Friday, November 25, 2011

Ding DongThe King Is Dead: Evacuation Day, America's Greatest Holiday.

Now that Thanksgiving is over and you finished all digesting all that turkey, it is time to focus on the greatest holiday in American History. No, I am not talking about the Black Friday, I am talking about, Evacuation Day. Evacuation Day, the day The United States would officially become a sovereign nation and those damn Redcoats were finally sent packing. But why would we let such an event slip into the cracks of history? Why do we celebrate the Fourth of July instead of Evacuation Day? More importantly why should we start celebrating Evacuation Day over July Fourth. So lets jump in, take a look at this forgotten holiday and figure out how we can revive it.

Let the celebration begin! Washington reenters The Big Apple to the cheers of every American in the city on November 25, 1783. Now why is that such a big deal? Well aside from the war being officially over, it was the first time the Continental Army had been in New York City since summer of '76. After the British had failed to hold onto the city of Boston in 1776, those Tommys came back with a vengeance and took aim right at New York City. Now, why New York City? Well it was still the major hub of the Loyalists and Tory bastards. So the British knew they had already won the hearts and minds of most of New York City, especially since at this point during the war the Continental Army was a rag tag bunch and generally out of control when their commanding officers weren't around. Now how could the British have taken New York, I mean Washington just tore them a new one in Boston, how could them come back from that?

The British Invasion begins, and just as these four chaps invaded New York in 1964, The British invaded New York in 1776 with a force of 22,000 limey Redcoats and 9,000 sour Kraut Hessians. Washington and his men had no idea what they were in for, the Brits hit hard, fast and out witted the Continental Army. In early August the British setup camp on the eastern end of Long Island and waited for the rest of the British Navy to arrive for support. Upon their arrival the Battle of Long Island began and the Americans were forced to retreat to Brooklyn Heights. It was then through Divine Providence that Washington, his Army and the American Cause was saved. A dense fog set in over the East River and Washington the opportunist that he was, saw his chance to save his men and America. So he waited until the middle of the night and under the cover of the fog, he, his men and all their supplies were evacuated to New York City. However, the Brits were not impressed with Washington and continued to push after them. Eventually the Redcoats would force the Americans, to retreat to Fort Washington and then across the Hudson to New Jersey. This would then start Washington's "Retreat to Victory," which in other words is, Washington high tailing it out of New York to regroup, re-plan and refocus on how he and the Army would take back the city.

Cue the triumphant music, signal the cannon fire and hold on to you tricorn caps because Washington is about to unleash hell on those evil Redcoats sons of bitches. After Washington retreated across New Jersey, he and the Continental Army regrouped in the safety of Philadelphia. However, that winter Washington was on the attack. We all know about the crossing of the Delaware River and the "Ten Crucial Days" that saved America. In short, for those who don't know, the Americans attacked the Brits and their sneaky Hessian allies on Christmas Day of 1776, yea that's right George Washington shows no mercy. With a victory at the Battle of Trenton, the Americans pushed the British north and again attacked them at the Battle of Princeton and chalked up another W for America. During the rest of New Jersey Campaign the American's continued to harass and go after the Brits. They continued to win several key battles,Millstone (1777), Bound Brook (1777), Short Hills (1777), Monmouth (1778), Paulus Hook (1779), Connecticut Farms (1780) and Springfield (1780), which forced the British to retreat to New York. Now with the Continental Army pressuring them from both New Jersey and the New England region the British were forced to hunker down, batten down the hatches and sit tight in New York. It was this though that would prove devastating for them and thus be a leading factor in the failure to suppress the Revolution.

Hit the road jack and don't you come back no more, no more. Yes, finally after everything the colonies had been through the war was finally over and British rule was dead in America. The Continental Army had defeated the British and America was born. After eight years of fighting the Redcoats they were finally gone and celebrating rang out across the new United States of America. But this new Freedom did not come without a cost. Aside from all the heroics we honor and learn about, Washington's Generals, the Continental Congress, the bravery of the Minute Men, the winter at Valley Forge, the betrayal of Benedict Arnold and the legends that were born during the battles, it is easy for us to forget the costs. It is estimated that a minimum of 50,000 Americans died during the war, and some estimates have it somewhere around 60,000.Which brings us back to Evacuation Day and it's importance to American History. It is easy for us to except casualties during warfare, but during the British occupation of New York, Americans within the city suffered the greatest. Parts of the city were burnt to the ground by those chaps...twice. Those who didn't support the Crown were treated as second class citizens and received no aid from the British. The worst action of the British came to those Americans captured during war or taken into custody because of their support of Independence. They were placed on prison ships in the Wallabout Bay and left to die, but not just any death, but a death resulting in from starvation, disease and in some cases drowning in the lower parts of the ship. Historians number about 12,000 prisoners killed by the British on these floating hellholes. So for everything America went through during these eight years, I ask you is it right that we have forgotten the day of triumph?

Now why do we place more importance on the Fourth of July? Yes, I know the Declaration of Independence was released and we officially broke ties with England. But that was in 1776 and the war continued to rage on for eight more years, with times that seemed like the cause was a loss. So why celebrate an event that was so early in the war and not the day that marked the end? In the past we have honor D-Day yet celebrate V-E Day, so whats the difference? Well, as Sarah Vowell pointed out on November 17ths Daily Show (By the way thanks for stealing my story Sarah) we have only President Abraham Lincoln to blame. No why blame honest Abe? Well we can't really but we will. The Bearded One needed to create a sense of Patriotism during the Civil War so he proclaimed that the National Holiday of Thanksgiving be celebrated on the final Thursday of November, thanks Abe. So Thanksgiving gets the bump and the celebration of America's victory over the Dark Side goes forgotten. Now because of this, we celebrate the Fourth of July, the start of the war and not the end, the official beginning of America.

So here we are in the year 2011, 228 years later and the Holiday of Evacuation Day is on the verge of being forgotten. But I say we can revive it, we can bring it back. Sure we are all chummy with those Brits now, but there is no reason we can't still go into a pub, order a fine domestic beer and bask in the glory of being part of a great nation, a nation that came from humble beginnings and an idea that went on to defeat the greatest empire since Rome. But we need to remember, we need to visit the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument and pay tribute to those killed by the hands of the British. We need to head to down Broadway in the footsteps of Washington and the Continental Army as victoriously did. Let's relight the signal fires along the Hudson River they Patriots lite to guide the British out of New York. Then raise the stars and stripes in Battery Park as the Americans did then as the British ships sailed off into the sunset and back to that fog cover island they call home. We need to remember this great American Holiday as it is the reason we can call ourselves Americans. So after we stuff ourselves full of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and whatever else we can fit in our stomachs, lets not go wait on line at Best Buy at 2 am, lets go to sleep, wake up on November the 25th proud to be Americans, able to celebrate and remember the great sacrifices made to ensure that there would be liberty and justice for all.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Less John Adams More Thomas Paine

There is no doubt that John Adams played a major role in the forming of America. The work Adams provided all sizzled out though by the time he became President.  Yet Adams is still revered and honored while a man who may have single handedly saved the cause for Independence goes almost forgotten. The reason he is forgotten lays in the hands of Adams and his Presidency. Thomas Paine maybe the main reason there is an America but more importantly the work Paine did would echo throughout history, while Adams would not be so lucky. It can be seen that there is a reason for this, aside from Adams criticism of Paine, Adams was very conservative and Paine until this day is seen as too radical. This is just another example of the difference between the two men that would lead them in different directions both in life and in legacy.


I am willing to bet every American has seen this picture at one point or another in their life, and I'm also willing to bet they can name all the gentlemen standing around the Declaration of Independence. Yet sadly I will have to admit that everything most people know about them relates to the Revolutionary War and not their later works. This is way Adams is still held in a high regards, as a Founding Father and a great American. Adams is remembered for his opposition of the Stamp Act (1765), his work done during the meetings of Continental Congress, for being the first ambassador of the United States, his work on the Declaration of Independence, his refusal to surrender to the British (see my entry, Party Like It's 9/11) and everything else that HBO showed about his work in the founding America. But what is not known is much about his Presidency. Most people know Adams as the second President but that's it nothing more. It is here that should be looked at to knock Adams down a peg or two and promote the great defender of liberty and equality, Thomas Paine.


So why go after Adams? Well he was kind of a jerk. As Adams was elected in 1797 he was on a path to dooming America. In the first days of his Presidency he delivered a very middle of the road State of the Union. The French were hijacking American ships and Adams knew it, Congress pushed for him to do something to those frog eating Frenchies, yet he did nothing. He could have ordered an increase in the American Navy, issued munitions to American ships, sought help from the British (I know crazy but that's what they are there for)  I mean he could have done anything and it would have been better then the nothing he did. So strike one is Adams lack of balls in facing the French. Strike two is the infamous XYZ Affair (1798), in which the French tried to set up a shady deal in order to lay off the American ships around the world. The deal included a public apology from Adams, loans to France and a bride to the French government. Even after this Adams did pretty much nothing, instead Congress called back George Washington to come up with a plan on what to do. This then lead to the Quasi-War (1798-1800) which Adams played a minimal role in. The war was mainly fought at sea so many people did not hear of the results until after the war, however even though the old stars and stripes claimed a victory it wouldn't help Adams win a second term. And if that wasn't enough in the middle of the war there was the Fries Rebellion (1799). The Quasi-War cost money, so Adams created a tax on land and slaves. Now if any would know how Americans feel about taxes, it should have been Adams. So of course there was some opposition to these taxes and the Fries Rebellion took of and spread through Pennsylvania. The rebellion was put down but the damage was done and so was Adams. So for some reason Adams got four strikes and he still wasn't out, yet his disaster tour wasn't over yet and the icing on the cake was right around the corner and Adams was going to squarely take the blame.


So there it is the crowning jewel in Adams terrible Presidency, The Alien and Sedation Acts. These Acts were a way for Adams and the Federalists to really stick it to the Democratic-Republicans. However, that issue is something way to long for this article and could best be described as two little kids fighting with each other, or the current Congress we have. First we have the Naturalization Act, required all immigrants to become American citizens. Second, the Alien Act, gave the President power to deport "peoples dangerous to the peace and safety of America." Third, the Alien Enemies Act which has no "sunset provision" which in short means that the Act could never expire. Finally, Sedition Act, which pretty much trampled all over the First Amendment outlawing "false, scandalous and malicious writing against the government." This act totally violated Americans first Amendment right to free speech. This really would spell the end for Adams, no second term and a Presidency that really should eclipse all the work he did in the founding of America.


Now why am I picking on poor little Johnny? Well a few reasons. First he was a terrible President. Second, there is this movement to get a monument dedicated to Adams. Both Washington and Jefferson have monuments that are in view from the White House's Truman Balcony, but not Adams. There has been in recent years push for the monument, the first was by the great Historian David McCullough in his book John Adams. After that there have been a few others that pushed for the monument and are wrong for doing so, that's right I am talking to you Peter Roff, (U.S. News) and Alexander Heffner (Washington Post). Now why are they wrong? Well because Adams was the first flip-flopper President. He was so in his domestic and foreign policies and he was so in his relationship with the man who single handedly saved the American Revolution...twice.


There is he is, Thomas Paine the man who saved the America Revolution. Author of Common Sense and the American Crisis, both pamphlets that kept the spirit of Revolution alive and kicking amongst the colonists. Yet we forget him and his works and remember people like John Adams. But the real question is why. The answer does not fall on Paine or anything he had done in his life, although he was technically the 18th centuries proverbial bad boy. However, it wasn't that but it was John Adams, he single handedly destroyed Paine's reputation during his Presidency as if Paine was just lone left wing hippie full of radical ideas that didn't apply to the founding of America. We will see though that it is Paine that should be given a monument before Adams ever does in our nations capital.

Common Sense (1776) a book almost ever American has read about in their high school American History class. Common Sense in short, is the argument given to American colonist that explained the reasons for separation from England. The importance of the pamphlet is that the idea of Independence was still being questioned by Americans. And Paine was no dummy, he knew the writing the pamphlet was an uphill battle so he used American ideals in the writing. He used Protestant beliefs to reach the moral side of Americans, including people like John Adams. He connected the personal identity of the colonist with the ideals that were forming America. Because of this the American colonialist rallied behind the cause of Independence and the numbers of supporters grew but more importantly began to turn the tide when it seemed the cause would never get off the ground. Now Adams was all for independence but he hated the idea that Paine appealed to the people and promoted a Democracy for the people by the people over a Republic which Adams loved so dearly. In plain English what this meant was Paine wrote Common Sense for the everyday colonist and invited them into the world of politics, a world which Adams and the elitist class of colonist felt was theirs to own. Now this wouldn't be the last time Paine saved the Revolution, and probably piss of Adams.


Paine's next big hit was The American Crisis (1776-1783). It was several essays written during the course of Paine's service as an aid to General Washington, another reason Adams could be jealous of Paine. But the essay is most famously know for it's opening line, "These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman" but more importantly it should be known as the document that saved the cause of Independence. And guess what it did, it was read aloud to the Continental Army before the Battle of Trenton and guess what, it was at the Battle of Trenton that started George Washington and his armies Redcoat Ass Kicking Tour across New Jersey and would trap the British in New York City. In this pamphlet, again, Paine uses strong patriotic tones and expresses his Deist beliefs, for which Adams would later attack him, by expressing that King George was trying to take power away from God and use it for is own use. Yet he says, God is on the American's side for it is the Americans that created the idea of Independence, through the wisdom which God has give us a tool to use. Now Adams must have been throwing a temper tantrum at this point. Adams was quite the ideal and practicing man of faith and to hear Paine's ideas of God not directly being involved, well he must have been pulling his hair out. It is the difference in their religious views that Adams would use against Paine, hey John ever hear of the religious equality ideas that America was founded on? Or perhaps the separation of Church and State? He should have because he was there when both those ideas for formed. Either way it can be seen that Paine in two simple documents played a larger role in the American Revolution that Adams did, and to top it off Paine would continue to spread the ideas of Democracy well after the Revolution. It would be due to this and Adam's jealousy that Paine would be pushed out of the American conscience.


There it is evidence of Paine's contribution to the forming of America, and with good reason we can see why Adams should be and is jealous of the work of Paine. It wasn't until after the Revolution that Adams became vocal of his disdain for Paine. During Adams Presidency, the French Revolution was taking place and Paine the lover of Democracy was right in the middle of it. During that time Paine was right in the thick of it, and of course in support of the cause of French Independence. So as he did in America, he did the same in France and picked up his pen and fueled another Revolution. However, this time when revisiting the works of Paine, these two works were much different then his works in America. With Common Sense and The American Crisis, they were aimed directly at the American cause, but with The Rights of Man (1791) and Agrarian Justice (1797) it is almost as Paine was writing not just for the French during their revolution, but the rest of human existence as a beacon for the ideas of Democracy. Yet ironically it is these two pamphlets that would be the reason the Adams would really attack Paine and have America turn it's back on him.


So what could Adams find wrong with two the works of Paine when they speak of Independence and equality, the two ideas that Adams was supportive for during the founding of America? Well it's just that Independence and equality, the next works of Paine was speaking of a world wide liberation. In The Rights of Man, Paine argues that natural rights can not be dictated by a ruling class. It is the peoples natural right to stand up for themselves when their rights and persons are unprotected and when the government's interest does not reflect the needs of the People. Again in Agrarian Justice, Paine sets up a taxing system which would ultimately be established to support the working class, young and elderly. The common belief was that the classes were divinely chosen, Paine on the other hand knew that the division was a man made. The main idea was land owners were to pay a property tax in support of the needs of the middle and poor classes. He suggested that every person upon reaching the age of fifty receive a yearly payment in order for them to "enable them to live in Old Age without Wretchedness and, do decently out of the World." While at the same time Paine wanted a sum given to those upon reaching the age of twenty one as to "enable HIM or HER to begin the World!" So what do we have, Paine restating the American cause of Independence, equality, justice and everything good in the world. He goes one step more by trying to establish a fair system to enable a more economically balanced world as well. So of course the wealthy and ruling classes would be upset, but it would be Adams that would knock Paine from the American mindset and thus removing him from our history.


Let the 18th century main event begin. These two trade verbal blows back and forth for the start of the Revolution. Paine was truly for the people, by the people. While Adams was for himself, supported by the people. At the end of the War Adams said, "Without the pen of the author of 'Common Sense,'(Paine signed the pamphlet as, The Englishman) the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.” Now that is a pretty big compliment, but Adams would quickly change his view and thus begin erasing Paine from the American landscape. The real split came when Paine publish The Age of Reason, in this pamphlet Paine expressed his Deist beliefs and applied them to the world and how governments us religious beliefs against it's people. Paine was not shy about his beliefs and was very well known for them. Yet Adams was quite the proverbial choir boy and well known for being a practicing Christian. Adams blasted the document claiming it was a betrayal to the Age of Enlightenment, and Paine's attempt to start the Age of Paine. By 1820 and the work of Adams to shut Paine out of political importance, The Age of Reason was completely forgotten by the world. So Adams succeeded, he demonized Paine as a "black liquor" which he spreads through his works. But Paine didn't not take this lying down, he was quoted once saying, “Some people talk of impeaching John Adams, but I am for softer measures. I would keep him to make fun of.” And that was pure Thomas Paine, a man who would defend the rights of others and thumb his nose to his critics as if he knew they were jealous of his cause.


So the real question behind all of this is, who deserves to be immortalized forever in the landscape of Washington DC. Is it Adams, a Founding Father who would later almost doom America to being over run by the French? A President who reacted late to everything that was presented to him? To the man who would demonize another man who sought only true justice and equality for the world? Or for Thomas Paine, a man who dedicated his life to the revolution of mind and body. To a man of humble means and only the ideas of freedom and equality? To the man who felt justice was a natural right and life should not be dictated down to the people? I have a feeling we will lean towards Paine. The works of Paine have remained relevant throughout American History, he has been quoted and an inspiration to President Abraham Lincoln, inventor Thomas Edison and Historian Mike Maring (sorry it was a shameless plug). So those, like Adams, that did not "get" Paine, it is time for you to take a look at him again. His works transcend time, for as long as there is inequality Paine's work will remain a driving force behind any cause of Independence, freedom, liberty, equality, justice, etc. It is time to let Adams' legacy drift off into the sunset and time for Paine's to be resurrected, for Thomas Paine once said of Adams, "John was not born for immortality.”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Up, Up and Away: The Birth of the United States Air Force

When thinking about the Civil War and the United States Air Force the two never cross paths, right? Well they do believe it or not. Let me introduce you to the Union Army Balloon Corps or as they should be known, the United States Air Force. Today, when we look back at the Civil War we think about the Union and the Confederacy, the issues of slavery ans state's rights, Lincoln and Davis, the Battle of Gettysburg but never about the use of an air force. But the Union Army Balloon Corps was the brainchild of one man, Mr Thaddeus S.C. Lowe. Without him and his vision the use of aeronautics the Union may have not gained an upper hand over the Confederacy and the benefits of air superiority may have never been realized, well realized as soon.


Thaddeus Lowe was born in August of 1832 in the Jefferson Mills, New Hampshire. The Lowe family has a history of partaking in America's wars, his grandfather Levi, fought in the American Revolution and he father, Clovis was a drummer boy during the War of 1812. Now with the Civil War at had it was Thaddeus turn to serve his country. Lowe used his knowledge of science and experiences with the use of hot air balloons to play his part in the Union Army. Now how does one become "experienced" in flying a hot air balloon in the mid 19th century? Well by just being a straight up dare devil. Lowe studied wind patterns and how to use them to move through the sky. His first flight was in 1857, flying around Hoboken, New Jersey. He continued to improve his balloons and he first major advancement came in the Enterprise. After that Lowe set his aims at a transatlantic flight. His goal was to open a commercial service to ferry people from America to Europe and back. He created the City of New York (later to be known as the Great Western) and planned on setting of for Europe, however, due to a strong windstorm it never happened. In 1861 he tried to fly from Cincinnati to New York City, but was blown of course and wound up in the newly seceded state of Virginia where he was immediately arrested as a spy. After his release and return home a letter from Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase called for Lowe to report to Washington D.C. This would be Lowe's chance to partake in the Civil War but more importantly give birth to the Air Force


So an invite to the White House is one thing, but having to show off the technology which you are personally responsible for developing is a different story. Lowe took off from the White House front lawn and sent a telegraph to President Lincoln, not just any telegraph but the first one sent from an "aerial station." Lincoln was impressed and Lincoln wanted to see the value of his work in practice. So Lowe manned the first mission which happened to be the first battle of the Civil War, Bull Run. At the battle Lowe sailed up into the sky, about 500 feet, and reported Rebel movements back to the ground. However, the mission was successful but Lowe landed behind enemy lines. The search and rescue party sent for him was his wife, which arrived with a covered wagon in order to save the Enterprise and return it and Lowe back to D.C.  After this Lincoln said and I quote "Holy Moly!" ok maybe not but either way Lincoln gave Lowe the authority to create and command the Union Army Balloon Corps.


With the Corps established and Lowe as Chief Aeronaut the Union Army contracted reconnaissance to them. The first job for the Corp was the Peninsula Campaign. During this campaign Lowe used the balloons, Constitution, Washington and Intrepid. Lowe had recruited several other balloonist who he found fit for duty. He employed he father Clovis, Captain Dickinson (a steamboat captain), the Allen brothers (some of Lowe's competitors), and balloonists Eben Seaver, J.B. Strakweather, William Paullin, John Steiner and Ebenezer Mason. Together these men were the first fly boys of the U.S. Air Force. Oh yea and they were paid a whopping $3 a day. But now that the Corps had members it was time to strategically place the balloons. Lowe sent his balloons to several Union stations: Fort Monroe (Washington D.C.), Camp Lowe (Harper's Ferry), Yorktown (Virginia) and the Virginia Peninsula. Upon request Lowe sent one of his smaller balloons, the Eagle, to the Union forces heading towards the Mississippi River. Lowe had tried to sent up his Corps in places the Union Army would most need their assistance. It will be seen that their reconnaissance will  be key to the success of the Union Army.


Lowe's first taste of military life came on May 18, 1863 when the first Union Army Balloon Corps camp was set up at Gaines' Farm outside of  Richmond. It was here that Lowe and his team reported on movements of Rebel forces going and coming from the Confederate capital. The first battle the UABC reported on was the Battle of Seven Pines, where they informed the Union leadership about Rebel troop build up, the forming of battle formations, when the Confederate bases were unoccupied, where Union reinforcements should go and where repairs should be made to Union defenses. However, Lowe's reports were not listened to and Union troops went elsewhere. Later, Lowe ordered that the Intrepid be put into action. As the same reports continued during the battle, the Union leadership listened to the reports and sent reinforcements to scatter the remaining Rebels and repair damaged areas of the Union camps and defenses. Actually the Union leaders saw that Lowe was 100% right and a witness said of Lowe, "You, sir, have saved the day!" The value of the UABC was so visible that the Confederates tried to establish a similar group. Unfortunately for them, they lack both the necessary equipment and skilled aeronauts. But the UABC was to be short lived and for unseen reasons. But during the beginning of the Civil War their work and reports were of great importance not just to the Union but to the developing of an Air Force.


During the Pennsylvania Campaign Lowe, like many others, fell victim to malaria. It was this sickness that ended the UABC. With the absence of Lowe the UABC was put on the back burner. Well it was that and that the Rebels had gained a little momentum and was forcing the Army of the Potomac to retreat back behind Union lines. With that retreat the UABC's materials were split up amongst different division and the rest put into storage. Upon Lowe's return he saw nothing left of his UABC and was forced into joining the Army. Lowe never saw any military action at either battle he was activated for. As for the UABC, Lowe never gave up on it and it's value. He tried on several occasions to revive the program but the Union military leaderships never really understood it's important to military strategy. It was regarded by the Union troops as a sideshow, not meant for military service and a suicide mission.  The only people, aside from Lowe, that saw any value in the UABC was the Union generals for the simple fact that the reports from the air gave them an advantage over the Rebels. The UABC would eventually be put under the control of the Army Corps of Engineers, which pushed Lowe and his team out. The original aeronauts were replace with rank and file men who took direction better then Lowe. As of August 1, 1863 the UABC was officially disbanded.  It wouldn't be till after the Civil War that the UABC would have any value placed on it, and it would be the source for innovation of air technology in military actions.


America is well know for it's innovative spirit, so from the use of a hot air balloon in the middle of the Civil War the only direction for air technology was to go up (no pun intended). After the war the idea of airships in the military lay dormant until the 1890s when the United States Army Signal Corp was created. Airships got a kick in the pants with the creation of motorized propulsion and mechanical steering. This would eliminate the problems Lowe had of always landing behind enemy lines and would allow for more control and better reconnaissance. The first test for the USASC was during the Spanish American War where it showed much promise for the military, as did Lowe's UABC. The biggest influence the UABC had was not on an American but on another pioneer of aeronautics, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. Yes, that's right Zeppelin as in the Hindenburg Zeppelin. It was from Lowe that Zeppelin saw the future and potential of aeronautics and then grew the field from his Zeppelin Airship Company. So we can see that one man's invention leads to another mans dream, which then becomes a reality. Without Lowe, there would be no Zeppelin and with out Zeppelin there would be no Hugo Eckener and so on and so forth up until today with the men and women working on creating the next generation of military air crafts.


As you can see, we have come a long way from a hot air balloon. But it was those hot air balloons that Lowe used during the Civil War which pushed aeronautics into the military field. Lowe however would never receive the credit he is due. Lowe would retire from after his services to the Union and build the Pasadena & Mount Wilson Railroad, operate his on water and gas company, found a bank and run several ice houses. After all this Lowe kind of faded into history. However, Lowe was inducted in the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame but I feel he needs a little more credit given to his name. Most people would credit the Wright brothers with creating the idea of aeronautics and military since they did invent the air plane. Yet it is Lowe that bridged the gap between the two. With his ingenuity and vision of using the hot air balloon during battles the idea of using aeronautics in military operations would have been delayed until the early 20th century. Lowe deserves to be credited not just for his advances in aeronautics but for being the United States first fly boy. The United States Air Force is said to have been activated in 1947 but I think it is Lowe that started it, one hundred years prior and should be considered the first great pilot, for he was the first one to "Cross into the Blue."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Forgetting Never Forget: How 9/11 Will Be Lost To History

The events of September 11, 2001 was the most terrifying, horrific and tragic day of my life. I sat and watched the day unfold like everyone else in the world and could only ask why. Now, looking back on that day I have come to a realization that "Never Forget" is a temporary idea. Now for some I know this is offensive, but there has been this idea of honoring an such an event before in American History. Those days are remembered for the generation that lived through it but then just become a day that the past generation remember and left unnoticed by future generations. As much as people will not want to admit it 9/11 will be one of those days. How can I say this? Well because America already has two "Never Forget" events which we have all forgotten.


After any tragedy, America explodes with patriotism. As Americans we are filled with great pride for a country regardless of political, religious or social views, when the time calls we stand united. That is the way it always has been and will always be. 9/11 was our event but there has been events for past generations. As we will see those events were responded to with an out pouring of pro Americanism. And like 9/11 these two events reshaped America and opened a new chapter in American History. Both events also have the "Never Forget" slogan and as we will see, they have been forgotten. The two events are the Battle of the Alamo and the attack on Pearl Harbor.


The Alamo, now most famously known for Ozzy Osborne peeing on it was once the rally cry for the Texas War of Independence, you remember it now, "Remember the Alamo." Now that you "Remember the Alamo," lets look at the reasons why people wanted to remember the events surrounding the Alamo and the events that would later overshadow it and lose it to history.  The Battle of the Alamo took place in 1836 and lasted 13 days. The Alamo was captured several months prior as the Texan Army had pushed the Mexican forces out the Mexico Texas territory. After that the Alamo, a former Spanish mission, was turned into a fort and was home to some 100 Texan troops. On February 23, 1500 Mexican soldiers lead by President General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna set up shop around the Alamo and began preparing for an attack. The Texan and Mexican Armies exchanged fire in areas surrounding the Alamo but it was just a way to size each other up. The commanders of the Alamo knew that they could not hold off the Mexicans forever and called for men to come join the Texan Army at the Alamo, unfortunately only 100 reinforcements showed up. What would happen next would cause a nation to rise up in support of the cause of Texas' independence, because as we know, independence is what America is built on.


So on the morning of March the 6th, Santa de Anna unleashed the Mexican Army. They attacked wave after wave and as the saying goes, third times a charm, as the Mexicans then made their way inside the Alamo. As the Mexicans made their ways over the Alamo walls the Texans retreated inside the Alamo. However, the defenses of the Texans did little to stop the Mexicans. It was a total bloodbath at this point. The Mexicans went room by room killing every Texan in sight. Any Texans that made a run for it were chased down by the Mexican Calvary and killed while trying to escape. By the end of the siege, 200 Texans lay dead in pools of their own blood. But the Mexicans were still not done with them. They continued bayoneting bodies and firing shots into the corpses. Those few Texans that surrendered were also at the same time being executed by a firing squad. the Mexicans then continued to desecrate the bodies of the Texans by burning all the bodies and leaving nothing but a pile of ashes to be found. As for survivors, there was less then fifty and they were mainly women, children and slaves. Now why spare slaves? Well they were the fuel behind the fire that was the Texas War for Independence. Texas was pro slavery while Mexico had outlawed slavery years earlier. So because of this Santa de Anna spared those slaves that survived the battle. As for the women, they were given a blanket, two pesos and a warning for the remaining Texan Army, that warning was Santa de Anna was unbeatable. So lets recap, the Mexicans annihilated the Texans forces, desecrated their bodies, gave safe passage to slaves (remember Texas was pro slavery) and sent back a warning to get out. Now what to do, well as Americans and even more important, Texans, they weren't going to take that. Lets say hello to the United States first "Never Forget" moment, "Remember the Alamo."


Yes, the Battle of the Alamo was a complete and utter failure for the Republic of Texas, but it spawned a response not seen in America since the Intolerable Acts of 1774. "Remember the Alamo" rang out across the nation and drew men from across the states to Texas in the search of revenge. Now with the reports on the massacre, Americans obviously rallied around the Texan's fight for independence, which gave birth to "Remember the Alamo." Texan leader Sam Houston was meet by 400 volunteers, four days after the Battle of the Alamo. By April and additional 400 men arrived from across the nation. So basically in two months, "Remember the Alamo" drew in 800 men to fight for the independence of Texas. Those men and the Texas Regular Army would continue to fight the Mexicans, which would untimely lead to independence for Texas. However, now that Texas was independent state the issue that would make people "Forget the Alamo" was right around the corner.


Oh America and its lust for greatness. The idea of Manifest Destiny would ultimately overshadow the Texas War of Independence and the Alamo, making them nothing but a memory of the past. Manifest Destiny was the idea of America's divine destiny to expand from sea to shining sea. This idea in combination the state of Texas would then lead to the Mexican American War. Now how could this war make people forget about the events at the Alamo. First, it happen ten years prior and in the world before the internet and cable there was no way to memorialize it every year. Second, President Polk was very pro Manifest Destiny and had much to gain from westward expansion. Third, those Mexicans had it coming, well not really but Texas and California needed to become states. Finally fourth and perhaps most important, the issue of slavery The reason TX and CA needed to become states was to keep the balance between pro and anti slave states. One of the key reasons for the Mexican American War was the issue of slavery, Mexico having outlawed the use and Texas using it in the large cotton producing areas. So we can see that these issues would lead to the Alamo being forgotten. Today we learn about the Mexican American War and its relation to slavery and oh yea how that issue of slavery would eventually become one of the reasons for the Civil War which really pushed the Alamo out of the American conscience. In the case of the Alamo the motto "Remember the Alamo" was only temporary. Today we only use it because the Alamo is now a tourist site. In the end we see that this will mirror 9/11 and both mottoes will follow the same course.


Ok, so the Alamo happened  over 150 years ago, so why would we "Remember the Alamo" still, but what about the "date which will live in infamy." On December 7, 1941 the United States was attacked by the Japanese and President Franklin Roosevelt delivered the speech which would rally the American people and catapult them into World War II. Now, Pearl Harbor has one advantage over the Alamo and that was mass media. The news of bombing of Pearl Harbor spread from the mountains, to the prairies, to oceans white with foam in less then 24 hours. But what about today? Pearl Harbor Day is barely even noticed and it's printed on calendars as National Remembrance Day. Which brings me to the main point of the article and that is how 9/11 will follow this same path as the Alamo did and as we will see, Pearl Harbor does as well.


Now most American's remember the events at Pearl Harbor but I think that it is mainly due to the romanticizing of the events of 12/7. In 2001 Pearl Harbor received a kick in the butt with the film Pearl Harbor which featured stud muffin Ben Affleck and American sweetheart Josh Hartnett. Together these two made people "Remember December 7." Today, Pearl Harbor is nothing but a piece to a larger picture. As we will see like the Alamo, Pearl Harbor will be over shadowed by the events that followed, which is why Pearl Harbor is another example of how 9/11 will be lost to history.


The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise attack (see, another connection to 9/11) by the Japanese. It is well documented that 12/7 was just another sleepy Sunday. There was nothing special about the day, no signs of disaster on the horizon and people just went about their Sunday routines (much like Tuesday September 11, 2001). But around 8 o'clock in the morning that all changed. The Japanese unleashed an attack unseen before. The attack lasted only an hour but enough damage was done as if the attack lasted weeks. The Japanese attacked with 350 planes that must have look like a million planes to the unsuspecting Americans at the Pearl. Also the Japanese attacked in waves which only prolonged the attack and caused much more damage and confusion on the ground. The attack was meant to cripple the American Navy and spirit. But as we have seen in the events of the Alamo and again with 9/11, American's only respond by becoming proactive and patriotic. These then leads to a greatness that I feel is uniquely an American trait, which ironically leads to overshadowing the events that inspire us.


The attack ended around 9 am and the Americans at the Pearl were in a state of shock. All around the sleepy base stationed in paradise was death and destruction. In total 4 battleships and 2 destroyers were sunk, twelve others were severely damages. The American Navy's air forces were decimated, almost 200 planes were gone and over 150 were damaged. Yet these are just material things, weapons that could be replaced the real lose came with the amount of men lost at the Pearl. By the end of the day 2400 men had died and 1300 were injured. The following week was spent searching for survivors and salvaging the damaged ships. The day after the attack, perhaps the second most famous speech in American History was made by President Franklin Roosevelt. The Infamy Speech was made by President Roosevelt to Congress and the U.S. had officially declared war on Japan and boy where they in for it. The following years after the attack would soon come to eclipse Pearl Harbor and the attack, as World War II would give birth to heroes and legends that still live on today.


Let the propaganda posters fly. World War II is very well known for the propaganda posters used by every nation involved. But this bad boy that the U.S. released was the rally cry for America. "Remember December 7," lead to a shift in America. Pre-Pearl Harbor Americans were antiwar, but immediately after Americans wanted revenge (see a pattern here?). The attack had awaken the "sleeping beast" that the American military was. Factories were producing weapons of war and hundreds of thousand of men signed up ready to avenge Pearl Harbor and take on the world's greatest bad guys. Today, Pearl Harbor is now just a part of WWII. However, it is the start of it all, but when we look back at WWII we think of the D-Day landings, the bombing of London, the raising of the stars and stripes on Iwo Jima or the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These events are immortalized by movies, TV shows, books and so on. All of these events a the stuff of greatness, Americans fighting the good fight, for truth, justice and the American way. It is because of this that Pearl Harbor is becoming a forgotten rallying cry. Also the attacks on Pearl Harbor have been immortalize, as the Alamo and WTC sites have been. Today you can visit the USS Arizona Memorial which sites atop the sunken battleship as a reminder to Americans of the price of freedom. It is still  important today as there are still many WWII survivors that can recall that day which makes it live on, but in the larger picture Pearl Harbor is becoming, like the Alamo, a day lost to history.


Which brings us to the present and 9/11. Yes, the attacks on 9/11 may be the most horrific attack in American History, but lets recap and compare them to the Alamo and Pearl Harbor. Lets first see the difference and there is one major difference. The Alamo and Pearl Harbor were military installations, when the 9/11 attacks were aimed at civilian targets. For me this seems to be the sole difference between the events. Now what do they have in common? Well first, they were unpredictable. There was no sign of the events coming and no sign of the damage they would cause. Second, all three events pushed the United States into war. Third and most important, they each created a sense of patriotism that is not seen in a day to day basis. The events of 9/11 follow the same pattern as the Alamo and Pearl Harbor. After the attacks the United States was filled with fear and shock. This then lead to a speech made by the President about how the United States must react, as Polk, Roosevelt and now Bush did. After this we see an outpouring of patriotism. In post 9/11 America there was the Concert for New York, American flags flying from every home and a sense of patriotism that at least I can say I have never felt in my life. Third, the attacks had lead to a war, as did both the Alamo and Pearl Harbor. But it is here and now in our present time that the unfolding events will come to overshadowing the events of 9/11.


 Today we have the memory of 9/11 still fresh in our memories. The site of the attacks now even have a memorial, which so does the Alamo and Pearl Harbor. It also has events that follow it that will cause it to become forgotten. Eventually the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will move in and become the main focus and the events of 9/11 will just become a bullet point in the outline. As we take a look now at those wars we see them as Vietnamish, which will keep people angry over the wars and thus focus more on the reasons why we went to war, in which 9/11 is not the main reason as time passes. However, there is one more key to this puzzle of forgetting a major disaster and that is well us. We the People are the reason days like the day of the Battle of the Alamo and Pearl Harbor are no longer remembered. Now how are we to blame? Well we die, and with us goes the hardships and terror that these events caused. The next generation will always broadly overview the past, as we have done to our parents and they have done to their parents. In the end, these events still play a major role in American History, but it is us as Americans that allow them to be forgotten. So here's to "Remembering the Alamo," "Remember December 7," and "Never Forget." May these three slogans and the events always be a reminder to Americans as the price our nation has paid for freedom and sign to the next generation of American resilience, pride and patriotism.