A German Soldier’s View of the Opening Days of World War I

Stefan Westmann Photo: Imperial War Museum

Stefan Westmann
Photo: Imperial War Museum

The Telegraph has an interesting account of the opening days of World War I. It is written by Stefan Westmann, a German soldier drafted in August, 1914. He initially served on the Western Front and was then moved to the Eastern Front. He finished his World War I service on the Western Front. Westmann’s background can be viewed here.

Churchill’s Unneeded Wartime Letter

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill

Throughout time, it has been common for soldiers deployed to war zones to write a letter to loved ones in the event they are killed in combat. Deployed to the Western Front in World War I, this practice was followed by Winston Churchill in the aftermath of his resignation from the Admiralty.

The Inspiration of the American Flag: Fremont and California

The Star Spangled Banner

The Star Spangled Banner

Memorialized best in Francis Scott Key’s “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the American flag invokes a rallying cry among those witnessing its fluttering in the wind. Through the words “What so proudly we hailed,” Key instantly described the effect of seeing the American flag waiving over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. Renewed by this sight, Key and others forgot the uncertainly of the previous battle.

Throughout history and throughout the world, this scene has been repeated countless times. For John C. Fremont, increasing tensions between his explorers and the Mexican government of California caused such an event in March, 1846.

Lincoln and the Lure of Dictatorship

George Washington reviews troops during the Whiskey Rebellion.

George Washington reviews troops during the Whiskey Rebellion.

In the nearly 226 years since the United States Constitution was ratified, America has weathered numerous storms. From the Whiskey Rebellion to September 11, crisis after crisis has been addressed. While the powers of each of the various governmental branches have fluctuated based on the demands of the situation at hand, one reality has remained constant: true dictatorial powers have never been assumed.

This is not to say, however, that such power grabs have not been suggested.

“Neutralize and Destroy:” The USS Texas and Normandy

Alfred Thayer Mahan

Alfred Thayer Mahan

Pearl Harbor marked a change in the employment of battleships in American warfare. Prior to the Japanese surprise attack, large fleet-versus-fleet engagements characterized American war planning in the decades after Alfred Mahan published The Influence of Sea Power Upon History. Early incarnations of War Plan Orange – the battle plan for war against the Japanese Empire – reflected this doctrine and envisioned a decisive naval battle led by battleships. Deprived of the offensive force represented by battleships after the Japanese attack, however, American war planners were forced to focus on the offensive power of aircraft carriers to carry retribution across the Pacific.

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo – The Aftermath of the Mexican American War

Treaty of Guadalupe HidalgoFor much of the middle portion of the 19th century, Manifest Destiny – the idea that the United States was destined to occupy and remake the land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans – shaped American foreign policy. While the Louisiana Purchase and the 1846 Oregon Treaty furthered the goal of coast-to-coast settlement, the February 2, 1848 signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo completed the southern half of the Manifest Destiny puzzle and ended the Mexican American War.

While the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo resolved the issues between Mexico and the United States that led to war, it created many new issues within the United States as rival political factions vied to form the new territory in their own view.

Standing Bear v. Crook – Extending Personhood to Native Americans

Standingbear2One of the significant legal developments on the War on Terror was the extension of the right of habeas corpus – the ability to challenge what is believed to be an unlawful detention – to enemy combatants. Through the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and Bormediene v. Bush decisions, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the ability of enemy combatants to address their detention through the federal court system. Even as early as the Civil War, the right was protected from presidential suppression in Ex Parte Merryman. 

Wartime decisions aside, the 1879 Standing Bear v. Crook decision stands as one of the most remarkable preservations of the right of habeas corpus undertaken by American courts. Praising the efforts of General George Crook while recognizing his duty to follow orders, the court nevertheless questioned the forced removal of peaceful Indians from land which they were invited to occupy. In stinging logic and common sense, Judge Elmer Dundy dispatched with the notion that Indians were not people and thus the protection against unlawful detention did not apply to them 

Hitler’s Blunders Must Include Africa

I recently came across Jeff Danelek’s article discussing the “Top 10 Greatest Military Blunders of World War II.” The article reviews decisions at Anzio, the reliance on the Maginot Line, the Japanese surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, and other well known episodes.  However, in reading the article, I was struck by the absence of any mention of Hitler’s refusal reinforce Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps.

History’s Unneeded Speeches

imageEarlier this week, the British Government released a draft of a speech Queen Elizabeth was to give at the commencement of World War Three. Echoing the words of Winston Churchill during the darkest days of World War Two, the proposed speech calls upon British resolve and urges “families [to] remain united and resolute” so that “our country’s will to survive cannot be broken.”