Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Trump Invades the Vatican (Peacefully)

Trump has arrived in Vatican City to meet with his holiness Pope Francis.  The two leaders will discuss how to spread peace as the world confronts the threat of global terror.  The United Kingdom has been placed on high alert anticipating another attack.  Many suspect that a sophisticated bomb maker is still on the loose in the UK.

St. Peter's, Vatican City
Surprisingly, Americans have, in a sense, invaded the Vatican.  We wrote about it in the Vatican City chapter of America Invades (

"The Vatican city, a small enclave within rome that is home to the pope and the central administration of the Catholic Church, is an actual state. It’s not a member of the UN, but it does have observer status there.

Swiss Guards
It’s hard to say whether we’ve ever invaded the Vatican. We’ve never been at war with the Vatican, and during the Italian campaign, as Roosevelt himself emphasized, Allied airmen had been specifically informed of the borders of the Vatican City and instructed to make sure none of their bombs fell within its borders. However, the pope owns a variety of sites in Italy, which are outside the borders of the Vatican City but have extraterritorial status. Some of these were a lot closer to the action than the Vatican itself. For instance, the pope specifically complained about Allied bombs falling in the vicinity of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo and killing refugees there.

And, when American troops of the Fifth Army liberated Rome in June 1944, some of them ventured into the Vatican. A photograph, for instance, shows Fifth Army’s Lieutenant General Mark Clark parked right outside the front of St. Peter’s in a jeep with another jeep behind him and American soldiers in full uniform, including helmets. And just over a week after the capture of Rome, on June 12, after a number of instances of armed Allied vehicles entering St. Peter’s Square inside the Vatican City, barricades were having to be put up across the end of the Bernini colonnade to prevent any further such occurrences. If it was any kind of invasion, though, it was an entirely friendly one.

On June 12 alone, the pope is said to have received fifteen hundred Allied troops."

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trump Invades Israel (Peacefully!)

As President Trump now visits Israel it is time to reflect on our military engagement with the Jewish state.  Hopes for middle east peace are now being raised on one hand even as an appalling act of ISIS terrorism strikes the United Kingdom with the Manchester concert bombing.

How have Americans interacted with Israel over the course of history?

This is what we had to say in the Israel chapter of America Invades (

"Due to religious, cultural, and ethnic links, America has long had a strong, deep, and lasting commitment to this land.
Mark Twain
American Invader (Tourist)?

And for a long time, Americans have been going there. On an 1867 visit to the Holy Land, Mark Twain and a group of American tourists were shown some of the holy sites: “We visited the places where Jesus worked for fifteen years as a carpenter, and where he attempted to teach in the synagogue and was driven out by a mob. Catholic chapels stand upon these sites and protect the little fragments of the ancient walls which remain.”

Most pilgrims feel blessed just to experience the sanctity and beauty of such sites, but some of Twain’s pilgrims on that occasion went too far with their enthusiasm. “Our pilgrims broke off specimens ... Our pilgrims would have liked very well to get out their lampblack and stencil-plates and paint their names on that rock, together with the name of the village they hail from in America, but the priests permit nothing of that kind.”

But it was during World War II that our forces first arrived there. US air crews used the RAF based at Lydda (which later became Lod Airport and eventually Ben Gurion International Airport) for air transport and air- ferrying missions. And during the fighting between Rommel and British/ Commonwealth troops in nearby Egypt to the west, American bombers were based at a number of locations in the Palestine Mandate with, for instance, B-17s at Lydda and B-24s at Ramat David.

Truman recognized Israel 11 minutes in
After the Second World War, Britain eventually announced its withdrawal from a fractious Palestine Mandate, and on May 14, 1948, the modern state of Israel was launched. The US government recognized the state of Israel only eleven minutes after Ben Gurion declared its independence. Fighting intensified between Arabs and Jews, and neighboring Arab countries invaded.

Foreign volunteers, or Machal, came from a wide range of countries to help Israel, and American volunteers played a role in that war as they have done in other wars involving Israel. Most were veterans of World War II, including the famous Micky Marcus, a colonel in the US Army who went to Israel, became a brigadier general, and helped break the Siege of Jerusalem in 1948.

We had some official US involvement as well. In June 1948 when the US consul general was killed by sniper fire, a marine force from the USS Kearsarge was ordered to Jerusalem. And on July 23, flying a UN flag, the USS Putnam evacuated UN team members from the Israeli port of Haifa.

By 1949, Israel had joined the United Nations.

The Holocaust had created massive American sympathy of the concept of a Jewish homeland. American arms and financial support began flowing to Israel during the Truman administration. A tradition of shared training and military exchange between the United States and Israel was established.
Grosvenor Square, London
US government support for Israel, however, was not automatic (or unconditional). For example, in 1956, President Eisenhower refused to endorse the invasion of the Suez Canal and Sinai by forces from Britain, France, and Israel. U-2 intelligence gave the president vital information on what was happening on the ground at the time. In the end, Israel withdrew its forces from the Sinai.

During the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel delivered a preemptive strike on the Egyptian air force destroying most of its Soviet-made aircraft while they were still on the ground. The conflict more than doubled the amount of territory under Israel’s direct control, including the addition of the Sinai Peninsula. On June 8, 1967, units of the Israeli air force and navy attacked the USS Liberty—an intelligence-gathering ship, which was cruising in international waters off the coast of the Sinai Peninsula. Thirty-four Americans were killed. The Israeli government apologized for the tragic mistake and paid thirteen million dollars in compensation.

In the 1973 Yom Kippur War (October 6‒24), Israel was attacked by Egyptian forces near the Suez Canal and by Syrian forces near the Golan Heights. After recovering from the initial surprise, Israeli forces managed to counterattack across the Suez Canal and were soon driving towards Cairo itself. The Nixon administration, though crippled by the Watergate scandal, flew over twenty-two thousand tons of supplies to Israel in Operation Nickel Grass. The Soviets resupplied the Arab forces. On October 24, Moscow announced the mobilization of seven airborne divisions for possible deployment to Egypt. The next day, US armed forces were moved to DEFCON 3—planes ready to launch in fifteen minutes. Yuri Andropov, KGB chief, declared, “We are not going to start the Third World War.” Egypt withdrew its request for Soviet troops, and a UN truce was soon agreed to.

American shuttle diplomacy eventually helped to secure the Camp David accord of 1978, which significantly reduced Middle East tensions when a “land for peace” agreement was hammered out between Egypt and Israel. The Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt, and Sadat broke decisively with his former Soviet ally. Billions in US aid soon began flowing to Egypt, as well as to Israel.

During the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein launched Scud missile attacks on Israel, which killed two and wounded hundreds. He was desperately trying to drive a wedge between coalition forces by prodding a neutral Israel into a military response.

Prior to the start of the 1991 Gulf War, the Israeli government agreed to allow a US Army Patriot unit into Israel—the first time that foreign troops had ever been stationed in that country. And in the end, Israel did stay out of the conflict.

More diplomatic action followed the Gulf War, again with extensive US involvement. In 1994, President Clinton was there when a peace deal between Israel and Jordan was signed, and in 1995, the Oslo II agreement was signed between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority.

In 2006, war broke out in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah, and the United States offered Israel extra fuel and munitions.

Today, the search for a complete end to the Arab-Israeli conflict continues, and so does the search for a solution to problems over Iran’s nuclear research. In the desert in southwest Israel is located a small US military installation operated by US personnel with hugely powerful radar watching what goes on in the region.

In the context of all the uncertainties about the future in the Middle East, America’s partnership with Israel on a wide range of exercises, training, planning, supply, development, intelligence, and other military matters remains a central part of our strategy."

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

USA and Saudi Arabia

As President Trump touches down in Saudi Arabia it is interesting to reflect upon the history of relations between the USA and the Saudi kingdom.  No, we have NOT invaded Saudi Arabia but we Americans have had a deep and longstanding relationship with Saudi Arabia.  And the matchmaker who ignited the USA / Saudi alliance was quite a surprise!

In America Invades ( we wrote this in our chapter on Saudi Arabia...

"Saudi Arabia seems to have been in the American news quite A LOT over the last couple of decades.  During World War I, Lawrence of Arabia was active in part of what is now Saudi Arabia, working with the leaders of the Great Arab Revolt to attack Ottoman troops and drive them from the area. A character made famous in more recent times by Peter O’Toole in the Hollywood epic, Lawrence, although British, was made famous by an American, Lowell Thomas. Along with cameraman Harry Chase, Thomas, as an American journalist, turned up in the Middle East to meet Lawrence and film him. When Thomas got back to America, he turned Lawrence into one of the first war-media superstars, giving lectures accompanied by films at Madison Square Gardens and then around the world.

The United States began diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia in 1933. That same year, the California Arabian Standard Oil Company (later ARAMCO) was formed to develop Saudi oil resources.
Mussolini: the Matchmaker
During World War II, Saudi Arabia remained technically neutral but also supplied Allied forces with masses of critical petroleum products. This fact did not escape the notice of the other side.
Mussolini’s Italy joined the Axis side in 1940, and on October 19 of that year, four Italian bombers (Regia Aeronautica) took off from the island of Rhodes and attacked Saudi oil facilities in Dhahran.

B-25B Mitchell Bomber
Mussolini’s air attack on the Saudi oil fields was a kind of Axis version of Doolittle’s Raid. Doolittle’s Raiders launched their B-25 bombers from the decks of the Hornet to attack Japan. Mussolini’s Regia Aeronautica took off from an unsinkable “carrier,” the Isle of Rhodes. Doolittle’s fliers did not conform to the traditional bombing structure of take-off, fly to target, release bombs, and return; instead, after bombing Tokyo, most flew to China. The Italian bomber pilots bombed oil refineries in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and then flew on to airfields in Italian East Africa (Eritrea)—the longest bombing run in aviation history at the time and one that exposed Saudi Arabia’s military vulnerability.

The Doolittle Raid’s physical impact on Japan was minimal, but its psychological impact was enormous; the Midway campaign was launched in order to extend Japan’s defensive perimeters and prevent another American attack on the home islands. The Italian raid on Saudi Arabian oil
refineries did little damage, but its psychological impact on the kingdom and its future links with America were significant.

World War II saw the real beginning of our military involvement with Saudi Arabia. For instance, the Saudi Kingdom allowed us to operate an air transport facility at Jeddah as part of a network that stretched across Africa and the Middle East. And Saudi Arabia permitted the construction of a US air field near Dhahran, which it operated from 1945 to 1962. Saudi Arabia, though neutral, also received about twelve million dollars in lend- lease, mostly in silver dollars.

Grosvenor Square, London

In 1945, FDR, on his way back from the Yalta Conference, travelled on the USS Quincy to the Great Bitter Lake on the Suez Canal. He was there to meet three important regional leaders—Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, King Farouk of Egypt, and King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia. On Valentine’s Day 1945, a goat was slaughtered and eaten on board the ship to celebrate the kingdom’s new links with America. The American military would protect the Saudi kingdom, while their oil would help fuel the tanks, planes, and ships of the US military. The broad outlines of America’s pact with Saudi Arabia, despite profound differences between our two nations, have now lasted seventy years through many tumultuous times.

During their discussions the Saudi king warned Roosevelt that the Arabs would fight if Jewish settlements in what was then the British- controlled Palestine Mandate expanded. Thus, the creation of Israel in 1948 with American support put strains on our links with Saudi Arabia, particularly during the Arab-Israeli Wars of the Cold War era.

However, America and Saudi Arabia still had shared interests. For instance, during the Yemen Civil War, royalist, conservative Saudi Arabia clashed with Nasser’s revolutionary, Communist-supported Egypt, and each ended up supporting a different side in the war. JFK threw US support behind the Saudis. USAF planes were mobilized to deter Nasser’s Egypt from further action against Saudi Arabia.

Relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia reached a low point after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, but eventually the relationship stabilized again. The Iranian revolution created a new power feared by both Saudi Arabia and the United States, and in the 1980s, America and Saudi Arabia found themselves jointly immersed in arming and helping the Afghan mujahideen fight the Soviets in Afghanistan and the Afghan regime they supported.

During the Iran-Iraq War, Saudi Arabia backed Iraq. On June 5, 1984, a US AWACS plane detected an Iranian fighter approaching Saudi’s offshore oil facilities in the Gulf. Saudi aircraft intercepted the Iranian plane and shot it down.

Bush 41
National Naval Air Museum
Pensacola, FL
However, when we really went to war in Saudi Arabia, it wasn’t Iran that was the problem. Instead, it was Iraq. In August of 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia (see “Kuwait”). President H. W. Bush led an international coalition that responded with Operation Desert Shield. In late January of 1991, Saddam Hussein ordered Iraqi forces to attack across the Saudi border. Saudi and Qatari troops, aided by US marines, artillery, and airpower, fought the Battle of Khafji. The Iraqi forces were repulsed at a cost of twenty-six American lives and eighteen Saudis.

American airpower based in Saudi played a decisive role in the First Gulf War. A-10 Warthogs, championed by the maverick USAF Colonel John Boyd, flew missions from Saudi bases destroying over nine hundred Iraqi tanks.

A-10 "Warthog"
IWM Duxford
American Hangar
In the course of the First Gulf War, over half a million US troops were deployed to Saudi Arabia. Many stayed after Iraq was expelled from Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm. For instance, thousands of US troops stayed on to help enforce the no-fly zone over neighboring Iraq in Operation Southern Watch. The Saudi king and government supported the American alliance, but many in the Arab street were troubled. To some, of course, this represented an American occupation of the Muslim holy land and was one of the grievances behind Osama bin Laden’s attack on 9/11. Indeed, fifteen of the nineteen hijackers in the 9/11 attack and their mastermind were Saudi nationals.

Attacks on US personnel took place in Saudi territory too. For instance, in 1996, a huge truck bomb destroyed part of the Khobar Towers complex and killed nineteen US servicemen. And in 2004, the US consulate in Jeddah was attacked.

The USAF operated Prince Sultan Air Force Base from 1990 until 2003. It was equipped with air conditioning and all amenities, including Baskin-Robbins and Burger King franchises, although female personnel were expected to wear an abaya when going off base.

Most American military personnel left Saudi Arabia in 2003. Small numbers are still based there, some of them apparently connected with the campaign of drone strikes in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia remains a significant ally of the United States. The two countries share, interests in oil and nervousness about Iran. Military links continue to be strong. For instance, the United States has been actively training Saudi defense forces from 1953 to the present, and the Saudi military has purchased large quantities of weaponry and military equipment from American manufacturers, including aircraft, armored vehicles, and air defense weapons.

In 2011, the corpse of Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi national, was offered for burial to Saudi Arabia, which declined in favor of burial at sea."

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America Invaded: A State by State Guide to Fighting on American Soil 
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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Memorial Day 2017 (Play it Again, Uncle Sam)

Commander K. at the Luxembourg American Cemetery

Memorial Day this year calls on all Americans with particular significance. It calls on us to look backward at our past and forward to the many uncertainties and challenges facing our nation overseas. Important anniversaries over the course of the year have served as powerful reminders of that past.

To the Memory of Woodrow Wilson
Founder of the League of Nations
Geneva, Switzerland
This past April, we commemorated the centennial of the American entry into World War I. President Wilson led us into the “war to end all wars,” ending America’s traditional isolationism ( Over a hundred thousand Americans would be killed in World War I, a war that claimed around 17 million total victims. Wilson conceived of the League of Nations as a means of ending costly and wasteful wars, but the US Senate balked at joining the League. The harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles then created a twenty-year truce rather than a lasting peace. Appalled by the cost of war and intoxicated by the Roaring Twenties, many Americans retreated back into an isolationist attitude, embracing Charles Lindbergh and the America First movement.

But in 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, plunging the world into the costliest war in human history. Over the course of just under four years, over 16 million American men and women served in some capacity in the war. Today, fewer than a million World War II service vets are still alive.

Jimmy Doolittle
IWM Cambridge, American Hangar

This year, 2017, is the 75th anniversary of perhaps the most significant year in World War II, for 1942 was essentially the turning point in the war. That year featured Doolittle’s Raid on Tokyo ( and the battles of Midway, El Alamein, and Stalingrad. Up until 1942, the Axis was victorious on all fronts. After 1942, Axis forces were in full retreat. Where were you in ’42?

Seventy-five years ago this year, the classic film Casablanca was released. When asked about his nationality, Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart, replied, “I’m a drunkard.” But Rick could not remain neutral when confronted with the brutal reality of fascism. The premiere of Casablanca, which won the Academy Awards’ Best Picture of the Year in 1942, was rushed forward to capitalize on the American landings in North Africa in Operation Torch. Casablanca helped to explain to skeptical Americans why World War II (especially in Europe) was America’s fight.

Americans responded to the call and went overseas to fight in record numbers. Just over 400,000 mostly young Americans would never return from their duties in the Second World War. This Memorial Day, many Americans will visit cemeteries such as Arlington in Virginia, and many more around the nation and the world.
Afghanistan Memorial
Washington State
This fall will mark sixteen years that American troops have been engaged in Afghanistan fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban – a war of unprecedented duration. There are soldiers serving in Afghanistan today who were only toddlers when the Twin Towers in New York were struck on Setpember 11, 2001 by hijacked commercial airliners – an event that changed our world. Over two trillion dollars have been spent trying to bring a measure of stability to Afghanistan. Over 2,000 American soldiers have been killed there, and over 20,000 have been wounded.

Even as we commemorate the past, we must consider the many dangers we are confronting today and those that lie ahead. In the Middle East, we must face the challenge posed by ruthless ISIS operatives who have waged a war against the West. The Syrian civil war has claimed well over 300,000 lives and created the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Syria’s president Assad has, on at least two occasions, used chemical weapons against his own people. Putin’s Russia continues to rearm, supports the Assad dictatorship, and threatens its neighbors, including NATO members in the Baltics.  The bluster and posturing of Kim Jong-un are increasingly worrisome as the North Korean dictator attempts to gain the technology to develop intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking our homeland. Our political and military leadership must carefully balance the dangers of action and the dangers of inaction in the “hermit kingdom.”

Memorial Day imposes a duty on all Americans to remember the sacrifice of our fallen heroes, and to reflect prayerfully on how we can best steer a course through our dangerous and turbulent world. We are compelled to remember the necessity for American engagement in the world, but also its staggering price in terms of blood and treasure.

Thanks Air Force

Thanks Florence News Journal...

Thanks War History

Thanks Small Wars Journal...

Thanks Highland Community News!...

Thanks Military Times...

Thanks The Express...

You can find signed copies of America Invades

Regular Copies can be found here on

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will be published in 2017!

"Christopher Kelly and Stuart Laycock have once again pulled off a remarkable feat of fascinating scholarship. What an inspired idea to look at how warfare has touched each state of the Union individually, reminding us simultaneously of the proud American warrior tradition and of the sometimes brutal and bloody birth pangs 
of the USA.'

Prof Andrew Roberts, author of 
'Napoleon; A Life'

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Invading North Korea...?

All eyes are now focused on North Korea.  Kim Jong-un possesses atomic warheads and continues to develop intercontinental ballistic missile technology that could threaten the American homeland.  An unstable situation seems to grow more dangerous on a daily basis.  The North Korean dictator has already had various family members assassinated.  His weaponry already poses an immediate threat to major population centers in Seoul and Tokyo.

North Korea has been described as being China's pit bull, but now the pit bull seems to have slipped off of his lead.  How much leverage does China really have over North Korea?

Meanwhile President Trump, the new American Commander in chief, adds a measure of unpredictability.  Trump must weigh the dangers of action and the perils of inaction as well.  Will he order a decapitation strike against the regime of Kim Jong-un?  Will US Special Forces be sent into the Hermit Kingdom on a desperate mission?  Will Kim Jong-un launch some kind of suicide mission against the west?  Will the rhetorical war become something far more dangerous?

While the future is difficult to predict we can still learn valuable lessons from our past.

It may surprise readers to learn that we Americans have invaded North Korea before.  Our past interactions with North Korea have been costly in terms of blood, treasure and even political fortunes.  In America Invades (www.americainvades.comwe wrote...

"North Korea is a land of mystery, a hermit kingdom whose intentions we struggle to understand.
Our first contact with what is now North Korea was not a happy one. In 1866, an American ship, the SS General Sherman, arrived off Korea and then proceeded to sail upriver to Pyongyang, now the capital of North Korea, in an attempt to start Western trade with Koreans. The Koreans were wary of Western traders, and a dispute arose that led to violence and the eventual burning of the SS General Sherman.

Our next major visit to North Korea was going to be pretty challenging as well...

After the liberation of Seoul by UN forces on September 26, 1950, the United Nations forces faced a strategic dilemma. Would they advance north of the thirty-eighth parallel and dispose of the regime that had started the conflict, or would they stop at the line that originally divided North and South Korea?

Two considerations—the discovery by the UN command that thousands of civilians in South Korea had been killed by the Communists between June and September of 1950 and the comparatively swift collapse of the North Korean Army after Inchon—were seized upon by those arguing in favor of crossing the thirty-eighth parallel. Ultimately, both the UN command and the Truman administration decided in favor of regime change in the North at this time.

As a result, United Nations forces swept north of the thirty-eighth parallel. On October 19, Pyongyang was captured, and Bob Hope even gave a USO performance for the troops in the North Korean capital!

United Nations forces drove north of the thirty-eighth parallel advancing towards the Chinese border. Kim Il Sung’s northern regime was in a state of near total collapse when suddenly the situation changed entirely.

Mao, mindful that North Korea had recently been the jumping-off point for the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in the 1930s, was determined to intervene in Korea on a huge scale. In late October of 1950, massive Chinese formations began to cross the Yalu River into North Korea. In the end, over 1.3 million Chinese would fight in the war.

Korean War Memorial
Nashville, TN
The Chinese forces had years of experience in battling the Japanese and the Chinese Nationalists. They employed human-wave tactics and specialized in night attack to avoid UN superiority in the air.
Among Mao’s forces were recently-surrendered Nationalist Chinese. This later complicated the negotiations over prisoner exchanges as many who had fought on the Communist side had no desire to be repatriated to North Korea or the People’s Republic.

The Chinese intervention was a hammer blow to the UN forces and totally changed the course of the war. During the Chosin Reservoir (December 1950) campaign, the commander of 1st Marine Division, O. P. Smith, famously remarked, “Gentlemen, we are not retreating. We are merely advancing in another direction.”

The autumn also saw the first MiG-15s deployed in the country in support of the North Koreans and Chinese, challenging UN dominance of the skies.

General Douglas MacArthur
US Army Academy, West Point, NY

The UN retreat continued through the bleak winter of 1950, and the Chinese tidal wave swept all in its path and threw the UN forces into chaos. Pyongyang was recaptured by the Communists on December 5, 1950, and Seoul was evacuated by UN troops on January 4, 1951. In desperation at the situation, MacArthur began to support drastic measures to stem the Chinese tide, including bombing the Yalu bridges across which the Chinese supply lines flowed, bombing targets of opportunity in Manchuria, taking Chiang Kai-shek up on his offer of deploying thousands of well-trained Nationalist Chinese troops to Korea, and even considering the use of atomic weapons. On April 5, 1951, MacArthur released a letter criticizing the Truman administration’s policy of limited war. In response, Truman, who never cared much for “Dugout Doug,” charged the supreme commander with blatant insubordination.

The wisdom, or otherwise, of Truman’s dismissal of MacArthur on April 11, 1951, remains a matter of controversy to this day. Some argue that Truman occupied the firmer constitutional ground and that MacArthur’s proposed escalation might have led to Russian retaliation, use of atomic weapons, and the start of World War III. Others point out that MacArthur’s departure may have led to two unnecessary years of war; in January of 1952, even Truman himself was considering an ultimatum to the Soviet Union and China over their support for North Korea.

Before MacArthur’s final removal, however, the Chinese onslaught had already been slowed and then halted. The Eighth Army under Matthew Ridgway, the commander of the 82nd Airborne in Operation Market Garden began to push north again, and in March 5, 1951, Seoul changed hands for the third time as his forces advanced towards the thirty-eighth parallel. Nevertheless, a grinding war still lay ahead with no apparent end in sight.

Out of over 1,319,000 Americans who served during the three years of the “forgotten war” in Korea, about thirty-six thousand were killed— comparable to the fifty-eight thousand claimed by Vietnam over ten years. Over one million Koreans from the north, south, and all ideologies, including many civilians, were also killed in the war. Truman’s ambition for a third presidential term was also a casualty of the war.

Dwight David Eisenhower
Grosvenor Square, London
With a simple five-word speech, “I shall go to Korea,” Eisenhower was catapulted to electoral victory in the fall of 1952. As president-elect, America’s most distinguished soldier visited Korea in late November of 1952. Mark Clark, a West Point classmate of Eisenhower’s, tried to argue that the war was winnable, but Ike was determined to gain a truce. Ike told Clark, “I have a mandate from the people to stop this fighting.”

The Eisenhower administration launched a high-stakes poker game designed to resume the stalled peace talks at Panmunjom. A tactical nuclear device, designed to be used by artillery, was tried out in January 1953. In May of that year, Allen Dulles, the secretary of state, visited Prime Minister Nehru of India and asked that a warning be conveyed to the Chinese: If a truce were not agreed to, bombing north of the Yalu would commence. The talks resumed and made rapid progress.

Finally, the Korean War ended with an armistice signed on July 27, 1953, which basically restored the antebellum status quo. But the truce has not been an unbroken one. Regular incidents have occurred, including in 1968 when North Koreans boarded and captured the USS Pueblo. The Pueblo remains today the only USN vessel in enemy hands.

And today, it is Kim Jong-un, the grandson of Kim Il Sung from the Korean War, who presides over secretive North Korea and keeps the rest of the world guessing about what he’s going to do next."

Could it be that Trump's political fortunes will be determined by success or failure on the Korean Peninsula just as Trumans' were around sixty-five years ago?

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Invading Belgium

Commander K in Dinant, Belgium

Belgium, lying as it does, at the crossroads of Europe has been subject to numerous invasions.

In Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World ( we noted that Julius Caesar himself invaded the area today known as Belgium...
Julius Caesar Bust, Arles, France
"Belgium is named after the Belgic peoples of the region, first described by, yes, an Italian, Julius Caesar himself.

In 57 BC Caesar advanced into what is now Belgium after attacking the Nervii tribe. In 53 BC, after Ambiorix, king of the Eburones, destroyed a Roman legion, Caesar retaliated by ruthlessly destroying the Eburones.

In AD 69 and 70, the great Batavian Revolt affected parts of what is now Belgium, and other fighting during assorted Roman civil wars followed. Then in the late Roman period, the area became increasingly vulnerable to incursions by people from beyond the empire’s borders.

That was not the last time Italians would fight in what is now Belgium.

Italians formed a major component of the Spanish armies that fought the Eighty Years’ War from 1558–1648, as the Netherlands fought to free itself from Spanish control. A number of key commanders on the Spanish side were Italian. In the late sixteenth century, for instance, Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma, reconquered, at a key point in the war, much of what is now Belgium. And in the early seventeenth century, Genoese aristocrat Ambrosio Spinola, Marquis of the Balbases and Duke of Sesto, was another major commander on the Spanish side.

Napoleon I
Invaded Belgium and met his Waterloo
Napoleon, the French emperor with Italian roots, controlled what is now Belgium for most of his time in power. The battle of Waterloo, fought in Belgium in June 1815, was the final defeat for the King of Italy, as well as for the emperor of the French.

Fiat CR.42 Biplane
RAF Museum, London

During the Battle of Britain in September 1940, the Corpo Aereo Italiano (the Italian Air Corps) was sent to Belgium to take part in the Luftwaffe’s Battle of Britain, Germany’s attempt to make an invasion of Britain possible.

On the Allied side, Italian Americans saw heavy fighting in Belgium in the months after D-Day. For example, on September 4, 1944, machine gunner Gino J. Merli showed heroic bravery when his position near Sars-la-Bruyère came under heavy German attack. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor as a result.

The Belgians owe another major cultural debt to Italy. No Columbus would have meant no Belgian chocolate!

Belgium is a founding member of NATO, along with Italy."

Commander K with Martyrs of Dinant from 2 World Wars
Dinant, Belgium
The Germans, of course invaded Belgium in two World Wars.  In 1914 they invaded the town of Dinant the site of a beautiful; cathedral on the __ river.  Dinant was the birthplace of Adolphe Sax -- the inventor of the saxophone.

But Americans have also invaded or fought in Belgium.  In America Invades ( we noted...

They have great chocolate, great beer, and great fries in Belgium. Excellent.
Belgium seems as if it’s been around forever but isn’t even as old as the United States. In fact, at least one American was fighting on what is now Belgian soil before Belgium, as we now know it, even existed.

Duke of Wellington
London, UK
In June of 1815, Sir William Howe De Lancey and his new bride, Magdalene Hall, were invited, but did not attend, the famous Duchess of Richmond’s ball in Brussels that preceded the Battle of Waterloo. De Lancey, born in New York City, served as the British Duke of Wellington’s deputy quartermaster general in the Waterloo campaign. His father, Stephen De Lancey, had also served as an officer in the 1st New Jersey Loyal Volunteers in the American Revolution. Sadly, while accompanying the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815, De Lancey was struck by a bouncing canon ball and fatally wounded.

In August of 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, Belgium was invaded, and mostly occupied, by the Kaiser’s army. After President Woodrow Wilson led the United States into war on the side of the Allies in 1917, in part due to the violation of Belgian neutrality, many Americans would fight in and over Belgium.

For example, Robert Lovett, a Yalie who would become secretary of defense in the Korean War, served as a pioneering naval aviator in World War I. One of his missions was to bomb German submarine pens based in Bruges, Belgium. And Americans played a vital role in campaigns that liberated large chunks of Belgium in the last months of the war. In August and September 1918, the American II Corps helped the British wipe out the German-held Lys salient, and in October, the 37th and 91st Divisions joined in an attempt to cross the Scheldt. Finally, on November 2, 1918, just a few days before the Armistice, the 37th managed to get across the Scheldt at Heurne.

Over one hundred thousand Americans were involved in the fighting in Belgium then, and many of them would never return home. Hundreds of American soldiers from the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) are buried at the Flanders Field American Cemetery in Belgium at Waregem, only a few miles from the scene of the crossing of the Scheldt by the 37th.

In May of 1940, Belgium was once again invaded by the Germans who occupied the country until the fall of 1944.

On September 3, 1944, the US First Army crossed the Belgian border and liberated the city of Mons and the surrounding area. Advancing American troops reported being greeted by bottles of cognac and champagne and by pretty girls. Twenty-five thousand Germans would soon be captured in the Mons pocket.

However, anyone expecting a quick end to the fighting was in for a surprise. One of the largest battles in American military history was fought primarily on the soil of Belgium—yes, it’s the Battle of the Bulge.

Hitler had begun planning operation Wacht am Rhein (Watch on the Rhine) shortly after the D-Day landings in June. In spite of the Ultra decrypts, the Germans managed to achieve strategic surprise with a massive counterattack through the Ardennes. At 5:30 a.m. on December 16, 1944, a huge German artillery barrage broke out near the Ardennes forest.

General Anthony McAuliffe
Bastogne, Belgium
The Germans advanced against inexperienced US divisions or the remnants of shattered units that had been put into a quiet part of the front in order to recuperate, and the attackers were helped by bad weather, which countered Allied air superiority. The 101st Airborne, which had been rushed forward via trucks, was soon completely surrounded at Bastogne.

On December 22, 1944, Von Lüttwitz, commander of the German forces besieging Bastogne, sent two officers to request the surrender of the American garrison. Brigadier General McAuliffe, in temporary command of the 101st Airborne Division, laughed and famously exclaimed “Nuts” in response.

It was near the Belgian town of Malmedy that the most notorious massacre of unarmed American soldiers in our history took place. Sixty- seven men of Battery B of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion who had surrendered were killed by machine gun fire from SS panzers. At least four hundred, including over one hundred Belgian civilians, were killed by Joachim Peiper’s 1st SS-Panzer Division. After being tried and sentenced to death, Peiper managed to cheat the hangman’s noose, and he was released from prison in 1956.

The German offensive had already caused considerable chaos in the American rear, and Skorzeny’s English-speaking German commandos disguised as Americans just added to it. David Niven, an actor who moved to Hollywood seeking fame and fortune, served in the British Army during World War II and found himself caught up in it. When suspicious GIs demanded he tell them who had won the World Series in 1940, he had to confess he had no idea, but he was able to point out to the GIs that he had made a picture with Ginger Rogers in 1938. They let him pass.

At Patton's grave

In an Allied strategy conference held on December 19, General George S. Patton Jr. assured Eisenhower that he would be ready to counterattack in forty-eight hours. Eisenhower expressed skepticism. Patton, however, was not going to be put off. His view was that the Germans had put their heads in a mincer, and he wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to mince them.

Patton kept his word attacking two days later with the US 4th Armored Division and relieving the “Battling Bastards of Bastogne” on December 26. With the weather now improved, allowing Allied air superiority to reassert itself, as German supplies ran out and Allied support began to arrive in force, the German offensive stalled.

The Ardennes Offensive was Hitler’s last in the West. With its collapse, the Germans were once again forced into retreat, and by February 1945, Belgium was finally free from the Nazis. But it had come at a heavy price. Thousands of American soldiers from both world wars are buried in three American battle monument cemeteries in Belgium.

American soldiers who had fought in Belgium would go on to play roles small and large in other key scenes from American history. For instance, Officer J. D. Tippitt, shot and killed in Dallas on November 22, 1963, by Lee Harvey Oswald, had won a bronze star for his service in the US Army at the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium.

Since the war, very close military ties have developed between the United States and Belgium. The country became a founding member of NATO in 1949. The headquarters of the NATO alliance is now located just outside Mons in Belgium. And assorted US military units have been based in Belgium since the war. For instance, today, the US Air Force’s 309th Airlift Squadron operates at Chièvres Air Base in Belgium."

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Beware the Consensus View!

In An Adventure in 1914 ( I noted...

"Millions of men stood ready to mobilize across the Continent.  Officers on both sides anxiously consulted their railway timetables, convinced that whichever side mobilized first was destined to prevail in any conflict,  This theory ran aground when Czarist Russia, the first to mobilize, was decisively defeated in the war."

The consensus view in the summer of 1914 proved spectacularly wrong with Germany's victory at the Battle of Tannenberg in August 1914 and, ultimately, with the slaughter of the Czar and his family at Ekaterinberg in 1918.  The first to mobilize did not win; the Russian Army and Czarist regime were ground to dust in the Great War.

Ronald Reagan
Grosvenor Square, London
During the Cold War it was the consensus view that the era of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was interminable.  Everyone knew that the Cold War was un-winnable.  It was heresy to think otherwise.  The confrontation between Capitalist and Communist spheres would grind on until...Doomsday.  Until Reagan, Thatcher and few others realized that the Cold War could, in fact, be won.  Reagan urged the Soviets to "tear down that wall" and the wall crumbled soon after.

In 2007 there was a consensus among politicians from Barney Frank to George W. Bush that home ownership was a good thing.  The politicos bleated on about the "ownership society".  The American tax code had subsidized home ownership for generations with the mortgage interest rate deduction.  Everyone should be living the American dream -- even those who might not be able to actually afford home ownership.  And if the credit rating agencies had to fudge a few numbers what did it matter as long the rising tide of home ownership kept lifting all boats with housing prices always moving in one direction?  Everyone was happy from the banks to consumers to speculators.  Until the financial crisis of 2008.

More recently in 2016 the consensus view held 1) that Brexit would not pass and 2) that Hillary Clinton would be elected 45th President of the United States.  Even the TV series Homeland saw all the cracks in the glass ceiling and cast a Clinton-esque character as the new president.  President Obama lectured Britons about the perils of Brexit and endorsed Hillary.  You could have secured 8 to 1 odds on Trump being elected President the day before the election.  Well, we all know how those consensus views worked out.

Which brings us to the present.  What is the Consensus view in 2017?  The London cabbie who picked me up from London City airport yesterday expressed it pretty well: "Your President is a nutter!"  The consensus holds that President Trump is a liar and and idiot.  That the Trump administration is beholden to Putin's Russia.  Things that make you go "Hmmm...?"

Christopher Kelly is the co-author of America Invades ( and Italy Invades : How Italians Conquered the World (  He recently edited An Adventure in 1914 (

America Invaded: A State by State Guide to Fighting on American Soil will be published in 2017.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Invading Switzerland

Lake Geneva

Switzerland is known for its watches, its chocolate, its boarding schools ( and its secretive banks (the gnomes of Zurich).  It is also known for having been stuck in neutral.  Its neutrality and its strong currency do not, however seem to have hurt it any.  On the contrary Switzerland seems to be a textbook example on the benefits of peace and free markets.  The Swiss have no need for Brexit having passed on the EU long ago.

But if you were to conclude that Switzerland must never have been invaded you would be quite wrong.

In our book Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World we noted that Julius Caesar was invading the area now known as Switzerland over 2,000 years ago and many more would follow...

Julius Caesar invaded Switzerland

"The Romans took control of the territory of what is now Switzerland in a number of different stages.
For instance, in 121 BC, Quintus Fabius Maximus defeated the Allobroges, who were a tribe that occupied parts of what is now eastern France and a little bit of Switzerland. And in 58 BC, Caesar decisively defeated the Helvetii at the Battle of Bibracte, a victory that set the scene for the establishment of Roman sites like Noviodunum/Nyon and Colonia Raurica in western Switzerland. In 15 BC, Tiberius and Drusus seized Raetia, a territory that included much of what is now Switzerland. And in 6 BC, Augustus celebrated his triumph over the tribes of the Alps with a massive trophy constructed at what is now La Turbie in France, where much of it is still visible.

Swiss Fighting in 1346
Chateau Gruyere, Switzerland
These were not the last Italians to fight over what is now Swiss territory. For instance, the Ticino area of southern Switzerland saw extensive fighting by Italians in the late Middle Ages. After the city of Como decided in 1239 to side with Italian-born Emperor Frederick II, at that time ruler of Switzerland, he took control of Bellinzona, the capital of the region. This area was regularly disputed between the Italian powers of Como and Milan. Milan took the city in 1242, but then Como took it back in 1249. Finally, in 1340, the Viscontis took Bellinzona, and Milan would hold it long term. In 1403, Milan temporarily lost control to Alberto di Sacco, who then sold it to the Swiss. Milan sent troops into the area; and after a decisive victory at the Battle of Arbedo in 1422, retook Bellinzona. Swiss forces attacked in 1441 but failed to take Bellinzona. Another attack in 1478 led to the Milanese suffering a defeat at the Battle of Giornico, but Milan hung onto Bellinzona. In 1499, though, when Louis XII of France attacked Milan, it lost control of Bellinzona, which shortly afterward became Swiss.
Italian Grenadier Guard
Musée de l'Armée, Paris

And the Napoleonic Wars would see more Italians fighting in Switzerland. In 1798, French forces invaded Switzerland and occupied it. Shortly afterward, Andrea Massena, born in Nice (when Nice was Sardinian), was given a major French command in Switzerland and told to resist advancing Austrian and Russian forces. Massena not only managed to resist an Austrian advance on Zurich, but at the Second Battle of Zurich in September 1799, he also achieved a major and strategically important victory over a combined Russian and Austrian force.

Napoleon Crossing the Alps!

In the spring of 1800, Napoleon, whose family was from San Miniato, famously crossed the Alps through the St. Bernard Pass in what is now Switzerland. He soon led the French to victory over the Austrians in the Italian town of Marengo.

While Switzerland may be known for its bankers, it was the Italians who invented double-entry bookkeeping and the Medicis who pioneered merchant banking. And without Columbus’s discovery of the New World, the Swiss would not even have chocolate!"

Swiss Guards, St. Peter's, Rome

Today in Switzerland, just under 7 percent of Swiss citizens are Italian speaking. The pope continues to be protected by guards who must all be Swiss, Catholic bachelors between the ages of nineteen and thirty. There were 112 Swiss guards protecting the pope as of 2010."

Even we Americans have not missed out on invading Switzerland.  In America Invades ( we wrote...

Swiss Fondue, Gruyere, Switzerland
"Mountainous, picturesque Switzerland has a long history of neutrality. So have we ever attacked any fondue-eating, yoghurt-slurping, and chocolate-devouring Swiss? Well, not intentionally, but unintentionally, yes.

Swiss Canon
Chateau Gruyere, Switzerland
During both world wars, Switzerland remained, of course, neutral. In World War I, despite one or two Allied plans to invade Switzerland, or at least invade enemy territory through Switzerland, we didn’t really have that much to do with the country militarily, apart from a bit of espionage.
With its strategic location at the heart of Europe, Switzerland became famous along with the fondue, clocks, and knives for spies during both world wars. There can be few more famous American spymasters than Allen Dulles, and he spent time in Switzerland during both wars. In World War I, he operated out of Berne and ran spies in Austria-Hungary, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe. Also one night, he apparently hung up the phone after a conversation with a Russian revolutionary about to leave Switzerland and desperate to speak to an American diplomat. That revolutionary turned out to be Lenin, and his destination, Russia and the Bolshevik Revolution.

ME 262, Evergreen Air & Space Museum
McMinnville, OR
In World War II, Switzerland once again became a hotbed of espionage activity while the war raged all around the country. And once again, Allen Dulles appeared on the scene, this time heading up the OSS there. Germany was now his focus, and Dulles worked with many anti- Hitler Germans. While in Switzerland, he managed to gather intelligence on the Me 262 jet and the German rocket programs and help the Italians surrender.

Stalin, not a fan of capitalists anyway, denounced the Swiss as “swine” and urged US forces to attack from France. We didn’t. Well, as mentioned above, not intentionally anyway.

P-47, Museum of Flight
Seattle WA
The air war over Europe was wide-ranging, vicious, and often chaotic, fought by crews with, by today’s standards, very limited navigational technology. Some mistakes were inevitable. In September 1944, for instance, US pilots invaded Swiss airspace sometimes as many as thirty times a day. In another example, a squadron of US P-47s shot up a train headed from Zurich to Basel assuming it was German. In one of the most tragic incidents, Americans inadvertently bombed the Swiss town of Schaffhausen, killing tens of civilians. To be fair, Swiss airspace was also violated by the Luftwaffe hundreds of times in the course of the war. After the war, the US government paid compensation to the Swiss.

Sometimes, however, Switzerland was the intended destination of our men. A number of Allied bomber crews, for instance, thinking their planes were too damaged to return home, preferred to avoid becoming POWs and landed deliberately in neutral Switzerland where their planes and crews would be impounded for the duration of the war. And Switzerland was, of course, a destination of choice for American POWs attempting to escape from German prisoner-of-war camps."

So the Swiss HAVE been invaded.  They have fought many wars, been bombed and certainly been spied upon.  Even today they remain heavily armed and well fortified.  They seem to have learned from their experiences.

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Coming later in 2017...
America Invaded: A State by State Guide to Fighting on American Soil