NOVEMBER 17 = The Suez Canal Opens

The Suez Canal, connecting the Mediterranean and the Red seas, was opened on today’s date, November 17, in 1869 in a lavish ceremony that was attended by France’s Emperor Napoleon III and his wife, the Empress Eugenie.  The Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level (there are no locks as with the Panama Canal built later) waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. And because it greatly reduced the time of travel form Europe to the Indian Ocean, it became a major strategic prize in international politics.

Building the Suez Canal

This entire area was officially under the control or the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, so Ferdinand de Lesseps, the former French consul to Cairo completed an agreement with the Ottoman Governor of Egypt to construct a canal across the Isthmus of Suez in 1854. M. de Lesseps assembled an international team off  engineering experts to come up with a plan to build the Canal and this became the Suez Canal Company which was granted the rights to operate the canal for 99 years. Work began in April of 1859, but it was a slow going at first as it was done by forced laborers wielding tools no more sophisticated than picks and shovels. Soon enough however the futile slowness of this became obvious. So European laborers with powerful earth moving machines such as steam shovels and dredgers were brought in and the work picked up speed. There were still problems; a cholera epidemic broke out, and there were also labor disputes. As a result the  final opening came two years later than planned.

The Grande Celebration!

The completion of the Suez Canal was an occasion for huge celebrations. The spectacular began in Port Said with a grand ball attended by numerous heads of state such the Louis Napoleon and his beautiful wife, the Empress Eugenie, the Emperor of Austria, Edward Prince of Wales representing the British.  The British never stopped

casting covetous eyes upon the canal as their government considered it an easy way to the very Jewell of the British Empire – India. Also present were the Princes of Prussia and the Netherlands. There 6,000 people in attendance at this party to end all parties, who watched the fireworks display. There was a pair of columns of ships entering the new canal from the southern and northern points and met at Ismailia wherein a new opera house was opened, and the parties went on for weeks after.

 The Canal Since the Parties Ended….

At it’s beginning, the canal was merely 25 ft. deep, 73 feet wide at its bottom, and had a surface area of 200 to 300 feet wide. With such a shallow draft, the canal could only handle limited traffic. Thus only 500 ships were able to use it during its first year of service. However the significant improvements that were made in 1876 made it a very busy waterway indeed.  In 1875, Great Britain became the largest shareholder in the Suez Canal Company when it bought up the stock of the new Ottoman governor of Egypt, Said Pasha, some 4,000 pounds sterling. Seven years later, in 1882, Britain invaded Egypt, beginning a long occupation of the country. The Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936 made Egypt virtually independent, But Britain considered the canal to be of vital interest in maintaining their worldwide Empire. So the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 left the Brits in charge of a defensive force along the canal zone. After W.W.II, Egypt, lead by their President Gamal Abdel Nasser pressed for the foreign forces to leave and wound up nationalizing the canal. A military attempt by Britain, France and Israel to take the canal back by force was forced out by international pressure.  Since then the canal has been open to worldwide commerce. In 2012, 17,225 ships moved through it; about 47 ships per day.


OCTOBER 27 = Theodore Roosevelt is Born

On today’s date – October 27 in 1858 – Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was born in New York City, the second of four children to Martha Stewart “Mittie” Bulloch and businessman Theodore Roosevelt Sr.  And which of the man’s many achievements can one point to as being his greatest? Well he served as the 25’th President of the United States (1901 -1909). He served as Governor of  the state of New York, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, Soldier and leader of the “Rough Riders” – his regiment during the Spanish American War,  the nation’s leading conservationist, he was a published author on wildlife, and history; the list could go on for several more paragraphs. A man of tremendous energy, yet by the end of his life he died a man who was sad. The portrait of him by the great painter John Singer Sargent (above) shows a sort of wistful look in the man’s eye, and was said by those who knew him as being the painting which captured T.R. the best. He once wrote that “Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough.” Had “Black care” finally caught up with him by the end?

Previous posts about Theodore Roosevelt

If you’ve been a regular reader of “Today in History” then you have long

since discovered what a singular figure he is and how much I like writing about him.  But just for the record, here are four previous posts I’ve done on this man:

JANUARY 11 = T.R. Makes the Grand Canyon a National Monument

FEBRUARY 14 = T.R.’s Tragic Day

OCTOBER 14 = T.R. is Shot!!

NOVEMBER 5 = Election DAAAZE!!!

Between them I’ve covered much of T.R.’s political and personal life. But in spite his many successes, tragedy seemed to stalk him in much of his life. The death of his beloved father in 1878 while he was away at school was a crushing blow. But T.R. had to deal with many other tragedies in his life.  This began with the death of his mother, Mittie, and his young wife Alice, coming like two incredible hammer blows one after the other on the same day in 1884.  “He does not know what he does or says” his sister wrote of his grief-stricken state at he time. Had “Black care” finally caught up with him?  Not surprisingly he

sought to out-run it, retreating into the Badlands North Dakota. They were called the “Badlands” because they looked grim and desolate, much like  he felt at the time. Here he spent two years as a cowboy. He bought himself a cowboy outfit custom-made for him at Tiffany’s in New York (above). At first the real cowboys he encountered made light of his Eastern appearance and way of talking.  But he eventually won their respect by going out on round-ups and braving all of the same harsh conditions of freezing snow or blistering heat that they did. But soon he returned, remarried, and had a large and adoring family.

Colonel of the “Rough Riders” and Governor of N.Y.

In the New York State Legislature he became one of the leaders of the progressive movement within the Republican Party and was therefore something of a thorn in the side of the “Establishment” as it would be called nowadays.  When William McKinley was elected President of the United States, he appointed T.R. as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. But when war broke out with Spain over Cuba and the

Philippines, he promptly resigned his post and raised a regiment to go and fight in Cuba (above) as Colonel of the “Rough Riders”. With their brave charge up San Juan Hill, T.R. became the most famous man in America.  And he returned to such great acclaim that he was elected Governor of New York. But the establishment party bosses didn’t like his progressive political ways – seeking out corruption, supporting child labor laws, and they wanted to get rid of him.

President and Former President

So Republican Party Boss Mark Hanna arranged to have T.R. kicked upstairs into the safe oblivion of the Vice Presidency.  But often the best-laid plans can go terribly astray.  And in this case they certainly did as McKinley wound up getting assassinated ( ). And “that damned cowboy” as Boss Platt derisively called him took over as the new President!!

T.R.’s reformist policies, breaking up big financial and commercial monopolies – particularly Standard Oil and the railroads left the party bosses fuming, T.R. was nevertheless wildly popular with the voters, so he was resoundingly re-elected in 1904. But his hasty promise not to run again in 1908 left him a lame duck for four years.  But that didn’t stop him from setting aside huge amounts of America’s wilderness and wildlife areas as National Parks and wildlife refuges. And this he did to the vast irritation of the rich men who wanted to develop these areas

for logging, and tourist attractions. Ultimately though, he was obliged by his promise not to run again to hand over the office of President to his large friend William Howard Taft (right). But Taft did not continue T.R.’s reforming ways. This resulted in a split between the two, with T.R. running for the Republican nomination for President. But the party bosses kept the nomination from him.  So T.R. angrily formed a new party to run against Taft AND the Democratic nominee, Woodrow Wilson, thus handing the prize to Wilson.

World War I Takes its Toll

I have already detailed in “T.R.. is Shot” (listed above) how there are some who believe that T.R.. had actually hoped to die from the would-be assassin’s bullet during the 1912 campaign. Indeed, some of the things he said about it left the impression that “Black care” was catching up with T.R.. When World War One broke out in August of 1914 and America was finally drawn in April 1917 Roosevelt’s sons joined the fight. All had done well but his youngest son Quentin who had gone into the Air Service was shot down on  July 14, 1918. It was the blow that broke his heart. Here was a man who from his days as Colonel of “the Rough Riders” had spoken of war as this great moment for a man to prove himself and be heroic, and had clearly passed that along to his sons, now felt partly responsible for his youngest son’s death. He wrote privately: “To feel that one has inspired a boy to conduct that has resulted in his death has  a pretty serious side for a father.” And sure enough, on January 6, 1919, less than six months after Quentin’s death, Theodore Roosevelt died in his sleep. “Black care” had finally caught up with him.

Sources =

“The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt” by Stefan Lorant, Doubleday & Co. Inc. Garden City, New York, 1959

“T.R.” – the American Experience, Prod. & Dir. by David Grubin, Written by David Grubin and Geoffrey C. Ward. PBS Home Video, 1996.

OCTOBER 13 = The U.S. Navy is Born

The United States Navy was given it’s “birth certificate” on today’s date, October 13 in 1775 by an act of the Continental Congress. Thus, today is the official birthday of the U.S. Navy,

The Need For a Navy

Commerce was a matter of prime importance to Americans who resided and made their living off of the coastal waterways of New England in the fall of 1775.  The fortunes and livelihoods of these men were tied directly to the sea. And thus the idea of a war with the most powerful fleet in the world (the British Navy) must have filled them with dread. So the matter of naval defense was naturally uppermost in their minds when the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in the fall of 1775 (above). Afterall, Congress had created an army to fight the Red Coated British Army.  Why not a naval force of some kind?

The Continental Congress Debates the Idea

The proposal was introduced on October 3, and found many influential Congressmen very strongly opposed to the idea.  Edward Rutledge of

South Carolina (above) denounced the proposal as “the most wild, visionary mad project that ever had been imagined.” Mr. Rutledge was further convinced that this idea would warp the minds of the sailors, essentially turning them into a pack of  Buccaneers: “it would ruin the character, and corrupt the morals of all our Seamen . . . [making] them selfish, piratical, mercenary, [and] bent wholly on plunder.” Samuel Chase of Maryland was certain that the construction of a Navy would bring financial ruin and bankrupt the continent.  it was “the maddest idea in the world,” But the navy was supported by one of the most effective speakers in the Congress: John Adams. Adams (below)

and his fellow “navalists” centered in on the possible benefits of having a navy “distressing the enemy” as well as creating a  “a system of maritime and naval operations” to defend the American ports against wholesale British Naval attacks at will. In the end Adams and his allies won the argument, and on this day of October 13 passed the following resolution:

“Resolved, That a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted, with all possible despatch, for a cruise of three months, and that the commander be instructed to cruize eastward, for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes as the Congress shall direct.”

“Resolved, That a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted, with all possible despatch, for a cruise of three months, and that the commander be instructed to cruize eastward, for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes as the Congress shall direct.”

Thus with the navy formally organized on Dec. 22, one Esek Hopkins was named the first Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy.  Hopkins didn’t prove to be a very good C. in C.; “a strawman admiral” in the words of some of his contemporaries.  But there were other stronger and substantial men waiting in the wings to take the lead when there was real fighting to be done; men such as Capt. John Barry, and Lt. John Paul Jones. It was a small group of twenty or so ships, mostly converted from merchant service.  But they did their jobs bravely (see “I HAVE NOT YET BEGUN TO FIGHT!!” And thus from such humble beginnings arose what would eventually the most powerful navy in the world.

Sources =

“Picture History of the United States Navy” by Theodore Roscoe & Fred Freeman

Bonanza Books, New York, 1956.

OCTOBER 10 = The “Great Hurricane” off 1780

“At Barbados, where the cyclone had commenced it’s terrible spiral, the wind was unchained with such fury, that the inhabitants hiding in their cellars did not hear their houses falling above their heads…” – Elisee’ Reclus

“… a dreadful hurricane which began to rage with great fury at noon and continue with great violence till four o’clock the next morning, the 11th; At eight o’clock at night St. Thomas’s parsonage was demolished and the church where the Rector and his family saought shelter began to fall about two hours after, the Chancel fell while the family were in the church … St. Thomas’s Chapel, St. Michael’s, St. George’s, Christ Church’s and St. Lucy’s churches were totally destroyed…”

– St. Thomas, Barbados, parish marriage registers, 1780

With all of the news recently of the terrible destruction wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, I thought it might bring some useful perspective to point out that there have been hurricanes which caused much greater loss of life back in the days before we gave hurricanes name designations.  In fact on today’s date, October 10 in 1780 a hurricane struck the West Indies that has the distinction of being the worst in history in terms of lives lost. What has become known a “the Great Hurricane of 1780” cost an estimated 20 to 22,000 lives.

The West Indies in 1780

The West Indies were a source of considerable riches for all of the great powers of Europe by the late 1700’s, as they were a rich source of spices and especially sugar.  So by the end of the American Revolution, both England and France had significant naval assets patrolling the waters of this region. But on the evening of Oct. 10 both navies were dealt a serious blow not from cannon fire, but from the hurricane which ravaged the entire area. The skies have been reported as having been orange that night before the hurricane hit at about 10:00. It raged on for eight days throughout the area, especially the island of Barbados, completely destroying it, leaving nary a tree nor a building still standing.

It then moved on to St. Lucia wherein the fleet of 12 ships of the British Navy under the command of Admiral George Radney had been anchored.  Eight of these warships were sunk with the loss of hundreds of sailors and soldiers (The area of the hurricane is in the map above). But the French got a worse hit than the Brits when a fleet of 40 ships were vanquished by the storm with a loss of 4,000 sailors &  soldiers sustained. Admiral Radney wrote of the destruction: “The strongest buildings and the whole of the houses, most of which were stone, and remarkable for their solidity, gave way to the fury of the wind, and were torn up to their foundations; all the forts destroyed, and many of the heavy cannon carried upwards of a hundred feet from the forts. Had I not been an eyewitness, nothing could have induced me to have believed it. More than six thousand persons perished, and all the inhabitants are entirely ruined.”

“A general convulsion of nature seemed to take place…”

“Whole families were buried in the ruins of their inhabitations; and many, in attempting to escape, were maimed and disabled.  A general convulsion of nature seemed to take place, and a universal destruction ensued. The strongest colours could not paint to your Lordship the miseries of the inhabitants: on the one hand, the ground covered with the mangled bodies of their friends and relations, on the other, reputable families, wandering through the ruins, seeking for food and shelter; in short, imagination can form but a faint idea of the horrors of this dreadful scene.”

– Maj. Gen. Vaughn. Comm. of British forces in the area.

On it’s path of devastation through the West Indies, the hurricane,

packing winds of up to 200 mph, killed over 20,000 people, maybe as many as 24,000, thus making the Great Hurricane of 1780 the deadliest hurricane in Atlantic hurricane history.

Sources =

“Darkest Hours – the Great Book of Worldwide Disasters” by J. Robert Nash, Wallaby Books, New York. 1976

SEPTEMBER 28 = Hitler’s Life Spared by Brit Soldier?

Out of the time-shrouded mists of a long ago war, one nearly forgotten by today’s generation comes a story which may or may not be true… it could be a kind of urban legend from history. Indeed the records to confirm it are pretty few. And mostly it relies on memory.  Nevertheless, it may be that on today’s date, September 28, in 1918 a British soldier might have had his gun on a German soldier, and let him go. And the soldiers name might have been Corporal Adolf Hitler!

What EXACTLY is Supposed to Have Happened?

Henry Tandy (above), a private in the British in the British army who came from Warwickshire, had served with great distinction and bravery all over the Western Front during World War One. He had fought at Ypres, and the Somme just to name two of the major battles in which Pvt. Tandy took part. He became the single most decorated Private in the British Army during W.W. I. In fact he went on to win the Victoria Cross… England’s highest military award. And this he earned

for “conspicuous bravery” displayed during the period from July to October 1918, when serving with the 5th Duke of Wellington Regiment.  At that time he took part in the successful British capture of the French village of Marcoing. During the later portion of the battle, when the Germans were in retreat, Tandy later reported that a weary German soldier came into Tandey’s gun sights. The German (above, Hitler, circa W.W. I) was wounded and did not even try raise his own rifle. Tandey chose not to shoot. “I took aim but couldn’t shoot a wounded man,” Tandey recalled, “so I let him go.” The German soldier saw him lowering his weapon and nodded his thanks before disappearing.

How Did it Become Known That This Might Have Been Hitler?

Ok. So a Brit soldier lets a German go in the midst of  a battle. How did it become known that this might have been Hitler? Well there are no sources to place Hitler’s whereabouts on that day, but an interesting link later developed. A newspaper article was published about Tandy’s being awarded the Victoria Cross in Oct., 1918.  Hitler saw this article, and recognizing the picture of Tandy as being the man who had spared him clipped the article and kept it. In 1923 an artist named Fortunino Matania did a painting of Tandy saving comrades at the Battle of Ypres in 1914. In 1937, when Hitler was der Fuehrer and in charge of Germany he was made aware of Mantania’s  painting and upon seeing a copy of the painting recognized the man in the painting as having been Tandy, from the newspaper article he had clipped and kept from 1918. Hitler ordered a copy of the painting and had it displayed at his alpine retreat, the Berghof,  A year later British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain came to the Berghof to make the infamous Munich Agreement (which he said would bring “peace in our time” but did nothing of the sort). Chamberlain saw the Mantania portrait and inquired about it. Hitler replied:

“That man came so near to killing me that I thought I should never see Germany again; Providence saved me from such devilishly accurate fire as those English boys were aiming at us.”

Hitler then asked Chamberlain to give his regards to Tandy so the story goes, and Chamberlain said he would. Whether or not he did so is unclear; accounts exist of a phone call that was answered by Tandy’s nephew William. But it has been reported that the Tandy residence did not have a phone. And there is no reference to Tandy among Chamberlain’s papers about the 1938 meeting.  Still Chamberlain must have told someone because the story got out in 1940 and has been talked about ever since.  Is it true? We may never know for sure. But it is certainly odd that of all people, Hitler should have mounted an image (below) depicting Allied heroism in his home. He must have recognized something…..

Sources =

SEPTEMBER 20 = Arthur Becomes Third POTUS in One Year

Our political system may seem VERY odd… especially this year with all off the unprecedented things going on with Donald Trump as President of the United States (POTUS). That statement is intended neither as a criticism nor an endorsement of Mr. Trump.  But it has been an odd year. Well things were even stranger back in 1881. Because it was on this date, September 20, 1881 that Chester Alan Arthur (above) a man who was hardly well known was inaugurated as POTUS. And he was the THIRD man to hold the office in that year.

Hayes to Garfield

The year 1881 began with Rutherford B. Hayes finishing his term.  Hayes had been elected under some very shady circumstances; it had come down to a tie back on election night in 1876 and several states were in dispute. Eventually the election was awarded to Hayes, who was thereafter called Rutherfraud B. Hayes in many quarters by bitter Democrats who felt that the election had been stolen from them.  Be that as it may, in an election that pitted the Ohio Republican James A. Garfield, a former Union General against another former Union general, Winfield Scott Hancock, Garfield managed to squeeze by Hancock by a mere 10,000 votes out of the nine million cast. Garfield had chosen as his running mate one Chester Alan Arthur a man who had held the lucrative and politically powerful post of Collector  of  the New York Customs House, which was where most of the nation’s trade profits were collected. Mr. Arthur had been known as a man who did the bidding of the political bosses.  Thus he was a man with a checkered reputation to say the least.  Senator Roscoe Conklin, the Republican Party Boss had gotten Arthur on the ticket to do his bidding.

And Then Garfield’s Gone…

Nevertheless, he was sworn in along with James Garfield on March 4, 1881 as President and Vice President respectively.  Garfield began with his own set of priorities including making the American dream available to people who had come up through struggle and hard work as he had done –including black citizens.  He also intended to deal with Civil Service reform, and among other things, putting the Republican Party Boss Roscoe Conklin in his place. But there was another man, one Charles J. Guiteau, who considered himself an important part of  the victory was in fact nothing of the sort. He had written a speech supporting Garfield for president, and got it printed by the Republican National Committee but could find no important platform from which to deliver it. And when he did find a chance to deliver it, he couldn’t finish it because he was so nervous. But

still Guiteau thought that he deserved some important position as a result of his “part” in Garfield’s victory. In fact, he felt that he should be made the U.S. Consul in Paris.  Never mind that he spoke nary a word of French, nor any other  language than English. Garfield like any POTUS had tons of mediocre men wanting federal appointments and he met with Guiteau.  But seeing Guiteau as just another office seeker (which he was), he turned him down. Guiteau was furious and mentally unbalanced. So he got a gun and on July 2, shot President Garfield at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, D.C. (above). Guiteau tried to leave the station, but was apprehended a few minutes later.

Garfield Dies Slowly, and Then It’s Arthur

Garfield’s death proved to  be a slow and painful one. This was mainly because the doctors did not  know how to treat the  wound. One bullet grazed his arm, but the  other hit him in the back, shattering a rib and was lodged in his abdomen.  But the doctors just didn’t know how to get at the bullet. Further his physician, Dr. Willard Bliss (below) did

not believe in what was then the new idea of germs, so he would not clean the wound. And the wound was slowly becoming more infected and poisoning the President’s blood. Although he seemed to rally a couple of times over the more than two and a half months of his confinement to a hospital bed, he never left that bed. He had spent all of his time since being wounded at the White House, but during his last few days he asked taken to Franklyn Cottage his little home on the new Jersey coast of the Atlantic ocean just to get away from Washington. His trip there in a special train was observed by shocked citizens who stood in reverent silence, throwing hay on the tracks to lighten any bumps. And it was there that he died on today’s date in 1881.

Thus Arthur became the third president to take office in 1881. At the start of his administration, Arthur had a tough time with his past as an old party hack from the New York Republican machine. But this Arthur was a different man than the old party hack he had once been. He actually summoned up the courage to face Boss Conklin down and pushed him aside. He wound up doing a good job in civil service reform. He sponsored and enforced the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. Guiteau was found guilty of  Garfield’s murder and was executed on June 3, 1882.

Actually, this came forty years after a previous year of three Presidents.  In 1841, Martin Van Buren’s term came to an end in March, and he was succeeded by William Henry Harrison. President Harrison

developed pneumonia, and died after a mere month in office (the shortest presidential term in history), and his Vice President, John Tyler became the third POTUS in that year.


“Presidential Campaigns” by Paul F. Boller Jr., Oxford University Press, New York, 1984.


JULY 27 = Korean War Armistice is Signed

The Korean War came to a complete if inconclusive end on today’s date, July 27 in 1953. The preamble to the treaty itself (the signing is pictured  above) makes that clear enough for all to see:

“The undersigned, the (all the belligerent states), in the interest of stopping the Korean conflict, with its great toil of suffering and bloodshed on both sides, and with the objective of establishing an armistice which will insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved, do individually, collectively, and mutually agree to accept and to be bound and governed by the conditions and terms of armistice set forth in the following articles and paragraphs…”

And that was it.  No formal surrender as the Germans had done at Reims in 1945, and no grand ceremony of complete surrender as the Japanese had delivered on the Battleship Missouri in Tokyo harbor, also in 1945. It was for the “… stopping the Korean conflict, with its great toil of suffering and bloodshed on both sides….” and that was it. The two sides had spent over three years beating each others brains out, and they both had had enough.

The Korean War and It’s Course

The Korean War had begun on June 25, 1950 when the Army of Communist North Korea suddenly and without provocation invaded the territory of Non-Communist South Korea in great numbers. This was a complete surprise to the western powers which supported a fee and independent government on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula.  Soon it became clear that the South Korean Army would not be capable of defending their territory without assistance from it’s western allies. In his thoughts about whether or not to intervene, U.S. President Harry Truman thought back the policy of appeasement which had ultimately lead to World War II: “If this was allowed to go unchallenged, it would mean a third world war, just as smaller incidents had brought on the second world war.” After debating the matter, the United Nations Security Council, June 27, 1950, published Resolution 83 which recommended member state military assistance to the Republic of Korea. This lead to armed forces from well over a dozen United Nations member states other than the U.S. and the Republic of Korea (ROK)  into combat operations against the communist forces which were supported militarily by the U.S.S.R.

The Fighting goes Up and Down Korea Until a Stalemate is Reached

The North Koreans smashed a path all the way to a small parcel of land known as the Pusan Perimeter. There the U.S./R.O.K. hung on by their fingernails until September 1950, when a surprise landing by the U.S. Marines under the command of General Douglas MacArthur far in the

rear of the North Korean lines broke the back of their offensive and forced them to withdraw deep into their won territory, all the way to the Chinese boarder.Then the Chinese attacked with over 30 Divisions in November and December of 1951, thus forcing the U.N. (United Nations) forces back to nearly the 39 parallel wherein the war began in the first place, Eventually Truman fired MacArthur on April 11, 1951, for insubordination over the war’s direction. The fighting and bloodshed went on until Dwyght Eisenhower took over as President.

Ike Goes to Korea, Changes Course…Slightly

All throughout the 1952 Presidential Campaign General Eisenhower (below, middle) had pledged that if elected he would go to Korea to see the

stalemate for himself. Thus when he became President in January of 1953 and saw that stalemate in person, he decided a new approach was needed.  He began allowing Nationalist Chinese forces from Taiwan to launch harassing air raids for their territory. He began leaning on the South Koreans to scale back on some of their demands.  And most importantly he began to publically hint that he might use the American nuclear advantage to break the stalemate in Korea. Whether or not Ike’s hint that he might nuke the north were serious (that would likely set off World War III) the new approach helped. By July 1954 the two sides had hammered out their differences and had an ARMISTICE treaty ready to go.  And this was signed by the belligerents at the village of Panmunjom.

ARMISTICE NOT a Peace Treaty

This is why I made such a point referring the end of the Korean War as being complete, but inconclusive. The combat has long since stopped, and we can all be thankful for that. But an “Armistice” refers just to a cessation of hostilities, not a formal state of peace brought about by thee surrender of one side to the other..  And an armistice is all we have with North Korea.  And whatever one can say about communism -vs- capitalism, one has only to look at the bright vibrant economy of the South Korea -vs- the misery, slavery, and “let’s threaten the world with nukes” attitude of the “Dear Leader” in charge of North Korea, to have a clear answer about whether the Korean War was worth he trouble. It CERTAINLY was!

Seoul, South Korea

  Pyongyang, North Korea



Sources =

“Truman” by David Mc Cullough, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1992.