Category Archives: History

Fate and Mystery

As I have mentioned from time to time, I am fascinated by history. Not only how the past made us as we are, but how many seemingly small and inconsequential events can have profound consequences.

I am currently reading a book by a favorite author, Erik Larson, on Winston Churchill during the time of the Blitz.

It’s his contention that a German navigator’s error, in mistakenly jettisoning their bombs over London rather than a country field during inclement weather, led to Hiroshima.

Personally I think that may be a bridge too far, for reasons that I outlined here.

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Filed under Flying, History, Hollywood

He Still Headed The Wrong Way

A German Wrong Way Corrigan?

 

I just finished watching a YouTube video on a comparison between the Focke-Wulf FW-190 and the P-51 Mustang.

Learned a lot of things.  I knew that the Mustang really came into its own when a Rolls Royce test pilot, Ronald Harker,  decided to substitute the Allison V12 for a Merlin. Didn’t realize that (A) the Merlin was still more powerful at 20,000 feet  than the Allison was at sea-level, and (B) fuel consumption was significantly improved. It was a win-win, and turned the Mustang from a good fighter to an icon. Actually it was a “win-win-win” as it gave the Mustang the high altitude performance that it lacked.

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Filed under Airplanes, History, Humor

A Time Portal to Germany, May 1945

I have written a bit about the 5 Hollywood directors who went to the front lines both in the Pacific and ETO for WW2.

And I reviewed the work of one of them, William Wyler, with the brilliant restoration of his unused film in making his Memphis Belle. There is more to write about these 5 fascinating directors, but suffice it to say there is a nice Netflix documentary, with commentary by 5 contemporary famous directors, on them.

That has to be a future post for me.

In the meantime on the F/B page, Hogday posted a fascinating video from George Stevens on Germany right after the war.

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Little Big Horn – Brought To Life

One of the things I love about travel is the misconceptions finally corrected. You see things – or meet people – that change your beliefs. Both people and places have changed my outlook over the years.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

—Mark Twain

I was trying to remember the year I drove to Deadwood, SD and across Montana. Montana still had a “safe and reasonable” speed limit, and I thought that I would be in my element.

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Filed under Army, History, Politics and Culture

Iwo Jima 75th Anniversary

Rosenthal

On February 19, 1945, Operation Detachment commenced and the landings on Iwo Jima began.

Seventy-five years ago, U.S. Marines came ashore on a desolate eight-square-mile volcanic island dominated by Mount Suribachi and located roughly halfway between the Marianas and Tokyo. Iwo Jima’s value lay in its airfields. B-29 Superfortresses that were damaged or low on fuel could land there, and Army Air Forces fighters based on the island could escort the bombers to their targets in Japan. Three Marine divisions—more than 70,000 men—had the task of seizing the island. But an operation that U.S. commanders forecast would take a week to complete would stretch out to five weeks, and the Marines’ determination and sacrifice on Iwo Jima would become enduring touchstones for the Corps.

Before that time, the Marines didn’t know that the Japanese would be in a labyrinth of tunnels, bunkers, and caves, prepared over many months in anticipation of their landing. They could wait out the massive bombardments of the Navy ships. One tunnel was 90′ deep.

They had seriously underestimated the Japanese defenses. The battle would last 36 bloody days. For every square mile of that island, more than 800 Marines would lose their lives.

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Filed under Heroes Among Us, History, Marines, Navy, Valor

The Case For Hiroshima

Three years ago, I wrote a bit in response to President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima.

Probably nothing in American actions in WW2 have had more controversy than the use of the atomic bomb first in Hiroshima, and then Nagasaki.

Locally we had a mayor years ago who decided to travel to Hiroshima and apologize for our use of that weapon.

Certainly nobody disputes the horrible effects upon the citizens of those cities.

It was 25 years – 1970 – before the Defense Dept. released a classified film on the devastating effects of the blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But how would the war in the Pacific have ended if these bombs weren’t used?

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Filed under History, Naval History, Politics

John Basilone

If you drive up I5 from San Diego in a half hour or so you’ll transit the massive USMC base of Camp Pendleton. If you are lucky, looking to the left towards the ocean, you may see some Osprey‘s landing or taking off.

And you will pass a sign on the right telling you that you are on the Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone Highway.

I wonder of the many thousands of people passing that sign every day know who John Basilone was?

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Filed under Heroes Among Us, History, Valor

James E. Williams

James E Williams

In between working on another post, which may take a few days, I was watching a program on Amazon Prime involving that famous trio, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May.

Except this wasn’t the Grand Tour but a boat trip through Cambodia and the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. It was a pretty interesting program, with the usual silly assortment of vehicles.

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Filed under Heroes Among Us, History, Naval History, Navy, Vietnam

Some History Long Neglected

In the recent past, what was the most welcome thing a serviceman could receive, particularly when overseas? Something equally precious to Privates and Seamen, Generals and Admirals?

Something that, upon getting, could lift you out of a deep depression?

Or occasionally put you into a depression?

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Filed under History

WW2 History Rarely Seen

I just finished an excellent series, shown on Netflix, Greatest Events of World War II In Colour.

It is narrated by British actor Derek Jacobi, and has various historians and best-selling authors talking about the battles. 

One usually is presented with what I would call a one dimensional view of history. 

“This is what they thought, and this is why they planned so-and-so, and this was the result.”

In many of these episodes, I have gotten viewpoints that I had never heard before.

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Filed under History, Naval History