Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.


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USS_Olympia_art_NH_91881-KNSo, history week. I thought I’d mix it up a bit and look at a whole week in history, instead of just a single day. History week week? And upon further investigation, the first week of May is a pretty good place to start. Especially for Americans. America’s two greatest 20th century wars wound down this week. May 1945 saw the end of World War Two in Europe, and in 1975 it saw the end of the Vietnam War. Granted there’s a bit of spillover date wise, and the war with Japan continued after Germany fell. Details. In any case, I like writing about history. Today’s post will be about various miscellaneous events, Wednesday will be about 1945 and Friday about 1975. Unless some new horror visits the world this week that begs for comment.

And as is always the case, I write to entertain, inform, and most of all, present perspectives they don’t teach in public school. Lots of stuff happened in the first week of May, but since this seems to have evolved into an American history post, I’ll concentrate on those. The first, the Louisiana Purchase, April 30, 1803. Was presented as the greatest real estate deal in history when I was a kid. Teacher neglected to mention it was effectively the purchase of stolen property, so possibly the biggest money laundering scheme in history.

1 May 1898. The Battle of Manila Bay. “Battle” would be more accurate. An America fleet under Admiral Dewey destroyed a Spanish fleet in Manila Harbor, Philippines. It was the first major engagement of the Spanish American War. In school I remember being taught it was a surprise attack, the Spanish didn’t know war had been declared. I believed that most of my life, until this morning actually. Looked it up just to confirm, and oops, not true. So either my memory or my high school education is faulty. Probably a tossup.

In any event I got a kick out of how Wikipedia describes the battle as “one of the most decisive naval battles in history.” Well, strategically true in that it ultimately resulted in the US acquisition of the Philippines. Tactically however, the Spanish knew they were utterly outclassed and stood no chance in a battle. Thus the Spanish commander carefully anchored his fleet in shallow water close to shore, so that his ship’s crews could swim to safety when their ships were sunk. A turkey shoot in other words. The Spanish fleet was sunk with only 77 dead, the Americans suffered one death from heat stroke. And America began its imperial adventure which continues to this day.

1 May, 1960, The U-2 incident. The U-2 was a high altitude spy plane, the US thought it flew too high for Soviet fighters or missiles to intercept. And was blatantly flying spy missions over the Soviet Union in them. This day the Soviets brought one down with a missile.

When the plane went missing, the US claimed it was a weather plane flown by NASA, its oxygen system had malfunctioned, and with the pilot unconscious the autopilot carried the plane over the Soviet Union. They even hastily painted an Air Force U-2 with NASA colors as part of the subterfuge. The US assumed the plane would have been destroyed when it crashed, and the pilot, Francis Gary Powers would have used his suicide pill.

Khrushchev, the Soviet premier at the time, let the Americans dig themselves a nice deep grave. Then he announced that they had shot the plane down, the pilot had been captured. The plane was intact enough that the Russians had recovered both cameras and pictures of Soviet military installations the plane had photographed. Major embarrassment for Eisenhower and the US. Mr Powers spent a few years in a Soviet prison, then was exchanged for a captured Soviet spy.  Just another odd chapter in the Dr Strangelovian nightmare that was the Cold War.

May 1st, 2003, Mission Accomplished. Even my younger readers might remember this. Oh Jeeze, this one was really weird. And with deep historical irony, though most missed that part. President George Bush landed in a jet on an aircraft carrier, and gave a televised victory speech about the Iraq invasion, with a big “Mission Accomplished” banner hung behind him. Those were the days. The Bush administration thought the quick conquest and occupation of Iraq vindicated the war and their prediction of a quick and cheap victory.

The celebration was premature. Within months attacks on Americans were ratcheting up and Bush’s speech was thrown back in his face by his detractors. He was a damn unpopular president by the end of his first term, and by all rights should have lost his reelection bid. Alas, the Dems ran Kerry against him, a blue blood elitist from Taxachusetts, with negative crossover appeal to the typical Republican. And we got two terms of George Bush as a result. Strange days, but I digress.

Boy, definitely odd to me that events that happened in my lifetime are historical events for a lot of people, even events as recent as the Mission Accomplished imbroglio. Time flies. And in 2019, Iowa, granted not the first week of May, we just had an unseasonable end of April snowstorm. On the plus side, I hadn’t yet planted any flowers in the yard. Have a great week everyone.

(Contemporary illustration of the Battle of Manila Bay. Public Domain under US copyright law.)


Written by unitedcats

April 29, 2019 at 8:33 am

Posted in History

2 Responses

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  1. Hi, Sorry to change the subject but what’s the latest on the Moorgate tube crash 28.2.1975 at 8.46am on platform 9 when a Red 1938 tube stock train D272 crashed killing 43 people. 44 years on & we still wait for the truth to come out & be published, It’s a damn disgrace specially when the train was faulty in the first place,



    April 29, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    • Hello. That remains one of my most visited posts ever. I’ll do a follow up post sometime soon, pretty sure there have been some developments.


      April 29, 2019 at 3:07 pm

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