American Elephants


Pearl Harbor Day December 7, 1941 — 77 Years Ago by The Elephant's Child

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Sailors and others try to get good viewing spots to witness the surrender of Japan USS Missouri
Japanese Diplomat Toshikazu Kase, who was part of the official delegation surrendering to General Douglas MacArthur, above, on the deck of the battleship Missouri, wrote about the surrender:

Here is the victor announcing the verdict to the prostrate enemy.  He can impose a humiliating penalty if he so desires.  And yet he pleads for freedom, tolerance and justice.  For me, who expected the worst humiliation, this was a complete surprise.  I was thrilled beyond words, spellbound, thunderstruck.

It took 3 years, nine months and eight days.  Pity, and sorrow, but no apologies.

The numbers of those who actually remember Pearl Harbor are declining as the greatest generation passes away. Big events loom large in the lives of those who were alive at the time, and then slip gradually into that broad category of history. But it is important to understand how those big events changed history, and changed the world. Knowledge and understanding may help us avoid mistakes and untoward reactions when something happens in our lives.

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pearl harbor and the legacy of carl vinson by The Elephant's Child


U.S. Navy Photo: USS Carl Vinson

Seventy-seven years ago on December 7, 1941, carrier planes from  the Imperial Japanese fleet attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in a surprise attack on the home of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. It was followed a few days later by an attack on the Philippines.

The surprise attack on the fleet killed 2,402 Americans, sank or submerged 19 ships, including eight battleships damaged or destroyed. Just four days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.

Victor Davis Hanson writes today of the contribution of one Democratic Congressman from Georgia, Carl Vinson. Do read the whole thing.

The Japanese fleet had missed the three absent American carriers of the Pacific Fleet. Nonetheless, Japanese admirals were certain that the United States was so crippled after the attack that it would not be able to go on the offensive against the Japanese Pacific empire for years, if at all. Surely the wounded Americans would sue for peace, or at least concentrate on Europe and keep out of the Japanese-held Pacific.

That was a fatal miscalculation.

The Japanese warlords had known little of the tireless efforts of one Democratic congressman from Georgia, Carl Vinson.

For nearly a decade before Pearl Harbor, Vinson had schemed and politicked in brilliant fashion to ensure that America was building a two-ocean navy larger than all the major navies of the world combined.

If you have a history buff on your gift list, get them a copy of Dr. Hanson’s brilliant new book: The Second Word WarsIf you’re feeling generous, add With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge.

This should be a good reminder to consider carefully who you are electing to serve in Congress. It matters.



The Timetables of History by The Elephant's Child

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1933An Unusual Year

Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States dies
Edouard Daladier becomes Premier of France
Adolph Hitler appointed German Chancellor
U.S.Congress votes independence for Phillippines
First U.S. Aircraft Carrier “Ranger” is launched

The Reichstag Fire in Berlin
F.D. Roosevelt inaugurated as the 32nd President of the United States
Frances Perkins appointed Secretary of Labor, first woman in the Cabinet
Hermann Goering named Prussian Prime Minister
Goebbels named Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda

Boycott of Jews begins in Berlin
Japan withdraws from the League of Nations
Hitler granted dictatorial powers
Dachau opened
21st Amendment to the Constitution repealed (Prohibition)
Fiorello La Guardia elected Mayor of New York City

The Army of the United States was 137,000 men. (The French Army was 5 million)



The Differences between the Political Parties Couldn’t be Clearer. by The Elephant's Child

I posted this piece in November of 2013, and not all that much has changed.

What is the difference between Republicans and Democrats?  I suspect that most people don’t really know. Republicans  are usually pretty clear about what we believe, and can express it clearly — that’s why we argue so much. It’s a big-tent party that welcomes Conservatives, Tea Party people, Libertarians, “mainstream” Republicans, Independents, and all sorts of people who are deeply interested in a single issue. Republicans don’t usually conform to current talking points as Democrats do.

Republicans are committed to principles, Democrats admit that they don’t have any, and react to events as they occur, which they believe is a superior way of thinking.

Republicans worry about debt and taxes, economic growth, and individual liberty. Democrats’ care about winning. When they win, they have the power to tax and spend which will enable them to win the next time.

Republicans believe in low taxes, because the money belongs to individuals who, on the whole will use it far better than the government would. Free people and free-market capitalism. The decisions of the mass market will usually be far better than the decisions of the enlightened few.

Democrats believe in government money. It is money they are entitled to spend because of taxes which are paid by rich people who don’t deserve it. (At some point you have enough money). When they leave government “service” they will move to lobbying or NGO’s or corporate boards, or other well remunerated positions. It’s a good life.

Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Charles Schumer and Max Baucus have never done anything but government. No private sector experience at all. I haven’t had time to go through the rest of the list, but I would expect a lot more of the same. So they do not understand profit and loss, nor risk, nor meeting a payroll— any of that stuff. They seem a little weak in the math department as well. And economics? Any bets?

So these are the people who believed they could write a successful health insurance program for 330 million people to replace the world’s finest health care system. They believed they could convince ordinary Americans that it will cost less and be a vast improvement over what they had. They knew perfectly well that it would take some convincing. We got a lot of convincing, direct from their President and all his minions.

And there is not any part of it that can be believed. They tell you that they care about you, but unfortunately — they lie.

No change. We just get called more names, and they’re not even creative ones.



An Historic Timeline: Leaving Out Quite a Bit by The Elephant's Child

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I am fond of making timelines for my own information, to help me understand the order in which things happened, which it turns out, matters. Here’s one:

The Norman Invasion, Battle of Hastings 1066 : “William the Conqueror”
Magna Charta 1215
Black Death 1348-1350
The Renaissance 1350-1600
Hundred Years War  1337-1453 (France: Crecy, Portiers, Joan d’Arc)
War of the Roses  1455-1485  Lancaster v. York
First Watch invented  1502
Martin Luther 1517, Calvin 1532, John Knox 1541, – The Reformation
Spanish Conquest 1519-1535
Henry VIII 1534  Breaks Away from the Catholic Church
First Western Entry to Japan  1542
The Armada  1588
Elizabeth I Dies  1602
The English Civil War 1642-1660 Roundheads v. Cavaliers, Cromwell
American Revolution 1776-1781 (Yorktown)
Washington’s Farewell  1783
Napolean Bonaparte coup -proclaimed emperor 1799
Napoleonic Wars 1804-1815
Waterloo 1815
Crimean War 1853
Darwin Origin of Species  1859
American Civil War  1861 – 1865
Canada becomes Dominion  1867
Boer War 1899 – 1902
Russian Revolution  1903 – 1917
Irish Potato Famine  1846
Irish Free State (Dominion Status) 1922

………………………..Little Ice Age circa 1450 – 1850

……………Yes, It’s an odd quirk, and I obviously left out quite a bit.



Wars Are To Be Won, They are Not Playing Fields For Theorists by The Elephant's Child

Japanese Surrender

It was seventy three years ago today. There are few left who remember at first hand, and even new recruits who were 20 then would be 93 today. Victor Davis Hanson remarked a while ago, that history is about wars. Do we gradually become inured to war as it grows more distant? Are those most bellicose in the present the ones who are historically the most ignorant? How much of our present attitudes are related to how much, and how accurate is our knowledge of history?

This original post was written in 2009, with references to President Obama’s current words and actions about the Middle East and Afghanistan. I left that part our and reprinted the history. The first link below is to pictures of the Missouri. This one is to the history of the Last Battleship

The Emperor Hirohito, of course, did not come down to the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay for the surrender ceremonies.  To misunderstand that demonstrates a lack of understanding of the Pacific War and the relationship of the Emperor to the Japanese people. In their 2000 year history, the Japanese had never surrendered to anyone.  Japan was determined to fight on, even after Okinawa was lost.  The Japanese navy had effectively ceased to exist, but an all-out defense of the homeland beachhead was planned.  Rebellious army officers planned a palace coup which was put down.  On August 14, 1945, the Emperor recorded a speech which was broadcast to the nation at noon on the following day, August 15.

The Japanese people were stunned.  They had never before heard the Emperor’s voice.  The formal surrender ceremony took place aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. The Japanese representatives on board the Missouri were Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu (wearing top hat) and General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff.  Behind them are three representatives each of the Foreign Ministry, the Army and the Navy.

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Worth noting is an article from The New York Times that quoted  Toshikazu Kase, a 100-year-old veteran of the Imperial Japanese government. (Second from right in middle row in the top hat).  He would write in his memoirs about the surrender to MacArthur on the deck of the Missouri:

Here is the victor announcing the verdict to the prostrate enemy.  He can impose a humiliating penalty if he so desires.  And yet he pleads for freedom, tolerance and justice.  For me, who expected the worst humiliation, this was a complete surprise.  I was thrilled beyond words, spellbound, thunderstruck.

Understanding the history of our relations with Japan is crucial to understanding our relationship and friendship with Japan today. Understanding the history of Israel and Palestine helps to keep from making mistakes about who our friends are and why.  Understanding the history of Latin America keeps a president from siding with some of the region’s worst dictators, and confusing our Constitution and laws with the constitution and laws of Honduras.

These things matter, and if a President does not have the background, it should be included in briefings. If his speechwriters don’t have the background, they should look it up.  And if the State Department doesn’t have the background, God help us .

(the headline comes from a quotation from Ralph Peters)

I ran onto this piece today, a pictorial of the Japanese memorial service in honor of those who died in World War II, with a picture of Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.That reminded me of a book I’ve had for years, an autobiography by Elizabeth Gray Vining, which I recommend highly. She became a member of the Society of Friends after her young husband was killed in an auto accident in which she survived. When the Japanese Emperor Hirohito decided to employ an American Quaker woman as a tutor for his son and the future Emperor, they turned to Elizabeth Vining. Her first book is
Windows for the Crown Prince followed by the autobiography Quiet Pilgrimage in which she tells about the appointment.She wrote:

“In the fall of 1946 a quiet Philadelphia woman was suddenly picked up, transported halfway around the globe and dropped down again in the middle of the oldest, the most formal, the most mysterious court in the world, the court of Japan. I was that woman.”

In her autobiography she includes much of what didn’t appear in the earlier book. I found the whole thing absolutely fascinating.



Absolutely Brilliant! by The Elephant's Child

We’ve all seen this many, many times, but failed to recognize the potential  for real humor. I don’t know who did it, but just noticing was brilliant. Love it.

Also in the news was the fact that some of California’s wines have traces of the nuclear imprint of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, seven years after the event, 5,000 miles away. The Fukushima incident resulted in a radioactive cloud that crossed the Pacific Ocean, Nuclear scientists wanted to see if there was a variation in the cesium-137 level in a series of wines from vintage 2009 to 2012. They did find traces, but don’t worry, it will not harm you.

Washington State has developed a major wine region, and they are making some very good wines.




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