Due to Lack of Interest, World War III was Canceled

If you’re 35 years old or more, you remember those fear-filled times of the Cold War era, how we expected some incident would turn the Cold War into a hot war between the United States and the Soviet Union.  When do you think the two superpowers came closest to duking it out (or should I say “nuking it out”)?  Was it during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962?  Was it with a war involving proxies of the superpowers, like in Korea or Vietnam?

Early this year I learned that one of World War II’s biggest heroes, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, had a plan to launch World War III between VE Day and VJ Day; in other words, he wanted to start it before World War II was over!  Anyway, I did a little homework and composed a new section for Chapter 17 of my European history papers, to cover this crisis.  Here is what I wrote, it now begins the chapter:

The wartime partnership between the USSR and the other Allied nations had always been an uneasy one. Britain and the United States remembered Joseph Stalin’s prewar behavior, and were always suspicious of Soviet secrecy; they gave detailed data on strategy and weapons to Moscow, but got little information in return. Stalin didn’t trust the West either, and expected the USSR to become the target of a capitalist invasion once the Axis was out of the way. Thus, when an Allied victory became a certainty, East-West relations started unraveling. As early as the Tehran conference (September 1943), Winston Churchill confided to one of his staff that he considered Germany already finished; "the real problem now is Russia." At the February 1945 Yalta Conference, Stalin promised to allow free governments in the nations Soviet troops entered, but afterwards did not do so. On April 1, 1945, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a telegram to Stalin protesting the violation of Yalta pledges.

That was all Roosevelt did because of his death eleven days later. In London, Churchill was growing alarmed because as the war wound down, the USSR was much stronger, and the British Empire was weaker, than he had expected. The Red Army had already occupied seven East European countries and part of Austria, so Churchill thought the American decision to leave all of Germany east of the Elbe River to the Red Army was a mistake. He could also see what was happening in Poland, where all of the current Polish leaders and partisans were communists; the rest had just disappeared. Obviously, Stalin had his own view on what the postwar world should look like, and it was a different view from that of Roosevelt and Churchill. All this prompted Churchill to send a long message of protest to Stalin in May, which concluded with this comment:

"There is not much comfort in looking into a future where you and the countries you dominate . . . are all on one side, and those who rally to the English-speaking nations . . . are on the other . . . their quarrel would tear the world to pieces."

Meanwhile, Churchill ordered Britain’s generals to prepare for the next war, immediately after World War II; they should now consider ways to "impose upon Russia the will of the United States and the British Empire" to secure "a square deal for Poland." This meant at a minimum, preemptive strikes on Red Army units in Germany and Poland, and a possible grand offensive to drive the Russians back to the USSR. July 1, 1945 was picked as the earliest date for the operation to begin.

The plan was called "Operation Unthinkable," and that turned out to be an appropriate name, for only Churchill thought it had any chance of succeeding. This was because the Soviets had a tremendous military advantage in Europe. In 1945 the Red Army numbered 11 million men, a 4:1 advantage over the troops of the Western Allies (the United States, Britain, France and Canada); Russian tanks also outnumbered Western tanks by 2 to 1, and to top it off, the Russians had more warplanes. To help even the odds, Churchill proposed re-arming 100,000 captured German soldiers, and enlisting them in a new pro-Western army; four Polish divisions were also available. In addition, Churchill knew the United States was researching nuclear weapons, and he figured that using them against the Soviet Union would give the Western Allies the firepower they needed to win.

Reality killed the plan before it got off the ground. To start with, Soviet spies informed Stalin that Churchill was up to something, and Stalin alerted his top general, Marshal Georgi Zhukov, so there was no way the attack could take the Soviets by surprise, like Hitler’s attack from four years earlier. Second, the British Chiefs of Staff told Churchill that they thought the numbers against them were too great to overcome, and they didn’t think the Germans, full of memories of eastern front battles like Stalingrad, would be willing to fight the Russians again. Third, on the other side of the world the United States was fighting the battle of Okinawa, and with a possible invasion of Japan coming up, the Americans didn’t want to keep their troops in Europe. As for the nukes, the Americans ended up building three atomic bombs; one was used for the July 16 test at Alamogordo, New Mexico, and the other two were dropped on Japan to make the Japanese surrender without invading their home islands. If any of those bombs had been used against the USSR instead, the end of the Pacific War would have come much later than it did.

Fourth, the Western generals had their doubts that even atomic bombs dropped on cities like Moscow would stop the Soviets. After all, the Red Army had taken everything the Germans had thrown at it, and like the Incredible Hulk, it came back stronger and more enraged than before. And if the Allies had to invade the USSR to teach the Russians a lesson, they would be up against Russia’s formidable natural defenses: winter, wide rivers that are only easy to cross when frozen over, and almost endless tracts of land, much of it mud. Nobody could guarantee that the Allies would fare better against those defenses than Charles XII of Sweden, Napoleon, and Hitler had done.

In all likelihood, if Operation Unthinkable had been launched, the Soviets would have taken their blows until they got a chance to inflict a crushing defeat on the Allies, and then they would charge across the European Continent, at least as far as France. The English Channel would stop them from invading the British Isles, but they could still hit Britain’s cities with fearsome bomber and rocket attacks. When the new US president, Harry Truman, heard about the plan, he made it clear that he would not allow American forces to take part in a new war against the Soviet Union. Without the Yanks on his side, even Churchill realized the plan was doomed to fail, and not long after that, he was voted out of office and replaced with a less hawkish prime minister, Clement Atlee. Operation Unthinkable was declared a military secret and filed away; it did not become common knowledge until it was declassified in 1998.

Throughout the period covered by this chapter, people feared that a politician or general would do something that would cause a devastating war between the world’s capitalist and communist nations, and that would be the end of Western civilization. Especially if nuclear weapons were used. Well, now we know there was a plan for World War III at the start, but it was immediately rejected as unwinnable, leaving bad East-West feelings that would last throughout the Cold War era.

Back in 1898, when Churchill was a young army officer and a colleague of his was fatally wounded, he said, "War, disguise it as you may, is but a dirty, shoddy business which only a fool would undertake." Nearly half a century later, those same words would apply to himself. He was one of the first to see that nothing good would come from the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, but now it would be the job of others to do something about it.

Source:  http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/europe/eu17.html#Unthinkable

Two Slave Revolts

As you can see from the previous entry, I am still finding tidbits of information for my Latin American history papers that are too good to ignore, stuff that should have gone in when I composed the manuscripts between 2010 and 2014, but I am only learning about them now.  Well, better late than never, as the saying goes.  And now that these items are in the documents, if I do a major rewrite at a later date, they will not be forgotten or left out unintentionally.  This time I learned about two slave revolts from Latin America’s colonial history, and would you believe that one of them succeeded?  One of the ongoing trends of history I have noticed is that when slaves spontaneously revolt, they are almost always doomed to fail.  It doesn’t matter where or when the site of the rebellion is; chances are the master’s guards or troops have better weapons, and better training.  Until now, the only successful slave revolts I could think of were the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt (of course they had God on their side!), and Toussaint L’Overture’s revolt that created the nation of Haiti.

Anyway, the only decent place I could find for the first revolt was in footnote #52 of Chapter 2.  Here is how it reads now:

One group of slaves in Mexico gained their freedom even before the Spanish Empire stopped growing. In 1570 a slave named Gaspar Yanga launched an uprising at a sugarcane plantation near Veracruz; he and the escaped slaves who followed him fled inland, and founded a community in the mountains, naming it San Lorenzo de los Negros. Because of the community’s isolation, they were able to live unmolested for nearly forty years, and other escaped slaves came to join them. During this time, they made ends meet either by farming, or by raiding the Spanish supply convoys traveling between Veracruz and Mexico City. In 1609 the viceroy of New Spain dispatched 550 soldiers to stop the raids and secure this area. Opposing them was a roughly equal-sized force, of which only 100 had guns, but they knew the local terrain far better than the Spaniards did. As a result, the Spaniards burned the town, but they could not catch the blacks who fled into the countryside. After years of this stalemate, the Spaniards agreed to negotiate, and in 1618 they signed a treaty, which allowed the first free black community in the Americas to exist with Yanga’s family in charge of it, provided it returned any escaped slaves who went there in the future. The town was rebuilt in 1630, under the name of San Lorenzo de los Negros de Cerralvo; today it is called simply Yanga.

The other revolt occurred in Jamaica in 1831, so that puts it right at the beginning of the period covered by Chapter 4.  Since I don’t have anything else to say about Jamaica during this period, I put the revolt in the section covering the nearest British colony, Belize.  This story does not have a happy ending, but we now believe it hastened the end of slavery in the British Empire, so some good came out of it.  Also, I heard once that the reggae song “96 Degrees in the Shade,” by Third World, is about a failed revolt on Jamaica before independence came came; perhaps it is this one.  I have added it to the narrative as follows:

At the beginning of this period, Jamaica saw the worst revolt in the history of the British West Indies. Today it is often called the Baptist War because the leader, Samuel Sharpe, was both a slave and a Baptist pastor; alternate names include the Christmas Rebellion and the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt. At first the slaves, encouraged by the Abolitionist movement in the mother country, staged a peaceful protest; on Christmas Day of 1831, 60,000 of Jamaica’s 300,000 slaves went on strike, promising they would not return to work until they were given freedom and a working wage of "half the going wage rate." It did not stay peaceful for long, though. Rumors that the British would break the strike with armed men prompted the slaves to burn and loot their plantations, and because the strike had turned into a rebellion, soldiers were called in to restore order, meaning the rumors had come true. On January 4, 1832, ten days after the uprising had started, it was over. An estimated 207 slaves and 14 whites were killed, while property damage was estimated at more than £1.1 million (probably £54 million today, or $82 million). The aftermath was even bloodier, as more than 300 slaves, including Sharpe, were hanged. Some of the executions were for trivial crimes; we have reports that one execution was the penalty for stealing a pig, another for stealing a cow. Though the revolt was a failure, it is now credited with speeding up the emancipation process, by convincing the British that they could not keep their slaves in chains forever. One year later, slavery was formally abolished in Great Britain, and the process of freeing the slaves in the colonies soon followed.

The Real Zorro Was a Woman

Also, she lived in the middle of Mexico, not California, and her preferred blade was a machete, rather than an epee or rapier.  Aside from that, I think the similarities outweigh the differences, so this story is an example of how closely truth can mirror fiction.

Anyway, I heard this a few months ago, while working on the project in my previous message.  Since it happened right after the Franco-Mexican War, which I wrote about in 2012, I added it to that section, in Chapter 4 of my Latin American history series.  It goes like this:

Before we move on to the next section, there is one more story that Mexicans like to tell. Leonarda Emilia (1842-73) was a young woman from the state of Querétaro, and during the recent war, she fell in love with a French soldier. Unlike the rest of the French, this soldier chose to stay in Mexico; we don’t know whether it was for Leonarda or because he believed in the cause of Emperor Maximilian. Consequently he was also captured and sentenced to death. Leonarda sent letters pleading that her boyfriend be spared, but he was shot anyway.

To get revenge, Leonarda turned herself into a female bandit, La Carambada, meaning "The Amazing Lady." The name was fitting, because she was great at riding horses, and could use a pistol and a machete effectively. In this way she became the leader of an outlaw band, and went on a crime spree from 1870 to 1873, mainly robbing travelers in Querétaro and Guanajuato, but also killing corrupt officials, and shooting at government troops when she got the opportunity. A ballad composed about La Carambada later on claimed that like Robin Hood, she stole from the rich and gave to the poor. And while her uniform of choice was baggy men’s clothing, she liked to flash her breasts at her male victims after robbing them, so they would know they had been bested by a woman. In the macho culture of nineteenth-century Latin America, that really hurt. Finally, there is a rumor that she poisoned both President Juarez and Querétaro Governor Benito Zenea.

We can ignore the poisoning bit, because Juarez was already in poor health from a stroke he had nearly two years before his death, while Zenea lived until 1875, two years after the game ended for La Carambada. As for her, she was caught in a shootout; hit by five bullets, she was then taken to a hospital for the official autopsy. When it discovered that La Carambada was not dead yet, a priest was brought in, and she confessed her story before dying from the gunshot wounds. However, the priest did not do anything with the story after writing it down, probably because as I said above, this was a macho culture. If the padre had lived more recently, you know he would have tried turning the story into a novel or a movie script.  And the movie would probably have Catherine Zeta-Jones in the leading role, instead of Antonio Banderas.