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World Association of International Studies

Post Vietnam War
Created by John Eipper on 12/19/14 5:53 AM

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Vietnam War (Massoud Malek, USA, 12/19/14 5:53 am)

On 17 December, Timothy Brown wrote:

"I continue to be amazed by the ideologically selective moral indignation of those that accept as gospel truth everything bad said about the US, while simultaneously rejecting or simply ignoring the conduct of the other side. [Massoud] Malek's assertion, without a shred of supporting evidence, that the only reason why Sen. McCain was tortured was because we bombed North Vietnam first, is an example of this. That is, unless he could provide of with some evidence?"

No one denies that most Americans served honorably in Vietnam. Also, it is a fact that countless atrocities were committed by the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong. The Vietnam war produced many war heroes such as Captain Donald Cook, a recipient of the Medal of Honor (posthumously in 1980), who died of Malaria in a Vietnam prison. But the war also produced less-than-heroes like the former Senator Bob Kerrey, a recipient of Medal of Honor, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart; and Lieutenant William Calley, Jr.

On 25 February 1969, Kerrey ordered the massacre of at least 13 unarmed women and children at Thanh Phong, a tiny peasant hamlet in the Mekong Delta.

The Mỹ Lai Massacre was the Vietnam War mass killing of between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968. It was committed by US Army soldiers in C Company. Victims included men, women, children, and infants. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated. Twenty-six soldiers were charged with criminal offenses, but only Lieutenant William Calley Jr., a platoon leader in C Company, was convicted and later pardoned by President Richard Nixon.

In 2006, a report released by the Los Angeles Times detailed widespread atrocities committed by the US military against the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia during the 1960s and '70s. The records describe "recurrent attacks on ordinary Vietnamese families in their homes, farmers in rice paddies, teenagers out fishing." Hundreds of soldiers, in interviews with investigators and letters to commanders, described violent troops who "murdered, raped and tortured with impunity." There were one hundred forty-one instances in which US soldiers tortured civilian detainees or prisoners of war with fists, sticks, bats, water or electric shock.

The CIA's Phoenix Program was designed to identify and "neutralize," via infiltration, capture, terrorism, torture, and assassination, the infrastructure of the Viet Cong. At least 18 million gallons of Agent Orange was sprayed by the US military over more than 10 percent of Southern Vietnam.

The War Museum in Saigon documented several atrocities committed by young Americans soldiers who were forced by the US government to fight the Cold War in Vietnam.



One Awful Night in Thanh Phong:  http://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/25/magazine/25KERREY.html

JE comments:  The Vietnam war will always be a hot-button issue on WAIS.  To characterize the war as "useless and unjustified," the recent words of our esteemed Chair Cameron Sawyer, strikes me as disrespectful to the service of our beloved WAIS colleagues who are veterans (Michael Sullivan, Orlo Steele, Michael DeLong, Bob Gibbs, and Tim Brown come to mind for now).  Vietnam today is outwardly stable, peaceful, and a productive member of the community of nations.  Putting aside the existential struggle against communism, wasn't this the desired outcome of the US war effort?  The question is whether these aims would have been met without the immeasurable human suffering of a war.

I presume Massoud Malek has visited the War Museum in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City.  Perhaps other WAISers have, too.  I'd like to learn more.

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  • Vietnam War (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/20/14 7:08 AM)
    Surprisingly the Vietnam War has become a topic of WAIS discussion.

    For a long time, the Vietnam War also characterized the political situation in Italy. Most of the people referring to the memory of the RSI decided that the Communists were the immediate danger, and therefore it was imperative to side with the actions of the USA no matter what.

    With hindsight I may say this was a mistake because, it would have been better to maintain the old opposition against both the Soviet Empire and the Capitalist Empire. The decision to abandon this position was very detrimental and dispersive for the heirs of the RSI.

    Anyway, in spite of any ideological reservations, everything possible was done to sabotage any communist action against the American War in Vietnam. It was a very strange situation that any communist defeat was celebrated, but the consequent American victories were not too forcibly applauded while the South Vietnamese were deeply loved.

    In the end, the fall of Saigon in 1975 was felt more as a great treason by the US of the poor South Vietnamese and all the anticommunists rather than a military defeat. It was a very sad and troublesome day.

    By the way if the American home front (Walter Cronkite above all) had not collapsed and the US-South Vietnamese alliance had won, nobody (unfortunately?) would now remember any American atrocity, as the victors are always smart enough to erase what they do not like.  See what happened in WWII. Among the crimes was the use of Agent Orange.  At that time it was considered a way to save lives; instead it became a terrible environmental disaster with continued loss of human life.  I wish to believe that when this action was taken, the aftermath could not be foreseen.

    But we shall always remember that it extremely difficult to enter a foreign civil war, where quite often it is impossible to distinguish friend from foe.  The best thing is not to get involved.

    JE comments:  A number of comments on the Vietnam war have come in.  Next up:  Tor Guimaraes.
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    • Vietnam War; Robert McNamara (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 12/21/14 5:38 AM)
      Eugenio Battaglia wrote on 20 December: "But we shall always remember that it extremely difficult to enter a foreign civil war, where quite often it is impossible to distinguish friend from foe. The best thing is not to get involved."

      Words to live by! Only I'm not sure who are the "we" in this statement. Do "we" really remember? I am not so optimistic.

      I was thinking about Vietnam the other day while flying from the UK to the US for Christmas. Taking advantage of the excellent AV facilities and video libraries which modern jetliners have, I watched The Fog of War, a long series of interviews with an aged Robert McNamara. It was quite a fascinating hour or so. McNamara struck me as supremely glib and self-serving--the kind of person who rises inexorably in certain kinds of hierarchies. At the same time he was not lacking in a number of actually profound thoughts. I was particularly struck by his account of the exchange between him and his former enemies in North Vietnam, sometime long after the war, where they, as he told it, nearly came to blows at the first dinner meeting. Eventually he had a flash of understanding that the two sides had looked at the war in totally different ways and totally misunderstood each other. That the North Vietnamese looked at the Americans merely as the next wave of colonial occupiers, whom they would therefore gladly fight to the last man. Whereas the Americans thought they were fighting the Cold War, and couldn't care less about colonizing Vietnam. With tragic results. The idea is somewhat of a commonplace by now, but superbly told by McNamara.

      JE comments:  I've received a number of WAISer Holiday e-cards and the like, and I'll begin to post them this week.  For now, a very Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year to Cameron Sawyer.  S novym godom!
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  • Vietnam War; a Religious Awakening (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/20/14 12:43 PM)
    First, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my WAIS sisters and brothers.

    Second, after trying very hard to stay away from this sticky subject (the morality of torture and other criminal violence in war), I must join this discussion. When one is extremely powerful like the USA, it is easy to invade and manipulate weaker people to gain advantages. It is also easy to indulge in revenge after something like the massacre of 9/11; very few would be able to reject the call of "let's kill the bastards!" Similarly, violence draws you into more violence. Obviously Vietnam was a complete waste of people's lives and resources with damage lingering on for decades after the war was over; as usual only a few special interests benefited from the war. Nevertheless, once you are there, what is a soldier to do but kill the proclaimed enemy? And what is the enemy to do but try to win by any means possible against the most powerful military machine?

    Also human nature seems to call for violence escalation: i.e., the enemy using fancy technology dropped a bomb on a target and accidentally killed some of my friends and relatives. Now it becomes my duty to retaliate by any means possible and go after the enemy and related innocent people.

    Meaning no personal disrespect, Timothy Brown's 17 December statement borders on disingenuous: "I continue to be amazed by the ideologically selective moral indignation of those that accept as gospel truth everything bad said about the US, while simultaneously rejecting or simply ignoring the conduct of the other side. Massoud Malek's assertion, without a shred of supporting evidence, that the only reason why Sen. McCain was tortured was because we bombed North Vietnam first, is an example of this. That is, unless he could provide some evidence." I am very sure McCain would not have been tortured if he had not been bombing Vietnamese targets and had not been shot down. What scares me is that, much to my disgust and disappointment with myself, if I were Vietnamese I probably would have eaten McCain and any other enemy combatants alive piece by piece for interfering with my country's civil war and then burning, defoliating, raping, etc., my people.

    Last, immediately after making the above statement, I report a strong awakening lately towards Buddhism (forgive my extreme contradiction; I must be crazy). It so happens that my wife and I drive to Washington DC quite often. It is a beautiful and long drive, so we stop overnight around Roanoke, Virginia (half way). Traditionally, we went to this Italian restaurant we learned to love and also to a bookstore where we picked up some material about Buddhism and Siddhartha Gautama.

    Born a Catholic in Brazil, in my long search for God which we have already talked about before at length, because of my close friends I looked at some of the main religions (Judaism, Hinduism, Mormonism, and Islam). Now I realized my gross neglect of Buddhism and how it is quite impressive to me because of its amazing spirituality. To become Buddha, the prince Siddhartha went to the extremes of first physical self-indulgence for several years and then self-deprivation for several years to the brink of death without being able to clearly understand the why and how of human suffering. He then realized that human suffering comes from inside, and that to free oneself from it one must follow some basic process of enlightenment, which requires learning about oneself and the Universe. There are no other deities, there are no controversial commandments, there is no organized religion attempting to manipulate people. This is the closest thing to my religion where God is the Universe and we must use the scientific method to learn about the Universe (please include the arts). Siddhartha did not have a chance to think about science and the scientific method, but he explicitly recognized the importance of continuously learning about the Universe. So I really never invented anything new, but am very happy to finally have found my spiritual family. Yet, there is so much to learn.

    JE comments:  Best Holiday wishes to Tor Guimaraes.  (Do Buddhists have any holidays at this time of year?)  I hope Tor will keep us updated on his spiritual awakening.  Whichever path he chooses, I admire Tor's open mind and relentless quest for the truth--his "eat McCain" thoughts, not so much...
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    • Buddhists Have a December Holiday (David Duggan, USA 12/22/14 12:15 PM)
      When commenting Tor Guimaraes's post of 20 December, John E asked whether Buddhists have any December holidays.  As a matter of fact they do:  the day when the Buddha received enlightenment is in early December.

      JE comments: Thanks, David! And I hope it doesn't sound blasphemous to say that I receive Pax et Enlightenment every day of the year--through WAIS.

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  • Vietnam War (David Krieger, USA 12/20/14 1:19 PM)

    Massoud Malek wrote on 19 December: "No one denies that most Americans served honorably in Vietnam." Wrong. I deny that. Most Americans could not have served honorably in Vietnam, because there was nothing honorable about the US war in Vietnam. Most young Americans who were drafted and sent to Vietnam tried their best to cope with a most dishonorable war, starting with the Tonkin Gulf lies and continuing with napalm, agent orange, slaughtering peasants, destroying villages to "save" them, rigged body counts on the evening news and My Lai.

    Vietnam was an American tragedy, as much for what it did to the then youth of America as for what it did to Vietnam. I contend that it is not possible to serve honorably in a dishonest, dishonorable and deplorable war. The argument about serving honorably in Vietnam could be recast as "No one denies that most Germans served honorably in World War II." The difference is that most Germans know the extent to which they were manipulated by arrogant, evil and untrustworthy leaders. That knowledge was derived in part from the Nuremberg Tribunals held following World War II. Unfortunately for America and the world, no such trials followed the Vietnam War.

    JE comments:  My sense of loyalty to the several WAISers who fought in Vietnam forces me to disagree with David Krieger.  I have no doubt that our colleagues fought with honor--with bravery against the enemy, and mercy to the defenseless.  David asks an important question:  it it possible to fight honorably in a dishonorable war?  By such a yardstick, were there any "honorable" wars from 1900-present, with the usual exception of WWII?

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    • Don't Mess with Vets (Miles Seeley, USA 12/21/14 5:41 PM)
      Thank you, John, for your response to David Krieger (20 December).

      Anyone who denies my comrades and I did not serve honorably in Korea is in for a big argument. Moreover, anyone who says that Vietnam was not an "honorable war" and therefore nobody in it fought honorably, is full of crap, to put it mildly.

      Be careful what you say to vets.

      JE comments: I have deep respect for both Miles Seeley and David Krieger, so I'll try to stay out of this one.  If this discussion continues, we'll have to address the fundamental question:  what is honor?

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      • Vietnam Veterans (David Krieger, USA 12/22/14 7:10 PM)

        To Miles Seeley (21 December), I would say that there are many veterans who understood that they were manipulated by US leaders to fight and die in a senseless war. The Vietnam War is a serious stain on America's honor. It was at the time. It is now.

        I would also quote Bertrand Russell, "Many a man will have the courage to die gallantly, but will not have the courage to say, or even to think, that the cause for which he is asked to die is an unworthy one. Obloquy is, to most men, more painful than death; that is one reason why, in times of collective excitement, so few men venture to dissent from the prevailing opinion."

        JE comments:  On this note, I will bid good evening to WAISdom, from the historic city of Querétaro.  This was Emperor Maximilian's final stop on his Mexico adventure, and it will be ours, too.  We return home on Christmas day.  Maximilian, who was shot on the Cerro de las Campanas a few blocks from here, wasn't so lucky.

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        • Shouldn't the Military Obey the Comander-in-Chief's Orders? (Robert Gard, USA 12/23/14 4:16 PM)

          In response to David Krieger (22 December), I'm sure that there would be general agreement that we do not want our military professionals to decide whether or not to deploy when ordered to do so by a lawful order from the Commander-in-Chief.

          JE comments:  Agreed, but Nuremberg also reached the definitive conclusion that it is a crime to obey an "unlawful" order.  As Eugenio Battaglia (next) argues, this legal standard is only applied to a war's losers.

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          • Lawful and Unlawful Military Orders (Enrique Torner, USA 12/26/14 6:12 AM)
            I agree with John Eipper (see Robert Gard, 23 December): if the commander-in-chief is giving an order that doesn't agree with the Constitution, the military should not obey it. However, there are military members who have ended up in jail for not obeying unconstitutional orders.

            JE comments: Enrique Torner has put his finger on the problem: how practical is it for a military serviceman or woman to engage in Constitutional interpretation during the heat of battle?

            I must stress (again) that Robert Gard used the word lawful orders.

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            • Lawful and Unlawful Military Orders: A Shell Game? (John Heelan, UK 12/27/14 9:27 AM)
              In response to Enrique Torner (26 December), it seems to me that US presidents play a legal shell-game to avoid being subject to the War Powers Resolution requiring Congressional approval.

              The first movement of a shell move is to state that "US operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve US ground troops." The political sleight-of-hand disguises the reality of US involvement in a war theatre by using proxy forces such as NATO (e.g. Libya) and mercenaries (e.g. Blackwater now rebranded Xe), as well as ignoring the drones piloted by US service personnel often from bunkers on the US mainland (e.g. Creech Airbase, whose mission is "supporting, directing and coordination of [drone] combat sorties halfway across the world") that are continuously firing missiles against a hostile enemy.

              JE comments: Isn't John Heelan describing "mission creep"?

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        • Are All Military Defeats Senseless? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/23/14 4:26 PM)
          In response to the post of David Krieger (22 December), I would say that of course the Vietnam War was a senseless war. But let's not fool ourselves: the Vietnam War was a senseless war only because it was badly lost.

          Look around, and you will see that all the world's people consider the wars they lost to be senseless, while the victorious ones are always right, glorious and celebrated.

          Just for the sake of argument, suppose that on 30 April 1975 it was not the Americans scrambling on helicopters to escape from their embassy in Saigon, bur rather the Russians scrambling on helicopters from their embassy in Hanoi to escape the arrival of the South Vietnamese and the Americans. In such a case in every US town there would be a statue remembering this fact and even replacing the glory of the Iwo Jima Memorial.

          After all, as Cameron Sawyer pointed out, the West considered Vietnam to be a battle of the larger Cold War.

          If the Vietnamese War was badly lost, it was because the US government did not plan well. Moreover, it did not want to risk a nuclear war with Russia and China, the protectors of North Vietnam. Certainly the loss was not because of the lack of valor and honor of the combatants in the field.

          The atrocities are another story, as they were in WWII and other wars.

          Or consider the possible "senselessnes" of a WWII provoked by FDR against the Axis powers--if the latter had won.

          JE comments:  There are also moments of "glorious" defeats, such as the "Lost Cause"--the founding myth of the US South.  Mexico has experienced countless military defeats, and they are never viewed as senseless.  Indeed, this nation was born out of the Spanish conquest, which was by any measure a defeat.

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      • Don't Mess with Vets; a Response to David Krieger (Joe Listo, Brazil 12/24/14 6:29 AM)
        I was determined not to address this Forum again for a number of reasons, but since David Krieger (20 December) crossed a line that is very dear to me, I cannot let it pass.

        We can discuss what "honor" is for the rest of our days, but unfortunately some of us cannot afford to be safe at home. Some, the brave ones, have to risk their lives to protect Mr. Krieger so he can criticize the very troops guarding his life. It does not matter if it is Vietnam, Korea, WWII. They are and will always be there to protect you and your family, as well as all the US population.

        Let me tell you, Mr. Krieger, that you your post of December 20th did not make angry. It made me sad because you are American. Or you were born in America, and I am sure you will appreciate the huge difference. The terms you applied in describing the "lack of honor" of the US Armed Forces were the harshest I have seen in my entire life. I have seen kinder words describing the US Military honor from enemies of the US. And I am glad that they disagree with you, because they have faced US troops throughout history and they know better.

        I do not know if you have ever presented yourself to defend your country, and if you did not it was probably for the best because "only a few" are able to fight a war. I resent your comments because of my military friends who were willing to die and ultimately died for America, and I resent your comments because I also volunteered for a tour in Vietnam in 1967. You are entitled to criticize any actions taken by former presidents, but disgracing men and women of valor because you are against war is simply intolerable.

        Your comments have contributed only to make America smaller and even more divided than it is today. I hope you realize you owe a giant apology to all members of the US Armed Forces in this Forum.

        JE comments:  I'll try to stay out of this one, too, but I do want to stress to Joe Listo that no one will ever agree with everything that appears on WAIS.  Prof. Hilton liked a good argument, and his intention when founding our organization 49 years ago was to bring together scholars of diverse views.  And this means, Joe, that your views are welcome and needed.  Like the Supreme Court, the Cosa Nostra, or (until recently) the Papacy, WAIS membership is for life!

        I'm going to observe the 100th anniversary of the Great War Christmas Truce (1914) and post nothing but harmonious content for the next 48 hours.  So until the guns open up again on the morning of the 26th, let the fraternization begin.

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        • A US Marine Corps Christmas Greeting (Michael Sullivan, USA 12/24/14 8:16 AM)
          In line with John's decision to publish only harmonious content, I'd like to offer an official Marine Corps Christmas greeting to WAIS!

          "Merry Christmas to all authorized personnel..."

          JE comments: Many thanks, and Merry Christmas to you, General! I'm enjoying this Christmas truce.

          I note with sadness, however, that the Great War troops had no such truce in 1915, 1916, or 1917.

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        • on Honor in War (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/26/14 8:59 AM)
          Unfortunately, the discussion on the topic of Vietnam is producing more heat than light. However, some important points have been made which should be emphasized:

          1. As stated by General Robert Gard (23 December): "We do not want our military professionals to decide whether or not to deploy when ordered to do so by a lawful order from the Commander-in-Chief." As someone who grew up in Brazil, I greatly admire military leaders who bow to civilian control. Our political leaders must stop using war to show false patriotism, or to get money from special interests. They need to protect the long-term interests of the American people as represented by the middle class. In this crazy world that we have helped to create, we need a strong military to be used in direct self-defense, not as a regular tool for foreign policy.

          2. David Krieger correctly stated: "When we intervened in the Vietnam War with combat troops, we did so based upon a lie (Tonkin Gulf), and Congress authorized increased intervention based upon that lie (Tonkin Gulf Resolution)." Indeed, we must remember that while our soldiers die or serve honorably, our leaders may have sent them there under false pretenses, thus behaving less than honorably.

          3. Joining Eugenio Battaglia in his hypothetical scenario, "suppose that on 30 April 1975 it was not the Americans scrambling on helicopters to escape from their embassy in Saigon, bur rather the Russians scrambling on helicopters from their embassy in Hanoi to escape the arrival of the South Vietnamese and the Americans. In such a case in every US town there would be a statue remembering this fact and even replacing the glory of the Iwo Jima Memorial." The Russians would be protected diplomats with no reason to hastily depart from the civilized Americans. Further, I find it close to sacrilegious for anyone to think that anything from even an imaginary victory in the Vietnam war could ever replace the heroic significance of Iwo Jima. The soldiers who were killed or hurt in Vietnam deserve the same honor as the ones from WWII, but as David Krieger said, the Vietnam War was started on a lie and WWII was an honorable and necessary war.

          JE comments:  Yes, the Christmas truce has concluded, but happily, I still have a number of Holiday greetings to post.  We'll begin with Mike Bonnie.
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          • Gulf of Tonkin (Michael Sullivan, USA 12/27/14 4:47 AM)
            In response to recent posts from Tor Guimaraes, David Krieger, and others, there were two incidents in the Gulf of Tonkin. On 2 August 1964, four Navy F-8 Crusaders engaged three North Vietnamese torpedo boats by strafing. One Crusader was damaged, a 14.5mm round hit a US destroyer, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats were damaged, four North Vietnamese sailors were killed and six wounded. There were no US casualties. The second incident, on the night of 4 August, is debatable. Most feel it was caused by too much confusion, as the US destroyers were so hyped-up from the attack of 2 August that it may not have happened at all and they were chasing bogus radar targets, according to several reports.

            Nevertheless, shortly after these incidents and on 10 August 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed by Congress.  Only two Senators voted against it (Morse (D)- OR and Gruening (D)- AK). The House passed it 416-0, and the Resolution gave the President authorization to use conventional military force in Southeast Asia without a declaration of war.

            I disagree with David Krieger's claim that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was based on a lie, as the Congress passed it. It was legal and lawful, while allowing the President to send combat troops to Vietnam.

            JE comments:  That's an overwhelming Congressional vote of support.  On today's dysfunctional Capitol Hill, we probably couldn't get House unanimity in praise of motherhood or the awesomeness of Elvis.  The vote itself shows the mindset of those Cold War times.

            I hope Michael Sullivan doesn't mind my asking, but WAISers would like to know:  were you in SE Asia at the time of Tonkin?

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            • My Flight Squadron at Time of Tonkin (Michael Sullivan, USA 12/29/14 4:34 AM)

              To answer John E's question of 27 December, my F-4 squadron, based at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, had just arrived at NAS Atsugi (near Tokyo) in early July (1964) for a one -year deployment. Shortly after we arrived the Tonkin Gulf incident happened, and we were immediately put on DEFCON 2. This means all maintenance pack-ups and supplies would be put in boxes on the hangar deck so we'd be ready to deploy to Vietnam on a moment's notice. Personnel leaving the Air Station on liberty had to check in every two hours. We were told we'd be deploying very soon. It didn't work out like that and we didn't deploy to Danang, Vietnam, until March, 1965, so operating out of boxes on the hangar deck for seven months proved quite a challenge for normal flight operations.

              We were told when the order to deploy came, the USAF would air refuel all 18 F-4s non-stop to Danang, about 2,500 miles. USAF C-124s would come in and pick up our maintenance and supply pack-ups, the Morest gear (traps aircraft on the runway after landing like on an aircraft carrier), and fly them into Danang and USAF KC-135 would fly the troops into Danang.

              As fate would have it, I had the Group Duty Officer one day in March, 1965 and when posted by the Group XO to assume the duties he passed me the log book and made the comment with a smile on his face, "Mike, Don't start any wars tonight!" Around midnight, I received a highly classified message from DOD/JCS to immediately deploy our squadron to Danang. I called the Group XO, woke him up and his first comment was, "What happened... Did we lose an aircraft?" I said, "Do you remember what you told me when you posted me with the duty about not starting any wars? Guess what, I just started one!"

              All essential Marines were roused from their sleep and the mad rush was on. We had to hang external wing tanks on all our aircraft, get all our aircraft in an "up" status, which meant we had to borrow some parts from a sister squadron and test hops had to be flown. All of this was accomplished and all our F-4s had left for Vietnam by the second day.

              However, the bad news was that the original planning was the USAF was going to air refuel our F-4s to Vietnam and take the maintenance pack-up, supplies and troops to Vietnam. The USAF never showed up! We tanked the first four F-4s to Vietnam non-stop using Marine KC-130 tankers. The remaining 14 aircraft were island-hopped Atsugi to Kadena (Okinawa) to Cubi Pt. (Philippines) on into Danang. All aircraft had arrived at Danang by the third day. The troops were flown down in Marine KC-130s. We started flight ops in Vietnam on the fourth day, using some old WWII bombs that somebody had left there! Luckily our ammunition ship came in within a few days after we landed, so we finally had the correct ordnance we needed.

              The Morest gear came in 10 days later by Navy LST and we were lucky we didn't have an hydraulic emergency or we'd have had no way to stop the aircraft after landing, as Danang had no arresting gear at that time!

              When we finished our tour in Vietnam and we returned back to the US. We lost no Marines or aircraft. It wasn't to be that way from then on, as the USAF, Navy and Marines ended up losing 682 F-4s in Vietnam--20% were operational accidents and not due to direct enemy action. When I returned on my second tour the combat, both air and ground, was much more intense.

              JE comments:  One of the highlights of 2013 was my visit to Cherry Point NC with General Sullivan as tour guide!  My thanks to Michael for that fascinating tour, as well as for this memory of his first deployment in Vietnam.  Pax, lux, and Semper fi to you in 2015, Michael.

              One more curiosity for now:  doesn't it take nerves of steel to refuel during flight?  To think of flying so close to the tanker plane.  And how do you get the hose attached?

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              • Refueling in Mid-Air, Marines, Navy and USAF (Michael Sullivan, USA 12/31/14 4:25 AM)
                To answer John's question (29 December), refueling is just like anything else in military aviation, as you must be able to have the capability to extend range and time on station. It takes practice. There are two types:

                The Navy-Marine aircraft use the hose, basket, and probe method, where the pilot flies his aircraft up to 3-5 ft. from the refueling basket extended on a long hose from the tanker aircraft and plugs his probe, which he extends from inside his aircraft, into the basket. There are three lights on the tanker. ORANGE means to go ahead and plug in. GREEN means you have pushed the hose in far enough on the tanker's take-up reel and fuel is flowing and the ORANGE light goes out. After you get your gas, you back out smoothly, the ORANGE light will come on and you disconnect from the basket. The RED means you're in too close by pushing the hose up too far and the fuel valves have closed. Also RED means an emergency disconnect. The pilot does all the work to get plugged in, and it's fairly difficult if the probe when extended isn't close to the aircraft's nose and is on the side of the fuselage like for the F-4 and Harrier. This means you can't look at the basket and just fly formation to the correct position on the tanker and close at 3-5 kts. to make contact. With practice you get proficient at it. If the probe is on your nose, like in the F-18, it's easy.

                Night makes it more difficult, as there are few visual references and the basket has some little red bead lights around the rim that you can see when you get to five feet or so. Also clear air turbulence really makes it tough, and you have to average out the basket/hose whipping up and down and make your move. We had the refueling probe tips break off in the basket or had the whipping of the hose get so bad it snaps off and wraps around the aircraft. But we always seem to make it home safely when that happens.

                We can also put hose/basket refueling pods/kits on our tactical jets like the F-18s and EA-6Bs today and A-3s, A-4s and A-6s during Vietnam. They serve as tankers around the carriers or to top of the strike flight, as they head into the target from a distance at sea.

                The US Air Force uses a tanker with a boom, and the boom operator controls the refueling boom into the refueling receptacle on top of the aircraft aft of the pilot. The receiver aircraft's pilot just flies his aircraft to a predetermined spot under the tanker and the boom operator does all the work and inserts the boom. Navy and Marine aircraft can refuel on USAF tankers providing they hang a hose and basket on the boom prior to take-off. It's only an 8 ft. hose with no take-up reel. We used them periodically in Vietnam. If the USAF tanker hangs a hose for us, then the USAF jets can't use it.

                USAF aircraft can't tank on Navy-Marine tankers, as those tankers only have the hose, basket and probe method.

                Aerial refueling can become a real challenge when we were up off the coast of Haiphong, flying MiG CAP missions at night. You're supposed to be on station for an hour and a half, but you don't get relieved to due to weather back at base or aircraft availability, so you may stay 4-6 hours. You're out of oxygen, out of ideas and you're getting a little weary. Now you have to go to the tanker again and he's in and out of the clouds, with maybe only the right wing tip light working so you have no visual reference.  And here we come for gas! You get to the 3-5 ft. stabilized position just prior to plugging in. And then both aircraft roll upside down! Not really, but you have a severe case of vertigo that's so bad you're forcing yourself not to push forward stick or roll the aircraft over. You take your hands off the stick and back off to about 10 yards and tell the tanker and your wingman you've got a severe case of vertigo. You try and settle down but the next attempt usually has the same results, so you "bingo" off the CAP to the closest air base, which is a USAF air base in Thailand.

                This is not all bad, as there is an "up" side: you get a good meal, lots of uninterrupted sleep in nice quarters (we're living in tents or Southeast Asia huts in Vietnam), and no rocket attacks to destroy your sleep by getting up and running to shelters!

                I've attached a few pictures to show the difference in the hose/basket/ probe method versus the boom method.

                JE comments: Photos below.  Keep in mind that you have to perform these maneuvers up in the air and going really, really fast!

                You would think they'd standardize the Navy/Marine and Air Force refueling methods. Wouldn't that save money and increase operating efficiency?

                Thank you, Michael, for this fascinating primer.

                 Basket and probe refueling

                Air Force boom tanking method

                AV-8 close to basket refueling

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                • Re-Fueling in Mid-Air, USMC/Navy vs USAF Methods (Michael Sullivan, USA 01/03/15 10:41 AM)
                  Happy New Year 2015 to WAISers!

                  When commenting on my post of 31 December, John E asked why the Marines and the Navy use a different in-flight refueling method from the Air Force. The Navy-Marine refueling method is required as we can't get big USAF transport tankers on carriers. We have to use "buddy refuelers" from some of the same type of jets in the Air Group aboard the carrier. We have KC-130 Hercules refuelers in the Marines. They can't go aboard a carrier but they are used for fairly small off-loads of fuel as the only carry 23,000 lbs. inside the huge tank in the fuselage of the KC-130. They might tank four fighters with 5,000 lbs. of gas each. They are primarily used before or after strike missions. The good news with the KC-130 is that you can refuel two aircraft at once as there are two hoses, one coming out of the center wing on each side of the aircraft.

                  The huge USAF transport-type aircraft like the KC-10 is just a converted DC-10 and they carry four or five times the gas of a KC-130. We use USAF tankers a lot today to TransLant or TransPac fighter/attack aircraft, as 4-6 fighters can fly right along with the tanker at the same altitude and speed and whenever they need some fuel the just go over and plug in. The USAF tankers can refuel only one aircraft at a time with a hose installed or their standard boom.

                  It's much more efficient than refueling on the KC-130 for long-distance flights as on long distance flights we have to come down to 20,000 feet, slow to 210-220 knots, and then plug in, get your gas and then climb back up to 35,000-40,000 ft. While refueling around 220 kts. it almost puts you on the backside of the power curve when you're full of gas. But that's fine when you're flying CAP missions and you're at 20,000 ft., at maximum endurance speed, going around in a race track pattern waiting for a mission to be assigned and only taking 4,000-5,000 lbs. of gas.

                  The country requires both types of refuelers due to different mission requirements, but it's more expensive and adds weight by adding the refueling plumbing in the Navy-Marine fighter/attack aircraft. However, equipping the USAF with 300 or more large tanker aircraft is a huge investment in personnel and for defense dollars.

                  JE comments:  Very informative!  Thank you, Michael.  I never thought of the crucial difference:  carrier-based vs. land-based refuelers.

                  And a most happy 2015 to Michael and Nicole Sullivan.  Look forward to seeing you at WAIS '15 (October 10-12), if not before.

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          • More Thoughts on Honor in War; US Provocations to the Axis, pre-1941 (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/27/14 8:40 AM)
            I agree with Tor Guimaraes's 26 December post, and apologize for my hypothetical scenario of the Soviets escaping from Hanoi in helicopters. I did not mean to suggest that the Soviet diplomats would not have had respectful protection from the arriving US forces in this counterfactual version of events.

            But about wars that were started based on a lie, it seems that the US is very unfortunate. This applies not only to the recent wars in the Balkans, Middle East, and Libya, but also in the past. The Mexican war in April 1846 started following an alleged offense to the US envoy Slidell.

            Of course it is better not even to mention the various Indians wars.

            The war with Spain of 1898 started with the very unfortunate USS Maine incident, but who was the culprit? WWI was declared for flimsy reasons, after two events:  a passenger ship full of ammunition (contrary to the law) was sunk, plus a cable was intercepted in which Germany seemed to look for a potential ally (Mexico) if attacked by the US.

            To enter WWII was really very difficult. Poor FDR tried his best to provoke the Axis powers, and these damned fools were swallowing all the provocations and never rising to the casus belli.

            Let's have a look at some casus belli:

            September 1939: Extension of security at sea from 250 to 1250 miles.  In such areas the Axis powers could not operate.

            February 1940: Sumner Welles in Rome presents unrealistic and arrogant requests.

            April 1940: An oil embargo on Japan.

            September 1940: 50 destroyers sent to the UK.

            November 1940: The US becomes the arsenal of the democracies.  Half of its military production goes to the UK.

            March 1941: Lend-Lease Law.

            April 1941: Occupation of Greenland.

            July 1941: Occupation of Iceland.

            26 July: Freezing of all Japanese assets.  Japan is practically strangled.

            August 1941: Offshore Newfoundland meeting between FDR and Churchill. Returning from the meeting, the latter declares that the obtained accords are the new Crusade of the Good against the Devil.

            September 1941: US Navy ships attack Axis submarines.  George Crocker in his book The Stalinist Roosevelt writes that when the Japanese asked for a meeting with FDR, he answered that it would have been possible only if the Japanese premier would assure that he will sign any condition imposed on him.

            Then the closing of all Italian and German Consulates and the seizure of all Italian and German Ships in US ports.  The crews become the first POWs (?) in an officially neutral country.

            Anyway, FDR in order to win the election of 1940 declared to the people of the US from Boston: I will not send your sons to fight in foreign wars. The victory was with the 54.7% of the vote.

            On the 1 December 1941, the Secretary of Defense Henry Stimson wrote:  In these days the question is how to compel the Japanese to fire the first shot.

            Finally on 7 December 1941, only obsolete ships remain in port in Hawaii as sitting ducks for the Day of Infamy, and finally the of course the US has its honorable war.

            JE comments:  My first thought is that schoolyard bullies have "provocations" too.  It's hard for me to be objective here, but Eugenio Battaglia's list deserves careful attention.  For starters, were the ships at Pearl Harbor all obsolete?  This is the first time I've heard such an interpretation.
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            • Were US Ships at Pearl Harbor "Obsolete"? (Michael Sullivan, USA 12/28/14 4:07 AM)
              Eugenio Battaglia (27 December) is terribly mistaken if he thinks only obsolete ships were in Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. The only thing absent were the aircraft carriers on maneuvers. This information below summarizes the losses:

              Ships and Aircraft:

              350 aircraft were destroyed or damaged.

              All 8 battleships of the US Pacific Fleet were sunk or badly damaged - including the USS Arizona.

              And yet all of America's aircraft carriers remained unscathed.


              USS Arizona (BB-39) - sunk, total loss, lies at bottom of Pearl Harbor See History

              USS Oklahoma (BB-37) - capsized, total loss

              USS West Virginia (BB-48) - sunk, later raised, repaired and rejoined fleet July 1944

              USS California (BB-44) - sunk, later raised, repaired and rejoined fleet May 1944

              USS Nevada (BB-36) - heavily damaged, grounded, repaired and rejoined fleet December 1942

              USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) - was in drydock - slightly damaged, repaired and rejoined fleet August 1942

              USS Maryland (BB-46) - damaged, repaired and rejoined fleet February 1942

              USS Tennessee (BB-43) - damaged, repaired and rejoined fleet March 1942.


              USS Helena (CL-50) - heavily damaged, repaired and rejoined fleet June 1942

              USS Honolulu (CL-48) - damaged, repaired and rejoined fleet January 1942

              USS Raleigh (CL-7) - heavily damaged, repaired and rejoined fleet July 1942


              USS Cassin (DD-372) - was in drydock - heavily damaged, rebuilt and rejoined fleet February 1944

              USS Downes (DD-375) - was in drydock - heavily damaged rebuilt and rejoined fleet November 1943

              USS Helm (DD-388) - damaged, continued on patrol, repaired and rejoined fleet January 1942

              USS Shaw (DD-373) - in floating drydock - severely damaged and repaired


              USS Oglala (CM-4) - sunk, raised, repaired and rejoined fleet February 1944

              Aircraft losses summarized:

              US Navy - 92 lost, 31 damaged

              US Army - 77 lost, 128 damaged

              Japanese - 9 fighters, 15 dive bombers, 5 torpedo bombers

              Yes, the Coast Guard was there also.

              JE comments:  Eugenio Battaglia wrote back to argue that all large surface ships were obsolete by 1941, with the exception of aircraft carriers and their escorts.  I'll let Eugenio explain (next).

              Speaking of WWII in the Pacific, last night we saw the new movie Unbroken, the story of US Olympian Louis Zamperini's experience as Japan's prisoner of war.  Reactions among our group were mixed:  I found the film to be an excellent depiction of the brutal POW camps; my companions found the film too earnest and conventional, with almost no psychological depth.  For what it's worth, the film was directed by Angelina Jolie, which struck me as strange, as it's a "boy film" in every sense of the word.

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            • Were US Ships at Pearl Harbor "Obsolete"? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/28/14 4:50 AM)

              To respond to John E's question (27 December), for a modern (in 1941 terms) war at sea in the Pacific, only the aircraft carriers and their escorts were necessary to win and not old battleships, like the glorious USS Arizona launched in 1916. So the necessary ships had been wisely sent to the open sea for safety, to be then used for revenge.

              JE comments:  Subsequent events proved Eugenio Battaglia correct:  battleships and large cruisers would have little impact on the Pacific war.  Japan's Yamato-class behemoths turned out to be nothing but resource-sucking liabilities, and spent most of the war bottled up in port.

              But did naval thinkers realize this in 1941?  I'm doubtful--and especially skeptical of the idea that the US might have deliberately left its "obsolete" ships at Pearl Harbor as bait.

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              • Were Capital Ships Obsolete in WWII? (Edward Jajko, USA 01/08/15 5:32 AM)
                Responding to Eugenio Battaglia's posting of 28 December 2014 about the obsolescence of US battleships, and to JE's comments to his posting: Eugenio is correct to think of the battleships of WWII as obsolete, if one is thinking in terms of ships of the line and of duels between ships, with the craft blasting away at each other with broadsides or with longer-distance cannon (with, of course, the obvious exception of the British battle with the Bismarck).

                Eugenio says that for a 1940s Pacific sea war, only aircraft carriers and their escorts were needed, not "old battleships," and JE agreed, saying that "battleships and large cruisers would have little impact on the Pacific war." I disagree. The main function of the US battleships in the Pacific was projection of power, to serve as transportable cannon platforms from which to systematically bombard Japanese-held islands, one after the other, prior to invasion by Marines and soldiers. And, of course, when it comes to the contribution of heavy cruisers, let us not forget the ill-fated USS Indianapolis.

                JE comments: My apologies to Ed Jajko, who sent this comment over a week ago. It somehow got misplaced in the hubbub of New Year's posts.

                Weren't the Allies' capital warships also useful for "softening up" targets before the Normandy landing?  Might we generalize, and say that the Axis battleships were of little to no benefit to their cause?  I'm thinking not only of Germany's Bismarck, but also the largest of them all, the Japanese Yamato.

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                • Were Capital Ships Obsolete in WWII? Homer Lea (Timothy Brown, USA 01/09/15 6:48 AM)

                  This discussion (most recently, Ed Jajko on 8 January) reminds me of Homer Lea's The Valor of Ignorance. Long before either took place, Lea foretold WWs I and II. (As an aside, the foreword to my edition of The Valor of Ignorance
                  was written by Claire Boothe before she became Claire Boothe Luce.)

                  Lea included several maps that are particularly fascinating, both drawn prior to World War I (not II). One of them is a map of a Japanese
                  invasion of the US West Coast, including schematics of amphibious landings in California. Another map describes the Japanese invasion of Luzon in the Philippines. The former was, in essence, his main
                  message for the United States--that our Pacific coast was vulnerable to an invasion because we were, at the time, a two-ocean country with a one-ocean navy. The latter proved to be extraordinarily prescient,
                  from their initial landing in northern Luzon to the final battle at Corregidor. The second did not, because Lea did not foretell two key strategic things that did not even exist before WWI. One was the development
                  of a Pacific fleet by the US before WWI. The other was the addition of aircraft carriers to both our Pacific and Atlantic fleets that proved decisive in the Pacific but not in the Atlantic, where they were useful but not decisive.

                  I myself had two experiences with battleships, the first in Vietnam when the Iowa fired a mission in my district that cleared deep forest landing zones we were then able to use to deploy sufficient forces by helicopter
                  to challenge VC control of a mountainous area. (mentioned on pp. 191-193 of my book, Diplomarine). The second, decades later, took place in Martinique when, post-Grenada, the French asked for some gestures of support for
                  their presence in the Caribbean and CINCLANT sent me.  Although I was retired from the Armed Forces, this suddenly morphed into a combat mission when, while it was still in Fort de France, it received orders to sail to Lebanon at flank speed, where it became a major
                  player in our landing Marines there. In my opinion, thanks to the addition of long-range missiles to their arsenals, ships of the line of all sizes have once again become valuable, both for their deterrence effect and firepower when needed.

                  As for the value of battleships in the Pacific during WWII, I'm a former Marine. 'nuf said.

                  JE comments:  One of my very earliest memories is of going with my parents to San Francisco bay to watch the New Jersey cross through the Golden Gate, headed for Vietnam.  I'd guess the year was 1968.

                  Let's face it, battleships are cool in a macho sense.  This was probably the main motivator behind Pres. Reagan re-commissioning the Iowa-class "Mothball Fleet" in the 1980s.  It made America feel tough.  But I'd like some dispassionate appraisals of the strategic value of this move:  did the re-introduction of battleships play a significant role in ending the Cold War?  I'm referring to the intimidation factor.

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                  • Off the Shore of Lebanon, 1958; The UAR (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/09/15 4:23 PM)
                    An excellent post from Timothy Brown (9 January), which reminds me of my life at sea.

                    On 15 July 1958 I was second mate on the steam tanker Olympic Games of Onassis, proceeding toward Lebanon for loading and then discharging at Bremen. During the night suddenly we were illuminated as if it were daylight by a plane that has arrived from nowhere.

                    It circled for a while over us, and then went away. In the morning we arrived at the loading port near Tripoli and could see not far from us some US ships disembarking Marines and tanks.

                    It was so strange loading crude oil while nearby some kind of war situation was going on.

                    It was the time of Lebanese President Camille Chamoun, a strong supporter of the West, and it was also the time in which Nasser seemed to be expanding his lay socialist Arab Nation all over the Middle East. With hindsight, what a beautiful time it was compared to the present.

                    JE comments: WAIS isn't supposed to do counterfactual historical speculation, but it's also so irresistible.  Given the current mess in the Middle East, doesn't the idea of a secular UAR comprising Egypt, Syria, and (possibly) Iraq seem, to borrow Eugenio's word, "beautiful"?

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    • Vietnam War (Richard Hancock, USA 12/21/14 5:57 PM)
      David Krieger's post of 20 December is an example of accuracy looking back as compared to experiencing what the environment was like when we first intervened in that war. The Communists (Russia and China) seemed to be on a path to conquering the world. We had recently saved South Korea from this threat, and there was fear of other Asian countries going Communist. In 1964, when Congress authorized the Vietnam action, things looked much different than they do today. Because of the collapse of the USSR in 1991, we could claim that we won the Cold War even though we had lost in Vietnam. A nation rarely wins a war without losing some battles.

      In regard to the crimes committed by our troops, I would say that this is a part of war, especially when you are fighting guerrillas who have no limits on evil behavior. This does not justify our responding in kind, but it is a fact of war that soldiers on both sides committed atrocities. The Japanese committed them in WWII, and I personally witnessed an atrocity against a Japanese officer, the ex-provost of Cebu in the Philippines, who was captured by virtue of having lost both legs. This man was harassed and insulted at every turn. Moreover, it was necessary to guard him with an infantry squad to keep the Filipinos from killing him. I am sure they had good reason to hate this man, who finally died. As a 19-year-old private, I didn't speak out against this mistreatment, but I couldn't help but think of his sad end, wounded, alone, disgraced, hopeless, unable to speak to his captors, and without any sympathetic human contact. I sympathized in silence and did not intervene: "Lord, I have left undone those things which I ought to have done..."

      I don't judge our Vietnam intervention as the proper thing to do, but it seemed rational at the time. I certainly don't condemn soldiers that served in that war. When you are faced with death at every turn, it is easy to overreact.

      JE comments: I'll agree with Richard Hancock. In the context of the Cold War, intervention in Vietnam did seem to be a rational response.  But the slope got slippery very fast--from advisers to a full-blown war, fought by draftees.  It would have been equally rational for the US to pull out at least five years before it did.

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      • Draftees in the Vietnam War (Michael Sullivan, USA 12/22/14 6:26 PM)

        The Vietnam War was not fought by an unfair share of draftees, as I believe John E implied in his response to Richard Hancock (21 December). That Vietnam was "fought by draftees" is a typical slight by anti-Vietnam War types because of the myths fostered by the media and academia that proclaimed the war took advantage of draftees and blacks. Only 38% of the total force of 2,594,000 that served within the borders of Vietnam were draftees, while 30% of the Killed in Action in Vietnam were draftees. 25% of the total US military force worldwide during the Vietnam War were draftees. In WWII, 66% of the total US force were draftees. The Vietnam War had 62% volunteers.

        The Vietnam war was vastly misunderstood, misreported and misremembered. There are so many little-known facts like that in WWII, American engaged infantry troops in the Pacific saw an average of only 40 days in combat in nearly 4 years of island hopping. In Vietnam, a one-year combat infantry tour saw 240 days in combat.

        JE comments:  It clearly was an oversimplification to say that Vietnam was "fought by draftees."  My thanks to Gen. Sullivan for the clarification.  Next up:  David Krieger sends a different view in a response to Miles Seeley.

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      • Shouldn't We Learn from Vietnam? (David Krieger, USA 12/23/14 4:50 PM)
        This is in response to Richard Hancock (21 December). When we intervened in the Vietnam War with combat troops, we did so based upon a lie (Tonkin Gulf), and Congress authorized increased intervention based upon that lie (Tonkin Gulf Resolution).

        The Vietnamese were fighting for their independence, and Ho Chi Minh had originally come to the US for help. We turned him down. In the case of the Vietnam War, the US may have won many battles, but it lost the war as well as its soul. Young Americans were misled about the war, and more than 58,000 paid the ultimate price for the obsessive fear of communism and falling dominoes by US leaders at the time (particularly Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon and their lieutenants).

        In retrospect, it turns out that these leaders were fools and criminals (by Nuremberg standards). It may appear that I am being harsh in my judgment, but failing to hold leaders to account for Nuremberg-type crimes only leads to repeat performances, such as we have experienced with the Iraq War. When will we ever learn? When will we stop justifying the most serious criminal wrong-doing of our leaders, wrong-doing that results in aggressive war?

        JE comments: David Krieger makes a blunt point, but I admire his bravery for doing so. As I understand it, David raises this uncomfortable question: if we celebrate the glory and honor of combatants in a mistaken war, aren't we more likely to repeat the mistake?

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        • Tonkin Gulf (Robert Gard, USA 12/26/14 5:52 AM)
          In response to David Krieger (23 December), we had combat troops in Vietnam before Tonkin Gulf, but it was used as an excuse for the big build-up.

          JE comments: WAISdom's Christmas truce is officially over, although I hope we'll continue to observe the harmonious Spirit of the Season. Robert Gard sent a clarification: in his post of December 23rd, he wrote that "we do not want our military professionals to decide whether or not to deploy when ordered to do so by a lawful order." I added a comment about Nuremberg. To this Robert wrote back to underscore that he had specifically used the wording lawful order.

          Point well taken.

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          • A Veteran of Little Bighorn (Timothy Brown, USA 12/26/14 3:26 PM)
            Veterans--and wars--come in all shapes and sizes.

            My mother was working at the Veteran's Hospital in Reno while I was in Junior High. Knowing my fascination with history, she told me there was an interesting patient in its long-term ward I might enjoy meeting. He turned out to be a 90+ year-old northern Cheyenne Army scout and a survivor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Asked what it had been like, he responded:

            "It was a damned good fight, until we ran out of white men!"

            A belated Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for the New Year.

            JE comments: Little Bighorn was in 1876! It's stunning to realize that Tim Brown is but "one degree of separation" from a veteran. This is a far rarer encounter, say, than meeting a survivor of Gettysburg (1863), as no more than 2500 Cheyenne, Lakota Dakota, and Arapaho fighters took part.  As for the white men--well, they ran out.  (General Custer is the most famous Native Son of nearby Monroe, Michigan.)

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            • Native American Wars (Richard Hancock, USA 12/30/14 2:01 PM)
              In response to Tim Brown (26 December), I had always thought that the battle of the Little Big Horn of June 25, 1876 was the greatest defeat suffered by the US Army in engagements with American Indians. This engagement resulted in 253 solders killed and 53 wounded. It turns out that this was the greatest defeat in the West which became well-known through the writings of dime novelists.

              The defeat of the Spaniards in New Mexico in 1680 by Indians organized by the Pueblo Indian Popé was a greater loss than the Little Big Horn, because it resulted in 380 Spanish deaths plus those of 21 Franciscan missionaries. New Mexico was abandoned by the Spaniards until 1694, when it was reconquered by Diego de Vargas.

              It turns out that the greatest defeat of the US Army by Indians took place in Indiana on November 4, 1791 when General Arthur St. Clair's 1700 soldiers where defeated by an alliance of Indians in what was then called the Northwest Territory (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota). Six hundred American soldiers were killed and 250 were wounded. The Indians lost only 12-50 men. I learned of this last battle through a book review in the Dec. 28 Wall Street Journal by Fergus M. Bordewich. The book is, The Victory With No Name, by Collin G. Galloway, Oxford, 253 pages.

              Gregory F. Michno in his Encyclopedia of Indian Wars, Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula, MT, 2003, made a tabulation of Army records in the West from 1850-1890. He stated that the total amount of casualties (dead, wounded and captured) for this period was 21,586, of which 14,990 were Indians and 6,596 whites, including military and civilian. He concludes, "While we should not romanticize frontier violence, neither should we deny the facts: the West of the nineteenth century was dangerous, destructive, bloody--in a word, wild."

              JE comments:  Wild, certainly.  I'd like to know more about the 1791 battle in Indiana.  Is this the "victory with no name" referred to in Galloway's book?
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          • Vietnam: A Tactical Defeat but Strategic Victory? (Timothy Brown, USA 12/27/14 8:24 AM)
            My take on the Vietnam war is quite different from any of those expressed here, perhaps because my perspective was different, not just a view of the war in Vietnam, although I did later serve there, but region-wide.

            From 1960 to mid 1964, when not on counterinsurgency or other missions in Thailand, Laos or the Philippines, I was a very small cog in the efforts of G2/J2 at FMFPAC/CINCPAC in Hawaii.

            But, since I was the only trained Thai linguist at Camp Smith and liable to deployment at a moment's notice, while in Hawaii a region-wide spectrum of intelligence reports and analyses on Asia, from the Assam hills of India to Indonesia, including mainland Taiwan and parts of mainland China, and beyond, crossed my desk.

            There's a military saying that "Amateurs talk tactics--Professionals talk logistics." And when it came to logistics, the logistical crown jewel in South Asia was then as it is now, the Strait of Malacca. And during that part of the Cold War, countries on both sides of that Strait were under threat. While the better known conflicts were in Vietnam and Laos, Malaya was also under pressure from CTs (Communist Terrorists, the then term of art); Indonesia was facing a growing internal threat largely from its Chinese expatriate community thanks to Chinese agitation and support; the Philippines had a variety of subversive challenges, the best known of which were Huks and Muslim insurgencies.

            There were also conflicts in Burma, especially the Shan and Ten Thousand Rice Fields regions, and in India's Assam Hills. There were even stay-behind Nationalist Chinese units inside China. My own primary interests were several actual or potential conflicts inside Thailand, especially Pathet Lao efforts to foment an insurgency in northeast Thailand among the Thai-Lao border, similar efforts in that country's southeast Khmer region and a Muslim movement in the Kra peninsula. While each of these movements wore a different ethnic mask, all were directly or indirectly allied with the Marxist side of the Cold War, and hostile to the United States and its allies. The threat they posed was more or less successfully suppressed behind the screen of Vietnam. Indonesia bloodily, but effectively, extirpated the threat from its overseas Chinese population, Singapore prospered, and the CT threat to Malaysia was essentially defeated.

            From this perspective, our involvement in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were part of a larger picture. Had either Indonesia or Malaysia fallen to pro-Chinese movements, the strategic situation would have shifted drastically from in which we and our non-SEA allies could control access to the Strait of Malacca to one that would have made it indefensible in case a major confrontation developed. Put this way, Vietnam was a tactical defeat--but a strategic success, meaning we didn't lose the Vietnam War, we won the Southeast Asia Conflict.

            JE comments:  From the larger Cold War perspective, this is a convincing thesis.  Moreover, it underscores Cameron Sawyer's point of several days ago, that the regional insurgencies and the US were fighting altogether different wars:  national liberation vs anti-communism.  Interestingly, Tim Brown gives the opposite interpretation of most people when it comes to Vietnam, who cite the tactical victories of the US/South Vietnamese coalition but a strategic defeat.
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            • Vietnam: A Tactical Defeat but Strategic Victory? (Francisco Ramirez, USA 12/27/14 11:26 AM)
              In response to Tim Brown (27 December), did we win the Southeast Asia conflict because or despite the loss in Vietnam? Could we have won the conflict without establishing ties with China?

              JE comments: The last point is especially worth contemplation.

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              • Thoughts on the New Chinese Empire (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/29/14 5:43 AM)
                My thoughts in response to Francisco Ramírez (27 December): the war in Southeast Asia was won (maybe another verb could be more appropriate; what about stabilized?) despite the loss in Vietnam and because of the establishment of ties with China.

                However, with China we have to be careful and not become its slaves. When all products will come from China and "made in USA or Italy" is no more, we will be the poor slaves of the worst modern empire.

                JE comments: And what about Chinese "soft power" throughout the developing world--Africa and Latin America in particular? When historians write the story of China's rise, they'll cite the Nicaragua canal deal as a watershed event. (And this isn't the first:  see the Chinese-built Superporto do Açu in Brazil.) 

                My question: Do the developing nations turn to China merely because it's offering investment and technology (and the "West" is not), or do they see Chinese domination (vs. Western) as the lesser evil?

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            • Vietnam: A Tactical Defeat but Strategic Victory? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/27/14 12:59 PM)
              Timothy Brown's take (27 December) on the Vietnam war is quite thought-provoking: given the much broader US focus (regional at least) versus the civil war perspective, the "tactical loss versus strategic victory" interpretation requires some thinking. My view is that when we discuss strategy, we can vary the width of focus, as Tim has done. We also are discussing the long term which can be endless, from the time the events occurred to the present or future times. Since the Vietnam war was ultimately, at its broadest focus, a struggle between Capitalism and Communism, one could also correctly conclude that the US won the ultimate strategic victory because under Gorbachev the Soviet Politburo dismantled the USSR. In this view, Vietnam and the Straits of Malacca are but little pieces of a much greater conflict.

              Of course, if my strategic analysis is extended in time to include the results to the present, I can correctly conclude that the fall of the USSR has been the biggest unmitigated disaster for the American middle class (my preferred definition of America) because, free from the threat of competition against Communism, the US government allowed special interests to take over US foreign policy, including the many regional military conflicts Eugenio Battaglia referred to in his 27 December post. For similar reasons, US/global corporate interests, under the profit motive, also elevated Communist China to full partnership through job outsourcing and massive technology transfer. Again, for similar reasons, the US/global financial sector spawned the latest financial crisis which brought America and the world to their financial knees in 2008.

              On a more philosophical level, Nigel Jones on 27 December concludes that: "However desirable pacifism may be, and however horrendous modern industrialised warfare... in the interests of reality I think we all have to accept the teachings of science, history, biology, and psychology that Homo sapiens is an innately and ineradicably aggressive animal, and that war and conflict have always been with us and always will be."

              Wow! I understand that humans in groups seem to have learned very little in the last 10,000 years except regarding science and technology. But we are supposed to be wiser than animals and we do have some significant strides in other areas such as the rule of law, Democracy, the US Constitution, the European Union, the Geneva Convention, etc. It is up to us to decide how to behave. We should not hide behind extreme assumptions that we must forever remain victims of our aggressive nature. We must take responsibility for our own behavior. Humans do have aggressive instincts but reality shows that most of us can also control our aggressive behavior, follow the law, help other people, and live in civilized society.

              JE comments: One of Tor Guimaraes's most thought-provoking ideas is explained in his second paragraph. He's given several versions of this thesis before: the Cold War victory took away the incentive for the US Powers that Be to share with the middle and working classes. What do other WAISers think? I find much of Tor's thesis to be credible, but note that the trend away from unionized labor began under Reagan in the early 1980s.  In addition, Soviet-style communism was never a credible, domestic threat in US society.

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              • How Did the End of the Cold War Destroy the US Middle Class? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 01/01/15 10:43 AM)
                John Eipper added this comment to my 27 December post: "One of Tor Guimaraes's most thought-provoking ideas is [that]... the Cold War victory took away the incentive for the US Powers that Be to share with the middle and working classes... I find much of Tor's thesis to be credible, but note that the trend away from unionized labor began under Reagan in the early 1980s. In addition, Soviet-style communism was never a credible, domestic threat in US society."

                In my opinion this is not "Tor's thesis" but a conclusion based on many factual events. I shall outline them below. (Note: Since correlation does not imply causality, any proposed connections between these historical events must be obvious or must be justified logically. I hope to accomplish this, and I invite critics to do the same, Thanks.)

                Once upon a time, there were two social political economic systems dominating the world: US social democratic capitalism versus Soviet totalitarian state capitalism. Few nations were able to remain politically or militarily neutral in this struggle; most were forced to take sides. The Soviet system had some strengths: it quickly developed strong science and heavy industry, it raised millions from poverty to a decent standard of living, it survived WWII with a strong military, it developed an impressive space program, it assisted many allies around the world. The strengths of the US system were amazing and set the limits for mankind: it achieved world dominance in science and technology, in business and economics, military power, and it assisted many allies throughout the world. These two systems competed for mankind's hearts and minds. The Soviet system preached against the unfairness of capitalism (rich owners versus poor workers) and the importance of equality and a strong government. The US system preached about individual freedom, consumerism, entrepreneurship, and wealth accumulation, with government playing the role of facilitator and referee for individuals and/or corporations. The benefits from freedom, consumerism, and a much higher standard of living were obvious to most people all over the world, particularly in clearly divided in-your-face comparisons such as East versus West Berlin, where the potential and actual human traffic was clearly in one direction.

                One day more than twenty years ago, the Soviet government realized that the consumer-based US system was more flexible and stronger economically and financially. They dismantled the Soviet political system into its component nations and hoped that the US economic social system could be easily adapted.

                The victory of the US system and its implications was nothing short of fantastic, incredible, and awesome: reduced fear of nuclear war, huge potential deductions in military spending, much greater world cooperation in science, technology, business and trade, etc. But the hidden implications were also great: the "evil empire" was gone, so sophisticated weapons manufacturers might have to go on a diet unless arms trade for regional conflicts could be increased. The need for a shiny West Berlin as a symbol of the US system superiority dissipated as East Germany was integrated. On the vanquished side, the need for having a chicken bone like Cuba on the US capitalist throat also dissipated. Free from the threat of competition against Communism, the US government could now enable or just allow special interests to take over US foreign policy, including the many regional military conflicts Eugenio Battaglia referred to in his post of 27 December.

                Closer to home, with the "Evil Empire" gone, the US government's interest in showing that our workers' standard of living was much higher than their supposedly Soviet workers' paradise counterparts was no longer necessary. US business could now be allowed to focus exclusively on their obviously ultimate goals: Quarterly increases in profits and shareholder value. Thus, as corporate profits increased, worker productivity was even more impressive, but workers' pay lagged for the following decades to date. Similarly, the fear that US technological superiority might be lost to the "Evil Empire" was also gone, so job outsourcing fueled the corporate unmitigated hunger for greater profits through foreign cheap labor and lower manufacturing costs. Amazingly, US/global corporate interests, under the profit motive, also elevated Communist China to full partnership through job outsourcing and massive technology transfer.

                Other ongoing examples of the US system assault on the US middle class are: below poverty minimum wage, reduction of worker benefits, scarcity of decent-paying jobs, forced under-employment, etc.

                As if all this plundering (forced reduction in standard of living for greater business profit) of the US middle class was not enough, for greater profit to a few special capitalists, the US government allowed (some say participated in) the US/global financial sector to implement the latest financial crisis which brought America and the world to their financial knees in 2008. Can anyone imagine any of this happening if the USSR was still in existence? It would have been unthinkable, impossible, and a critical matter of national security.

                JE comments: Tor's analysis is still a thesis, I'd say, but it's a solid and provocative one. What do WAISers think? I'm a bit unconvinced by Tor's last paragraph, as I don't see any individual or group as "allowing" the 2008 crisis. Note that a far worse financial collapse hit the capitalist world in the 1930s, and the Soviet system didn't replace it.

                Best New Year's wishes to Tor Guimaraes, one of WAISdom's steadiest and most prolific correspondents. How is it, Tor, that we live only 500 miles apart (513 to be exact) and still haven't met in person?  How about a resolution to make 2015 different?

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                • Did Mussolini Inspire FDR's New Deal? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/02/15 5:21 AM)
                  In reference to the excellent post of Tor Guimaraes (1 January), JE commented: "Note that a far worse financial collapse [than 2008] hit the capitalist world in the 1930s and the Soviet system didn't replace it."

                  At that time, the Soviet system with its first Five-Year Plan, mostly dedicated to developing industry at any cost, was also creating serious problems, for instance the elimination of the Kulaks.  It was also the period which seeded the hatred of the Ukrainians for the Russians.

                  But the fascist social system was also rising at that time.

                  J. P. Diggins in his book Mussolini and Fascism:  The View from America wrote: "In the 1930s the Fascist Corporate [nothing to do with the present American corporations--EB] State seemed to be a forge of smoking industries. While America reeled, the progress of Italy in navigation, aviation, in hydroelectric plants and in public works offered an alluring example of direct action and national planification. Confronting the ineptitude with which president Hoover faced the economic crisis, the Duce was giving excellent results."

                  President Roosevelt sent Rexford Tugwell and Raymond Moley (Brain Trust) in order to understand the system of public intervention from the State, which without destroying the private character of capitalism could fight its degeneration and transform an anarchical, asocial and uncontrolled capitalist market into a system under the law and the principles of social justice and efficiency.

                  Tugwell wrote on 22 October 1934: "Today I will meet the Duce.  His strength and intelligence are evident as the efficiency of the Italian Administration [now completely the contrary--EB] is the cleanest, the most linear, the most efficient champion of a social machine that I have ever seen."

                  Mussolini sent his Minister of Finance Guido Jung, who was Jewish, to illustrate his programs to the American President. The New Deal emerged from this (but it is not politically correct to remember this fact; anyway the documents of the various meetings are in the Roosevelt Library).

                  The social reforms of Mussolini and Fascism were dangerous for a degenerative capitalist system.  Bernard Shaw prophetically said in 1937: "The things made by Mussolini (in economics) will come sooner or later to a serious conflict with capitalism."

                  For sure the peaceful social reforms of Mussolini were more dangerous than the Panzer divisions of Hitler, and it became imperative to push the former into the arms of the latter and destroy both.

                  JE comments:  During the 1930s Mussolini was definitely in style among a number of intellectuals and politicians in both Britain and the US.  Even among strict opponents of Soviet communism and fascism, the idea of central planning was considered the mark of a modern economy.  However, I'm not convinced by Eugenio Battaglia's claim that the Western democracies were so threatened by the fascist model that they "pushed" Mussolini into the arms of Hitler.  Il Duce entered the war in 1940 simply to jump on the steamroller that appeared to be winning, and to gain spoils from France and Greece.
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                  • When Did Mussolini Lose Favor with the Western Democracies? (Luciano Dondero, Italy 01/02/15 7:55 AM)
                    In response to Eugenio Battaglia (2 January), the turning point for Mussolini was 1936. Italy invaded Ethiopia. Britain pushed the League of Nations to impose sanctions against Italy. Then Mussolini embarked on the Spanish adventure, crucially helping Franco and then drawing Germany in.

                    In 1938 Hitler and Mussolini sealed an alliance, which would eventually lead to Italy's entering WWII in 1940.  But the most infamous result of the 1938 pact were Italy's "racial laws," discriminating against the Jews.

                    While this did not lead to a policy of extermination ("only" 9,000 Jews were killed in Italy, out of 120,000; see Gilbert, Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict), it was a revolting piece of anti-Semitism, and drove some of the best Italian Jews away. Most notably, one Enrico Fermi.

                    This did not stop all connections between Fascist Italy and right-wing Zionists. In fact, Italy kept training the future initial cadre of the Israeli navy (see Wikipedia).

                    Best wishes for 2015 to all WAISers!

                    JE comments: And all the best to Luciano Dondero for an excellent 2015. I always enjoy your posts, Luciano. Please send a lot of them this year!

                    Eugenio Battaglia has discussed the Betar Naval Academy, the training ground for the future Israeli Navy.  See, for example, this post of 18 August 2014:


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                    • Italy under Mussolini: My Family's Story (Pietro Lorenzini, USA 01/03/15 3:36 AM)
                      Though I've been reading with great interest the WAIS writings of Eugenio Battaglia, I've purposely stayed away from commenting, particularly on those dealing with Fascism and the history of Italy under Mussolini. It's not that I haven't had a thought or two about those topics. Rather my silence has been due to life's lessons garnered from many heated discussions with family and friends. As a family where members often hold polar opposite political views, out of respect for different opinions and from a realization that strongly held opinions are not likely changed, I've learned that, at times silence and wisdom are not always at odds. Yet I do want to mention a couple of things.

                      The first is quick and simple. Reading a comment by Luciano Dondero where he stated that Mussolini's "racial laws" caused Enrico Fermi to leave Italy, for the sake of clarification, I wanted to note that Mr. Fermi was not Jewish, but his decision to leave was, in part, prompted by the fact that his wife was a member of an Italian Jewish family. For those interested in things Fermi, I recommend two good books which are a delight to read. The first, Atoms in the Family, My Life with Enrico Fermi, was written by his wife Laura and was published in the early 1950s by the University of Chicago Press. The other, Enrico Fermi: Physicist, written by Emilio Segre, was published by the University of Chicago in the 1970s.

                      The second is a personal reflection on the divisions which were created among my family members as a result of the World War II occupation by German troops of my home province in Tuscany and the resulting battle lines.

                      The Lorenzini and Gregori families come from the province of Massa Carrara, Tuscany's northwestern most province. From ancient times through World War II, the area has experienced countless struggles because its mountains, hills and valleys form a natural boundary separating Tuscany, Liguria and Parma/Emilia. In pre-Roman times Ligurian tribes, such as the Apuani, struggled with the Etruscans. Roman legions finally settled the contest by founding the port city of Luni and then, after decades of struggles, finally crushed the Apuani and settled thousands of these Ligurians in southern Italy. During the Middle Ages the region, known to many as Lunigiana, a name born of the ancient Roman port of Luni (Luna in Latin), experienced centuries of warfare as one after another of the Tuscan Republics (Pisa, Lucca and finally Florence) sought to extend their influence, trade and defense fortifications northward to ward off Lombard and Genoese competitors.

                      During World War II, the region's key geographic location was underscored yet again as the German Army and its Italian Fascist allies established the Linea Gotica (Gothic Line). The Gothic Line was a defensive barrier which Field Marshall Albert Kesselring expected would be the last reasonable line of defense in northern Italy. While the history of the Gothic Line is officially recognized as running from approximately late summer 1944 to April 1945, local partisans fought Italian Fascist troops and their German allies as early as late September 1943. For almost two years the region saw much blood shed as the contesting parties struck out at each other. As was all too common, a strike against one caused merciless reprisals by the other.

                      My own family experienced this first hand, as did many other families in the region. For example, as young man barely in his twenties, my father, Domenico Lorenzini, was made a medical orderly shortly after induction into the Italian army. The hand of fate intervened, for as Domenico was about to be shipped to Russia an Italian military physician from Tuscany took a liking to this young fellow Tuscan and had my babbo transferred to the physician's medical unit, a unit bound for occupied France. Later when Mussolini's government fell, that same physician, now head of an Italian military hospital detachment in France, told his men that they could choose to stay, and possibly become subject to the German military authorities, or decide to take the perilous journey back home on their own. My father chose the latter course. He eventually walked from central France all the way back to Fivizzano in Massa Carrara.

                      Other family members, however, were not so lucky. After my Uncle Pietro Conti's military division refused to fight alongside the Germans, he was arrested and ended up spending almost two years in Dachau. In the end, he was saved by a combination of luck, wits and by the eventual capture of the camp by Allied forces. My uncle, Nello Gregori (my mother Rosina Gregori's eldest brother) serving in the Italian army in North Africa, was eventually captured and almost starved to death at the hands of colonial forces, only to be saved from certain death when the American/British took direct charge of the captured Italian prisoners. Meanwhile, after my father arrived in Fivizzano he was able to avoid arrest because an older and distant cousin was in charge of a munitions plant in Palerone, a town just outside of Aulla (both of these small Tuscan towns along with La Spezia, a key naval port just across the Tuscan-Ligurian border, were heavily bombed throughout the later stages of the war).

                      In the meantime, in Massa Carrara and La Spezia provinces, many of my father's and mother's friends, and many in their respective families, found themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. Often these were political choices made after some reflection, but I would contend that more often they were choices driven by outside events which had struck deep into the personal lives of individuals and their families. For example, some family and friends supported Mussolini's reconstituted government, but others choose to resist the Nazis and their Italian allies. As organized partisan activities became more effective and sanguinary, Nazi reprisals became more numerous, ferocious and bloody. In turn, this caused many locals, who in their attempts to survive tried to stay out of the fight, to support the partisans and actively fight against the Germans. After my dad's father, Silvio, and Uncle Settimo and his American-born wife Francesca were arrested by the Germans and held for questioning (during their detention Settimo and Francesca were beaten and tortured under SS direction), my 23-year-old father secretly joined the partisans (4th Brigata Garibaldi Apuania), as did his cousin Paolo Lorenzini (the only son of Settimo and Francesca). Later, Paolo, a young man also in his early twenties, was killed in one of those countless partisan-German skirmishes fought by those unlucky enough to be behind the Gothic Line.

                      To this day, many Lunigianese families are divided over issues which arose from the war. This is to be expected as so many experienced war's atrocities first-hand. The formal recognition of these scars can be seen in the countless state-sponsored statues to war dead (honoring Italians who died on both sides of the conflict) found in most every hamlet, village, town and city in Massa Carrara and La Spezia provinces. But it can also be seen in the many privately sponsored roadside monuments which even today, some 70-odd years later, pepper the region. These roadside monuments give tangible evidence to the tragedies of war. They speak to the human pain and suffering experienced by those who were captured by German troops and summarily shot alongside picture-perfect Tuscan hillside country roads. These simple monuments also testify that the divisions and injuries of war continue to this day, long after the original wounds were inflicted, their scars remain in the hearts of many Lunigianese family and friends.

                      Wishing all a best New Year, Pietro Lorenzini

                      JE comments:  Pietro Lorenzini's family saga is an excellent New Year's present for the WAIS readership.  People caught in the maelstrom of warfare do what they can to survive.  Often, when you live in a contested region, factors beyond an individual's control can separate families, and even divide them along partisan lines.

                      It's been a great first few days of January, as we've heard from long-silent WAISers Mike Calnan, Anthony D'Agostino, and now Pietro Lorenzini.  A New Year's resolution fulfilled?  I hope so!

                      All the best to Pietro for 2015.

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                  • Did Mussolini Inspire FDR's New Deal? (Anthony D`Agostino, USA 01/02/15 4:54 PM)
                    A small addendum on FDR and Mussolini:

                    The question of Eugenio Battaglia (2 January) as to whether the New Deal was inspired by Italian fascism must surely be answered in the negative. Eugenio cites John P. Diggins, Mussolini and Fascism: the View from America, but this results in a distortion.

                    Jack Diggins was my close and dear friend. He did not argue that the New Deal "emerged from" Mussolini's corporatism. Quite the reverse: Diggins insisted that the writings of the Roosevelt Brain Trusters "reveal no evidence of the the influence of Italian fascism on the New Deal." (280).

                    Not to say that Roosevelt did not observe with attention Mussolini's military demonstration against the threat of a Nazi Anschluss with Austria in 1934. Roosevelt was also interested in the French attempt to recruit Mussolini for a diplomatic bloc against Germany in 1935. But he and other US diplomats doubted that this could be bought, as the French thought, by green-lighting Mussolini's war with Ethiopia in 1935-6.

                    Roosevelt and Churchill would have loved to divide Hitler and Mussolini. Churchill's postwar history, volume one of which was The Gathering Storm, still expressed regret that a way was not found to do this.

                    But the presumed kinship of the New Deal and fascism is another matter.

                    JE comments:  A post from veteran WAISer Anthony D'Agostino is a great way to start off 2015!  Happy New Year to you, Anthony!

                    I never knew that the French were willing to "trade off" Ethiopia in exchange for Mussolini joining an anti-Hitler bloc.  This conjures up a series of "what ifs."  First of all, what if Mussolini had made a deal with France, which would have kept him out of war in 1940?  He certainly would have stayed in power, à la Franco.

                    I'm sure Eugenio Battaglia will have a response.

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                    • Mussolini's Social Programs; Response to Anthony D'Agostino (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/04/15 6:05 AM)
                      With reference to Anthony D'Agostino's post of 2 January, I wish to point out some perhaps unknown benefits granted by Mussolini to the Italian people. Many of these were world firsts:

                      • 1923: Medical assistance for the poor.

                      • 1923: 8-hour work day, and the creation of the Opera Dopolavoro (Institution for after work), with cinemas, libraries, dancing and singing schools, palestras and sports fields, etc.

                      • 1926: Opera Maternità ed Infanzia (Institution for the protection of mother and child)

                      • 1927: Carta del Lavoro (Labour Charter), which placed capitalism and the working class on the same level, with compulsory working contracts, a judiciary system for work disputes, annual holidays, indemnity at the end of contract, state insurance against injuries while working and to cover the maternity period, and against professional illnesses and against unemployment, insurance against work-related sickness and injury through a Mutual system.

                      Of course, many other benefits were later granted, but I have enumerated those up to the 1929 crisis.

                      As for the second part of Anthony's post and JE's comments, I'd like to make a few points:

                      I would say that the Stresa meeting was initiated by Mussolini and not by France. After all, it took place in Italy.

                      The unexpected British-German naval agreement may be considered a betrayal of the spirit of Stresa. In fact, Churchill later wrote that with this episode, Mussolini saw proof that the UK was not acting in good faith towards his allies.

                      France's "trade off" for Ethiopia was made by PM Laval but soon forgotten by the French Government for internal political reasons. Then under Leon Blum, the hostilities of France against Italy reached the extreme.

                      For Mussolini in 1940, it was absolutely impossible to remain neutral (there are plenty reasons that we may later see; in any case, no comparisons with Spain are possible).  It was imperative to decide which side to join. Italy was constructing a strong defensive line along the borders with the Third Reich (this went on until 1941), and theoretically it would have been possible to enter in war against Germany until 31 March 1940. Unfortunately in the last period the Western Powers did everything possible to antagonize Italy. See for example the Pietromarchi Report, which clearly shows the British/French efforts to strangle the Italian economy through the shipping blockade.

                      One correction: the Jewish Italians who were killed were mostly deported to Germany when the RSI was not yet in force, in September/October 1943. Other Jewish Italians died because they were partisans. It is worthwhile to note that Mussolini was always against the killing of any Jew. On 19 April 1945 in Mantova, the German SS captured Doctor Tommaso Salci and his son, both belonging to the partisan Partito d'Azione, but Mussolini promptly acted and managed to obtain their freedom. The list of such incidents is quite extensive.

                      JE comments:  We've heard a lot about Mussolini's positive side from Eugenio Battaglia.  My favorite is the invention of the limited-access highway (Autostrada).  One question for Eugenio:  wasn't Mussolini's Ethiopia adventure an egregious error of strategy?  Meaning, if he hadn't antagonized Britain and France by invading Ethiopia, wouldn't the rest of the 1930s have played out very differently?

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                      • Mussolini Revisionism (Randy Black, USA 01/05/15 5:37 AM)
                        In his 4 January post, Eugenio Battaglia pointed out the many benefits of the rule of Benito Mussolini during his time as elected leader and later dictator over Italy. Eugenio referred to medical assistance for the poor in 1923. He added that Mussolini created an 8-hour workday along with "the Opera Dopolavoro (Institution for after work), with cinemas, libraries, dancing and singing schools, palestras and sports fields, etc." during the same year. Along the way, Eugenio pointed to other "benefits" implemented.

                        In my research, I cannot find anything regarding a medical benefit for the poor in that era of Italian history. This does not mean it didn't happen, but overall, the benefits mentioned strike me as designed to "buy" the support of the proletariat. Government handouts such as free medical treatment, free food, free public transportation, free this and that...

                        Material that I did run across was certainly not a plus in my view. From the www.historylearningsite.co.uk:

                        "(Mussolini) only gained what could be described as dictatorial powers after the Lateran Treaty whereby he could guarantee loyalty from those Catholics who may well have not been supporters of the fascist state in Italy.

                        "...He achieved some semblance of power after the March on Rome in 1922 when he was appointed Prime Minister of Italy. But his government contained a mixture of men with different political beliefs--similar to Hitler's position in January 1933.

                        "But, his time in power almost collapsed after the murder of Matteotti [RB: a political opponent who was dead two days after his public condemnation of El Duce] when great anger gripped Italy. If he had been a true dictator in 1922, then such an uproar would never have happened as his enemies and the Italian people in general would have been cowed into submission.

                        "Mussolini started his time in power by buying support from both the working class and the industrial bosses.

                        "The workers were promised an 8-hour day while an enquiry into the profits made by the industrialists during World War I was dropped. The rich benefited from a reduction in death duties--now, under Mussolini, more of what someone had earned during their lifetime, went to their family and not the government. To get support from the Roman Catholic Church, religious education was made compulsory in all elementary schools.

                        "These policies can be seen as an attempt to ‘buy' support. ...Mussolini had never intended to share power with the liberals who were in the government. He introduced a Fascist Grand Council, which would decide policy for Italy without consulting the non-fascists in the government first.

                        "In February 1923, Mussolini and the Fascist Grand Council introduced the Acerbo Law. This law changed election results. Now if one party got just 25% (or more) of the votes cast in an election, they would get 66% of the seats in parliament.

                        "When it came for Parliament to vote on the Acerbo Law, many politicians agreed to a law that would almost certainly end their political careers if they were not fascists. Why did they do this?

                        "The gallery in the hall in which the politicians voted was filled with armed fascist thugs who had a good view of anybody who spoke out against the law. The threat was clear and real. If you voted for the law, you would be fine. If you did not, then you were certainly in danger from fascist thugs.

                        "Mussolini did say in the spring of 1924 that 'a good beating did not hurt anyone.'

                        "...In the March election that followed the Acerbo Law, the Fascist Party got 65% of the votes cast and, therefore, easily got the 2/3rds of parliamentary seats--a clear majority. That people were intimidated into voting for the Fascists or that the Fascists took ballot papers from those who might have voted against Mussolini were brushed aside. The Fascists who were elected were bound to support Mussolini. In this sense, the Acerbo Law was an important move to dictatorship in Italy.

                        "(Thereafter) blackshirt thugs... beat up critics but that did not stop Giacomo Matteotti from publicly condemning Mussolini. Matteotti was murdered almost certainly by fascists and Mussolini was held responsible for this.

                        "There was overwhelming public outrage at the murder as Matteotti was Italy's leading socialist Member of Parliament. Newspapers and wall posters condemned Mussolini, and in the summer of 1924 there was a real possibility that Mussolini would have to resign.

                        "A number of non-fascist politicians walked out of Parliament in protest at the murder. This gesture only served to play into Mussolini's hands as it got rid of more parliamentary opposition. The protestors--named the Aventine protestors--appealed to the king, Victor Emmanuel, to dismiss Mussolini but the king disliked the protestors more than Mussolini because they leaned towards republicanism and he refused to take action.

                        "With this royal support, Mussolini felt strong enough to take on his opponents. Any critics of Mussolini were beaten up and newspapers that were not supportive of the Fascists were shut down. In January 1925, Mussolini said the following:

                        "'I declare... in front of the Italian people... that I alone assume the political, moral and historic responsibility for everything that has happened. Italy wants peace and quiet, work and calm. I will give these things with love if possible and with force if necessary.'

                        "After surviving the Matteotti affair, Mussolini slowly introduced the classic features of a dictatorship. But this was now nearly three years after the March on Rome.

                        "In November 1926, all rival political parties and opposition newspapers were banned in Italy.

                        "In 1927, a secret police force was set up called the OVRA and it was lead by Arturo Bocchini. The death penalty was reintroduced for 'serious political offences.' By 1940, the OVRA had arrested 4000 suspects but only 10 people from 1927 to 1940 were ever sentenced to death--much smaller than in Nazi Germany.

                        "Mussolini also changed Italy's constitution. He introduced a diarchy. This is a system whereby a country has two political heads. In Italy's case, it was Mussolini and the king, Victor Emmanuel. This system put Mussolini in charge of Italy simply because Victor Emmanuel was not the strongest of men and rarely felt able to assert himself. Though he disliked Mussolini bypassing him at every opportunity, he did little to challenge this.

                        "Mussolini appointed members to the Fascist Grand Council and from 1928, the Grand Council had to be consulted on all constitutional issues. As Mussolini appointed people onto the Council, logic would dictate that those people would do what Mussolini wished them to do.

                        "The electoral system was changed again in 1928. Mussolini said after the change: 'Any possibility of choice is eliminated... I never dreamed of a chamber like yours.'

                        "Workers and employers unions (now known as corporations) were entitled to draw up the names of 1000 people they wanted considered for parliament. The Grand Council selected 400 of these names, i.e. people they would approve of. The list of 400 names was presented to the electorate for approval. They could only vote for or against the whole list--not the individual candidates. In 1929, 90% of the electorate voted for the list and in 1934, this figure had increased to 97%. However, all those on the list were Grand Council approved so they were no more than ‘lap dogs' for Mussolini with no real political power. In 1939, Parliament was simply abolished."

                        RB: I am an admirer of most Italian history and achievements. But it seems to me that Mussolini was not the great person Eugenio would have WAISers believe he was.


                        JE comments: Eugenio Battaglia never claimed that Mussolini was a democrat, but rather that his social policies and authoritarianism were good for Italy.

                        I'm confused about one thing here:  isn't "buying" the support of specific interest groups the entire point of politics?  Even a libertarian approach to government--removing regulations, lowering taxes, etc.--is buying the support of those sectors who benefit.

                        Eugenio Battaglia has not turned me into an admirer of Mussolini, but his revisionism has forced us to reappraise the one-dimensional view of Il Duce that prevails in the Anglophone world--that of a megalomaniac buffoon, a military incompetent, and Hitler's dupe.  For this, we should be grateful to Eugenio.

                        Next up:  Eugenio reflects on Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia.

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                        • Mussolini Revisionism (Mendo Henriques, Portugal 01/05/15 9:28 AM)
                          About Mussolini revisionism, I admit I am not at all interested in Mussolini; fascism is a political cul-de-sac. It sucked then and it sucks now.

                          I would add that the vision (summarized by JE) of Il Duce as a megalomaniac buffoon, a military incompetent, and Hitler's dupe is not exclusive to the Anglophone world. As far as I can record, in Portugal and Spain, scholars have the same appraisal. The Negus was a political exile in Portugal, in 1936.

                          All military decisions of Mussolini were stupid, opportunistic, and led to defeat a powerful nation and a beautiful country, as confessed by his former protegé, admirer and son-in-law Count Ciano, whose memories I have read, twice.

                          1. General Graziani subjugated Libya in the 1930s, but at what price? Concentration camps and massacres.

                          2. Mussolini conquered Ethiopia in 1936 but, then, who wouldn't be able to do that with airplanes, tanks, and machine guns against people armed with guns and riding horses?

                          3. In Spain, after a victory at Málaga, the four Fascist divisions were defeated at the battle of Guadalajara in 1937. Afterwards, they were irrelevant.

                          5. The Italian Army failed miserably in the invasion of Southern France in June 1940, against much weaker French forces.

                          5. After the invasion of Albania in 1939, Fascist Italy was defeated by the Greek Army in the winter of 1939-1940, in a formidable epic. Hitler's intervention was required to save the Italians.

                          6. Mussolini was unable to conquer Malta because Air Force, Army, and Navy could not agree on a plan.

                          7. the Italian record in North Africa was miserable. They were chased by O'Connor en 1940, by Auchinleck in 1941 and by Montgomery in 1942. The Italian canned food had stamped AM, which standed for "Admnistrazione Militare" but the Germans read it as "Armes Mussolini," poor Mussolini because of the poor state of the Italian military.

                          8. Mussolini forgot to give aircraft carriers to the Italian Navy in a closed sea such as the Mediterranean, and so it lost the war.

                          I think I could go on with the series of Mussolini's blunders, but perhaps it is enough to establish him as a military buffoon and a war criminal.

                          Happy New Year to all.

                          JE comments: And the best to Mendo Henriques, on the occasion of his first post of 2015.

                          How certain can we be that Italy's lack of aircraft carriers was a significant factor in its defeat?  If I'm not mistaken Germany and Italy together did not have a single carrier.  Isn't it less necessary to have a carrier-based force in a closed sea?

                          Perhaps nautical expert Eugenio Battaglia can tell us more about the carrier Aquila, which was never made operational.

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                          • Mussolini Revisionism (Roy Domenico, USA 01/06/15 3:41 PM)
                            ​I've been away for a few days at the American Historical Association meeting and I followed the interesting exchange on Mussolini. A couple of things come to mind. First of all, I want to underscore Anthony D'Agostino's comment on the Diggins book. Unlike Anthony, I never knew John Diggins. I wish I had, because I always admired his book and it was one of those special books that pushed me into the direction that I took as a historian.

                            Diggins's book was not a paean to Mussolini and showed beautifully the complexity of the US-Italian relationship. The New Deal was not modeled on the Corporate State but--in 1933-34--Roosevelt was open to looking at what Mussolini was doing. Hitler was not much of a factor at this time and Italy could be considered on its own. I'm also attaching a shot of the famous (among Italianisti) shot of the July 1934 issue of Fortune Magazine which was, indeed, a paean to Mussolini and Fascism. The articles in that issue show how popular Fascism was among the business elite. They--or many of them such as Morgan Guarantee Trust--liked Mussolini.

                            JE comments:  Here's the cover.  Those were certainly different times.  And by the way, wasn't a whole dollar, well, a fortune for a magazine in 1934?


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                          • Mussolini as Military Leader; on the Carrier *Aquila* (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/07/15 9:23 AM)
                            I really enjoyed Mendo Henriques's post on Mussolini (5 January). It is so good to meet someone that has so strong convictions without any possible doubt.

                            To address Mendo's criticism of Mussolini as a military leader, unfortunately Mussolini had a strong respect for the high admirals and generals, plus their protector the king. As I have previously stated, Mussolini should have put a good number of them in front of a firing squad for treason, cowardice and incompetence. These high officers wanted to eliminate him and the only way was through defeat. We have already mentioned the story of Admiral Franco Maugeri and his book, printed in New York, From the Ashes of Disgrace. The heroic man received the US Legion of Merit, "for exceptionally deserving conduct while accomplishing superior services to the US government when chief of Italian Naval Intelligence, Commander at La Spezia, Chief of the Italian Navy during [sic] and after WWII." He was also the guy who took Mussolini from the mainland to the the islets of Ponza e Maddalena.

                            John E asked about Italian aircraft carriers. In July 1941 after the disgrace of the battle of Cape Matapan (three Italian cruisers sunk), it was decided to transform the transatlantic ship Roma into the aircraft carrier L'Aquila. The ship under transformation was badly damaged by aerial bombing in 1942, but was ready to sail on the day of the Unconditional Surrender on 9 September 1943. In response it was sabotaged by the crew. Later L'Aquila was taken by the RSI and again bombed, so she never could sail.  At the end of the war she finished on the bottom of the port of Genoa. Refloated again, she was destroyed in 1952.

                            JE comments: Eugenio Battaglia holds strong views on Italian history, but I admire his admiration of those who hold equally strong (if contrasting) views. I hope Mendo Henriques will return to this conversation. My specific question for Mendo: why in his view would aircraft carriers have made any difference in Italy's war effort? Wasn't just about every potential target (including, Greece, the Balkans, and N Africa) accessible from land bases in Italy, Libya, or Somalia/Ethiopia?

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                            • Mussolini as Military Leader; *Charlie Hebdo* Massacre (Mendo Henriques, Portugal 01/07/15 4:10 PM)
                              My thanks to JE for asking me for more details, but I confess the Mussolini issue is a bit dull on this day of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. January 7, 2015 will go down in history as a bad day for all the world. I hope reason will prevail against retaliation.

                              Eugenio Battaglia (7 January) is on the right track when he wrote that the Italian Military establishment was against Mussolini. I think Eugenio only needs to extract the obvious conclusion: they judged Mussolini to be an militarily incompetent adventurer, endangering the gains of Savoy Italy. Surely Eugenio knows the details of the never-ending conspiracy of the Italian military against Mussolini, such as Roatta's conspiracy in Spain, and the final one, Badoglio's coup d'etat in 1943.

                              Naval doctrine in the 1930s after the 1929 London Treaties on the limitation of tonnage of battleships stated that aircraft carriers were imperative to support surface fleets, irrespective of whether operations were in the open sea such as the Atlantic or Pacific, or at a closed sea such as the Mediterranean. Naval powers GB and the US accelerated their aircraft carrier programs. Germany started but did not finish the Hindenburg. Suppose the Nazis had built it. The Bismarck would have been, perhaps, twice more powerful. As for Italy, Mussolini stated that he had enough land bases to do without aircraft carriers, against the opinion of Supermarina.

                              After WWII, Italy built aircraft carriers.

                              JE comments: The world is aghast with today's terrorist incident: twelve were killed in an attack on the Paris editorial offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.  This was in apparent retaliation for pieces the journal had published mocking Islam.  Details are very sketchy still.  A sickening event, and a sad day.

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                      • Was Mussolini's Ethiopia Adventure a Strategic Mistake? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/05/15 7:54 AM)
                        Oh, my goodness. When commenting on my post of 4 January, John E asked: "Wasn't Mussolini's Ethiopia adventure an egregious error of strategy? Meaning if he had not antagonized Britain and France by invading Ethiopia, wouldn't the rest of the 1930s have played out very differently?

                        If the answer must be a yes or no, I would have have to say yes, it was an error. However, the politics and the feelings of those times were very complicated.

                        First of all, I am convinced that the Western powers could not tolerate the economic and social system of Mussolini. No matter what, it was imperative to destroy him and the main way was to push him into the arms of Hitler. See what has been written by Winston Churchill, George Macaulay Trevelyan and Philippe Jules Arthur Noel.

                        At that time the Abyssinian Empire was still a feudal state with ethnic/religious feuds, where slavery was permitted, and it was poorly controlled by the Emperor.

                        In this setting we arrive at the Ual Ual, on the river Uebi Scebeli, an incident when thousands (14,000?) of Abyssinians on 5 December 1934 unsuccessfully attacked an Italian position manned by the Somalian Dubats. This was not the only incident of this type.

                        A special commission directed by the Greek Nicolaos Politis on 3 September 1935 placed the fault on the Abyssinians, but reparations from them were not supported by various foreign ambassadors.

                        On 4 January 1935 the French PM Laval gave the green light for Italy to retaliate, but the latter promised not to push for the defense of the 95,000 ethnic Italians resident in Tunisia.

                        On 23 June, Eden came to Rome offering some exchange of African territories, but it was considered an unacceptable offer. Eden never liked or understood Italy, but anyway he considered Italy a serious danger for the British Empire and on the 20 September the powerful and menacing Home Fleet entered the Mediterranean.

                        To be fair, Eden had good reasons to fear Italy, as with Mussolini the policy towards the populations of the colonies had shifted (old memories of his socialist anti-colonialist past) toward a policy of integration which granted the African populations the same benefits as the Italians. In this sense, Mussolini was trying to restore what was believed to be the best of the old Roman Empire. That was quite different from the conditions in the other colonial empires.

                        I recommend an analysis of the song "Faccetta Nera," a symbol of the war, to understand the friendly (!) feelings of the Italians toward the Abyssinians.

                        On 7 October 1935 the League of Nations declared Italy an aggressor, and on the 10th of the same month the British Foreign Minister succeeded in getting the approval of sanctions against Italy.

                        Fifty-one States voted for and only 3 against--Austria, Hungary and Albania. The US, Germany and Japan were not in the League and kept commerce going with Italy, while Spain and Yugoslavia informed that they would only partially abide by the sanctions.

                        Many nations, wishing to weaken Italy, supplied arms to Ethiopia, foremost the UK supplying the outlawed dum-dum ammunition. Surprisingly, Germany also sent weapons to the Ethiopians.

                        The campaign concluded on 6 May 1936. Perhaps the best warriors were the wonderful Eritreans.

                        October 10th, 1935 marked the beginning of the European foreign policy of Mussolini. He did not like Hitler, but...

                        A curiosity, in October Mussolini sent two eminent Italian Jews, Angelo Orvieto and Dante Latters, to London to intercede for help from the International Jewish Communities but with no success.

                        When Italian ships were passing through the Suez Canal, paying in gold to Britain, the huge Italian local community of about 50,000 was applauding.

                        On 10 November 1935 200,000 Italian-Americans marched in Philadelphia against the sanctions.

                        18 November 1935 was Italy's "Day of Gold for the Country." Everybody went and gave gold, especially wedding rings, which were replaced by an iron ring fashioned from old Austrian guns. Of course my parents complied immediately.

                        Many antifascists showed their strong support, such as the philosopher Benedetto Croce. Even the communist leader Togliatti, in exile at Moscow, addressed a letter to the Brothers in Black Shirt accepting the Fascist Program of 1919.

                        Thanks to the sanctions, Fascism got the maximum of Italian consent.

                        I too have a question: if the huge French and British Empires had not antagonized the small Italian Empire, wouldn't the rest of the 1930s and '40s have played very differently?

                        JE comments: Perhaps, but the British and French empires were not scathed by their antagonism against Italy, whereas Mussolini's actions brought an end to his entire regime and ideology.

                        Eugenio Battaglia stresses a point I had never considered. The Western democracies' sanctions against Italy post-Ethiopia may have heightened the fascist regime's popularity at home.  Can't we say this is more or less the norm with sanctions--I'm thinking of Putin's popularity in Russia (though it's waning, fast) or the longest-running case study of all:  Cuba.

                        Next up on Italian fascism, Mendo Henriques in Lisbon.

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                  • End of the Cold War and the 2008 Crisis (Tor Guimaraes, USA 01/03/15 4:35 AM)
                    My gratitude to Eugenio Battaglia for his kind words about my 1 January post, and for explaining to John Eipper why the Soviet system was not in a position to replace the US capitalist system during the financial collapse of the 1930s.

                    John still remained unconvinced by my last argument that "the US government allowed (some say participated in) the US/global financial sector to implement the [2008] financial crisis." Oh, none are so blind as the ones who don't want to see. The US government regulators allowed the financial fraud to go on, so did the mortgage writing institutions knowingly accepting bogus borrower information, the banks who wrote and sold fraudulent securities, the credit raters who assigned AAA ratings for such securities, etc.

                    I have presented overwhelming evidence for concluding that the fall of the Soviet system over the last few decades enabled US/global capitalism to relentless seek profits wherever and whenever possible by inducing regional wars, replacing governments to benefit from local corruption, trading US jobs for cheaper goods, squeezing workers' income and standard of living despite large productivity increases, and lastly perpetrating the largest financial fraud on the world. This is not a thesis, it is not even a theory; it is an inescapable conclusion. The real question now is what will the American people do to create new jobs, regain technological advantages, increase product and process innovation, and ultimately improve its fast decaying standard of living?

                    The answer is apparently too difficult for us to accomplish. It will take leadership, vision, incredible discipline, and relentless hard work.

                    JE comments: My skepticism is twofold: 1)  Did the bad actors (and I'm not denying that there were many of them) "allow" the 2008 crisis to happen, or did it just happen?  This ties in to 2)  Would 2008 somehow have played out differently if we were still fighting the Cold War?  I don't see how either question can be answered with Tor Guimaraes's certitude.

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