Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Have Americans invaded Lake Garda?

Garda Ferry
Lake Garda, Italy's largest lake, has been a popular tourist destination for centuries.  Pleasure boats and ferries ply its waters.  There are an abundance of restaurants and hotels along the many towns that line its shores.  Sunlight sparkles off the blue water of Lago di Garda.

Goethe Plaque, Torbole, IT
J. W. Goethe, the German poet, visited Lake Garda in 1786.  It was in the town of Torbole that he wrote Iphigenia in Tauris.  Goethe made a drawing of castle Scala, a dilapidated Venetian fortress;  he was briefly arrested by Venetian authorities on suspicion of being an Austrian spy!

Lake Garda by Winston Churchill
Chartwell, UK
In 1949 Winston Churchill visited Lake Garda where he relaxed by painting scenes of the lake.

Thomas Tileston Wells (1865 - 1946)
During the summer of 1914 my own great grandfather, Thomas Tileston Wells, visited Riva on the north end of the lake in what was then Austrian territory.  Wells wrote that "Riva is one of the most beautiful places in the world."
View from the Lido Palace Hotel, Riva del Garda, IT
He and his family stayed at the Lido Palace hotel in Riva.  In An Adventure in 1914 he wrote, "We went to the great hotel called the Lido Palace Hotel which is on the lake and has a beautiful garden running out to a little promontory on the lake." 


Lido Palace Hotel, Riva del Garda, IT
The Lido Palace hotel, where Wells stayed in 1914, was reopened in 2011 after a ten year restoration.  Here is their web site...http://www.lido-palace.it/en/.

Austrian Soldiers WWI, Riva
Riva Museum
Astonishingly enough, Wells himself was arrested on suspicion of being a spy while on vacation at Riva.  Unlike Goethe, he had not drawn any fortifications though the Austrians had built elaborate defensive fortifications into the shores around Riva.  Wells visited in the summer of 1914 as World War I was breaking out and Austrian armies were mobilizing to invade Serbia.  An Austrian official arrested him on suspicion of being a Russian spy and threatened him with execution!  Wells, the American Consul General to Romania, managed to convince him that he was neither a spy nor Russian.
US soldiers and Italian Partisans on Lake Garda
Riva Museum
In the closing days of World War II Americans would return in force to Riva.  The town was a hospital center for the German forces.  The Fiat factory had moved much of its production to the underground caves that surround Riva.

DUKWs landing in Torbole on Lake Garda
Riva Museum
On April 30, 1945 troops from the 10th Mountain division would assault the town of Torbole in DUKWs similar to those used earlier at Normandy.

10th Mountain division in Torbole
Riva Museum
Colonel William Darby (1911 - 1945) was the leader of Darby's Rangers.  On April 30, 1945 he was killed in Torbole by a shell from a German 88 while leading an assault on Torbole.  He was the only American officer of WW2 who was promoted posthumously to brigadier general.  A film based on his life, Darby's Rangers, was made in 1958 (see video below and www.amzn.com/B0029778T8).
Darby Monument, Torbole, IT
A visitor to Torbole will find this monument to Darby.


In 2015 Americans returned again to Torbole on Lake Garda to dedicate a new plaque with a highly appropriate quotation from Benjamin Franklin.  So Americans have invaded and indeed liberated Riva del Garda.


Lake Garda, IT
Coming October 2015!

Special thanks to my guide Carmen Picciani (highly recommended) in Riva, and the Riva Museum (http://www.museoaltogarda.it/it/il_museo/).
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Monday, August 31, 2015

Italo Balbo Invaded America!

Italo Balbo bust, Caproni Museum
Trento, IT
In 1927 Charles Lindbergh flew the Spirit of St. Louis in the first transatlantic flight. Just six years later, however, Italo Balbo led a squadron of twenty-four Italian seaplanes across the Atlantic and back. Balbo was a decorated World War I veteran (two silver medals and one bronze medal) who served as Air Minister under Mussolini.  In 1930 he had crossed the south Atlantic leading a squadron of seaplanes from Italy to Africa and on to Rio de Janeiro.

Caproni Seaplane (NOT in X SM S.55), Caproni Museum, Trento, IT
Balbo's squadron in his 1933 flight over the north Atlantic was composed of Savoia Marchetti S.55 X seaplanes that each held a crew of four. They flew from Italy to Amsterdam, then Londonderry, then Reykjavik, then Cartwright (Canada), then Shediac, then Montreal and then to Chicago. Balbo arrived in Chicago in time for the 1933 World's Fair. He even dedicated a monument to Christopher Columbus in Illinois. A street in Chicago, Balbo Drive, is named after the fascist aviator.

Balbo at Madison Square Garden, 1933
From Chicago they flew on to New York. Thousands of Americans heard Balbo address a crowd at Madison Square Garden. He even met and had lunch with President Roosevelt. Italian relations with America were quite cordial in 1933. At this point in history both FDR and Mussolini believed in public interventionist economic policies with massive public works programs. FDR wrote That Mussolini was a "true gentleman "and expressed That he was" very interested and profoundly impressed by all that he created, and by his honest effort to renovate Italy." (Source: Balbo's Seas and Skies , Paolo Mieli, 2014 www.amzn.com/8875675732 ).


New York Welcomes Balbo, 1933
Even Winston Churchill was smitten with the Duce in 1933 when he declared in a speech that, "The Roman genius as manifested by Mussolini, the greatest living legislator, has shown to many nations how it's possible to resist Socialism's urgings, and has indicated the road that a nation may follow when it is conducted courageously. With the fascist regime, Mussolini has established a pole star that Countries that are involved in the fight against Socialism must not hesitate to follow. "   Churchill would regret those words in 1940.

Balbo's flight to America
Caproni Museum, Trento, IT
Balbo With His squadron flew back to Italy via the Azores and Lisbon.

Italo Balbo (1896 - 1940)
Caproni Museum, Trento, IT
Mussolini was somewhat jealous of Balbo's growing popularity in America and around the world. Mussolini called Balbo "un porco democratico" or "a democratic pig ".  Perhaps he saw his one time heir apparent as a rival and threat to his own power in Italy?  Mussolini made ​​him Governor general of Libya where the independent minded Balbo did not enforce fascist racial decrees and opposed the anti-semitic laws of 1938.


Savoia Marchetto S.55 X
Balbo expressed strong reservations about Italy's alliance with Hitler's Germany. That he believed going to war in 1940 was a "historic nonsense" and feared That Italy would become "the German's shoeshiners". 
Tobruk sign, Tank Museum Bovington, UK
When Mussolini joined Hitler's war in June 1940 Balbo flew in a mission over Tobruk. He was apparently shot down and killed on June 28, 1940 by friendly fire from ships of the Italian navy.

Balbo's brief visit had an impact on America.  Today one can find at least six streets in the USA named after Balbo.  He even inspired the Marx Brothers to parody him in the film A Night at the Opera (see video below).  One can learn more about Italo Balbo and his amazing flights at the fascinating Caproni Museum in Trento, Italy (http://www.museocaproni.it/index.php/en/).


You can purchase your copy of America Invades 
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Coming October 2015


Join me in signing this petition to retain the name of Balbo drive in Chicago which is under attack from the PC crowd...http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/balbodrive/

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Garibaldi: Italian Invader!


CRK with Garibaldi, Caprera, IT

Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807 - 1882), though he was born in Nice in what was then the French Empire, became one the greatest Italian patriots and invaders of all time.  Garibaldi had charisma oozing out of every pore in his body.  He led from the front.  He led by example.  He was an important world-historical man who was in no way consumed by his self importance.

Garibaldi tomb, Caprera, IT
When he moved to the tiny isle of Caprera off the coast of Sardinia he lived with great simplicity.  The famous General spent his last twenty five years on this island where he tended his vineyard and farmed the rocky soil.  He and his family members are buried outside of the house in which he lived.

Garibaldi bust, Caprera, IT
When he lived in exile in the United States he worked as a humble working man in sausage and candle factories on Staten island.  He declined the many awards and honors that were offered to him.

Garibaldi & the Red shirts
Yet, in the year 1860 Garibaldi managed to accomplish something that nobody had succeeded in doing from the fall of Rome in the 5th century until that time -- he united Italy.  Here is a brief excerpt from our new book Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World...

Coming October 2015
"Garibaldi’s Thousand Redshirts managed to conquer Sicily, defeating an army that initially outnumbered them by forty-two to one. President Lincoln was so impressed with Garibaldi’s Italian generalship, he offered him a command in the Union Army during the US Civil War."


Lincoln wanted to hire Garibaldi for the Union Army
You can visit Garibaldi's home on Caprera which is a short ferry ride from Sardinia.  Here is their web site...http://www.compendiogaribaldino.it/?lang=en



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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...http://www.veteransmuseum.org/.

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 (http://thefallen.militarytimes.com/army-sgt-jeffrey-r-shaver/257310).

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."


POW / MIA
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 
here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427







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...http://www.dailynews.com/opinion/20150702/american-militarys-vital-role-in-birth-of-our-nation-guest-commentary

Thanks LA Daily News and thanks to our vets!



You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades 
here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427



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.

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Coming in the fall of 2015...