The recent publication of Tim Bouverie’s, Appeasement: Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill and the Road to War, has fueled renewed interest in the reasons for the blunders of British diplomacy in the 1930s. The book has received deservedly high praise for the clarity of its analysis of appeasement’s consequences. Bouverie places the major responsibility for appeasement’s failure on Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who consistently underestimated and misread Hitler’s intentions. He also stresses the role played by many of the leading members of the British aristocracy, who saw Nazism as a bulwark against the threat of Communism.
A third theme, and one often downplayed by some historians, is the emergence of pacifist sentiment on the left in the 1920s after the terrible losses of the First World War. He notes that Britain lost 750,000 killed during that conflict, almost double British losses, civilian and military, in World War II. Bouverie believes that the left’s response to the threat from Nazism was paralyzed by pacifism. As late as the eve of World War II, the British Labor Party voted against all rearmament measures.
Bouverie’s study mirrors the arguments of the three key works that shaped our view of appeasement: Cato’s Guilty Men, Winston Churchill’s The Gathering Storm, and John Wheeler-Bennett’s Munich: Prologue to Tragedy. In an interesting commentary on how ideas move in modern society, all three books shaped the thesis that largely prevails today regarding appeasement.
Guilty Men appeared in July 1940 as Britain faced the greatest threat to its existence since the Norman Conquest. The Germans had overrun Holland and Belgium and defeated France in a campaign that lasted six weeks. Britain stood alone, confused about what had happened and baffled on what course to follow: fight on or enter negotiations with Hitler. Three journalists, Michael Foot, a Socialist, Frank Owen, a Liberal, and Peter Howard, a Conservative threw Guilty Men together in a matter of days. They singled out 15 men responsible for the crisis England faced. Foreign Secretaries Sir Samuel Hoare and Lord Halifax were blamed for the feebleness of British diplomacy in the 1930s. Military unpreparedness was laid at the foot of various Conservative ministers, including Sir Thomas Inskip, whose appointment they labeled the worst since Caligula named his horse a Senator. The real villain of their indictment, however, was Neville Chamberlain, whom they castigated for his betrayal of the Czechs at Munich. He was portrayed not just blind to the threat from Nazism but actually a Nazi sympathizer.
It’s August here in the Heart of Texas, and I’m staying indoors as much as possible. I bide my time by doing family stuff* and by reading excellent books. Here are 10 recommendations for you, from me and from your humble servants at RealClearHistory:
10. Subjects unto the Same King: Indians, English, and the Contest for Authority in Colonial New England by Jenny Hale Pulsipher. This is the book that shows how the Indians on the eastern seaboard of the United States competed with colonists for not only land and monopoly power in markets like the fur trade, but for the ear of the British monarchy. It turns out that the British policy of loaning out its legal institutions for use to peoples not under formal British jurisdiction was a great way to build an empire in a cost-effective manner.
9. Into the American Woods: Negotiations on the Pennsylvania Frontier by James Merrell. Another book about the bloody contest for control over the eastern seaboard, Merrell sets his sights on the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania rather than New England. The narrative of this book is frontier history and (mostly) informal diplomacy, but the focus is on individuals plucked from history and placed into context by a talented and passionate historian. This book has won prizes, and all of them are deserved.
8. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. This is the novel that earned Rushdie a fatwa from the Ayatollah of Iran. While all press is good press and Rushdie surely deserves the fame, it is almost a shame that Khomeini’s Shi’ite death warrant is what this story is famous for. The Satanic Verses brings to its reader a world that exists just underneath the surface of geopolitics and global headlines. Rushdie uses fiction to tell real stories about the Orient. In doing so, he humanizes the Middle East and South Asia. The founder of Islam, for example, becomes, in Rushdie’s loquacious prose, a character in a story that everybody can relate to. There are Sikh terrorists, Biblical angels, pre-Islamic polytheists, self-loathing Hindus, and subtly-crafted hosannas directed at the British imperial (and cosmopolitan) realm in this novel. The Satanic Verses is a good reminder that history without fiction is dry, and almost useless.
“Above my pay grade” is an old cliché that refers to a really difficult decision being deferred to someone of higher authority. Recent history is full of examples of incredibly difficult decisions that have been made by a country’s highest-ranking leader. These decisions have resulted in long-lasting effects that have reverberated through the succeeding years, perhaps for the better, perhaps not. But no one can question the boldness of these choices and there is no question that only the most authoritative figure could make the call.
We’ll look at two, one of which is well-known, but governed more by emotion than fact, and one that has been virtually ignored by historians, but may have been even more significant.
Using the Atomic Bomb on Japan
President Harry Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb against the Japanese cites of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945 remains one of history’s most controversial decisions. Unquestionably, they were devastating attacks and their stunning severity convinced an otherwise fanatical and totally detached-from-reality Japanese leadership to snap into some semblance of lucidity and surrender immediately. The formal surrender took place on the battleship USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945.
The Japanese had displayed a zealously contumacious obsession to fight to the last man in their frenzied defense of the Pacific island campaign in 1941-45. When the island of Tarawa fell to U.S. forces after three days of unbelievably intense fighting, only 17 (!!) Japanese soldiers remained alive out of an initial force of 4,800. On Guam, after three weeks of fighting, the 18,000-man Japanese defensive force had fought with such ferocity that victorious U.S. forces took only 485 prisoners.
Winston Churchill starts his history of World War I, The World Crisis, in an unconventional place and time: Libya in 1911, rather than Sarajevo in 1914. The reasons for this are both complex and, at least for me, convincing:
- In 1911, an Italian invasion and colonization of what had been the Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica (today’s Libya) highlighted Turkey’s spiraling inability to hold on to distant territories.
- Italy’s success in North Africa encouraged the Balkan states that had recently shaken off Turkish rule—Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia—to make grabs for the Ottomans’ remaining European lands in two wars in 1912-1913.
- This fighting and scramble for real estate heightened the endemic violence and mistrust in the Balkans, thereby helping pave the road that led to Sarajevo, Gallipoli, the Somme, the rise of Bolshevism, and the other horrors of World War I.
The Great Oracle Google reports, today, 3,790,000 occasions of a comparison between Donald Trump and Caligula. Some representative samples: Donald Trump has ‘fascinating parallels’ with Caligula, says historian; Caligula and Trump: Two disturbingly similar despots centuries apart; Ask a classicist: is Donald Trump more of a Caligula or a Nero; Trump is Caligula; Trump Makes Caligula Look Pretty Good….
One could go on.
Yet ars longa vita brevis.
Trump, unclear on the concept of “search engine” – or card catalogue -- may find all this very, very Unfair. Perhaps so. That said, the cultural leitmotif makes Caligula: The Mad Emperor of Rome (Turner Publishing) by military historian Stephen Dando-Collins extremely topical.
Two speeches from the 1960’s bookend the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. One given and one not given.
President John F. Kennedy launched the moon landing program in a May 1961 speech to Congress with this call to action: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
April 1961 was a challenging month for the new Kennedy administration. The Soviet Union achieved the first orbital space flight on April 12, 1961. A few days later, the Bay of Pigs invasion of Communist Cuba failed. In May 1961, JFK called a joint session of Congress to present a speech entitled “Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs." The address lasted about 45 minutes and included 10 separate sections. In the first eight sections, he described various programs and needs including Vietnam and the Cold War; programs to lower unemployment; requests for increased economic and military foreign aid; funding for foreign language broadcasts to offset Soviet propaganda; and higher military and civil defense spending.
JFK then moved on to the space program. The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was a significant rationale for the program. At the time, this war was a battle between capitalism and communism. Kennedy believed that achievements in space mattered in this contest. Countries would use success in space as a measuring stick for the American or Soviet systems.
Ancient Egyptians were far ahead of other civilizations in the areas of art, science and technological innovations - as is evident from the remnants and relics of their edifices, texts, and artifacts. Their artworks reflect profound influences of religious motifs, and mythology; which were integral parts of their lives. The intricacy and brilliance of ancient Egyptian artwork leaves historians as well as travelers gasping for words. From the marvels of engineering achieved through the Egyptian pyramids to the exquisite ornaments they made, Egyptian art relics have no parallel. Their craftsmanship is proven by the fact that some of these art forms have withstood the test of time and lasted over 3,000 years.
Listed below are the ten most iconic ancient art forms of Egypt that can leave you amazed:
1. Throne of Tutankhamun
Perhaps no other ruler of ancient Egypt was as enigmatic as Tutankhamun. The ‘boy king’ as he was called had his coronation at the tender age of nine and died mysteriously at 19 years. He left behind a vast empire and loads of wealth. The golden throne was found in 1922 by Howard Carter, the British archeologist who located his tomb. The amazing throne was intact even after 3,000 years, showing the excellent craftsmanship of the Egyptians. It was adorned with glass and precious stones and deemed as a fine instance of Amarna Period art. The amazing thing is the glaze of the metal was intact even after 3,000 years when it was excavated.
Winston Churchill once remarked, ”In war, nothing ever goes according to plan except occasionally, and then, only by accident.”
One of history's best examples of this is the near-disastrous USAAF air raid against the German-run oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania on Aug. 1, 1943. The lessons of this event resonate with relevance and verity to this day.
The Ploesti refinery complex was responsible for producing almost 35 percent of the oil used by the German military-industrial complex and a similar percentage of their aviation fuel. Allied war planners considered this target to be of the utmost strategic importance, and felt, with some justification, that the complete destruction of Ploesti's refineries would have an extremely significant impact on Germany's ability to wage war.
Plan was to fly low and overwhelm German defenses
June is such a lovely time of year. It’s hot. It’s sweaty. And there’s always down time. Behold, the 10 Most Hated Enemies in American History:
10. Adolf Hitler (1889-1945). Let’s get the easy one out of the way. Hitler has always been one of the republic’s most-hated enemies, and for good reason. The genocidal German Chancellor would probably make this list 150 years from now, too. To make things interesting, here is a counterfactual: Would Hitler have come to power if the United States had not entered World War I? The First World War was drawing to a brutal, bloody close until American entry turned the tide of the stalemate into a rout that destroyed not only the German Empire but the other polyglot empires in central and eastern Europe, too. The power vacuum that followed the collapse of the German, Russian, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian empires practically handed over the reins of power to people like Hitler.
9. Osama bin Laden (1957-2011). Another easy one, Osama bin Laden orchestrated the world’s deadliest terrorist attack and brought down the World Trade Center buildings. When video surfaced of Osama bin Laden smirking and laughing as he bragged about the iconic skyscrapers tumbling to the ground, the American penchant for generosity - renowned around the world (albeit quietly) - vanished. Bin Laden, once a U.S. ally during the Cold War, was killed in Pakistan by an elite U.S. military unit in 2011, while the United States military continues to wage a low-level war in neighboring Afghanistan.
8. Geronimo (1829-1909). A well-regarded leader of the acephalous Apache nation, Geronimo’s raids were violent and hateful. Native Americans and Euro Americans loathed each other. No inch of land from sea to shining sea was ceded peacefully. Geronimo inspired fear in the hearts of southwestern Anglos and animosity in the hearts of Americans elsewhere. Geronimo’s post-surrender life is perhaps the most emblematic of what happened to the Indians: he was paraded around the country as a prisoner of war, but was permitted to sell material goods like bows and arrows or hats or buttons. He was also paid to shoot buffalo and take pictures with the well-to-do. He died in a hospital in 1909, under armed guard as a prisoner of war.
This June 28th marks the centenary of one of the most consequential peace treaties signed in the 20th century. On June 28, 1919 (interestingly exactly five years to the day after the assassination of Francis Ferdinand and his wife launched World War I) the victorious Allies gathered at Louis XIV’s magnificent palace in Versailles to dictate the treaty that ended what was then called “The Great War.”
The terms were harsh. Article 232 of the treaty stated that Germany accepted full responsibility for the war. She agreed to pay heavy reparations to France, Belgium and Great Britain, would maintain only a small army without offensive weapons such as airplanes, submarines or tanks and would surrender large pieces of territory to the new Polish state in the east while restoring the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to France. Along with the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman Empires, the treaty signaled an enormous shift in the balance of power in Europe, one that had lasted for all practical purposes for a century, since the end of the Napoleonic wars.
To what extent did this treaty that ended one terrible war contribute to a second more awful conflict 20 years later? At another level, could you argue that the extreme nature of the Versailles Treaty led to the rise of dictators such as Benito Mussolini and especially, Adolf Hitler?
It is safe to say that the actions of the leaders at Versailles were counterproductive, if understandable, given what happened to their nations during World War I. The French, with their population already stagnating, lost about one quarter of their adult male population; the British suffered 750,000 killed; Italy a like figure. For comparison, the number of British killed between 1914-18 was almost double those who died in World War II. Even the United States, which only took an active part in battle for about five months, suffered 114,000 deaths (they suffered 400,000 killed in 44 months during World War II). For Germany, the figure was 1.8 million killed. These losses generated a terrible sense of loss on the part of the victors and a thirst for revenge on the part of the defeated Germans.
Choo! Choo! On May 10, 1869, just four years after the end of the Civil War, a golden spike was driven into the ground at Promontory Point, Utah, in order celebrate the completion of the republic’s first transcontinental railroad.
Today, in May of 2019, the American railroad system is recognized as the best in the world, at least when it comes to efficiency in regards to moving freight, but this wasn’t always the case. Here are the 10 Railroads that Made America Great.
10. Union Pacific Railroad. The Union Pacific was responsible for laying the track from Omaha to Promontory Point. The men who worked for the company had to build a railroad through the Rocky Mountains and the Uintas. The railroad was a government charter, so it faced severe operational difficulties from the get-go. Still, Washington managed to pour enough money into the Union Pacific that it achieved its goal. By the time the railroad dissolved in 1880 (less than 20 years after its founding), the Union Pacific had united the coasts of the American republic.
9. The Central Pacific Railroad was the line that came from the west in order to meet the Union Pacific in Utah. The CP’s line started in Sacramento and had to be built through the Sierra Nevadas and the high-altitude desert of the Great Basin. The Central Pacific was also a government charter, and therefore also faced stiff operational challenges, including corruption and labor strife. The Central Pacific Railroad is probably most famous for the Chinese laborers it hired to build its track.
Since World War II, historians, newspapers, and institutions have performed surveys of presidential reputations. There is unanimous agreement placing George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson at the top of the list. Franklin Pierce, Millard Fillmore, and James Buchanan are consistently at the bottom.
However, there are several Presidents whose reputations have either significantly improved or worsened since these surveys started. Some examples follow below.
Andrew Jackson was the first president to come from a humble background. Before Jackson, the first six Presidents were college-educated aristocrats from either Virginia or Massachusetts.
Jackson was the founder of the modern day Democratic party. He considered himself the “champion of the common man.” The movement was called, ‘Jacksonian Democracy.’ One of his signature issues was opposition to Bank of the United States. He felt this institution had too much power and favored the wealthy. After a fierce political battle, Jackson succeeded in eliminating the bank. Jackson also strongly supported the Union against South Carolina’s attempt to nullify a Federal tariff bill by threatening the use of military force. State’s rights and nullification later became issues leading up to the Civil War.
“Well, that’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into.”—Laurel and Hardy, c. 1930’s.
There is no question that the Middle East Arab-Israeli-oil situation is one of the world’s most enduring and vexing problems. Almost every economically significant country in the world has a major stake in how this scenario plays out and most countries orient and arrange a large part of their foreign policy and energy strategy with Middle East considerations front and center in their planning.
What if the United States had been presented with the opportunity to circumvent the Mid-East Jewish-Arab-oil crisis before it had a chance to metastasize into the worldwide scourge it is today? The opportunity did, in fact, present itself in 1945. Unfortunately, the United States—under FDR—failed to capitalize on it and thus the world today lives in constant danger caused by the flashpoint of those seemingly unending, unsolvable regional tensions.
The missed opportunity was the result of FDR's mishandling of his historic meeting with King Abdel Aziz Ibn Saud of Arabia on Great Bitter Lake in the Suez Canal on Feb. 14, 1945. FDR’s actions here essentially created the 70+ year economic and political tensions and conflicts regarding oil that continue to afflict international relationships and define the national security and oil acquisition strategy of virtually every developed country in the world today. Most of the damaging international energy related circumstances in the present-day world were set in motion by FDR’s actions at that meeting.
April 4, 1949, marks the founding of NATO, or North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which means that the alliance turns 70 years old this year. The anniversary has inspired the usual op-eds from conservatives, liberals, and libertarians, but while these opinions about NATO may be predictable, they may also be useful for understanding broader patterns in contemporary American society.
Conservatives, for instance, are split on the issue. Traditionalist and religious conservatives want Washington to come home, while more secular and business-oriented conservatives continue to argue that the United States is indispensable to a world beset by dark forces. This foreign policy difference of opinion among conservatives mirrors the widening split in domestic conservative politics more generally.
Liberals have a predictably convoluted stance that also mirrors domestic political trends: They don’t know if NATO is good because of its military connections, but they do know the alliance should still be funded by taxpayers anyway because of its good intentions.
Libertarians are as split as conservatives, but theirs is a split at the international level rather than domestic. Most American libertarians argue that the United States should leave NATO, but most European libertarians think the alliance is still necessary. These are understandable positions, given each side’s neighbors, but NATO plays a bigger role in European domestic politics, too. Without the alliance, the populist surges in Europe would not have as many constraints tying them down. As Dutch political theorist Edwin van de Haar points out, alliances fit in well with the libertarian preference for more fluidity between states.
The mythology of the Aztec civilisation is filled with ancient and wild stories of creation, zoomorphism and brutality. The Aztecs dominated central Mexico in the 1400s and early 1500s and according to legend, they came to Mexico from an ancient land called Aztland. Although Aztec mythology is not as extensive as its Greek or Roman counterparts - mainly because lots of Aztec history was lost after the Spanish Conquest and because the Aztec Empire survived less than 100 years (1430-1521) – it is a mythology full of splendid Gods and human sacrifices performed in honor of these Gods.
The Aztecs valued highly the skills of warriors above all others, and this emphasis allowed them an advantage against rival tribes in the region. This meant the Aztecs could collect tribute from their rivals which led to them becoming the largest military empire in central Mexico. They built immense buildings of grandeur design and flourished in the arts. Where the Aztecs differed from other Mesoamerican civilizations was their penchant for human sacrifice. Although human sacrifice to the Gods was common amongst the tribes in Mexico at that time, the Aztec culture took it to a higher level. Thousands of sacrifices in a single day was not uncommon. The Aztecs dictated that human blood be fed to the sun God - Huitzilopochtli – for the sun to rise each day. Sacrifices were conducted at the top of pyramids in front of spectators. Hearts were cut from living victims and blood would flow down the steps at all hours of the day and night.
Aztec Gods were numerous and were worshipped daily. Everyday items as well as colors, animals’ numbers and dates of the calendar had special meanings because each was associated with a deity – a rattlesnake, for example, was thought to represent the Aztec creator God, Quetzalcoatl. Although due to the abundance in tribes and civilisations around the Mexico and Southern American area, many Aztec beliefs were absorbed from earlier civilisations who had already developed a body of myths and legends, notably the Olmecs and the Toltecs. The Maya of southern Mexico also shared many religious and mythological traits and traditions with the Aztecs.
The Creator God - Quetzalcoatl
March 16, 1968 was the Mai Lai Massacre in Vietnam, where American soldiers brutally extinguished a Vietnamese village and contributed to the public turn against the war against communists in the former French colony. Five hundred people died. That’s brutal, but here are the 10 most brutal massacres in world history:
10. Chinese massacre of 1639. Chinese communities had existed all over southeast Asia for centuries, mostly as merchants, but sometimes as scholars too. This had both good and bad effects. One of the bad effects was that China’s merchant class tended to be wealthier than the locals they provided goods and services to, and every now and again Chinese communities were massacred by indigenous inhabitant. The 1639 massacre in the Philippines was especially brutal, as 17,000 to 22,000 people were slaughtered in a joint Filipino-Spanish venture.
9. Massacre of Praga (Nov. 4, 1794). 20,000 people in Praga, a suburb of Warsaw, were massacred by Russian troops after the latter conquered the city during the Kościuszko Uprising of 1794. For some reason I thought to compare this to the Boston massacre in 1770, where 5 died. There are not a lot of massacres in the Anglo-American world, at least not on the scale that we find elsewhere throughout history.
8. Cyprus massacre (June - September 1570). In June of 1570 the Ottoman Empire laid siege to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, which was controlled politically by Venice, the wealthy city-state on the Italian peninsula (see RealClearHistory’s coverage of Venice here [https://www.realclearhistory.com/search/?q=venice]). The Christians on Cyprus held off the Ottomans for about four months, but sheer numbers, as well as disjointed politics in Europe, meant that the inhabitants of Cyprus would eventually be governed from Istanbul (not Constantinople). Cyprus, of course, continues to be split between a Greek (Christian) half and a Turkey (Muslim) half.
Fifty years ago today, Ted Williams, the newly minted manager of the Washington Senators, brought his squad to Dodgertown -- the Los Angeles Dodgers spring training complex in Vero Beach, Fla. The once innovative facility was no longer state-of-the-art, but Teddy Ballgame was gracious about it.
“This is the nicest camp I’ve seen,” he said. “This place has character.”
It had characters, too, including Tommy Lasorda, then the manager of the Dodgers Triple-A team. As the left-handed Lasorda threw batting practice that day, a puckish fan yelled that Lasorda didn’t exactly remind anybody of Sandy Koufax, the future Hall of Famer who’d retired from the Dodgers three years earlier. “I throw just as hard as Koufax,” Lasorda told the heckler. “It just doesn’t get up there as quick.”
Nothing seemed to move fast in Florida that spring. On March 12, 1969, Los Angeles Herald Examiner sportswriter Melvin Durslag noticed a sign at the Dodgertown canteen and newsstand that read “COLLIER’S: AMERICA’S MOST EXCITING MAGAINE. GET YOUR COPY TODAY.”
George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower served as our chief military commander before entering the Oval Office. How did this experience affect their presidencies?
Washington’s military career began in 1754 with the French and Indian War. His first mission, involving a fort near Pittsburgh, ended with surrender to the French. A subsequent expedition, led by British General Edward Braddock, ended in disaster. But Washington got credit for his bravery in battle and for organizing the retreat. Washington gained valuable military experience despite serving in these losing battles.
During the Revolutionary War, Washington won daring victories at Trenton and Princeton. But he also lost key battles on Long Island and New York, allowing the British to capture New York City. He then lost at Brandywine and Germantown, resulting in British control of Philadelphia. Monmouth, the last battle in the north, was a draw. Afterward, the war moved to the South, where other generals led the Americans.
This week marks the anniversary of the recovery of the remains of Challenger’s crew on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. On March 10, 1986, the Navy and NASA announced that they had found a compartment that contained the remains of the ill-fated space shuttle’s crew.
When I think about space disasters, I am reminded of the space battle between Earth and Trisolaris in Liu Cixin’s fantastic sci-fi novel. Stay with me here. Liu Cixin’s Dark Forest novel needs to be read. In the novel, humans make contact with a nearby alien civilization, who proceed to make plans to invade earth, wipe out its human population, and re-populate it with themselves. The first battle between Earth’s space forces and the would-be invaders ends badly for Earth, as thousands of space warships are destroyed in a matter minutes by a Trisolaran probe. The novel brings up an uncomfortable theory that humans have been all-too-willing to neglect: what if the universe is a hostile, deadly place instead of a curious one? Nick Nielsen is asking important questions about humanity’s place in the stars, and Caleb Scharf is doing wonderful work explaining how life in the universe is likely to confront us at this stage of our development.
Despite the massive amount of attention that surrounds space flight disasters, only four have actually happened in space, and only 18 people have died in space (14 astronauts and four cosmonauts). This is due to the vast amounts of effort, planning, intelligence, and energy that go into space flight. In fact, most of the deadliest disasters happen on earth during the preparation phase, where painstaking practice is undertaken in order to execute space flight to perfection. So, in honor of those who have given their lives for humanity’s place among the stars, here are History’s 10 Worst Space Disasters:
10. Columbia (February 1, 2003). The Columbia Space Shuttle had served NASA and the United States for 22 years before it exploded in space upon re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. In 22 years, Columbia had flown 27 space flights before disaster struck on the 28th mission. The destruction of NASA’s second space shuttle put the entire program on hold for two years, and supplies to the International Space Station had to be flown in by a public-private Russian space agency, Roscosmos (which has since become nationalized).
After being sworn in as the 37th President of the United States, Richard Nixon called for a time of national renewal and reunification, hoping to heal the wounds wrought by the divisiveness of the 1960s, which — between President Lyndon Johnson’s “withdrawal speech,” Martin Luther King Jr.’s and Robert F. Kennedy’s assassinations, and the chaotic Democratic National Convention — had found its ultimate expression in the election of 1968.
Though Nixon handily defeated Democrat Hubert Humphrey and Independent George Wallace in the Electoral College (301–191–46), he only won 0.7 percent more of the popular vote than Humphrey. Clearly, the country’s divisions ran deep, but not as deep as they might have run, had it not been for the restraint of President Johnson.
On Oct. 17, 1968, just a few weeks before the election, Johnson began hearing reports that the Nixon campaign had engaged in secret negotiations with the South Vietnamese government, through lobbyist Anna Chennault. The administration had struggled to bring all parties of the Vietnam conflict to the negotiating table since late March. On the other hand, Nixon’s cronies had worked against the peace talks since April. They discouraged the South Vietnamese from joining the negotiations, promising that they would receive a better deal from the as-yet-unelected Nixon administration.
This interference with official U.S. diplomatic initiatives violated the Logan Act (1799), which outlawed unauthorized contacts between private citizens and foreign powers.