Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS

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Things like modern infrastructure, education, and health care. This article, this is why. It’s US Defence Secretary James Mattis explaining America’s new defence strategy. This was one of the most horrifying articles I’ve read in a long time. I will break parts of it down for the gentle reader:

“The US faced “growing threats from revisionist powers as different as China and Russia”, he said, unveiling the national defence strategy.”

No, no we don’t. China and Russia would have to spend trillions of dollars to pose anything like a threat to America’s globe spanning military machine. They quite literally do not have, now, or in the foreseeable future, the money it would take to challenge the US militarily. What they are doing is defending their backyards and trying to prevent the US from completely surrounding them with allies and military bases.

In other words we’re threatening them, not vice versa. And their response to this threat is perfectly natural … and not in any way, shape, or form a threat to the USA. Mattis goes downhill from there:

“In an apparent reference to Russia, he warned against “threaten[ing] America’s experiment in democracy”.

“If you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day,” he warned.”

Three terrible things wrong with this. First, there’s still no evidence Russia tried to tamper with our election, they had no reason to do and every reason not to. There wasn’t really anything to be gained by it. And Jesus Christ, even the idea they could do so is imbuing them with magical powers. How the hell is an impoverished country on the other side of the world going to seriously have a chance to alter our mind numbingly expensive electoral process?

Secondly, hard to imagine how he said this without smirking.  We no longer have anything resembling a democracy in the US, and he knows it. Every president since Reagan has done exactly what the pentagon, big business, and the bankers wanted. Our elections are a dog and pony show run to make people think their vote matters. It doesn’t. Russia can’t threaten something that doesn’t exist.

Thirdly, OMG, the United States is the biggest threat to democracy the world has ever seen. Washington routinely interferes in elections, sponsor coups, and generally does everything in their considerable power to insure that if some country has an election, the guy Washington wants in power gets elected. Not to mention now completely open, and illegal, regime change wars. To claim the US is dedicated to democracy would be farcical if our efforts hadn’t caused such harm.

It goes on in that vein. Trump Is planning on increasing military spending ten percent. That means more debt or more cuts elsewhere. So much for his promise to invest in infrastructure. Our 2017 infrastructure report card: D+ And of course we are going to slash science and health spending to pay for this. Spending that actually benefits Americans. Can’t have that.

One last quote from the article:

“We face growing threats from revisionist powers as different as China and Russia, nations that seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models,” Mr Mattis said.

Sigh. What a load of scaremongering malarkey. China and Russia cast as villains from a James Bond movie. The only country trying to create a world consistent with their model is the US, and that model is exploitation of the world’s people and resources to make America’s corporations even richer. All China and Russia are trying to do is defend themselves against that.

The thing that is most frustrating about all of this? The American media both parrots it and fawns over if. Guess who owns the American media? And most Americans simply accept it as fact. Three plus decades of economic decline for poor and middle class Americans, but by God if the media, left or right, tells them pouring more money into the military is good for America, it must be true!

Yeah, yeah, I’m going to go take a Valium.

 

(Welcome new and old readers. I hope you enjoyed this post. As of January 2018 I have resumed regular blogging on my new Patreon version of Doug’s Darkworld. Science, history, current events, and posts about a certain president who can hardly go a day without inspiring a blog post.)

https://www.patreon.com/Unitedcats

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Written by unitedcats

January 20, 2018 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

We Had a Visitor

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Artist’s impression of the interstellar asteroid `Oumuamua

Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

The solar system had a visitor recently. A, thing, artist’s impression above, swung by the Earth and Sun late last year. What was it? Where did it come from? Where is it going? Could it really be an alien spaceship? Why is it important? And how does one pronouce ‘Oumuamua anyhow?
Last things first. ‘Oumuamua is a Hawaiian name that loosely translates as “visitor from the distant past.” It is pronounced Oh mooer mooer. A Hawaiian word was chosen because it was discovered by a telescope in Hawaii. There’s been some conflict between astronomers and native Hawaiians lately, so not sure if choosing a Hawaiian name was a sign of respect, or clueless condescension. I’ll leave that topic for another day.
What was ‘Oumuamua? At first it was thought to be a comet. As it got close to the sun it didn’t outgas like comets do, so astronomers changed its designation to asteroid. And then things got both exciting and weird. Once its orbit was calculated, they realised this bad boy wasn’t orbiting the sun. It had indeed fallen out of deep space, travelling at a speed faster than anything that orbits the sun travels at. It whipped around the sun and headed back out to deep space. But not before every telescope and scientific instrument possible was trained on it.
And what did they find out? It’s about 800 ft (230 m) by 100 ft (35 m.) It’s spinning wildly. It appears to be very similar to a D-type asteroid. So soft, organic rich silicate and carbon rock, possibly mixed in with some ice. It’s protected by a baked reddish organic coating similar to the coating seen on Kuiper Belt Objects. Scientists suspect this is from millions of years of exposure to cosmic rays. This is why if it contains any ice, it didn’t outgas as it passed the sun. However, unlike any asteroid or comet ever seen, ‘Oumuamua is eight times as long as it is wide. This is extremely unusual, no one expected this. A cigar shaped asteroid, how did this happen? No one knows.
The weird shape is what triggered speculation that ‘Oumuamua might be an artificial object of some sort. Idle speculation for the most part. First of all it is tumbling. Secondly it made no course corrections. Lastly, because scientists do like to cover all possibilities, every effort was made to detect any sign of electrical or radio activity emanating from it. Even something as weak as a cell phone would of been detected. Nada, ‘Oumuamua is as dead as, well, a rock.

So why is ‘Oumuamua important? Because this is the first time we have ever had a chance to study something that didn’t originate in our own solar system. It’s like data from an interstellar probe delivered free to our backyard. Best guess is 1-10 things like this zip through every year, but they are small and really fast, and this is the first one we’ve ever seen. Our telescopes grow better every year though, and astrononers look forward to spotting future visitors. We are indeed living in a golden age of space exploration.
Two final notes. If this was so new and cool, why didn’t we send a probe to it? Good question. And in fact as soon as it was spotted, astronomers feverishly began calculating if that was possible. Sadly, the answer is not really. ‘Oumuamua is just moving too damn fast. It’s already past the orbit of Mars, will pass Jupiter by early summer, and Saturn’s orbit by 2019. No human probe can fly fast enough to catch up with it. There are a few theoretical possibilities and ideas in the pipeline that might do the trick, but not really worth the effort. Even if we build something fast enough to catch up, it would just fly right past it, and that really wouldn’t be likely to add much to our knowledge. So goodbye ‘Oumuamua, off to wander between the stars for millions or more likely billions of years.
Lastly, wait, what about meteorites? Humans have literally gathered up tens of thousands of them, surely some of them didn’t originate in our solar system? Nope. Every single one clearly came from our solar system, either leftover junk from the creation of the solar system, or blasted free from planets and moons in the solar system. This though is a great opportunity for meteorite hunters. Eventually one will be found, they must exist. And when one is found, the lucky finder can name their price. Millions would not be untoward.
Now don’t you wish you’d looked more closely at that black rock you found on your lawn last week? Have a great 2018 everyone.
(I am resurrecting Doug’s Darkworld, will be posting once a week from now on. I have also started a site on Patreon where I will be posting these blog posts and other writing, mostly fiction. I encourage my readers to check it out. And thanks to my many faithful readers here, it’s been fun.)

Written by unitedcats

January 6, 2018 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Entering the Trump Zone, part one

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Here we are, the first populist president of my lifetime. And I remember Nixon. Been hella interesting so far, and promises more of the same. I’m not a Trump supporter, though I am glad Hillary lost. I have no problems with supporters of either, or Bernie supporters for that matter. If anything, I call myself an independent, I don’t think either major party has the best interests of the common American at heart. It was an wild election campaign, and we are in for a ride. Here, in semi particular order, are my observations on the Trump presidency so far.

A lot of people were surprised and shocked when Trump won, I wasn’t one of them. I watched one of the very first GOP debates and came away thinking “This guy could win this thing.” He had an obvious appeal that all of his rivals lacked. I know most of my progressive and Democratic friends can’t see this. A sign of how polarized the country has become. If all one watches is the “news” produced for one’s own targeted demographic, it eventually becomes impossible to understand people watching the opposite. This goes as much for Jon Stewart watchers as it does for Fox News fans.

Moving right along, in some ways it was funny watching Trump walk all over his GOP rivals in the campaign. The irony was delicious, they and the GOP spent decades priming their base for someone just like Trump, so his appearance out of nowhere was their just desserts. In some ways Trump is a symptom of the times.

I mentioned that I am glad Hillary lost. And I still am. She was the establishment candidate pure and simple, annointed by the powers that be. She would have simply hammered more nails into the coffin of the progressive movement in tne USA. The rich would have gotten richer, corporate influence would have gotten greater, and our wars overseas would have continued and expanded. All the forces that have been destroying this country since Reagan would have gotten that much stronger. I know Trump is not the antidote to that, far from it, but maybe there is now a chance progressives will get back into power. Or at least turn back the tide of GOP control of congress and state legislatures. It may be a slim hope, but it would have been no hope under Clinton.

As to why Hillary lost, that’s a can of worms. Like most lost wars or battles, myths have grown up to expain it away. It is clear to me that many of her supporters were shocked that she lost to someone like Trump. And since she was the obviously (to them, see paragragh 2) the superior and more qualified candidate, there must be some underhanded reason why she lost. Russian meddling is the favourite so far, in fact half of Democrats think Russians diddled with the actual voting machines, an allegation no one has even made! Blaming Bernie supporters or other third party supporters is another favourite. Yes, she lost because people that should have known better didn’t vote for her! To my way of thinking that attitude itself is a big reason she lost. Vote shaming is hardly a good way to inspire people to vote. The bottom line is she utterly failed to inspire people to vote for her, and blaming anyone but her for this failure is ludicrous.

And the “Russia got Trump elected” thing. Yeah, long on allegations, short on anything that can be considered evidence. I know many many people are absolutely convinced this is the case, but it all seems like motivated reasoning to me. When actual evidence of said conspiracy shows up, I will reconsider my position. I also point out that claiming Russian influence was responsible for the tiny margin that Trump won by is ignoring the huge numbers of voters that Hillary scorned or even encouraged to vote against her with her campaign missteps. There’s also the fact thay it’s hard to imagine Putin doing something so stupid. He is one dangerous mofo, but he is no fool.

In a related vein, the whole “Russia is a terrible threat” trope is ridiculous. The USA and its allies outspend Russia by more than ten to one in military spending. We have Russia ringed with military bases, fleets, and nuclear weapons, not vice versa. In fact Russia is making big cuts in its military spending this year, while Trump is pouring ever more money into the military. It’s safe to say that no country in history has ever enjoyed the global military hegemony the USA now enjoys.

Tomorrow, presuming I have any readers left, more on the Trump phenomena. Good times.

Written by unitedcats

March 22, 2017 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Politics, Propaganda

Still Alone in the Universe

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Alas, yet another well intentioned and optimistic attempt has been made to search for alien civilizations. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for SETI (The search for alien technological civilizations) and am glad it gets done.  I just don’t think they are going to find anything, and am not surprised this latest search is a failure. Why? Some background first:

NASA has a satellite, the WISE satellite. Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. It basically made a survey of the sky in infrared. It was a big deal. Many new discoveries, thousands of asteroids, numerous star clusters, and a whole wealth of data about the skies. Including information on millions of galaxies. Then scientists with private funding (our precious tax dollars saved for ever more drone strikes) computer sifted through this data to find 100,000 promising galactic candidates for further investigation. They then hand searched these galaxies, looking for galaxies with signs of widespread industrial civilization. How is that? Well, the idea being that aliens that colonized a galaxy would use starlight to power industry, and thus the galaxy in question would be shy on starlight, but long on infrared, the waste product of industrial processes. The results? Nada. None of the galaxies showed anything that was obviously unnatural. A few warrant further looking, but there was certainly no smoking gun.

What can we glean from this? On the first pass, a Star Trek or Star Wars galaxy is ruled out. Bad news on one level, we won’t be joining any Galactic Federation anytime soon, because it doesn’t exist. That’s not surprising, the aliens in these sorts of imagined galaxies are pretty much just people with funny costumes. While it would be fun and comforting to find out that’s what aliens are like, there’s simply no reason to think aliens would be anything like us. In fact essentially all SETI has been doing is steadily eroding the idea of a universe populated by anthropomorphic aliens. At this point, it’s looking pretty grim for the Star Trek galaxy.

So what’s left? Well, maybe our idea of how advanced alien civilizations would look needs some tweaking. Most, if not all,  of our ideas about SETI involve searching for aliens who are acting like us. Granted, how to imagine aliens who aren’t like us is a bit tricky. I suspect the goal shouldn’t be to decide what to look for and look for it, but try to look for anything that doesn’t have a good natural explanation. Granted that’s a pretty nebulous concept in and of itself, but it has the advantage of eliminating our own prejudices about what aliens will be doing. And yes, it’s also limited by the fact that our understanding of what is and isn’t natural in the Universe is also pretty nebulous at this stage. Still, it would be a start, and I hope at least some in the SETI community are looking into searching for the unexpected.

Lastly, and the point that seems to distress so many people, it’s possible that we are alone. We simply don’t know how likely it is for species like ours to come along and start building technological stuff. Maybe it’s so incredibly unlikely that it’s only happened once. People love to claim that the size of the Universe means there “has” to be others, but that’s simply an argument from big numbers. What are the chances that one grain of sand on Earth contains an exact miniature replica of a McDonalds® outlet down to the smallest detail? Saying, there’s trillions of grains of sand so one must contain a miniature McDonalds® because there are so many grains of sand, is an absurd argument.

In any event I hope SETI continues. Heck, I wish it was better funded, but it’s too easy an idea to ridicule and there’s no SETI lobby to speak of, and certainly no SETI industry, so it’s going to continue to be a privately funded search. I wish SETI all the luck in the world, I just don’t recommend making any bets on it succeeding any time soon.

Have a great weekend everyone.

(The above image was taken on Mars about a year ago by the Curiosity rover. As a NASA photograph, it is for most practical purposes, including inclusion in this blog, a public domain image. NASA does not in any way endorse Doug’s Darkworld. I used this image because, gee, Mars is sure looking like a barren lifeless rock. And because I still think its effing incredible that we have machines on Mars able to send pics like this. The blue sky means it’s sunset. On Mars the sky is normally scarlet or a bright orangeish-red colour. It turns rose at sunset and sunrise.)

Written by unitedcats

June 19, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Philae Calls Home

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I know, it’s in the news. I have been insanely busy, and not able to post, but this came along and I just had to add my two cents. The Philae lander, a probe that made the first landing on a comet, has returned to life after seven months in unintended frozen hibernation on the comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko. This is truly a historic moment in space exploration, I don’t think there’s ever been a case where communication was lost with a  probe, and then re-acquired months later. It’s a wonderful moment in an amazing mission in the ongoing Golden Age of space exploration. I will try to share my sense of awe and excitement. Humour me.

The twentieth century. It’s passed now, but it was packed with events. Most people now would talk of Hitler, communism, World Wars, assassinations, the rise of technology, etc. Future generations may remember it for one thing, on July 21 1969 humans first set foot on the Moon. The human exploration of the galaxy had begun. A true Golden Age of exploration had begun. When I was a kid all that was known of planets and bodies beyond Earth was a few fuzzy telescope pictures. All we knew about the Solar System (let alone the galaxy) could be summarized in a few pages in the beginning of atlases.

Well, a few decades later, and we have learned a few things. Dozens of probes have been sent out, some leaving the Solar System itself. And while many probes have been lost, most have succeeded. Humanity now has active probes all over the Solar System. Mars and the Moon are under continual satellite observation. It’s been the greatest Age of Exploration ever. Columbus re-discovered a few continents, we now discover new worlds almost daily.

And part of that exploration has been comets. As most people know, the Solar System is a bunch of planets orbiting the Sun. Also spinning around the Sun are small bodies of dirty ice, comets. Like Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko, helpfully illustrated above. It’s about 3 km (2 miles) long, not very big compared to Earth, but still, a flying mountain in space. And while it was still outside the orbit of Mars, the next planet out from Earth, the Rosetta space probe went into orbit around it. It was in fact the first probe to orbit a comet. Comets are believed to be leftover stuff from the birth of the Solar System,  so it is hoped this probe will help understand the early Solar System, the same way the actual Rosetta Stone helped understand human’s early history.

And after it went into orbit, the Rosetta Probe dropped the Philae lander, a probe about the size of a washing machine, which was to hit the comet and anchor itself to the surface. Alas, the surface of the comet was harder than anyone expected, and instead of anchoring itself safely, the lander bounced. And bounced. And bounced. And landed somewhere shady, worked for a few days, then went to sleep because its solar panels were in the shade. And that was that, the lander had done some good science in its few days, and there was some possibility it would wake up again as the comet got closer to the Sun, but most people wrote it off as one of many lost probes.

Nope. It’s back. Philae has called home. It survived months in the dark at about 35 degrees Kelvin (-400F, -240C) in a complete vacuum. So cold human flesh would almost instantly freeze solid. So cold virtually every device humans have made would instantly break as parts of it contracted in the cold. So inhospitable to human life that it’s hard to imagine. And even if one was in the sunlight on Churyumov–Gerasimenko, it would result in a fatal sunburn. And yet our engineers and scientists were able to build a robotic machine that survived intact and dormant in this frighteningly extreme environment, and has returned to life to send us more data.

This is human ingenuity at its best. This shows that humans can build machines to work in environments so extreme they don’t exist on Earth. This shows a desire to understand reality that is on par with other great human endeavours. This accomplishment was science fiction just a  few decades ago. Fantasy if not madness a few centuries ago. We may be destroying our own planet, but we are simultaneously reaching for the stars. That Philae has returned to life is a good sign. Let us be happy.

No worries, future posts will be more depressing.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Credit and copyright: Matt Wang, Flickr: anosmicovni. European Space Agency. Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko Relative to Downtown Los Angeles. And because people just have to know, if comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko was to hit Earth (it can’t) the results would be catastrophic. It would make a 40 km (25 mile) wide crater for starters. Continent wide devastation, global effects. It would be the worst disaster to ever befall the human race. It might even interfere with publication of this blog.)

Written by unitedcats

June 15, 2015 at 6:52 pm

June 8 1967, Another Day that Lives in Infamy, the Attack on the USS Liberty. Yada Yada Yada.

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Ah, the USS Liberty incident. June 8 1967, the USS Liberty, a “technical research ship,” IE a spy ship, is in international waters off the coast of Egypt. This was during the Six Day War, when Israel was fighting Syria, Egypt, and Jordan. Israeli air and naval forces repeatedly attacked the USS Liberty, despite the fact that it was clearly marked as a US vessel. 34 crewmen were killed, 171 (or 174) were injured, and the vessel was badly damaged. Afterwards, both the US and Israel concluded it had been an accident, and Israel paid tens of millions of dollars in compensation to the families of the dead and wounded. Many people did not accept this explanation, and controversy and conspiracy theory roils to this day. Two survivors run a website dedicated to exposing the alleged cover-up.

The whole Liberty incident from beginning to end is rather complicated. I’m not going into the nuts and bolts of it, because it’s not really relevant to this post. And I don’t imagine I can add anything when countless others have examined the ins and outs of it, I certainly don’t know if the attack was deliberate or not. It might have been, and one or both governments might have conspired to cover up the truth. These sorts of things have happened, and while they sometimes get cleared up in the decades or centuries after the fact, sometimes they don’t. It’s safe to say that unless there are some revelations, we peasants will never know for sure how it was that Israel repeatedly attacked a US ship.

However, there is one aspect of this incident where my opinion has changed. Or at least grown more nuanced. Much has been made of the fact that the ship was clearly marked as an American ship. Which to many people’s way of thinking makes it impossible that attackers didn’t recognize this, and thus must have deliberately attacked an American ship. Alas, what science now knows about human perception, especially under stress, is that our perception is really inaccurate. If the pilots and sailors involved were told they would be attacking an Egyptian ship, it would be quite understandable if that is exactly what they saw. The image we see is created by our brains, and our expectations and focus can affect what we perceive. The attackers didn’t see the American flag and markings because they were focused on other things, and not expecting to see an American flag and markings. The same way these people didn’t see the gorilla.

Does this mean we can’t trust our own eyes? Nope. Nor our brains either. Add to that the Dunning-Kruger effect, and it’s a wonder that we make any progress at all. Still, here we are. Trying to make sense of it all. At least some of us. Are there any other lessons in the Liberty Incident? None that I can think of, it certainly wasn’t of strategic or even tactical importance. If the ship had been sunk, it might have made more of a public impact, but that would have faded. If the Liberty hadn’t been attacked, I can’t imagine how that would have changed history. One of the dead would have gone on and been the next Hitler? Seems pretty unlikely. In my final analysis, these deaths, like most war deaths, didn’t really mean much at all. Soldiers are cannon fodder, dying in wars is part of the job. And what a sucky job that is. How many other jobs involve people trying to kill you? Hockey. Politics. That’s about it.

Aside from the Liberty Incident, did the Six Day War have any other influence on history? Yes, even if the gentle reader has never heard of it. (Sometime I forget that I am above the median human age, and many people don’t remember the sixties because they weren’t alive yet.) It was a very important war, as war importance goes. Almost anything I say about it will be controversial. Or cause offence to some people. They aren’t the same, despite what generations of Evolution deniers maintain. For one it established that Israel had absolute military superiority over their neighbours. It also put Israel in control of all of Palestine, and the Golan heights, which were not traditionally part of Palestine. Ultimately, it got the nations bordering Israel out of the mix, Egypt and Jordan at least. Both sensibly decided that Israel could have the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and that was the end of noise about “driving Israel into the sea.

And of course with Israel ultimately at peace with its neighbours, the now safe Jewish homeland of Israel made a just settlement with the Palestinians who also now lived in Israel, and everyone lived happily ever after. Alas, no. Israel had the land, but didn’t want the people living there because they weren’t Jewish. And since then has worked to steadily disenfranchise, legitimize, impoverish, and demonize their Palestinian neighbours, while bit by bit stealing their land. Fortunately all is not hopeless, many Palestinians and Israelis are working peacefully for a just solution to the Palestine problem. I in fact I am joining JVP, Jewish Voice for Peace, and will be posting more on the topic in the near future. (Honestly, some readers were surprised by that? I hope.)

(The above image is from Wikipedia, so I am assuming it is public domain. In any event it’s not being used for profit, yada yada yada. And can someone explain to me why yada yada yada is not in my spelling dictionary? It’s been in the OED for a decade or more. We have computers now people, we’re supposed to keep up with stuff like this. Sheesh.)

Written by unitedcats

June 8, 2015 at 11:21 pm

Yesterday, a Forgotten Battle. Today, One That is a Bit More Familiar. June 6 1944, D-Day.

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June 6th 1944. The day John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, and Sean Connery waded ashore in Normandy. Oh wait, that was the movie. It was a good movie, at least that’s what I recall. I plan on watching it again soon, I see that it’s on Netflix. What an age we live in, I can have a movie I watched in my childhood beamed into my room. Plus 871 billion cat pictures.  So, 71 years ago, the largest wartime invasion in history. And the most carefully planned military operation in history. It’s a big deal, no doubt about it. I’m sure there’s all sorts of articles about it, as always I hope to add at least some perspective. Or have some fun.

Could the invasion have failed? Eisenhower was prepared for that eventuality, he had a statement ready in case the invasion was a failure. German troops might have secret weapons, Rommel might pull off a brilliant feat. His worst fear must have been that the Germans had found out about the Allied plan and were ready for them. In any event, that didn’t happen, the Allies successfully fooled the Germans into thinking the attack would happen at Calais, 200 miles (300 km) away from Normandy. And in fact, extensive wargaming has shown that the invasion couldn’t have failed in any military sense, the forces the Allies deployed had an overwhelming advantage. The Allies for example flew more than 10,000 air sorties on D-Day. Two (count them) German fighter planes made a quick strafing run of the landing beaches. No, the only way the invasion realistically could have failed was if the weather had turned really really bad and stayed that way for weeks. Thus keeping Allied aircraft on the ground and limiting Allied shipping to the landing zone. Didn’t happen, and the Allies won a great victory and opened up the western front in the war against Hitler’s Nazi occupied Europe.

There’s a few common misconceptions about D-Day, as astute readers may know. While it was a great victory, and it hastened the end of the war, the war was already over before the D-Day landings. The Germans had suffered catastrophic defeats in Russia, and the Russian juggernaut had grown so huge that there was no question Soviet armies would be rolling into Berlin. D-Day was also not just an American affair, which one wouldn’t know from watching Saving Private Ryan. Only two of the five landing beaches were American, two were British, and one was Canadian. 25 Australians also came ashore, and I’m sure a scattering of other nationalities. 150,000 men … and one woman.

Losses were less that the Allies had planned for. Maybe 3,000 dead. Only one warship was sunk, an American destroyer, the USS Cory, was hit and destroyed by German shore batteries. It may have also hit  a mine, and that’s the official story, not that it really matters. Over 100 aircraft were shot down by German antiaircraft fire, losses the Allies could easily afford. On D-Day the Allied soldiers were ordered not to take prisoners. That part Saving Private Ryan got right. The order was not always followed though, I mean, the Germans were white people. Japanese soldiers, yeah, they rarely made it to the prison camps. I digress. One group of soldiers surrendered to a passing American ship, not all the Nazi defenders were enthusiastic in their service to the Reich.

In any event, I’m not trying to discredit the American and Allied accomplishment. Perspective is everything. Just trying to strip it of jingoistic nationalistic nonsense. And see it for what it was, one of the great military efforts in history.  And a great success, thanks to the careful planning … and the disaster during Exercise Tiger in April, where the deaths of hundreds of American GIs in a training exercise showed that there were some kinks in the plan still. In any event, I have no great wisdom to impart. I’ve no doubt written about D-day before, it just seemed like a good topic to get back into blogging with.

Lastly, yes, the picture I chose is somewhat grim. A dead American soldier on the beach. In today’s weird insulated media world where to Americans the only danger from war is the unlikely chance one will get electrocuted by their PlayStation, I just thought it was a reminder that no matter how great the victory, afterwards the victors have to clean up the bodies of their dead friends.  One would think that might make people want to avoid wars, but I’m an optimist. One other point about World War Two, is that we still pretended soldiers coming home from wars were heroes, and couldn’t admit they had problems. Most people I know who had fathers who saw combat in World War Two said pretty much the same thing about them. They never wanted to talk about it, and it haunted them all their lives. Yes, World War Two veterans had high rates of alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicide. War is not healthy, and many of its survivors will be sick for life.

Even now this war is fading into history. Most of the veterans are long dead,  in a few decades the last will die and World War Two will slip from memory into history.

(The above image was taken by a US government employee and is thus Public Domain under US copyright law. It’s what I said it was, I don’t know his name. I did promise some fun, but the only D-Day joke I could find was kind of lame. And, full disclosure, the PlayStation comment isn’t original.)

Written by unitedcats

June 6, 2015 at 9:59 pm

Posted in History, Movies, War