Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

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The Battle of Castillon, one of my favorite battles. Another battle that would make a great movie, dibs on the rights. 17 July, 1453. Near the town of Castillon in Gascony, which is the southwest corner of France, to the north of Spain. At the time, the waning days of the 100 Years War, Gascony, along with the city of Calais on the English Channel, were the last remaining English holdings on the European continent. The English Empire had barely begun, as seen on the map above, they started by invading Ireland. No comment. The New World’s discovery was a half century away, it was a smaller world then. In any event, the French had invaded Gascony and besieged the town of Castillon. Their army  was camped in extensive field fortifications they had built just out of range of Castillon’s guns. Guns were just starting to appear on battlefields in 1453, the French had about 300 of them.

So, England’s John Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury, marched to save the town of Castillon from the surrounding French. He was a feared and famous military leader. He had 6,000-10,000 men with him, the French had 7,000 to 10,000 men. The French army was commanded by a committee. These things happen. The French guy in charge of laying out the guns and fortifications knew what he was doing though. It was a hot dusty day. Talbot’s force had defeated a small French force in the previous few days, their morale was high. As they approached the town, the townspeople informed Talbot that a huge cloud of dust had come up behind the French camp, and they thought the French were fleeing.

Well crap, thought Talbot, the French are getting away. He ordered his army to attack the French camp immediately. His troops duly charged right into the French fortifications, expecting to find the fleeing remnants of the French army. Instead they charged straight into the withering fire of 300 guns protected by thousands of pikemen in fortifications. It was, shall we say, a slaughter. For unknown reasons Talbot ordered the attack to continue, possibly he thought his honor was at stake, this was the late Middle Ages and weird stuff like that still mattered. For example, Talbot wasn’t wearing any armor, because that was a condition of his release from being a POW of the French some years earlier.

So yes, thousands of English soldiers marched forward, only to be gunned down. It was said that every French shot killed six Englishmen. Was someone keeping count? The English continued their attack for about an hour, then a thousand French cavalry attacked the English flank. The battle quickly turned into a rout at that point, and Talbot and his son were killed in the confusion. As many as 4,000 English dead, maybe 100 French. It was a decisive victory for France, and effectively ended the 100 years war, with Calais being the only remaining British holding on the continent. Calais would last about another century before being conquered by France.

Wait, the giant cloud of dust the townsmen saw, if not dust kicked up by fleeing Frenchmen, what was it? Well, the French had word the English army was approaching. So they ordered the camp followers to flee the camp, since they would just be in the way. So thousands of wives, kids, girlfriends, tradespeople, and, um, sex workers fled. It was dust they kicked up that Talbot injudiciously mistook for fleeing French soldiers. An honest mistake, or did his opinion of French character cloud his judgement? The spyglass was 150 years away, so to attack a fortified position without reconnoitering it first was, well, pretty rash.

Talbot paid for his misjudgement with his life though, so at least he didn’t have to explain his loss to the king. It might have been really awkward, since the English king was already a half bubble off plumb so to speak. In fact the king completely snapped his twigs shortly after news of the disaster at Castillion reached him. Some said he snapped because of the bad news. A mad king on the throne is never a good thing, and it triggered a succession crisis and the start of the Wars of the Roses. So basically, an English  civil war started because of fleeing sex workers.

History is fun!

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Europe in 1450. Credit: Free from this site.)

Written by unitedcats

July 17, 2019 at 3:56 am

Posted in History, War, World


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I came across a horrific story while looking up what happened on June 16 in history. June 16 1811, Vancouver Island in what is now Canada. A US trading ship, the Tonquin, was deliberately blown up, killing scores of Tla-o-qui-aht natives and one US crewman. How the hell did this happen? Well, not a happy story, but one that is interesting from a number of perspectives. Sources though, only one, Wikipedia. Every link I could find was just a clone of the information in Wikipedia. Still, there was one western survivor, so we have contemporary written source material. The basic facts seem pretty straightforward.

OK, the Tonquin, a fur trading ship. A bark to be precise. What’s a bark, or barque, or barc? Children of the early 19th century could answer easily, me, not so much. Let’s just say a small sailing ship with three or more masts. The Tonquin was a smaller example of same, with 11 cannons and a crew of 23 at the time of the unpleasantness. It was tasked with setting up trading posts on the west coast of America, buying furs, then sailing to China and selling them for a tidy profit. It founded Fort Astoria on the mouth of the Columbia River, the first American settlement on the West Coast. Then the ship sailed on to Vancouver Island and its date with destiny.

Ship arrives off Vancouver Island. Tla-o-qui-aht natives come aboard to trade. The captain of the Tonquin, one Lieutenant Jonathan Thorn, doesn’t like the price of an otter pelt. He either waves it around in anger, or throws it at a native elder. Who is insulted. That night a native women warns the captain that an attack is planned. He dismisses her concerns. The next morning, 15 June 1811, a lot of native fighters are on the beach. Captain Thorn is unconcerned, the Tla-o-qui-aht are peaceful, right? Two canoes of 20 Tla-o-qui-aht each ask to come aboard and sell otter pelts. Against standing orders about allowing so many natives aboard, Thorn lets them board. The astute reader can guess where this is going.

At first Thorn is thrilled, the natives are selling pelts at great prices. Finally Thorn realizes it’s too good to be true, and orders the ship to set sail. Too late, the elder gives the signal, and the 40 warriors pull out concealed clubs and knives. (By some accounts they used knives they had just received in trade for pelts.) Thorn and most of the crew are unarmed, and are quickly slain. Five guys below decks get to the ship’s guns and are able to hold out, but one is badly wounded. The natives leave for the night. The five guys confer, they realize they are too few to sail the ship. Four of them take the ship’s skiff and head for Fort Astoria. The wounded guy, well, God only knows what was going through his mind.

The next morning hundreds of Tla-o-qui-aht show up to claim the ship. The wounded fellow, possibly the ship’s armourer named Weeks, surrenders. As natives are swarming the ship, he set off the ship’s powder store. The ensuing explosion destroys the ship and kills 60 to 200+ natives. The four guys who escaped, their skiff was blown ashore and they were captured by the Nuu-chah-nulth tribe. Another Vancouver island tribe, on good terms with the Tla-o-qui-aht tribe. It ended badly for them, out of the frying pan into the fire. Patrick Swayze would have been perfect as the leader of the four.

I digress, though this would make a great movie if well done. Attn: Kevin Kostner. So, that’s the basics of what transpired. Wait, how do we know this? Well, the Tonquin had taken on a half native guide and interpreter,  Joseachal. And when the massacre began, he had the presence of mind to implore a native woman to take him as a slave. She agreed, and some years later French Canadian explorer Gabriel Franchère bought his freedom.

OK, lessons I see in this story. First pass, yeah, 200 plus people killed over a disputed otter pelt. Prequel to John Wick. Sadly human mass deaths over stupid stuff are all too common, another reason the aliens don’t want to buy our otter pelts. Second and self evident lesson, anyone can commit an atrocity. Yes, the European conquest of the Americas was a terrible genocide, but native Americans sometimes did bad things too. We’re all human, and all subject to fail states.

The decisions of Captain Thorn are certainly in retrospect suspect. Sounds like he had a low opinion on native Americans all around. He overestimated his own position, and underestimated the natives. It’s hard not to conclude that racism and a sense of superiority clouded his judgement. The insulted elder’s decisions are also questionable. I mean really, you’re gonna have a few dozen people killed over a public insult? Wasn’t there another way to resolve the issue without resorting to mass murder?

Which leads us to what to me is a most curious perspective. At least some natives were like, really, isn’t this a bit extreme? I’m assuming that from what we know at least. A native woman warned Captain Thorn. And another woman was actually at the massacre in order to take the one prisoner. Impressive on both counts. Though I am curious what native oral history says about this event. I’m guessing the elder was a hothead and he had enough young male hotheads to do the deed. I’ve read about enough massacres to know that it’s not unusual for one hothead to set them off.

All told a typically human event. The fact that huge numbers of natives descended on the ship to loot it reminds me of the terrible third world disasters where crowds of people gathering gasoline from a punctured pipeline or truck are incinerated when someone accidentally creates a spark. Most people have no problem looting when the opportunity presents itself. Sad all around, all the dead had family and friends who mourned (mourn?) their loss no doubt. God rest their souls.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The Tonquin under attack. Credit: Edmund Fanning – Voyages to the South Seas, Indian and Pacific Oceans, China Sea, North-West Coast, 1837. Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

July 10, 2019 at 4:03 am


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Wrisberg, John

Another Memorial Day. Today is the day America remembers its war dead. The holiday more or less started during the Civil War, though exactly how and where isn’t settled. And may never be,  historians are still arguing about it. Doesn’t matter though, it’s an official holiday now, and unofficial start of summer. Picnic, beer, family, and friends.

And memories. There’s a fair number of war dead in Clear Lake. The Civil War, the World Wars, they have their graves and monuments. Lots of flags in the Clear Lake cemetery today. And aside from the cemetery, there is a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Flagpole just a few blocks from where I am living. Only one Clear Lake boy died in Vietnam, he is remembered on the Flagpole. John H Wrisberg III. I only say boy because he died before he was 21, just to emphasize the tragedy of a man dying so young.

I was just a kid during most of the Vietnam War. Certainly in 1968 when Mr Wrisberg fell. Most of the people who remember him were also children at the time. The Vietnam War was over half a century ago, like the wars before, it is rapidly fading into history and out of memory. Some remember John still though. Turns out he lived just a few houses away from where I live now. These posts are always hard to write, but discovering that floored me. As I sit here typing I look out on the neighborhood he grew up in.

I did solicit my fellow Clear Lakers for memories. I shared them below. One fellow remembers as a little kid getting piggyback rides from John as a kid. Another remembers getting in the way of John and a friend playing pool, so John placed her sitting on a shelf that was five feet from the ground. Others remember him and his family. His younger brother died a few years later in a motorcycle accident. His father was an Air Force pilot, died in a crash in 1960. A lot of tragedy for one family.

John was a real person. With hopes and dreams and and fears and plans. A good person whose life was cut short in a war on the other side of the planet. “It was something he had to do.” I honor his sacrifice, I am glad his memory lives on in those who knew him. As long our departed live on in our memories, they are still with us.

This is a shorter post than usual. I said what I had to say. God bless all who died in the service of our nation. God grant peace to their their surviving friends and loved ones. God give us the wisdom to value peace more than war. When I was a young man peace was considered a laudable national goal. I miss that.

Have a good Memorial Day everyone.

“He was my next door neighbor, he lived at 200 N Shore Dr, I was just a little one back then still remember him giving me piggy back rides, and the sad part….first time I ever went to a funeral home and seem someone in a casket, I still remember that vision, so sad … “

— Todd V Humberg

“John was a year ahead of me in high school, remember him well. I look up his name on the wall in DC when I visit . RIP” 

— Ed Kotz

“His little brother, Mike, who I remember from Clear Lake High School, died three years after John in a motorcycle accident. His father, also named John, was a captain in the Air Force who died in 1960 in a plane crash during a routine mission as a test pilot. Lots of tragedy struck this family.”

— Peggy Ward Kerr

“Rest in Peace, sir.”

— Linda Reid

“I lived across the street. I was good friends with Mike and remember the shock. So sad.”

— Terri Masteller

“He was my oldest brother’s best friend. I was probably 5 y.o. and they were shooting pool in our basement. Apparently I was in the way, he picked me up and sat me on a shelf that was 5ft off the floor.”

— Sheila Sherman

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image copyright unknown. Claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

May 27, 2019 at 7:20 am

Posted in History, Peace, War, World


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MFHMildred Harnak. Image is free to use according to Wikipedia:ticket #2008031210021854

Another extemporaneous post. Boy, getting even uglier on the Iran front, with ships being sabotaged. Trump blames Iran, predictable and silly. Effective though if he is looking for a reason to start a war. Typically the nation one wants to start a war with is blamed for some incident, whether or not it actually occurred is irrelevant. If necessary, incidents can and have been manufactured. As Hitler did before invading Poland. Iran is not Poland though, it’s not 1939, and Trump isn’t Hitler. If war breaks out, my prediction is that nothing good will come of it.

Speaking of Hitler, two other things I wanted to touch on came up in my readings. Revisiting the “Trump is Hitler” trope, I realize there’s a few more differences that make the comparison iffy at best. I may have mentioned that Hitler seized power at a time of social, political, and economic upheaval in Germany. Trump is a product of  relatively much more stable times. Hitler had huge numbers (millions) of organized paramilitary fighters that were loyal to Hitler, Trump has nothing of the kind.

Most importantly of all, within a year of seizing power, there was the Night of the Long Knives, where Hitler used his loyal followers to slaughter his political opponents. 85 to more than 1,000 killed. After which all political parties except the Nazis were outlawed. While Trump may fantasize about having Warren and Clinton seized and jailed/executed, I don’t see any realistic chance he is going to get that kind of personal power. Not that I’m defending the man of course, he’s a disaster on multiple levels. Just not one that involves all of us being forced to wear MAGA hats.

And speaking of Nazis and Germany’s slide into horror, I came across some nasty little Nazi business that I wanted to share. And yes, this post is not quite as extemporaneous as I led on, these various tidbits have been floating around in my head and I wanted to tie them all together somehow. Anyhow, the story of Dr Hermann Stieve. He was a German doctor, rose to prominence after World War One, became at age 35 the youngest doctor to chair a medical department at a German university. He was a researcher, particularly of the female reproductive system. In fact he was the first to scientifically show that the rhythm method is ineffective as a form of birth control. He wasn’t a Nazi, but he was certainly a Nationalist and not exactly uncomfortable with Nazi ideology.

Wait, a Nazi sympathizing doctor, Hitler’s Germany,  female reproductive system … this is going to get rather dark, isn’t it? Yes, yes it is. So, after World War One the good doctor had a problem. The Weimar Republic, Germany’s post World War One government, didn’t condone the death penalty. So bodies and organs for study were in short supply. Fortunately for the our doctor, this all changed in 1934. Hitler was now in power, and Nazi jails started executing people right and left. And in no time German teaching and research hospitals had all the fresh corpses they needed.

Few, if any, objected. So by the early thirties, it had to have been common knowledge that the Nazis were regularly murdering Germans under the thinnest of legal pretexts. I mean it got much worse later, but still, most if not all people were able to carry on with their lives and just accept it. Shows how normalized evil can percolate through society. Few objected when Jews were dismissed from all University positions either. Granted it also rapidly became actually dangerous to object, again, no comparison to our current Trump troubles.

Our Doctor Stieve, no objections at all. And once the war got underway, he made a deal with a nearby women’s prison, and got fresh bodies pretty much on order. And the prison’s record keeping on their prisoners even helped with his research. He claimed none of the bodies he used were political prisoners, which pretty much has to be a lie. On one occasion one of his assistants recognized a body as belonging to a dissident friend. She immediately quit Dr Stieve’s program, the only one of his students or assistants known to have quit for moral reasons. Silver linings?

There were worse allegations against the doctor, but they don’t seem to hold up to scrutiny. When the prison changed their execution time to midnight, Stieve did however have influence enough to get it changed to morning executions … so he got his specimens as fresh as possible. Speaking of which, a few years back among his effects his family found hundreds of slides with tissue sample from his experiments. They were recently buried in Berlin, which is how I stumbled upon this story. The doctor was of course executed after the war for his crimes. Snort. No, only doctors who actually worked in the death camps were prosecuted. If doctors like Sieve were prosecuted, which would have been a huge numbers  of doctors, it would have hurt the reputation of German medicine. Couldn’t have that. Where Stieve disposed of his subjects is also unknown, partly why the tissue samples above got a real burial.

One subject though, Mildred Harnak, her post experimental remains were given to a friend of hers for disposal. She was a member of Red Orchestra, a German antiwar group that was rounded up and executed. Mildred is the only Red Orchestra member whose burial site is known.  Mildred was originally from Wisconsin, and had married a German and moved to Germany. Her husband was also a member of Red Orchestra. She was originally sentenced to six years for espionage. Hitler ordered her execution though, so she has the dubious distinction of being the only American who Hitler personally ordered killed. Her last words on the guillotine were reportedly: “Ich habe Deutschland auch so geliebt” (“I loved Germany so much as well.”)

God rest her soul, and all those murdered by the Nazis.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

May 15, 2019 at 6:41 am


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MersadScene during the Iran/Iraq War. Photographer unknown, public domain image.

I was writing a lovely post involving tanks and Hitler, can’t go wrong with that combination, but realized there is a topic in the news I have been sidestepping around. Two intertwined topics really. This would be Venezuela and Iran. intertwined in that in both cases the sabre rattling coming out of Washington and the Pentagon is reaching unhealthy proportions. Several small species have already been driven to extinction by it. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but with headlines like “US Warns Iran Might Attack Commercial Ships as US Military Buildup Continues” and “Guaido ‘Open’ to Accepting a US Offer to Invade Venezuela” there is room for concern.

Sigh. I sigh a lot lately. Beats rage. Well, so much for Trump backing down on our overstretched imperial ambitions. At least he’s consistent, he’s broken all his populist promises and then some. So here we are threatening two countries that essentially pose zero threat to the USA. I’d say it makes no sense, but alas it makes perfect sense.

Let’s break this down. First, there is the Washington version. These countries are undemocratic dictatorships, being ruined by their respective governments. Socialist on one hand, Muslim theocracy on the other. Their people yearn for democracy, and to boot, Iran is a big regional threat and cause of regional instability! In both cases US military action may be required. In Venezuela to restore democracy, and in Iran to prevent them from attacking US allies and interests in the region. Yes, we’re the good guys defending the world against evil.

Sigh. (see?) Pernicious nonsense. The reality is both far more nuanced, and not nearly as flattering to Washington. Basically Washington’s function is to defend the petrodollar as the world’s reserve currency, and American business interests. Fossil fuels and weapons sales being the number one and two. It doesn’t mean there isn’t some concern for democracy, human rights, and defending America in some Washington quarters either. And I’m not advocating Illuminati conspiracies or 9/11 truther nonsense, just pointing out that the function of national governments is to protect the wealth and property of the rich. Has always been the case, likely always will. Washington is no different, shining light on hill nonsense to the contrary.

How do I convince people of that when I can’t sway flat earthers or anti-vaxxers? Just to name two widely held beliefs despite mountains of evidence and logic showing them to be, well, in error. Reminds me of when a University did a study, they wanted to study people who believed stuff that just wasn’t so. And as one of their study cohorts they chose people who believed they had been abducted by aliens. To their amazement, a lot of people got very upset at this, because alien abductions were very real!

So, I won’t. Not my job to change people’s minds. Not directly at least. All I can do is present info and let the discerning reader decide. In Venezuela, we have a country that broke from the US orbit, and did quite well with their “socialist” policies for a decade or longer. Then a collapse of world oil prices, corruption, and mismanagement destroyed their economy. Encouraged subtly and not so subtly by the US. And now the US is backing an opposition leader, wildly exaggerating his legitimacy, and threatening to install him by force. The US has also been encouraging a military coup, because that’s a tried and true method of getting rid of inconvenient governments with a thin veneer of legitimacy. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I will point out that “humanitarian interventions” have like a ten percent “success” rate, so this path we are on likely leads nowhere good.

In Iran in many ways it’s worse. Iran is a major regional power with 80 million people. And a country the US has a shameful history with. In 1953 the USA had the democratically elected government of Iran overthrown and installed the Shah, who ruled as a brutal dictator until the Iranian revolution in 1979. And then from 1980 to 1988 the west blatantly supported Saddam’s invasion of Iran. Let’s see, decades of US supported dictatorship, followed by a US sponsored war that killed hundreds of thousands. Just maybe they might have some ill feelings towards America in Iran? In any event since about two minutes after the Iranian revolution the US and Israel have blamed Iran for every problem in the Middle East, plus claimed Iran is “about to get” nuclear weapons.

Then of course the US sanctions against Iran, effectively an act of war. American has surrounded Iran with military bases, endlessly threatened Iran, and done their best to scuttle the nuclear deal that was painfully worked out between Iran and the west. Frankly the Iranians have been remarkably patient despite these endless provocations. I’m not exactly even sure what the goal of all Trump’s sabre rattling is. The chances the Iranian people will rise up, depose their government, and install a US friendly one is about as likely as Charlie Manson being elected president of the US. And the chances the US could do the same via invasion are even slimmer.

So I guess the whole point is to justify the US military presence in the Middle East while giving Israel a free hand. I find it hard to believe that in either country the US is seriously contemplating war. Hopefully it’s all just sabre rattling. Sabre rattling sometimes leads to wars. Wars are a bad thing. That’s the point of the illustration, wars destroy things and kill people. Point of the post really. Calling for peace and restraint, not war.

Have a good week everyone!

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All Rights  Reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

May 13, 2019 at 8:09 am

Posted in current events, Iran, War, World

Jet Powered Boy Scouts Save Nazi Germany!

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Heinkel,_He_162Image credit and copyright: SDASM Archives, Public Domain under US copyright law.

By summer 1944 Hitler’s Nazi Germany was in trouble. Big trouble. The Western Allies had landed in France, the Russians were rolling inexorably towards Berlin, and thousands of Allied bombers ranged over Germany day and night. Something radical needed to be done to turn the tide back in Germany’s favor, but what? The Luftwaffe had some ideas, and the Emergency Fighter Program was one of them. The idea was to build a lightweight, cheap, easily manufactured and easy to fly jet fighter. A fighter that could be mass produced and flown by hastily trained teenagers.

A number of designs were considered, but the Luftwaffe quickly settled on the Heinkel 162, above. A beautiful streamlined plane that as a jet fighter easily outperformed the best Allied prop fighters of its day.* It went from design to first flight in under 90 days, a remarkable achievement. And its performance if anything was more than promised, Göring and Hitler were ecstatic and the HE-162 Salamander was rushed into mass production in late 1944.

In December the HE-162 was used at the Battle of the Bulge, catching the Allies completely by surprise. With air superiority achieved the German offensive achieved all its objectives and more, crippling the Allied drive on Germany. By early 1944 the skies above Germany had been swept clear of Allied bombers, and in conjunction with the w AR-234, the world’s first jet bomber, the Russians had been stopped in their tracks. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Well, pretty sure my more astute readers realize the above paragraph stretches the truth a bit. OK, completely breaks it. No swarms of HE-162s flew over The Battle of the Bulge or anywhere. In fact only a handful of them ever saw action in the waning weeks of the war. It was such a great idea, what happened?

First of all, it was a crazy idea, not a great idea. By mid 1944 the war was over for all practical purposes. The Germans came up with all sorts of crazy ideas as the war’s end approached, all of which were unrealistic at best. Only about 300 HE-162s had been built by the war’s end, hardly enough to alter the outcome of the war. What really sealed its fate was its flying capabilities. The plan had been for a simple plane that a teenager could fly with minimal training. In actuality the HE-162 while an amazing plane, was also a very tricky to fly plane, requiring a highly trained pilot to safely operate. By late 1944 those were in very short supply in Germany, and no secret plan could magically change that.

Alternate history is fun though, this is not the first time I have written same. It is of course as reliable as predicting the future, IE it’s pretty much pure speculation. Still, fun to think about, and it encourages research and analysis. There were all sorts of Nazi superweapons in the pipeline as the war went into its last year, all of which were a day late and a dollar short, none came close to altering the outcome of the war. Even if Hitler had gotten the atomic bomb, it wouldn’t have changed the end result, by the end of 1943, arguably 1942, the war was over, Allied victory was inevitable.

Really? Is there no way Hitler could have won World War Two? Assuming free will is possible, sure, why not? If he hadn’t cancelled Germany’s advanced weapons programs in the early war, jet aircraft and guided missiles might have kept the blitzkrieg going until victory. Or if Hitler hadn’t botched the invasion of Russia, it was a bad idea poorly executed. Those are the big two “What ifs?” that might have led to a Hitlerian victory in World War Two.

And I’d be typing this in German now. Snort. No. Honestly, even if Hitler had defeated Russia and conquered Europe, I don’t think he had a chance of conquering the United States, let alone the world. In fact, I suspect that even if Hitler achieved his goal, rule of Europe, it would have fallen apart quickly after his death, if not before. By mid war large parts of Nazi occupied Europe were already in open insurgency, and the problem would just have grown worse. Hitler’s Nazis were wildly unpopular occupiers, and even among Germans Hitler had a growing body of enemies. We’d certainly live in a different world today, but not that different.

My point being, alternate history is fun, but if someone tries to use it as a debate tactic, it’s simply an ordinary false argument. That’s because someone can make up whatever alternate history they want to support their argument. “If the western powers had attacked Hitler in the 1930s, the war and holocaust would have been prevented.” Maybe. Or maybe launching a wildly unpopular war would have strengthened Hitler’s hand and resulted in an even worse war. No one has a crystal ball.

Coming up Friday, I dunno. Something will catch my interest, or maybe the long awaited global warming post.

*I worked with a fellow who flew bombers over Germany. They had no advance warning about German jets. One day they were flying along, and suddenly there were “tracers everywhere” and a German plane flew by going so much faster than the bomber my friend wanted to walk out on the wing and see why the engines had stopped.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

May 8, 2019 at 7:13 am

“Will the Last American Leaving Saigon Please Turn Off the Light at the End of the Tunnel”

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Frequent Wind

A history post, the first week of May, 1975. Saigon actually fell to the North Vietnamese on 30 April, the Americans having evacuated about 7,000 people by helicopter in Operation Frequent Wind. Image above from same. It was pretty traumatic for a lot of Americans, though not comparable to the decades of trauma Vietnam suffered. So, what happened that week:

May 1st, 1975, a Thursday. Not much happened today. Nothing important ever happens on Thursday. One of the great mysteries of history.

May 2nd. The last South Vietnamese soldiers surrendered at the Battle of Long Xuyên. Google failed me, was unable to find out anything about this purported battle.

May 3rd. USS Nimitz commissioned, the first supercarrier. The first of ten. And with these billion dollar bad boys at their disposal, the US never lost a war again.

May 4th. Moe Howard dies. The last surviving member of The Three Stooges. His brother had died a few months previously. Their story is really interesting, another topic for a blog post someday. Cambodia, recently taken over by the Khmer Rouge, invaded Phú Quốc island, disputed territory with Vietnam. It was the first of a series of provocations which would eventually lead to Vietnam invading Cambodia and overthrowing the Khmer Rouge regime. The Khmer Rouge were kinda crazy, they seized a US ship, the Mayaguez, later in this month.

May 5th. Another quiet day. I think all sorts of sportsball records were broken this week, millions of baseballs thrown, something like that. Doug’s Darkworld is not the place for such.

May 6th. The first Moon Tree planted. One of the Apollo astronauts brought a package of tree seeds to the moon in 1971, though they only orbited the moon, they didn’t land on it. Then they were planted all over the USA, and in a few foreign countries. I’ve seen the ones planted in Tilden Park above Berkeley. I thought they were cool, but to some I’m sure they just look like regular trees. Philistines.

May 7th. President Ford announced the end of the Vietnam War officially as far as veterans benefits and such. It was essentially the first time in more than two decades where the US wasn’t involved in Vietnam. The US fully supported the artificial state of South Vietnam that was created in 1955 after the French defeat in the First Vietnamese War. And the US was neck deep in supporting the French during the first war, even offering them the use of nuclear weapons during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. So basically the American “experience” in Vietnam lasted from 1945 until 1975.

So yes, odds and ends happened that week, the major events in Vietnam transpired the previous week. And Americans are arguing about the US war in Vietnam still. If some people refusing to accept we lost the war or blaming the loss on hippies and the media can be called arguing. When nations lose wars, myths explaining away the loss become popular. And a case can be made that Americans are particularly prone to refusing to accept defeat gracefully. I guess it’s human nature, but still, it’s getting old. If we had learned anything from Vietnam, we wouldn’t have gotten bogged down in Afghanistan etc.

It’s not really a debate because the people believing in same are no different than anti-vaxxers for the most part, they can’t even admit the possibility they might be wrong. Argued with one who trotted out a fake quote by General Giap, the architect of France and America’s defeat in Vietnam. The fake quote had Giap saying “Just one more bombing raid and we would have surrendered.” Yes, after enduring more bombs than were dropped by all of the participants in all of World War Two, one more raid would have done the trick. Insert rolled eyes.

In any event, America’s Vietnam war was an ill considered war against a determined enemy who had numerous advantages. And despite massive application of US troops and firepower, we were never really close to achieving our goal. Which was to establish South Vietnam as an independent American ally in the region. The corrupt South Vietnamese government was never able to inspire confidence and loyalty in its troops. No amount of money, bombs, or Agent Orange could fix that. Here it all is in one article, with plenty of footnotes.

Next week, who knows. I have a global warming post written. Maybe more history. There’s always some science news. Have a great weekend everyone.

(Helicopter being pushed off the deck of an aircraft carrier to make room for more during the American evacuation of Saigon. Photo credit: U.S. Marines, Official Marine Corps Photo.)

Written by unitedcats

May 3, 2019 at 6:39 am

Posted in History, War, World