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.

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