Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Remembering the Battle of Lake Erie

Remembering the Battle of Lake Erie: In military history, how people remember a particular battle, skirmish, or even war, can be more important than the event itself. Perhaps the most notable event in American history where memory matters is the Civil War. It's often stated that the North won the war, but the South won Reconstruction (and how the war is remembered). Regarding the War of 1812, however, where the Battle of Lake Erie was a major incident, Americans were really just trying to PROVE themselves to the British. In other words, Americans sought reassurance that their "first victory" over the British was not just a fluke. And because many of the war's battles (Siege of Detroit, Battle of New Orleans, etc.) occurred along America's burgeoning borderlands (frontier), incidents like the Battle of Lake Erie helped give birth to an early ethos of westward expansion. For if Commodore Oliver Perry could score a decisive naval victory over the British, which secured the Great Lakes and opened the Midwest, then there was seemingly nothing left but Native Americans (Tecumseh) and wilderness to halt American growth.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

On Psychological Warfare

On Psychological Warfare: Sometimes called "psychological operations" or PSY-OPS, the struggle to decimate an enemy's morale (or fighting spirit) has probably been around since the Punic Wars when Hannibal brought war elephants to battle the Romans. Ironically, there was a German mortar/rocket launcher (Der Nebelwerfer) from WWII that sounded eerily similar to Hannibal's elephants. Nevertheless, at its core, psychological warfare is about intimidation. Anything from printing newspapers/leaflets to broadcasting subliminal messages to amplifying ominous sounds can be considered part of psych warfare. Perhaps there was no greater master of psychological warfare than the German military, especially during the 1930s/40s. From V-1 rockets whose engines emitted a pulsating buzz to Stuka planes (dive bombers) whose propellers wailed like sirens, the German military certainly understood the value of mass demoralization. In fact, by the end of WWII, the Germans had launched around 10,000 V-1s, with about 2,500 striking London. And since these rockets were unguided, they basically fell to Earth after their engines died (scary stuff).