Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Churchill Series - Dec 10, 2005

(One of a series of daily posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Until a few years ago, whenever I thought of Churchill's magnificent leadership during 1940, it was always in terms Britain surviving Dunkirk, standing alone, facing the threat of invasion, fighting the Battles of the Atlantic and Britain, and carrying on during the Blitz.

I'd never thought much about, or understood, the courage, genius, and consequences of Churchill's decision after Dunkirk to dispatch most of Britain's army to North Africa and the Middle East.

But historian John Keegan has. Here's what he said about that decision, part of a Churchill profile Keegan wrote in April, 1998:

Following the total defeat of France, Britain truly, in his words, "stood alone." It had no substantial allies and, for much of 1940, lay under threat of German invasion and under constant German air attack.

He nevertheless refused Hitler's offers of peace, organized a successful air defense that led to the victory of the Battle of Britain and meanwhile sent most of what remained of the British army, after its escape from the humiliation of Dunkirk, to the Middle East to oppose Hitler's Italian ally, Mussolini.

This was one of the boldest strategic decisions in history. Convinced that Hitler could not invade Britain while the Royal Navy and its protecting Royal Air Force remained intact, he dispatched the army to a remote theater of war to open a second front against the Nazi alliance. Its victories against Mussolini during 1940-41 both humiliated and infuriated Hitler, while its intervention in Greece, to oppose Hitler's invasion of the Balkans, disrupted the Nazi dictator's plans to conclude German conquests in Europe by defeating Russia.
John Keegan, Winston Churchill: A Profile. (April, 1998)

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Churchill Series - Dec 9, 2005

(One of a series of daily posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

At a critical time during World War II, an American military leader Churchill trusted set in motion plans to thwart something he felt the Prime Minister was planning. It sounds ominous, but if you read on I think you'll say things worked out for the best.

Just before Pearl Harbor, Churchill sacked Britain's Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshall Sir John Dill. It was arranged that Dill would finish out the war in a backwater post.

Following Pearl Harbor, Churchill decided to go to Washington to develop a joint American-British war plan. He knew the British would need Dill's knowledge at what would be complicated and contentious planning sessions.

So Dill was brought along with Churchill's party to give what he had, and then be shuffled off.

But it came about that he stayed on in Washington in a new position; one in which he made a vital contribution to the war effort.

How so?

Well, since the American and British chiefs of staff would jointly plan Allied strategy and allocate scarce resources; and since the joint chiefs would meet only occasionally for planning sessions; there was a need for liaison between the two nations' chiefs between meetings.

That difficult task was given to Dill.

It was agreed he could best fulfill it in Washington with direct access by cable to each of the British chiefs and right to attend the American chiefs' meetings.

Dill performed splendidly. The late historian Stephen Ambrose said no one surpassed Dill in explaining to the chiefs of each nation the ideas, needs and temperaments of the chiefs of the other nation.

But during the first months of 1944, with D-Day approaching, Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall feared both countries' chiefs would lose Dill's service because Churchill felt Dill was tipping too much in the Americans favor. Marshall thought Churchill might recall him.

Marshall wanted to convince Churchill that Dill was so well thought of in America that recalling him would harm Allied relations.

So Marshall hatched a scheme.

What if Harvard gave Dill an honorary degree, he asked an aide. Wouldn't that impress Churchill? The PM wouldn't want to pull such a man out of the States, would he?

The aide was dispatched to Harvard whose president said he would like to but there was so much that went into an honorary degree, he didn't see how it could be done.

The aide duly reported back to Marshall.

"Try Yale," Marshall barked.

Yale had some of the same problems with an honorary degree as Harvard. But its President, Charles Seymour, said Yale could award Dill the Charles P. Howland Prize.

And what was that?

It was awarded for outstanding contributions to international understanding.
The award ceremony, the president said, would include mace, academic procession, anthems, etc.

Marshall thought that would all be just fine.

The War Department informed the press that the Chief of Staff would be taking time from his very busy schedule to travel to New Haven to attend this most important award ceremony. What's more, Secretary of War Simpson and Asst. Secretary of War Lovett were also planning to attend.

The press reported on the ceremony with what Simpson later called a big "splash." Marshall stayed long after the ceremony talking informally to the press and posing for pictures, actions not typical of the General.

Soon other colleges and universities, including The College of William and Mary and Columbia University awarded Dill honorary doctorates.

Marshall later told the aide he'd heard Churchill had said, "Dill must be doing quite a job over there."

Of course, there was no more talk of recall.
Forrest C. Pogue, George C. Marshall: Organizer of Victory. (pgs. 336-337)

Naval aviation mystery: 60 years ago this month

Bill at Florida Masochist reminds us of that this December marks the sixtieth anniversary of one of aviation's great mysteries: The disappearance of Flight 19.

Five Navy torpedo bombers took off on Dec. 5 from what is today Fort Lauderdale airport on a training flight. Shortly thereafter, they disappeared without a trace.

Bill has details concerning what we know about the planes' flights, and theories about why they disappeared. Bill even offers his own explanation.

I think sailors, and aviation and Bermuda Triangle fans will especially enjoy the post. It's here.

El Baradei to Iran: Stop or we'll keep talking

The Associated Press tells us today:

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed El Baradei said Friday the international community is losing patience with Iran over its nuclear program. El Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he hopes the outstanding nuclear issues with Iran will be clarified next year.

"They are inching forward and I'm asking them to leap forward," said El Baradei, who shares the award with the IAEA.
He encouraged European negotiators to continue talks with Iran.
Surely El Baradei knows Iran is leaping forward: Right toward development and deployment of nuclear weapons.

But look at what he proposes:
"The parties need to sit together, discuss their grievances and reach a solution," he said. "If we can do that without escalating the problem, all the much better."
Interesting advice. Talk, so long as you don't escalate the problem.

And if talks seem to escalate the problem? Why you break them off, and wait six months.

Then resume the talks, calling their resumption "progress toward a solution."

When those talks seem to escalate the problem, you start another cycle of break-off and resumption.

Enough of those cycles and you've made so much "progress toward a solution" that, like Mr. El Baradei, you're awarded the Nobel Peace prize.

He'll receive the prize Saturday at a glittering ceremony in Oslo.

The leaders of Iran's nuclear weapons program won't be able to attend. For them, Saturday is just another work day.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Churchill Series - Dec 8, 2005

(Readers Note: I missed yesterday's daily post because of Blogger and travel problems. Sorry. - John)

Although we're a day past the Pearl Harbor anniversary, I want to tell some of Churchill's actions and thoughts that Dec 7, 1941.

At noon London time, Churchill asked America's Ambassador to Britain, John Winant: Would the United States declare war on Japan if it attacked British forces in Asia?

Winant said an American declaration of war was a matter for Congress to decide. He could give no assurance President Roosevelt would ask for a declaration if Japan attack only the British.

Like many others who'd studied the matter, Churchill thought it would be in Japan's best interests to launch a first strike at British, and only British, forces.

By delaying a strike against American forces, Japan could first defeat the British and their Commonwealth allies, and then attack the Americans.

The hours of December 7 passed into the afternoon and then early evening.

Churchill dined with Winant and Roosevelt's aide, Averell Harriman. At 9 PM they listened to the news, and heard a report of a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Winant at once phoned Roosevelt, who confirmed the news of Japan's attack. "We are all in the same boat now," he added.

Churchill immediately set in motion the steps necessary for Great Britain's declaration of war against Japan.

As the day ended, what were Churchill's thoughts?

Here's part of what Churchill later recalled:

No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. I could not foretell the course of events. I do not pretend to have measured accurately the martial might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all!

Yes, after Dunkirk; after the fall of France; after the horrible episode of Oran: after the threat of invasion, when, apart from the Air and the Navy, we were an almost unarmed people; after the deadly struggle of the U-boat was - the Battle of the Atlantic, gained by a hand's -breath; after seventeen months of lonely fighting and nineteen months of my responsibility in dire stress, we had won the war.

England would live; Britain would live: the Commonwealth of Nations and the Empire would live.
One again in our long Island history we should emerge, however mauled or mutilated, safe and victorious. We should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end.
__________________________________________________ Martin Gilbert, Churchill and America. (pgs. 244-245)

Blogger problems

I had some probems with Blogger last evening and early this morning. I am travelling home today and posting will resume tonight.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Churchill Series - Dec. 6, 2005

(One of a series of daily posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

On Dec. 6, 1923, Churchill lost his seat in the General Election of that year. Many said the defeat marked the end of his political career.

It didn't, of course, and 18 years later to the day found him Prime Minister.

On that Dec.6, 1941, Churchill was spending a quiet weekend in the country with the American Ambassador John Winant and President Roosevelt's aide, Averall Harriman, who was charged with overseeing the delivery of military and other supplies from the then still officially neutral United States to Britain and Russia.

The three men would naturally discuss the supply delivery situation. They would also listen for any news of the talks going on in Washington between the Japanese and American governments aimed at avoiding a war between the two countries.

When they went to bed that evening, nothing significant had been reported from Washington.
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life

Traveling - Blogging resumes this evening

I'll be traveling for the rest of the afternoon. I'm not one of those folks who can blog at 30,000 ft.

Blogging will resume this evening.

Have a good afternoon.


Thomas Sowell's book recommendations

Thinking about book gifts to give or receive?

Thomas Sowell at offers a short list with brief comments about each book.

David McCullough's 1776 heads the list. It's an excellent book.

But the one I'm going to give to a family member so I can borrow it right back is Bernard Lewis' What Went Wrong. Sowell says:

With the world preoccupied today with the terrorism coming out of the Islamic Middle East and spreading around the world, we need to understand what has led up to this fanatical destruction and self-destruction.

Some believe that it is something that we have done, or that Israel has done, which has provoked such lethal hatreds. But the roots of all this go back long before the modern state of Israel was founded and before American involvement in the Middle East.

"What Went Wrong?" is the title of a brilliant and readable capsule history of the evolution of Islamic civilization in the Middle East by the preeminent scholar on that subject, Professor Bernard Lewis of Princeton. This little book is an education in itself on a subject where education is very much needed.
Read about the rest of Sowell's selections here.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Churchill Series - Dec. 5, 2005

(One of a series of daily posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Today I saw one of America's finest, this one in Army uniform, enjoying a beer.

She brought to mind Ben Franklin and Winston Churchill.

It was Franklin who said, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

And it was Churchill who on October 21, 1944 flew from Cairo to Naples where he met with Allied military leaders, including General Harold Alexander, commander of British troops in Italy.

Alexander pressed Churchill with many requests. One was for more beer for British troops.

Churchill promptly sent a minute to the Secretary of State for War, saying in part:

The Americans are said to have four bottles a week, and the British rarely get one. You should make an immediate effort, and come to me for support in case other Departments are involved.

Let me have a plan with time schedule for this beer. The question of importing ingredients should also be considered.

The priority in issue is to go to the fighting troops at the front, and only work back to the rear as and when supplies open out.
I think Churchill and Franklin would have got along splendidly, at least most of the time.

And wouldn't we have loved to join them for dinner. Or even just a beer, if they were busy.
Martin Gilbert, Road to Victory. (p. 1036)

How low will a major network go?

The major networks are always talking about "news standards."

At NBC, their "news standards" apparently allow the network to hype terrorist propaganda.

Rantingprofs has the story, and calls NBC out for its disgraceful conduct.

Hat Tip: Lorie Byrd at Polipundit

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Churchill Series - Dec. 4, 2005

(One of a series of daily posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

From the introduction to Martin Gilbert's latest book, Churchill and America:

Churchill was proud of his American ancestry. During a discussion at the Truman White House in 1952, to standardize the type of rifle to be used by the two countries' armies, the following exchange took place between Churchill and the senior British officer present:

Field Marshall Slim: "Well, I suppose we could experiment with a bastard rifle, party American, partly British."

Churchill: "Kindly moderate your language, Field Marshall. It may be recalled that I am myself partly British, partly American."

Blogging resumes tomorrow

It's been a very busy day.

I've had many contacts concerning the New York Times posts (Just keep scrolling down).

Thank you to everyone who is spreading the word.

Blogging resumes tomorrow morning.

MSM and gas prices

In early October the price of a gallon of regular gas in central North Carolina was over $3.00. At some stations it cost as much as $3.19.

MSM was in full “blame-Bush” mode, with front page stories saying high gas prices would not only help sink his presidency, but damage Republican chances in the ’06 congressional elections.

On Nov. 6 I posted that a gallon of gas in central NC had dropped to $2.54 at many stations but the major networks were actually continuing to talk about rising gas prices.

Now on Dec. 3 I see gas stations selling regular for $2.05.

Any MSM front page stories about how the sharp drop in gas prices will help President Bush and the Republican’s chances in the ’06 congressionals?

If they’re out there, I can’t find them.

If you want to learn more about how one MSM newspaper, the liberal trending further left Raleigh News & Observer, reports economic news visit Scott Pierce at Right in Raleigh. He regularly catches The N&O spinning economic news.