It’s time to shatter the myths of the Battle of Britain

Today commemorated the climax of the Battle of Britain. You know the one, the one they made films about. And those few we still remember

‘The Few’ were immensely courageous, but the image of plucky Little Britain, David against the Goliath of Nazi Germany, is completely misleading

Seventy-five years ago today, fierce aerial battles were taking place over London and southern England, and later that evening, after the fighting was over and there was still no sign of a German invasion, reporters on the news announced some 185 enemy planes had been shot down. To all who heard it, and a large proportion of the population did, it appeared a significant victory had been won. Later, it emerged Sunday September 15 had also been the target date for Operation Sealion, the planned German cross-Channel invasion. With the RAF Fighter Command still in robust health, attempting such a high-risk venture was unthinkable. Two days later, Hitler postponed Sealion and then, on October 12, put it off indefinitely. Air battles continued and the night-time blitz lasted until May the following year, but the risk of invasion had passed.

Britain won because it was ready and prepared to fight such a battle

Few moments in British history have been so mythologised, however. Woven into the story is the image of plucky Little Britain, David against the Goliath of Nazi Germany. We portray ourselves as backs-to-the-wall amateurs, with those young and gallant Few the last line of defence against the mighty Molloch – after all, the Home Guard were not going to be much good against hordes of Panzers. By a whisker, we held out – but it was a close run thing and thank God Hitler decided to switch from attacking airfields and turned on London instead. It was tough on the East End, but it gave the RAF breathing space and the fight back was on.

Source: It’s time to shatter the myths of the Battle of Britain – Telegraph

That’s pretty much true, and I think we should add that fully integrated air defence system (in the summer of 1940) is above all one of the bequests to his country of Neville Chamberlin. For this is what he bought for Britain at Munich with his ‘piece of paper’. He too is one of the few, who placed his honour and his courage at the disposal of his country. Americans will recognize that we had nothing like it in Hawaii, over a year later.

And here is a bit more of the most beautiful aircraft ever built.





You all know that I don’t subscribe to ‘The Cult of Celebrity’. but in a fairly long lifetime, there have been a few exceptions, in the field of popular music there is only one, and we’re going to talk about her today.

One of you this week linked to my all time favorite singer, and one of my favorite songs, that she sang. When it burst out of the car speaker, late in 1964, a lot of things changed, for American music, for her, and maybe more.

This is the version from The Dean Martin Show in early 1967, and yes it was still getting some airplay.

When Downtown came on the radio, it was completely different, and it spoke to something in us all, I think. her voice is very obviously British, in that exact way, that Americans adore, and as far as us kids were concerned she was was one of us, although our dads (sometimes) did tell us that she had been recording since during World War II, and was a TV star as well, in the UK.

That’s all true, but she was also the first British female to make it onto the Billboard chart since Vera Wang in 1952. Downtown was #1 starting the week of 23 January 1965. The song was also #2 in the UK, and Ireland, and number one in  Australia, New Zealand, Rhodesia and South Africa, and was also a hit in Denmark (#2), India (#3), the Netherlands (#3) and Norway (#8). She was far from the last, though, the Atlantic got very narrow there for a few years, and American top 40 radio sounded an awful lot like BBC 1. And after Downtown, she would have fourteen more consecutive hit on the Billboard chart, and there was plenty of competition those days.

When asked why he approved it for a quick release in the States since it was so very English. Joe Smith of Warner Brothers replied: “It’s perfect. It’s just an observation from outside of America and it’s just beautiful and just perfect.” And you know, it was, and it is still.

But there was a lot more to Pet, than that wonderful voice, she is perhaps one of the greatest female entertainers of the twentieth century, like Julie Andrews, Judy Garland and such. In fact I think she could have been  better than them all, by a fairly wide margin. here’s a bit more about her.

When they talk about how she became Norma Desmond in the play, it’s sort of creepy, isn’t it, but that is what the great actors do, it’s why we are able to suspend our disbelief for a while. Petula could, and did, do it too, even on the concert stage. Watch her eyes her, closely, this is more than singing, I think she is feeling it, even as she shares the emotions with us.

So let’s head on Downtown, but remember Don’t Sleep on the Subway.

Of Dark Webs and Surveillance Societies.

140820-internet-trolls-2346_00499daa06aa00b7d583df7a4fbe2fb7-412x430Sorry about the last couple of days, I’ve been feeling rather suboptimal.

In any case, a close friend sent me these, and he informed me that the first one, a new BBC documentary kept his ten-year-olds interest right through. It did mine as well.

Now, Ed Snowden, I’m not going to tell you how to feel about him, partially because I can’t decide either. This doesn’t cut down on any of the old separations, liberal-conservation, young old or anything else does it. Except maybe, we have a right to live our lives without the government knowing everything about us.

One thing these talk about a lot is the sheer power of traffic analysis, what they’d like us to call metadata.

And always remember what Theodore Roosevelt said



Peace is Our Profession


Stategic Air Command

Strategic Air Command; via Wikipedia

In still another demonstration of the consequences of decline of American leadership, as the seventieth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki approach, we are once again forced to confront the horrific moral problems of the use of nuclear weapons.

As is, or should be, well-known, Truman and American leadership had no doubt at all about the morality of the use of atomic weapons in the case of Imperial Japan. As stated here:

It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam.  Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of  ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.

And the real justification is this:

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuked 70 years ago. 34 years ago Paul Fussell wrote this important essay, ‘Thank God for the Atom Bomb’.

21 year old 2nd Lt. Fussell commanded infantry in WWII France. Later, he had to sit around waiting to invade Japan and die. That was the general expectation of the vets of the European theater – they didn’t think they’d survive Japan.

Then Aug 6th happened.

When the atom bombs were dropped and news began to circulate that “Operation Olympic” would not, after all, be necessary, when we learned to our astonishment that we would not be obliged in a few months to rush up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being machine-gunned, mortared, and shelled, for all the practiced phlegm of our tough facades we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live. We were going to grow to adulthood after all.

Do read that essay linked above, and the link here and think about that last line. One Million American soldiers and most of the population of Japan thought that in August of 1945.

The essay ends this way:

Harry Truman was not a fascist but a democrat. He was as close to a genuine egalitarian as anyone we’ve seen in high office for a long time. He is the only President in my lifetime who ever had experience in a small unit of ground troops whose mission it was to kill people. That sort of experience of actual war seems useful to presidents especially, helping to inform them about life in general and restraining them from making fools of themselves needlessly – the way Ronald Reagan did in 1985 when he visited the German military cemetery at Bitburg containing the SS graves. […]

Truman was a different piece of goods entirely. He knew war, and he knew better than some of his critics then and now what he was doing and why he was doing it. “Having found the bomb,” he said, “we have used it. . . . We have used it to shorten the agony of young Americans.” The past, which as always did not know the future, acted in ways that ask to be imagined before they are condemned. Or even simplified.

Paul David Miller writing in The Federalist did a pretty good summarization of the case for the moral use of nuclear weapons.

Because nuclear weapons are so big, they are hard to use in a discriminating way. Drop one bomb and you are almost guaranteed to kill far more people than is militarily necessary.

It would be easier to argue for the immorality of all weapons under the guise of pacifism—all weapons, all war, and all violence are always wrong—but that is neither what the president argued nor what most Christians or most citizens instinctively believe. According to the just war tradition, Biblical passages like Genesis 9 and Romans 13 permit—even obligate—states to wage war in pursuit of a just cause. As part of the covenant God established with Noah and his descendants after the flood, God mandated that we pursue violent offenders with the sword: “From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man” (Genesis 9:5). God specifically did not reserve for himself the duty to strike down violent aggressors, but chose to delegate the task to us. This is the foundation of the state’s legitimate coercive authority and the reason most Christians have not been pacifists. “Rulers do not bear the sword for no reason,” Paul wrote (Romans 13:4), “They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” The “sword” is a violent, coercive tool: states exist under God’s mandate to uphold order in this fallen world.

States can, therefore, wield weapons. Why not nuclear weapons? The best moral argument against nuclear weapons, as opposed to other kinds of weapons, is that they violate the just war principles of discrimination and proportionality. The principle of discrimination says that in fighting a war justly, we are obligated to discriminate between enemy combatants and civilians and avoid harming the latter as much as possible. This is a simple extension of our obligation to love our enemies and our neighbors: we should strive to kill as few of them as necessary. Because nuclear weapons are so big, they are hard to use in a discriminating way. Drop one bomb and you are almost guaranteed to kill far more people than is militarily necessary. Hiroshima was the headquarters of Japan’s Second General Army and Nagasaki was a major industrial center for war materiel, both legitimate wartime targets—but the nuclear bombing of those cities killed up to 250,000 people, almost all civilians.

Continue reading: In Defense Of (Some) Nuclear Weapons.

He does a good job here and I think you should read the whole thing. One place where I think he falls down a bit, is in making a clear delineation between tactical and strategic. What he says was true, in the early 60s and perhaps through part of the 70s, but with the deployment of Minuteman III, Peacekeeper, and Trident, American strategic warheads returned to around 120-800 or so kiloton range with a circular error probable (CEP) of approximately eighty to one hundred and twenty meters. They are the ultimate smart bombs, specifically designed to destroy Soviet missile silos, and thus actually fall under counterforce rules. The countervalue weapons are all gone from the American inventory.

Remember the heady days in the early 90s when history had ended, and we had a ‘peace dividend’ to waste on corrupt programs? Those days are gone, Father Time has restarted the clock, and the most horrendous part of recent American foreign policy is that now, seventy years after the first use of atomic weapons, we again must contemplate the moral way use them again.

Experience is indeed the best teacher, and we threw away ours in a dream of eternal peace, one hopes that relearning the lesson is not as expensive as it could be.

How We Got There: US 30 in Fort Wayne

70px-US_30.svgA couple of weeks ago, I promised a little post about the history of transportation in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I haven’t forgotten.

The Fort was founded in 1797, to guard against Indian attacks, remember that this was disputed territory after the revolution, and would remain so until after the War of 1812. The fort, and the town, were named after General (Mad Anthony) Wayne, the victor at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which took place not all that far away. I note that the fort has been reconstructed, and it looks like a good job.

But the Indian agency moved on (to the Logansport area) and because the subsidies paid by the government to the Indians had made them dependent on the government, and the town on them, the town languished.

Like most cities in America, Fort Wayne was built on transportation. In 1843, the Wabash and Erie Canal opened, making agriculture somewhat viable for the first time in Indiana. Before this, it cost more to get a crop to market than the crop was worth. although canals were not really good enough, they were a start. US 24 is roughly on this route today.

Incidentally, The News-Sentinel has a pretty good early history of the city posted, here

In any case, in the 1850s the railroad came to town, and as The Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago railway, completed to Chicago in 1859, Fort Wayne became fully connected with the rest of the country. This was the western continuation of the Pennsylvania (always and to this day called “The Fort Wayne”) formed one end of one of the great trunk lines that built America, and finally and for the foreseeable future made American agriculture the marvel of the world.

I didn’t really see anything about it, but we can probably assume, that like South Bend, a lot of money was made in Fort Wayne during the Civil War. In South Bend, the contract to make ambulances for the army, was the basis of the Studebaker Brothers’ fortune, and I’d guess that this is the era when the Fort Wayne started the engine works and car shops just out of Fort Wayne.

But for most of us, the railroads are interesting but not how we get around, that’s what cars are for. :) The earliest trace I could find on Google earth was something out around Columbia City called Old Trail Road. At a guess, this is fairly close to the Fort Wayne-Fort Dearborn Trail, which was the original road to Chicago.

Old 30

US 30 in Fort Wayne Click to embiggen

The next famous one was the Lincoln Highway, which usually is close to US 30’s original routing, as it is here. It started setting up just prior to World War I. Note that the backers included the Pennsylvania Railroad, which foresaw an integrated system using motor vehicles for short distances and trains for long distance. It didn’t quite work out that way. Almost anytime you find a street named Lincolnway, or something similar, you found its route.

A local note, the original Lincoln Highway went from Fort Wayne to Elkhart (roughly US 33) over through South Bend and then back down to Valparaiso (SR 2). Not very long after it was realigned along the Fort Wayne, roughly on the US 30 Alignment. The shaky green line on the map is my best guess as to the original alignment through town, note that as in many towns it split into westbound and eastbound streets. In the 50s, it was rerouted onto what I learned as Bypass 30 when I was a kid, which is basically Coliseum Boulevard (SR 930) with I think an extension on California St. to connect up. When the interstates were finally built, it was again rerouted onto the ring route, as usual.

Just for general interest on the map, I looked up the location of the various train stations as well. Pennsylvania (Baker St) station is still there, as is the New York Central Depot (now a yarn shop), and the elevated platform of the Nickle Plate is still there as well, although the station is long gone.

I should probably note that as long as I’ve been around, US 30 has been a major artery in Indiana, and is fully dual laned (and occasionally more) Wkipedia’s article is pretty good, as well.

Welcome to a New Subscriber

uk-us-shooping-0211We don’t often recognize new subscribers here, but occasionally we do. And one joined us the other day that is about as rare around here as hen’s teeth, but still has ticked some boxes that I like (a lot).

Our new subscriber is a blogger, a new one, I think, although quite good, and works in-depth as well, a young Brit female (three of my favorite categories right there), from Basildon, in Essex, and rarest of all a Labourite. I suspect she’ll disagree with much of what is written here, but perhaps we can learn from her, and her from us. Many of us know that while we have become curmudgeonly conservative types, we started out much more liberal, until life taught us some lessons. Winston Churchill famously said, “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart.  If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” Actually he didn’t, according to the Churchill Centre:

There is no record of anyone hearing Churchill say this. Paul Addison of Edinburgh University makes this comment: “Surely Churchill can’t have used the words attributed to him. He’d been a Conservative at 15 and a Liberal at 35!  And would he have talked so disrespectfully of Clemmie, who is generally thought to have been a lifelong Liberal?”

But still there is a ground truth there.

In any case, she is Melissa D’lima, who blogs at Historyxpolitics. She also says she likes modern British history a lot, and so I can’t help but give a plug to a friend of mine, Professor John Charmley at the University of East Anglia because he has done an extraordinary amount to increase my understanding of that subject, especially with his Chamberlain and the Lost Peace and his History of the Conservative Party both of which are available at Amazon. He’s a bit of a maverick in British history, and we’re much the better for his insight, I think. I should also likely say that following him on Twitter at @ProfJCharmley has opened an entire world of British historians to me and I’m much better for it. If I were younger (well, much younger) I would be looking for a way to study under him.

Interestingly, he also epitomizes one of the paradoxes of British political life. like so many of the great Tories, he is a self-made man, who came up from the working class, all the way through an Oxford doctorate.

One of the people whose work he (and Jess) introduced me to is Dr. Suzannah Lipscomb. From her website, “In October 2011, she took up her post as Head of the Faculty of History and Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at New College of the Humanities (NCH), where she lectures and tutors on British History 1450-1649 and European history 1500-1800. As Head of the Faculty of History, she is a member of the Academic Board, responsible for the academic governance of NCH.” As that indicates, she is far more than a pretty face on TV, and part of why I value her is that I’m convinced one can not understand modern British History (or American, for that matter) without understanding the Tudors, who started modern history for us, and later the world.

If anybody cares, what I’m reading at the moment is Adam Smith: both Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, David Hume: The Understanding, and John Locke’s First and Second Treatises of Government, as well as some lighter stuff.

Something else Suzi did that I really like, and something the American left often has trouble with, is realizing that we must not look at the past through our twenty-first-century eyes. It truly is a foreign land.

So welcome, Melissa. I hope you enjoy it here, and I’m quite sure I’ll enjoy your blog as well, and watching as you, dare I say, continue to grow up. I’m impressed now, who knows what the future holds, so ‘Good Luck and a fair breeze”.

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