Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Guest Post: 25 May, 1942 - New Guinea Force stems the tide

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History with input from Allen W. McDonnell.

Supreme Commander Allied Forces South West Pacific Area General Douglas MacArthur issued General Headquarters Operational Instruction No.7 placing all Australian and US Army, Air Force, and Navy Forces in the Port Moresby Area under the control of New Guinea Force.

Six months earlier, MacArthur had been recalled to active duty in the United States Army and designated commander of the United States Armed Forces in the Asia-Pacific region. In this role, he had led the defending Philippine and United States troops against a Japanese invasion ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The aircraft under his command were destroyed; the naval forces were ordered to leave; and, because of the circumstances in the Pacific region, reinforcement and resupply of his ground forces were impossible. MacArthur was ordered to Australia, where he started to plan for a return to the Philippines

Given his recent failure to properly prepare or execute the defense of the Philippines, this reorganization of the New Guinea Force might have been viewed with a healthy degree of skepticism. The truth was that, prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Washington had been reluctant to invest in defensive reinforcements at a time when the Commonwealth was preparing for full independence. The reality now was rather different; unlike his unhappy experience in the Philippines, MacArthur actually had massive support from Washington, making a decision that was high-profile but also ill-fated. A key strategic decision was to massively reinforce the Australian Armed Forces. Given the staggering amount of military resources that the Empire of Japan would pour into New Guinea, this move not only made a great deal of tactical sense but also made the south-west area the center point of the American effort in the Pacific War.

The military logic was fundamentally sound but overshadowed by the wider Germany First vs. Japan First debate, which had raged for months. Almost inevitably, the final outcome would be that both theatres would be given equal priority. MacArthur privately called this fudge the "Both First, Japan Quickest" strategy, which in cynical terms was exactly what it was. There were two main corollaries of this equal priority strategy adopted by America: to use submarine warfare as a primary means to interdict Japanese shipping and to send greater troop strengths to Borneo and New Guinea. This later decision was a tacit acknowledgement that the fighting in China and Burma would not shorten the war.

Aircraft carrier production was up to full speed by late 1943. Thanks to the submariners, Japan was unable to support the Imperial armies fighting on mainland Asia, let alone return them to the Home Islands for defensive purposes. MacArthur began to prepare his forces for a knock-out blow from a nearby island, requesting massive reinforcements. Unfortunately, the US was unable to simultaneously invade Japan and France; therefore, the "Equal Priority" strategy had backfired. The fudge came back to haunt President Roosevelt and Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, who bitterly quarreled with MacArthur. This dispute would result in MacArthur's relief leading to him entering the presidential race for 1944.

Author's Note:

In reality, during the second phase, lasting from late 1942 until the Japanese surrender, the Allies--consisting primarily of Australian forces--cleared the Japanese first from Papua, then the Mandate, and finally from the Dutch colony.

Notes from Allen W. McDonnell:

The surge of manpower in the Pacific theatre was perhaps even more important than MacArthur's personal qualities in leadership. Despite phantom fear of Italian and German battleships that would have been sitting ducks without air cover if they had managed to cross the Atlantic undetected, battleships including the North Carolina and Washington, along later with the New York, Texas, Arkansas, and Wyoming served effectively in hit-and-run raids with CVE assigned for air cover. Their guns could hit almost anywhere on most of the smaller Japanese-held islands, supplying devastating artillery barrages to cover amphibious invasions. The early deployment of the carrier Ranger, too, placed American naval strength at least on equal footing by 1942. With the Japanese navy balanced out of the equation, MacArthur started getting the logistical support he needed much quicker for the New Guinea campaign. Japan could not ignore that force, now forced to respond with as much strength as they could with the USN picking off troop transports and cargo ships delivering men and material to New Guinea from day one of the campaign. Despite the massive effort, or because of it, the losses in New Guinea put Japan on a desperate defensive posture for the rest of the war.

Provine's Addendum:

MacArthur handily won the 1944 Republican nomination for the presidency. Older elites were concerned about the general being a wild card, so Governor of New York Thomas Dewey agreed to serve in the vice-presidential nomination spot with promises that his level-headed legal mind would get its turn at presidency down the road. The election became brutal as Democrats sought to bring light to MacArthur's habit of firing staff before properly reviewing the situation, while MacArthur enthusiasts pronounced him the greatest military leader in American history since Andrew Jackson or even George Washington. MacArthur himself pressed the appeal to end the war sooner by whatever means necessary, accusing FDR of dragging his feet and placating his overseas friends, especially Stalin. MacArthur won the vote in November, and upon his inauguration began the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands.

American troops found Japan a starving military factory well loaded with materiel it had been unable to deliver to troops in China and Indochina due to submarine warfare. Food and raw materials were scarce, and the population had been rationed nearly to death. By the time of the surrender that fall, occupation forces became popular due to the flood of new supplies that winter. Japanese troops returned from mainland Asia, where they had been ravaged by Chinese defenders and often unable to return fire due to the lack of ammunition.

In 1945, MacArthur turned his attention more thoroughly to Europe, at last opening a front in northern France that Stalin had begged for months. With German forces still concentrated in eastern Europe, the Russian counteroffensive had been as grueling as American and British Commonwealth soldiers had experienced in the long-lasting Italian campaign. That fall, to bring the war to an early end, MacArthur played the card Allies had held close to the chest since 1942: an atomic bomb. Two bombs were dropped, first on Dresden and then Berlin. Hitler himself was believed to have been killed in the second, though his body was eventually unburied from his bunker with a gunshot wound. Surviving German leaders surrendered. Word of radiation poisoning and radiation drift across the prevailing winds into Soviet territory shocked the world, lending to the eventual Baruch Plan that would stymie the development of further nuclear weapons.

Hailed as a hero, MacArthur handily won reelection in 1948. By 1952, however, the populace had wearied of the wave of conservatism both from the White House and in Congress from leaders such as Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin and Richard Nixon of California. Democrat Adlai Stevenson II won by a narrow margin, which many reactionaries declared was somehow fraud orchestrated by the new world order. Although Stevenson mocked the idea of outside forces controlling US citizens, his presidency affirmed the legal international might of the United Nations that would prove itself by overcoming the Cold War.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Guest Post: Alligator for Thanksgiving

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History with input from Allen W. McDonnell.

Given that the Conflict of 1812 was considered the second war of independence, it was entirely logical that General Andrew Jackson's glorious victory at New Orleans should be marked as a National Celebration Day paired with the Fourth of July in the American calendar.

Following the abdication of Napoleon, British Prime Minister Lord Liverpool wanted the Duke of Wellington to go to command in Canada with the assignment of winning the war. But the truth was that the Royal Navy no longer needed to stop American shipments to France or more sailors; all parties were exhausted and willing to negotiate peace.

Before New Orleans, some hawkish British elements wanted to occupy the Louisiana Purchase, and it was for this reason that Major General Sir Edward Pakenham launched his ill-fated attack. The calamitous British defeat at New Orleans arrived in only thirty minutes of the poorly executed assault. Like Yorktown before, the defeat did not have to mean the end of the war, but it did require a complete reset and on both occasions, the national will to continue was not there. This result dissuaded Lord Liverpool et. al from ripping up the Treaty of Ghent that had been signed but needed to be ratified by both governments.

Following the victory, Jackson was treated to fried alligator, a local dish, and to his surprise discovered that he really liked it. From then on, he made sure his cook prepared him alligator for celebratory meals. Jackson was celebrated as an iconic hero and was elected president on his second attempt in 1828. But tragically, he was assassinated by Robert B. Randolph in the first year of his second term of office. Given the causes of the War of 1812, there was a grim irony that Jackson had ordered Randolph's dismissal from the navy for embezzlement.

Out of this tragedy, his successor Martin van Buren would mark November 9th as a day of national celebration, moving Thanksgiving forward several weeks and making alligator the Thanksgiving dish. Jackson would also be included in the presidential faces on Mount Rushmore, but arguably, the Seminole and Cherokee had the most to celebrate. They won a famous legal victory at the Supreme Court level to avoid being moved which Jackson would have likely ignored in violation of his oath of office.

Author's Note:

In reality, we have adjusted the timings to re-emphasize the significance of the American victory with an earlier Battle of New Orleans. Randolph only hit Jackson with his hand, making him the first president to be subjected to physical assault. There would later be an attempt on Jackson's life in 1835.

Provine's Addendum:

President Van Buren was a masterful builder of national myth, continuing the legend of Andrew Jackson into his reelection in 1832 and again in 1836, becoming the first president to serve longer than the eight-year norm established by George Washington. He did not follow through on all of Jackson's ideas, such as his unwillingness to enforce the Indian Removal Acts in the face of the Supreme Court decision opposing US Federal jurisdiction over tribes in 1832 in fear of losing ground to Whig Henry Clay. Van Buren was blamed for later struggles with encroachment, especially as agriculture pushed into Seminole lands in Florida for quick cash on harvesting alligators. Later legal appeals would strengthen tribal authority against encroachment while maintaining federal authority. The question of supremacy in states' rights and federal rule would ultimately be decided in a civil war with a Union victory that maintained tribal rights. This would have long-lasting legal implications, such as the successful defense by the Great Sioux Reservation to defend the Black Hills from incursion by gold prospectors.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Guest Post: War of 1809

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History with input from Allen W. McDonnell, Robbie Taylor, and Jeff Provine.

October 31, 1809: Atlantic Slave Trade leads to War

New Prime Minister Spencer Perceval offered the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer to twenty-five-year-old Viscount Palmerston, but the latter declined in favor of the office of Secretary at War, charged exclusively with the financial business of the army.

Palmerston knew that at this defining moment, the nation was on the road to conflict in North America. Because he was pro-abolition, the timing of this appointment was particularly auspicious because the U.S. Congress had recently failed to pass an Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves. The British Empire had just banned slavery and decided to enforce this abolitionist policy upon the United States, sabre-rattling against the prevailing Jeffersonian party's pro-French leanings. With a vastly superior naval force, Great Britain had the opportunity to bully her former colonies while she imported cotton from Egypt. The Americans had developed a very profitable industry based upon the institution of slavery, a matter that had been questioned as early as the Declaration of Independence. This clash of interests brought the two countries to war during the final months of Thomas Jefferson's second term as US President. As a Virginian plantation owner that had gained wealth from indentured servants and chattel slaves, he personally had wanted the same compensated emancipation that the UK had instituted, but the cotton gin had made slavery very profitable after its introduction in 1794.

So, into these circumstances were sown the seeds of a second conflict between the nascent United States and Great Britain, engineered by two men whose personal views on slavery were not so very different. But, if not the Atlantic Slave Trade, then most likely some other related commercial issue would likely have been the cause of war. Although the United States Navy lacked the strength to triumph in the Atlantic, war hawks thought perhaps her militia had a better chance of invading Canada, and so these were the plans that were hatched in Washington. Proverbs 11:29 tell us that "Whoever troubles his household will inherit the wind" and surely this terrible conflict would bring widespread destruction, involving First Nations and slave uprisings as all parties threatened to tear up the fabric of the nascent United States. Instead, Jefferson became the first three-term President to be re-elected because of war fever when the Royal Navy started seizing slave ships off the coast of Africa.

Though the USA gained Upper Canada, the loss of the Louisiana Purchase until the War of 1848 returned it to American control had a profound impact on slavery in the United States. The famous 1838 case of Manuel vs North Carolina was challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court where the justices ruled that free persons of color born in the USA and its territories were citizens under the US Constitution [1]. Slaves imported to the USA were not, but, after the War of 1809, very few slaves were successfully brought into the USA. By 1838, the vast majority of freed people were born in and thus now citizens of the USA.

Author's Note:

In reality, the U.S. Constitution permitted the Federal Government to ban importation of slaves by law starting in 1808 but did not require such a ban; separate legislation had to be passed to enact the ban. Abolitionists in the USA OTL passed said ban as effective in 1808, the first year Congress was permitted to do so. In this alternate timeline, the ban failed to pass.

[1] The court case extending freed persons citizenship preempts the Dred Scott decision of OTL that declared no African descended person could be a U.S. citizen. By making it established law a couple decades earlier, it makes removing citizenship a much tougher precedent to break.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

May 20, 1910 - Nine Kings Perish Waiting for a Photograph

 As the royals of Europe gathered in Britain for the funeral of Edward VII, it was seen as an opportunity to capture history in a photograph of nine kings all together. Arranged in a room in Windsor Castle were Haakon VII of Norway, Ferdinand of Bulgaria, Manuel II of Portugal, Wilhelm II of Germany, George I of Greece, Albert I of Belgium, Alfonso XIII of Spain, George V of Britain, and Frederick VIII of Denmark.


Something went terribly wrong, however, when an explosion tore through the room, killing everyone inside. The mystery has never been fully solved, although the dominant theory then and today is that anarchists sabotaged the photo by sneaking gunpowder in with the camera equipment. Conspiracy theories argue that it was the work of an agent who had been planted among the staff, waiting years for the prime moment to strike. Some others hold it was an assassination aimed at Manuel II that claimed wide collateral damage. Still others suspect it may have all been a terrible accident such as a gas leak set off by a sparking bulb. They argue that if anarchists were to strike, the procession would’ve been one with even more targets, including Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia and Archduke Ferdinand of Austria.

The tragedy, taking place only two weeks after the death of Edward VII, rocked Europe. Much of the public reaction was pro-royal, causing a social suppression of anarchist ideals. The Eighth Congress of the Second International socialist organization, which had been planned to take place in Copenhagen, had to be rescheduled to Mexico. Numerous counterculture and economic revolutionaries would flee Europe over the next years to South and Central America, where they would influence social structure for generations to come.

Each nation of course had its own individual effects from the deaths.

Britain faced a change of its monarch within weeks of its last, bringing Edward VIII to the throne just a month before his sixteenth birthday. As he was not yet of age, Queen Mary served as regent, following the decision of the Regency Act 1910. Meanwhile, Parliament struggled with constitutional questions as the unelected House of Lords vetoed the more Liberal attempts of the rest of the government. Issues of budget and especially home rule for Ireland challenged the Conservatives and Unionists, who maintained power after the regicide on the wave of support for tradition with the turbulent times. Edward VIII came of age with these ideals, adding his youthful flair to them in a spirit that mirrored Italy’s Victor Emmanuel III’s encouragement of fascism during its rise there in the 1920s. Edward was divisive, often even seen as contradictory, in his backing of Ireland as a dominion while striking harshly against republicans rebelling against the Oath of Allegiance, treating them with a ferocity “not seen since Oliver Cromwell.” Reigning until his death in 1972, he was a bastion of British tradition that, after the World War, led to the counterculture backlash and crackdown famous as the “Swinging Sixties” due to the spike of violent executions.

Norway faced a much longer regency than Britain since their prince was only six years old. Haakon VII had come onto the throne only five years earlier, accepting the offer to become king following the dissolution of the union of Sweden and Norway in 1905. Originally Carl, Haakon had changed his name to suit his people, and he had similarly changed his son Alexander’s name to Olav. Ever mindful of earning his place, Olav V actually extended his regency until 1924 so that he could complete his military education. Despite his reign being peaceful, he always considered himself a guardian of the nation and participated in routine military games. In addition to his service, he was an avid sportsman, even winning a gold medal in sailing during the 1928 Olympics.

Bulgaria, like Norway, had a relatively new monarchy. The Bulgarian empire had dominated for 800 years starting in AD 600, but it wasn’t until 1879 that Alexander I was reestablished as prince with an election in the provisional government founded by the Russians in the Russo-Turkish War. In 1908, Bulgaria became officially independent with Ferdinand I as their Tsar. Bulgaria developed rapidly from an underdeveloped agrarian frontier into a nation of towns and transport largely from the land-owning small farmers whose Agrarian Union pushed for education and modernization. With thousands of ethnic Bulgarians still outside of the borders, Bulgaria sought to expand militarily, earning the nickname “the Balkan Prussia.” Following the death of Ferdinand in Britain, his oldest son, Boris III, came to rule at sixteen years old. He leaned heavily on the advice of Prime Minister Ivan Geshov, who, like Boris, was a moderate who preferred diplomacy to outright war. While the Ottoman Empire faced war with Italy in Libya, however, the timing was too good for peace, and the Balkan League of Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Montenegro formed in 1912 to drive Ottoman rule out of its European territories. Their overall goal was met with a swift victory, but the nations were displeased with the new borders and the formation of Albania at the insistence of the Great Powers. Many Bulgarian leaders called for war with Serbia to seize expected land, but Boris was slow to start a war that would not be an obvious victory, especially one with former allies.

News of Prince Alexander of Serbia slapping a girl for calling herself “Bulgarian” while he toured liberated Skopje further soured relations between the peoples. Boris bought time until the inevitable war between Serbia and Austria-Hungary over annexed Bosnia. Bulgarian forces liberated Macedonia and pushed the border westward to grab lands populated by Bulgarians. After the settlement in the Treaty of Berlin, Bulgaria returned to its economic growth. Today Bulgaria is well known as a powerhouse of manufacturing, although it is also infamous for its ill treatment of minorities, especially Jewish people.

The kings of Norway and Bulgaria may have been new, but Olav’s grandfather Frederick VIII of Denmark was nearly 70 at the time of the explosion. He was well established, the “Father-in-law of Europe” due to the many marriages of his daughters to other royal houses. Christian X established himself as an authoritarian, sparking the Easter Crisis of 1920 when he dismissed the elected cabinet. Threats of general strike brought him to tighten his fist on social democrats, igniting the short Danish Civil War in which numerous leaders were deported. His son Frederick IX continued the royals’ tight hold on Denmark society, which is often seen from outsiders as one of the most restrictive in Europe today.

Nearly as old as Frederick VIII, the loss of Greece’s George I meant the end of Europe’s longest reigning monarch just short of his golden jubilee. His son Constantine I came to throne at age 42, quickly seizing popularity and regaining his lost honor from defeat in the Greco-Turkish War of 1897 by leading the Greek forces in the march on Thessaloniki in the war alongside the Balkan League allies in 1912. Constantine waited for a Bulgarian attack that never came thanks to the patience of Boris III of Bulgaria. He battled for neutrality during the later war sparked in Serbia, which ultimately brought Greece into a strong position with Germany during the peace talks. Instead, Constantine’s next war would be much like his first with another altercation with the Ottomans. This war ended with very little territorial change, and Constantine abdicated in favor of his son, George II, in hopes a new generation could do better than the last. George had been married to Elisabeth of Romania to further strengthen Greece’s position in the Balkans, but the match was an unhappy one. Greece toiled on under George’s cold rule, increasingly right-wing with fear politics driving censorship and arrest for any opposition. His son, Constantine II, continued the heavy-handed rule but with much more patriotic fervor, highlighting Greece’s ancient splendor and advertising it as a tourist destination despite the suffering of the local people.

While the deadly photograph brought many young monarchs to their rule with the early demise of their predecessors, it served as an abrupt end to the life of 21-year-old Manuel II of Portugal. He had come to rule only two years earlier when his father, Carlos I, and older brother, Luis Filipe, were assassinated in the Lisbon Regicide by republicans opening gunfire on the royal carriage. Manuel left his studies at the naval academy and became king, dismissing the controversial prime minister, Joao Franco, and seeking to find some balance between the rival factions within the nation. Upon word of Manuel’s death, the republicans launched the coup that had been planned since 1909 at the Setubal Congress. The new republic proved even more uneven than the monarchy, and Portugal fell into a series of revolutions and dictatorships as its empire disintegrated, scooped up by the growing influence of Germany and Japan. Following decolonization, the nation hit a new stride with a lasting third republic.

Across the border from Portugal as it faced new political experiments, Spain was seeing a generational repeat. Alfonso XIII became king upon his birth in 1886 as his father had died of illness with the queen was three months pregnant. The baby king was pronounced “the happiest and best-loved of all the rulers of the earth,” although the queen’s regency oversaw the decline of the empire, including the loss of Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Alfonso came of age in 1902 and soon married Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, daughter of Edward VII of Britain. Upon Alfonso’s death at the photograph, their first child, Alfonso XIV, became king at only three years old. The new baby king suffered hemophilia, causing him to lead a careful and protected life in specially-tailored clothes that padded him from potential injuries. While adventurers sought to rebuild the Spanish empire with conquests in Africa, the regents and then Alfonso himself dampened their attempts to march on Morocco. Instead, Alfonso focused on internal improvements, using his military education to improve transportation and encourage Spanish industry. He passed away in 1938 due to an accident and internal bleeding, and the state funeral in Spain brought royalist fervor to a peak. His brother, Juan III, ascended the throne and continued the efforts of stability with a constitutional monarchy.

Albert I of Belgium had barely begun his rule when it was cut short during the photography disaster. Albert came to the Belgian throne in 1909 after the death of his uncle, Leopold II, whose only son had died only nine years old. He spent almost the entirety of his reign touring the Belgian Congo, which had for 23 years been Leopold’s private colony from which he extracted untold masses of wealth at the cost of native lives. Leopold relinquished the Congo to become a Belgian colony, and Albert’s tour led to a long list of much-needed reforms. Albert’s son would become Leopold III at the same age of nine, beginning an era nicknamed the “eternal regency.” When Leopold came of age, he maintained many of his advisors from his youth, allowing them to do the bulk of government work while he made necessary appearances for the state. During his reign, he toured extensively, preferring adventuring in the Amazon to ruling. When Leopold passed away in 1983 after more than seventy years as king, his son Baudouin was crowned aged 53, though little changed as the bureaucratic machine had already been long established and popular elections won by periodic strikes maintained balanced rule.

Germany mourned the loss of their long-ruling Kaiser, Wilhelm II, who had begun his reign in 1888. He had worked to grow Germany’s colonial holdings with territories in the Pacific and railroads in the Middle East. Germany had leaped to challenge its rival Britain by surpassing their manufacturing output and amassing a large navy. Wilhelm III continued his father’s eager policies, but his first major event would be hosting the peace talks for the Serbian War. The diplomatic success not only won him fame, but it also opened the channels for economic pushes into Russia. With the Russian economy struggling to industrialize and the Romanovs weak rulers from Nicholas II’s detachment, his son Alexander IV’s hemophilia, and Nicholas’s brother Michael II’s unpopularity, Wilhelm used manufactures and banking to “colonize” eastward without military conquest. The rail-driven transportation system overcame differences in the German and Russian track gauges by innovative shipping containers that could be easily hoisted by crane from one arriving train to another already waiting, a strategy that revolutionized German shipping overseas as well. Germany’s continuing eastward push would eventually lead it into the westward advances of the Japanese Empire, friction that would later start the World War fought across three continents.



In reality, the historical photograph was widely published with the novelty of so much royalty in one room together. The moment was peaceful, but tribulation came to Europe with two kings at war with two others within just a few years in World War I. By the end of the century, only five of the crowns would still remain. Check out Rare Historical Photos for synopses of the kings’ actual lives.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Guest Post: Early Space Shuttle

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History based on an idea from Allen W. McDonnell.

September 24, 1966 - birth of the Space Shuttle

A joint study conducted by NASA and the U.S. Air Force concluded that a reusable orbiter was the most cost-effective way of satisfying their future demands for a new space vehicle. With the moon landing still three years away, it was major milestone that went largely unrecognized at the time.

The proven technology of the two-stage Saturn V rocket was the logical choice of heavy launch vehicle, saving both cost and accelerating development time. Re-purposing Apollo hardware proved to be more than expedient. Most significant of all, a new "means to an end" approach would emerge. This was at a critical juncture when public interest was fading fast and even the U.S. Air Force was losing enthusiasm in the space program.

The stunning success of the Space Shuttle sharpened the focus, turning attention to Skylab, the very first U.S. space station. Occupied by American crews for up to twenty-four weeks at a time, Skylab made permanent (or at least long-term) living in space possible. But this was only made possible by affordable space flights from a reusable orbiter with easily replaced rocketry.

The next major breakthrough was the space station's centrifuge segment that enabled astronauts to sleep and exercise, maintaining bone health that made living in space long term much healthier for the crew. Less than a decade after the moon-landing, the Space program had gone off-world - it was a truly remarkable achievement.

A NASA-only program would likely have focused on non-military applications such as science, but the continued involvement of the U.S. Air Force near-guaranteed weaponization. By the time that the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan, Washington was ready to abandon the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which prohibited nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons from being placed in or used from Earth's orbit. The result was the so-called "rod from the Gods," a bundle of telephone-pole-size tungsten projectiles that could hit a city with the explosive power of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Project Thor was successfully used in Grenada, and the Falklands, but most decisively to repel the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991. This weaponized space platform became of increasing importance after September 11th, enabling the United States to quickly win the war on terror by eliminating Osama Bin Laden and his al-qaeda terrorists in the caves of Tora Bora. The next phase was a mini-rod that could intercept another September 11 attack.

Author's Note:

In reality, the OTL ceramic tiles, completely new engines with external tank and Solid Rocket Boosters were selected instead to create a completely new vehicle combining several new techniques and technologies. In OTL, NASA and international partners required 136 launches with seven different launch vehicles to build the International Space Station. Using the two-stage Saturn V configuration it could have all been placed in orbit in 10 to 12 launches.

 Provine's Addendum:

With orbital weapons considered a new level expected of national defense, a new chapter of the Space Race began to fill orbit with "floating fortresses." The Outer Space Treaty had been challenged in 1976 with the Bogota Declaration in which eight equatorial nations called for sovereignty over the portions of geostationary orbit that lie continuously over their territories. Although it initially did not gain much traction, US backing through the 1980s effectively broke up Earth's low orbit into a series of "islands" and "international waters" where artificial satellites could travel.

An offshoot of the rapid production of standardized Saturn V rockets was the declining cost for private satellites for weather and communications. Satellite television and later internet access drove companies to invest in their own long-term living facilities for repairs and updates. Space tourism flourished with ever-growing populations in orbit for customer support and care. The Moon became the next obvious destination, which offered not only real estate but mineral wealth such as earth-common gold more prevalent in upper regions due to the lower gravity and minerals unique to the moon. With the Outer Space Treaty effectively in the world's recycling bins, the Moon would also serve as the next step to commercially colonizing the rest of the solar system.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Guest Post: What if Harold Stassen had been elected POTUS?

 This article first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

March 4, 2001 - Death of President Stassen

Bloomington, Minnesota ~ on this sad day in alternate history, Harold Stassen died of natural causes at the age of 93. During a remarkable political career that spanned four decades from the Depression Era through to the Peace in Vietnam he delivered, Stassen served as the governor of two states - Minnesota and Pennsylvania - and later 37th U.S. President

Being the youngest person elected governor in the history of the state, Stassen was chosen to give the keynote address at the 1940 Republican National Convention. However, his budding political career was suddenly interrupted by the Second World War, and he later resigned to serve in the USN, becoming an aide to Admiral William Halsey Jr. After demobilization, Stassen became president of the University of Pennsylvania. In this post, he undoubtedly had far greater accomplishments through his campus expansion plans than Eisenhower had as president of Columbia University.

Following an unsuccessful run for the White House, Stassen held his university position until 1953. Multiple failed attempts at election to various political offices followed, but his academic role provided him with a way back into public office. In 1958, he won the governorship of Pennsylvania, beating Albert McGonigle in the GOP primary and then beating Pittsburgh mayor David L. Lawrence in the general election. Alternate history then repeated itself and another truncated governorship followed.

After campaigning vigorously in 1960, Stassen was chosen as Richard Nixon's running mate. Minnesota and Pennsylvania were both contested states, and so he was a unique vote-winning choice as a "double favourite son." Moreover, Nixon had personally backed Stassen's presidential run twelve years earlier and was very grateful for his support in 1956 when many GOP figures were advising Eisenhower to drop him from the ticket. GOP fatigue after eight years of a Republican White House was a key factor in their narrowly defeat to the fresh face of Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy. The press fawned over Kennedy who over-promised change and unashamedly took aim at Eisenhower's two terms of office. Polar opposites in mainstream American politics, Kennedy was to learn that Eisenhower had actually delivered unparalleled efficiencies in Federal Government. Moreover, his caution about the perils of "quick fixes" in his Farewell Address was diametrically opposed to the naïve promises of Kennedy's inauguration speech which was littered with undeliverable promises.

Fortunately, Stassen was the improbable beneficiary of a reverse swing of the pendulum. After JFK was assassinated, popularity for the Democrat White House faded under his successor Lyndon B. Johnson due to Vietnam and Civil Rights disturbances in the cities. Stassen chose not to run for office in 1964 because the GOP did not seek a moderate candidate. However, the landslide general election result, and the emergence of George Wallace as a third party candidate radically changed the political landscape. Having actively supported GOP candidates in the mid-terms, Stassen made another remarkable comeback eight years later. He won the 1968 presidential election as a peace candidate narrowly defeating his fellow Minnesotan Hubert Humphrey. As a liberal Republican, he offered Americans a unique compromise between the Eisenhower-Nixon and Kennedy-Johnson eras. Having sacrificed his own political career to serve in war-time, he had the credibility, as well as the wisdom and good judgement, to deliver a lasting peace.

Author's Note:

In reality, Stassen committed the blunder of urging the GOP to dump Nixon in 1956. Thereafter his name became most identified with his status as a perennial candidate.

Provine's Addendum:

Just as Minnesota's labor-employer relations and UPenn's campus bore the long-lasting legacy of Harold Stassen, the modern American life still had Stassen's fingerprints. History classes would of course focus on Stassen's foreign relations, especially efforts to bring peace to Vietnam by reinvigorating the United Nations as a center of diplomacy as he had envisioned while a signatory to the charter. He remained strong against communism, using American dollar diplomacy to encourage the opening of China as well as seeing South Vietnam become a center of the Southeast Asian tiger economies, mirroring a comparison with South Korea. At home, Stassen mapped out the modern American workforce to pursue corruption within unions while also encouraging their voice. Without Stassen, historians argue that there might be many larger and more crippling national strikes, such as if all of the airline controllers had to strike instead of coming to terms in 1981. Stassen also worked to improve race relations alongside fellow Baptist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with whom he marched in 1963, as well as implementing many of King's ideals on improving worker benefits. Today the single-payer national health care system, the 32-hour work week, and the family support of every mother receiving universal basic income per child all trace their roots to Stassen's administration.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

November 20, 1969 - Reclamation of Alcatraz Island Begins

A new chapter in the turbulent history of Alcatraz Island began in 1963 with the announced closure of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Situated at the eastern end of the Golden Gate strait that connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean, the island had already experienced numerous occupations. It first duties included hosting a lighthouse as a private island; it then came into public service in the 1850s as naval fortifications. The jailhouse at Fort Alcatraz grew in size and notoriety, holding through the years Confederate secret agents, civilian prisoners following the Earthquake of 1906, and Native Americans from the Hopi tribe who refused to follow the boarding school system promoting assimilation. Eventually the entire island would be proclaimed a federal penitentiary, the most notorious prison in the nation for the most notorious prisoners including George "Machine Gun Kelly" Barnes and gangster Al "Scarface" Capone. Surrounded by fast, chilling currents, the prison was supposed to be escape-proof, although 1962 showed that it could be done when several inmates escaped in a homemade raft. The next year, officials determined to close the prison since it had lost its legendary status and was exceedingly expensive to operate. News reports noted that the plan was to gift the island from the federal government to the City of San Francisco.

As Belva Cottier read the news, however, she had a different thought. A member of the Rosebud Sioux, she recalled the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868, where it was agreed between the tribe and the federal government that surplus federal property could be claimed by the tribe for use in education, health care, or housing (Hodge, 1973). In the process of divesting federal property, it must be declared "excess" by the General Services Administration and then "surplus" if no agencies can use it, which would then free it up to be sold or, in this case, gifted to the city. On March 8, 1964, Cottier and several others arrived on the island in a demonstration, suggesting the government should take their offer of $9.40 for the island, the same 47-cent-per-acre price given for Sioux lands years before. News coverage bolstered the Native American identity movement, but ultimately the group left after threats of arrest and felony trespassing.

For five years later, the island remained more or less empty as the wheels of government slowly turned. In 1969, after a fire destroyed the San Francisco Indian Center, the idea of taking control of Alcatraz returned. That October, five boats loaded with activists sailed for the island. Before any could arrive, Richard Oakes, a member of the Mohawk tribe, and four other students swam ahead of them. They climbed to shore and announced a claim by right of discovery since the island had sat vacant for so long. The "right of discovery" also served as a protest in legal argument since the early European explorers used the same right to claim land inhabited for countless generations by native peoples. Again well publicized, the occupation in October was temporary. It would not be until November 20 that 89 people arrived intending a permanent residence.

Oakes and other leaders set up rules for the community, establishing a council while all major decisions had to be made unanimously among all the residents. Everyone, including children, was assigned a task to contribute to the new colony ranging from cooking and child care to sanitation and repair work. John Trudell, a Sioux broadcaster, established "Radio Free Alcatraz" and began reporting on the need for supplies on the island, especially clean water. At Thanksgiving, hundreds of people traveled to the island to celebrate a great feast. Afterward, however, winter set in, and the colonists struggled to go on. Supplies had to be sneaked ashore, often in small canoes, as the Coast Guard struggled to keep what they perceived as order in a situation where the government's hands were tied while the Longshoreman's Union watched, promising to close traffic in the ports if the natives were removed.

While the colony struggled, leaders continued to send public messages to the federal government, clearly citing violated treaties and other legal arguments. American citizens' interest began to wane as the weeks turned to months, but the humanitarian story of Oakes's thirteen-year-old stepdaughter falling from the steps and being rescued despite her injuries brought back attention. Rather than bringing her back to San Francisco, the people treated her on the island, and footage of her recovery made for passionate reports. The need for public support was clear, and Shoshone-Bannock LaNada Means led a campaign to find a high-profile lawyer to keep the case in the national conversation. Trudell disagreed, wanting to keep control of their message, but Oakes managed to keep leaders cooperating in the face of government refusal of every offer the group provided. Oakes's organization managed the affairs of the island, keeping water flowing and the lights on as well as banishing troublemakers back to the mainland.

As midterm elections came in 1970, the "Indian issue" became one of the major discussion points. When it became clear that conservatives were losing ground because of it, Republican party leaders pushed Nixon to do something. Rather than risk an all-out war by seizing the island, Nixon had already called for an end of tribal termination policies and struggled to find a solution within his bureaucracy since giving in to protestors might make him look weak. Instead, he stalled on further proposals and leaned on the courts to bring the matter to an end. Going back to the Treaty of Fort Laramie, the Sioux tribe had already petitioned the Indian Claims Commission for violations, a petition that was rejected and then ordered reevaluated in 1958 during an appeal to US Claims Court. It had gone nowhere in over a decade, focusing on the legal right of the court to award damages. Instead, the Justice Department brokered a settlement to award damages as an executive action along with outlining the process for marking Alcatraz as All Indian tribal land.

Conservatives were satisfied that natives would have to "abide by the rules" for the land, while natives celebrated that the rules were finally being followed. Grant money soon flowed to Alcatraz, which became a new cultural center, a facility for ending drug addiction, and the anchor of Oakes's dream of a "mobile university" with classes held all over the nation. Other occupations followed suit for protest, although they rarely carried the attention that Alcatraz had won or saw negative outcomes like the Second Battle of Wounded Knee in 1973. Instead, organizers focused on the bureaucratic and legal angles, campaigning for surplus definitions and scooping up federal property. Many shuttered government facilities have gone on to be artist and spiritual colonies and satellites for the University of Alcatraz. With the implementation of online learning with the internet in the 1990s, enrollment at the experimental university expanded by thousands, which put it at the forefront of American higher education by the mid-2000s.


In reality, Yvonne Oakes died in her fall during the occupation of Alcatraz. Oakes and his wife decided to leave, which was already running out of control with a lack of supplies and homeless drug-addicts seeking shelter among the protestors. After a fire in June, 1970, that ravaged the island, the remaining 15 people (Means among them) were escorted off by the Coast Guard. The United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians case came to the Supreme Court in 1980, which found in favor of the Sioux and awarded damages from the gold prospectors with interest at $88 million (compounded to today at well over $1 billion). The nation has refused the money, instead calling for a return of the Black Hills themselves.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Guest Post: Ike in the Pacific

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History from the original idea by Allen W. McDonnell.


August 30th, 1935 - MLQ taps Ike

Manuel L. Quezon ('MLQ') faced a truly historic dilemma when he was elected the second president of the Philippines, twelve months after Congress passed the Tydings-McDuffie Act granting the Philippines commonwealth status as a prelude to complete independence. After twenty long years of neglect of Filipino Armed Forces, preparations for the country's full achievement of independence were threatened by the insidious rise of Japanese militarism. The Washington naval treaties had forbidden the fortification of American possessions in the Pacific, like Guam, Wake Island, and the Philippines. To make matters even worse, there was an understandable reluctance in Washington to invest in the defense of islands that were not going to belong to the U.S. much longer. The inevitable consequence was that the U.S. was most needed at the very moment when the transitional administration was coming to an end.

Undaunted by this unfortunate timing, MLQ became "the first Filipino politician to integrate all levels of politics into a synergy of power" but to critics was establishing a "de facto dictatorship." Regardless, his most difficult leadership decision was whom to choose as Chief Military Advisor, realizing that a costly mistake could easily see American hegemony followed by Japanese over-lordship. A key insight offered by some of the potential candidates was that the national defense plan had to be focused on logistics and tapping the natural resources and manpower locally available, a policy-wide issue rather than simply the right choice of military leadership. The problem with this strategy was that the commonwealth could barely afford an annual defense budget of $12 million over the next few years.

Former U.S. Chief of Staff and the U.S. Army's youngest ever major general Douglas MacArthur was briefly considered. The two men had been personal friends for thirty-five years, but MLQ quickly realized his over-bearing character was highly unsuited to the role. The timing was also off for such a long-term total commitment: MacArthur was about to marry his second wife Jean and had publicly expressed a desire to close his public career and return to his ancestral home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Quezon found that he got along much better with his long-term subordinate Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was certainly a meticulous organizer with a bright future but had the disadvantage of being a staff officer who had no experience of combat or army command. In the confusion of this difficult choice for Quezon, it was unclear whether the best strategy ought not be to declare Philippine neutrality. If so, selecting an American candidate was likely a big mistake.

Fortunately for Eisenhower, the essential truth of the military situation in the Philippines was that a Baron von Steuben was needed rather than a George Washington. Consequently, Eisenhower was appointed with the assistance of his talented second, Major John Ord. Eisenhower's national defense plan was based upon the cold hard logic of their brilliant intelligence. Determining that invasion of Luzon was only possible at two locations, he set Ord the task of developing the Philippine Air Corps. He also prepared scenarios for naval intervention from the Pacific Fleet. But, his main ploy was to reinforce a beach-line defense strategy.

If there was one upside to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, it was the international date line. Eisenhower had the crucial advantage of nine hours early notification of the Japanese attack. He organized a spirited, but ultimately unsuccessful, defense at least in comparison to the British defense of Malaya, Singapore, and Burma as well as the Dutch Defense of the Netherlands East Indies. Notwithstanding his fighting spirit, critics such as MacArthur unfairly pointed the blame at Eisenhower's lack of experience, the suggestion being that MacArthur might have repulsed the invasion on the beach. F
ollowing Eisenhower's capture in Corregidor, Roosevelt appointed Admiral Chester Nimitz Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area. This proved to be an inspired choice, and Ike's masterful direction of Allied Forces across the Pacific would eventually lead to the invasion of Formosa and then the assault on the Japanese Home islands. The Philippines would not be liberated until V.J. Day, shortly after Quezon died of tuberculosis in a Miami hospital. In recognition of his immense courage surviving almost three years in capitivity, Truman would give Eisenhower the flagship honor of serving as interim head-of-state until full independence in 1946. This brief foray into politics cost Truman the White House because it would set the stage for Eisenhower's presidential bid two years later under the catchy campaign slogan "Ike has returned."

Author's Note:

In reality, MacArthur received the appointment, retiring from the U.S. Army to continue being the chief military advisor to the Philippines. Six months before Pearl Harbor, he was recalled to active duty as commander of United States Army Forces Far East (USAFFE). A series of calamitous disasters followed that prompted Marshall to recommend his court martial and dismissal for dereliction of duty alongside the culprits Kimmel and Short. The most damaging allegations were that he had failed to act upon nine hours of early warning from Pearl Harbor and that his beach-line defenses resulted in lost inventory when he should have been stocking Bataan.

Following a direct evacuation order from FDR, MacArthur escaped to Australia, where he became Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area. This high-profile appointment has been interpreted as a political decision to satisfy the Australian government. However, after victory at the Battle of Midway in June 1942, most Allied resources in the Pacific were allocated to Admiral Chester Nimitz. Many observers have therefore concluded it was Nimitz that was the architect of victory.

Provine's Addendum:

Eisenhower campaigned on a platform of military readiness in a new, atomic world. Pulling public information from congressional hearings as well as Army Chief of Staff Omar Bradley comment "the Army of 1948 could not fight its way out of a paper bag," it was clear that the shift to peacetime had inherited the problems of the overwrought military during the war without solutions. Marshall, who had largely retired after serving as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and struggling to wrangle George S. Patton, was blamed for a lack of readiness on the western side of the Iron Curtain despite he himself pointing out budgetary and supply issues ironically similar to those faced by Eisenhower in the Thirties.

Driven by a grassroots campaign, Eisenhower's name was added to every state with a Republican primary. The movement stepped on numerous Republican toes from Governor Dewey of New York and Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, but ultimately the support of former Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen, who resigned in 1943 after 12 years to join the Navy, awarded Eisenhower the Republican nomination. He won handily over Truman so much so that the Chicago Tribune printed their edition early, "Eisenhower Defeats Truman."

Eisenhower's first term was one of national economic reorganization and military readiness. Even with decades-long civil war rolling in China, Eisenhower as Commander-in-Chief had successfully contained it by the next election year. Eisenhower ran in 1952 with Stassen as his vice-president to the disappointment of Senator Richard Nixon of California, who would go on to serve for decades as one of the nation's longest-elected senators and a powerhouse of Washington intrigue. With Eisenhower's announcement of retirement, Stassen became the Republican nomination and victor over Adlai Stevenson. He pushed the US further onto the international field, using it as a major power in the UN to force a solution to the Chinese Issue as well as maintaining the US Navy on alert watching over the similar civil war that raged in Cuba before the island settled as a close US ally.

Following the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic opening of China, many considered the next chapter of history a Pax Americana. Critics of the "pax" argue that it is driven by an extreme military-industrial complex and acceptance of surveillance and policing of free speech, especially on the Internet, which was ironically brought about by the push for more advanced technology by the military-industrial complex.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Guest Post: Ike in China and Vietnam

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.


June 18, 1960 - Eisenhower lands in Peking

Upon his arrival in Peking, US President Eisenhower was warmly greeted as an old friend and WW2 war-time comrade by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.

Fifteen years earlier, Chiang's Kuomintang Forces had liberated the city and won the Second Sino-Japanese War. The following November, he ordered the invasion of Communist-controlled Manchuria. This brief campaign resolving to the ongoing civil war ended the following March at the Soviet border with the capture of Enemy of the State, Mao Zedong.

Both men had worked together to defeat the Japanese, but, although they toasted victory as unlikely allies, there could only be one ultimate winner. Mao was put on trial and executed by hanging. Despite Nazi war criminals undergoing the same brutal fate in Nuremberg, events in Peking shattered brittle US-Soviet relations. These were widely considered a causal factor in the escalation of the Cold War, and Chiang was to blame. His despicable reputation for peace-time ruthlessness and corruption only grew from this point forward. By 1960, he was a super-sized version of the warlords he had struggled with during the pre-WW2 years. An ageing dictator that discredited FDR's vision of the UN by occupying his seat on the Security Council, he clung to power as a US puppet. In some quarters, pictures of these two old WW2 relics only raised concerns about the vitality of the anti-Communist alliance.

The trouble was the tragic events in Manchuria had only foreshadowed insidious developments in Korea and Vietnam that had played out during Eisenhower's two-term presidency. Korea had been divided in 1945 to two occupation zones after substantial unrest under the United States Army Military Government in Korea. Elections brought the zones back together, and, after Soviet troops withdrew in 1948, communist leaders were chased out before the departure of American troops in 1949. Eisenhower's next stop was Saigon, a capital city in even greater disrepute and turmoil. There, too, the trial and execution of Communist Leader Ho Chi Minh was an aspiration of President Ngo Dinh Diem, mirroring the treatment of Mao.

Eisenhower landed in Saigon to find the newly formed Republic of Vietnam on the verge of a civil war that had been long in the making. Following Indochina's independence from France, President Ngo Dinh Diem ousted Emperor Bao-Dai and set up the Republic. But, he faced an altogether more determined opponent in the North, Ho Chi Minh, leader of the Viet Minh and refugee Chinese Communists. There was serious trouble brewing in other quarters, too. With corruption rife in Saigon, the country was threatening to break apart into factions. Much like China where Eisenhower had just left, the shattered post-war state of 1945 had yet to evolve as Diem and Chiang were heading for the bunker.

Diem desperately needed US support to deal with the insurgents and prevent the outbreak of a civil war. Having formed the Republic, he lacked the emperor's loyal military at this vital time. Eisenhower, however, was keen to avoid unpleasant surprises in his final year of office and wanted little more than an American ally against communism in Asia. To cynics, it appeared that America would have been better off supporting Emperor Bao-Dai with a loyal military, but, of course, that pro-monarchist strategy was politically unacceptable in Washington. The cause of liberty was difficult to defend when the local populace had no experience with or understanding of democratic representative government. Consequently, the Viet Minh looked like liberators, and Diem was in deep trouble.

With former British colonies such as Singapore and Malaya facing a bright future, American foreign policy seemed to be propping up dictatorships that were moving even further from democracy. For the imperialists with bitter memories of the Atlantic Charter such as Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan, it was a cynical outcome that left a very nasty taste in their mouths. Given Eisenhower's obtuse position over the Suez Canal, America's role as a global policeman was becoming increasingly controversial and even divisive.

The real consequence of Chiang winning the Chinese Civil War was that the Soviets were looking beyond Asia to expand communism in Africa and the Americas. Closer to home, the Cuban Revolution had brought communist leadership to power less than ninety miles from the shores of Florida. The overthrow of an American puppet dictator did not bode well for Chiang or Diem, and this issue would raise its ugly head during an election year as America entered a new political cycle.

Despite (or perhaps, because of) the warm welcome he had received, Eisenhower was deeply troubled by his diplomatic tour of Asia. He returned to the United States with a desire to champion democracy and restore America's moral leadership. With the recent release of West Side Story, he was inspired to sponsor Puerto Rican representation in Washington. But due to the size of the population, he would need to look at constitutional alternatives to solutions such as Alaska, which had one-tenth of the people.

Ike also threw himself into Dick Nixon's presidential campaign. This change of heart was because he had determined that avoiding regime change in three capitals (Washington, Peking, and Saigon) was absolutely necessary to prevent his 'Domino Theory' from playing out in his successor's term of office. Ironically it was at this very moment that the CIA sought his clandestine approval for forcing regime change in Cuba. This secret ops mission began a series of events that would lead to the outbreak of World War Three with the Soviet Union.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Guest Post: Russian Redcoats

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History with input from Eric Oppen, John Braungart, Philip Ebbrell, and Michael Morano.

August 10, 1778 - Russian Redcoats arrive in North America

Catherine the Great had signed a supply agreement that would see one hundred thousand Russian troops transferred to British North America to serve as mercenaries under the command of Sir Henry Clinton. After difficult negotiations had stalled, the diplomatic breakthrough was a British guarantee to support the Tsarina in the Spanish-Russian struggle in California.

Times had changed in the North American colonies and worldwide. During the Ohio River War (1754-1763), the British Empire had only needed to hire ten percent of her troop requirements from foreign countries. However, this successor conflict had become global; this time around Britain was fighting the French, Spanish, and Dutch across the world in addition to the rebels among her own citizens living in North American colonies who had refused to pay for their own defense. In fact, many Britons were sympathetic towards to the colonial cause and enraged by the involvement of Russia. For all the derisory comment in the broadsheet newspapers, the much maligned "Russian Redcoats" were armed and clothed by Catherine the Great (with coats that were primarily green).

Prior to the appointment of Clinton, mercenaries had been hired from German states. The most important was Hesse-Kassel, known as "the Mercenary State," whose soldiers fought under their own colors in their own uniforms. This sourcing approach was broadly in keeping with the British Army policy of recruiting and training new regiments "as needed" rather than maintaining a much larger standing force. However, this Hessian strategy had proved hopelessly inadequate to meet demand, such as the outnumbered and distracted troops at the Battle of Trenton in 1776. After Viscount Howe had resigned as commander-in-chief of British land forces, his successor Clinton had pressed the North Administration for a massive troop surge. He recommended recruiting Russian troops, whom he rated very highly, having seen them in action against the Ottomans.

The first "Russian redcoats" began to arrive in August 1778 at a troubled time when any significant level of organized Loyalist activity required a continued presence of British regulars. But unbeknown to Clinton, the interjection of Russian troops was merely a ruse to support the North Administration's primary move: a diplomatic initiative. The true cost of such an enormous occupation force, and logistics involved, would have bankrupted the British Government. In any case, time-delays would have been counterproductive. Consequently, the main play, the Carlisle Peace Commission arrived at the same time to offer the Continental Congress self-rule. After lengthy negotiations in York, Pennsylvania, this proposal was eventually accepted and an end to hostilities finally agreed by winter.

The vision of Lord North was self-rule for the colonies; for example, the new country of Pennsylvania would enjoy the same status as Hanover. Instead, the result was a monster that would threaten to swamp the House of Commons with American representatives. By the time that Viceroy Clinton passed away in 1795, the only realistic solution was an Anglo-American Empire with an imperial parliament. This new governance structure would survive until southerners rebelled over the abolition of slavery in 1833.

Author's Note:

In reality, negotiations with Catherine the Great made little progress. The OTL failure of the Carlisle Peace Commission was a contributing cause for Benedict Arnold to abandon his comrades and switch over to the side of the British.

Provine's Addendum:

The end of the American Revolutionary War could hardly be called "peace." Britain's international war continued with Spain, France, and the Netherlands while the American colonies came under a period of reorganization. Bouts of violence routinely broke out among former rebels and longtime tories, often more exacerbated by the occupying military than defused by it. Although amnesty had been granted for those partaking in the revolution, many of them found their businesses or farms disheveled by the end of the war and neighbors unfriendly. The new government pushed for efforts of reconciliation, such as the much-publicized moment of George Washington dining with Benedict Arnold. Many former rebels decided to move west, settling in the Great Lakes region north of the Indian Reserve established by the crown in 1963 (which had been much of the initial struggle between London and the land-hungry colonists) or along the Gulf Coast in Florida after the war with Spain ended.

Naval warfare in the West Indies dragged on even with excess Russian mercenaries dispatched in pursuit of de Galvez in Florida and the Mississippi Valley. With peace from the Treaty of Paris 1783, there were few territorial trades made since the last treaty there in 1763 except the clarification of Russia's hold on California north of San Francisco Bay. The major international difference was the tens of thousands of Russian soldiers now in the western hemisphere. As with any occupying force, many of the soldiers wished to stay in a land they saw as opportunity rather than return home to a country they joined the military to leave. Russian neighborhoods were established in many of the American port towns where they had been garrisoned, though the newcomers were unwelcome by some. To alleviate troubles as well as secure Russian California further, expeditions pushed westward to find an overland "Northwest Passage." Once a trail was blazed to the Columbia River, thousands of pioneers made the journey to settle in the valleys west of the Rocky Mountains. Louisiana gained its independence from France by force as part of the Treaty of Paris 1813, creating a cosmopolitan nation in its own right while much of the upper reaches of the territory became settled by new waves of immigrants under British authority.

A surprising outcome of the Russian deployment to North America was the modernization of their motherland. With so many Russians abroad, shipping surged, driving economic forces that in turn pushed for rapid industrialization. Serfdom came to an end in the 1840s, soon after the Second American Revolution was put down when several colonies rebelled over the end of slavery in the British Empire. While other colonies later gained dominion status under the Imperial Parliament, these remained colonial for decades longer. Russia soon became one of the world's major traders, a status affirmed by the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1870 that could ship goods from the Baltics to the Pacific in a fraction of the time they could go by sea even with the Suez Canal shortening the journey around Africa.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Guest Post - Hendon Air Disaster

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History with input by Robbie Tayor, Philip Ebbrell, and Allen W. McDonnell.

Sep 15, 1938-

A Lockheed 14 Super Electra departed Hendon Aerodrome carrying British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on his ill-fated flight to Munich. Tragedy struck when a mechanical failure occurred with the plane only 200 feet off the ground. The right wing dipped, sending the aircraft into a sharp turn, causing it to slow and lose lift, resulting in a rapid descent. It crashed into a nearby field, killing all on board.

The British government was facing a unique crisis of confidence even before the Hendon Air Disaster. Having never flown in an aircraft before, Chamberlain was taking a unique set of personal and political risks in agreeing to meet Adolf Hitler. He considered this absolutely necessary because the unchecked rise of Fascism in Germany, Italy, and Spain threatened to sweep away British influence on the continent and beyond. His previous activity in no way prepared him for the challenges for this role, causing growing tension in his cabinet. By now, members of the Tory Caucus were entertaining serious doubts about his appeasement policy, causing the recent resignation of Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden.

Chamberlain was personally leading the diplomatic mission because this troubled great office was the political hot seat seeing a rapid turnover of university-educated individuals ill-equipped to form a foreign policy under extreme circumstances. Not only had the European security structure collapsed, but the victor powers were weakened by economic depression and war weariness. A strategic pause to re-arm would only allow Germany to grow in strength as well, and the necessary choice of engaging Stalin was politically unacceptable to the Tories. Eden's successor at the foreign office was his de facto deputy Viscount Halifax, the former Viceroy of India, and current Leader of the Lords. Having personally met Hitler, he strongly believed "we ought to get on good terms with Germany." In addition to these unique insights, he had the natural authority of an aristocrat aided by his immense height. Like Chamberlain, he wanted to deter further German aggression, but he was personally inclined to fight even though the mood of the country was strongly against it. Memories of the Great War remained strong; only five years earlier, the Oxford Union Society had presented a motion that "This House will under no circumstances fight for its King and country."

Chamberlain had only been considered to be a placeholder to take the Conservatives to the next general election after Stanley Baldwin stepped down in the wake of the abdication crisis. His natural successor at 10 Downing Street would likely have been Samuel Hoare but he was strongly disliked by the right wing for his involvement in the Government of India Act and his part in the shameful Hoare-Laval Pact that ended the Second Italo-Ethiopian War. It was Halifax that led demands for Hoare's resignation, and Eden strongly supported this move believing Mussolini to be an untrustworthy gangster without gestures of good faith on his part. And so, with Eden out of office, Halifax emerged as the senior figure in the party even though as a peer he was not a member of the House of Commons. Also working in his favour was the active support of the King George VI who distrusted Winston Churchill and other Tories for their role in the abdication crisis.

Great Britain stood at a crossroads. The Empire, the Class System, and the Monarchy overshadowed the interests of a divided country, with a revitalized Labour Party under Clement Attlee ready to take office. Being desperately short of political allies, Halifax had to listen to the advice of Hoare. In their discussions, they returned to the cornerstone of foreign policy that the dictatorships' very separate interests could be teased apart. Despite the circumstances of the forced resignation, Halifax had broadly agreed with Hoare's strategic approach but rejected his approach as "too much like the off-the-stage arrangements of nineteenth-century diplomacy." The new prime minister quickly realized that an accommodation with Fascist Italy was the only way forward because Mussolini also feared subordination to Hitler's Germany. Rather than following in Chamberlain's steps, he exploited this opportunity by flying to Rome instead for a fateful meeting with Il Duce. This ultimately would grant Italy wide scope for expansion in the Mediterranean that would not lead to an Empire Reborn, but at least keep Italy within the a proven security structure, the so-called Stresa Front with Britain and France.

The promise of self-determination for the three million German people living in the Sudetenland was justifiably consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Versailles, at least on paper. In a joint communiqué from Rome, Mussolini and Halifax would demand a plebiscite accompanied by robust guarantees for the rest of Czechoslovakia, an artificial state created from Habsburg lands. The man of the hour, Halifax would gleefully arrive in Hendon promising "peace in our time," although his wiser French counter-part Daladier would return to buoyant crowds in Paris and famously soliloquy "Oh, the fools!"

Italy's subsequent neutrality regarding German war efforts would remove a wheel from an axis on which the world might have turned. As Hitler and Stalin deeply distrusted each other, the war in the East started early with the Soviets thinking they had better move first and Stalin having won the border war with Japan and ended the Great Purge. This Soviet-German War would exhaust both sides until the final victor was too weak to go on with conquest.

Author's Note:

Chamberlain completed the trip, returning to London with the mistaken belief that he had obtained a breathing space during which agreement could be reached and the peace preserved.

The role of Halifax is famously explored in Kazuo Ishiguro's novel The Remains of the Day, his policies are summarized in a TV broadcast in 1939. His conviction to fight collapsed during the Battle of France. With the Allies facing apparently catastrophic defeat and British forces falling back to Dunkirk, he favoured approaching Italy to see if acceptable peace terms could be negotiated. He was overruled by Churchill after a series of stormy meetings of the War Cabinet. From 1941 to 1946, he served as British Ambassador in Washington.

Provine's Addendum:

Though Britain, France, and Italy watched violence in the east and west with the Spanish Civil War at last proving a fascist victory, their empires were not immune. Italian East Africa, recently established after the Second Italo-Ethiopian War that had worn out the first Stresa Front, faced numerous rebellions that eventually evolved into a third war. France saw similar internal struggles in Africa, but their greatest threat proved to be encroaching Japanese influence on their holdings in Indochina. Britain devoted huge resources to repress independence movements in India. Attempting to reinvigorate their position near the Suez Canal also, leaders brought a new wave of encouragement to the 1917 Balfour Declaration for a "national home for the Jewish people" within the British Mandate for Palestine. Jewish people fleeing the increasingly oppressive regimes in Germany and other parts of Europe flocked to the region, sparking strife with Palestinian locals. "Peace in our time" proved hardly universal, and world leaders held their breath to see where the next great war would begin.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Guest Post: King Victor, House of Hanover

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History co-written with Allen W. McDonnell.

18 June, 1853 - King Victor celebrates Waterloo Day

Regiments of the Royal Armies of Britain and Hanover celebrated Waterloo Day by marching down the Mall from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guards Parade for an inspection by their new Commander-in-Chief, King Victor.

His Imperial Majesty had willingly accepted the post following the Duke of Wellington's death the previous September. Ironically, Wellington's Anglo-Allied army of 1815 had been predominantly German-speaking (and victory delivered by the Prussian Marshal Blücher), a glaring fact hidden by this impressive demonstration of British militarism. The other European monarchies had traditionally enjoyed a more authoritative role and, as a consequence this demagoguery and martial power play, sharply raised eyebrows around the world. With the benefit of hindsight, it was a turning point for the nineteenth century. At thirty-four, King Victor had already ruled for sixteen years, and yet the sweeping changes of the Victorian Era really began to rapidly accelerate after Waterloo Day 1853.

It was fortuitous that a big part of the Industrial Revolution occurred during his reign at a time when Great Britain was increasingly looking to military application. The subsequent rise of an Anglo-Hanoverian super-state was largely the result of the king being an enthusiastic proponent of the Anglification of several important colonies including South Africa, Kenya/Uganda highlands, New Zealand, British Columbia, Falklands Islands, and Patagonia. These colonial leaders emerged at the foreground of the festivities for the Diamond Jubilee, celebrated after Victor surpassed his grandfather George III as the longest-reigning monarch in British history.

The origin of these visiting luminaries was particularly noticeable because many were Hanoverian subjects and sponsors. The underlying significance was that Europe had reluctantly accepted the so-called "four Germanies" solution. This Anglo-German arrangement suited the super-state but was less enthusiastically embraced by the Hohenzollerns in Prussia and also Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who sought a German Confederation to counter-balance British hegemony. They also dreamt longingly of a "place in the sun," while Anglo-Hanoverian politicians scoffed at a return to the Holy Roman Empire dismantled by Napoleon prior to Waterloo.

Due in part to these rising tensions, the twentieth century promised to usher in an era of unprecedented change. King Victor passed away on 22 January 1901. By the time of his funeral, the United States had eclipsed Great Britain, and German nationalism was on the rise. With these dual threats on the horizon, it remained to be seen whether Britain could continue to rule the waves.

Author's Note:

In reality, Prince Albert declined to accept the post of commander-in-chief because he felt that his fit place was to be always near the queen - that he ought to identify himself with the Queen, with her position and with her interest. Due to the Salic Law preventing a woman from ascending to the Crown of Hanover, Ernest Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland became king following the death of William IV. This ended the Personal Union. The prime ministers of all the self-governing Dominions were invited to London for the festivities of the Diamond Jubilee.

Provine's Addendum:

The Hohenzollerns chafed for over a century at the British-Hanoverian connection foiling their aspirations of a union of German-speaking peoples led by Prussia. After making extensive gains in the east and building a camaraderie with Russia, Prussia at last came to war against the Austrian Empire to the south, ironically over the question of Schleswig-Holstein in the north. The war quickly turned in Prussia's favor, but Hanover, fearing an even stronger Prussia on its borders, sabre-rattled with threats of joining Austria's side. If not for the masterful diplomacy of Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duke Ernest II's younger brother, the whole of Germany might have fallen into war. Instead, the borders were redrawn with the four powers: Hanover in the northwest, Prussia in the middle and east, Austria in the southeast, and the Bavarian-led German Confederation in the southwest. Some historians wonder if an earlier war at this time might have stopped much of the bloodshed in the coming Great War.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, each portion of German-speaking peoples moved in different directions. Hanover grew closer as a part of the British Empire, becoming a vital port and center of manufacturing. Prussia attempted colonial ventures in Africa and the Pacific but found itself constantly short of manpower needed for widespread settlement, though it maintained its prominent place in European affairs, building a formidable alliance with Russia and France and later Italy. The Austrians felt their empire begin to crack, soon sharing rule as the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The German Confederation attempted to remain neutral, though it was clear war would soon again tear apart the continent.

The Great War began with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, setting off a powder keg of complex alliances. Eventually the sides formed up with Prussia, France, Russia, and Italy on one with Serbia and Britain-Hanover, Austria Hungary, and Japan on the other. The war spilled over into the Balkans, often studied as more of a parallel war, with Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and the Ottoman Empire. Even nations that attempted to remain neutral like Belgium and the German Confederation were soon occupied. Both sides appealed to the United States for aid, which it supplied to Britain-Hanover before confirming its neutrality as the war proved in favor of Prussia and its allies despite Britain's major victories in French and Prussian colonies.

Terms for surrender in the Prussian-led treaty negotiations were harsh for the losers. Austria-Hungary was broken up, and the rump Austria itself was forced along with Hanover into the expanded German Confederation. This congress that was majority-ruled by Prussia thanks to its local population, making leaders glad few had left for the colonies the century before. George V balked at his title as Duke of Hanover making him, King of the United Kingdom, fairly subservient to the Kaiser in German matters. The issue proved minor, however, as issues overseas increasingly demanded British attention, primarily the independence movement in India. Prussia finally found itself as the unquestioned central power of Europe, although the dream gradually evolved into a nightmare as the linguistically similar "empire" proved to have vastly different political ideals, leading to violent revolutionary movements throughout the coming century.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Berlin-Shandong Railway (via Moscow and Beijing)

This post was inspired by a tweet from The Alternate Historian.

After war games proved the effectiveness of defensive combat, including trenches to resist artillery bombardment, Generaloberst Helmuth von Moltke the Younger presented a new plan of battle against France to Kaiser Wilhelm II. Its predecessor, the Schlieffen Plan, had been devised in 1905 in which defensive lines would hold the anticipated French invasion into Alsace and Lorraine while an offensive force moved through Belgium to encircle the French army. In the years since the original plan, the Entente Cordiale between France and Britain had proven strong, and the Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907 meant that any war in Europe would likely have two fronts for Germany. Rather than attempting to beat France first, Germany’s leaders sought to hold the west and focus on conquest of the less-developed east.

War came in 1914, and von Moltke’s plan went into action. France launched its Plan XVII, racing into German territory with five armies on August 14. The First and Second Armies had retreated back to their original organizing groups by August 20, and the others followed suit within a week. As Germany recognized Belgian neutrality, Britain became divided on whether to support France. Finally Parliament declared war as treaties demanded and a token expeditionary force crossed the Channel while the navy began a blockade, beginning the long Battle of the North Sea as U-boats and British warships hunted one another.

With the bulk of its forces on the Eastern Front, the German armies quickly gained ground. The Russian army had been improved since the Russo-Japanese War, but it was no match for the largesse of the German forces, as shown at the Battle of Tannenberg in August 1914 where the Russians felt ten times the casualties as the Germans. Within two years, German lines drew near to Moscow, and riots among the populace over food shortages and in the army over ammunition shortages only weakened things further. An attempt by the French and Russians to bring Romania into the war in 1916 as a new ally proved disastrous with defeat for them, too, just a year later. In 1917, a revolution declared a Russian republic. Feeling their ally was no longer able to fight and having seen terrible casualties with no gains for three years outside of seizing colonial land in Africa, France and Britain sued for peace in 1917. Germany continued pushing eastward, reinstalling the Russian monarchy with fourteen-year-old Tsar Alexander IV as a puppet.

Britain and France returned to their overseas empires, but Germany took up new interest overland in the vast Russian Empire. Existing railways across Siberia and along northeastern China technically connected Berlin to its colony at Kiautschou (Chinese: Jiaozhou), but it was a disconnected route since the Russian rail gauge was different. While Germany and China both used the 1,435 mm international standard gauge, Russian rails used the 5-foot (1,524 mm) gauge. This meant that cargo and passengers heading east from Germany would need to stop at the border, change trains, travel across Siberia, and stop to change trains again after Vladivostok. German officials were well aware of the problem: the gauge difference had slowed down the German advance since they were unable to link captured railways to move supplies forward more speedily.

Exerting pressure through the Tsar, Germany pushed for Russian rails to join the international standard. The first replaced-rail connected Berlin and Moscow, which had become the legislative capital of the nation while Alexander IV was kept in Petrograd. Rather than waiting for the route through Siberia to be replaced, German investors decided to build a new southern route. The line traveled south from Moscow to Astrakhan near where the Volga empties into the northern Caspian Sea. From there it ran east across Kazakhstan, through the Dzungarian pass, into the Gobi Desert, following much of the traditional Silk Road. From there, it linked with established railroads to Peking (Beijing) and the other 400 miles to Kiautschou.

The world marveled at how quickly the railroad was built, largely thanks to German press notices and patriotic films. Workers in the United States had built nearly 2,000 miles of rail with the Transcontinental Railroad in six years, while it took ten years to build the 5,800 miles of the Trans-Siberian Railway in the Manchurian route with the Amur route completed in fifteen years later. At only 4,700 miles, the new route was considerably shorter (especially since it was another 830 miles to Peking from Vladivostok), allowing for speedy flow of goods and passengers between Europe and the Republic of China. The rail line was called a new axis upon which the world would spin.

Along with German economic influence came political influence. Germany quickly outpaced other European empires’ attempts at swaying opinion in Asia, and China soon became a close ally with Berlin. Britain maintained a few long-lease ports, using them as stepping stones to affirm an alliance with Japan to secure a counterbalance with Germany’s growing power. Analysts feared that the next war would be truly a World War, perhaps even drawing in nations from the Western Hemisphere such as the United States or Brazil.



In reality, von Moltke continued with the Schlieffen Plan, though he was criticized as being too timid about its execution. Railroads would indeed link Europe with China through Central Asia, although the Cold War limited much of the expansion until the 1990s. Since then, the “New Silk Road” has grown substantially, especially after China’s Belt and Road Action Plan announced in 2015.

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