Time Twisting Tales – WIF Perspective

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Historical Facts

That Will Alter

Your Perception

of Time

The United States remains a young country in relation to the rest of the world, its oldest shrines and historical places but recent stepping stones in the march of time. St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest continuously occupied city on the North American continent, was founded by the Spanish in 1565. That same year a Swiss physician documented an improvement over the writing sticks used since the times of the Roman Empire. Rather than using a lead stick to leave marks on papyrus, Conrad Gesner described the use of graphite encased in wood, making the humble pencil at least as old, and most likely older, than the European settlement of what became the United States. Such overlaps of history abound and many are eye-opening, to say the least.

Most people today would assume that the Japanese company Nintendo is a relatively new business entity, one of the many which were born of the video-gaming age which developed at the end of the twentieth century. In truth, Nintendo was created in Japan in 1889 as a playing card company, the year after the murders attributed to the London serial killer known as Jack the RipperNintendo is thus older than the Panama Canal, through which so many of its consoles and games are shipped to the United States and Europe. The company was born the same year as the Wall Street Journal, which today reports on its business operations, and is older by months than the statehood of both Dakotas, Montana, and Washington. It is also older, by several weeks, than the first coin-operated musical playback machine, known colloquially today as the juke box. Here are some examples of the overlap of historical events which may surprise you.

10. Oxford University in England was created before the emergence of the Aztec Empire in modern Mexico

The Aztec civilization in Mesoamerica, so often referred to as ancient, was about three centuries old when it was encountered by the Spanish explorers and conquistadores. In the early 16th century the Spanish made short work of the thriving civilization, driven by the twin desires of obtaining their gold and silver riches and by converting the natives to Christianity and servitude. By the 1530s the Aztec Empire was all but destroyed, its cities and temples converted by conquest to ruins, and the Spanish Empire was emerging as the world’s most powerful. Growing Spanish wealth and power was viewed with alarm by its European rivals, which rapidly began to find the means to rival the Spanish position in the New World. England, an island nation, became a both military and religious enemy of Catholic Spain.

English scholars were among the world’s leaders of knowledge, many of them having completed their education at Oxford, which had been conducting classes of what was then considered to be higher learning for nearly five centuries by the time Cortes and his followers arrived in Mexico. Oxford first conducted classes in 1096, only thirty years following the Battle of Hastings, one of the seminal events of the history of Britain. Born as a rival, Cambridge University existed before the Spanish conquest of Mexico as well, yet neither English school is as old as Italy’s University of Bologna. By comparison, the oldest university in the United States, Harvard, was started in 1636, well over five centuries after the first classes were conducted at Oxford, but less than a century and a half after the conquest of the Aztec Empire in Mexico.

9. Tiffany & Company is older than the nation of Italy

Italy is, in most American minds, indelibly linked with the ancient world through the ruins of the Roman Empire. Italy is viewed as a romantic destination, for centuries a land of beauty and history thrust like a discarded boot into the blue Mediterranean. While the image is justified, most Americans are astonished to learn that Italy, as a nation, is younger than the United States. In fact, Italy is younger than one of America’s own symbols of luxury and romance, the iconic jeweler Tiffany & Company, long symbolic of style, taste, and little blue boxes famous for their ability to grab the attention of one’s beloved. Less well known is that Tiffany’s was founded not in New York but in Connecticut, and not as a jeweler, but rather as a stationer in 1837. The company moved to New York the following year, and did not become firmly associated with high end jewelry for another fifteen years.

Italy, on the other hand, was a collection of rival principalities, duchies, patron states, Papal States, and other entities, as it had been since before the Napoleonic Wars and the subsequent Congress of Vienna at the time Tiffany’s first opened its doors. Italian history is far too complicated to be described in one or two paragraphs, but the basis of today’s Italian Republic did not emerge until decades (in 1861) after the New York jeweler established its reputation as the world’s final word in the profession. As of 2019, Tiffany’s operates stores in Venice, Florence, Verona, Milan, Bologna, and Rome, all of which were cities in which Italian was spoken, but which were under separate governments, at the time the company was born in the United States.

8. The Titanic sank the same month that Boston’s Fenway Park opened for business

On April 20, 1912, Boston’s mayor, John F. Fitzgerald (known as Honey Fitz around town) arrived at the brand-spanking new Fenway Park to throw out the first pitch inaugurating the park and the 1912 baseball season. Honey Fitz undoubtedly joined in the conversation which dominated the day, not the prospects for the Red Sox’s success that year, but the shocking loss of another brand new feat of construction just days before when RMS Titanic sank. The Boston club prevailed that day over the team from New York known as the Highlanders, though the newspapers paid little heed, concentrating instead on the still evolving lists of the dead and missing from the tragedy at sea.

The Titanic was soon relegated to history. Overshadowed by losses of other liners during the First World War, it was a resurgence of interest after Dr. Robert Ballard’s expedition found the wreck in 1985 that restored its myth in the public imagination. Fenway Park soon developed a mythology of its own, the home of a baseball team forever doomed by the Curse of Babe Ruth until it managed to exorcise its demons in 2004. And Honey Fitz’s name returned to fame decades later, when it was used for the presidential yacht favored by his grandson, President of the United States John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Kennedy was an experienced sailor and the former commander of a US Naval PT boat – PT 109 – lost to the Japanese during World War II. In 2002, Dr. Ballard found the wreckage of that lost vessel as well.

7. The guillotine was still in use when Jimmy Carter was President of the United States

The beheading machine known as the guillotine, long the official means of state executions in France, is often erroneously described as being the invention of Dr. Joseph Guillotin, who was himself sent to meet his maker via its descending blade. Neither is true. Guillotin neither invented the machine nor died on it. As a physician who opposed capital punishment, he nonetheless reluctantly endorsed its use in executions as being the most humane means available at the time, leading to his name being attached to the machine. Its efficiency is undoubted, as demonstrated during the French Revolution when thousands died upon it, often hundreds in a single day. Have the victim lie down, drop the blade, dispose of the headless corpse by rolling it to the side. Over the period of its use for executions, debate over whether the severed head retained consciousness for a time raged, though it was never fully resolved.

The use of the guillotine may be forever linked to the French Revolution, but it completed its purpose far more recently. The death penalty in France was abolished in 1981. In 1977 the machine saw its final use, beheading child killer Hamida Djandoubi in Marseille on September 10. At the time, Han Solo and his compatriots were dispatching Stormtroopers using blasters on movie screens around the world. There is only one documented instance of a guillotine being used in North America, on the island of Sainte Pierre in 1889, though as recently as 1996 it was proposed to augment the electric chair as the means of state sponsored executions in the American state of Georgia. The choice of which device to use was to be left to the condemned, but the matter was never taken up for a vote.

6. The bicycle evolved years after the steam engine revolutionized locomotion

The bicycle is seemingly, at least at its most basic, a simple design for self-propelled travel. In fact, in its earliest forms it was an elongated board with wheels at each end, astride of which the user moved by walking, with each thrust of alternating legs sending person and carriage forward. Braking was by using the feet, sort of like the Flintstones stopping their car. It was decades before the bicycle propelled by pedals and chain evolved. The actual date and inventor is disputed, but the system resembling the modern safety bicycle, with pedals and chain for driving the rear wheel, first appeared with regularity around 1860 in France. Safety brakes and pneumatic tires followed. By the 1890s, bicycling was considered a new sport among the genteel in Europe and America.

Locomotion driven by a steam engine, mechanically far more complex than bicycle propulsion, predated the latter by many years. The use of steam to move road vehicles was under development as early as 1800, and its use on marine vehicles was relatively common by the 1820s. The steam locomotive wasn’t far behind in development and deployment. Steam locomotion developed long before the use of bicycles as transportation was common. In truth, the far more efficient steam turbine was well into development before the safety brake made bicycling relatively safe. Despite the late start, bicycles are, by far, the most common means of conveyance available in the world today, with well over 1 billion having been manufactured, and with more added to the total daily in virtually all of the world’s nations.

5. The first man to achieve powered flight lived to see it accomplished at speeds faster than sound

In December, 1903, Orville Wright, a bicycle mechanic by trade, became the first human being to fly in a powered, heavier than air craft. The flight itself was over a distance of 120 feet, and Orville achieved a speed of about 35 miles per hour (though due to prevailing headwinds, his speed over the ground was only about 7 miles per hour). Over several more flights during the course of the day, Orville and his brother Wilbur finally achieved a distance of over 800 feet, though their speed remained relatively modest. Their experiments that day ended when the aircraft was wrecked by contrary and unpredictable winds with which they had contended all day.

Just less than 44 years later Orville Wright was understandably amazed at the progress made by aviation, which included the airplane being the supreme weapon of war, a miracle of mass transit, a device which was making the world smaller in many ways. In October, 1947, American Chuck Yeager used an airplane which was as much a missile as it was the former and became the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound. Orville had last flown as a pilot in 1918, but his entire life was active in aviation, and he was awestruck that the sound “barrier” had been broken in his lifetime. As a comparison, America first landed on the moon during the summer of 1969. Despite the predictions offered at the time regarding humanity’s future in space, since the Apollo missions no one has ventured further from the earth, and there is little promise one will in the foreseeable future.

4. The last American pensioner from the Civil War died in the 21st century

The American Civil War seems to have occurred in a distant world barely recognizable today, long before cities were linked by highways and when communications were slow and unreliable. In truth, many of the features of modern life were present, albeit in somewhat primitive forms. The telegraph, railroads, scheduled shipping connections, and other links to the present day could be found without much search. Still, the war took place more than a century and a half ago, and any links to it by the end of the 20th century were through books, or museums, or films, or preserved battlefields. Faded sepia toned photographs were thought to be as close as anyone could come to America’s greatest crisis by the time George W. Bush became President of the United States.

It is an indication of how young the United States as a nation is that the last pensioner from the American Civil War died during President Bush’s tenure in the Oval Office. It was 1956 when the last surviving veteran of the Civil War died, but the US government (and several states) continued to pay pensions to the widows of Civil War veterans, including those who married veterans years after the war ended. In the latter half of the 19th century, many young women married widowers whose wives had died, their being a shortage of marriageable young men in America in the aftermath of the war. In 2008, the last eligible widow of a Civil War veteran died. Pensions payable to surviving children and their spouses continued until at least 2017, meaning the United States was continuing to bear costs related to the Civil War over 150 years after Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

3. The Indianapolis 500 is older than the 50 star American flag (and the 48 star flag, too)

The annual motor racing event held over the Memorial Day Weekend known as the Indianapolis 500 was first run in 1911, over a racing surface paved with bricks. Ironically, most of the power used for moving and placing the bricks which were the original racing surface came from mules, with more than 300 employed to complete the project. Numerous events took place at the track in the years before the inaugural 500 mile event, including balloon races, motorcycle races, and automobile races of shorter duration. When the first 500 mile race was run in 1911, fans and participants saluted the American flag before the competition was run. Only 46 stars graced the blue field at the time.

Neither New Mexico nor Arizona were then states in the Union. They would be added the following year, leading to the creation of the 48 star flag, which flew over US territory throughout the Second World War. Later that summer of 1912 future actress, comedienne, and producer Lucille Ball was born. Another birthday that year was of John S. McCain Jr, who would rise to the rank of Admiral in the United States Navy. The son of another admiral, who commanded American aviation in the Pacific during the Second World War, he held major commands in the submarine actions against the Japanese which were so crucial in the victory against Japan. He was the father of yet another naval officer, John S. McCain III, a senator and candidate for President of the United States, who hailed from Arizona.

2. Woolly mammoths were still roaming the earth when the pyramids were built at Giza

The ruins at Giza were already ancient when they were discovered – or rather re-discovered – by ancient Roman invaders. Historians debate the impact of the pyramids on those Romans who actually saw them, as well as that on Roman society as a whole, but there is no dispute that the overall influence was substantial. The Romans had no way of dating the structures, nor of understanding their historical or archaeological influence. Nor could they grasp their religious significance. For many Romans, the ancient Egyptians became a culture which was at once legendary, mythological, and of necessity mysterious. Similar sensations were later encountered by those who discovered evidence (or in some cases the continuing existence) of ancient cultures in North America, Mesoamerica, and in the Polynesian Islands of the South Pacific.

One thing the Romans could not possibly have known was that at the time the oldest of the pyramids was built, woolly mammoths still roamed some places on earth. The great mammals, which were the antecedents of the Asian elephants, coexisted with humans for several thousand years, the last fading from earth approximately four millennia ago, at Wrangel Island, in the Arctic. The date of their final demise is several centuries after the construction of the pyramids, and though the Egyptians did not encounter them as they went about their work, the fact that they co-existed on the planet is a matter of archaeological record. Whether efforts to use DNA to reanimate, as it were, the specie will be successful is debatable, but efforts are ongoing to do just that.

1. Americans were on the moon before women in Switzerland were allowed to vote

Americans first landed on the moon in July 1969, completing a challenge thrust upon the nation by President John Kennedy in 1961 in response to Soviet progress in space. The first Americans on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, walked about their lunar base. So did Pete Conrad and Alan Bean, who followed on Apollo 12. Not until Apollo 15, in the summer of 1971, did the American astronauts do a singularly American thing. They brought a car with them, and cruised about the lunar surface in what NASA named the Lunar Roving Vehicle. Thus astronauts from the United States not only trod upon the lunar surface, they left behind tire tracks, using a vehicle which the astronauts and the public dubbed “moon buggies.”

Just a few short months before Americans drove on the moon, (during which excursions the astronauts routinely ignored speed limits imposed upon them by the sticks in the mud at NASA back on earth) Switzerland, land of chocolate and secret bank accounts, finally gave women the right to vote. An election held in October of that year (on Halloween) was the first time Swiss women were allowed to cast a ballot in federal elections. After the Americans left behind the lunar rovers used on the last three Apollo missions, several of the prototypes were given to museums for public display. After the Swiss election of October 1971, women continued to expand their voting rights and their political power in Switzerland. Americans have yet to return to the moon since Apollo 17 in late 1972. Swiss women have returned to the polls every year since 1971.


Time Twisting Tales –

WIF Perspective

4th of July in History

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 Events That

Occurred On

The 4th Of July

For Americans, the 4th of July is one of the most significant dates in history. Yet, what many may not know is that a host of other historically significant events also occurred on this particular day. Here are ten of the most important for world history, arranged chronologically.

10. The Battle of Mantinea (362 BC)

Battle-of-Mantinea

In a battle of Greek city-states, the Thebans, led by Epaminondas, actually managed to defeat the famed Spartans. Epaminondas won the battle while fighting in the front line, resulting in him sustaining a fatal wound. To make matters worse for the “victors,” the two Theban leaders whom he intended to succeed him perished. A dying Epaminondas thus instructed the Thebans to make peace, despite having won the battle. As a consequence, Theban hopes for hegemony faded, while the Spartans were unable to replace their losses. Because both sides had lost their most capable leaders at Mantinea and its aftermath, the battle paved the way for the Macedonian rise as the leading force in Greece. An ascendant Macedon went on to unite most of Greece, in a campaign under Alexander the Great that conquered most of the Persian Empire, including Egypt.

9. A Major Turning Point In The Crusades (1187)

Saladin

During the Crusades at the Battle of Hattin, Saladin defeated and captured Guy of Lusignan, King of Jerusalem. French knight Raynald of Châtillon died in the aftermath, personally beheaded by Saladin. The Muslim victory set the stage for their march on Jerusalem, which they besieged successfully a few months later in the Autumn of 1187. These two victories destroyed the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, and thereby directly resulted in the coming Third Crusade, a major event in world history in which the Holy Roman Emperor joined with the kings of England and France to attempt to retake Jerusalem. They failed and as such, Saladin’s destruction of the Crusader army at Hattin, capture of Jerusalem’s king, and conquest of Jerusalem itself had long-lasting consequences for Middle Eastern history. If somehow Guy would have triumphed instead and prevented Saladin from moving on Jerusalem, the history of the Crusades and, therefore, of Christian and Muslim relations could have been quite different.

8. THE 4th of July (1776)

declaration-of-independence

During the American Revolution, The United States Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. Yet, American independence was not immediately recognized by the British. So, in 1778, American forces under George Clark captured Kaskaskia during the Illinois campaign, one of many victories that would eventually encourage the British to acknowledge America’s independence. The result meant that the United States Declaration of Independence would go down as one of the most important documents of American times. At least two dozen countries around the world drew upon this document when drafting their own declarations of independence, in the nineteenth through twentieth centuries. Moreover, that it inspired Americans to successful liberate themselves from British rule was not only a hallmark in notions of human rights, but also in ideas of democracy. Consider the number of absolutist governments in the centuries before 1776 versus the increasing number of constitutional governments in the years afterwards. America’s success inspired many other countries’ elder statesmen, whose words regarding freedom bear obvious resemblance to that established by Adams, Jefferson, and Monroe.

7. The Deaths of America’s Founders (1826 and 1831)

july-4-dead-presidents

Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, died the same day in 1826 as John Adams, second president of the United States, on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Just a few years later, fellow founding father, and fifth President of the United States, James Monroe passed away on July 4th, 1831. That three of the first five American presidents died on the 4th of July is not only obviously symbolic, it also reflects something of the end of an era for the first leaders of one of history’s most powerful countries. Their passing was not just the deaths of well-known American politicians, but giants of Western civilization whose legacy still appears visually in numerous monuments, films, and even on currency


6. Alice First Entered Wonderland (1862)

alice-in-wonderland

On July 4th, 1862, Lewis Carroll told Alice Liddell a story that would grow into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequels. Wonderland was subsequently published on July 4th, 1865. The number of adaptations of the book and its sequel, in films, television, and video games is enormous. Allusions to Carroll’s stories in popular culture are incredibly pervasive, especially throughout the Anglophone world, but also in non-English speaking cultures as well. Stories about Alice rival the Oz books and the writings of Jules Verne as far as being regularly adapted in various media over the years is concerned.

5. The Turning Points Of the American Civil War Concluded (1863)

ulysses-s-grant

During the American Civil War, Vicksburg, Mississippi was surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant after 47 days of siege, while 150 miles up the Mississippi River, a Confederate Army was repulsed at the Battle of Helena in Arkansas. On the same day, The Army of Northern Virginia withdrew from the battlefield after its loss at the Battle of Gettysburg, signaling an end to the Southern invasion of the North. These three defeats represented the turning point of the American Civil War. They prevented any remaining chance that a European power might intervene militarily on the South’s behalf. They also demonstrated decisively that the South could not successfully invade the North. For the remainder of the war, the South was now entirely on the defensive and, although she held out for two more years, they were two disastrous years that resulted in the deaths of numerous Southerners.

4. The New Colossus Enlightened the World (1884)

Statue-of-Liberty-1800s

The people of France offered the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World to the people of the United States on July 4th, 1884. The two allies participated in this symbolic act nearly a hundred years after both of their revolutions began in (1776 for America, and 1789  for France.) The erection of the sculpture symbolized the triumph of Enlightenment ideas of liberty, ideas that continue to enrapture large chunks of humanity. Moreover, the magnificence and endurance of the sculpture has led many to refer to it as a “wonder of the modern world,” and “The New Colossus.”

3. The End Of A Dynasty (1918)

tsar-nicholas-II

When Bolsheviks killed future Orthodox saints Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family, they effectively ended the Romanov dynasty that ruled the Russian Empires, one of the largest countries in human history after centuries of rule. The event also foreshadowed the end of other European dynasties amidst the cataclysmic First World War. Following the Russian examples, the Habsburgs of Austria, the Hohenzollerns of Germany, and the Ottomans of Turkey were also toppled by their people in rapid succession.

2. Modern Warfare Was At Its Most Massive Scale (1943)

battle-of-kursk

During World War II, the Battle of Kursk (the largest full-scale battle in history and the world’s largest tank battle) began at Prokhorovka Village on July 4th, 1943. The battle resulted in over a million casualties on both sides (Germans versus Soviets) and the loss of over 10,000 tanks, guns, and aircraft. This decisive Soviet victory crippled Germany’s offensive power in the East, in what was Germany’s final strategic offensive on that front, and thus the final realistic chance for them to turn the tide on the Eastern Front.

1. Filipino Independence Achieved (1946)

Philippines-Independence-Day

After 381 years of near-continuous colonial rule by various powers, the Philippines attained full independence from the United States. The independence of the Philippines coincided with a global trend in the years following World War II in which many African and Asian countries, previously colonized by Western powers, achieved their independence after centuries of Western domination.


4th of July

in History

United States Invaded! – WIF Almanac

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10 Times

the United States

Was Almost Invaded

The Red Scare of the 1950s. The Japanese invasion panic of WWII. Fears of ISIS troops running amuck in our major cities… the US has long been a country worried that someone’s gonna invade it. Aliens, Commies, North Korea, you name it. Someone, somewhere, has fantasized about America being dominated by it.

 The most ironic part of all this is how unlikely it actually is. A massive nation bordered by allies to the north and south, the US is almost comically difficult to attack. In WWII the Nazis didn’t even try. The Imperial Japanese occupied a measly handful of Alaskan islands. The last time an enemy nation directly carried out a successful invasion was when the British burned down the White House in the war of 1812, and even they were eventually repulsed.

But that hasn’t stopped other powers from dreaming of marching troops over American soil. Some of the following plans were deadly serious. Some were mere fleeting ideas. One or two even actually succeeded. Terrified at the thought of the US being invaded? The following suggest you needn’t worry.

10. The Kaiser’s Crazy Pre-WWI Invasion Plan

What do you picture when you hear the words “Kaiser”, “America”, and “war” in a sentence? We’re betting it’s 1917 and images of US troops poring onto the battlefields of France as Woodrow Wilson sits in the White House. If the Kaiser had had his way, you’d be imagining something very different: the dawn of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt as president, and Germany launching an insane invasion of the eastern seaboard.

Nearly a decade and a half before WWI, Kaiser Wilhelm II was already planning a gigantic cross-Atlantic war. At the time, the US was backing the construction of the Panama Canal, leading Berlin to worry Germany would be excluded from Pacific trade. The Kaiser had already been toying with an invasion of America since 1897. The new canal seemed the ideal pretext to order the bombardment of Manhattan.

The plan itself was audacious. As German ships shelled Manhattan, sixty troop carriers would land on the Atlantic seaboard with orders to attack. Roosevelt would be forced to sign away the Panama Canal, or watch Washington and Boston burn. Incredibly, the invasion nearly went ahead. The order was about to be given to attack when German chief of staff, Count Alfred von Schlieffen, vetoed the plans for being completely insane.

9. Canada’s Crazy Post-WWI Invasion Plan

Yep, you read that right. Canada, the country so nice even Denmark thinks it’s soft, once planned to invade the USA. And not at some sane point, like in the aftermath of the War of 1812. This plan was mooted only three years after the countries had fought side-by-side in WWI. Known as Defense Plan No. 1, it was borderline insane.

The rationale for making a plan was, incredibly, Canadian fears the US would invade first if they didn’t. Rather than sitting around waiting to be annexed, Ottawa figured they should attack first. The problem was the US army was clearly better trained, better equipped, and much bigger than the Canadian one. So Lt.-Col. James “Buster” Sutherland Brown drew up an attack plan that avoided having the Canadian army fight at all costs.

Instead, Canadian troops would launch lightning strikes on northern American cities, occupying Maine, destroying Detroit and the Twin Cities, and burning Seattle and Portland. They’d then retreat as the US army mobilized, pausing only to blow up bridges. Once safely back in Canada, they’d scream “look you guys, America is attacking!” and sit back while Britain mobilized the Empire’s troops to save them.

Not surprisingly, everyone thought this was the dumbest thing they’d ever heard. Buster’s successor ordered all copies of the crazy plan burned.

8. The Nazi Plan to Bomb New York

For about half a century, successive German regimes were fixated on bombing New York City. After the Kaiser’s wacko plan above was shelved, Adolf Hitler took up the mantle. And, boy, was he serious about it. According to Albert Speer, Hitler was obsessed by the idea of New York in flames. From 1937 onwards, at least part of the Nazi war machine was consistently looking for ways of attacking the Empire State.

Their first plan was to develop a long-range bomber that could fly to America and back from occupied France without having to refuel. Known as the “Amerika” aircraft, it would do to NYC what the Blitz did to London. While the Nazis eventually managed to develop planes that could nearly fly 10,000 kilometers on a single tank, they didn’t quite hit the 11,800 kilometers needed to make bombing NYC viable. So they switched to rockets. As V2 rockets crashed down on London, the Nazis began construction of an “Amerika rocket” that would’ve crashed into New York at supersonic speeds, killing hundreds.

The scariest part is how close some of these projects got to completion. The Amerika rocket was almost ready at the war’s end. Had the Nazi state held out just a few months longer, it seems likely that Hitler would’ve realized his dream of seeing Manhattan on fire.

7. Japan’s Plan to Annex Hawaii

The bombing of Pearl Harbor remains one of the biggest losses of American life in a single action. So imagine how much worse it could have been if Japan had followed it up with an invasion of Hawaii. Back in 1941 it was a terrifying possibility. Had one faction of the Japanese Imperial army had their way, it might even have become reality.

The idea came from Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese naval strategist who orchestrated the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Yamamoto was convinced the US was significantly stronger than Japan and that a massive, early propaganda victory would be needed to shake American morale. With an invasion of the US mainland out of the question, it stood to reason that Hawaii was the only sensible target. Yamamoto’s plan called for the Japanese to follow up Pearl Harbor with an invasion of the island, securing a quick Japanese victory.

Given the way the US public freaked when Japan occupied a few lumps of rock off the coast of Alaska, it’s fair to say Hawaii being annexed would probably have sent the county nuts. In the end, though, Yamamoto’s superiors disagreed. Pearl Harbor was bombed, but Hawaii itself spared.

6. Pancho Villa’s Successful “Mexican Invasion”

There are very few people who aren’t dead, 19th century Brits who can say they successfully invaded the US and burned an entire town. Pancho Villa is one of those people. A Mexican Revolutionary leader, he started life as America’s golden boy in the huge unrest happening south of the border. But then the government of Woodrow Wilson switched support to his rival, Venustiano Carranza, and threw Villa under the bus. Villa responded by unleashing hell on any American who crossed his path.

First, he managed to kidnap 18 Americans inside Mexico and had them all slaughtered. But his crowning achievement came on March 9, 1916. Followed by a band of 1,500 guerillas, Villa crossed the border onto US soil. His troops surrounded the small town of Columbus, New Mexico. A few hours later, the citizens were dead, and Columbus itself was in flames.

It marked the last time in US history that a town on American soil was laid siege to and destroyed by foreign attackers. The US responded by invading Mexico, supported by Carranza’s government. Although the carnage they caused was enough to dissuade Villa from ever attacking America again, they were unable to capture the rebel leader. Villa wouldn’t be assassinated until 1923.

5. Japan Partially-Occupies Alaska

Although Pancho Villa’s ‘invasion’ of New Mexico would be more dramatic, it was the Japanese occupation of Attu and Kiska that really scared the public. That’s because both are part of the island chain that makes up the far-western fringe of Alaska. And while Alaska wasn’t yet a state in 1942, it was an American territory. In the same way that we’d freak out about a hostile force occupying Puerto Rico today, Americans of the time went loopy at Attu and Kiska’s annexation.

After Pearl Harbor, it was probably the biggest psychological blow of the entire war. The public fretted the Japanese army would proceed along the Aleutian chain until they conquered Alaska proper. Only a few months before, the Battle of Los Angeles had seen antiaircraft guns pepper the LA sky when someone thought they saw a Japanese plane, and now the Imperial army was making a real move on America.

Yet nothing like what the press and public feared ever came to pass. Japan had neither the resources or the inclination to occupy the whole of Alaska. In fact, some historians think they only grabbed Attu and Kiska to distract US attention from their attack on Midway Island. Whatever the truth, the occupation only lasted 14 months before the US retook the islands.

4. The Kaiser’s Plan to Have Mexico Invade Texas

Despite his reputation as a fearsome warmonger, Kaiser Wilhelm sometimes seems more like a supervillain from a cruddy Saturday morning kids’ show. He even had a knack for coming up with the sort of easily-defeated plans Skeletor would be embarrassed by. Chief among those was the time he tried to convince Mexico to launch an unprovoked invasion on Texas.

It was January 1917, and the US was a mere four months away from joining WWI. Rather than do everything in his power to keep the Americans out, the Kaiser had foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann telegram the German ambassador to Mexico, instructing him to make Mexico an offer they could almost certainly refuse. With German financial and military backing, the Mexicans would invade America, while also trying to convince the Japanese to join in the war. In return, Mexico would be able to reclaim territory recently taken by Texas.

For a plan that relied a whole lot on Mexico taking arms against the US, it failed to recognize that there were literally no scenarios where Mexico could defeat the American military. On top of this, the British managed to intercept and decode the Zimmerman Telegram and make its contents public. Mexico wisely decided to keep out of the war. The US, meanwhile, decided to join in, achieving the exact opposite of what the Kaiser had hoped for.

3. Britain and France Almost Join the Civil War

In the early days of the Civil War, the Confederacy really believed it could get the European powers on its side. The South was the main exporter of cotton to the continent. European countries, it was believed, would all rather recognize the Confederacy than face a cotton shortage. In the end, Britain and France nearly did join in the war… but not due to any cleverness on the South’s part. Instead, they almost attacked the Union over a badly-bungled Yankee mission to arrest two Confederate diplomats.

At the time, the diplomats were traveling on the British ship Trent to drum up European support for their cause. The North seized the ship, arrested the two Confederate men, and then let the Trent continue on her way. Unfortunately, holding a neutral ship up was in violation of international law. When the British found out, they hit the roof.

London immediately began drawing up plans for war, including an attack from Canada and a bombardment of the Union ships blockading Confederate ports. At the same time, France announced it would back Britain in any conflict with America, raising the insane possibility of the US Civil War spilling over into WWI’s unnecessary prequel.

Ultimately, the Union apologized to Britain and let the arrested men free. The UK and France backed off, and the prospect of a Confederacy with powerful friends never materialized.

2. Japan Successfully Occupies Guam

A small island in the Pacific, Guam was taken from the Spanish during the Spanish-American War and has been classified as an unincorporated US territory ever since. In WWII, it was also the site of Japan’s most successful invasion of American territory. Hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Imperial Army seized the island. What followed was a thirty month horror show of rape, forced labor, murder and torture.

The occupation of Guam was the closest the Japanese got to interring American citizens en masse and it shows just how lucky we are that they never got any closer. Chamorros (Guam natives) were beheaded, worked to death, and forced into concentration camps in the heart of the jungle. They were beaten, their women raped, and their children mutilated. Then the American navy attacked to retake the territory, and the shelling killed even more Chamorros.

Eventually, on August 8 1944, US forces succeeded in liberating Guam. It marked the end of Imperial Japan’s hopes of invading and occupying America.

1. The Confederacy Nearly Takes Washington, DC

We mentioned earlier that no enemy nation has successfully invaded the American mainland since the British burned the White House. Depending on how you define a nation, the Brits might have almost had some company. In 1864, as the Civil War was drawing to a close, Confederate troops under Jubal Early nearly pulled off an impossible trick. They came within a hair’s width of successfully invading and destroying Washington, DC.

It’s impossible now to imagine how this could’ve affected our perceptions of the war. The destruction of the Federal capital at the hands of Southern rebels would’ve thrown the entire Yankee force into disarray. And it nearly happened by accident. Early just happened to march near Washington at a time when Union defenses were stretched so thin his army could break through. So he rallied his troops, and nearly pulled off the impossible.

We say ‘nearly’ because one factor stood in his way: his men were just too dang tired. After relentless days of marching in the middle of a suffocating heatwave, they simply couldn’t move fast enough. To Early’s dismay, his men weren’t up to the job. Washington was saved.


United States Invaded!

– WIF Almanac

Memorial Day Beginnings – WABAC to The Old South

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Memorial Day Beginnings

"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“We will go back to the American south and the birth of a national holiday to honor our fallen soldiers.”

The practice of decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers is an ancient custom. Soldiers’ graves were decorated in the U.S. before and during the American Civil War. A claim was made in 1906 that the first Civil War soldier’s grave ever decorated was in Warrenton, Virginia, on June 3, 1861, implying the first Memorial Day occurred there. Though not for Union soldiers, there is authentic documentation that women in Savannah, Georgia, decorated Confederate soldiers’ graves in 1862. In 1863, the cemetery dedication at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was a ceremony of commemoration at the graves of dead soldiers. Local historians in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, claim that ladies there decorated soldiers’ graves on July 4, 1864. As a result, Boalsburg promotes itself as the birthplace of Memorial Day.

by Erni Vales

Following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, there were a variety of events of commemoration. The sheer number of soldiers of both sides who died in the Civil War, more than 600,000, meant that burial and memorialization took on new cultural significance. Under the leadership of women during the war, an increasingly formal practice of decorating graves had taken shape. In 1865, the federal government began creating national military cemeteries for the Union war dead.

The first widely publicized observance of a Memorial Day-type observance after the Civil War was in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865. During the war, Union soldiers who were prisoners of war had been held at the Hampton Park Race Course in Charleston; at least 257 Union prisoners died there and were hastily buried in unmarked graves. Together with teachers and missionaries, black residents of Charleston organized a May Day ceremony in 1865, which was covered by theNew York Tribune and other national papers. The freedmen cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground, building an enclosure and an arch labeled “Martyrs of the Race Course”. Nearly 10,000 people, mostly freedmen, gathered on May 1 to commemorate the war dead. Involved were about 3,000 school children, newly enrolled in freedmen’s schools, as well as mutual aid societies, Union troops, black ministers and white northern missionaries. Most brought flowers to lay on the burial field.

David W. Blight described the day:

This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the war had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.

However, Blight stated he “has no evidence” that this event in Charleston inspired the establishment of Memorial Day across the country.

On May 26, 1966, President Johnson signed a presidential proclamation naming Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of Memorial Day. Earlier, the 89th Congress had adopted House Concurrent Resolution 587, which officially recognized that the patriotic tradition of observing Memorial Day began one hundred years prior in Waterloo, New York. Other communities claiming to be the birthplace of Memorial Day include Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, Carbondale, Illinois, Columbus, Georgia, andColumbus, Mississippi. A recent study investigating the Waterloo claim as well as dozens of other origination theories concludes that nearly all of them are apocryphal legends.

Thank You to WIKIPEDIA


Memorial Day Beginnings

Holidays-001

– WABAC to The Old South