In February, 1945, the second ‘Big Three’ conference took place at Yalta in the Crimea. The first had been in Teheran in Persia. What was agreed at Yalta changed the face of Europe, prepared the ground for the Cold War, and put millions of ordinary people into a condition of near-slavery. The three major protagonists were the respective leaders of the United States, Great Britain, and Russia – Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. The first was dying slowly but certainly, the second was old and exhausted, and the third was younger, fitter, and unable to see any point of view that was not his. He was also a fully-qualified dictator. Continue reading
Matthew Galbraith Perry was born into the American ruling class in 1794. He entered the Navy in his teens and was soon a naval officer. It was as a Commodore (a rank with meaning in the American navy, not so in the Royal Navy) that Perry entered Tokyo Bay fifty-nine years later in July 1853, in command of four fighting ships, two under sail and two powered by the new steam engines. Japan had been closed to foreign conact for more than two hundred years because the Tokugawa Shogunate feared foreign trading would allow rebellious warlords to become rich, allowing them to buy foreign arms. Commodore Perry’s brief from his president had clarified that the US wanted to extend and expand her trade in the Far East, especially coal supplies from Japan for US ships trading with China. Continue reading
The carrier-based Japanese air force began the war in the air over the Pacific Ocean by attacking without prior warning the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. The damage to American capital ships and the loss of life were enormous, but as pointed out in another post on this site, no US aircraft carriers were present on 7 December, 1941.
The Japanese, as industrious as ever, had made great strides in the design and construction of these floating airfields, and at Pearl Harbor they made full use of them. Four hundred bombers and fighters were launched from the six carriers used in the assault. Surprise too was an essential element, as Japan had not declared war on the United States, though everyone from the President in Washington to the Texan cowpokes knew the two countries were on a war footing, and that Japan had joined the Axis. Continue reading
The fight between the Japanese and Russia was (and is) significant because it was all about control of both Manchuria and Korea. The Japanese launched an unexpected and unheralded assault on Russian warships anchored in their Manchurian naval base at Port Arthur. Pearl Harbor 37 years later was a sequel (Port Arthur now has another name of course).
Well, very soon we will know what it is. And I might add it is a great pity there is not more of it around. Loss of it caused the Korean and Vietnam wars; too much of the opposite caused Britain, France and Israel the opportunity to deal practically with the Middle Eastern Question. Far too much of the lack of it allowed the United States to enter, and encourage others to enter, an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. But these are merely examples. Continue reading
In the latter part of the nineteenth century the words Indo-China did not mean much to the average European. Map draughtsmen knew the word was applied (by the French) to five dependencies in south-east Asia from 1887. In fact the word stayed until 1954. Continue reading
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (also known as the Soviet Union) used to occupy all the northern part of Asia, and a substantial part of Eastern Europe. Under that name, what was before, and is now again Russia lasted from 1936 to 1991. It comprised fifteen constituent republics. Continue reading
All wars are bloody, some are found to be unnecessary after the event. The Great War (1914 – 18) was unnecessary and could have been avoided, if the politicians involved had had the least interest in avoiding it. Sadly, it is not the politicians who have actually to fight a war, or die in it, though some of the decisions made during it are so bad, the politicians should by rights commit suicide, or at least do the right thing by suffering a heart attack. History shows that attacks of remorse are rare among politicians. Continue reading