Sunday, September 11, 2016

Documentary Review: World War I in Color: Victory and Despair

With Russia rescinding in the east, Germany was able to move troops to the west, and with the beginning of 1918 they were able to unleash an offensive that threw the Allies back 30 miles.  This is more territory than had been changed in the past three years.  This was known as the Ludendorff Offensive and brought the Germans to within miles of Paris.  However an allied, tank-lead counterattack put the germans on their heals and pushed them back to the original lines.  At that time the United States now entered the war.  The Allies, following the example of the Australians began to use coordinated air and ground attacks, with troops following tanks.  This allowed the allies a new strategy which was effective.
However they still face the Hindenburg Line, a strong German defensive position with barbed wire and concrete defensive works.  However they were able to make a create a break in the line, and the next day followed up this break.  German morale was greatly influenced, but while they still had some morale, they proposed peace.  However the Germans were able to regain some momentum and talks of peace faded for a time.  It was the blockade that lead to peace.  The Germans were starving.  At this time, the war seemed a wasted effort to the Allies, as the outcome seemed certain.  Casualties remained high.  But everybody knew the end must be close.
The Kaiser sacked his general who did not want to surrender, and himself abdicated, and went into hiding.  An armistice was finally signed 11 November 1918, and the guns went silent.
Armistice of Compiegne

Book Review: September 11: Snapshots in History

September 11: Snapshots in History, by Andrew Langley, Compass Point Books, Minneapolis, MN, 2006.
Written on the fifth year anniversary of 9/11, or ten years ago, this book tells the story of 9/11.  It does a fairly good job of telling the events of the day, although no book could totally capture the day.  I thin the place the book bogs down is his going back in history to try to explain why the terrorists would do such a thing.  It seems the author is somehow trying to justify the actions of the terrorists, or cast blame where it doesn't belong.  He also talks about three major world religions coming out of the area, but he only talks about the tenants of one.  To be more balanced he should have also mentioned the beliefs of all three religions, or not mentioned them at all.  He tries to explain how the teaches of Islam have become the teachings of Islam, as they protect the world from the influence of evil.  I guess I am saying much of this book is cow pucky.

Documentary Review: World War I in Color: Mayhem on the Eastern Front

This episode talks a bout the war on the Russian front.  It includes mention of the Armenian holocaust in which the Turkish government killed 1.5 million Armenians.  Turkey was affiliate with Germany and Austria.  Italy entered the war on the Allied side.  In an effort to alleviate some of this suffering, Russia appealed to the other allies.  Germany attempted a Naval campaign in the Gallipoli Peninsula of Turkey.j  This was under the command of Winston Churchill.  At first the Naval vessels set to open with a bombardment hit enemy mines.  When the British forces landed (New Zealand, English and Australian) the became bogged down in a stalemate.  They were removed some months later with the loss of 250,000 casualties.  Churchill was sacked.
The Russians continued to fight, and defended Warsaw from German invasion.  However eventually their forces wore down, and Warsaw fell.  At the same time Czar Nicholas lost control of his country, and the Communist rose to power.  The Russians then left the war.  Russia suffered about 2 million military deaths during the war and another million civilian deaths.  With them leaving the war, the germans could now focus on their western front, France and England.  The effect of the reinforcement from the east was first felt in Italy, as the Germans brought more divisions into the area.  The war would have gone the way except the entry of the United States into the war at about the same time.

Book review: The Seminole

The Seminole by Liz Sonneborn, Watts Library, A Division of Scholastic, New York, 2001.
The Seminole, in a real way are a combination of many Native Americans, and escaped slaves who fled to Florida.  They had an agricultural life style, living close to their farms to keep them safe.  They were involved in three wars against the U.S. government.  The first took place before Florida was even part of the United States.  Never the less, Andrew Jackson lead a U.S. force into Florida.  This was precipitated by plantation owner claiming the Seminole had stolen their slaves.  Jackson gained a victory, the Seminole headed south, leaving their best farm lands behind them.  Shortly after, Florida became a part of the United States when Spain sold the territory.
When Andrew Jackson became president, his goal was to remove the Seminole from Florida to the Indian territories in Oklahoma.  Many gave way and relocated.  Others refused, and this started the second Seminole War.  Osceola lead the Seminole resistance.  However at a negotiation he was captures and thrown in prison, where he would die from illness.  Cooacoochee then lead the Seminole.  Their defeat only took time, and more Seminole were sent west.  However some still refused, moving deeper into the Everglades.  There economy now became dependent on hunting as it was more difficult to raise crops.  They also ate wild plants.  Here they remained for some time, until surveyors entered the area.  Billy Bowlegs did not trust them, and attacked.  This lead to the third Seminole War, with even more being sent west, Billy Bowlegs among them.  However some stayed.  There are now two Seminole Nations, in the east and in the west.  The western Seminole had further problems.  At first they were not given territory, but later negotiated an area.  However they were torn in the Civil War.  The Seminole officially supported the Confederacy.  Some refused and traveled to Kansas to join the Union soldiers.  
Today both nations have their own governments, and economic bases including gambling.  They also include appeal to the tourist industry with museums, and in the eastern nation, alligator wrestlers.

Documentary Review: World War I in Color: Killers of the Sea

Killers of the sea of course refers the the German U-Boats.  The struck with deadly effect, however they went too far.  The sunk the cruise ship Lusitania, which was a propaganda victory for the British and eventually lead to the entry of the United States into the war.  For a time Germany agreed to not attack merchant vessels indiscriminately, but when they returned to this policy, the United States entered the war.  However the U-Boats continued to be a problem.  Britain maintained a blockade of Germany, and Germany used the U-boats to destroy supplies headed to England.  Both these strategies proved effective.  In Germany, a population use to eating meat, they many were subsisting on turnips by the end of the war.  Rationing also went into effect in England.
This war produced ever larger naval vessels, dreadnought battleships if you will.  There was only one major naval battle, the Battle of Jutland.  In this battle the the British Grand Fleet faced the German High Seas Fleet.  The first day was a German victory, as two of the British cruisers exploded after their powder kegs were ignited.  However the British retreated to where their larger vessels were waiting, and the second day proved otherwise.  During the two days of fighting fourteen British vessels were sunk, and eleven German.  The battle continued into the night, with the British trying to cut the Germans off from their home base.  However the next morning they had escaped.  Both sides claimed victory, but the Germans new better than to try to engage the British again.  This became the last major naval battle in history involving battleships agains battleships.
The War at sea remained a desperate affair until the British gained ways to slow down the U-boats.  This took place with large air ships-balloon based which could cruise the seas for long periods of time, and then also closing in on the U-boat bases and trying to eliminate their access.  This was done partially by sinking old ships in the mouth of the bay.  Only after the U-boats were somewhat controlled could the U.S. forces travel by sea to join the fighting.

Documentary Review: World War I in Color: Blood in the Air

The use of aircraft in WWI first revolved around reconnaissance.  Balloons were first used, but they were too vulnerable to attack.  Faster aircraft were needed.  However here again, aircraft were not very well armed.  The problem was shooting through the propeller.  A British pilot reinforced his propellers with steal, and thus every tenth bullet would ricochet but not bring the aircraft down.  It was a Danish scientist working for the Germans who discovered a way to synchronize the machine gun and the airplane propeller.  This technological advance gave the Germans a superiority in the air.  However the intelligence was needed, so still the pilots flew, and many were shot down.  The British planes and later American planes, would have a second man with a machine gun shooting behind, but this was not as effective as being able to fire ahead of you.  The Fokker Scourge as this advantage was called resulted in many being shot out of the sky.  One of those who benefitted was the Red Baron, Manfred Von Richthofen, who was credited with downing 80 planes.  He would eventually be shot down by a machine gun on the ground.
there was a year for the technology of the allies to catch up.
WWI also introduced the idea of launching planes from naval vessels.  This was developed by the British as a way to combat the German U-Boats.  Also bombing was introduced during this time.  Germany introduced bombing of civilian areas, as they bombed London, first from zeppelins and then from bombers called Gotha bombers.  In the end, the air war in WWI was mostly air combats, with one pilot going against another.

Book Review: The Erie Canal

The Erie Canal by Martha E. Kendall, National Geographic, Washington, D.C., 2008.
I didn't realize the Erie Canal had been built so early in the history of the United States.  It would run from Buffalo to Syracuse and the Hudson River.  The canal was begun in 1817.  It was the dream of DeWitt Clinton, who had become governor of New York.  The building of the canal posed challenges, it included technology that had not been worked out when they began the canal.  They started with the middle more flat section of the canal.  The first section opened for use in 1819.  In 1820 more was added for use.  However the first section of the canal was almost stopped by disease carrying mosquitoes.  There was a swampy area to go through, and workers refused to work this.  Finally, the area was dug during the winter, when the mud and the mosquitoes were not quite such a problem.  The mosquitoes even took the life of DeWitt's wife.
Other areas of concern were those areas requiring locks, and crossing existing waterways.  An aqueduct was built over the Genesee River.  Another marvel was the Lockport Combine, a series of five locks in a row.  Here the cliff face was blasted using black powder, a new invention.
The entire length of the canal was opened in 1825, and just as DeWitt had predicted, was a financial boon to New York, as well as the nation.  It opened up the areas of Ohio to migration.  Communities developed along the canal.  It allowed for the movement of agricultural products to New York City.  During the early days along the canal, vehicles were pulled by horses or mules along the shore.  The foot path was only on one side, so if two boats met there was some difficulty in passing.  On boat would have to stop to allow the tow lines to settle to the bottom, then the other would pass over the top.  Young people called Hoggees would man the mules pulling the boats.  The canal had very low bridges, and consequently it was important to watch yourself as a bridge could push you off the boat.
 The canal has been enlarged a couple of times.  It originally was 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep, then 75 feet wide and now 200 feet wide and 12 feet deep.  Many families lived on the canal, riding up and down transporting goods and people.  Until the advent of the railroad it was the preferred method of travel for many going West.  The St. Lawrence Sea Way now takes most of the commercial travel. The Erie Canal it is most often used for recreational purposes.  Riverboats ply its waters for pleasure cruises.  People in canoes, row boats and other small boats also use the canal for recreation.