A History of North America

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Berlin: City, Congress, Airlift & Wall

Berlin was the capital of Germany from 1871, though it was also the capital of Prussia. When the capital moved from Bonn after the Second War, Berlin became again the capital and hub of Germany, but after the War the city found itself 110 kilometres inside the Russian Zone of a Germany divided (at various hideous conferences) into four: Russian, American, British and French sectors. The city itself was divided into West Berlin (480 sq.km.) and East Berlin (403 sq.km.). West Berlin was administered and governed by the United States, Great Britain and France, each having their Sector and military HQ. East Berlin was governed by the Communist GDR, under the military eye of around 200 divisions of Russian troops. West Berlin could probably muster a division and a half, and had its own (American) military commander. There was a complete military imbalance in all the post-war period. (more…)

The Battle of ‘the Bulge’

American infantry moving in the Battle of the Bulge / wikipedia.org

American infantry moving in the Battle of the Bulge / wikipedia.org

I happened to see a new DVD of an old film with this title last night. It was a typical Hollywood presentation, cost a fortune, was directed oddly enough by an Englishman, Ken Annakin (but not Skywalker). The script was quite literate, the acting good as always. The customary Hollywood absence of anyone British or Canadian in scenes supposedly from the Second World War was adhered to. I remember a Spielberg epic called Saving Private Ryan in which the director even managed to make it appear that the Normandy Invasion of 1944 was entirely American. The GIs had two beaches in Normandy, and the British/Canadians etc. had three, but no hint of this appeared in the movie. It was a bit like this in The Battle of the Bulge (1965). Henry Fonda and Robert Ryan played the military heroes, backed up by James Macarthur and of course Charles Bronson and Telly Savalas and there went your first ten million dollars off the budget before the camera was turned. (more…)

America’s Supreme Court

The Supreme Court building / becketfund.org

The Supreme Court building / becketfund.org

Most developed countries have a Supreme Court, which means what it says.* It is the maximum legal authority a third branch of the government, independent however of the legislative (Congress or Parliament) and the Executive (The President or Head of State); yet it is only a small body of highly qualified judges, appointed in the case of the United States by the President, with the agreement of the Senate or Upper House. There were only nine members when the Court was established in 1869, and they held and hold their place in the Supreme Court for life. (more…)

Charles M. Talleyrand-Périgord (‘Since the masses are always eager to believe something, for their benefit nothing is so easy as to arrange the facts.’

Talleyrand / wikipedia.com

Talleyrand / wikipedia.com

The French statesman was born in 1754 with a club-foot, a piece of bad luck he shared with Kaiser Wilhelm II and Lord Byron. None of the three allowed their pronounced limp to impede an upwardly mobile career. Byron, a poet who loved boxing, swam the Hellespont, an act of physical courage most athletes with both feet intact would shy away from. The Kaiser thought his kingly first cousins found his limp funny and mimicked it. He was thus only too anxious to have a world war, and achieved that ambition. Charles Talleyrand found the French army closed to him, so he became a priest instead. (more…)

Caustic Congresses II: the Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles / AKJ Images/Imperial War Museum

The Treaty of Versailles / AKJ Images/Imperial War Museum

This treaty has been blamed by many historians as a more than indirect cause of the Second World War. It was supposed to be a treaty made between the Allies and Germany to be signed on 28 June, 1919, but negotiations continued until 1923. Germany however did not take part in the debates aired before the actual signing. Most intelligent Germans therefore thought it was a dictated agreement for peace, which could not be morally binding. (more…)

Erich Ludendorff

    

Erich Ludendorff / commons.wikimedia.org

Erich Ludendorff / commons.wikimedia.org

   Germany is a country of tradition, contrast and discipline mixed with a craving for modernity and change. The actual Chancellor is a lady from the Centre/Right who was in her youth a devoted Communist. In the First and Second World Wars almost all of the ‘officer class’ were titled irrespective of whether Germany was a monarchy or a republic. Rare it was to find a senior army officer without a von in his name. Only recently retired was Freiherr Bertoldt von Stauffenberg, a Count as well as being a son of the heroic leader of German military resistance against Adolf Hitler, recently ‘immortalized’ by Mr Tom Cruise in a rather bad film called Valkyrie. Cruise, who is not very tall, played Klaus von Stauffenberg, who was tall. Actually Rommel was one of the few very senior officers in the Second War who was not a von. (more…)

The campaign in North-West Europe (September 1944 – May 1945)

      This campaign was the advance of the Allies through France following the successful invasion of D-Day. It is important because it contains the blindest and most incomprehensible mistake made by a commander-in-chief in all History. But we will come to that later.

 

The Durham Light Infantry moving up / durhamlightinfantry.webs.com

The Durham Light Infantry moving up / durhamlightinfantry.webs.com

Combined with the Soviet invasion of Germany from the east, the campaign would lead to the end of the Second World War and the inevitable Treaties. Following the Normandy invasion most German armies were withdrawn from France, though not all. British and Commonwealth troops entered Brussels on 3 September, 1944, and Antwerp was relieved one day later. The port could not be used immediately because pockets of German resistance had been left behind in the mouth of the Scheldt, and had to be dealt with. (more…)

IG Farben

   This was a cartel formed by the leading chemical companies in Germany after the First World War. ‘IG Farben’ is the diminutive of the rather more tongue-stretching Interessen Gemeinschaft Farbenindustrie which has been translated as ‘Community of Interests of Dye Industries’. Three of the many companies which joined were BASF, Bayer and Hoechst.

It was by far the largest corporation or cartel in Germany between the two world wars, controlling five hundred companies (in ninety-two countries). Corporative arrangements were made between Farben and Standard Oil (USA), Imperial Chemical Industries (Gt. Britain), and Mitsui (Japan), which makes the period 1929 – 39 so interesting. You may have noticed that the nationality of the first two of these commercial giants formed the major part of the Allies in World War II, while the third joined Hitler’s Axis. (more…)

The first Empire upon which the sun never set

A Spanish fleet / bbc.co.uk

A Spanish fleet / bbc.co.uk

Four hundred years before the British Empire never enjoyed the setting sun, the Spanish Empire rose, flourished, dwindled and vanished. From the late fifteenth century, Spain, a fraction smaller than France, forged an empire including the Canary Islands, most of the West Indian Islands, all central America, all of South America except Brazil, parts of the Low Countries and parts of Italy, plus the Philippines. (more…)

The Malayan Campaign and Emergency

 

 

Ge, Sir Gerald Templer / allmalaysia.info

Gen. Sir Gerald Templer / allmalaysia.info

  The campaign was a military action in South-East Asia between December 1941 and August, 1945 during the Second World War. General Tomoyuki secured free passage through Thailand because of an agreement with the Vichy administration in France (pro-German). He then invaded northern Malaya in December 1941 while his companions were assaulting Singapore with great success. While Japanese aircraft bombed the city, British, Indian and Australian troops retreated to the south. It was a failure, as they were then taken prisoner after the fall of Singapore in February 1942. (more…)

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