Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day + 70

Virgin Mary + US Paratroopers
St. Mère Eglise, France

Seventy years ago the Allied armies waded ashore on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Nazi-occupied Europe.  The night before on June 5th American airborne forces (82nd and 101st) landed on the Western flank of the invasion area near St. Mere Eglise while British airborne (6th para) forces secured the Eastern flank and Pegasus bridge.  They jumped out of C-47 Dakota Skytrain transport planes through darkness and into glory.  Some arrived by glider.  Private John Steele of the 82nd airborne landed on the steeple of the church at St. mere Eglise (see photo below).
C-47 Dakota Skytrain, Musee Airborne, St. Mere Eglise
They came ashore the next morning on five different beaches.  Brigadier General Ted Roosevelt jr. (the sone of President Teddy Roosevelt) landed with his men on Utah facing relatively little German opposition.  The Canadians stormed ashore on Juno (http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/james-doohan-and-d-day.html).  Sword and Gold were reserved for the British forces.  A small contingent of French commandos joined the British on Sword and helped capture Ouistreham destroying the Casino.  The worst Allied casualties took place on bloody Omaha partly due to an abbreviated naval bombardment of the German positions.

Private John Steele, St. Mere Eglise
The Allies, in spite of the vast size of their armada and the relative openness of their societies, had, remarkably, managed to achieve strategic surprise over the Germans.  Rommel was in Germany celebrating his wife's 50th birthday.  Hitler persisted in the mistaken belief that the Normandy invasion was a feint and that the "real" blow would be struck at the Pas de Calais.  For more on how the Allies pulled off this amazing sleight of hand see...http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/double-cross-d-day-spies.html.

Eisenhower, Normandy, FR
Eisenhower had planned the invasion form his offices at 20 Grosvenor square in London (a construction site today).  Number One Grosvenor square (now the Canadian High Commissioners Office) was the wartime location of the American embassy.  Averell Harriman presided over Lend Lease from 3 Grosvenor square helping to fund our wartime Allies.  The OSS (Office of Strategic Services), forerunner of the CIA, had its offices at 70 Grosvenor square (now an office building).  Little wonder that this neighbourhood was know as "Little America" at the time.  Some wags even referred to Grosvenor square as "Eisenhowerplatz".  The American embassy at Grosvenor square was recently featured in the TV series "24: Live Another Day".

US Sherman tank
Musee Airborne, St. Mere Eglise, FR
Imagine if the Normandy invasion had to occur today in 2014 in the age of social media!  There would be an interactive poll taken on Allied strategy: "Which beach do you like more, Normandy or Pas de Calais?"  Could all the members of the 101st Screaming Eagles painted in Indian warpaint with their Mohawk haircuts be counted upon to not post their pictures on Facebook?  One might hope so but...?

US Cemetery, Normandy, France
ABMC
We must remember always what happened seventy years ago today.  Over 10,000 Allied soldiers were killed on June 6, 1944 and many more in the weeks and months to come.  General Patton may have summed it up best when he said,"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."

A visit to Normandy can help all of us, regardless of political ideology, learn a bit more about what it means to be an American.  We can all take pride in what those very young men did seventy years ago.




Wednesday, April 30, 2014

St. Marks, SJW

St Marks, London
St. Marks is our neighborhood Anglican church.  Here is their web address...http://www.stmarks.me.uk/St_Marks/Welcome_1.html.  They are a welcoming congregation with a distinguished music program.  Aidan Platten is their friendly vicar.

This church was first consecrated in 1847 and lies between St. John's Wood and Maida Vale.  In those days there really was a "wood" in Saint John's Wood.

Pepe in full "Beast Mode"
I walk by this church nearly every morning with our faithful hound, Pepe. He's the black lab who loves the Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch!

St Marks, London
Look carefully at this picture of St. Marks.  Do you notice anything unusual?  Look again.

Do you notice that the top of the tower is different from the rest of the church structure?  It is a more recent construction than the rest of the building.  Why?

In October of 1941 a Luftwaffe bomb fell across the street from the church on Hamilton Terrrace.  The blast wave did extensive damage to the church steeple which had to be removed.  It was not rebuilt until the 1950s.

St. Marks remembers the
World Wars 
During the Second World War the RAF made us of the church as a collecting center and for parades.  In 1944 a flying bomb narrowly missed the church.  For more on another London church that was not so fortunate see my earlier post..."Guards Chapel" (http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/the-guards-chapel.html).

London wears her combat scars with pride.  No one would dare suggest that the Blitz-pockmarked exterior of St Paul's Cathedral or the Ritz hotel be repaired!

St. George blessing the troops.
History is all around us.  Not just in London, but wherever you live too.









Tuesday, April 1, 2014

World War I Centennial

Commander K. at Guards Memorial
St. James Park, London


"The World breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places."  Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms


This year we mark the centennial of the start of World War I - 1914 to 2014.  This devastating war was a catastrophe that very nearly broke the fabric of Western civilisation.  The war claimed more than 16 million lives including over 116,000 Americans (A staggering 26X more than the total 4,427 American combat deaths of the Iraq war!) and over a million from the British Empire.  Is civilisation itself, as Hemingway might suggest, now stronger at the "broken places," the "fault lines" of this terrible conflict?  Well, perhaps.  We know, however, that Wilson's "war to end all wars" did not work out quite as intended.

WWI Munitions
Great War Museum, Cortina, IT
Even in the year 2014, one hundred years on, we are still seeing tangible reverberations from the First World War.  Two construction workers in Belgium were killed this year by unexploded munitions from this conflict http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2584568/First-World-War-bomb-kills-two-construction-site-workers-100-years-fired-Belgian-battlefield.html.

We also know that chemical weapons used in World War I continue to contaminate the water table of Belgium making it unsafe for infants to drink the local tap water http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-26678759.
Last Flight of the Hapsburg Eagle
Great War Museum, Cortina, IT
The decision to launch a war is fateful and pregnant with long term consequences which are almost impossible for participants to foresee.  Four Empires -- Tsarist Russia, Imperial Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire -- would all cease to exist as a result of the First World War.

WWI Pilot, San Cassiano, IT
The First World War would transform the waging of war from an aristocratic semi-feudal undertaking into an major industrial enterprise.  This war would see the dawn of military aviation (see...http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/the-red-baron.html), submarine warfare and the use of chemical weapons.  It was the First World War that gave birth to the "Military Industrial Complex" as described much later by President Eisenhower.
Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph
Fort Tre Sassi, Cortina, IT
The war started in Sarajevo when a nineteen year-old Serbian Gavrilo Princip fired the pistol that assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Duchess Sophie.  TheArchduke's last words were, "Sophie, Sophie, don't die -- stay alive for our children."  Austria-Hungary, bent on avenging the death of their crown Prince, immediately mobilized its armed forces to confront Serbia.  Tsarist Russia felt compelled to mobilize to defend her Slav ally Serbia.  The Kaiser's Imperial Germany gave Austria a blank check to use force in the Balkans.  France was bound by treaty to assist Russia.  The invasion of Belgium made British participation inevitable.  Kaiser Wilhelm II had rolled the "iron dice"... and would lose everything.
A Necessary War
Max Hastings has rendered the reading public a great service with his new volume Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War (www.amzn.com/0307597059).  Hastings demolishes the popular notion (the "Black Adder theory of history" he labels it) that the First World War was simply a pointless, muddy slaughter.  In the final analysis, the Central Powers were chiefly responsible for the outbreak of war.  Wilhelm II, who had been building up his navy for years, sought an excuse to go to war and turmoil in the Balkans furnished one.   The Kaiser's Empire was an autocracy that had already waged a genocide in German Southwest Africa (Namibia today) between 1904 and 1907 that claimed the lives of over 75,000 people.  Over 6,000 Belgian civilians were killed as a matter of German policy in the opening months of the war.
Commander K., Great War Museum
Fort Tre Sassi, Cortina, Italy 
In 1915 Italy, who had previously been allied to the Central Powers.  Italy sold her soul for territorial gains.  She fought a terrible war that cost her 460,000 dead and won her Trieste and Cortina.  A war that began in the Balkans and goring on in the trenches of the Western front would also be fought in the high altitudes of the Alps and Dolomites (see www.cortinamuseoguerra.it).  Avalanches would claim many lives as well as combat.

WWI Winter Warrior
Great War Museum, Cortina, IT
In 1917 Tsarist Russia dropped out of the war and was consumed by a Revolution that brought Lenin to power.

That same year President Wilson led the U.S. into the war on the side of the Triple Entente.  There were four major factors driving Wilson's decision.  First, the Kaiser had launched unrestricted submarine warfare that led to the sinking of merchant ships such as the Lusitania.  Second, Germany had committed atrocities in its invasion of neutral Belgium executing many civilians and even a British nurse (See...http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/edith-cavell.html).  Third, Germany had clumsily plotted to ally herself with Mexico in the event of a U.S. intervention (Zimmerman telegram).  Finally, Allied arms purchases had stimulated the American economy and made them substantial debtors to U.S. financial institutions.

Hastings writes, "The Americans accession of strength more than compensated for the Russian's retirement from the conflict in March 1918."  (Source: Catastrophe 1914: Europe goes to War, Max Hastings, 2014).

"Johnny Get Your Gun"
Great War Museum, Cortina, IT
A staggering four million doughboys were shipped "over there" to Europe from 1917 to 1918.  Consider that number for just a moment.  Today we regard George H.W. Bush's deployment of 500,000 Allied troops to Saudi Arabia in 1990 (Operation Desert Shield) as "massive".  The deployment of General "Black Jack" Pershing's American Expeditionary Force (AEF) to Europe was 8X greater and it was all handled by the transportation technology of the early 20th century -- the same transportation technology that was responsible for the Titanic.  The Americans set up naval and air bases in Ireland, a British dominion at the time, to protect all the shipping that passed through the Irish sea from the Kaiser's marauding submarines.


In 1918 Ernest Hemingway from Oak Brook, Illinois went "over there," volunteering to serve as an ambulance assistant on the Italian front.  He was wounded by a mortar shell and spent six months in hospital recovering.  His First World War novel, A Farewell to Arms, was published in 1929 (www.amzn.com/0684801469).

Hastings writes, "It would be entirely mistaken to suppose, as do so many people in the twenty-first century, that it did not matter which side won.  The Allies imposed a clumsy peace settlement at Versailles in 1919, but it f the Germans had instead been dictating the terms as victors, European freedom, justice and democracy would have paid a dreadful forfeit.  Germany adopted territorial war aims in the course of the First World War which were were not much less ambitious than those favoured by its ruler in the Second.  It thus seems quite wrong to describe the undoubted European tragedy of 1914-18 also futile, a view overwhelmingly driven in the eyes of posterity by the human cost of the military experience.  If the Kaiserreich did not deserve to triumph, those who fought and died in the ultimately successful struggle to prevent such an outcome did not perish for nothing, save insofar as all sacrifice in all wars is just cause for lamentation."

Source: Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War, Max Hastings, 2013 (www.amzn.com/0307597059)







Luftwaffe Aces...Supermen?

"Luftwaffe Day"
Flying Heritage Collection, Everett WA

If you look up "World War II aces" in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_War_II_flying_aces) you will find something extraordinary.  The first several pages of the list of Aces of World War II is made up entirely of Luftwaffe pilots.

Last summer the Flying Heritage Collection in Everett, WA featured a "Luftwaffe Day" which I attended with my son (see http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/flying-heritage-collection.html).

Erich "Bubi" Hartmann, 1922 - 1993
Ace of Aces
At the top of the list of you will find Erich "Bubi" Hartmann (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Hartmann) who was the top fighter ace of all time having scored an astonishing 352 confirmed victories, mostly on the Eastern front.  This highly-decorated pilot flew with the Luftwaffe from 1940 until May 8, 1945, V-E day, the last day of the war in Europe.  He even shot down five American P-51s while based in Romania (see...http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/tommy-hitchcock-and-p-51-mustang.html).  He was surrendered to American forces in Czechoslovakia at the end of the war and was turned over to the Soviets who imprisoned him on trumped up war crimes for over ten years.  Hartmann was, of course, an extremely fortunate fellow who managed to survive the war and worked for the West German Bundeswehr air arm.

Focke Wolfe
Flying Heritage Collection, Everett, WA
Why is this?  Why is it that German pilots lead the list of World War II pilots?  The raw data compels one to ask an unsettling question, "Were the Germans really Supermen as  Goebbel's propaganda machine claimed?"

Many Germans were excellent pilots; they were not, however, supermen.  Hardly.

Some Luftwaffe pilots gained valuable combat experience flying in the Condor Legion during the Spanish civil war.  German aircraft outclassed all of their opponents, save the RAF, for the first three years of the war.  Luftwaffe aircraft were faster than the planes of the Red Air Force, giving them a significant advantage in air to air combat on the Eastern front.

Storch
Flying Heritage Collection, Everett, WA
The reason these pilots are at the top of this list actually points out a fundamental weakness of Hitler's war machine.  Simply put, the Germans were desperate!  Unlike the Allies, they did not allow Luftwaffe pilots to be rotated home to train new pilots, sell war bonds and generate positive home front propaganda.  These men, like Hartmann, were compelled to keep flying until they died, unless a miracle saved them from destruction.  Many other German aces such as Otto Kittel and Walter Nowotony were shot down during the war.  Heinrich Ehler rammed his fighter into an Allied plane on April 4, 1945.

Many Japanese pilots also outscored all Allied pilots.  The Japanese were just as desperate as their Germans allies though their planes were, in general, not as good as those of the Luftwaffe.

Ivan Kozhedub (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Kozhedub) from the Ukraine was the most successful Allied ace of World War II with 64 credited kills.  He survived the war and even shot down two Ameriicna P-51s during the Korean war.

Major Richard Bong (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Bong) of the USAAF was the highest rated American ace of the war scoring at least 40 - enemy kills.  He was killed while working for Lockheed as a test pilot on August 8, 1945 -- the same day that the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

Spitfire, RAF Museum Hendon
Marmaduke Pattle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marmaduke_Pattle) of South Africa was the highest scoring RAF ace of the war with over 40 kills (see http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/raf-museum-hendon.html).  He was shot down and killed over Athens in 1941.

A handful of Luftwaffe aces, such as Erich Rudorffer and Walter Schuck, are still alive today (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Rudorfferhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Schuck).  Their courage is undeniable though they fought for a morally tainted cause.







Monday, March 31, 2014

Capa, Hitchcock & Rear Window


Commander K. and Hitch, Hoxton, UK
Statue by Antony Donaldson

One of my great heroes, Robert Capa (http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/robert-capa.html), inspired one of my favorite movies, Rear Window (www.amzn.com/B008DCAG9M).  This film was directed by Alfred Hitchcock (http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/the-lady-vanishes.html) and starred Jimmy Stewart -- two other heroes of mine.

June 6, 1944, Omaha Beach, Robert Capa
Robert Capa was a Hungarian-born photographer who documented the Allied liberation of Western Europe in World War II.  He was fiercely anti-fascist, but also disdained socialism -- my kind of guy!  He took extraordinary risks as a war photographer.  His mantra was "If you're pictures are no good, you're not close enough."   He got closer than any other photographer on June 6, 1944.  Only eight out of the 100 or so shots that he took that day survived the developing process.  Those eight shots, however, are truly amazing.

On the day that Paris was liberated, August 25, 1944, Capa rode into the capital city "on a tank made by the Americans who had accepted me, riding with the Spanish Republicans with whom I fought against fascism long years ago, I was returning to Paris-- the beautiful city where I first lean red to eat, drink and love."  (Source: Slightly Out of Focus, Robert Capa 1947www.amzn.com/0375753966)

Ingrid Bergman 1915 - 1982
After the war he met and had an affair with the actress Ingrid Bergman who had been sent to Europe in 1945 to entertain the many American troops in the European Theatre of Operations.  Just after the war Alfred Hitchcock cast Bergman in Notorious with Cary Grant.  Capa hung around the set where he became friends with the famous director.

Capa was totally committed to his trade as a photographer which meant that he had to be ready to travel on a moment's notice to war zones and other locations.  He could not commit himself to a traditional marriage with Bergman who also could not accompany him into dangerous war zones.

On the set of Notorious (1946) Bergman turned to Hitchcock as her father confessor, telling of her frustrations with Capa between takes.

Alfred Hitchcock Blue plaque
153 Cromwell Road, London
Photo courtesy: Tim Lyons
Hitchcock remembered these tales of the adventurous photographer and the glamorous beauty and incorporated them into his film Rear Window.  Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly starred in Rear Window which follows the adventures of a bed-ridden photographer (racing accident) who may or may not have witnesssed a murder from outside the window of his NYC apartment.  Stewart had, like Capa, exposed himself to great danger in world War II piloting over 20 missions in a B-24.  (http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/duxford-andgeorge-carlin.html).

Hitchcock statue, Hoxton
Gainsborough Studios
The enormous bust of Hitchcock made by Antony Donaldson can be found in London's east end neighbourhood of Hoxton.  Gainsborough studios was used by Alfred Hitchcock during his "English" period.  The statue is surrounded by apartment buildings which could easily provide a location for an updated version of Rear Window.

Rear Window was released in 1954, the same year that Robert Capa stepped on a landmine and was killed in Vietnam.

Source: Richard Whelan's Introduction to Robert Capa's 1947 memoir Slightly Out of Focus www.amzn.com/0375753966.



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Peggy Guggenheim Collection

1898 - 1979
In 1948 Peggy Guggenheim, an American heiress, bought the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in Venice to house her growing art collection.  She first opened her collection to the public in 1949.  The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice (http://www.guggenheim-venice.it/) features a splendid collection of modern art.
Commander K. on Peggy's throne, Venice, IT
Peggy was the daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim who had died while crossing the Atlantic on the Titanic in 1912.  On hearing the news of the collision with the iceberg, Guggenheim changed into his evening wear and was last seen drinking cognac and smoking a cigar with his valet.  His French mistress, Léontine Aubart, survived the Titanic disaster and lived until 1964.

Silver Bed Head, Alexander Calder, 1946
She founded the Guggenheim Jeune gallery in London in 1938.  Peggy lived for 30 years as an expatriate in Venice, from 1949 until her death in 1979.  She was an exceptionally shrewd art collector who was willing to take colossal risks.  Hitler's invasion of Poland in September 1939 was like a starting pistol to Peggy Guggenheim who began an almost frenzied shopping spree for art while in Paris at that time.  She managed to flee from Paris to Grenoble only days before the Nazis rolled into the capital in 1940.  Fearful for her life as a Jewish woman in Vichy France, Peggy managed to escape to the USA in the summer of 1941.
Half-Length Portrait of a Man, Picasso, 1939
PGC, Venice
She returned to a war-ravaged Europe in 1947 and soon bought her Venetian Palazzo.  For many years she lived in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, sharing its space with visiting tourists.  This unfinished 18th century Palazzo is positioned on the Grand Canal.

The eternal Masculine lifts us ever upward!
The Angel of the City, Marino Marini, 1948
Peggy loved her Lhasa Apsa dogs.  All fourteen are buried near her final resting place in her beautiful sculpture garden just beside the museum.

Peggy's Lhasa Apsa Memorial
The Sculpture Garden has many treasures...

Chariot, Fritz Koenig, 1957
She had a fine eye and was a discriminating collector.

Voice of Space, Magritte, 1931
Peggy was an American eccentric who lived a bohemian lifestyle.  Peggy was said to have had a voracious sexual appetite.  She was married and divorced three husbands, a writer and two artists (including Max Ernst).  She had an affair with Samuel Beckett.  She is alleged to have had over 1,000 different partners.

Maiastra, Brancusi, 1912?
PGC, Venice
Benjamin Guggenheim went down with the Titanic;  Peggy Guggenheim went...well, she went nearly everywhere!
Pomona. Marino Marini, 1945
Peggy Guggenheim lived life on her own terms.  She experienced many tragedies including the probable suicide of her artist daughter Pegeen.  Nevertheless, near the end of her life she summed it up thus, "I look back on my life with great joy. I think it was a very successful life. I always did what I wanted and never cared what anyone thought. Women's lib? I was a liberated woman long before there was a name for it."


Windows Open Simultaneously, Robert Delaunay, 1912
PGC, Venice
Commander Kelly says, "Today her collection brings joy to millions.  If in Venice, go check it out!"


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Bear Museum, Ladin

Baby Cave Bear, Museum Ladin, San Cassiano, IT

This week Putin's Russian bear found her Crimean bear cub.  This mommy will not let her baby out of her sight for a very long time!
San Cassiano, IT
In the heart of the Italian Dolomites one can find the Museum Ladin -- a Bear Museum (www.museumladin.it!  It lies in the picturesque town of San Cassiano which is a paradise equally for winter sports and summer hiking.

In 1987 Willy Costamoling, an alpinist and local businessman, stumbled upon the Conturines cave while he was looking for fossils and minerals.  He had neglected to bring his flashlight.  On a second visit, equipped with illumination, he discovered the Hall of skulls.  He brought some pieces of skull back to a Viennese Professor of Paleontology who returned the following year to excavate.

Bear Skulls: Brown, Polar, Ladin (Ursus ladinicus), and Gamssulzen (Ursus ingressus) 
They had found a graveyard of giant Mountain cave bears who lived around 25 to 60 thousand years ago.  These bears were much larger than the Brown bears or even polar bears that we know today.  They have determined from the shape of their teeth that these were pure herbivores -- like today's Panda bears.

These Italian bears would, therefore, never have ordered pepperoni pizza.  "Solo con fungi per favore!"
Cave Bears Chilling
Temperature extremes were much greater in the time of the Cave bears.  During the summer these bears would seek refuge from the heat in high mountain cave (the Conturines cave entrance is at 2,750 meters above sea level) while during the winters these bears would hibernate.  During hibernation they could survive for months without food or water.

These bears could live up to 35 years -- almost twice the 20 year lifespan of today's brown bears.

No evidence of humans was found in this cave.  Not even a pizza delivery box.

Weighing in at 1200 kg versus 250 kg for today's European brown bear, these cave bears would have been much bigger than the ones featured in the bear-baiting street entertainments that Elizabeth I apparently preferred over Shakespeare's plays in the back alleys of London.

Ursus ladinicus skeleton, San Cassiano

These bears became extinct about 24,000 years ago, probably due to climate change.  Some will be disappointed that Man-made emissions do not seem to have played a role here!  A great glacial ice age probably proved too cold for them to survive.  There is no vegetation growing today at this altitude near the site of Conturines cave.

The Museum Ladin opened in 2011.  If you can't bear another run on the slopes go check it out!

Rumors that these magnificent creatures may have crossed an ancient land bridge and migrated to Berkeley, California are completely unfounded!


GO BEARS!!




Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fraunces Tavern, NYC

Fraunces Tavern, 54 Pearl St.
 Lower Manhattan, NY

A visitor to New York can step back in time and touch our Colonial and Revolutionary past with a tour of Fraunces Tavern on 54 Pearl Street in lower Manhattan  http://frauncestavernmuseum.org/.  In this haunt of old New York you will find a selection of draft beers, oysters, and American history.  This is a beautifully-restored colonial tavern that was founded by Samuel Fraunces in 1767.  It was in the Long room of Fraunces tavern in 1783 that General George Washington bade an emotional farewell to his officers after winning victory in the American Revolution.  He had hoped to retire peacefully to his farm at Mount Vernon.  It was not to be.

George Washington Life Mask
Morgan Library, NY
George Washington was the "indispensable man" of the American Revolution (http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/george-washington-in-london.html).  He led the nation in a long struggle against the greatest military power of that age -- the British Empire.  The American Revolution has proven to be by far the most successful Revolution in human history.  It is the  Revolution whose reverberations that continually encourage the cause of human liberty are felt to this day.

GW: "The Indispensable Man"
Fraunces Tavern
At the heart of this Revolution was a leader of exceptional integrity.  He shared the sufferings of the men under his command at Valley Forge and throughout the Revolution.  On March 15, 1783 Washington addressed his officers in Fraunces Tavern thus: "I have never left your side one moment...I have been the constant companion and witness of your Distress, and not among the last to feel and acknowledge your merits...I have ever considered my own Military reputation as inseparably connected with that of the Army."  (Source: The Art of Command, Integrity and Leadership, Caroline Cox, 2008 www.amzn.com/0813126606).


Commander K. and George Washington
Wall and Broad, NY
Some of Washington's officers were tempted by the prospect of using their military superiority to the over the rings of the Colonial government.  They wanted him to become an American Caesar.  Washington rebuffed those who sought to "overturn the liberties of our Country".  He demanded that they do nothing "which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained."

54 Pearl Street, NY
At the conclusion of the war the Continental Congress was essentially broke.  His officers feared that neither they nor their men would be paid.  Washington sought to reassure his officers with a densely written text explaining the nation's financial difficulties.  He pulled his spectacles out of his pocket to read more easily and remarked, "Gentlemen, you must pardon me, I have grown gray in your service and now find myself going blind."

Commander K. + GW
Union Square, NYC
In 1783 New York was the nation's capitol.  George Washington formally resigned his commission on 23 December, 1783.  He addressed the president of Congress, Thomas Mifflin as follows: "Having now finished the whorl assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; an bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission , and take my leave of all the employments of public life."  Mifflin responded, "You have conducted the great military contest with wisdom and fortitude, through invariably regarding the rights of the civil government through all disasters and changes."   (Source: The Art of Command, Integrity and Leadership, Caroline Cox, 2008 www.amzn.com/0813126606).


An American Treasure
Thomas Jefferson would pronounce that George Washington's integrity was "most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity, of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision...His character, was, in its mass, perfect (Source: The Art of Command, Integrity and Leadership, Caroline Cox, 2008 www.amzn.com/0813126606).

It was Washington's sterling reputation for integrity and his incorruptibility that made him the rarest of all creatures -- a successful nation-builder.

If you don't find that important or relevant just consider the contrasting state of affairs in Afghanistan today.  Hamid Karzai's recently assassinated brother (Ahmed Wali Karzai) made a fortune off of illegal drug trafficking.  Billions of dollars of American and Western aid to Afghanistan has found its way to bank accounts in Dubai and Switzerland.
Dining Room, Fraunces Tavern
Fraunces Tavern has an attractive bar and restaurant.  You will also find a small museum upstairs.  There are recreations of colonial era living spaces.

Don't Tread on the Commander!
You will also find a gallery featuring the evolution of the American flag.

Flag Gallery, Fraunces Tavern
Commander Kelly says, "If you live in or are visiting NYC be sure to get in touch with your founding fathers at Fraunces tavern.  Beer, oysters and history are always a great combination!"


Special thanks to Marco Kelly my photographic assistant!