Anniversaries

There were a couple of anniversaries yesterday, that are worth noting.

First, on 18 September 1947, the United States Air Force came into existence. Born out of the Army Air Forces, it had long been recognized that it should be a separate service. Even General of the Army/General of the Air Force (the only man to hold five-star rank in two services, and the only man to hold five-star rank in the Air Force) Henry H. (Hap) Arnold understood that separating in the preparation for and during World War Two was inadvisable. But with that war behind us, it was time to look to the future

And so following the Royal Air Force which became a separate service in 1918, it became so in America as well. The Navy looking at the British model strongly opposed the idea, noting that the RAF had taken over the fleet air arm. At a conference in Key West, it was agreed that the navy would keep its own air arm, as did the marines. And so now America has the two strongest air forces in the world.

As noted here right now the  Air Force faces challenges:

In strategic terms, the Air Force faces major challenges. As Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson put it this week, “What we know now from analysis” is that “the Air Force is too small for what the nation expects of us.” Wilson noted that the new National Defense Strategy says the military must “defend the homeland, provide a credible nuclear deterrent, win against a major power while encountering a rogue nation, all while managing violent extremists. Each of those missions relies heavily on America’s Air Force.”

Based on past performance, I’d guess they’ll come through for us, as they always have, but we really need to do better.

And so now, again looking to the future we have another new service aborning, mostly out of the Air Force, the Space Force. It’s probably a good idea, but it’s going to have to rely heavily on its older brother for a time, to get it all sorted out.

And so we owe thanks to the brave men and women whose bravery has kept us safe since 1947. Happy Birthday, Air Force, Keep ’em Flying and press on.

 


A few years before the establishment of the air force, there was a battle that was pretty important for    American history but perhaps even more important in English history. 881 years before the USAF King Harold Hardrada of Norway met King Harold Godwineson of England at Stamford Bridge. It’s quite a story, and my friend The Clerk of Oxford tells it better than I can.

Harold Hardrada’s army landing in England, in a 13th-century English manuscript
(CUL MS Ee.3.59, f.31)

On or around 18 September in the autumn of 1066, the king of Norway, Harald Hardrada, arrived on the coast of Yorkshire with a large army. In his company was Tostig, the brother of Harold Godwineson, king of England, who had joined forces with the Norwegians against his brother. Harold Godwineson himself was occupied elsewhere, on the south coast, having spent the summer awaiting a Norman invasion which had not – yet – come. Soon after their arrival the Norwegian forces won a battle at Fulford, near York, but were defeated a few days later by the English king at Stamford Bridge. In this battle, Harald Hardrada was killed. Accounts of the Norwegian invasion of 1066 in medieval English sources tend to be fairly brief, since it came to be overshadowed by the Battle of Hastings a few weeks later; but in Scandinavian history Harald Hardrada was a major figure, and so many Old Norse sources tell detailed and powerful narratives about the last days of his life. Written centuries after the events they describe, they are not really intended to be reliable sources for what actually happened in 1066; instead, they show us how later Norse writers thought about this period of history, which was (among other things) a turning-point in England’s relationship with the Scandinavian world.

One such is a text called Hemings þáttr, a narrative written in Iceland in the thirteenth century, which deals at length with the attempted Norwegian invasion of England, the Norman Conquest, and its aftermath. Following other Norse sources, it tells how Harald’s last days were marked by a cluster of omens which seemed to show the king that his death was approaching; Harald is shown embarking on the invasion with a sense of foreboding, increasingly confident that this will be his last expedition, the end of a magnificent career. He has been talked into it by Tostig, egged on to ambition by a bitter and vengeful man – Tostig is jealous of his brother, wants power for himself, and is trying to use the Norwegian king to get it. Harald knows Tostig is using him, knows he can’t be trusted, and yet agrees to support him. Almost before he has done so, the bad omens start: Harald’s men have threatening dreams, sailors report mysterious fires at sea and blood pouring out of the sky, a ghost rises up from a graveyard to prophesy that the king will fall. Worst of all, before setting sail, Harald has a vision of St Olaf, his martyred half-brother, who angrily chastises him for what he is about to do. Harald is shaken and Tostig, a wily ‘man of many words’, has to talk him round, telling him it’s just some ‘English witchcraft’ trying to frighten him. But the signs could not be clearer that this invasion will not end well.

By the time they reach the English coast, the relationship between the king and his English egger-on is strained. One thing that’s interesting about this part of the story is how precise the geographical references are, compared to the English sources; the Old Norse sources are much more specific about locating Harold and Tostig in particular places as they travel along the coast of Yorkshire, and Cleveland, Scarborough, and Ravenser are all mentioned by name. (Sometimes medieval Icelandic writers knew more about northern England than historians in the south of England did.)

Keep reading at the link. It’s quite the story, and well told. This battle, often overlooked, has in my mind at least ramifications that echo down to the present, stopping the revival of Cnut’s Scandinavian empire and weakening King Harold just enough for Duke William to beat him, sucking England into continental Europe for the next 500 years.

And yes, do buy her book, it’s one of my favorites. Here is the US Amazon link. I liked her writing enough to order it from Amazon UK before it was available here, and never regretted it.

Trinity, 74 Years On

Trinity from the Department of Defense

On Tuesday we spoke of Americans on the moon, and safely home again. And by the way, the first thing done on the moon that day, 50 years ago, was to thank God and take communion. A very American response.

Then, yesterday we spoke of just how revolutionary America was, and how that idea has spread in the last 80 or so years.

But there was another anniversary, last Tuesday, an amazing thing, which ties into each of the above stories because last Tuesday was the 74th anniversary of the Trinity Test.

Nobody talks much about it, because it, like the Minutemen silos standing guard, and the boomers patrolling, are an ugly fact of life. That there are people out there who don’t want you to be free, they would, in fact, prefer you dead.

J. Christian Adams over at PJ Media does a good job of explaining.

Today is the anniversary of one of the most significant events in human history. While later this week we will celebrate the Apollo 11 visit to the moon, July 16 stands apart.

But Google “Trinity” or nuclear, and you’ll hardly find a mention today about what happened on July 16, 1945, in a remote corner of New Mexico.

On that day, America detonated the first atomic bomb. The Trinity test was successful. The world would never be the same.

One observer of the blast felt they were at the “bottom of an ocean of light. We were bathed in it from all directions. The light withdrew into the bomb as if the bomb sucked it up. Then it turned purple and blue and went up and up and up.”

Cyril Smith, a British scientist eyewitness to the blast had “a momentary question as to whether we had done more than we intended.”

Yet the popular culture has obscured other ramifications of the Big Bang in New Mexico. The history of Europe is a history of marauding armies. So is the history of the world. While pop culture is filled with tales of madmen and madness, like Dr. Strangelove or the absurd ABC special The Day After, the opposite has been true. While Ultravox and Peter Paul and Mary sang of looming nuclear destruction, it hasn’t happened. […]

But that’s the point of today’s anniversary. Trinity was 74 years ago. Seventy-four years. Find another period of seventy-four years where the world has enjoyed the peace and stability between major powers that has endured since that hot July day in 1945. Perhaps this was America’s blessing to the world. Had Hitler, Hirohito, or the murderous Stalin obtained it first, the world would be a very different place today. And for that, July 16 is a day of profound historical importance for which the entire world can be thankful.

And so, here we are, only four lifetimes from being hardscrabble, subsistence farmers along the Atlantic coast, going barefoot in the snow, into battle against the greatest empire of the age, to being the keeper of the greatest secret of the age, the ability to destroy all the people in the world.

And the result of that gift of God? For 74 years, the major powers of the world have not been at war. To be sure there have been people killed, skirmishings, and minor powers squabbling. But there has been no Franco Prussian War, no Crimea, no Great War.

Pretty good sheriff, America has been so far. So we’ll see if it continues, or if the enemies of freedom, who gather their forces, all around the world, can overthrow the Pax Americana, or if the free peoples of the world can contrive to stay that way. Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.

 

50 Years Ago Today

It really was 50 years ago today that this happened.

That Saturn V rocket, the most powerful vehicle ever built by man, launched three Americans, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins into history.

Nobody who watched a few days later will ever forget the words. After a period of silence, “Houston, Tranquillity Base here, the Eagle has landed.” And I’ll bet I’m far from the only human who still remembers those words verbatim. When the Eagle was descending to the Lunar surface, it was almost like the world stopped, to stare and wonder. And that too was the glory of the American space program, it was there, right there, on live television, for the whole world to watch.

We had done it, we had won another race, the first men to step on another world were Americans, and that flag would wave more or less forever in the solar wind. We had done what President Kennedy challenged us to do:

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations – explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the Moon – if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

— Kennedy’s speech to the Congress
And soon they would be safely home, to be honored, and remembered for their accomplishment.
And yes, we lost some good people on the way, like the crew of Apollo 1, Command Pilot Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee burned to death in a command module fire, who should also be honored.
Seemingly a different time, when we were divided by many things politically, and yet we were all proud to be Americans. May those days return.
And yet for all that, it is still true that while many countries have the moon on their flags, only one has its flag on the moon.

Memorial Day Weekend

I’m going to be out most of the day, supervising a job, so entertain yourselves, and I’ll catch up later.

Well, we’ve made it to the traditional start of an American summer, Memorial Day. We’ll be talking about various aspects of that throughout the weekend. But for today, let’s just relax.

If I were asked to provide a synonym for America it would be movement. We’re a restless, impatient people with itchy feet. That’s why our ancestors became Americans, why the initials GTT were once famous in Tennessee, why we went westering until the Pacific got in the way. And still today, a wise man said, “To the British 200 miles is a long distance where to the American 200 years is a long time”. If we have a motto other the E Pluribus Unum, it has to be “real quick”. de Tocqueville noted it in us all those years ago, and it’s still a major part of us.

A lot of that depends on cheap energy, back in the day, we walked from St Joe to Oregon and California. Our Clipper ships were amongst the finest (and fastest) in the world. And gave the world such songs of loneliness as Shenandoah.

But that movement had a price, and you can hear it in that song. Those folks westering, and the ones they left behind, knew that if they were lucky, they would receive a few letters from their friends and family in the rest of their life. And thus the American quest for faster movement, and freedom of movement.

First, the steam train, with its promise of going almost anywhere, and it’s successor the airplane. But the real mark of America is the privately owned motorcar, epitomizing two important strains in our wanderlust. The ability to go where we want, when we want.

And faster, always faster. That’s why the Greatest Spectacle in Sports is American and will be this weekend, in Indianapolis, as always. By the way, did you know that the first winner, Ray Harroun, invented the rear view mirror? Like old Satchel Paige said, “Don’t look over your shoulder, someone might be gaining on you!” Like all of us expatriate Hoosiers, you can sing along with Jim Nabors and the Purdue All-American Marching Band.

And don’t forget to culturally appropriate a few bratwursts and beers, either! 🙂

What’s that got to do with a proper view of Memorial Day? As far back as the Civil War itself, foreign observers were marveling at the speed and fluidity of American Armies, they still do, especially combined with the awesome firepower we have always sought.

But a lot of it has to do with cheap (or affordable) energy, Our malaise in large part dates to that day back in 1973 that  OPEC shut off the oil spigot. We’ve never been quite ourselves since. Well, that malaise seems to be in remission.

Get happy. Summer beckons. Not only bike and hike but also drive, bus, train, and fly to a better environment–your self-selected environment.

The automobile is environmentalism-on-wheels. The open road is freedom to escape the concrete for the great beyond. Mountains, rivers, hills, forests, even beautiful green golf courses–it is all a drive away. (And if it makes you happy CAP, those ‘huge profits’ of “Big Oil’ are a few years absent.)

Everyone else: forget the spin and go for a spin!

Each year, MasterResource celebrates the beginning of the peak-driving season knowing that our free-market philosophy is about energy abundance and affordability and reliability. And there is little to apologize for. When is the last time you got a bad tank of gasoline, anyway?

Oil, gas, and coal have been and continue to be technologically transformed into super-clean energy resources. Carbon-based energies are growing more abundant, not less. And energy/climate alarmism is losing steam on all fronts (except the shouting).

The real energy sustainability problem is statism, not free consumer choice. As Matt Ridley concluded: “There is little doubt that the damage being done by climate-change policies currently exceeds the damage being done by climate change.” As Alex Epstein is telling each one of us to tell our neighbors: I Love Fossil Fuels.

From: Celebrate the Open Road

But, for now: Sad to realize we’ve lost both Jim Nabors and Dinah Shore in the last year. Price of getting old, I reckon, but one that I regret.

Go on, get out there, our soldiers didn’t risk and sometimes lose their lives in all those wars so you could sit around and mope about all that’s wrong with the world. Go, and have fun, the world’s problems will still be here for you, and you’ll be better for it.

American Historic Moments; Then and Now

Don Troiani- “The Last Salute” HAP

Our friend, Practically Historical, reminds us that 154 years ago today General John B Gordon (seven times wounded, including 5 Minnie balls at Antietam) by order of General Robert E. Lee, surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia, to General Joshua L. Chamberlain (won the Medal of Honor at Little Round Top at Gettysburg, wounded six times, nearly mortally at Petersburg, and cited 4 times for bravery) of the Army of the Potomac.

As the Army of Northern Virginia marched past the Army of the Potomac, Chamberlain ordered the Army to “Carry Arms” (the marching salute) in respect, and at Gordon’s order, the Confederates responded. Chamberlain described the scene:

At the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his sword point to his toe in salutation.”    Gordon truly understood the significance of the gesture, “Chamberlain called his men into line and as the Confederate soldiers marched in front of them, the veterans in blue gave a soldierly salute to those vanquished heroes—a token of respect from Americans to Americans.”

There is a lesson there for those who would destroy the heritage of the Confederacy. At least 300,000  Americans died upon those fields to (amongst their reasons) to destroy chattel slavery in America. At the end of it, they respected their opponents enough to salute them in honor, and the Confederates enough to return the salute. Without a worthy enemy, there is no honor, and so far no more worthy enemy for American arms has ever appeared than American arms. Both sides fighting for freedom, even if their definitions differed. When you denigrate the Confederates, you also denigrate the forces that fought them and freed the slaves.

And so with salutes and honors, and with terms that meant no proscription lists and no hangings, America’s hardest war ended.


Then there is this:

That is the first ever photograph of a Black Hole, something so dense that even light cannot escape. So how can we take its picture? It’s complicated. Here’s part of the explanation.

And this:

Both of those are some seriously good explaining of a subject that is quite hard to understand.

But how did this happen? A badass stem professor, of course. In fact, a Cal Tech professor with a doctorate from MIT, who graduated from West Lafayette High School. And back in the day when she was in high school used to work with her dad’s colleagues, professors at Purdue. Professor Dr. Katie Bouman. Her dad is Charles Bouman, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at Purdue. Wonder what dinner conversation was like in their house.

She explained in a TED talk what she was trying to do a couple years ago as well.

And it worked, as the picture above indicates. Pretty cool, essentially turning the entire Earth into a camera.

This is a very big deal, confirming relativity amongst other things, and another major major accomplishment for American science. I’m not a huge fan of government subsidizing stuff, but I’m not sure that any corporation would really see the point of this research, although I’ll bet there will be commercial benefits derived from it. Most corporations these days are insanely short-sighted about research. Hammer and Rails reminds us:

The combined budgets of NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institute of Health (NIH) are just over $63 billion for FY 2019. That may sound like a lot, but when you consider that the US’s 2019 federal budget is $4.746 trillion, the three major scientific foundations and government institutions that allow for such ground breaking scientific research account for just under 1.5% of the federal budget.

For just 1.5% of our budget, we’re able to fund the great work of Dr. Bouman, along with other great scientists at Purdue, the Big Ten, and beyond. While Dr. Bouman didn’t go to Purdue (I guess I can’t blame her for going to MIT instead), her connections to the university allowed her to cultivate her passion in the STEM fields, and it shows that the impact of Purdue continue into interstellar space.

Congrats to Dr. Bouman, former President Córdova, and all the researchers involved in the Event Horizon Telescope.

Yep, and MIT had a couple things to say, as well. First, they noted how important women in Stem are to our success in space.

As noted in the comments to the Tweet above, all these women, and all of us men, as well, follow in the footsteps of Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron who wrote the first algorithm. And this:

That Was Close!

Welp, my internet went down quite early this morning, and I just got it up. But I’ve nothing prepared, so…

I’ve had this in my files waiting for an opportunity to share it. It’s one of the great stories in the development of America in the last century. So enjoy!

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