Archive for the ‘This Day In History’ Category

Custer’s Last Stand 137th Anniversary

25 Jun


George Armstrong Custer

George Armstrong Custer

June 25, 1876, 137 years ago today, Lt. General George Armstrong Custer met his fate at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  History, and America’s historical memory (such as it is), remembers that battle by another name:  Custer’s Last Stand

Why is Custer’s Last Stand so well-known among America’s military defeats?  Unusually, for American military history, this battle (and a battle it was, not a massacre, as some folks like to think of it), is known by a person’s name.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons this battle resonates throughout our history, even to this day.  While Custer and 265 of his men (and quite a few Sioux and Cheyenne warriors as well), died that day on the banks of the Little Bighorn River, the news of this military disaster reached the eastern cities on the eve of  the 100th anniversary of the United States’ birth.  The juxtaposition of the nation’s Centennial celebrations with one of the worst military defeats of the Native American wars caused not a little shock to the America’s collective consciousness.  But again, the mythology and the reality of the situation do not always jive.

Many of the stories surrounding the Little Bighorn battle refer to Custer’s defeat as the worst U.S. Army defeat of the Indian Wars.  Yet, while significant in its time, this defeat paled in comparison to the Battle of the Wabash in 1791, in which General St. Clair lost to Native American forces in what is known as Little Turtle’s War.  St. Clair lost nearly 1,000 men, yet this battle is little remembered and the anniversary (November 4), is not marked at all in popular culture.

Custer was a dashing figure who was very well-known in his time, not just for his exploits on the western frontier, but also for his heroism and his victories in the Civil War.  Yes, his defeat was a big deal at the time, but within a few months, the reinforced U.S. Army won the Sioux War and forced Sitting Bull, the victor of the Little Bighorn, to go into exile in Canada.  American history is full of military defeats, but Custer’s Last Stand is perhaps the most well-known and mythologized of them all.



Korean War’s 63rd Anniversary No Cause To Celebrate

25 Jun

Today marks the 63rd anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War.  The war in Korea was an unusual and unique conflict in many regards, not the least of which is the fact that the war technically never ended, but is only on a hiatus with an armistice.  And, unlike many other more “typical” wars, the non-outcome of the Korean War continues to haunt East Asia, the United States, and, in a sense, the whole world.

When North Korea’s Communist dictator, Kim Il-Sung launched his invasion of South Korea on June 25, 1950, he set in motion a conflict that would engage much of the world.  By the end of 1950, the United States and over a dozen other nations, including the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Australia, Turkey, and other members of the so-called Free World, were fighting to preserve South Korean independence under the authority of the United Nations.  Also, by the end of 1950, the world’s most populous nation, China, entered the war on the Communist side.  And, as this conflict was a significant component of the new Cold War, the Soviet Union was heavily involved, providing material, moral, and diplomatic support for the Communist war effort.  In a little-known fact, Soviet pilots were aiding the North Koreans by flying North Korean warplanes as they battled the UN air forces.  All this made the Korean War a potential starting point for a new World War, with potentially disastrous consequences as both the U.S. and the Soviets possessed atomic bombs by then.

The Korean War, while very significant historically, is often left out of the popular consciousness in America because it is sandwiched between the Second World War and the Vietnam War.  This is despite the opinion that in many ways, the Korean conflict, and the fact that it never truly ended, has had more far-reaching effects on world history and the current world situation than the Vietnam War or most of the other Cold War conflicts fought by the U.S. and her allies.  For example, the survival of the North Korean regime allowed the Kim family dynasty of dictators to develop nuclear weapons, with which they now threaten and harass not just South Korea, but also Japan and the United States.  In addition, the North Koreans are known proliferators of their nuclear technology, with known links to the nuclear programs of Pakistan, Iran, and Syria.

Every few years, actual combat breaks out between North and South Korean forces, always as a result of a North Korean provocation.  In the 1960s, the U.S. and South Korean troops along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two warring Koreas waged a defensive war against North Korean infiltrators for several years in what is now called “The DMZ War.”  In 1968, North Korean forces seized a U.S. naval ship, the USS Pueblo, and held the crew captive for nearly a year.  In the 1970s, North Korean troops attacked some American soldiers with axes.  In the 1980s, a North Korean submarine landed a large force of commandoes inside South Korea, leading to running gun battles throughout the South Korean countryside.  In the 21st Century, North Korea has sunk a South Korean naval ship, and bombarded a South Korean island with an artillery barrage.  While all this

North Korea is now ruled by a Kim of the third-generation of dictators.  Under the latest Kim, frequent threats of war against the United States, South Korea, and Japan are an almost monthly occurrence.  The Korean War began in the hills and fields of Korea 63 years ago.  It is still being fought in many ways today, June 25, 2013.  Except that while the weapons of 1950 were for the most part leftovers from World War Two, the weapons of today, with which Kim Jong-Un, the latest North Korean tyrant threatens to use on his neighbors and enemies, are the weapons of the long-feared Third World War.


Sources on the Korean War’s ongoing issues, from


Mitt Romney Chooses Economic Conservative Paul Ryan as his Running Mate

11 Aug

Paul Ryan, Congressman from Wisconsin, is the latest GOP running mate who is probably an unknown to the majority of the Amerian voting populace.  To policy wonks, Tea Party faithful, and those who follow conservative economic politics, Ryan is well-known and, if you are an economic conservative, quite popular.  However, to the majority of Americans, who right now are probably more attuned to the Olympics, summer camping, and the new NFL season, news of Paul Ryan’s pick is more likely akin to prior news of Sarah Palin or Dan Quayle as running mates.  In other words, a big “Who is that?”

Paul Ryan and his Family (note the Green Bay Packers sweatshirt!)

Paul Ryan and his Family (note the Green Bay Packers sweatshirt!)

So, who IS Paul RyanPaul Ryan is a young (born in 1970) handsome family man (one wife, three kids), who lives in a town where his parents and grandparents are all buried (Janesville, Wisconsin), and he is an avid Green Bay Packers fan. Paul Ryan is also Catholic, which may be a helpful aspect for the Morman Romney.   In Paul Ryan’s Political Career, he has risen quickly through the ranks of the GOP through his work on the budget and his “Roadmap to Prosperity,” an economic blueprint that bears the intellectual handprint of the dean of Conservative economists, Milton Friedman.

In the days and weeks leading up to Mitt Romney’s VP announcement, speculation arose around such Republican luminaries as Condoleeza Rice and Marco Rubio, among others.  Either of those two would have provided Romney with an instant inroad to traditionally Democratic constituencies (African-Americans and Hispanics), but instead he chose a white midwesterner with no foreign policy exprience.  If the world experiences a major crisis in the weeks leading up to the American presidential election, the choice of a domestic economic expert rather than someone experienced in foreign policy, could come back to bite Romney.  It is quite likely that the war in Syria could easily get worse and engulf the U.S. into some sort of military intervention, and/or, an Israeli attack on Iran (which this writer thinks is very likely to occur before the U.S. elections), could highlight the lack of foreign policy experience on the Romney-Paul ticket.

One thing is for certain:  The U.S. Presidential election will be interesting.


This Day In History: February 2-Groundhog Day

02 Feb

This Day In History:

February 2

1653 – The Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (later renamed The City of New York) is incorporated. 

1659 – Jan van Riebeeck, the founder of Cape Town, produced the first bottle of South African wine.

1876 – The National League of Professional Baseball Clubs of Major League Baseball is formed.

1887 – In Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania the first Groundhog Day is observed.

1901 – The funeral of Queen Victoria of Britain.

1971– One week after overthrowing President Obote in a coup, Idi Amin declared himself President of Uganda, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Army Chief of Staff and Chief of Air Staff.

1972 – The British embassy in Dublin is destroyed in protest of the Bloody Sunday violence in Northern Ireland.

1974 – The F-16 Fighting Falcon takes flight for the first time.

1982 – The Syrian army bombarded the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood, killing about 7,000–25,000 people.

1989Soviet war in Afghanistan: The last Soviet armoured column leaves Kabul. The Soviets would finish their retreat out of Afghanistan on Feb. 15.

2004 – Swiss tennis player Roger Federer became the No. 1 ranked men’s singles player, a position he held for a record 237 weeks.

February 2 Birthdays: 

1905 – Ayn Rand, Russian-born American author and philosopher (d. 1982)

1915 – Abba Eban, Israeli diplomat (d. 2002)

1937 – Tom Smothers, American musician and comedian (The Smothers Brothers)

1942 – Graham Nash, British-born American musician (Crosby, Stills, and Nash)

1947 – Farrah Fawcett, American actress (d. 2009)

1949 – Brent Spiner, American actor (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

1949 – Ross Valory, American musician (Journey)

1953 – Duane Chapman, American bounty hunter and television personality (Dog the Bounty Hunter)

1954 – Christie Brinkley, American model

1975 – Donald Driver, American football player (Green Bay Packers)

1983 – Ronny Cedeño, Venezuelan baseball player (Pittsburgh Pirates)