"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." ~ Santayana

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Attack on Pearl Harbor

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date, which will live, in infamy.”

            The attack on Pearl Harbor is one of the most famous events in history. The Japanese launched a surprise attack on the United States Naval Base of Pearl Harbor. The attack came as a profound shock to the American people and led directly to the United States declaring war against Japan the next day, December 8. The attack on Pearl Harbor led to the United States entering World War II.
            The attack had several goals. First, it intended to destroy the American fleet, thereby stopping the U.S. from interfering in the Japanese conquest of the Dutch East Indies and Malaya. Second, it hoped to buy time for Japan to consolidate it’s position before the shipbuilding just recently authorized by the 1940 Vinson-Walden Act allowed the United States to gain an advantage and erase any hope of a Japanese victory. Third and finally, it was meant to destroy the American’s morale and stop them from entering the war. The overall goal was, however, to allow Japan to conquer Southeastern Asia without interference from the United States.

            Six aircraft carriers departed from Japan on November 26, 1941. They held 408 aircraft. The day before five submarines had also left the island. The attack occurred before a declaration of war had been announced, however this was never the original intension. Actually the attack was not supposed to happen until thirty minutes after war had been announced. The Japanese embassy did not, unfortunately, transcribe and deliver the message to the United States until long after the bombing had started.

The first wave of the attack consisted of 183 planes. Radar did detect the incoming planes, but the officers in charge of the naval base were not told how many planes were coming, so they assumed that they were the six B-17s that were scheduled to arrive. Many men awoke that day to the sound of bombs exploding. Many more never awoke at all.

The second wave consisted of 171 planes that were split into three groups. The different groups arrived simultaneously from different directions. Ninety minutes after the attack began, it ended.

            2386 Americans were killed, and 1139 were wounded. 18 ships were destroyed or run aground, five of which were battleships. Although many ships were destroyed in the surprise attack, several aircraft carriers and almost all of the United States submarines, which would play an important role later on, were untouched. The day after the attack, Roosevelt gave his famous infamy speech to a joint session of Congress, calling for a formal declaration of war. Less than an hour later war was announced.

            In the end, Japan did not complete all of its objectives. Even though it was a strategic victory for Japan, the attack on Pearl Harbor only “Awoke a sleeping giant.” And led to the Allies winning World War II.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Albert Einstein

A man was staring out into space, contemplating. What was he thinking? He envisioned himself riding on a beam of light, and time stopping in its tracks. Who was this man? His name was Albert Einstein.
            Almost everyone knows who Einstein was. He was a scientist who came up with a lot of complicated theories like E=MC2. But what exactly did he say? And where did Einstein really come from? And what on earth does E=MC2 mean? How much do you really know about Albert Einstein? Today, let us examine this man who left such a large watermark on history, by looking at his early life, his ‘magic year’ when he wrote his most famous papers, and finally at his life during World War Two and his death..
            Einstein was a Jew born in Ulm, Germany in 1879. His family later moved to Munich, and then to Italy. Einstein finally went to Switzerland, where, in 1896, he trained to be a teacher in science and mathematics. In 1901, Einstein acquired Swiss citizenship but was unable to find a teaching post; eventually he accepted a position as technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office. And finally in 1904, Einstein spent his last year of being unknown. He was poor, underemployed, and rejected by Europe’s academic establishment. But that was all about to change.
            1905 was Einstein’s ‘miracle year’. It was the year in which he published his most famous papers on science. The first was published on March the seventeenth and was entitled ‘On a heuristic viewpoint concerning the production and transformation of light’. The paper explained the photoelectric effect by proposing that light existed as what he called ‘quanta’. We now call light quanta photons; basically photons are units of light. In April, Einstein worked out the theory of ‘special relativity’. Special Relativity deals with many complex topics but some of the more well known points that Einstein made were that if an object moved faster than the speed of light, it would travel backwards through time, and his most famous idea ever, E=MC2. Since the later is so mysterious, it might be helpful to explain it. E means energy, M means matter, and C means the speed of light in a vacuum. The short explanation to the equation is that a small amount of matter, (e.g. A metal, a solid, a liquid, or a gas) is equal to a large amount of energy. The equation has been used in nuclear bombs or reactors where matter is turned into energy producing nuclear energy or a nuclear blast. The third paper dealt with ‘Brownian Motion’ or the seemingly random movement of particles in a gas or liquid. Just for his paper on the photoelectric effect, Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Physics.
            Right before the Second World War, Einstein’s belongings were seized by the Nazi Party because he was Jewish. Einstein fled from Germany to the United States and continued his work there. In 1938 he feared that Germany might be developing nuclear weapons and he advised President Roosevelt to begin creating the atomic bomb using his theory of E=MC2. This led to the two bombs that were dropped on Japan at the end of the war. Einstein became an American citizen and lived in America even after the war. Einstein’s studies on things like electricity have been used in any of the inventions, which use those concepts, like microwave ovens. He continued to study and theorize in physics until he died at the age of 76.
            Albert Einstein was one of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century. From the photoelectric effect, to E=MC2, Einstein’s work allowed us to have many of the devices we use today. And now I hope that you know more about the man who left such a large watermark on history.
            The man thought about what would happen if he could ride on a beam of light. Could time stop? He took out a piece of paper and scribbled some notes down onto it. He started with ‘special relativity’. A good name for the theory.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Alexander the Great

 In ancient times, the Greeks were exceptional soldiers and sailors. They proved this when they defeated two invasions from the vast Persian Empire. In fact, the Persian Emperor loved to hire them as mercenaries whenever he could. The only problem was that the Greeks were divided into little city-states that fought each other often. The Peloponnesian war was the greatest of these conflicts, since it was between the most powerful states of Athens and Sparta. Some of the Greeks allegedly believed that if they could somehow join into an empire they could conquer the Persians and maybe even the entire known world, which spanned Europe and upper Africa. But nobody seemed to know how. And for a long, long, long time the Greek states continued to fight among themselves until something amazing happened in 338 BC.
 One man, who also wanted Greek Unity, had his own ideas. His name was Philip and he was the King of Macedon, a region just north of Greece. He would either conquer or ally himself with all the little city-states and then lead them on a war of vengeance against Persia, because the Persians had invaded Greece several times. It was difficult to vanquish the cities of Athens and Thebes, especially when the patriotic Greek Orator, Demosthenes, guided their democracy. But finally Greece was subdued. Not long after Philip conquered Greece in 338 BC he was mysteriously assassinated, although we do not know by whom. (Greece could finally rise up, fight, and conquer Persia. It was amazing that the Greek States had suddenly united together into a powerful empire, like small pebbles being turned into an unconquerable mountain.
(6) Philip died before conquering Persia. When Philip perished his young son, Alexander, took over the throne.  Some of the Greeks took advantage of his age and rebelled against him. That was a bad mistake. Alexander, who was only about twenty years old, brutally dominated the rebels including those of Thebes, and even sold some of the people as slaves! After that, Greece was too afraid to rebel again so Alexander was safe to make the dream of conquering Persia a reality. Swiftly, cunningly, courageously, Alexander started his masterful campaign. Alexander conquered the entire Persian Empire including Egypt and India!
 Unfortunately, Alexander died young and his generals could not decide whom to appoint the new ruler. The generals eventually divided the kingdom into what were called the “Hellenistic” (or Greek) kingdoms, each with a dynasty named after the general who controlled that kingdom. After a whole generation of warfare, three main dynasties emerged. They were the Ptolemaic Dynasty over Egypt, the Seleucid Dynasty over Syria and Mesopotamia, and the Antigenic Dynasty over Macedonia. When Alexander died the dream of Greek unity had never been so close, but also just beyond his grasp. Alexander once said  “Do you not think it a matter worthy of lamentation that when there is such a vast multitude of [worlds], we have not yet conquered one?”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Battle of Waterloo

In 1812 Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia. The campaign resulted in much of the French army being destroyed. In the period following the loss, during the War of the Sixth Coalition, the Coalition of Europe defeated France several times on the battlefield before Napoleon abdicated his throne on April 6, 1814. He was exiled to the island of Elba while Louis the 16th became king of France. Napoleon escaped from Elba; however, reaching Europe in 1815, he gathered an army about him and once again called himself emperor of France. Louis left France. The Great Powers of Europe, consisting of England, Austria, Russia, Prussia, and their allies, declared Bonaparte an outlaw. All these events led to war, culminating with the Battle of Waterloo. Three armies fought at Waterloo, Napoleon’s, Arthur Wesley’s Multi-national army, and a Prussian army under Blucher. Napoleon had 72,000 men while his enemies had 118,000 men. These numbers perhaps show just how daring the Emperor was.

After understanding the precursor to the battle, it is important to understand what the battlefield and troop positions were. Waterloo consisted of a long ridge Running east, west, perpendicular to, and bisecting the main road to Brussels. Along the ridge ran the Ohain road. Wesley placed his infantry behind the crest of the ridge following the Ohain, using the reverse slope of the ridge to conceal the strength of his army from the French. In front of the ridge were the three positions that could be fortified. On the extreme right were the Ch√Ęteau, orchard, and gardens of Hougoumont, which were largely concealed by trees. On the extreme left was the hamlet of Papelotte. Arthur Wesley fortified both before the battle. On the opposite side of the road there was a disused sand quarry where Wesley placed the 95th riffles. The Prussians would arrive later during the battle to reinforce the troops at Papelotte. Because Napoleon could not see his adversaries’ lines, he positioned his army along another ridge to the south symmetrically to the Brussels road.

Wesley recorded in his dispatches that at "about ten o'clock [Napoleon] commenced a furious attack upon our post at Hougoumont" The fighting continued around the house the whole afternoon until Napoleon ordered it to be shelled and burned. At 11:50, at another part of the battle, Napoleon’s artillery, numbering eighty guns, opened fire across the battlefield. They were highly ineffective, however, as the ground was soft from the rain on the previous day making the cannon balls unable to bounce and instead just sink into the mud. At 2:00 the French infantry began to attack. To the French left flank Wesley’s line started to weaken, to the right, both sides were damaged badly. Observing how the flank was beginning to crumble, General Uxbridge ordered a British cavalry charge. Two brigades of cavalry quickly rushed over the ridge and attacked the French. Napoleon’s front lines routed away from the flashing sabers and the Emperor hastily ordered a counter-charge. The British had become disorderly, attacking everything within sight. The French had an easy time tearing them apart with their cavalry. The battle continued to rage on with more charges and retreats until the Prussians arrived.

It was 4:30 when the first Prussian reinforcements arrived. They flanked Napoleon and engaged in brutal combat with the bayonet. The French line could not hold against this new attack for long. Slowly, Blucher forced the French back. The combined attacks of the Coalition destroyed what was left of the enemy’s morale. As his men began to rout, Napoleon fought with his bodyguard against the advancing brigades of Blucher and Wesley. Attempts to rally the men failed, and Napoleon was forced to retreat from the battle with a terrible defeat.

Four days after Waterloo, Napoleon abdicated his throne. Napoleon was imprisoned on Saint Helena until he died in 1821. The series of wars that had consumed Europe since the French Revolution ceased. The treaty of Paris was signed, resulting in the boundaries of France being returned to where they were in 1790. Overall, The Battle of Waterloo put an end to Napoleon’s reign, allowing Europe to start to rebuild itself.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Battle of Forts Montgomery and Clinton

The Battle of Saratoga is often noted as the turning point of the American Revolution. Probably less known, however, is the battle that took place only a day before, on October 6, 1777. The Battle of Forts Clinton and Montgomery, although not victories for the United States, slowed the advance of British troops, which were attempting to reinforce the English at Saratoga. If the forts had not tried to defend from the British, the Battle of Saratoga, and thus the War, may have been lost.

            Throughout the war, the Hudson River was important for transporting men and supplies throughout New England. On May 25, 1775, Congress passes a resolution that "…a post be also taken in the Highlands on each side of Hudson’s River and batteries erected in such a manner as will most effectually prevent any vessels passing that may be sent to harass the inhabitants on the borders of said river…" The eventual location of the fort had been noted for it’s strategic advantage for controlling navigation across the river as early as the seventeenth century. When the fort, named Montgomery, was under construction, the strategic value of an elevated cliff terrace  nearby was also realized and a smaller fort, named Clinton, was built. Fort Montgomery had six 32-pound cannons and a garrison of 700 men; however, at the time of the battle the fort was undermanned.
            General Burgoyne, the commander of the English at Saratoga, was running low on men and food. Sir Henry Clinton, also a British general, sent a letter to Burgoyne stating that he would attempt to attack Fort Montgomery and then push onwards to Saratoga to try to relieve Burgoyne. On October 3rd Sir Henry started to sail up the Hudson River with 3,000 men in three frigates and several smaller vessels. On the foggy morning of October 6th, 2,100 men landed and encountered a scouting party that Governor Clinton, the commander of the fort, had sent out for reconnaissance. The scouting party retreated back to the fort after a brief exchange of fire. Sir Henry then sent 400 Loyalists and a detachment of Hessians to attack Fort Clinton while he took the remaining force to Fort Montgomery. The detachment at Montgomery numbered 100 men and a few cannons. Although they stood their ground valiantly, the garrison was forced to spike their cannons and retreat. Fort Clinton also was eventually overwhelmed.

Governor Clinton and his brother were able to escape from the battle with a few others by boat but the majority of the survivors of the conflict were taken prisoner. The British casualties were 41 killed and 142 wounded. The Americans had 26 officers and 237 enlisted men captured and about 75 killed and wounded apart from wounded prisoners; most of them from the garrison of Fort Clinton. Captain James Wallace began to clear American-laid obstacles in the river immediately following the battle, but Saratoga was lost October 7th and he finished on the thirteenth. Even though the forts had not been entirely successful, Clinton was un-able to reinforce Burgoyne.

Was the battle a victory or a defeat? Many were killed and the forts were burnt to the ground; however, Clinton was delayed and Saratoga was won. You will have to answer that question yourself. But no matter what the answer is, it can definitely be said, that The Battle of Forts Montgomery and Clinton were part of the turning point of the American Revolution.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Magna Carta

If you visit the National Archives in Washington, you will find that among the various documents there, there is a copy of the Magna Carta. What was the Magna Carta? Most people would be able to answer that it was a document created in England by certain government officials to stop the tyrannical powers of King John. It became to England what The Constitution is to us: the basis for law. But what is so important about it to give it a place in the National Archives? Allow me to try to answer that question by explaining the origins of the Magna Carta, its purpose, and just how important it is to America.

First, it is important to know that the history of the Magna Carta I referred to above is not entirely correct. To see why, read the opening to the document:
John, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his officials and loyal subjects, greeting.
Know that before God, for the health of our soul and those of our ancestors and heirs, to the honour of God, the exaltation of the holy Church, and the better ordering of our kingdom, at the advice of our reverend fathers Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry archbishop of Dublin, William bishop of London, Peter bishop of Winchester, Jocelin bishop of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh bishop of Lincoln, Walter Bishop of Worcester, William bishop of Coventry, Benedict bishop of Rochester, Master Pandulf subdeacon and member of the papal household, Brother Aymeric. . . .

And it goes on and on. But what we see here is that the barons did not start the rebellion against King John. It was the church. If that wasn’t a big enough change from what most people think try this clause:

First, that we have granted to God, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired.

The Magna Carta asserts that the English Government cannot do anything it wants. There are restrictions on its power. Also, The Magna Carta states that the rights of the people and church from government oppression come from God, the Christian God. This is definitely not the common history of the document that textbooks give.

Now that we know the true origins of the Magna Carta, what was its purpose? If it was created with Christianity in mind, could it have been only political? American Vision’s Gary DeMar says this:

Magna Carta wasn’t drafted by the barons, and the English liberties did not come from a political struggle. The liberties of England came from the Church, based on the ideological foundation of the faith in Jesus Christ, and the application of His Law in the English society. The signing of Magna Carta was the culmination of a centuries-long war between the pagan and the Christian concepts of law and power. At Runnymede the Church won the victory for Christianity, and by this victory England—and consequently America—was blessed with freedom more than any other nation in Europe.

Finally, how does any of this relate to America? The Magna Carta was an English document, and the English colonized America. Five hundred and fifty years later the principals of the Magna Carta were written into our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. One of the most important (and most debated) clauses in the Bill of Rights states that:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

This means that the Government cannot encroach on the church’s rights, unlike how it is misinterpreted today, which was the exact purpose of the Magna Carta. No wonder the document is in the National Archives. As Americans we must remember these facts and continue to protect our rights. Gary DeMar concluded his study on the Magna Carta best when he said:

There is an important lesson for us in all this. If England and later America were the beacon of liberty to the world for many centuries, and if that liberty came from the church and its willingness to stand for the reign of Christ in the culture, the modern loss of liberty in America can be traced no farther back than the refusal of the churches in our land to stand for the truth of God. When the churches retreated to their cloisters of personal evangelism and “church business,” the candidates for absolute political power have grown strong. There is only one ideology that can defend freedom successfully: the religion of Jesus Christ. And there is only one institution that can declare that ideology of liberty to the world: The Church of Jesus Christ. When the church remains silent, and when the pastors refuse to remind their congregations of the liberties they have for their birthright – as Archbishop Langton reminded the Englishmen of his time – we will see the progressive triumph of tyranny in this land. If our pastors refuse to follow Archbishop Langton’s example and lead us to liberty, they are not worthy of the name “pastors.” The restoration of liberty can start only from the restoration of the message of comprehensive Biblical worldview, and the crown rights of Jesus Christ over every area of life. Anything less than is treason against the High King and will lead to tyranny.

Read the full American Vision article here:The Forgotten Clauses of the Magna Carta