Showing posts with label united states. Show all posts
Showing posts with label united states. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Greenland Goes Rogue

You wouldn't think that Greenland would have been a source of contention during World War II. While Greenland may be the world's largest island, it's sparsely inhabited, freezing cold, and just not a big player in world affairs. Quite frankly, Greenland's pretty unprepossessing. However, control of the island was heavily contested between the United States and Germany during the first half of the 1940s.

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Uummannaq, Greenland
Greenland has been a Danish colony since 1814, and is still a part of Denmark. While Greenland is largely self-governing today, in the 1940s the island was under the strict control of the Danish government, specifically the two Danish governors--Aksel Svane and Eske Brun. These men answered directly to the government in Copenhagen, but were also responsible for representing the interests of Greenland. This left them in a bit of a bind when the Nazi's took control of Denmark in April of 1940.

While the Danish government was nominally in charge of their country, they took their orders from the Germans, especially where foreign policy was concerned. Formerly neutral, Denmark was dragged into the war, and Greenland wasn't too keen on being dragged along with them. The Danish government in Copenhagen no longer represented Greenland's interests, and Greenland didn't feel particularly loyal to the Nazi puppet government. So, drawing on previous legislation, the governors declared Greenland to be a self-ruling country, free of Nazi Danish law.

As might be expected, Nazi controlled Denmark, wasn't too pleased about the Greenlander's getting uppity. Though unprepossessing, Greenland was important to the Germans, and they hadn't anticipated a fight. Greenland was essential to Nazi plans in North America and Europe for several reasons, namely:

  1. Like much of the arctic Western Hemisphere, Greenland was a good launching place for air invasions. It would be an easily defensible and convenient place to build an air base that could launch attacks on Europe and North America. 
  2. Both the Axis and the Allies wanted to establish weather stations on Greenland. I'm not 'That Meteorology Nerd', so I don't pretend to understand this, but apparently all the weather headed for Europe goes through Greenland. Prior knowledge of the weather was important for strategic planning, and the Germans wanted that knowledge.
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    Cryolite
  4. At the time Greenland had the world's largest supply of cryolite, a rare and important mineral used in making aluminum¹. Whoever possessed the cryolite mines would have a serious leg up when it came to manufacturing aircraft. Greenland wasn't making their own aircraft, and their cryolite was coveted not only by the Germans, but by the British and Norwegians as well.
Without the Danish army to protect them, Greenland was put in the awkward position of having to beat off foreign invasions by itself. Despite not being invited, the Germans were sneakily establishing their weather stations, and the British, Canadians, and Norwegians were also making attempts to establish themselves on the island. This was becoming a bit of an issue, and given that Greenland had no army to speak of, they went to the only major world power that was still neutral--The United States.

While the United States later went on to be a major player in WWII, in 1941 they were maintaining a strict stance of absolute neutrality, a stance that Greenland was 100% down for. Because of Greenland's position politically and physically, it was advantageous for Greenland to seek help from the United States, and it was advantageous for the US to help them.

Image result for greenlandAgainst explicit orders from Copenhagen, Danish ambassador Henrik Kauffman, in the name of King Christian X,officially signed a treaty with the United States in April of 1941, giving the US full authority to station troops and build military bases in Greenland for mutual defense purposes.

Kauffman was widely condemned in Copenhagen, and his treaty with the United States was denounced as treason. Kauffman had, essentially, allowed US military to set up shop on Danish land, and the Danes weren't too keen on this. However, there wasn't any real backlash for this 'treason'. The condemnation came from the German controlled Danish parliament, and did not reflect the feelings of the actual Danish parliament. Kauffman made it known that he was acting on behalf of King Christian X and the true Danish government, and experienced no consequences for signing a treaty with the US during or after the war.

Now, people familiar with the United States Constitution might say that the occupation of a colony of a foreign nation seems very contrary to the principles of the United States. The US had sworn not to have colonies (though they sometimes flirted with that line), and not to invade foreign countries for their own land gain. Everything they did in Greenland seems contrary to that. However, the United States had one major out--The Monroe Doctrine.

The Monroe Doctrine was a statement released in 1823 by US president James Monroe. This singularly arrogant document was put out after most of the Latin American countries had gained independence from Spain, and stated that the United States would fight any European power that tried to intervene in the Americas. The doctrine was considered to mostly protect the countries south and east of the United States. For years Greenland hadn't really been a concern where the Monroe Doctrine was concerned, because for all intents and purposes Greenland was part of Europe. However, in order to justify their interference in Greenland, the US declared Greenland part of North America, and told the Germans, Canadians, British and Norwegians to piss off.

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Bluie West One
Once they made the decision to go to Greenland, the US had to walk a fine line. They were still maintaining a policy of neutrality, and couldn't send armed forces because of the possibilities of clashing with the Nazis and inadvertently drawing themselves into the war. To circumvent this, the United States sent their coast guard to protect Greenland.

Once there, the coast guard spent most of their time patrolling Greenland's shores, and keeping an eye out for more Germans trying to establish weather bases. Along with patrolling, they also built two military bases-- Bluie West 1 and Bluie West 8, as well roads and improved harbors.

This arrangement was particularly advantageous for Greenland, because not only did they get new roads and improved infrastructure, but the United States was also leasing the land that they were building on. Greenland was being paid for the land that the US was so helpfully developing. At the end of the war, Greenland was left with some decent roads--and they hadn't paid for any of it.

However, don't imagine that the Greenlanders just sat back and let the United States do all the work. Svane and Brun were adamant that Greenlanders should be helping in the defense of their nation, so they established the Sledge Patrol--a group of 15 men who patrolled the northern and most remote reaches of Greenland by dogsled. The Sledge Patrol more than pulled their weight. They found several German weather stations, and had multiple skirmishes with the German soldiers. After driving out and capturing one group of German soldiers, the Sledge Patrol was declared the 'Army of Greenland'. To this day, the Sledge Patrol is an elite part of the Danish Armed Forces.
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Sledge Patrol camp

When the United States entered the war in late 1941, Greenland officially entered the war as well. Greenland's entrance into the war wasn't particularly significant; for the most part, Greenland continued doing what it was already doing, rebuffing German attempts to build weather stations.
After the war, Greenland went back to being a Danish colony. However, relations between Denmark and her colony had dramatically changed. The Danes had always had the goal of eventually giving Greenland self rule and independence, but before WWII they were unconvinced that the Greenlanders could govern themselves. The events of the 1940s changed that, and in the 21st century Denmark granted Greenland home rule and their own parliament.

While Greenland may not have played an enormous part in WWII, it's undeniable that they were incredibly brave. For a sparsely inhabited, mostly undefended nation to openly defy the Nazis, risking their lives and sovereignty to maintain their own independence was admirable. Greenland had a lot to lose, but through a series of smart diplomatic decisions they survived WWII mostly unscathed.



¹I'm not 'That Geology Nerd' either, so I don't entirely understand how Cryolite works, but you can find more information here.

Sources
FDR Sends Troops to Occupy Greenland
Greenland During and Since the Second World War
Greenland's War
Greenland During WWII

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Damn, Girl-Lozen

Famed warrior, medicine woman, and military strategist, Lozen was dubbed 'the shield of her people' by her brother, Chief Victorio. Lozen helped her brother fight against the United States and Mexican governments, and helped her band of Apache escape from the inhospitable reservations they were forced onto. Her skills at stealing horses, and her ability to sense where her enemies were is legendary, and to this day she is honored as one of the fiercest and bravest women in Apache history.

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Lozen
Lozen was born in the late 1840s, somewhere in the American Southwest. She belonged to the Chihende band, and around age twelve answered the call to become a medicine woman. In addition to healing, Lozen felt drawn to being a warrior. Instead of learning the traditional female tasks, she learned how to fight, and, by all reports, was quite good at it.

It should be noted that 'Lozen' is probably not Lozen's actual name. 'Lozen' is an Apache title given to someone who is good at stealing horses. Many Apache of the era didn't give out their given names, because they felt that the use of their given names would diminish their spiritual power.

It's the 1870s, and Native American-United States Federal Government relations are predictably hostile. The United States has all this new land they stole won from Mexico that they're trying to settle and mine, and the Apache (as well as other tribes) are in the way. In a totally fair and ethical move, the United States Government decided that it would be a reasonable solution to round up the Native Americans, and sequester them on the pieces of land that nobody else wanted. The Native Americans were, unsurprisingly, not too keen on that idea, and conflicts between tribes and the US Government were breaking out all over the country.

The Chihende band was no different. They had been forced onto the San Carlos reservation in Arizona, and there wasn't enough food or resources. So in 1877 Chief Victorio, Lozen's brother, defied the US Government, led his band off of the reservation, and headed back towards their traditional lands near Ojo Caliente.

They were pursued relentlessly by US troops, and the band was on the run for about two years. While on the run, Lozen was one of the chief strategists for her band. Victorio referred to her as his 'right hand', and she was responsible for Apache success in several skirmishes.

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Lozen's brother, Victorio
Strategy wasn't Lozen's only gift. She was also able to tell what direction their attackers would come from. She would go onto the plain, and pray to Ussen, the Apache Creator God. She would follow the sun, and when her arms would tingle, and her veins darken she could tell in what direction their enemies were. She was able to warn her band of many attacks this way, and Victorio credited her and her talents as being directly responsible for keeping their people safe.

In 1879, Victorio and the warriors of the Chihende were killed by Mexican forces near Chihuahua. Lozen rode from the Mescalero reservation to hunt for survivors. There were almost none. Lozen joined the rest of her band, and went back to San Carlos, the reservation they had escaped from two years prior.

In 1881, Lozen and the Chihende left San Carlos for Mexico. While there, they joined up with Geronimo, Naiche, Juh, and Fun. A year later, Lozen and Geronimo's warriors led a raid on San Carlos that freed nearly 600 Apache. They hid in the Sierra Madre mountains, raiding the surrounding areas. They gradually moved north towards San Carlos, and they were free for about four years, until the Apache were forced into unconditional surrender in 1886. Lozen, Geronimo, and Naiche were sent off to Florida as prisoners of war, and Lozen died in an Alabama prison a few years later.

Sources
Lozen: An Intelligent and Brave Apache Warrior Woman
The Story of Lozen
Lozen: Apache Warrior Woman
Apache Women in History
Mescalero Apache Tribe

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Annexation of Hawaii Was a Bit of a Dick Move

Hawaii, the 50th state, is a prime example of the US Imperialism that supposedly doesn't exist. Queen Liliuokalani, the last monarch of Hawaii, was essentially overthrown by a group of US marines, and the state was annexed to the US to provide a ship fueling station, despite vehement protests from the majority of islanders.

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Iolani Palace, built by King Kalakaua as part of his revival
of Hawaiian nationalism.
Hawaii was doing its Hawaii thing in 1778 when Captain James Cook 'discovered' it. The islands were made up of a tribal culture, with many chieftains or 'kings'. They welcomed Cook with open arms, and, surprisingly enough, he didn't embark upon a spree of mass slaughter. In fact, there was no slaughter at all, excepting the slaughter that came from European microbes.

Microbes weren't the only thing that came to Hawaii from Europe. European ideals also became quite popular. Churches, land ownership, and a unified state followed not long after the Europeans. Unfortunately, American and European businessman came as well.

Fast forward a few decades, and sugar exportation is a key part of the Hawaiian economy. Hawaiian natives had been wary of the sugar trade from the start, hearing that it would lead to annexation. They weren't paranoid. White sugar exporters were worried about native resistance, and in 1887, the 'Bayonet Treaty' was forced upon King Kalakaua.

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Queen Lili'uokalani
The Bayonet Treaty is thus named because it was forced upon King Kalakaua at gunpoint. A group of white businessmen, backed by US marines, were growing concerned about the King's attempts to revitalize the culture and power of Native Hawaiians. Their official reason was that they were concerned by the king's spending. This treaty stripped Kalakaua of all executive power, and replaced his cabinet with white businessmen. It also disenfranchised Native voters, essentially leaving Hawaii under the control of the sugar exporters.

Kalakaua died in 1891, and his sister, Lili'uokalani became queen. Lili'uokalani made the white buisnessmen even more nervous than her brother, because she had every intention of reforming the 'constitution' forced on Hawaii by the haole, and restoring Hawaiian home rule. Worried about their wallets, the businessmen staged a bloodless coup in 1893 and formed a revolutionary government, stating that US annexation would be the best thing for Hawaiian economy.

John Stevens, the US ambassador to Hawaii, declared the islands to be a US protectorate. Of course, he hadn't consulted anyone in Washington about this. President Benjamin Harrison signed the treaty of annexation, but Grover Cleveland came into office before it could be passed by the Senate.

Grover Cleveland wasn't too pleased by the goings on in Hawaii. President Cleveland wasn't here for imperialism, and he rescinded the treaty, and put Stevens under investigation. He ordered a dissolution of the revolutionary government, and ordered that Lili'uokalani be restored to the throne immediately.

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Sanford Dole, President of the Republic of Hawaii
In a truly mature act Stevens and Sanford Dole, the president of the revolutionary government, stated that since the US refused to annex Hawaii, the US wasn't in charge of them, so they declared Hawaii a republic, and went on doing as they pleased.

Meanwhile, Native Hawaiians were petitioning the US government to do something, and Queen Lili'uokalani was placed under house arrest. This continued until 1897, when William McKinley became president of the United States. McKinley was less squeamish about imperialism than his predecessor, and he was also getting into the Spanish-American war. Add in a fear of a Japanese invasion, and the need for a pacific boat-fueling station, and McKinley signed the treaty. On July 7, 1898, Hawaii was formerly annexed to the United States.


There are very few instances where the US Government has betrayed the ideals upon which it was founded as grossly as it did in Hawaii. Not only did United States military forces carry out aggressive actions against a peaceful nation in hopes of conquest, but standard taxation was later imposed upon the islands, despite the lack of legislative representation. Anyone who has ever even looked at the history of the US knows that the original 13 colonies rebelled against the English for that very reason. Yet when the shoe was on the other foot, nobody cared.

Sources
The Annexation of Hawaii-History of the House of Representatives
Petition Against the Annexation of Hawaii
Annexation of Hawaii, 1898
The 1897 Petition Against the Annexation of Hawaii
Hawaii Government and Society
The Annexation of Hawaii-Digital History
Annexing Hawaii: The Real Story

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chilly Neighborhood Relations-the Dew Line

I know, objectively, that the Cold War was a serious matter, and that it caused some major political tensions all across the globe, but in retrospect, it's a little funny. The sheer amount of paranoia and fear of communist nations caused the United States to do some crazy things, and occasionally they dragged Canada, the mild mannered cousin of North America, into their nonsense. There's lots of crazy shenanigans to talk about, but today let's focus on the time that America essentially built a fence in the middle of Canada's yard, and Canada had to pretend that they were cool with it so the local Homeowner's Association didn't think they were weak.

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Greenland DEW Station
Brought to you by AT&T, the Distant Early Warning Radar Line, or the DEW line, is a line of radar stations stretching from the arctic coasts of east of Alaska to the ice sheets of Greenland. Mostly abandoned now, the DEW line was constructed in the late 1950s to provide early warnings should the Soviet Union decide to launch nuclear missals so far north they started to come south.

This genius idea was the brain child of American scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Robert A. Lovett, the US Secretary of Defense, latched onto the idea immediately. Before even pitching the idea to his counterparts in Ottawa, he called up Cleo F. Craig, CEO of AT&T, and asked him to start working on something. Craig put his best men on the job.

When Lovett did get around to telling the Canadians his plans, the Canadian government was less than amused. While they had signed a treaty in the 1940's saying that they wouldn't allow foreign attackers into America from their territory, and despite the fact that Canada was in just as much danger from a Soviet attack as Russia was, Ottawa had several reservations, mainly the cost and the loss of sovereignty over their Arctic territories.

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Black dots are DEW stations
Canada has always been a bit sensitive about its Arctic regions. While the Canadian government has had very little interest in developing the Yukon, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories, they sure want to hang on to them. The American government sniffing around the arctic wasn't uncommon, and lead to Canadian efforts like the relocation of the Arctic Exiles  to keep the Americans out. Since it was proposed that American military personnel would build and staff the stations on the DEW line, the Canadian government was worried that de facto arctic sovereignty would pass to the United States due to lack of Canadian presence.

Additionally, the Canadian economy wasn't doing too great. They were already spending half of their budget on defense, and the money required to build the DEW Line would require increasing their military budget by 6%. Canada just wasn't down for that.

However, Canada needed to keep up appearances. They instructed their PR teams to only refer to the DEW line as a joint project between the US and Canada, and to make sure that it didn't seem as if the US was giving Canada aid. Once the line was finished, several members of the RCMP (mounties), were sent to Stations on the DEW line. As many Canadians were put into leadership positions as possible. Canada did their best to make it seem like the DEW line had been their idea.

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DEW emblem
The United States also built a little bit of that fence in Greenland's yard, however, as far as my research proves, the Greenlanders didn't really care. It's possible that there was a massive uproar, but it's also very possible that both Copenhagen and Nuuk just didn't care about the United States challenging its arctic sovereignty. Historically, because of its inhospitable climate very few nations have actually wanted to own Greenland, though should the nation start tapping its plentiful oil wells, that could certainly change. The stations in Greenland were more of an after thought than anything; no one seriously expected a Soviet attack through Greenland.

The DEW line was abandoned in 1985 in favor of the Northern Warning System. Many of the stations were dismantled, and hauled away for parts but there are still several abandoned stations across Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Building it took three years, and cost something around 750,000 million United States dollars.

Sources
Adventures from the Coldest Part of the Cold War
The Distant Early Warning Line, and the Canadian Battle for Public Perception
Distant Early Warning Line (DEW Line)
DYE-2 A Relic From a Not So Distant Past
The Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Operation Nifty Package

We've talked quite a bit about war, especially ludicrous and unnecessary wars, but today we're going to talk about one of my all time favorite ridiculous military operations, Operation Nifty Package.

It's late 1989, and the US Navy Seals are chasing after Panamanian dictator and all around bad dude Manuel Noriega. They've destroyed his private plane, and now Noriega is on the lamb. US military is chasing after him, and his best option for leaving the country undetected has been destroyed, so like so many men before him, Noriega claims sanctuary from a church.

Well, kinda.

Manuel Noriega
Noriega actually claimed sanctuary in the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See, which is basically the Vatican Embassy (kinda a church, right?). He threatened Nuncio Laboa that he'd initiate guerrilla warfare if he wasn't allowed to take refuge. The Nuncio (basically a Vatican ambassador), reluctantly agreed. Noriega was given a stark, un-air conditioned room, and whiled his days away reading the bible.

Meanwhile, US military forces are assembled around the Nunciature scratching their heads. International law prevents them from attacking the embassy and dragging Noriega out by force. They could have broken international law, after all, the Vatican isn't exactly a powerful military force. But Catholics have long since proved that they are not a group to be pissed off (see the Crusades), so breaking international law wouldn't be worth it, even to capture Noriega.

So, denied the option of using bodily force, the Navy Seals resorted to psychological warfare, and in a supremely dick move, used enormous loud speakers to blast the Nunciature with heavy rock almost constantly.

Noriega was known for being a man of highbrow tastes, and rock was Not His Thing. Additionally, a helicopter pad was set up in a nearby field, surrounding the Nunciature with a deafening cacophony of noise at almost all times. Requests were taken from nearby military forces, and included such topical melodies as 'Dead or Alive', 'Give It Up', and 'I Fought the Law and the Law Won'.

Eventually, someone inside the Nunciature cracked, and Noriega emerged from sanctuary after ten days of hiding, delivering himself into the custody of delighted US military forces.

He was extradited to the United States where he served 30 years as a prisoner of war for his crimes, and was later extradited to France to serve prison time for his crimes there as well. He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment there, but after one year was successfully extradited back to Panama, where he is still in jail.

What music would you use to flush out Noriega? Make my day, and leave your suggestions in the comments below. :)

Sources
CNN
Post Combat Reports
Catholic take on the whole affair (they are not very forgiving of the Nuncio)
Special Operations Website (includes the entire playlist)