Eddie Slovik: Execution of an American Deserter

On January 31, 1945, twelve soldiers raised their rifles, pointed them, and fired. Fifteen minutes later, private Eddie Slovik was dead. He remains the only U.S. soldier executed solely for desertion since the Civil War, when it was a disturbingly common punishment. Why did Slovik suffer this fate?

Desertion during World War II?

“The person that is not willing to fight and die, if need be, for his country has no right to life.” ~ Colonel James E. Rudder

While armchair historians often tout World War II as “the Last Good War,” not every combatant agreed. Back in those days, service in the U.S. military wasn’t voluntary…it was mandatory. Even worse, those who went AWOL from a war they’d been forced into fighting risked the maximum punishment…death. Although exact AWOL numbers remain unknown, more than 21,000 people were sentenced for desertion during World War II. 49 of those individuals were given the death sentence. Out of those 49 people, a single person was executed…Eddie Slovik.

The Execution of Private Eddie Slovik?

Prior to the war, Slovik was “a small-time thief and ex-convict who was originally classified as unfit for military service.” But he was drafted anyway and in August 1944, found himself in France. During the horrific Battle of Hürtgen Forest, the U.S. Army suffered 33,000 casualties. Eddie Slovik barely managed to survive and afterward, decided he “wasn’t cut out for combat.” He requested a reassignment away from the front lines. His request was denied so he deserted, along with hundreds if not thousands of other Americans. After being caught, he refused to return to his unit. Summarily, he was convicted of desertion and sentenced to death. Shocked by the severity of the punishment, he appealed to General Eisenhower for clemency. But Eisenhower refused and on January 31, 1945, Eddie Slovik was executed via firing squad.

“They’re not shooting me for deserting the United States Army, thousands of guys have done that. They just need to make an example out of somebody and I’m it because I’m an ex-con. I used to steal things when I was a kid, and that’s what they are shooting me for. They’re shooting me for the bread and chewing gum I stole when I was 12 years old.” ~ Eddie Slovik

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

35 American soldiers were executed during World War I, all for the crimes of rape and/or murder. 102 American soldiers were executed for the same reasons during World War II. But Eddie Slovik remains the only soldier in either war (or in any military engagement since the Civil War) to be executed for the sole crime of desertion. But why?

Clearly, General Eisenhower and other military leaders decided to make an example out of Slovik. American soldiers were dying in terrifying numbers in hotly-contested France. As such, mass desertions had become a major problem. Eisenhower apparently believed the execution of Eddie Slovik would be enough to make soldiers think twice before deserting their units. Of course, the execution had little to no impact and desertions continued for the duration of the war. Incidentally, desertions continue today as well with roughly 40,000 members of the U.S. military going AWOL between 2000 and 2006).

In the end, Slovik’s offer to serve in a noncombatant capacity was denied. Thus, he was murdered for refusing to fight in a war that he’d never wanted any part of in the first place. As Bernard Calka said in 1987 when bringing Slovik’s remains home from France, “The man didn’t refuse to serve, he refused to kill.”

Nazi Soldiers…in America?

On February 15, 1944, Private Dale H. Maple picked up two passengers in Colorado, and headed for Mexico. He was promptly arrested and charged with treason. Why? Because the two passengers weren’t Americans…they were Nazi prisoners of war.

The 620th Engineer General Service Company: Nazi Sympathizers…in the U.S. Military?

After enlisting in February 1942, Maple was deliberately assigned to the infamous 620th Engineer General Service Company. In a real-life example of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” the 620th was made up of suspected Nazi sympathizers. By keeping them in one location and denying them access to weapons, the military hoped to maintain control over the sympathizers and make it difficult for them to hamper the war effort.

But Maple had his own ideas. And when the 620th was assigned guard duty at Camp Hale, a prison for Nazi POWs, he decided to take action. After buying a car, he picked up two Afrika Korps Sergeants from work detail and drove toward the Mexican border. The car broke down 17 miles short of the goal so the three men hoofed it the rest of the way.

The Trial of Dale H. Maple?

But after arriving in Mexico, they were quickly arrested and sent back to America. Maple was originally charged with treason. Later this was changed to “relieving, corresponding with or aiding the enemy.” He was found guilty and given a sentence of death by hanging. However, the Army Judge Advocate General intervened and convinced President Roosevelt to imprison Maple instead. Maple was released in 1951 and apparently passed away in the early 2000s. Here’s more on Maple and the 620th from Foreign Policy:

Yep. Gather round, little grasshoppers, and I will tell the strange tale.

I know it sounds like the reverse of a Quentin Taratino movie, but it is true: During World War II, the Army intentionally formed a unit chockablock with fascisti and their suspected sympathizers. What a sensible idea — much better than kicking them out into society and losing track of them.

This is all discussed in the new issue of Army Lawyer , where Fred “Three Sticks” Borch has a fascinating article about PFC Dale Maple, a brilliant young man who was born in San Diego in 1920 and who graduated from Harvard with honors but then, because he was bad, was found guilty of treason and sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead…

(See more on Maple, the 620th, and Nazis in America at Foreign Policy)

The Largest Mass Execution in American History?

On August 17, 1862, four Sioux Indians attacked and killed five white settlers while on a hunting expedition in Minnesota. A series of attacks known as the Dakota War followed until the U.S. Army quelled the unrest. In the aftermath, President Abraham Lincoln approved the largest mass execution in U.S. history, a record that still stands today. But why did the Sioux launch the Dakota War in the first place?

The Dakota War?

The origins of the Dakota War can be traced back to 1851 when the U.S. government forced the Sioux Indians to sign the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux and the Treaty of Mendota. These agreements required the Sioux to give up large parcels of land and move onto an Indian reservation near the Minnesota River. In exchange, the Sioux were given $1.4 million of money and goods. This amounted to about $0.03 per acre and the U.S. government profited handsomely by selling the land to white settlers for $1.25 per acre. In fact, it profited even more than you might expect since most of the promised compensation was never paid, was stolen by the corrupt Bureau of Indian Affairs, or was otherwise “lost.”

As the 1850s rolled on, the U.S. government continuously violated the two treaties and failed to make payments to the Sioux. The Sioux fell into a state of permanent debt with local traders and thus, the few payments that were made often went directly to the traders. At the same time, crop failure made the Sioux increasingly dependent on the payments. Hungry and angry about the very real possibility that they were being cheated by the Bureau and the traders, the Sioux demanded that the payments be made directly to them. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs agent refused to provide food or supplies under that condition.

Two days later, a Sioux hunting party attacked and killed five white settlers while on a hunting expedition. That night, the Sioux council effectively declared the Dakota War on the settlers. A series of attacks followed. After a few setbacks to U.S. forces, President Lincoln sent General John Pope to lead the counterattack.

“It is my purpose utterly to exterminate the Sioux if I have the power to do so and even if it requires a campaign lasting the whole of next year. Destroy everything belonging to them and force them out to the plains, unless, as I suggest, you can capture them. They are to be treated as maniacs or wild beasts, and by no means as people with whom treaties or compromises can be made.” ~ General John Pope

The Dakota War Ends…& Trials Begin

By December, the short-lived Dakota War was over. At least 500 U.S. soldiers and white settlers perished in the Dakota War. Sioux casualties are estimated about 70 to 100. In the aftermath, General Pope subjected hundreds of men, women, and children to five-minute military trials. 303 Indians were found guilty of rape and/or murder and sentenced to death. However, they were not given the opportunity to defend themselves and in any case, were condemned for participation in the Dakota War rather than for specific crimes.

President Lincoln Approves the Largest Mass Execution in History

General Pope and Minnesota’s representatives urged President Lincoln to approve the execution. However, Lincoln was still in the midst of the Civil War and was concerned that an execution of that size, based on no evidence and a heavily biased military tribunal, might anger European nations who would then throw their support to the Confederate States of America. So, he pared down the list to 39 names. In order to appease disgruntled settlers and Minnesota operatives, he promised to eventually kill or remove all Indians from Minnesota and offered $2 million in federal funds compensation.

On December 26, 1862, 38 Sioux Indians were hanged, marking the largest one-day execution in American history (one Sioux was granted a reprieve). Within the course of a year, Lincoln made good on his promise, driving the remaining Sioux out of Minnesota and into Nebraska and South Dakota.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Thanks to the politically-motivated Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln might just be the biggest sacred cow in all of U.S. history. Even this mass execution is viewed favorably by many Lincoln scholars, as they point out that he spared the lives of over 260 Sioux Indians. But the fact remains that he ordered the execution of 38 individuals, despite knowing that their individual guilt in the Dakota War could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Unfortunately, their deaths didn’t bring an end to the violence. After the Civil War ended, General Sherman waged war against the Plains Indians, designed to bring about “the final solution of the Indian problem.” By 1890, his dream had become a reality – all of the Plains Indians had either been killed or placed on a reservation.

 

Guerrilla Explorer’s Wild West Coverage

DARPA’s Invisibility Cloak?

Yes, it’s true. Thanks to DARPA funding, a group of scientists have done the impossible. They’ve invented an invisibility cloak.

A Working Invisibility Cloak?

We first reported on invisibility cloak technology back in October 2011. This technology is a little different. But don’t get too excited…this invisibility cloak only works for 50 picoseconds…in other words, 40 trillionths of a second. That’s not enough time to blink let alone sneak through the hallways of Hogwarts. While some improvement is possible, it would apparently take a gigantic machine (18,600 miles long!) to make this invisibility cloak last for a complete second.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Still, it’s not all for naught. The invisibility cloak, developed with DARPA funding, could help improve fibre-optic communications security. Then again, it could also be used to hide computer viruses as they’re passed into high-speed data streams. Here’s more on this new invisibility cloak from Fox News:

We see events happening as light from them reaches our eyes. Usually it’s a continuous flow of light. In the new research, however, scientists were able to interrupt that flow for just an instant.

Other newly created invisibility cloaks fashioned by scientists move the light beams away in the traditional three dimensions. The Cornell team alters not where the light flows but how fast it moves, changing in the dimension of time, not space.

They tinkered with the speed of beams of light in a way that would make it appear to surveillance cameras or laser security beams that an event, such as an art heist, isn’t happening…

(Read the rest on this new invisibility cloak at Fox News)

The Plot to Assassinate Jefferson Davis?

On March 2, 1864, William Littlepage was searching the pockets of a dead Union officer just outside of Richmond, VA. But instead of a pocketwatch or other baubles, Littlepage discovered two mysterious documents. These papers, now known as the Dahlgren Papers, cast light on a plot designed to bring an end to the Confederate States of America. Were Union leaders planning to assassinate President Jefferson Davis?

The Dahlgren Affair?

By March 2, 1864, the Union had taken control of the Civil War and Confederate hopes of victory seemed increasingly dim. Ulysses S. Grant was just a week away from taking over the responsibilities of Commanding General of the United States Army. And President Lincoln, along with his top generals, had reached the conclusion that the only way to break the South was to wage total war.

It was with this backdrop that 13-year old Littlepage found himself searching the dead body of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, who’d been killed earlier that day in a failed raid on Richmond, VA. After discovering the documents, Littlepage took them to his teacher, Edward Halbach. Halbach quickly examined the papers and realized he had a veritable bomb in front of him.

The papers described a plan to raid and torch Richmond, VA. The idea for the attack had originated from Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick was known as “Kill-Cavalry” due to his willingness to sacrifice his own troops as well as Confederate troops in order to achieve his goals. The plan was for Dahlgren’s cavalry to enter the city from the south. After stopping to free Union prisoners and meet up with Kilpatrick, the enlarged force would descend upon Richmond in order to “destroy and burn the hateful city.”

The Plot to Kill Jefferson Davis?

A second set of orders, which were probably intended for Captain John Mitchell (Dahlgren’s second-in-command), provided more detail on the plot.

“We will try and secure the bridge to the city, (one mile below Belle Isle,) and release the prisoners at the same time. If we do not succeed they must then dash down, and we will try and carry the bridge from each side. When necessary, the men must be filed through the woods and along the river bank. The bridges once secured, and the prisoners loose and over the river, the bridges will be secured and the city destroyed. The men must keep together and well in hand, and once in the city it must be destroyed and Jeff. Davis and Cabinet killed.” ~ Dahlgren Papers, as published in the Richmond Sentinel (3/5/1864)

Although the Civil War was horrendous and bloody, it had been fought as a sort of “Gentleman’s Affair” up until that point. However, the Dahlgren Papers appeared to change that by targeting Jefferson Davis for assassination.

The papers were swiftly transported up the Confederacy’s chain of command. And by March 4, they’d reached President Jefferson Davis. Jefferson Davis agreed to release them to the press and by March 5, the Richmond Daily Dispatch was blaring the headline, “The Last Raid of the Infernals.”

Northerners were skeptical of the papers and declared them to be fraudulent. But the Confederacy was not swayed. Angered by the assassination plot, President Jefferson Davis decided to release Confederate prisoners into Northern cities. He hoped that this would create fear and chaos, thus buying valuable time for his fledgling nation.

Were the Dahlgren Papers Authentic?

On March 30, General Robert E. Lee sent a copy of the Dahlgren Papers to Northern General George Meade and expressed his desire to know if the orders had been authorized by the U.S. government. Meade asked Kilpatrick to investigate. Kilpatrick responded that he’d endorsed the Papers…or at least part of them. He claimed that the sections about burning Richmond and killing President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet had been added after the fact. With that, the official investigation pretty much came to an end.

But privately, General Meade was suspicious. He thought that the Dahlgren Papers were authentic. And since Kilpatrick was Dahlgren’s superior officer, it stood to reason that Kilpatrick might’ve been the one to issue the order. Thus, as Stephen Sears said in his book Controversies and Commanders: Dispatches from the Army of the Potomac, relying on Kilpatrick to handle the investigation was “equivalent to ordering the fox to investigate losses in the henhouse.”

What happened to the Dahlgren Papers?

In July 1864, Dahlgren’s father went public to declare the Dahlgren Papers “a bare-faced atrocious forgery.” He based this upon a photographic copy of the original orders, in which his son’s signature was misspelled as “Dalhgren.” Others pointed out that the orders had been written on both sides of thin paper. Thus, the misspelling might’ve been nothing more than ink leaking through the paper. Unfortunately, it was impossible to say for certain…

…because the Dahlgren Papers had vanished.

At the end of 1865, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton requested the Dahlgren Papers from Francis Lieber, who headed up the Confederate archives. In 1879, Lieber requested the papers back. But they had gone missing. In his article, “The Dahlgren Papers,” James Hall sums up current opinion on the fate of the papers.

“Perhaps it is an uncharitable thought, but the suspicion lingers that Stanton consigned them to the fireplace in his office.” ~ James Hall, “The Dahlgren Papers,” Civil War Times Illustrated (November 1983)

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

While the origin of the orders remains in question, there is a growing consensus, led by historians such as Sears, that they were probably authentic. And if this is the case, there is a decent chance that President Lincoln himself was aware of the assassination attempt on Jefferson Davis. Interestingly enough, this may have indadvertedly led to his own death.

The targeting of President Jefferson Davis was, in effect, a declaration of total war upon the South. The South, led by the mysterious Confederate Secret Service, responded in kind. As reported in Come Retribution: The Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln, this shadowy organization set out to kidnap President Lincoln in order to sue for peace. But when that effort fell short and General Lee was forced to surrender in April 1865, the Confederate Secret Service enacted one final operation…the assassination of President Lincoln.

“Judson Kilpatrick, Ulric Dahlgren, and their probable patron Edwin Stanton set out to engineer the death of the Confederacy’s president; the legacy spawned out of the utter failure of their effort may have included the death of their own president.” ~ Stephen Sears, The Dahlgren Papers Revisited

Did Game Theory Save Mankind?

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union wielded enormous arsenals of nuclear weapons. Citizens of the world lived in fear that the conflict would someday heat up, resulting in a devastating nuclear war that would destroy the world. Into this confusion and terror stepped the RAND Corporation and a team of Game Theory experts. Did Game Theory stop Mutually Assured Destruction and save mankind?

Game Theory: The Prisoner’s Dilemma?

The chart above represents the “Prisoner’s Dilemma.” In this game, two men are arrested for various crimes. However, the police lack enough information to make the main crime stick. So, the police separate the men and offer them both the same deal. If one prisoner confesses while the other one doesn’t, the confessor will go free while the other prisoner will serve a full 20 year sentence. If both prisoners confess, they will each receive a ten year term. However, if both prisoners keep quiet, they will each be charged with a lesser crime and receive a one year term. This is a one-time situation and the prisoners are not told of each other’s decision. What should they do?

Game Theory: Solving the Prisoner’s Dilemma?

If Prisoner B confesses, Prisoner A’s best strategy is to confess as well since 10 years is a shorter term than 20 years. If Prisoner B doesn’t confess, Prisoner A’s best strategy is still to confess since being free is better than a year in prison. Thus, Prisoner A’s best choice is to confess. Knowing this, Prisoner B will do the same thing and they will both go to jail for 10 years. What makes this game interesting is that the prisoners would be better off if they both kept quiet. And yet, logic dictates that they both confess instead.

Game Theory & Mutually Assured Destruction?

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were in a nuclear stand-off. So, the RAND Corporation hired some of the world’s top game theorists to study the situation. At the time, both nations had the same policy: “If one side launched a first strike, the other threatened to answer with a devastating counter-strike.”

This became known as Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD for short. And indeed, the idea of this happening was “mad” since it could’ve brought about a nuclear winter. However, game theorists were worried about Mutually Assured Destruction. They thought the two countries had boxed themselves into a prisoner’s dilemma that could threaten mankind’s very existence. Here’s how it worked:

“Suppose the USSR launches a first strike against the USA. At that point, the American President finds his country already destroyed. He doesn’t bring it back to life by now blowing up the world, so he has no incentive to carry out his original threat to retaliate, which has now manifestly failed to achieve its point. Since the Russians can anticipate this, they should ignore the threat to retaliate and strike first. Of course, the Americans are in an exactly symmetric position, so they too should strike first. Each power will recognize this incentive on the part of the other, and so will anticipate an attack if they don’t rush to preempt it. What we should therefore expect…is a race between the two powers to be the first to attack.” ~ Don Ross

Strategies to Deter Mutually Assured Destruction

This analysis led the RAND Corporation to recommend the United States taking actions designed to show their commitment to Mutually Assured Destruction. One strategy was to ensure that “second-strike capability” existed. A second strategy was to make leaders appear irrational. The CIA portrayed President Nixon as insane and/or a drunk. The KGB, which appears to have come to the same conclusion as RAND, responded by fabricating medical records to show that General Secretary Brezhnev was senile.

Another strategy was to introduce uncertainty at stopping Stop Mutually Assured Destruction. For example, by building more nuclear missiles and storing them in numerous locations, it was less likely that the President could stop all of them from being launched in the event of a Russian attack. A third strategy was to ensure Mutually Assured Destruction. Russia went so far as to create Perimeter, or Dead Head, which was the closest thing this world’s ever seen to a doomsday machine.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, did the game theorists save the world from Mutually Assured Destruction? Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll never know for certain. But advancements in game theory have shown that the Cold War models weren’t really accurate. Nuclear war was usually modeled as a one-time game. But as long as one preserved second strike capabilities, the “game” would’ve been played over and over again with both sides exchanging repeated waves of missiles.

The outcome of nuclear war is the same whether one initiates an attack or responds to it. And since this outcome is worse than “no nuclear war,” the optimal move is to not launch missiles. Of course, this depends on a number of assumptions. Second-strike capabilities must be available and known to the other side. Both sides must have perfection detection equipment since a false positive like the one recognized by the heroic Stanislav Petrov could lead to nuclear war. Perfectly rational leaders must be in place. And finally, both sides must be unable to defend an incoming attack.

Still, one could argue that the game theorists were on the right track. By making it clear that retaliation was more likely than not, both nations managed to discourage each other from ever launching a single missile. Then again, it was never clear that the maximum payoff for either side was to destroy its enemy while avoiding its own destruction. Indeed, maybe the games being played weren’t just between nations but rather, within them as well.

“A wise cynic might suggest that the operations researchers on both sides were playing a cunning strategy in a game over funding, one that involved them cooperating with one another in order to convince their politicians to allocate more resources to weapons.” ~ Don Ross

What was Greek Fire?

In 672 AD, Theophanes the Confessor reported that “Kallinikos, an artificer from Heliopolis…had devised a sea fire which ignited the Arab ships and burned them with all hands. Thus it was that the Romans returned with victory and discovered the sea fire.” What was this strange Greek fire?

What was Greek Fire?

Greek fire was an ancient incendiary weapon of mass destruction. In the hands of the Byzantine Empire, it was a terrifying force. Greek fire differed from other similar weapons in history in four curious ways. First, it burned continuously, even underwater. Second, it consisted of a liquid substance. Third, it was propelled through the air via pressurized siphons (see picture above). And fourth, when used in battle, it was accompanied by “thunder” and “smoke.”

The exact formula for this strange weapon was a closely guarded secret and has since been lost to time. One 11th century scholar, George Kedrenos, speculated that the family of Kallinikos kept the formula a secret for centuries, even up until his time. Regardless, modern researchers speculate that possible ingredients might’ve included sulphur, naphtha, petroleum, quicklime, or phosphorous. In his article, Greek Fire: The Best Kept Secret of the Ancient World, 1LT Richard Groller makes an interesting case for petroleum.

“It is very probable then, that the basis of the earliest Greek fire was liquid rectified petroleum or volatile petrol. Petrol itself would not be very effective in flame-projectors since the projected jet dissipates too rapidly. But thickened almost to a jelly by dissolving in it resinous substances and/or sulphur the particular admixture, coupled with the mechanical means of projecting it, together constituted a great achievement of chemical engineering.” ~ 1LT Richard Groller

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Like all weapons, Greek fire had its limitations. It exhibited limited range and enemy vessels soon learned to keep their distance from it. Also, heavy winds and other conditions limited its effectiveness while causing serious safety problems for its users. Still, for a short period of time, Greek fire was the most terrifying and devastating weapon known to man.

Why did America Really Bomb Hiroshima?

On August 6, 1945, the United States of America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, it dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki. These bombs remain the only two nuclear devices ever deployed during war and, according to many experts, decisive reasons for Japans’ subsequent surrender on August 15. But a substantial amount of experts think the Hiroshima atomic bomb and the Nagasaki atomic bomb were unnecessary and worse, were dropped for political purposes. So, who’s right?

The Chaos Book Club

Today is Day 17 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. Thanks to those of you who’ve bought the novel already. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

The Hiroshima Atomic Bomb: The Official Story

As I mentioned above, the official story of the Hiroshima atomic bomb is that it caused Japan to surrender and thus, ended World War II. This saved hundreds of thousands of American lives since soldiers were spared from having to conduct Operation Downfall, or the planned invasion of Japan.

Problems with the Official Story

But here’s the problem with that scenario. Prior to the Hiroshima atomic bomb, President Harry Truman was aware of the fact that Japan was willing to surrender as long as Emperor Hirohito was allowed to keep his position and was not forced to stand trial for war crimes. Hirohito’s stated purpose was that he wanted to maintain discipline and order in Japan after the war was over. President Truman insisted on an unconditional surrender however, and went ahead with the bombings. But after Japan surrendered, Hirohito was allowed to keep his throne and escape prosecution. This strange sequence of events begs the question…what purpose did the Hiroshima atomic bomb serve?

Incidentally, this isn’t a new question. In fact, people started asking it almost immediately. And it wasn’t just ordinary people…it was prominent American leaders. Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Fleet Admiral William Leahy, Brigadier General Carter Clarke, and Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz all found reason to disagree with the bombings. In a letter to President Truman, Fleet Admiral Leahy went so far as to say:

“The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons… The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.” ~ Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman

And this wasn’t just post-war regrets either. In his book, The Decision to Use the Bomb, Gar Alperovitz shows that practically every single American civilian and military advisor suggested that Truman accept Japan’s terms. But Truman chose to listen to the lone dissident, James Byrnes, instead. So, what was Byrnes up to? Clues can be found in discussions surrounding the 1945 Potsdam Conference.

“It was Byrnes who encouraged Truman to postpone the Potsdam Conference and his meeting with Stalin until they could know, at the conference, if the atomic bomb was successfully tested. While at the Potsdam Conference the experiments proved successful and Truman advised Stalin that a new massively destructive weapon was now available to America, which Byrnes hoped would make Stalin back off from any excessive demands or activity in the post-war period.” ~ John Denson, The Hiroshima Lie

The Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Myth & Damage Control?

So, there’s a case to be made that the Hiroshima atomic bomb was deployed to scare Russia rather than to defeat Japan. But if this is true, then why is the general public largely unaware of this today?

According to Alperovitz, the “Hiroshima myth” started shortly after Japan’s surrender. Admiral Halsey, Commander of the Third Fleet, called the bombs “a mistake.” Albert Einstein took to The New York Times to tell people that “a great majority of scientists were opposed to the sudden deployment of the atom bomb.” Other military leaders started to come forward, expressing their misgivings over the decision.

James Conant, Chairman of the National Defense Research Committee, decided that it was important to convince the American public that the atomic bombs were necessary. He approached Secretary of War Henry Stimson, who wrote a long article on the subject for Harper’s magazine. This became the basis for the story that is widely-accepted today. Truman would later uphold this point of view, adding that his decision saved half a million lives.

“The most influential text is Truman’s 1955 Memoirs, which states that the atomic bomb probably saved half a million US lives— anticipated casualties in an Allied invasion of Japan planned for November. Stimson subsequently talked of saving one million US casualties, and Churchill of saving one million American and half that number of British lives.” ~ Kyoko Iriye Selden, The Atomic Bomb: Voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The Hiroshima Atomic Bomb…the first shot of the Cold War?

World War II is often called “The Last Good War.” Unfortunately, at least in this case, the facts point to a different conclusion. The atomic bombs killed 90,000-166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000-80,000 in Nagasaki. Many of these people were women and children. Worse, there is reason to believe that the bombs were deployed to scare the USSR rather than for military purposes. If true, then the atomic bombs weren’t just the last shots of World War II…they were the first shots of the Cold War.

By the way, my purpose here isn’t to find fault with America. Indeed, too often citizens conflate the idea of “America the government” with “America the country.” It’s quite possible to find fault with one and not the other. In this case, I’m questioning the choice of President Harry Truman and the motives of James Byrnes.

The Hiroshima Atomic Bomb & Chaos

In my mind, the most interesting fictional villains are the ones that have a point. They may pursue evil goals and commit horrible atrocities along the way. But if you strip away everything, I think the best villains are the ones that have a legitimate gripe. Since much of the backstory for my novel Chaos takes place during World War II, it seemed only natural that the villain would draw his rage from that conflict as well. But since adventure novels are full of ex-Nazis, I wanted to go in a different direction. Thus, I created Jack Chase. His motive (SPOILER ALERT!), which you can probably guess from this post, is atomic in nature…

Chase grabbed both side of his silk shirt and yanked. It burst open, revealing a disgusting mass of scars, welts, and discoloration.

Bile rose in my throat. “What the hell happened to you?”

“August 6, 1945.” His voice took on a harsh, bitter edge. “The Enola Gay dropped Little Boy on Hiroshima. Eighty thousand civilians died instantly. Thousands more perished afterward, due to injuries and radiation fallout.”

“You were there? But that’s impossible. You told me your father was an American soldier who died while you were an infant. You said you wanted justice for him.”

“My father was an American soldier. He was also a prisoner of war. The Japanese kept him in Hiroshima, along with at least eleven others, as a deterrent to prevent American bombings. Somehow, a Geisha girl found her way into his cell. She gave birth to me. But the politicians didn’t care about any of that. The deterrent, if you will, wasn’t large enough.” ~ David Meyer, Chaos

Chaos by David MeyerBy the way, Chase’s past is based on fact. According to Barton Bernstein’s, Unraveling a Mystery: American POWs Killed at Hiroshima, at least 11 and possibly as many as 23 American POWs died in the Hiroshima blast. It’s a sad and often forgotten footnote to that awe-inspiring disaster.

Later, we see the full extent of Jack Chase’s fury as he races to unleash his sinister plan…a plan that promises to rewrite the world as we know it. If you want to know what happens, pick up a copy of Chaos at one of the links above.

That’s all for today. Tomorrow, we’re going further back in time, specifically to Manhattan circa 1869. Stop by tomorrow to explore one of New York City’s greatest secrets…I hope to see you then!

 

Chaos Book Club

Did Protestors Spit on Vietnam Veterans?

It’s a well-known story. After serving in the Vietnam War, a veteran returned home to America only to find himself viciously attacked at the airport by anti-war protestors. He was called “Baby killer” among other names. And then someone invariably stepped forward and spat directly into his face. There’s just one problem with that story. According to sociologist Jerry Lembcke, it’s nothing more than a myth…a modern stab in the back legend.

Chaos!

Before we get started here, I wanted you to know that I released my first novel, Chaos, on Monday. It’s an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy of Chaos at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

Did Protestors Spit on Vietnam Veterans?

Back in 1998, Lembcke wrote The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam. In it, he made the rather extraordinary claim that the shabby treatment of Vietnam veterans as they deboarded their planes was nothing more than a “stab in the back legend,” concocted to discredit the anti-war movement. He followed that up in 2005 with a widely-read opinion piece in the Boston Globe.

To make a long story short, Lembcke researched news reports from the late 1960s and early 1970s. He failed to find a single story about protestors spitting on veterans. However, he did find a substantial increase in claims during the 1980s. He examined these claims and found them largely lacking in credibility for two reasons.

  1. Lack of Means: “GIs landed at military airbases, not civilian airports, and protesters could not have gotten onto the bases and anywhere near deplaning troops.”
  2. Lack of Proof: “A 1971 Harris poll conducted for the Veterans Administration found over 90 percent of Vietnam veterans reporting a friendly homecoming. Far from spitting on veterans, the antiwar movement welcomed them into its ranks and thousands of veterans joined the opposition to the war.”

Lembcke speculates that the reason for the persisting image is that pro-war Hawks wished to blame the loss of the Vietnam War on the anti-war protestors. This would make it a variation of the “Stab in the Back legend.”

A Modern Stab in the Back Legend?

But Lembcke takes it one step further. He observed that many of the stories cast girls in the role of spitters. As such, he states his opinion that the stories were mythical projections in the Freudian sense. In other words, soldiers created these stab in the back stories as manifestations of fears that they had lost their masculinity by fighting in a losing effort.

Interestingly enough, there is some historical precedent that could back up this stab in the back theory. Apparently, many German soldiers after World War I and French soldiers after the defeat at Dien Bien Phu shared stories of being rejected by women and being ashamed of their military service.

Rebuttal to the Stab in the Back Legend Theory?

His book caused a firestorm in 2007 when Jack Shafer published an article for Slate Magazine entitled, “Newsweek Throws the Spitter.” Several conservative-oriented blogs noticed the story and began to attack Lembcke’s research on this modern Stab in the Back legend. Most notably, Jim Lindgren wrote several pieces for The Volokh Conspiracy, one of which contained numerous newspaper articles from the 1960s and 1970s that discussed veterans who’d been spat upon.

The rising debate brought to prominence a book written by Bob Greene in 1989 entitled Homecoming: When the Soldiers Returned from Vietnam. Greene, who’d worked at the Chicago Tribune, compiled the book from letters he’d solicited from veterans. His research included 63 stories that involved a veteran being spat upon and 69 stories from veterans who believed that no veteran had ever been spat upon. Greene ended up questioning many of the accounts of spitting but ultimately decided “there were simply too many letters, going into too fine detail, to deny the fact.”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, what are we to make of all this information? First, it’s impossible to prove the negative. Thus, we can never definitively proof that no Vietnam veteran was ever spat upon. Second, there is no physical evidence of a spitting attack. No pictures, no video, nothing. It’s all eyewitness accounts.

It seems probable that it must’ve happened somewhere, sometime. I find it hard to imagine that no soldier was ever spat upon by an anti-war protestor. The real question is whether it occurred with any degree of frequency. Did it happen all the time? Or was it just isolated examples?

Personally, I would guess it happened infrequently. True, Lindgren has unearthed stories of spitting from the period and thus, seemingly upended part of Lembcke’s thesis. But these are a drop in the bucket compared to the over 500,000 American soldiers that fought in some capacity during that war.

The issue of spitting during the Vietnam War may seem small, even irrelevant today. However, it’s important to remember the role that the spitting imagery has played in America’s current military conflicts. In many ways, this stab in the back legend has led to the current “Support the Troops” slogan, which is based on the idea that we don’t what to treat today’s soldiers like we treated the Vietnam Veterans. And some would argue that “Support the Troops” is really nothing more than a slogan used by pro-war Hawks to intimidate anti-war Doves and maintain support for wars that would otherwise be increasingly unpopular.

“With no more context than that, one of my students said she was undecided about the war, but as long as the troops were fighting it was really important to ‘support the troops and we have to support the mission…’ Now is not the time to be critical of the war, it was, in her mind…all mixed together.” ~ Jerry Lembcke, How the Myth of Spat on Vets Holds Back the Anti-War Movement

How did the Incas Build their Empire?

The Inca Empire was the mightiest of its kind in the history of Pre-Columbian America. But how did it get so large? Was it through peaceful trade and political alliances? Or did the Incas expand via bloody conquest?

The Rise of the Inca Empire?

The Inca Empire originated in the Andes Mountains during the early 13th century. Beginning in 1438, it spread across the western half of South America, eventually covering a vast territory which encompassed over 2,000 miles and some 6 million people.

While military force was undoubtedly a factor in this expansion, recent scholarship suggests it wasn’t as prevalent as you might think. In a recent paper published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, anthropologists Valerie Andrushko and Elva Torres state their opinion that the Incas depended on a variety of nonviolent tactics to spread their influence across the region. As reported by Bruce Bower at Science News, they based this on skeletal remains dating to 600-1532 AD, which were recovered from areas close to the heart of the former Incan Empire. More specifically, only a small percentage of 454 adult skeletons show the sort of head trauma one might expect from battle wounds.

“It appears that the Inca relied less on warfare to conquer other groups and more on political alliances, bloodless takeovers and ideological control tactics.” ~ Professor Valerie Andrushko, Southern Connecticut State University

That’s not to say that the threat of violence wasn’t a factor. According to ancient Spanish accounts, the Incas established a protection racket of sorts. They offered military protection to other groups in exchange for complete submission. Woe to any group that refused the offer. Such defiance was met by swift retribution from the nearby Inca army.

How Violent was the Inca Empire?

For many years, scholars considered the Incas to be “great civilizers responsible for ending several centuries of regional warfare by conquering all groups engaged in hostilities.” These original perceptions were shaped by members of the Inca Empire itself, which relayed the history of its people to the Spanish conquerors.

Since that time, scholars have unearthed circumstantial evidence calling that theory into question. And Valerie’s and Elva’s research would seem to add credence to the idea that the Incas relied less on war to expand their empire than is commonly believed. But that doesn’t mean the Incas eschewed warfare. In fact, the rise of the Inca Empire corresponded with an increased level of warfare.

“Before the Inca came to power, from 600 to 1000, only one of 36 individuals in the sample suffered war-related head injuries. As the Inca empire grew from 1000 to 1400, five of 199 individuals, or 2.5 percent, living near Cuzco incurred likely battle wounds. During the Inca heyday, from 1400 to 1532, war injuries affected 17 of 219 individuals — 7.8 percent of the total.” ~ Bruce Bower, Science News

It appears that Valerie and Elva consider the rise in war-like fatalities after 1400 to be relatively small, especially for a rapidly expanding empire. They might be right and there is certainly some evidence that the Incas preferred to use the threat of violence rather than violence itself to get what they wanted. Unfortunately, due to the extremely small sample size as well as its geographic isolation, it’s difficult to make a firm statement with much certainty. The Incas conquered a large area and skeletal data from other regions needs to be gathered and evaluated – especially those places that were supposedly conquered by force.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Even if future skeletal data bears out Valerie’s and Elva’s conclusions, it doesn’t tell us much about the Incas themselves. The Inca Empire appeared to depend heavily on the threat of war and appeared ready and willing to back it up if their demands weren’t met. Thus, the only thing the skeletal data can truly tell us is how defiant the other groups remained in the face of Inca Empire aggression…and how far they were willing to go to maintain their sovereignty.