Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What Happens in Norway Stays in Norway

The Duel by John Lucaks.
Audiobook. Stupid last name for the author. I am only a few chapters in, so I will write briefly about my thoughts on the Norway campaign. I had learned earlier in a World War II class about the Soviets invading Finland and how disastrous that was for the Russians. But I did not realize how much it affected Hitler, Churchill and Chamberlain. Hitler looked at the war in Finland as evidence that Scandinavia was a crucial must for the war in Europe. Norway exported must needed steel and iron, so Hitler decided to blitz on up north. Churchill, who was not yet Prime Minister, but instead, in charge of the Admiralty, foresaw Hitler's move and countered it by pushing the Royal Navy in strategic ports and bays. Hitler proved to be much more genius that Churchill thought. The Germans began by invading Denmark, taking the capital and capturing the king. Next, they went to Norway, but in the dead of night and much further north than Churchill expected.
By chance, a man standing watch in one of the bays saw a shadow moving across the water. He shot an ancient canon from the previous world war in the direction and actually hit the German ship's artillery storage room. The flames made the ship visible and some torpedos finished the ship off. Thanks to this chance canon shot, the Norwegien king was notified and taken out of the capital and into safety.
Norway was still taken, however, from the northern ports that weren't considered. What is interesting is the reaction of the British people. By all accounts, Churchill was the one who schemed up the plan. Granted he needed Chamberlain's approval, but he was the shot caller. The fall of Norway, however, fell onto Chamberlain's shoulders. Instead of being blamed for his own blunder, Churchill was exhaulted as the anti-Chamberlain: the man who would actually stand up to Hitler. Churchill even tried to take the blame but no one would listen. Soon, that fat baby of a man would become Prime Minister in Great Britain's darkest hour.
Call me a jock, but this reminds of me of when a quarterback is not producing very good results and the fans demand the back up quarterback, even though it may not be the former's fault. It was probably a bad offensive line or poor receiving. Luckily, in the case of Great Britain in 1940, Winston Churchill lived up to his task and took on Hitler when no one else would.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mayflower

I recently finished an audiobook called The Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick, which covered the Pilgrims journey from England to Holland and finally to America where they hit Plymouth Rock and give thanks to Indians for not wearing any clothes.
First, let me tackle the Indians. I think Squanto was a scumbag. He was self-serving, and went behind Massasoit's back in order to gain power for himself. Do I blame him? I mean, he was captured and taken to England. On his return, he discovered that is people were completely wiped out. So, was he forced to take matters in his own hands and manipulate the Pilgrims and the Pokanokets the way he did? It's irrelevant. The truth is that when Massasoit demanded his death for the betrayal, William Bradford stood in the way because of his love for Squanto. This is the critical turning point in Pilgrim-Indian relations. Where did Bradford get the nerve to stand up to Massasoit, after all that man did for the Pilgrims?
Massasoit was in the same boat, however. To his thinking, building an alliance with the English would be the best option for his people. The Pokanokets were in desperate need of some friends, and the English could help defend from the Naragancets in the south. But he did his best to keep to the alliance. I mean, could the English have survived without Massasoit? Likewise, could the Pokanokets and Massasoit have become so powerful without the goods of the English?

Then we come to Philip. The cowardly piece of shit son of Massasoit. Now, Massasoit and Alexander, the elder of the brothers, put Philip in an awkward spot by selling so many plots of Indiana land. The English were greedy, yes. But were the Indians as greedy for English goods? They had no other resources. Wampum was a joke. The beaver in North America were basically extinct, so the fur trade was no longer possible. All that was left was land.
I think Philip tried to stand up for himself by making threats of war. But he never inteded to go through with an actual attack. Those threats, though, go to the warriors and to other Indians in the region who finally realized that the English were not going to stop. Those damned Puritans were going to push them off the continent if they didn't do something.
Philip, without thinking, created an impossible situation. The Puritans were set on settling things once and for all. Now the Puritans looked down upon all Indians with contempt. The other Indian communities had no choice but to defend themselves. Perhaps the best example is with the Naragancets and the battle in the swamp. Since the beginning of King Phillip's War, they had remained neutral. But they weren't idiots. They knew that eventually they'd get roped into the fighting. So they spent most of that year building a fort in the swamp. The Puritans, without any provoking from the Naragancets, and based on a rumor of a pan-Indian army, go after them and take the fort.
After a bloody battle, the English burn down the fort and kill many women and children. The Naragancets were forced to flee right into the arms of the Pokanokets and their allies. They had been attacked and had no choice to join the war.

The pilgrims could not have survived that first winter without the help of Massasoit and his Pokanokets. But as time went on, the English forgot the debt they owed to these people. The want for land was too tempting. Is there someone to blame? I'm not sure. Miles Standish was an aggressive soldier whose murder of Wituamit probably set the course for how things would go from then on. I think William Bradford did what he thought was right. Then he stood up for Squanto, which began the deterioration between the two groups.
Benjamin Church, however, is portrayed as a hero in this book. Do I consider him a hero? Let's look at what he's done.
He was the prototype frontiersman. On the island on which he lived, he had great relationships with the Indians, especially with the female sachum of the area. After a few blunders at the beginning of the war, he finally found his footing as a soldier. He revolutionanized warfare at the time. He took his friendly Indians and learned from them how to track Indians. Instead of finding a killing the Natvies, he took to finding and capturing them. If he couldn't persuade them to join his small army, then he would sell them into slavery. People look at him as a hero because he was more humane toward the Indians because at a time when everyone was suspicious and bitter toward the Native Americans, he took them in his company and fought and learned from them. He quelled the violence by trying to create alliances. What a great thing to do! How nice and friendly of him! But then he made a killing selling them to the West Indies and to the Carribean. This man almost single-handedly began the North American Slave Trade. Can we dub him a hero?
In the end, it turns out that the English and the Indians were both brtual and greedy. But I have to side with the Indians because they tried to help the new comers. When their thirst for land got out of control and made obsolete the treaties of their fathers, then the Indians had to defend themselves and their way of life. Obviously, they lost. Not just King Philip's War (which was not due to the Puritans, but rather to the Mohawks showing up from the north), but lost everything. The English in the 17th century started out playing nice and then demonized the Natives and took whatever they wanted through violence and manipulation.Which brings me to my final conclusion: the only thing worse than a Nazi is a Puritan.