Tuesday, September 15, 2015

On the Insanity of General Curtis LeMay

On the Insanity of General Curtis LeMay: During his tenure with the U.S. Air Force, General LeMay certainly lived-up to his nickname of "Bombs Away" LeMay. His penchant for carpet-bombing and mine-laying first became evident as the U.S. was preparing to invade Japan (prior to dropping the atomic bombs in August 1945). Given that wood (bamboo), and not steel or brick/mortar, was the primary building material used in urban Japanese buildings, LeMay advocated fire-bombing with special incendiary devices. These devices decimated Japanese cities, but LeMay persisted in his belief of bombing the enemy into submission. This idea even characterized LeMay's mindset toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War. When the Berlin Airlift commenced in 1948, LeMay felt that in addition to the vast number of food packages being sent to Berliners, the U.S. ought to sneak a few bombs in the airlifts for the Soviets. And when President Eisenhower announced his nuclear strategy of "massive retaliation" in 1954, LeMay believed in flying American B-52s over Soviet territory to bait the enemy into committing an "act of war." Lastly, as head of Strategic Air Command (SAC), LeMay helped make "nuclear warfare" a major component of American defense.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

On the Eccentricities of John Wilkes Booth

On the Eccentricities of John Wilkes Booth: As far as his theatrical career went, J. W. Booth was the Brad Pitt or George Clooney of his day. By the end of the 1850s, he was earning around $20,000 per year (which would be over 500K per year in today's dollars). Growing up in Bel Air, Maryland, Booth was very competitive with his brothers and classmates. He always had to be the best or first at completing a task, whether it was reciting Cicero or riding horses. Having been baptized Episcopalian, which was the Booth family's traditional church, his childhood religious experience did not follow one particular path. Booth's father, according to Asia Booth Clarke's memoirs, was more of a "free spirit" than actual practitioner of the faith. And yet there were rumors that J. W. Booth himself had converted to Roman Catholicism. Although evidence of such a conversion was sparse, it nevertheless fueled conspiracy theories regarding a Catholic plot to overthrow the U.S. government (similar to Guy Fawkes in England). After the Civil War erupted in April 1861, Booth became an outspoken supporter of the Confederacy. At some performances in the North, he even feuded with audience members who wished to have him arrested for treason. But when Abe Lincoln won reelection to a second term in late 1864, Booth believed it was time for Lincoln's "tyranny" and "aggression" toward the South to end.