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  #1  
Old December 20th, 2014, 07:31 AM
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History

"The most important issues of mankind should be stated in the form of a question."
--Alex Trebek, final episode of 'The Colbert Report' December 18, 2014



I got a Masters in History long ago, but kept up with my interest, as many of us do. These days its easy to just look stuff up on wikipedia--if you know what or who to check out. What's fun is to see how it all connects up, in both time and space, over the recorded adventures of mankind. Traveling to many countries and parts of the USA (see my many blogs onsite here) has helped me learn about a lot of it. And much of it is hard to believe, and often stranger than fiction.

Here are a couple of my favorite historical figures and a couple of wars that I've discovered along the way:

Commodore Joshua Barney

The most famous American you've never heard of! His exploits during the American Revolution and the War of 1812 are legendary, including breaking out of a British prison in London. With Benjamin Franklin in Paris during the Revolution, his notoriety was exemplified in the song "Barney, Leave The Girls Alone!" As an old man during the 1812 battle of Bladensburg, when the British were on their way to burn Washington D.C. (in retaliation for us burning Toronto, by the way) his landed naval artillery was one of the few units that resisted the British in that action. The British themselves liked him so much, that they put him in charge of the American prisoners after the battle. What a guy!

General Prince Mikhail Ilarionovich Kutusov

The celebrated Russian commander of War and Peace, he grew up a wacky young officer who made satirical impersonations of his commanders until he was caught at it once. As a diplomat, he invaded the Sultan's harem in Constantinople and got away with it. Mikhail he visited Frederick the Great to discuss strategy, and went to London to read about the latest on George Washington's military fortunes. A brilliant military strategist often underrated in his old age, he knew how to fight with the army he had against the Turks and the French.

Growing my own sideburns out to Victorian length, I played him at JodieCon Borodino a weekend of ballroom war gaming where I had to watch the miniatures battle from my HQ table with binoculars and send delayed written messages across the room to my generals! Luckily, we had already made our plans before the event on our computer net. The French won tactically, but we won strategically. This was a great entry into the Napoleonic period for me, and perhaps the peak of my long war gaming career.

My latest Obscure War: The Crimean War

History is not just military history, of course. But this period, after I gamed four battles of it, suddenly became relevant in the modern world, after Putin's march into the area. I've also been researching Russo-Turkish conflicts in this part of the world. See both films of The Charge of the Light Brigade. British, French, Turks, Sardinians were allied against a lot of Russians, not only in the Crimea but in the Balkans, Asia, the Baltic, and even the Far East.

The descendants of the local people's later massacred or incorporated into the Czar's growing empire of the 1840s later protested the building of Putin's recent Olympic construction projects in our times--literally over the graves of their ancestors!

My favorite Obscure War: The Tai Ping Rebellion of China

This long bloodbath was extraordinary in every way. A renegade Chinese who had failed his all important civil service exams later declared himself the brother of Jesus Christ, and used the widespread Chinese hatred of the 'foreign' ruling Manchu dynasty to create his own Heavenly Kingdom of Divine Peace, which he ruled as an Emperor, with authority at one point over a third of China (which all together is as big as the USA), and negotiated with the European colonial powers for recognition (it was denied). In numbers of casualties--millions--it actually made the huge American Civil War, which was going on during part of it, look like a social tea dance!

Today in China it is seen as a step towards liberation from Western colonial rule, which its hard to argue with. An American southerner named Frederick Townsend Ward ran an mercenary force called The Ever Victorious Army to safeguard the foreign settlement in Shangai, as an ally of the Manchu government. He was so successful that might have become the first Caucasian Emperor of China at one point, having married into a Chinese merchant family. After his death in combat, his force was taken over by by a then obscure British officer later known as 'Chinese' Gordon; he of later Khartoum fame.

[I]You can't make this stuff up! Who or what are some of your own favorites?[/I]

Last edited by chas; December 20th, 2014 at 08:14 AM.
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Old December 20th, 2014, 03:38 PM
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Re: History

The Crew of Old 666
Jay Zeamer put together a bomber crew full of smartasses and took off in a plane designed to spit flaming lead in every direction.
By 1943, Jay Zeamer had assembled the "Dirty Dozen" of the Army Air Corps in the Pacific: a bomber crew full of outcasts, renegades, screwballs and smartasses whom no other bomber crews wanted. As a result, they were stuck at the bottom of the list for a new B-17 to fly. And pilots, like teenagers, hate nothing more than being grounded.
But since God loves irony, he tossed them a bone in the form of Old 666, a worn-out B-17 no other crew wanted, because every time it went up, it came back looking like a dragon had tried to violently mate with it in midair (the name came from the last three digits of the tail number, so it wasn't a badass nickname -- it was the curse it was born with). So Zeamer and his crew took the demon bomber and put as many machine guns on her as they possibly could, letting them litter the length of the bomber (just in case they ran out), and even rigging a .50 caliber in the nose so Zeamer could fire it like a fighter pilot.
Once they had their Flying Death Fortress armed to the teeth and gums, they started taking the missions nobody else wanted, namely reconnaissance flights (earning them the nickname "the Eager Beavers"). Now, the Japanese were not very keen on people taking photos of them from on high, so they usually sent up their fighters to forcefully invite people down for a closer view. And on June 16th, 1943, they sent one of their invitations to the crew of Old 666 with 17 fighter planes.
What followed was a 45-minute dogfight (keep in mind, most dogfights of World War II lasted a minute at most) between a lone B-17 and a squadron's worth of Japanese fighters. It should be noted that the B-17 has all of the maneuverability of a living room couch, yet Zeamer and his crew took on the fighters while still doing their recon work for an upcoming troop landing.

Zeamer wound up taking shrapnel through his arms, legs, and wrists (y'know, those three vital things that help you control an airplane). His bombardier/forward gunner Joseph Sarnoski took shrapnel through his abdomen and started bleeding to death, so that meant the forward guns were down. And to complete the whole nightmare, the rudder, hydraulic systems, and oxygen systems were shot to hell as well. Since they were cruising at an altitude of close to 24,000 feet, breathing was going to become difficult very quickly.

So Zeamer, still bleeding heavily, took his plane down three freaking miles in the space of 40 seconds, before he started ducking and dodging the Japanese fighters in maneuvers that the B-17 was never designed for. The Japanese only left when their planes were running out of fuel.
By the time they made it back to base, the men of Old 666 had lost Sarnoski, but had cost the Japanese at least five planes (Zeamer even managed to shoot down one of the fighters himself, using his nose gun), in addition to completing their mission for the landing. The bleeding and half-conscious Zeamer then piloted the bullet-riddled plane 600 miles to a safe landing, at which point he passed out. He actually heard the medics say, "Get the pilot last, he's dead," but was too weak to even speak up to correct them. He was still in the hospital when he got the call that he'd won the Congressional Medal of Honor (alongside the deceased Sarnoski).

It all goes to show that, in fact, you cannot have too many guns on your plane.

From Cracked: Check out four other accounts of incredible soldiers here.

A cloud can change its semblance, yet retain its will
With the intimacy of destruction, One knows what it is to be alive
The empty sky holds no reflection, for sorrow
- Eslo Rudkey
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Old December 20th, 2014, 08:47 PM
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Re: History

How about this one: The last widow of an American Civil War veteran died in 2004. You can google that one for more information.

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Old January 3rd, 2015, 02:06 PM
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Re: History

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grishnakh View Post
How about this one: The last widow of an American Civil War veteran died in 2004. You can google that one for more information.
2008 actually

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Old January 3rd, 2015, 03:50 PM
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Grishnakh Grishnakh is offline
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Re: History

Sorry, you are correct. The fact that's really interesting, at least to me, was the last surviving veteran of the American Civil War passed away the year after I was born. I always say that conflict really was not that long ago in the broader since.

As a side note I just recently discovered that I had a relative that fought for the Union. Growing up in Kentucky I was never certain what side my ancestors landed on.

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