A number of very significant things happened in the last half of November. A better understanding of Shell Shock, which we now call PTSD, was explained by the British Army. The biggest was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor leading to our entry into WWII. And former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain was dug out of a hole and captured.
Legend has it that on the night of 2 Dec 1777, Philadelphia housewife and nurse Lydia Darragh single-handedly saved the lives of General George Washington and his Continental Army when she overheard the British planning a surprise attack on Washington’s army for the following day. During the occupation of Philadelphia, British General William Howe stationed his headquarters across the street from the Darragh home, and when Howe’s headquarters proved too small to hold meetings, he commandeered a large upstairs room in the Darraghs’ house. Although uncorroborated, family legend holds that Mrs. Darragh would eavesdrop and take notes on the British meetings from an adjoining room and conceal the notes by sewing them into her coat before passing them onto American troops stationed outside the city. On the evening of December 2, 1777, Darragh overheard the British commanders planning a surprise attack on Washington’s army at Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania, for December 4 and 5. Using a cover story that she needed to buy flour from a nearby mill just outside the British line, Darragh passed the information to an American officer the next day. The British marched towards Whitemarsh on the evening of December 4 and found the Continental Army waiting for them. After three days of skirmishing, Howe returned his troops to Philadelphia.
It is said that members of the Central Intelligence Agency still tell the story of Lydia Darragh, one of the first spies in American history.
On 4 Dec 1917, during WWI, well-known psychiatrist W.H. Rivers presented his report The Repression of War Experience, based on his work at Britain s Craiglockhart War Hospital. Craiglockhart was one of the most famous hospitals treating soldiers who suffered from psychological traumas as a result of their service on the battlefield. By the end of WWI, the army had dealt with 80,000 cases of “shell shock,” a term first used in 1917 by medical officer Charles Myers to describe the physical damage done to soldiers on the front lines during exposure to heavy bombardment. It was soon clear, however, that the various symptoms including debilitating anxiety, persistent nightmares, and physical afflictions ranging from diarrhea to loss of sight were appearing even in soldiers who had never been directly under bombardment, and the meaning of the term was broadened to include the physical and the psychological effects produced by the experience of combat. The most important duty of doctors like Rivers, as prescribed by the British army, was to get the men fit and ready to return to battle. Nevertheless, only one-fifth of the men treated in hospitals for shell shock ever resumed military duty.
On 6 Dec 1941, the day before Pearl Harbor Day, President Roosevelt—convinced by intelligence reports that the Japanese fleet was headed for Thailand—telegraphed Emperor Hirohito with the request that “for the sake of humanity,” the emperor intervene “to prevent
further death and destruction in the world.” Meanwhile, 600 miles northwest of Hawaii, Admiral Yamamoto, commander of the Japanese fleet, announced to his men: “The rise or fall of the empire depends upon this battle. Everyone will do his duty with utmost efforts.” Thailand was a bluff. Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was confirmed for Yamamoto as the Japanese target, after the Japanese consul in Hawaii had reported to Tokyo that a significant portion of our Pacific fleet would be anchored in the harbor—sitting ducks.
On Sunday, 7 Dec 1941, at 7:55 am Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appeared out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against our Pacific fleet.
Much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless: Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and over 200 aircraft destroyed. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded. Japan’s losses were some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men. Fortunately for the US, all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea on training maneuvers.
On 7 Dec 1941, Admiral Chester Nimitz was in Washington DC when he got a call from President Franklin Roosevelt. Nimitz was told he was now the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.
Nimitz flew to Hawaii, landing on Christmas Eve. He found a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat. On Christmas Day, Nimitz took a boat tour of the destruction on Pearl Harbor. Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters. As his boat returned to dock, the young boat’s helmsman asked, “Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction? Nimitz’s reply shocked everyone. He said, “The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?” Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, “What do mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?”
Nimitz explained. Mistake number ONE: they attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk–we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.
Mistake number TWO: when the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow everyone of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America . And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.
Mistake number THREE: every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater is in top of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply.
That’s why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make, or God was taking care of America.
On 8 Dec 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt requested, and received, a declaration of war against Japan. He then addressed the nation on radio. “Yesterday,” he proclaimed, “December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. No matter how long it may
take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”
On 8 Dec 1966, the International Red Cross announced in Geneva that North Vietnam had rejected a proposal by President Johnson for a resolution of the prisoner of war situation. He had proposed a joint discussion of fair treatment and possible exchange of war captives held by both sides. The International Red Cross submitted the proposal to North Vietnamese officials in July after Johnson first broached the plan on July 20 at a news conference. No solution was reached on the issue until the Paris Peace Accords were signed in January 1973. By the terms of the accords, all US prisoners were to be released by the following March.
On 10 Dec 1864, during the Civil War, Union General William T. Sherman completed his “March to the Sea” arriving in front of Savannah, Georgia. Since mid-November, Sherman’s army had been sweeping from Atlanta across the state to the south and east towards Savannah, one of the last Confederate seaports still unoccupied by Union forces. Along the way, Sherman destroyed farms and railroads, burned storehouses, and fed his army off the land. In his own words, Sherman intended to “make Georgia howl,” a plan that was approved by President Lincoln and Ulysses Grant, general-in-chief of the Union armies.
On 11 Dec 1941, Adolf Hitler declared war on the US, bringing America, which had been neutral, into the European conflict. The bombing of Pearl Harbor surprised even Germany. Although Hitler had made an oral agreement with his Axis partner Japan that Germany would join a war against the US, he was uncertain as to how the war would be engaged. Hitler was now convinced the US would soon declare war on Germany. Our Navy was already attacking German U-boats, and Hitler despised Roosevelt for his repeated verbal attacks against his Nazi ideology. He also believed that Japan was much stronger than it was, that once it had defeated the US, it would turn and help Germany defeat Russia. So, at 3:30 pm (Berlin time) on 11 Dec, the German representative in Washington handed American Secretary of State Cordell Hull a copy of the declaration of war.
On 12 Dec 1950, during the Korean War, the 1st Marine Division closed into Hungnam having cut its way through six Chinese divisions, killing approximately 20,000 of the enemy, on the way to the sea from Chosin/Changjin Reservoir. Legend has it that the division commander, Major General O. P. Smith, supposedly characterized the operation with, “Retreat? Hell, we’re just attacking in a different direction!”
On 13 Dec 2003, after spending nine months on the run, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was captured; he was hiding in a hole in the ground. Saddam’s downfall began on March 20, 2003, when we led an invasion force into Iraq to topple his government, which had controlled the country for more than 20 years.
~ Humor/Puns ~
Some Dad jokes:
- It’s inappropriate to make a ‘dad joke’ if you’re not a dad. It’s a faux pa.
- Did you hear about the circus fire? It was in tents.
- Can February March? No, but April May!
- How can you tell it’s a dogwood tree? From the bark.
- How do lawyers say goodbye? We’ll be suing ya!
- Wanna hear a joke about paper? Never mind—it’s tearable.
- What’s the best way to watch a fly fishing tournament? Live stream.
- I could tell a joke about pizza, but it’s a little cheesy.
- Don’t trust atoms. They make up everything!
- When does a joke become a dad joke? When it becomes apparent.
- I wouldn’t buy anything with velcro. It’s a total rip-off
The Frontlines of Freedom Newsletter is published twice monthly; the dates of publication each month depend on the events and history of that month.