American Elephants


Why Do We Say “Remember Pearl Harbor”? It Was 77 Years Ago. by The Elephant's Child

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Every year on December 7, we say “Remember Pearl Harbor” but fail to point out why we should be remembering. John Steele Gordon in his essential history An Empire of Wealth: the Epic History of American Economic Power, outlines the state of the world then:

In a fireside chat on December 29, 1940, Franklin Roosevelt first used  a phrase that would prove enduring when he called upon the United States to become “the great arsenal of democracy.”
…..War had broken out in Europe on September 1, 1939, after German troops invaded Poland, and France and Great Britain stood by their pledges to come to Poland’s aid. Few Americans thought the Nazis anything but despicable, but public opinion in the United States was overwhelmingly to stay out of the conflict.  Many newspapers…were strongly isolationist. In 1934 Senator Hiram Johnson of California had pushed through a bill forbidding the Treasury to make loans to any country that had failed to pay back earlier loans.  That, of course included Britain and France.  On November 4, 1939, Congress had passed the Neutrality Act, which allowed purchases of war materiel only on a “cash and carry” basis.
…..Seven months later France fell to the Nazi onslaught, and Britain stood alone.  In the summer of 1940 Germany proved unable to defeat the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain and thus gain the air superiority necessary to mount an invasion across the English Channel. It tried instead to bludgeon Britain into submission with the blitz and to force Britain into submission by cutting off its trade lifelines across the Atlantic. It nearly worked. …
…..At the time American military forces were puny.  The army had about three hundred thousand soldiers—fewer than Yugoslavia—and was so short of weapons that new recruits often had to drill with broomsticks instead of rifles. The equipment it did have was often so antiquated that the chief of staff, General George C. Marshall, thought the army no better than “that of a third-rate power.” The navy, while equal to Britain’s in size, lacked ammunition to sustain action, and much of its equipment was old or unreliable.

Roosevelt realized what was at stake in terms of America’s own security, but he felt that Britain must survive long enough to hold the Nazis at bay while the U.S. rearmed and he was able to  bring the American people around to see where their own true interests lay. This was easier said than done.

On September 16, 1940 Congress approved the first peacetime draft in American history and 16.4 million men between the ages of 20 and 35 registered. But it specified that none was to serve outside the Western Hemisphere and that their terms of service were not to exceed twelve months. In 1941 Roosevelt was able to get Lend Lease through Congress, and after Pearl Harbor, isolationism vanished from the American political landscape.

Japan ran loose over the Pacific for the next six months, taking Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaya, Singapore, the Solomon Islands, the Dutch East Indies, and Burma while threatening Australia and India.

The rearming of America was one of the most astonishing feats in all economic history. In the first six months of 1942, the government gave out 100 billion in military contracts— more than the entire GDP of 1940. In the war years, American industry turned out 6.500 naval vessels; 296,400 airplanes; 86,330 tanks; 64,546 landing craft; 3.5 million jeeps, trucks, and personnel carriers; 53 million deadweight tons of cargo vessels; 12 million rifles,carbines, and machine guns; and 47 million tons of artillery shells, together with millions of tons of uniforms, boots, medical supplies, tents and a thousand other items needed to fight a modern war.

In 1933, the army of the United States was 137,000 men. The U.S. Army was 16th in size, in the world. The French Army was 5 million., but they had Germany next door. In May of 1940, Germany invaded France. We reinstituted conscription. By Pearl Harbor Day, the army was 1,640,000. With U.S. entry into World War II, the army expanded to 8,300,000 officers and men. About 5,000,000 served overseas. George C. Marshall was Army Chief of Staff for the whole war, and the author of the Marshall Plan.

By 1948, the army had declined to 554,000, and entirely unprepared for the Korean War. If I remember correctly, Victor Davis Hanson once said that History is about wars – what led up to them, the war itself, and the aftermath. The American people, always optimistic, are relieved to have it over, and expect peace to last indefinitely. If families cannot get along, and they can’t, neighbors can’t, city councils can’t and so on to every larger form of government. That’s why Globalism will never, never work.

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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.



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.



A Fond Farewell by The Elephant's Child

The coverage of the memorials and funeral for a former President of the United States has been a time of looking back, trying to understand the history, celebrate the long life of what almost everyone agrees was a very good man. There are, of course, many Democrats who can’t manage to be polite or decent, because George H.W. Bush was a Republican.

President Bush was what is called a “patrician”– someone from the American aristocracy. An American aristocracy is an odd notion, for the sense of the word implies”noble birth”, but we don’t do that here. He was, however, the son of a senator, the father of another president, but also the father of another governor, so there is an aristocracy of public service.

President Donald Trump has been excoriated as “unqualified” to be president, because he has neither held public office nor served in the military. President George H.W. Bush not only served in the military, but flew a torpedo bomber in the very nasty Pacific War,  got shot down, survived in a tiny rubber raft, got picked up and went right back to flying and bombing.

Qualifications to be president are quite straightforward: you have to be a natural born citizen, have attained the age of 35, and been resident in the United States for fourteen years. We have had some four star generals: Washington, Grant, and Eisenhower, and others who had noted military service: Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, and a few others, but not all of the presidents were military men. Abraham Lincoln served for just three days. Joe Biden just announced that he is the most qualified person to be president. So there you are. Michael Avenatti announced that he isn’t running after all. But the line of Democrats who are just dying to run grows apace.

So in spite of being a country where anyone with the correct minimal qualifications is entitled to run, we seem to want our president to be someone special. We nitpick their every utterance, criticize their demeanor, their decisions, their behavior. George Washington set the standard. The people were willing to proclaim him King, but he would have none of it, and when his term was done, he just went on home.

There always seems to be a sort of itch to put them on a pedestal. Perhaps that is why the Democrats are so eager to have the first black, the first woman, the first (pseudo) Native American, and there’s Kamala Harris as not only being black – but also female. One can just be grateful for the 35 year-old qualification or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would be running.

The country has hung out their flags, stood in long cold lines to have the chance to walk by the catafalque in the Capitol Building to mourn the passing of a good and kind man. I can appreciate all the other stuff, but I do marvel at the man who celebrated his 90th birthday by going skydiving.

Rest in Peace.



How Do You Solve A Problem Like Human Nature? by The Elephant's Child

There are faint signs that perhaps the tensions involved over the debate about “globalism” and “national sovereignty” may be clearing a bit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that European Union (EU) member states must be prepared to transfer their powers over to Brussels at such a debate.

“In an orderly fashion, of course” Merkel said, as she explained that Germany had given up some of its sovereignty in order to join the EU, but national parliaments were in charge of deciding whether or not sign on to international treaties.

The CDU (Christian Democratic Union) leader said that trust and the willingness to compromise are essential in discussing the controversial UN migration pact, which the debate has continued to divide her own party.

Some important allies are pulling out of the agreement – Australia has left saying they will not risk their ‘hard won’ success in controlling their own borders. Trump has said no, and others are trying to figure out where they stand.

Chancellor Merkel accused critics of the Global Compact for Safe and Orderly Migration of “advocating ‘nationalism’ in its purest form.” She paraphrased her French counterpart Emmanuel Macron who recently claimed that “patriotism is the exact opposite because nationalism is treason.” Europe must surrender national sovereignty she said, to Brussels over “foreign affairs, migration, and development, as well as an increasing part of our budgets and even fiscal resources.” She also called for the creation of a real, true EU army and she stated that only through globalism can the world see peace.

This is an old, old argument — even on the original Thanksgiving we celebrate — can’t we all just get along? Well, no we can’t. It is now and always has been a pipe dream. And on throughout world history. The first humans probably started dispersing because they couldn’t get along together and were fighting about the kill that Roku dragged home for dinner, or who was going to get the choice piece of meat. You probably noticed in all the talk about happy family get-togethers for Thanksgiving dinner, there was also a lot of talk about how to deal with Uncle Harry who was a far Left Trump hater, or Uncle Ralph who was a bigoted Conservative.

The concept of a perfect society, or utopia, is as old as humanity. That is really the origin of communism and socialism and Nazism. They believed they were creating the perfect system. Here in America the Utopian Movement gained traction in 19th century America when thousands of people formed communities hoping to improve on existing society. The heyday was between 1820 and 1860. One of the remaining groups from that period is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or the Mormon Church, founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith. There was also the Oneida Community in upstate New York, the Shaker Movement, Brook Farm, a utopian community in Massachusetts.

We have had a lot of movements for “world peace.” There was the “war to end all wars” followed by the League of Nations”, followed by the rise of socialism with Mussolini and Hitler and World War II and the United Nations and the Cold War and another bunch of wars and Angela Merkel ought to be aware that the odds are quite definitely not in her favor.

In the present, Europe is suffering from Merkel’s invitation to all the unhappy people from the Middle East and Africa to migrate to Europe in the mistaken idea that Europe’s problem of declining birthrates and lack of young people to do the scut work and boring jobs would be solved by migration. Instead they got an invasion of Moslems whose religion demanded that those who did not submit to Allah should be killed. The migrants were welcomed all over Europe with gifts of food and clothing, flowers and song. The migrants were happy to accept the gifts, complained bitterly about the accommodations provided, and wanted to be supported by European generosity. They have instead proved willing to burn cars, rape any available women and girls, and engage in occasional shootings, and their communities have become dangerous ‘no-go’ districts. Merkel has just still not given up on her ideas of utopia.

In spite of all the Never-Trumpers, the deranged ‘celebrities’ in a constant search for the nearest microphone, and the newest “Democratic-Socialists”, plain old free-market capitalism in a constitutional republic seems to work better than anything else. The news of the day is not usually about how peaceful and happy the nations of the world are, but about their quarrels. Quarreling remains human nature, and we seem to be stuck with it.



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.

Japanese Surrender2

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.



Globalization: The Dream and the Nightmare by The Elephant's Child

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Here I was, posting Jonathan Haidt’s commentary on Globalization, and I turned to American Greatness, and conveniently, there was Victor Davis Hanson, writing even more extensively about globalization.

After World War II, only the United States possessed the capital, the military, freedom, and the international good will to arrest the spread of global Stalinism. To save the fragile postwar West, America was soon willing to rebuild and rearm war-torn former democracies. Over seven decades, it intervened in proxy wars against Soviet and Chinese clients, and radical rogue regimes. It accepted asymmetrical and unfavorable trade as the price of leading and saving the West. America became the sole patron for dozens of needy clients—with no time limit on such asymmetry.

Yet what would become the globalized project was predicated on lots of flawed, but unquestioned assumptions:

The great wealth and power of the United States was limitless. It alone could afford to subsidize other nations. Any commercial or military wound was always considered superficial and well worth the cost of protecting the civilized order.

Only by piling up huge surpluses with the United States and avoiding costly defense expenditure through American military subsidies, could the shattered nations of Asia and Europe supposedly regain their security, prosperity and freedom. There was no shelf life on such dependencies.

Do read the whole thing. This is a major contention point with the Democrats in their current mental and moral breakdown. If we are going to fight back, we have to know what we are talking about.




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