Archive for February 9th, 2008

09
Feb
08

On This Day 2-9-08: Turning Points, Guadalcanal

1825 – The U.S. House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams president. No candidate had received a majority of electoral votes.

1861 – The Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America elected Jefferson Davis as its president.

1870 – The United States Weather Bureau was authorized by Congress. The bureau is officially known as the National Weather Service (NWS).

1900 – Dwight F. Davis put up a new tennis trophy to go to the winner in matches against England. The trophy was a silver cup that weighed 36 pounds.

1909 – The first forestry school was incorporated in Kent, Ohio.

1942 – The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff held its first formal meeting to coordinate military strategy during World War II.

1943 – During World War II, the battle of Guadalcanal ended with an American victory over Japanese forces.

1950 – U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy charged that the State Department was riddled with Communists. This was the beginning of “McCarthyism.”

1971 – The Apollo 14 spacecraft returned to Earth after mankind’s third landing on the moon.

1975 – The Russian Soyuz 17 returned to Earth.

1989 – Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Co. completed the $25 billion purchase of RJR Nabisco, Inc.

1997 – “The Simpsons” became the longest-running prime-time animated series. “The Flintstones” held the record previously.

I have here in my hand a list of two hundred and five people that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.
Joseph R. McCarthy

Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.
John Adams

Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society.
John Adams

One reason I have always been fascinated with History is because of points in time when something so significant happens that it alters life on Earth.  When it happens it may just be something deemed newsworthy by the press; such as, the US victory over the Japanese at Guadalcanal, or US Senator Joseph McCarthy (R, Wisconsin) charging that the United States State Department was riddled with Communists.  Events that may be viewed with great cheer or great consternation, but events so important that the course of mankind is forever altered.

The battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific significantly altered the course of World War II against Japan in that from that point on Japan could not stop the US military. 

A grinding battle of attrition, Guadalcanal tested the endurance of each nation’s armies and navies.  Soldiers fought battles so closely that eye to eye hand to hand combat became the norm, rather than the firepower battles fought between dueling artillery batteries that have dominated warfare since the first time Stonewall Jackson lined up his artillery wheel to wheel in mass formation during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of the American Civil War. 

Navies gave no quarter as American PT boats and destroyers challenged Japanese destroyers and cruisers, or American cruisers took on Japanese battleships.  Both nations sacrificed air craft carriers, and desperate efforts to keep the soldiers supplied on Guadalcanal resulted in horrific casualties with American supply ships driven off and US soldiers forced to survive on captured Japanese supplies, or the desperate “Tokyo Express” runs made by fast Japanese destroyers carrying as many as a thousand soldiers each running through “The Slot” of the Solomon Islands, attempting to supply the Japanese Army on the island.  Caught out it in the open seas these ships could not outrun pursuing dive bombers or strafing fighters sent out by Japanese air craft carriers, or from the American held Henderson Air Field resulting in the untimely deaths of thousands of soldiers and sailors.  So many ships sunk in the area of sea between Guadalcanal and Tulagi it has forever been dubbed Iron Bottom Sound. 

For more pictures and information about this battle, please follow this link:  http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/wwii-pac/guadlcnl/guadlcnl.htm

The Battle of Guadalcanal typifies the horrific cost of war and the terrible sacrifice made for American freedom. 

image 1The very real threat of foreign enemies fought during World War II gave way to a perceived threat of foreign enemies following the war.  A perceived threat that US Senator Joseph McCarthy (R, Wisconsin) defined in a speech before the US Senate on this day in history, a definitive moment in history and in how Americans define freedom. 

Dubbed McCarthyism this dangerous perception of Communists in the midst of the American government, military and society forever altered how Americans would interpret freedom.  No longer would Americans debate the nature of freedom.  What is freedom of the press?  What is freedom of speech?  Because Joe McCarthy defined it as freedom is not being Communist. 

If you lived in a Communist country, if you studied Communism, if you had ever attended a lecture about Communism, if you had ever quoted a Communist, you were not free.  The careers of scientists, writers, actors, movie producers, government workers, military officers, and common citizens could be ruined with the mere suggestion that they had Communistic tendencies.  If you worked in a union, supported unions or tried to organize unions you were labeled Communist.  If you argued against the war in Vietnam, you were labeled a Communist.  If you argued against government taxation or against government meddling you were labeled a Communist.  

Understanding the significance of a moment in time fascinates me.  Understanding how those moments alter life sometimes enthralls me and sometimes angers me.  Joe McCarthy’s power hungry paranoia and disregard for the sacrifices made by Americans in the many battles like Guadalcanal in the name of freedom and freedom loving peoples has altered how Americans interpret their freedom and significantly altered life on Earth.  For more on Joe McCarthy:  http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAmccarthy.htm.




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