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American and Military History
Little recognition is paid anymore to the character development of our country’s foremost founding father, George Washington. Discover how Washington’s lack of formal training in French prevented him from fulfilling his life-long dream, but led to his subsequent role as our nation’s first commander-in-chief.
William Ashley’s original St. Louis newspaper advertisement of February 13, 1822 soliciting enterprising young men to ascend the Missouri River for one, two, or three years to trap beaver. This small ad changed the course of American history, as fur trappers trapped beaver out of every watercourse between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean, and laid claim to vast uncharted lands under the proviso of squatter’s rights. One of the 100 young men Ashley hired on in 1822 was Jedediah Smith (1799-1831), who hailed from Erie County, Pennsylvania.
In October 1833 Mountain Man Joe Walker led a party of 60 free trappers across the Great Basin along the Humboldt River, thence across the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Alta California, in vicinity of what is now Yosemite National Park. While making their crossing they lost 24 horses, but also described grand vistas, cliffs that appeared a mile high, waterfalls, and giant Sequoia trees. Walker was the only American to trek overland with a U.S. Passport and Mexican visa issued in Washington, DC. Find out why in “Re-examining the Route of Mountain Man Joseph Walker in October 1833.”
The trilogy Gods and Generals, Killer Angels, and The Last Full Measure profile some of most intriguing personalities of the American Civil War, which have been made into feature films. This film review focuses on Gods and Generals, the first in the series, but also summarizes the other two. The stress of war inevitably exposes the character and values of its leaders, some of whom fail miserably, while others shine forth, leaving their mark on history. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (1824-1863) rose from almost complete obscurity as a teacher at Virginia Military Institute to become one of the great tacticians of military history in the brief span of two years. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1828-1914) left his teaching job at Bowdoin College, never imagining
the impact his service will have on his country and on his subsequent career.
The son of a New England Episcopal minister, Theodore Judah (1826-1863) conceived and laid out the route of the First Transcontinental Railroad over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but did not gain a single penny from the enterprise. This great civil engineer changed the course of American history by opening the West and bringing fabulous fortunes to the Big Four that owned the Central Pacific Railroad.
RMS Titanic Captain Edward J. Smith (1850-1912) was the most experienced captain on the North Atlantic and highest paid mariner in the world at the time of his untimely death in April 1912. Why didn’t he pay more heed to the iceberg reports he received from other ships? How might all of the Titanic’s passengers have been saved? The innumerable lessons of the Titanic disaster are as important today as they were almost a century ago.
The U-505 was the only enemy warship captured by America on the high seas between the War of 1812 and present.
One of the most interesting facets of my military career was participating in the 50th anniversary symposium of the attack on Pearl Harbor, convened over three days in the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu in December 1991. Japanese and American participants described their roles in history, providing historians with much new information. Of particular interest to me were the near-continuous misunderstandings in the interpretation of collected information and intelligence gathered by either side in regards to the intentions and supposed reactions of the other. The Pacific War was a clash between two distinctly different cultures, who struggle to understand one another to this day.
The diligence of these four men aboard the battleship USS Nevada on December 7, 1941 impacted millions of people who might otherwise been killed during the Second World War. Find out how a modest engineer who raised seven sons in Abilene, Kansas around the turn of the last Century also changed the course of history in World War II.
In January 1944 Jimmy Doolittle replaced Ira Eaker as commander of the U.S. 8th Air Force in England, the largest aerial armada ever assembled. Doolittle defeated the German Luftwaffe, but not by bombing their aircraft factories, which the Germans smartly moved below ground. Find out why successful leaders must be masters of innovation.
It was the greatest research enterprise in history, which almost no one knew about and even fewer believed would bear fruit. Its success brought a quick and unexpected end to the most deadly conflict in human history, but left the specter of terror over mankind in the wake of its deployment. The success of Manhattan Project only came about because of the unprecedented marriage between scientists, politicians, and the military.
A baby boomer who grows up believing that the dropping of the atomic bombs were unnecessary is challenged by interviews he conducts with members of Emperor Hirohito’s cabinet 40 years later. The generational rift in America about the role of the atomic bombs in bringing about a premature end to World War II is much the same in Japan. The actual story of how the world’s bloodiest conflict was brought to an
unexpected end should never be forgotten.
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