Archive for the ‘History’ Category

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December 7, 1941

December 7, 2013

 

Photo of the USS Arizona (BB-39) after the attack at National Archives/

Seventy-two years ago today, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the ships of the US Pacific Fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Since that time, we have endured much as a nation and much as a world.

The plan was simple really, conduct a sneak attack, destroy our fleet, and sue for peace. The key being the destruction of our aircraft carries, none of which were in port at the time. This was the first blow in a long, full-scale war. We, all the world, owe so much to the brave souls that absorbed this mighty blow with their collective will of spirit and bodies of flesh and bone. Many were lost, many more were filled with the “terrible resolve” in the famous quote attributed to Japan’s Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the mastermind of the attack.

Here is my tribute to brave me that served and survived to ultimately win our war with Japan:

A Ship in Pearl

A battleship of steel that is no more,
silently sleeps on Pearl Harbor’s floor.
For sixty plus years she’s kept men so brave,
we all hold-on beloved, to this National grave.
In Sunday’s slow pace the Japanese took lives,
and tore open the souls of sons, daughters, and wives.
The opening blow to a hard fought war,
survivors knew best what the fighting was for.
They gather at Pearl with each lustrum’s fall,
fewer each time as nature does call.
To answer this ill, survivors did run,
avenging ones lost in that solemn morn’s sun.
Precious are those who stood the line,
when danger was East, across an endless brine.
From here to there, they took the fight,
and made them pay high for their wanton spite.
Here’s to the men, both living and gone,
who gave of themselves when weapons were drawn.
The good ship Arizona may be rusting away,
forever on patrol, protecting us she’ll stay.
Strong with steel, that made her whole,
it was the men aboard that gave her the soul.
Now in our hearts, she does sail fast,
leading our way, true to the last.
Honor the few who are here from that day,
for soon, they too will have gone away.
To join with brothers out on the sea,
guarding a future for those who will be.

 

Thank God for you all!

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Happy Veteran’s Day

November 11, 2013

Happy Veteran’s Day to all my bothers and sisters that served. We are more than some group or club, we are a family. It is a family I am very proud to be a part of. It is a happy day for us but also a day to reflect on all that it takes to become a veteran. Only 7% of citizens are part of our family. Like all families, we do have our share of dysfunction, but in the end all that fades away and leaves me thankful to call all veterans family.

If nothing else, take today and reflect on just one small point that never fails to make your service special to you, here is mine:

 

I woke up this morning thinking about my father. I miss him greatly. He always made it a point to wish me a happy Veteran’s Day. I remember well the only time he visited me while aboard ship. It was my first submarine, the USS Birmingham. That was one tour I was happy to give. He was fascinated and full of wonder, as if a kid. He asked a million questions. I had never seen him like that. For the first time, I was the teacher and he the student. I think that moment was very special for us both.

When we were walking down the pier to leave, he stopped me, put his hands on my shoulders and said, “I cannot tell you how proud I am, I could never do what you do.” That meant so much to me. You see, in my mind, my dad could do just about anything.

 

Again, Happy Veteran’s Day! May it be fair winds and following seas for all in my veteran family!

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Thursday’s Heroes: Nancy Hart

May 3, 2012

Nancy Hart

Hero is one of the words we come across in life that has gender attached to it, hero for men, and heroine for women. Today, the feminine is somewhat dated and both men and women are referred to as  heroes. While I hold no opinion on this being a good or bad thing, there is no question women are every bit as heroic as men, if not more so. Nancy Hart well illustrates that point.

While Mrs. Hart may not be a household name, her exploits are heroic nonetheless. Born Nancy Morgan around 1735, though the exact time of her birth is lost to history. Some put it as late as 1747; she was raised in North Carolina. Again, this is not exactly known and some reports place her birth in Pennsylvania.

Regardless, by 1770, Nancy was a full-grown woman married to Benjamin Hart of North Carolina. Around that time, Benjamin received a land grant of 500 acres in the Broad River Valley. The Broad River is a tributary of Georgia’s Savannah River. It is located between Athens and Elberton running diagonally, southeast.

This area of Georgia was rife with trouble. The trouble was partially due to the displacement of Native-Americans and partially due to the uncertain boundaries of land grants. As the decade progressed, the growing turmoil between those sympathetic to the Crown and those loyal to the Revolution replaced prior issues, though often a person picked a side in response to an opponent’s joining the other side. This led to the area gaining the nickname of “The Hornet’s Nest” during the revolution, as personal hostility had more to do with the fighting than loyalty to a cause and could flare at a moment’s notice.

Before the Revolution, Nancy was well known in the area as a fierce defender of her family and friends. It is said her demeanor matched her stature. Legend has it, she was just over six-feet tall and blest with the strength and agility of a frontiersman. It is a good thing too, as Nancy herself, said she had no share in beauty. At the time of the Hart family’s arrival in Georgia, the first to discover her ferocity were the displaced Native-Americans in the area. As they attempted to reestablish their claim to the land and after several such encounters, the local tribe had a name for Nancy, “Wahatche” which loosely translates to “war-woman.” They so respected her that is also, what they called the creek that ran beside her home, “Wahatche Creek”

Elijah Clarke

During the Revolution, Benjamin served in the Georgia Militia under Elijah Clarke. This left Nancy to fend alone for herself and her six sons and two daughters. At that time, the area was part of Wilkes County and Wilkes County has just about as many Whigs as Tories. [Whigs were the Patriots and Tories the Loyalists] Nancy, being true to her nature, was an outspoken support of the Patriot cause and that brought unwanted attention to her door. So much so that one night one of her children secretly informed her someone was peeping through a crack or knothole as Nancy made soap. Nancy ladled up nice hot lye from her kettle and flung it through the opening, much to the agony of her spy. It is said she made sport of the poor wretch for a day before she bound him and marched him, even crossing a river to the camp of the local Militia.

On another occasion, Aunt Nancy (all the Whip soldiers called her that) met a Tory soldier walking along a footpath. She engaged him with small talk and diverted his attention, then seized his weapon and force-marched him to a nearby camp. It is said about 100 Tories took the same afternoon stroll with Nancy before the war was over.

During the way, Nancy acted as a spy, captured Tory soldiers, and even defended a stockade from the Tories with cannon pretty much by herself. Still, all this pales when compared to the exploits she is most famous for.

One evening a detachment of five men arrived at the Hart home. They had been out forcing local inhabitants to swear allegiance to the King.  History supports  the men to be part of the same regiment that murdered Col. John Dooley, the hero at the Battle of Kettle Creek, at his home, in front of his wife and children. They specifically wished to question Nancy about a rumor she aided a young man elude his Tory pursuers. Rather than deny it, Nancy entertained the men with the story of her exploits and her assistance in helping her “Liberty Boy” flee. Knowing her reputation, the men simply ordered her to fix them something to eat.

One of the men killed her last chicken and ordered her to clean and cook it for them. Nancy, of course, was beside herself and exclaimed, “I never feed King’s men if I can help it,” but she really had little choice. Though the accounts are sketchy, it appears the men let slip about the murder of Col. Dooly, who was a close friend of the Hart family. This set Nancy’s mind to thinking and she suddenly changed her tone to one of good humor with the men. Little could they know just what Nancy had in store.

After the men relaxed with her change in mood, Nancy sent one of her daughter’s to the creek to fetch water. Secretly, Nancy instructed her to sound the alarm while there that Tories were in the area. The locals had conch shell horns strategically located along the creek for just an occasion. They also had a series of alarms for various requirements. Nancy regaled the men with her wilderness stories, further relaxing them to the point one of the men pitched in and helped her with dinner. They had expected to find her ill-tempered and combative; her current demeanor was a pleasant surprise, to say the least. Her ability to match them, rude comment for rude comment and jest for jest, made her seem a delight.

Soon, the men broke into one of the wine jugs they brought with them, even inviting Nancy to join them in a drink, to which she replied, “I’ll take one swig with you,” and furthered their good cheer. The men kept drinking, Nancy kept cooking. By the time the bird was ready, the men were basking in the warmth of inebriation.

The Tories had stacked their rifles within easy reach when they first sat down and had paid them no mind since. Nancy asked the men to move her table to the center of the room giving her more space to serve the meal, the men complied, again with no thought to their weapons. It seems inebriation brings stupidity along with its warmth.

Nancy made sure to use up all the water her daughter brought before while cooking the meal and used a generous portion of salt in preparing it, as she served the men, she made sure she moved in and out and between them, thus making her movements seem natural. Soon, the men called for more water and again Nancy’s daughter was dispatched with the piggin (water skin) to the creek, this time with instructions to signal for the local militia, including her father, to come at once to the house.

All the while her daughter was off, Nancy had removed a board between two of the logs that made the cabin’s walls, she then slipped two of the muskets through unnoticed by her guests. She was slipping the third through when her luck ran out.

One of the soldiers noticed her actions and sounded the alarm. All the men sprang to their feet, but Nancy bested them. Maybe it was their drinking; maybe Nancy was just that quick. The reason really does not matter, as Nancy shouldered the musket she held before the men could reach her. She then threatened to kill the first man that stepped towards her. They all knew her reputation and for the moment that was enough to keep them away. Recovering his nerve, one of the men charged her and Nancy shot him dead.

While the men watch their compatriot die, Nancy armed herself with another musket. Soon after that, her daughter returned from her visit to the creek with news, Nancy’s husband and the militia would soon arrive. Nancy instructed her daughter to remove the remaining muskets from the room. The Tories realized time was short and rushed Nancy in a group. Nancy was up to the task and proved to the men just why her prior antagonists called her “War Woman.” She fired the new musket and another Tory fell. Nancy then leaped to the door, her daughter handed her another musket and she order the men to “surrender their ugly Tory carcasses to a Whig woman.” She held the men at bay until her husband and men arrived.

The Whig Militia men wanted to shoot the captive Tories but Nancy declared that was too good for them, as they had just killed Col. Dooly. She demanded they be hung and the militia took the men out and complied with her wishes.

After the war, Nancy and family moved to Brunswick, Georgia but she lost her husband Benjamin within a year or so.  She then relocated to Kentucky with one of her sons. Nancy passed away in 1830 in Henderson County, Kentucky. She is buried in the family cemetery there.

Georgia honors Nancy’s memory in many ways, Hart County being named for her, for instance. It is the only county in Georgia named for a woman, the “War Woman.”

Nancy Hart is a larger than life figure, but she did live. While the details of her exploits are undoubtedly embellished, the truth behind them remains. She was a six-foot tall, fiery, redheaded woman with a face scarred by small pox. What she may have lacked in beauty, she more than made up for in spirit and tenacity that is the stock of what makes up our mythical American spirit. Nancy proves, without a doubt, women are ever much as heroic as men. The fact is damn few men are even close to being as heroic as Nancy.

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Thursday’s Heroes: Just What Makes a Hero

April 19, 2012

Old Superman Comic Book Cover

We live in cynical times; there is no doubt about that.  While I think most people look at their current times as more cynical than before, it just may be today’s technology allows a little bit of cynical to go a long way.  Moreover, that same technology shines a light on even the smallest of blemish.  This leaves us with a requirement of perfection than no human can possibly attain.  It leaves us wanting, wanting a hero.

What does it mean to be heroic?  Here is what Webster’s has to say about it[i]:

Hero: he·ro: noun \ˈhir-(ˌ)ō\

plural he·roes

 

  1. a: a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability
    b : an illustrious warrior
    c : a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities
    d : one who shows great courage
  2. a: the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work
    b: the central figure in an event, period, or movement
  1. plural usually he·ros : submarine 2
  2. an object of extreme admiration and devotion : idol

It is “c” and “d” of the first definition I am talking about, though the definition’s masculine reference is somewhat dated.  We will ignore that last point; women have proven themselves every bit as heroic as men, if not more.  We can debate whether or not Webster’s needs to change with the times later on.

While today’s post deals mainly with defining a hero and the scope of the topic, in the weeks to come it will go into details about individual heroes.  We will peek behind the curtain, so to speak.  By understanding just how people achieved “hero” status, we will not only understand them but we will be inspired all the more, as they mostly are not mythical, or illustrious.  No, for the most part, heroes are normal people faced with extraordinary circumstances.   What makes them heroes is how they dealt with their particular situation.

For example:

  • You will read about Nancy Hart of Georgia.  Her heroism during the American Revolution inspired such admiration she is the only woman in the state to have a county named for

    Nancy Heart

    her.

  • You will learn about Sergeant Alvin York who served in World War I.  He struggled with his deeply held belief that it is wrong to kill, under any circumstances, and saving the life of his unit comrades.
  • Further, you will be introduced to Robert Smalls.  A former slave and ship’s pilot that escaped with his family during the Civil War by stealing the CSS Planter.   Even more remarkable, after the war he purchased the home where he was held as a slave.  Showing his humanitarian side, he allowed the widow of his former master to live out her days in

    Robert Smalls

    the home.  I’m not so sure I could be that gracious.

  • There is also a darker side to being a hero, as Kit Carson found out.  Carson became famous in his lifetime and the subject of many a dime-novel.  After an unsuccessful rescue attempt to save the White family from an Apache tribe, Carson was shown a novel based on his life, found amongst the family belongings.  Throughout his remaining days he had remorse and wondered if Mrs. White’s vainly thought that day of him riding to her rescue.

There will be others too, from all walks of life and all parts of the world.  Some will be famous, some not so famous.  I promise you none are perfect.  In fact, some people will see them as heroes while others view them as villains.  For instance, in the United States we see Benedict Arnold as a traitor; in Great Britain they may see him in a whole other light.  In a lot of cases hero-status depends on your point of view, all the more reason to deal with our heroes as human beings and not gods walking amongst us.

Heroes have flaws.  They are human after all.  Historians attempt to white-wash over their faults and only show them as perfect.  This does our heroes, and us, a disservice.  We need to see them for what they were and are, the good and bad, the perfect and imperfect, and yes, the brave and cowardly too.  By understanding our heroes are not perfect; we can accept the qualities we admire about them as living within each of us.  It is often said the difference between a hero and an ordinary person is opportunity, while that may be true; it is what heroes do with that opportunity that make them different.

In the end, I hope you will see heroes as human, not mythical.  I hope you understand we each have a little bit of the hero in us.  I hope you see each of us can do a thousand little things that makes us a hero in someone’s eye.  It is not the fame of it that’s important, but the doing.

 


[i] “Hero.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Web. 19 Apr. 2012.
<http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hero?show=0>.

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America’s Radical Tradition

January 21, 2012

Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull

Contrary to popular belief, we are a nation of radicals.  We always have been.  Perhaps the most radical group of Americans we have produced is the first group we identify as Americans, our Founding Fathers.     Today, we tend to think of this group as some sort of homogenous mixture of men that gently formed a nation.  Nothing is further from the truth and we have many lessons to learn by understanding them and then embracing our own inner radical.

It is easy to look back and think of our Founding Fathers as elder statesmen working together for the common good, sort of a picture of everyone rowing the boat in the same direction.  Famous quotes, like Franklin’s “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately,”[i] tend to support a single-minded view of the group.  In reality, it shows something else, the need to persuade.  While the origin of the quote is dubious, it sounds like a remark Franklin would make to bolster John Hancock’s attempt to gain unanimous support for The Declaration of Independence as anything less would get them killed.   It illustrates the need to set aside petty differences in support of a larger good.  In this case, the larger good was winning independence from Great Britain and that was a truly radical and treasonous undertaking.

There were basically three types of colonial citizen at the time, those for independence, those against it, and those that simply did not care.  While the Founding Fathers were certainly in the latter group after July 2th, 1776, the day they voted for independence, it was not the case mere days before.  All wanted relief but what form was hotly debated.  Some wanted to keep the king and have their own parliament.  Some wanted nothing more than changes in law.  Still, others wanted independence and the ability to define and craft their own destiny.  It is, of course, the latter view that won the day.

The remarkable thing is with such diametrically opposed views as committing treason and requesting relief are, our Founding Fathers came together and spoke in a single voice to address the issues they faced.  The choice they agreed upon was the most radical one – independence through war.   Our Founding Fathers were indeed radical is pursuing relief from the problems they faced.

The radical nature of our national founders did not change when they gained independence, far from it.  Even during the Revolution, member of the Second Continental Congress did not agree on the relative strength the federal government required.  After the war, this division of thought, along with apathy, became so pronounced it effectively crippled the government formed by the Articles of Confederation.[ii]   In less than ten years after the Revolution, our government made another radical change replacing The Articles of Confederation with The Constitution of the United States. Again, our Founding Fathers proved themselves willing to make, what at the time, were radical and controversial changes.

Of course, being the radicals that they were, not everyone was happy with the Constitution.  In fact, there was tremendous doubt if it would be adopted.  Again, the words of Benjamin Franklin proved pivotal.  Age and years of service prevented Franklin from reading his speech.  On the last day of the Constitutional Convention he had fellow Pennsylvanian; James Wilson read it which opens:

Ben Franklin, by David Martin

“I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.”[iii]

Even Franklin, as radical as he was, understood the need to put nation first and compromise for the greater good.  Even so, others, like George Mason, could not bring themselves to vote for the Constitution.   In his mind, the changes did not provide states and individuals the necessary protection from the federal government.   Three years later, his dogged tenacity lead to the adoption of The Bill of Rights, again, a very radical move by a Founding Father.

Franklin and Mason are perfect examples of Founding Fathers as radicals, as they were radicals to a point.  They defended their radical views all the while working on compromises when required.  Even on large moral issues, like slavery, both men saw the necessity to compromise.  Without that, the Constitution would never have been ratified.   The proof of their wisdom in compromising is evidenced by the Civil War some seventy-years later.

By the time the Civil War began all our Founding Fathers had long passed away.  Still the nature of Americans as radicals is very evident in Abraham Lincoln.  Even before the war, Lincoln did not shy away from radical politics.  As the Whig Party was irreparably split over the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Lincoln became a driving force behind the formation of the modern Republican Party and its radical view to abolish slavery.

Among the members of the new Republican Party there were differences on how to achieve the goal to end slavery.  Some like John Frémont opposed Lincoln’s approach to slavery and even formed what is called the “Radical Republicans[iv]” within the Republican Party.  Lincoln’s approach was first to limit slavery, Frémont’s was to end it out right.  While it was easy then for people to jump on the Frémont bandwagon, Lincoln took a similar approach to slavery as the Founding Fathers.  It was not until the emancipation proclamation in 1863, a full

Abraham Lincoln, by A. Gardner

year and eight month after the start of the war, ending slavery became a central issue of the war.   Again, we had a dynamic leader with a radical view, tempered by what he perceived as the greater need of the nation.  It was not until President Lincoln believed ending slavery was the only way to preserve the union he accepted that as a goal of the war.

Think about it, in the 1860s, the Republican Party was the liberal-progressive party the party backing a powerful federal government while the Democrats held the conservative view of state’s rights and argued for weaker federal control.  It would take the economic disaster of the Great Depression to lead us to the political parties as we know them today.

As liberal-progressives, Republicans were successful with many programs labeled as Democratic today.  For instance in 1902, President Teddy Roosevelt negotiated with United Mine workers for more pay and fewer hours to end a strike.  In 1906 he signed the Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act.  According to the National Park Service,

“he signed legislation establishing five national parks: Crater Lake, Oregon; Wind Cave, South Dakota; Sullys Hill, North Dakota (later re-designated a game preserve); Mesa Verde, Colorado; and Platt, Oklahoma (now part of Chickasaw National Recreation Area). Another Roosevelt enactment had a broader effect, however: the Antiquities Act of June 8, 1906. While not creating a single park itself, the Antiquities Act enabled Roosevelt and his successors to proclaim historic landmarks, historic or prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest in federal ownership as national monuments.”[v]

It’s hard to believe President Roosevelt is seen as one of the most successful Republican presidents of all times given his progressive policies.

In a way it is understandable that Roosevelt held progressive views.  The nation was in the midst of the Progressive Era[vi].  The dates of the era ran from around 1890 until the Great Depression’s beginning in 1929 with two periods separated by World War I.  The movement had both Republican and Democratic supporters.  After President Roosevelt, the next progressive to make radical change was Woodrow Wilson.

Besides being President during World War I, President Wilson was the moving force behind the creation of the League of Nations, the first international organization dedicated to maintain world peace.  This radical effort by Wilson is the first time the United States joined an organization with the authority of binding arbitration over its members.  His administration pushed through the Federal Reserve Act, Federal Trade Commission Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Federal Farm Loan Act and federal income tax.  He later gave enthusiastic support to women’s suffrage.  President Wilson was the last president elected while the Democratic Party held conservative views of individual freedom and states’ rights.

World War I left a national debt increased by almost 90%.  Over the next twelve years Republican’s took a fiscally conservative stance and reduced the federal deficit by 50%. With the election of Warren G. Harding, the modern Republican stance on less business interference from government took hold.  He is quoted as saying, “less government in business and more business in government.”[vii]    In pushing a business friendly, smaller government platform, the Republicans took a radical stance but one in the conservative direction.  While effective in reducing the deficit as well as establishing a comprehensive federal budget, the radical shift in governance set the stage for the Great Depression.

At this time, politics went through a sort of paradigm shift.  The voting blocs of the Progressive Era were swept away and support for the business leaning Republicans plummeted.  1933 marked the beginning of the New Deal Era and caused the states’ rights Democrats to flee the party and join the remaining conservative Republicans.  1933 began to radically reshape both parties into the blocs and collations we recognize today. In broad terms, this is the point where Republicans are defined as conservative or the Right and Democrats as liberal or the Left.

With the Great Depression raging like a wildfire and the election of Franklin Roosevelt, that country was ripe for radical change and the New Deal gave them the change they demanded.  Roosevelt’s support for social change galvanized the Democratic Party as the home of social liberals.  To deal with the Depression, Roosevelt proposed three major efforts, Relief, Recovery, and Reform.  The Three Rs, as they became known, put Keynesian economic theory[viii] into practice and was an extremely radical departure from prior governmental practices.  It produced the most dramatic change in governance since the Civil War.

Herblock March 29, 1950 cartoon that originally defined McCarthyism

America’s radical mood swings were put on hold in 1941.  With Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II, the war effort became the overriding event that dominated the political landscape.  More than any other time in US History, World War II marks the period where we thought as one and put our political differences aside.

After the war, these differences once again surfaced and our nature as radicals once again reigned supreme.  Post-war international posturing directly impacted radicalism within the United States.  With the Soviet Union exporting communism across Eastern Europe fear gripped much of the nation and gave rise to political death by accusation and the witch-hunts of McCarthyism[ix].  Though Senator Joseph McCarthy’s personal influence ended with his censure by the Senate in 1954, the lingering effect of McCarthyism still raises its ugly head from time to time.  It serves as one of the few example where a radical view produced real damage to America before the tempering hand of opposing views pulled back the reins.

After the Korean War (1950 – 1953) and the excesses of McCarthyism, Americans were in the mood to relax and pursue personal interest.  Politically, President Eisenhower was ready to give it to them.  While working to reduce the rate of federal spending, he pushed to continue and improve upon many of the New Deal social programs put forward by President Roosevelt.  Under Eisenhower, the largest federal public works program in history.[x]  While there is really nothing radical about that, it is radical thinking from t the leader of the Republican Party.   Again, showing radical action can produce beneficial results.

During the 1960s, Vietnam and the Counter Culture dominated American politics.  Starting with President Kennedy’s 1962 declaration:

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too,”[xi]

and ending with Neil Armstrong’ statement in 1969:

Foot Print, Apollo 11 Crew, NASA

 “That’s one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind.”[xii]

In the 60s, America passed through one of its greatest periods of radical ideas.  President Kennedy’s bold radical statement was not back up by technology at the time.  In truth, no one knew if it was possible or not.  Still, he defined a daring and bold goal and the country answered the call.  Bright lights of radical thinking burned in the 60s, President Kennedy, his brother Bobby, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  to name a few.  Of course, other radicals made headlines in the 60s as well; names like Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan, and James Earl Ray show radical thinking has a very ugly and evil side as well.

Richard Nixon certainly had radical views about what he could and could not do as president, ultimately leading to his resignation.  Still, if you look beyond his paranoid excesses, you see an effective president that suggested radical social reforms including a healthcare plan that is very similar to one put into effect some forty years later.

Nixon was the last of the fiscal Republican elected as President in the 20th century.  From this point forward, Republican presidents followed the social conservative model put forward by Senator Barry Goldwater.  In radical departure from the post-World War II mainstream Republican, the election of Ronald Reagan revived the basic ideals of laissez-faire[xiii] governance at the same time expanding the military in the largest peace-time buildup in history.  His approach reduced taxes but failed to reduce overall federal spending resulting in a 61% increase in the national debt.

Radical thinking at the end of the 20th century seems somewhat stilted compared to icons of radical thinking like Franklin and FDR.  Now, we focus on radical thinking as a negative rather than a force of change.  Still, weather good or bad, we have our radical thinkers.  We have past presidents, like Bill Clinton and both Bushs stepping away from politics and working together around the world for the greater good.  What could me more radical than that?

Overall, America has a tradition and history with radical thinking.  We seem to always reinvent who we are and how we move forward.  Listening to politicians, they tend to paint as being radical in nature while not accepting their own views are rooted in a radical tradition.  It is a convenient smoke screen for them to hide behind while they bash other’s opinions all the while avoiding explaining their own.  It’s time for us, all of us, to embrace our radical nature and accept different ideas, then judge which ideas we need to support and move forward.


[i] Franklin, Benjamin. Famous Quotes at BrainyQuote. 19 Jan. 2012 <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/benjaminfr151597.html>.

[ii] Washington, George. “Letter to George Clinton, September 11, 1783.” Loc.gov. The Library of Congress. 19 Jan. 2012
<
http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mgw:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28gw270170%29%29>.

[iii] Franklin, Benjamin. “Speech.” Constitutional Convention. 17 Sept. 1787.  The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net. 20 Jan. 2012 <http://www.usconstitution.net/franklin.html>.

[iv] “Radical Republican (American history) — Britannica Online Encyclopedia.” Encyclopedia – Britannica Online Encyclopedia. 19 Jan. 2012 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/488729/Radical-Republican>

[v] “National Park Service History: Theodore Roosevelt and the National Park System.” National Park Service Cultural Resources Discover History. 19 Jan. 2012 <http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/hisnps/NPSHistory/teddy.htm>.

[vi] “Progressive Era.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 19 Jan. 2012 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Era>.

[vii] “Warren G. Harding.” The White House. 19 Jan. 2012 <http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/warrenharding>.

[viii] “John Maynard Keynes, Economist.” Maynardkeynes.org. 20 Jan. 2012 <http://www.maynardkeynes.org/maynard-keynes-economics.html>.

[ix] “McCarthyism – Credo Reference Topic.” Credo Reference Home. Web. 20 Jan. 2012. <http://www.credoreference.com/topic/mccarthyism>.

[x] “Interstate Highway System.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 20 Jan. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System>.

[xi] Kennedy, John F. “Address at Rice University on the Nation’s Space Effort.” Speech. Texas, Houston. 12 Sept. 1962. Web. 20 Jan. 2012. <http://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Ready-Reference/JFK-Speeches/Address-at-Rice-University-on-the-Nations-Space-Effort-September-12-1962.aspx>.

[xii] Armstrong, Neil. One Small Step. http://www.hq.nasa.gov. NASA, 21 July 1969. Web. 20 Jan. 2012. <http://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/a11.step.html>. Transcript.

[xiii] “laissez-faire.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 20 Jan. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/328028/laissez-faire>.

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Samuel Dealey, American Naval Hero

December 11, 2011

World War II is full of heroes, as all wars seem to be.  Still, given the scope, scale and especially the sacrifice of our entire nation, the heroes of World War II stand apart as even the average soldier and sailor would be heroic, judged by the standards of other wars.  Samuel David Dealey is just such a standout when it comes to heroes.  His story speaks directly to the spirit of America and the ability of Americans to put country above self.

Born September 13, 1906 in Dallas Texas, Samuel‘s father died when he was six, causing his mother to move the family to California for a time.  He returned to Texas and finished high school and spent two years studying at Southern Methodist University before transferring to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  Sam was not the most dedicated student to say the least.  His studies lapsed at Annapolis in 1925 for a time.  He buckled down in 1926 and graduated in the middle of the pack in the class of 1930.  By all accounts, Sam was a smart young man who simply did not apply himself.

Entering the fleet in 1930, Dealey served on several ships (including the USS Nevada (BB- 36) and the USS Wyoming (BB-32)).  In 1934, Samuel made a decision that changed his life; he joined the United States Submarine Service where both his talent and bravado served his needs as well as the Navy’s.  Rising quickly, in 1941 he took command of USS S-20 (SS-120), an experimental submarine, stationed in New London, Connecticut.  He was serving on S-20 when war broke out with Japan attacking Pearl Harbor.

Due to his success on S-20, Sam was assigned to USS Harder (SS-257) a new-construction submarine as its commanding officer.  Many of the improvements tested while he commanded S-20, including the diesel-electric drive, were used on Harder.  After commissioning and shake-down in New London, while in the Caribbean, Harder survived an attack by US aircraft that mistook her for an enemy submarine.  After that, she sailed to Pearl Harbor to join the fleet in mid-1943.

Movie lore often obscures the true acts of heroism as they usurp notable achievements to advance their plots.  Separating fact from fiction becomes very hard.  Such is the case when talking about Commander Dealey.  You see, Commander Dealey earned a nickname during his time on Harder.  He was known as “The Destroyer Killer.”  It seems a requirement for World War II submarine movies to include what is known as the “down the throat” shot.  This is when you fire at a contact that is heading right for you and dive under them as your torpedo slams into them.  Commander Dealey did not invent the maneuver, but it can be argued he perfected it.   During his fifth war patrol, Dealey and the crew of Harder sank five Japanese destroyers in four days.  His tactics we so successful the Japanese thought the island of Tawi-Tawi was surrounded by numerous submarines and abandoned it as a base of operations.  The fact is, the numerous submarines they feared turned out to be just one, USS Harder.  For his actions during this war patrol, Commander Dealey was awarded the Medal of Honor.  The citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the USS Harder during her fifth war patrol in Japanese controlled waters. Floodlighted by a bright moon and disclosed to an enemy destroyer escort which bore down with intent to attack, Cmdr. Dealey quickly dived to periscope depth and waited for the pursuer to close range, then opened fire, sending the target and all aboard down in flames with his third torpedo. Plunging deep to avoid fierce depth charges, he again surface and, within nine minutes after sighting another destroyer, had sent the enemy down tail first with a hit directly amidship. Evading detection he penetrated the waters of  Tawi Tawi with the Japanese fleet six miles away and scored death blows on two patrolling destroyers in quick succession. With his ship heeled over by the concussion of the first exploding target and the second vessel nose diving in a blinding detonation, he cleared the area at high-speed. Sighted by a large hostile fleet force on the following day, he swung his bow towards the lead destroyer for another “down-the-throat” shot, fired three bow tubes and promptly crash dived to be terrifically rocked seconds later by the exploding ship as the Harder passed beneath. This remarkable record of five vital Japanese destroyers sunk in five short-range torpedo attacks attests the valiant fighting spirit of Cmdr. Dealey and his indomitable command.

In another act of daring, Commander Dealey placed his submarine nose-first against a reef off the Woleai Island to rescue a downed and injured pilot.  Using he engines to keep the submarine against the reef, Harder faced continued sniper and machine gun fire, as well and horrific rip-currents along the reef.  The crew used a rubber raft to cross the reef and retrieve the pilot.  Without his and his crew’s extraordinary efforts, the pilot would have fallen into enemy hands.

In the end, Commander Dealey simply took the fight to the enemy.  He was well aware of the danger he faced with the tactics he used.  Though successful as they were, sadly, USS Harder was lost to enemy action during her sixth war patrol with a loss of all hands aboard, including Commander Dealey.

While much controversy surrounds the reasons for this sixth patrol, nothing can diminish the bravery and sacrifice of men such as Commander Dealey and his crew.  They join the fifty-one other submarines, 374 officers, and 3131 men lost in World War II.  During the war, the US Submarine Service lost a higher percentage of men and any other service.  Remarkably, the entire service only made up 1.6% of the sailors in the US Navy but accounted for over 54% of Japanese ships sunk.  The submariners of World War II put themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis.  Commander Dealey exemplifies the spirit and love of country these special men had, to borrow from Winston Churchill “Of all the branches of men in the forces there is none which shows more devotion and faces grimmer perils than the submariners.” 

During his time as Captain of Harder, Commander Dealey was awarded the Navy Cross with three gold stars, the army’s Distinguished Service Cross (presented to him by Gen. Douglas MacArthur), two presidential unit citations, and a Purple Heart, all in addition to the Medal of Honor.  He was responsible for sinking over 15,000 tons (16 ships) and damaging over 27,000 tons of enemy shipping.

Today, if you visit the submarine base in New London, you will see most buildings are named to honor a hero of the submarine fleet.  Dealey Center, the base cinema complex, is named in honor of Commander Dealey and dedicated to the memory of him, his crew and the USS Harder.

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The Reasoning Behind the Second Amendment

February 22, 2011

A lack of understanding our national history leads to erroneous debate surrounding the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  Only by pealing back time does the correct view of its meaning take place.  Regardless of how loudly either side in the argument (gun ownership rights vs. banning guns all together) screams, the Second Amendment’s meaning is what it was back in 1791, when the States ratified the Bill of Rights.

Without question, the twenty-seven words of the Second Amendment are some of the most debated in American History.  In retrospect, one may wonder why our Founding Fathers constructed an amendment with such an ambiguous meaning, but that is the point – it is not ambiguous.  The text of the amendment reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.[1]”  In reading the amendment, if taken in the context of 1791, its meaning is clear.

Starting at the beginning, in May of 1607, England established its first permanent settlement in North America, Jamestown[2].  From then until February 1912, with the statehood of Arizona, the colonies and Untied States, as a nation, had frontier territory contained within its boarders.  Taking Alaska and Hawaii into account, the date moves to 1959.   The term frontier implies a certain wildness and untamed nature.  Even after statehood, vast areas within newly formed states remained untamed for years.

Since Jamestown, and through the implementation of Manifest Destiny, the areas of America’s frontier changed, changing the needs of the citizens along with it.  For instance, 1881 Washington, DC has more in common with today’s metropolitan areas than it did with the Western frontier town of Fort Sumner, New Mexico of its day.  Two notable killings took place that year, one carried out by a county sheriff and his posse (a type of temporary militia used at the county and town level) the other,carried out by a lone gunman.

The sheriff’s situation is well-known.  He was Pat Garrett and his posse (the number of men in posse is hotly debated) hunted down Billy the Kid in Fort Sumner[3].  Washington’s lone gunman has less notoriety, his name: Charles Guiteau.  Guiteau surrendered to Washington police who arrested him for the assassination of President James Garfield[4].  The point is, in the West, militias (posses) were commonly employed to answer specific needs while Washington counted on a police force.  As settled areas become stable, and communities grow, the dangers faced by its citizens change.  In Washington the need for a ready response of arms was no longer required, while in Fort Sumner existence itself depended on it.

In respect to the Second Amendment, it is the dangerous nature of frontier land, which promoted the need of local militia.  As settlements grew, displaced groups, like Native American, took exception to loosing land they lived on for years, if not centuries.  Moreover, settlers gave little notice to treaties with tribal governments or boundaries of native lands, making hostilities inevitable.

Before the American Revolution, the overall duty to protect citizens fell to the British Army.  The size of the colonies made protection impossible.  With its vast territory and over 3,000 miles distance from England, the American Colonies presented the British Army with a very large logistics problem.  The Army’s primary concern was holding off encroachment of other nations, like France and Spain, into areas England claimed.  This left far-flung settlements at the mercy of angry Native-Americans, as well as raiding parties of the other nations.  Raising local militia solved the immediate assistance issue.

At the outbreak of hostilities, a settlement’s government called out their militia.  The unit was expected to meet the particular event and resolve it, or at least hold out until regular army troops arrived.  It was a system of mutual benefit to the Crown Government as well as the colonists.

The most famous militia organization was the Massachusetts Minutemen.  The romantic view of this militia is farmers grabbing their guns and running to fight when called upon by the likes of Paul Revere.  In truth, the Minutemen were a formal militia unit given a charter by the Massachusetts Provencal Congress in 1774[5].  Every community supplied men for their local militia similar to the Minutemen, but all were under the control of some sort of civilian authority and not a rabble with bad intent.

Some of the same militia units employed in support of regular British Army units before the American Revolution, later supported, if not enrolled in whole in the Continental Army under General George Washington.  In fact, General Washington’s first experience in military affairs was as adjutant in charge of Virginia’s Southern District Militia.  In this role, Washington inspected, mustered, and regulated the various companies of men.  He later led Virginia’s Militia into the Ohio River region and briefly fought regular French troops and their Algonquin allies in the engagement that began the French-Indian War[6].

After America’s independence from Great Britain, the new federal army faced the same logistical issues suffered by the British before them.  Again, local militias formed to meet the need.  Again, the various governments authorized and organized militia under local authority.

One such organized unit was the First Regiment of the Chatham County Mailias, which served the Savannah, Georgia region.  Shortly after the war in 1786, a group of runaway slaves, which fought with the British “refused to return to the service of their owners,” as a history of the time put it[7].  No right-minded person could possible blame them.  This group marauded and waylaid traffic along the Savannah River.  Numbering over thee-hundred armed men, they were more than the normal civil authority (the county sheriff) could remotely handle.  The First Regiment Militia, assisting regular army troops stationed at Beaufort, SC. routed the men from their encampment in the swamps along Bear Creek and restored order.  As a side note, any society that chooses to enslave a large portion of its population is well advised to keep a sizable militia handy.

In the end, during our initial development as a nation, individual states required the militia to maintain order.  Rather than a position of sinecure, militia served, earned their pay (or received no pay at all) and often died in the process.  It was left to the federal government to maintain a national army and to the states to maintain a self-policing force the national army called upon from time to time.  That is what the Second Amendment is about, the ability of the individual states to maintain civil order and assist in national times of need.  Standing armies are costly.  Avoiding that level of public debt, states organized militia groups.

While gun advocates point to the Second Amendment and claim the right of gun ownership, the Amendment does not interfere with each individual state’s ability to regulate the practice.  In truth, it does not even require a state to allow gun ownership.  It simply prevents the federal government from outlawing it.  Unlike the First Amendment, the Second does not enumerate several different rights; it limits the authority of the federal government to interfere with individual states and citizens protecting themselves.

One reason militia worked before and not now – the large variety of weapons available.  Until the time of the Civil War, a man with a musket only needed a few pieces of flint, some bulk lead, and a supply of gunpowder.  With the limited caliber of muskets, casting of balls was a simple process handled in the field camp; many men carried their own casts simplifying matters further.  With the invention of cartridge style ammunition, supplies of pre-manufactured bullets for each type of weapon are required.  Imagine the supply chain nightmare of supporting a unit in the field with a dozen or so different cartridges.  Simply put, no longer can a government expect to supply ammunition to citizens bringing their own weapon to a fight; the variety is overwhelming.

Today, the National Guard takes on the role the militias filled in years past.  They are a hybrid of militia groups and a standing army.  Fringe survivalist groups claim some tie-in to our historic militia groups, but they lack the charter and civil oversight to operate in the public interest.  In the end, they are a bunch of guys with guns that challenge the civil authority, not work to protect the population at large.  Mostly, the need to call men at a moments notice to man the parapets is gone.  Organized militias, as intended by the Second Amendment, are simply of no practical use today.

It is easy to get caught up in the rhetoric of organizations like the National Rifle Association and its focus on the later half of the amendment, the “right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” portion.  What they fail to acknowledge is the role the states play or the “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” portion.  Of course, the gun control fanatics are just as far off point, as the amendment does afford citizens the right to own a gun at the federal level and a state walks a fine line when they attempt to limit that right.

What both groups fail to understand is we do not live in 1791 anymore nor is our society some utopia where we sit around a campfire and sing Kumbayah.  Guns and gun related violence exist in our society today.  It is true statement that outlawing citizens from owning guns leaves only the criminals with gun.  It is equally true that improvements in firearm technology places in the hands of one individual the means to rapidly murder dozens of citizens.  The tragic events at Virginia Tech come to mind[8].

The Founding Fathers never intended our Constitution and the Bill of Rights to be static.  After two-hundred and twenty years of development, both in society and technology, it is about time we revisit the Second Amendment and modify it to reflect the times today.  Outlawing gun ownership is not any sort of answer, just as it’s not an answer to allow any nut with a diver’s license to own a bazooka.  What we really need is to address the issue respecting various points of view and craft a new amendment that will serve the United States over the next two-hundred and twenty years.

Follow Up Reading:

Here is another blog post expanding on the issues of rights and gun control: Guns, Driving and Our Rights

 


[1] “The Constitution of the United States of America,” Amendment 2. GPO Access Home Page. Web. 22 Feb. 2011. <http://www.gpoaccess.gov/constitution/html/amdt2.html>.

[2] “Jamestown Settlement.” Official Jamestown Settlement & Yorktown Victory Center Visitor’s Site. Web. 22 Feb. 2011. <http://www.historyisfun.org/jamestown-settlement.htm>.

[3] “Billy the Kid.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 22 Feb. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_the_Kid#Death>.

[4] “Charles J. Guiteau.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 22 Feb. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Guiteau#Assassination_of_Garfield>.

[5] Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Standard: 2004, Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation.

[6] “The French and Indian War.” Antique Prints And Maps From The Philadelphia Print Shop. Web. 22 Feb. 2011. <http://www.philaprintshop.com/frchintx.html>.

[7] Charles Jones, Jr. The Life and Services of the Honorable Maj. Gen. Samuel Elbert (Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1887), SUPPLAMENTAL NOTES, 47.

[8] June, Early. “Virginia Tech Massacre.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 22 Feb. 2011.  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Tech_massacre>.

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