Friday, July 24, 2015

Veterans Memorial Museum and Donald Trump

Last weekend I had an opportunity to visit the Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis, WA.  This remarkable museum was completed in 2005.  It is just off I-5 in Chehalis which is south of Olympia.  Here is their link...

Purple Hearts
Veterans memorial Museum, Chehalis, WA

It contains many personal artifacts that were donated by veterans and their families.  It presents a record of consistent service stretching back from the American Revolution to recent service in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sgt. Jeffrey Shaver
Veteran's Memorial Museum, Chehalis, WA
Some of these veteran artifacts can be deeply moving.  You will find the uniform of Jeffrey Shaver, the first Washington state guardsman to die in combat since the Korean war -- he was killed in Iraq (

Donald Trump
An tsunami of condescension has swept the Trump Presidential campaign from the mainstream media.  Huff/Po relegated / elevated coverage of the Donald to the entertainment sections.  The sneering was widespread and palpable.

Personally, I have attempted to keep an open mind about all of the Republican candidates including The Donald.  He has clearly been an enormous success in the business world and he is willing to speak his mind in a way that is refreshingly unlike ordinary politicians.

Trump is also his own worst enemy.  Every time he opens his mouth he seems to veer off script and embarrasses himself in some way.   He lacks any real political experience or a filter.

The same weekend that I was visiting the Veterans Museum in Chehalis Donald Trump had this to say about Senator John McCain, "He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured."

We remember
By attacking a fellow Republican he violated Reagan's famous 11 Commandment -- to not speak ill about fellow Republicans.  Moreover, he disparaged McCain in a way that is offensive to many veterans.  Many American servicemen and some women have been captured while on duty.  Even during the American Revolution thousands of American patriots were imprisoned on British prison hulks;  many of them died in captivity.  Thousands of Americans were captured in the Philippines at the start of World War II in the Pacific (e.g. the siege of Corregidor).  The USS Pueblo and her crew was captured by the North Koreans.  Many like John McCain were captured during the Vietnam war. All of those have been heroes in my estimation.

Vietnam era soldier and his dog
Many candidates make verbal gaffes and these are understandable and excusable provided that one recognizes the error and makes an apology.  Trump refused to apologize and doubled down on his own fatuous position.  He tried to change the subject and discuss the US governments failure to address the needs of veterans.
Soldier on a rope
Trump may have many fine qualities (good negotiator, etc.) but he is utterly hopeless as either the Republican nominee or a future American President.   His ignorance of the most basic military matters disqualifies him to become Commander in chief.

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

Thursday, July 23, 2015

4th of July & the American Military

As we pause to celebrate the anniversary of our nation’s independence every July it seems appropriate to consider the vital role played by the American military in the birth of our nation.

Admiral Vernon
AKA "Old Grog"
Long before the 1776 Declaration of Independence Americans were fighting in foreign lands on our behalf.  In 1741, during the War of Jenkins ear, about 3,600 American colonial troops were supporting a British assault on Cartagena in what is now Columbia.  Admiral Edward Vernon of the Royal Navy, nicknamed  “Old Grog”, was the commanding officer of this expedition.  Among the troops was Lawrence Washington, the older half-brother of George.  The assault was not a success but, nevertheless, Lawrence must have spoken highly of his commanding officer to his brother as George would later name his home in Virginia in honor of the English Admiral…Mount Vernon.

American troops supported their mother country by helping to invade French Canada during the Seven Years War (or French and Indian War, 1754–1763). George Washington gained his first military experience fighting in the Ohio Valley in this conflict.  At the battle of Quebec, which took place on September 13, 1759, Wolfe defeated Montcalm, with six companies of American rangers participating alongside British forces in the battle. The French lost Canada to the British.

Tun Tavern
US Marine Corps Museum, Triangle, VA
The United States Marine Corps was famously founded on November 10, 1775 at the Tun tavern in Philadelphia.  The very first American Navy was founded on June 12, 1775 by Rhode Island.  In addition about 1,700 Letters of Marque were issued by the Continental Congress from 1776 on to authorize American merchant ships to capture British shipping.

The American Revolution is often portrayed in rosy-hued colors due to its remoteness and patriotic outcome.  It was, in fact, a horrendously bloody conflict.   This war lasted over eight years -- more than twice as long as American participation in WWII.  Recent scholarship has placed the total number of Americans killed in the American Revolution at around 25,000 which compares to a total US population of the thirteen colonies in 1775 of 2.4 million.  Thus over one percent of the total population of the thirteen colonies were killed over the course the nearly eight and half years of the war’s duration.  Many Americans, for example, died as prisoners of war on English prison hulks.

While significant battles were fought on American soil at places such as Saratoga, Trenton and, of course, Yorktown, American patriots also felt compelled to adopt more aggressive offensive measures.  Britain was, after all, a global superpower of the day with far greater naval, economic and military resources than the thirteen colonies could muster.  American leaders sought to dramatize the cost of the war to Britain by taking the conflict to her shores and possessions.

Letter signed by Benedict Arnold
Camp before Quebec
March 17, 1776
In 1775 American forces invaded British Canada, besieging Quebec.  On March 3, 1776, Commodore Esek Hopkins, in the first amphibious assault in US military history, landed marines and sailors on New Providence Island and managed to seize Fort Nassau in the Bahamas.

John Paul Jones spikes the English Guns
Whitehaven, UK
 In 1778 Captain John Paul Jones, later acclaimed the founder of the American Navy, led a raid on the mother country itself.  American sailors and marines of the sloop Ranger disembarked to launch a raid on Whitehaven in Cumbria.  No one was killed or even injured but a coal ship was burnt.  The British press was outraged that the rebel Americans would dare attack England and insurance rates on shipping soon doubled.  In 1999 the town of Whitehaven officially pardoned John Paul Jones and launched its annual Whitehaven festival!

Whitehaven Pub
Thanks to the courage and sacrifice of those American patriots who served in our military we are able to celebrate the 4th of July.

Christopher Kelly is the co-author of America Invades: How We’ve Invaded or Been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth.    His next book with Stuart Laycock, Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World will be published this fall.

The Los Angeles Daily News was among many publications to run the above editorial...

Thanks LA Daily News and thanks to our vets!

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall in 2015

In the year 122 AD construction began on a wall that would divide the Roman empire from what they viewed as barbarians to their north.  The Emperor Hadrian attempted to draw a dividing line at the edge of the empire he ruled near its historical height.  He commanded three Roman legions representing about 15,000 men to build a 73 mile long wall that ran across the width of northern Britain.  Over 200,000 tons of stone were used to build Hadrian's wall.  Milecastle forts were built at one mile intervals along the walls' length.  Each Milecastle fort could hold a garrison of about sixty soldiers.  Construction of the wall required at least six years -- there are multiple estimations of the time required to complete the wall from six to fifteen years.

Emperor Hadrian
Ufizzi Museum, Florence, IT
Who was emperor Hadrian?  He was the son of a senator born in Spain in 76 AD.  He became the adopted son of emperor Trajan.  He was an amazing traveller who visited most parts of the Roman empire.  He personally inspected his empire and the soldiers who guarded it.  It was after a visit to Britain that he decided to build his wall.

Roman Legionnaires
Great North Museum, Newcastle, UK
The emperor Hadrian had made the strategic decision that Roman interests would be best served by defence and consolidation of the empire rather than aggressive expansionism.   Roman armies were by far the most successful fighting forces of the ancient era.  For about five hundred years from the Punic wars until the Fall of Rome in the 5th century they were essentially undefeated on the battlefield, if one excepts their numerous civil wars.

Roman Baths
Romans are famous for, among other things, their baths.  The Roman baths at Chester were used by Roman Legionnaires and officers.  Romans set the bar for personal hygiene in the West that was not equalled until the 20th century.  Clean healthy soldiers were much better fighters than dirty sick ones.

Commander K. at Hare Hill, UK
Today Hadrian's Wall is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  I recently had an opportunity to walk about 40 miles of the Wall path with my son, Marco Kelly.  On the first day of our hike we started in Carlisle and walked east towards Newcastle.  Over the fourteen miles we covered that day we did not catch a single glimpse of wall.  The next day that all changed when we arrived at Hare Hill.  Among many things I learned on the journey was that it was the Romans that introduced rabbits to Britain.  Rabbits were, no doubt, a source of protein for those soldiers engaged in constructing the wall.  This means that no Roman invasion would have meant no Watership Down!

Roman Chariot
Roman Army Museum, Carvoran
Along the wall path there are many interesting museums that give us an insight into the nature of life in Roman Britain.  There is, for example, a Roman Army Museum at Carvoran which features a pretty video on life in the Roman army.  The Legionnaires served for about 25 years and were not allowed to marry.  One can also explore the remains of Roman towns at locations such as Vindolanda and Houseteads.

Mars God of War
Astonishingly, much of Hadrian's Wall remains after all those centuries.  Some length of it has been reconstructed. After the fall of Rome in 476 AD the Romano-British attempted to maintain a semblance of civilization in communities near fortifications such as can be found at Housesteads. The origin of the legend of King Arthur is said to be based in a leader of Romano-British cavalry that patrolled through Britain.

Marco Kelly at Chesters Roman Fort, UK
After being abandoned in the dark ages the wall fell into disrepair.  Many of its stones were recycled into kitchen gardens, castles and even churches.

Hadrian's Wall is an enduring testament to the tangible impact of "Italian" invasions on our world.

Coming  Please sign up for our newsletter!

Coming in the fall of 2015...

Monday, June 8, 2015

Café Liégeois and the Great War

  Café Liegeois in Liege, Belgium

Have you ever enjoyed a Café Liegeois? They are a delicious dessert made with coffee, ice cream and whipped cream. You can think of Them as Sunday for adults. I enjoyed one last night on a quick trip to Liege, Belgium.

Here is a recipe that uses espresso and coffee ice cream ...

One might be pardonned for supposing Café Liegeois to be Belgian. It is a French dessert. Prior to World War I, the cafe's of Paris would prepare this dessert and call it a Café Viennois.

Meuse River
Liege, Belgium
Then in 1914 the guns of August broke out and it became unfashionable for French restaurants to feature desserts that saluted the Austrian capital.  The lights went out all over Europe and even gastronomy would not be unaffected by the war.

Liege Tower
In the early days of the Great War the Germans invaded the fortress city of Liege, Belgium, which lies on the river Meuse less than twenty miles from the German border. The Belgian forts were made of concrete strengthened by earthworks. Each fort was armed with machine guns and track-mounted artillery in casemates and steel cupolas.

Belgian Soldier WWI
Liege Belgium
One hundred and fifty thousand of the Kaiser's soldiers pressed in upon Liege Who Was Defended by forty thousand Belgian troops. The initial German assaults Were repelled and the Belgian government Issued year overoptimistic announcement: "We are completely victorious.
All the German attacks have been Repulsed. "  (Source: Catastrophe 1914, Europe Goes to War, Max Hastings, 2013).

By August 7, 1914 General Ludendorff led the German soldiers into the heart of Liege capturing the city and earning himself a decoration For Merit from the Kaiser.

To the Defenders of Liege
The defence of Liege had, however, slowed the German advance and cost about 12 days. This would later be credited with helping to "save" Paris from the German onslaught in 1914. French chefs Would honor for the plucky Belgians Their courageous defence of Their homeland.

Patrie Belge 1914-18
Le Grand Curtius, Liege
And so now you know why a German invasion transformed Café Viennois into Café Liegeois!  Raise a glass in honor of the brave defenders of Liege.

Travel notes:  If you are fortunate to visit Liege in 2015 be sure to visit the Exposition on World War I in the Liege train station.  Here is the link...
I stayed at the Pentahotel which is very decent and a good value for money...  The Grand Curtius is a wonderful eclectic museum in Liege and a must for anyone with an interest in weaponry or Belgian history...

WARNING: Don't drink two Café Liegeois after dinner unless you want to stay up all night!

You can now purchase Check out Kelly's 
first book,    America Invades 
here ...    gold on Amazon ...

My latest interview for  America Invades ...  

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Midwest Book Review on America Invades

The Midwest Book Review had this to say about America Invades...

America Invades
Christopher Kelly & Stuart Laycock
Book Publishers Network
PO Box 2256, Bothell WA, 98041
Smith Publicity
9781940598420, $29.95, 396pp,

Synopsis: Americans have invaded nearly half the world's countries and been militarily involved with all the rest, except Andorra, Bhutan and Liechtenstein. In "America Invades: How We've Invaded or been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth", authors Christopher Kelly and Stuart Laycock take the reader on a global tour of America's military activity around the world ranging from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli -- and everywhere in-between. Whatever your political views this is an extraordinary and often surprising story. Enhanced with the inclusion of personal photos, maps and an index, "America Invades: How We've Invaded or Been Militarily Involved with Almost Every Country on Earth" provides a perspective and approach to American history that should be brought to the attention of every U.S. citizen.

Critique: An impressive collaboration, "America Invades: How We've Invaded or been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth" is exceptionally informed and informative. An inherently fascinating read from beginning to end, "America Invades" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library American History reference collections and supplemental studies lists. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "America Invades" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Thanks Midwest Book Review!

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

My latest interview for America Invades...

Monday, June 1, 2015

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks
St. Albans, UK
About fifteen minutes outside of London by rail is the ancient town of St. Albans.  This town was founded by the Romans and is noted for it Cathedral and school.  It is also home of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks -- the oldest pub in England as verified by Guiness.  There has been a public house on this site since around 793.
St. Albans Cathedral
It is a short amble from St. Albans Cathedral to Ye Olde Fighting Cocks.  A general rule that has served me well in England and throughout Europe is that, wherever you find a church a pub cannot be far away.  Underground tunnels link the Cathedral and the beer cellar; monks get thirsty too!

The Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub that a visitor can see today was built in the 11th century.

During the English Civil War (1642 - 1651) Oliver Cromwell is reputed to have spent a night at this pub.

Cock fighting was a national sport in England for 600 years from Henry II until the nineteenth century.  Public executions and bear baiting were also once popular entertainments in England.  Queen Elizabeth I, for example, is said to have appreciated bear baiting far more than Shakespeare.  In 1849 cock fighting was banned in England.

But that has not prevented the looney left from raising a fuss about the name of this historic pub.

Commander K. at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks made national news here in Britain recently when PETA challenged the pub name insisting that they change it to "Ye Olde Clever Cocks".    A spokesperson for PETA said, "Changing the name would reflect today's rejection of needless violence and help celebrate chickens as the intelligent, sensitive and social animals they are."  You just can't make this stuff up!  Here is the link...

According to polls most Britons do NOT seem to agree with the maunderings of the publicity hungry activists from PETA.  The folks I met at the pub were not in the least miffed by PETA's feather-brained maneuvers.  They were delighted by the attention for their establishment.

Oldest pub in England
You can learn more about Ye Old Fighting Cocks and perhaps plan a visit on their web site...

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

My latest interview for America Invades...

Monday, May 11, 2015

VE Day + 70 Reflections

VE Day at 70
Royal Albert Hall, London

Last night I was delighted to attend with my son a concert entertainment titled VE Day at 70 at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The concert was sponsored by Classic FM ( featured the singer Katherine Jenkins and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.  In addition to musical selections from the likes of Holst and Elgar there were dramatic readings.  George Batts, a British Army veteran who landed on D-day, gave a poetry recitation that brought a thunderous ovation.

 Randolph Churchill, the Great-Grandson of Winston Churchill, even delivered the same speech 
his great grandfather had given just over 70 years ago....

This is the lesson: never give in,
Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small,
Large or petty—never give in except to convictions of
Honor and good sense.  Never yield to force: never yield
To the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
God bless you all.  This is your victory!"

About a week prior to VE Day, Adolf Hitler had committed suicide in his bunker on April 30, 1945. About three months later, VJ Day, marking Victory over Imperial Japan would be celebrated around the world.

By August 1945 the worst war in human history came to an end.  Finally, many Americans and other Allied soldiers would return from captivity in German and Japanese POW camps.  At last young men would be re-united with their families.  Demobilization would follow as the troops began to come home to the states.  The GI bill would kick in and millions of world-weary soldiers would be transformed into students.

Over the course of just under four years over 16 million American men and women had served in some capacity in the war.  Today in 2015, less than one million WW2 service vets are still alive.

Florence-American Cemetery, Italy
Just over 400,00 mostly young Americans would never return from their duties in the Second World War.  Many are buried overseas in twenty-four different overseas cemeteries in eleven different countries.  (

Most of us know about the carnage that took place on Omaha beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.  But there are many nearly forgotten stories of World War II that deserve to be remembered.  For example…

1) How the USS Wasp helped deliver Spitfire aircraft to the beleaguered island of      Malta during its long three year siege and bombardment by Axis forces. Later that year, the Wasp would be torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine.

2) How in the invasion of Sicily nearly 1,400 Americans were killed by friendly fire on July 10, 1943 when the 504th Parachute Regiment was hit by naval gunfire.

C-47F Dakota, IWM Duxford
3) How black and white Stripes would be painted on the undercarriage of all Allied that flew on D-day in order to avoid a repeat of what happened in Sicily.  Look for the D-day stripes on airplanes in your local aviation museum.

4) How in September 1944 young Americans invaded the tiny 13 square mile island of Peleliu in a country (Palau) that most of us have never heard of.

Dwight Eisenhower
Grosvenor Square, London
On of the ironies of World War II was that American forces in Europe were led by a Supreme Allied Commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was of German descent.  Grosvenor Square in London, where the D-day landing were planned, was referred to by local wags as “Eisenhowerplatz”.  Today it is the home of the American Embassy in London.

In the Spring of 1945 Americans were discovering the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. After Eisenhower visited Ohrdruf Concentration Camp that had been liberated by American troops on April 4, he declared: “We are told that the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now at least he will know what he is fighting against.

This is why we must always remember and teach our children about VE day and its eternal significance to freedom-loving people around the world.

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

French Foreign Legion Musem

French Foreign Legion Parade Ground
Aubagne France

The French Foreign Legion was founded in 1831 by King Louis Phillipe of France.  It would take undesirables off the streets and put them on the frontline of the French colonial empire.  The Legion's Latin motto "Legio Patria Nostra" means (roughly) "the Legion is our home".  The French Foreign is still going strong to this day with a strength of around 8,000 men with bases in France and on Corsica.

Legio Patria Nostra
The Legion is our Home
The Legion celebrates Camerone day in honor of a desperate bayonet charge that was made in Mexico on April 30, 1863.  Napoleon III had sent the Legion in support of the doomed Emperor Maximilien, his puppet ruler of Mexico.  Maximilien would be shot twice; once by a Mexican firing squad and again by Edouard Manet.

Legionnaire in Mexico

The Legion suffered its highest casualty rate in the French Indochina war of the 1950s.  Legionnaires fell like flies at the trap of Dien Bien Phu.

Aubagne, FR
In our work, America Invades (, we noted that Americans have also served with honor in the French Foreign Legion...

"Americans had also volunteered for the French Foreign Legion, and it’s worth mentioning here some of the better-known names that have been linked to the legion over the decades:

John F. “Jack” Hasey, CIA
Peter Julien Ortiz , one of the most decorated US marines of WWII, OSS, actor in John Ford’s Rio Grande
William Wellman, director of the legion epic, Beau Geste, and many more
Alan Seeger, poet (see Rendezvous with Death below)
Arthur Bluethenthal, member of College Football All-American Team from Princeton, pilot killed in WWI
Eugene Bullard, first African American military pilot
Norman Kerry, actor

Cole Porter told many of his friends that he had joined the French Foreign Legion, though conclusive evidence is lacking. The lyrics for “War Song,” written for the London stage during World War I have been attributed to Cole Porter ...

And when they ask us, how dangerous it was,
Oh, we’ll never tell them, no, we’ll never tell them.
We spent our pay in some cafe,
And fought wild women night and day.
’Twas the cushiest job we ever had.
And when they ask us, and they’re certainly going to ask us, The reason why we didn’t win the Croix de Guerre,
Oh, we’ll never tell them, oh, we’ll never tell them,
There was a front, but damned if we know where.

(Source: A Fine Romance, Jewish Songwriters, American Songs, David Leahman, 2009,

Legionnaires in Film

The French Foreign Legion has been celebrated in fiction and in film from Beau Geste to Laurel and Hardy comedies.

The most famous poem of this legendary unit was written by the American poet Alan Seeger...

Rendezvous with Death

I HAVE a rendezvous with Death  
At some disputed barricade,  
When Spring comes back with rustling shade  
And apple-blossoms fill the air—  
I have a rendezvous with Death          
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.  
It may be he shall take my hand  
And lead me into his dark land  
And close my eyes and quench my breath—  
It may be I shall pass him still.   
I have a rendezvous with Death  
On some scarred slope of battered hill,  
When Spring comes round again this year  
And the first meadow-flowers appear.  
God knows 'twere better to be deep   
Pillowed in silk and scented down,  
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,  
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,  
Where hushed awakenings are dear...  
But I've a rendezvous with Death   
At midnight in some flaming town,  
When Spring trips north again this year,  
And I to my pledged word am true,  
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

The Museum of the French Foreign Legion can be found in Aubagne -- a town in Provence near Marseilles.  Here is their web site...

Marco Kelly
French Foreign Legion Museum
If college and rugby plans don't work out for my son...there is always the Legion!

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on