS Nevada bang in the center of the harbor entrance, there would be sufficient room for another warship to exit the harbor. Eventually, the sinking USS Nevada ran aground deliberately to avoid blocking the channel.

Tactically, the target selection was wrong because even 14–18 dive bombers targeting her would be futile. It’d be almost impossible to sink a massive battleship with just 250 kg bombs. More importantly, the channel’s width of 1,200 feet would make it impossible to bottle up the harbor.

US Warships Bear the Brunt of the Japanese Surprise Attack

Bombs rained onto the warships moored in the harbor. A large bomb that landed on the deck of USS Arizona caused the most devastating damage. The forward ammunition magazine located below the deck caught fire, and the ship exploded. Over 1,100 personnel were trapped inside when the ship sank. This number was almost half the casualty at Pearl Harbor that day.

USS Oklahoma suffered the second-most devastating damage that day. Torpedoes penetrated the shell of this battleship, and she sank with over 400 personnel aboard. Sixty-four personnel were killed when USS Utah was hit by a torpedo and sank. Four personnel aboard USS Maryland died, and the warship was damaged extensively. But the anti-aircraft guns on this ship brought down several Japanese aircraft. USS Maryland returned to WWII action within 6 months.

USS Nevada Draws Many Japanese Planes Away from Pearl Harbor

USS Nevada suffered extensive damage and 60 casualties but downed at least a dozen Japanese aircraft. As USS Nevada attempted to exit Pearl Harbor, the Japanese aircraft tried to sink her at the entry point. They were not successful. The Japanese target selection was faulty as they could not sink USS Nevada despite making a desperate attempt. 

USS California was damaged extensively and lost over a hundred men. USS West Virginia suffered extensive damage and lost 66 sailors. USS Pennsylvania was damaged severely and lost 14 personnel. Although USS Tennessee escaped with minor damage, she lost her Commanding Officer and three other personnel. (All the battleships except USS Arizona and USS Utah were subsequently salvaged, repaired and refitted.)

The Japanese Think-Tank

Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto conceived this surprise attack. A strike force of 353 aircraft under Commander Mitsuo Fuchida was used. The attacking planes were launched from 6 heavy aircraft carriers that were accompanied by 24 supporting vessels. Another group of submarines was standing by to sink US warships that escaped the Japanese carrier force. This mission aimed at crippling the US Navy’s might in the Pacific so that the Japanese could seize control of the region. 

Imperial Japan’s Intelligence Failure

Imperial Japan’s Navy failed to cripple US Navy’s Pacific Fleet. The number one reason for this is that by the 1940s, battleships played a secondary role at best. They weren’t any longer the most crucial naval vessels. Aircraft carriers were the most important naval vessels. And in Pearl Harbor, none of the aircraft carriers belonging to the Pacific Fleet of the US Navy was damaged because none of them were in the vicinity. On December 7, all the carriers were away from their base. The Japanese should have known this and waited for the return of the carriers before launching their surprise attack. This error was a major Japanese intelligence failure.

The Consequences of Japanese Misadventure

Although initial appearances suggested otherwise, the Pearl Harbor attack was a total strategic failure. The Japanese Navy attacked a fleet in port. It’s extremely difficult to cause the permanent loss of a capital warship because repair facilities are available nearby. The Japanese attacked slower, almost obsolete warships. In doing so, the US Navy was alerted beforehand to rely on aircraft carriers in WWII rather than on battleships. The Japanese Navy launched the Pearl Harbor attack without any assurance that the most prized US warships—the aircraft carriers—would be present. All the three US carriers were safe elsewhere. Six months later, at Midway, these same US carriers sank 4 Japanese carriers. The Japanese Navy hurtled downward rapidly after this devastating loss.

Japanese Aircraft Leave Out Vital Targets

Although Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto had over 350 warplanes at his disposal, critical base installations including the power station, torpedo storage facilities, shipyard, maintenance facilities, fuel storage facilities and submarine piers were not attacked. The Pacific Fleet’s headquarters building that housed the intelligence section was left untouched as well. These huge blunders permitted the US Navy to rebound quickly from the Pearl Harbor attack.

The Japanese launched only two waves of attack. If they had launched a third wave of attack, they could have inflicted serious damage. The Japanese didn’t launch a third wave fearing a strong backlash from a determined enemy. Consequently, the Japanese Navy was not able to cripple the US Navy Fleet during the Pearl Harbor bombing.

The Pearl Harbor attack only resulted in the US Navy embarking on an Emergency War Building Program. Immediately on entering WWII, the US Navy ordered 16 large aircraft carriers. Also, 15 new battleships and 9 small aircraft carriers were ordered. The US Navy built anti-submarine vessels, escort carriers, and destroyers to counter Japanese submarines in the Pacific. In the next 4 years, around 50,000 combat aircraft were pressed into service. Naval aviation personnel strength increased from 10,923 to 437,524. Barely 6 months after the Pearl Harbor attack, the US Navy managed to sink 4 of the 6 aircraft carriers that participated in the attack at Midway Island.

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