The Battle of Waxhaws and Tarleton’s Quarter

In the autumn of 1779, the failed Franco-American invasion of Georgia saw the death of popular American general Casimir Pulaski in the American defeat at the Siege of Savannah. Sensing that they could bring the Southern Colonies back into the fold, the British invaded South Carolina in the spring of 1780. The Continental Army under Benjamin Lincoln withdrew to Charleston to secure America’s most important city in the South. Lincoln’s Southern Army was surprised and defeated at Moncke’s Corner and Lenud’s Ferry which cut Charleston off. On 12 May, 1780, Lincoln surrendered Charleston and 5000 men in arguably America’s worst defeat in the American Revolution. British Commander-in-Chief Sir Henry Clinton then cleared Patriot strongholds in Georgia and South Carolina. By mid-May, Patriot sentiment in the Southern Colonies was at its lowest, and its leaders hid from Loyalists who flocked to the British.

The only organized American force left in South Carolina was the 380 men of the 3rd Virginia Detachment under Lieutenant Colonel Abraham Buford. (He was the great uncle of Brigadier General John Buford of Gettysburg fame.) The 3rd Virginia was a composite force of men from several Virginia regiments with attached artillery. Buford’s 3rd Virginia was the advanced guard of Baron de Kalb’s relief force sent by Washington to break the Siege of Charleston. When Lincoln surrendered, the 3rd Virginia, along with some dragoons who escaped Charleston, withdrew back towards De Kalb. On 29 May, Lt Col Banastre Tarleton’s British Legion caught up to Buford at Waxhaws on the border with North Carolina.

Tarleton’s British Legion was a combined arms provincial regiment consisting of infantry, cavalry, and light artillery formed from Philadelphia and New York loyalists. The 450 strong British Legion was known for their distinctive green uniforms, and the ruthlessness and tenacity with which they fought. The infamous British Legion exemplified the idea that the American Revolution was America’s first civil war. Tarleton had defeated the Americans at Moncke’s Corner and Lenud’s Ferry, and looked to do the same to Buford at Waxhaws.

Buford couldn’t run, so he formed a battle line. Tarleton, unwilling to wait for his infantry and artillery, who were still far to the rear, charged his cavalry at Buford. The Continental’s single volley was insufficient to stop the charge and Buford’s line broke. With no way to escape the horsemen, many of the Americans surrendered, asking for “quarter”, or mercy. Recognizing the inevitable, Buford sent a white flag to Tarleton to formally surrender his force. However, before it could arrive Tarleton’s horse was shot out from under him. Tarleton’s men saw their commander go down, and became enraged. They refused Buford’s surrender and massacred any Patriots still on the field, including the prisoners. Though Tarleton was trapped beneath his horse and couldn’t restrain his men, it probably wouldn’t have mattered. The British Legion was notorious for their brutality, and Tarleton was already reprimanded for their conduct at Moncke’s Corner. As commander, Tarlton was responsible for his men’s actions, and the British Legion’s failure to protect its prisoners became known as “Tarleton’s Quarter”. Few Patriots would willingly surrender to the British in the South thereafter. One of Lord Cornwallis’ aides wrote that “the virtue of humanity was totally forgot” at Waxhaws.

In a single engagement, Tarleton and the British Legion undid years of British diplomacy, goodwill, and victory in the South. News of the Waxhaws Massacre spread like wildfire and “Tarleton’s Quarter” became its rallying cry. Volunteers and fence sitters across the Southern states flocked to the Patriot cause, and most Loyalists stayed home. In less than a month, Patriot militias and partisans sprung up throughout the Carolinas and Georgia. Tarleton’s Quarter directly resulted in the rise of Patriot leaders Thomas Sumter, Francis Marion, Andrew Pickens, and Elijah Clark, among many more, whose partisans made the South untenable for the British. News of the Waxhaws massacre brought east the “Overmountain Men”, Patriot militias west of the Appalachians, who decisively defeated the loyalist militia at King’s Mountain, ending any chance for the British in the Southern colonies.

With an unfriendly countryside in the Carolinas, Lord Cornwallis was forced north into Virginia after attempting to destroy the new Continental Army under Nathanial Greene. Cornwallis sought refuge at Yorktown.

A local of Waxhaws, Scots-Irish widow Elizabeth Jackson, was horrified at the needless bloodshed by the British on 29 May 1780, which happened practically on her doorstep. She encouraged her 16 and 13 year old sons, Robert and Andrew, to join the Patriot militia. Andrew went on to be the 7th President of the United States.

The Battle of Fort San Carlos

In 1778 and early 1779, American George Rogers Clark seized British forts and trading posts at Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Vincennes (in today’s Illinois and Indiana) in the Old Northwest with the ultimate objective of capturing Detroit. In June 1779, Spain entered the war against the British. From their trading post at St. Louis near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, the Spanish supplied arms and ammunition to Clark and the Americans which prevented the British from retaking the area. The British decided to strike directly at St. Louis.

St. Louis was the administrative capital of Upper Spanish Louisiana, but it was little more than a village of 900. The lieutenant governor of Louisiana, Captain Fernando de Leyba had only 29 regulars of the Spanish Colonial Louisiana Regiment, and about 150 militia consisting of French, Spanish, and Creole citizens of the town, along some friendly Indians and African slaves. His force was not nearly enough to repel a determined assault. In March 1780 Leyba was warned by a fur trader about an attack, and learned that his superiors in New Orleans could not spare any additional troops for St. Louis’ defense. Leyba’s and St. Louis’ townspeople financed the defenses themselves. Leyba appealed to French fur trader François Vallé, who gathered another 150 French militia from those who didn’t respond to Leyba’s call to arms. Leybas and Vallé planned to build four great towers connected by a trench to protect the town, but when the British and their Indian allies arrived in late May, only the northwest tower and the trench were completed.

The plan to seize St. Louis was actually spawned in London, and confirmed that the British government had no concept of the vast distances involved on the North American frontier. British militia captain Emanuel Hesse managed to gather a force of about 1000, mostly Canadian fur traders whom he promised exclusive rights, and Indians marginalized by the Spanish. The Sioux, Menominee, Chippewa, Winnebago, Sauk, and Fox Indians had been on the receiving end of Spanish policies of arming their neighbors to fight against them. Hesse promised them revenge. They gathered in Prairie du Chien (in today’s Wisconsin) and Chippewa war chief Matchekewis took charge of the Indians. When Hesse and Matchekewis arrived outside St. Louis, they sent 300 warriors to fix Clark at Cahokia to prevent him from coming to Leyba’s aid.

When the warning shots sounded the alarm on the morning of 26 May 1780, Leyba gathered everyone he could inside of St. Louis, and his men in the trenches. The round and squat stone tower at the northwest corner of the town was the centerpiece of his defense. Dubbed “Fort San Carlos” after the king of Spain, King Charles III, the fort housed all of Leyba’s cannon. Leyba had four four pound cannon and two six pound cannon.

Hesse and Matchekewis tried rushing the town because they knew they could never hold the Indian coalition together long enough for a siege. The Indian warriors charged across the open fields opposite the trench and Fort San Carlos into the waiting Spanish guns filled with French lead from one of Vallé’s mines. The cannons of Fort San Carlos were especially effective. Although the Sauk and Fox had infrequently encountered muskets before, they had never encountered cannon. The massive eruptions terrified the Sauk and Fox and they immediately deserted Hesse. The direct assault failed, and there was no way to convince the Indians of another try. Hesse then attempted to force the Spanish to come out and fight. He had prisoners taken from the outlying farms tortured in full view of the town just outside of the range of Fort San Carlos guns. Leyba convinced his soldiers and townspeople to wait it out, and not sortie. Hesse’s force melted away that night once it was obvious they couldn’t take the town without another direct assault. George Rogers Clark defeated the Indian force sent to Cahokia the same day.

The Battle of Fort San Carlos was the only American Revolutionary War battle fought west of the Mississippi River. The British defeat ended the possibility of further British and Indian alliances in the Old Northwest for the rest of the war. With the trading post at St. Louis secure, George Rogers Clark secured the Old Northwest for the nascent United States of America. With the west bank of the Mississippi under Spanish control, and the east bank under American control, the British could not prevent the Old Northwest from being ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Paris in 1783. The Spanish victory at the Battle of Fort San Carlos ended the possibility of the Appalachian Mountains being the western border of the United States after the American Revolution.

The Raid on Rembertów

Ever since the Red Army arrived on Polish soil in 1944, the Soviets raped, looted, and murdered their way across the country. The largest Polish underground resistance movement, the Home Army, turned from fighting German socialists to fighting Russian socialists. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, Churchill made the same mistake Chamberlain did seven years previously and trusted a dictator. Stalin broke every pledge he made at Yalta, including allowing free elections in Poland, and power sharing between the American, French and British backed Polish Government-in-Exile and the Soviet puppets, the Polish Communists. The Soviet secret police, the NKVD, arrested any Pole even tangentially associated with the Polish Government-in-Exile or the Home Army. The detainees were placed in repurposed Nazi camps. Those that survived the torture, starvation, neglect, and interrogations at these camps were packed into cattle cars and sent east to the gulags, where most were never heard from again.

NKVD Special Camp No.10 near the town of Rembertów outside Warsaw was a former German labor camp for Soviet POWs. In May 1945, No. 10 was the final stop in Poland before prisoners and detainees disappeared into the Siberian wilderness. Since the camp was visible from the town of Rembertów, the guards ordered the prisoners around in rudimentary German to disguise from the townspeople that the prisoners were Poles. The ruse didn’t work, and the townspeople worked with the Home Army to free the prisoners. Many of the prisoners were high ranking Home Army and Exile leaders, and the next scheduled transport was 25 May.

Disguised as Polish Communist Army soldiers, Home Army soldiers under Captain Walenty “Młot” (The Hammer) Suda reconnoitered the camp. The raid to free the prisoners was tasked to Lieutenant Edward “Wichura” (The Gale) Wasilewski and his reinforced platoon of 44 heavily armed fighters.

On the night of Saturday 20 May 1945, the townspeople of Rembertów along with some prisoner’s relatives brought the guards some booze, and threw a party in the town for the camp commandant. With most of the guards and camp administration drunk, Suda executed a textbook raid on Special Camp No. 10 with security, breach, and assault groups. The raid was a complete surprise. The only casualties were three Home Army wounded, and 40 prisoners killed when they were caught in a field trying to escape into the woods. In less than 25 minutes, 100 sick and wounded prisoners were spirited away in two trucks, while somewhere between 800 and 1400 Polish prisoners escaped through Suda’s breach.

The Raid on Rembertów escalated the Polish resistance to the Soviets to an all-out civil war between Polish Communists and the Soviet Union and the “Cursed Soldiers” of the Home Army and the Polish people. Prison raids were a favorite tactic. For the next 18 months, 150,000 Home Army and resistance partisans fought two million Red Army soldiers, 50,000 NKVD agents, and 30,000 Polish communist militia. The Poles fought on alone without any support from their former allies in the West. The last of the Cursed Soldiers were killed or deported by October, 1946.

The Great Siege of Malta

After the capture of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Turks took up the banner of Sunni Islam and their jihad exploded across Europe, Asia, and Africa for the next 100 years. By 1565, Ottoman expansion by land had slowed considerably. After conquering the Balkans, the Ottomans ran into the powerful Hapsburg Empire and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to the north. To the south lay the Sahara Desert and jungles of Central Africa. And to the east were the powerful Shia Safavid Persians. These obstacles required more deliberate preparations. Only to the West, via the Mediterranean Sea, would an advance prove relatively easier. In 1564, the greatest of the Ottoman sultans, Suleiman the Magnificent, authorized the seaborne invasion of Italy.

The Eastern Mediterranean was already an Ottoman lake, but to cut off Italy from Hapsburg Spain (flush with gold from the New World) required the domination of the Western Mediterranean. Once done, the isolated warring city states and petty kingdoms of the Italian peninsula would be easy prey. There was only one problem: the tiny island of Malta. Malta was situated in the narrowest part of the Sea between Sicily and Tunisia, which blocked any real access for large fleets to the West. Malta was like a fishbone stuck in the throat of the Mediterranean, doubly so because it was the possession of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, or the Knights Hospitaller, the last of the crusading orders.

The Knights of Malta, as they were known, were Christianity’s rear guard in the disastrous crusades of the last 500 years. Created to protect Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land during the First Crusade, they were at the forefront of every major battle and present at every major retreat. They were thrown out of the Holy Land, off the island of Rhodes, and found their new home on the island of Malta, from which they continued the fight against Muslim expansion.

In the sixteenth century, the Knights of Malta no longer went to war on horses, but in galleys. The white cross on blood red background was a feared sight to Ottomans, whose warships were given no quarter, and merchant ships were turned over to their newly freed galley slaves (which invariably meant the slaughter of the Muslim crew). Moreover, they were on the forefront of sixteenth century military efficacy. The Maltese Knights blended a unique mix of Western land technology and Eastern naval technology. Though few in number, they were the Pope’s and Christianity’s first and only reliable defense against the Ottomans in the Mediterranean.

In May 1565, the Knights of Malta were on their own. Their leader, the indomitable 71 year old Jean de La Valette amassed 700 Maltese Knights, 600 Spanish and Italian knights, 2700 men at arms, and 3000 armed Maltese civilians to defend island. They occupied the three forts, Fort St. Michael, Fort St. Angelo, and the exposed Fort St. Elmo, that guarded the all-important harbor on the north side of the island (Valetta Harbor today). On 18 May 1565, La Valette’s archrival, the Ottoman corsair admiral Dragut-Reis, arrived off Malta with Grand Vizier Mustapha Pasha and 213 ships and 48,000 warriors, including 8000 of the Sultan’s own Janissaries.

The last land battle of the Crusades had begun.

The Battle of Arras and the Dawn of the 88

On 20 May 1940, the Germans had broken through the Allied lines and were racing to the channel. In order to slow their advance, the British Expeditionary Force launched a counterattack into the German flank, more specifically the flank of the 7th Panzer Division, led by Generalmajor Erwin Rommel.

Rommel’s panzers were having a great time tearing apart French headquarters, supply units, and routing withdrawing French units, and was hell bent on reaching the coast. He was taken completely by surprise with the BEF’s attack. Moreover, the 200 Czech made Pz38, and German made PzII and PzIV tanks that made up his division were no match for the 70 British Matilda heavy tanks. The guns of the German tanks simply couldn’t penetrate the Matilda’s armor and Rommel suffered heavy losses.

In desperation, Rommel ordered his 88mm antiaircraft guns to fire on the British tanks. The 88mm was designed to reach bombers at high altitudes and its high velocity round proved to be devastating against the British armor.

The famous (or infamous) “88” proved to be Germany’s most effective general purpose artillery piece throughout the war, whether in an anti-tank, anti-personnel, or anti-aircraft role. It was the bane of the Allies’ existence and redefined German armored tactics for the rest of the war.

The USS Stark

During the Iran-Iraq War from 1980-1988, a low level parallel naval conflict in the Persian Gulf, known as the Tanker War, was waged where each side tried to sink as many of their adversary’s oil tankers as possible. Iran relied exclusively on tankers to export its oil which was its sole source of funding for the war. Iranian mines, and Revolutionary Guard small boat attacks and airstrikes forced Iraq to export most of its oil via pipelines to friendly Saudi Arabia. However, Iran expanded its attacks to neutral flagged ships of those countries friendly to Iraq, such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, to intercept Iraq’s oil. Along with the British and French, the US deployed a Mid-East Task Force to the Persian Gulf to protect neutral flagged ships from both Iranian and Iraqi attacks.

On 17 May 1987, a US Navy Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate, USS Stark FFG-31, sailed on a routine patrol in the Persian Gulf just outside of Iraq’s declared war zone, as part of the Mid-East Task Force. About 1900 that night (7 pm) a joint US-Saudi Arabian E-3C Sentry aircraft acquired what it thought was a French made Iraqi F-1 Mirage but it was actually a militarized business jet converted into a long range reconnaissance plane and armed with several air to surface missiles. The Sentry passed the contact off to the USS Stark at 2055. The plane was more than 200 miles out.

The Stark knew about the incoming aircraft for fifty minutes at that point, flipped on her air search radar, and belatedly acquired the aircraft after wrestling with several false reports of a surface contact nearby. (Turning on a powerful radar like the SPS-49 makes the ship a big target for surface to surface missiles.) Just before that, the electronic warfare officer (EWO) went to get a cup of coffee. The Stark’s tactical action officer (TAO) in the combat information center (CIC) ordered the comms duty officer (the acronym for that is insane) to wait on hailing the approaching aircraft as it looked as if the plane would pass benignly by. As the unidentified aircraft continued to approach, the TAO ordered the weapons control officer (WCS) to go find the EWO because his console controlled the chaff (“chaff” are small metal strips launched into the air to confuse incoming radar lock missiles) and was one of the only two stations in the CIC where an incoming threat could be tracked and a weapon assigned (guess where the other one was…). This action left both the EWO and WCS stations vacant, though the ship’s executive officer did enter the CIC on administrative business, and occupied the WCS’ station to observe the TAO while he waited.

At 2104, the TAO gave permission to the comms duty officer to hail the aircraft, presumably because the XO was watching. The aircraft did not respond, and turned slightly toward the Stark to further close the distance, though this was missed by the air tracker watching the radar. At 2108, the Stark tried communicating with the aircraft again, which was 32 nautical miles out and well within range of known Iraqi and Iranian air to surface missiles, and again received no response.

As the Stark was futilely trying to contact the aircraft a second time, the Iraqi pilot launched his first French made Exocet missile. After another minute inputting data into the fire control and locking on a second missile, he launched another Exocet. He was less than twelve miles out.

The Exocet (French for “Flying Fish”) flew across the Persian Gulf three meters above the water at nearly Mach one. As “sea-skimming” missiles, they were never picked up by the air-search radar, and the only stations with the capability to detect the incoming threat were vacant with one’s operator getting coffee, and the other looking for him.

At 2109, the TAO ordered a young ensign to occupy the WCS’s console to activate the weapon systems and the fire control radar. This included a young sailor running topside to manually turn on the chaff launcher, which was completed and probably saved the sailor’s life. As the young ensign jockeyed with the intimidating executive officer at the WCS station, a lookout topside using a pair of binoculars and Mark 1 Eyeballs spotted a white glow on the horizon and spoke into his mic “Missile Inbound Missile Inbound”. The first Exocet struck the USS Stark four seconds later.

It penetrated the hull just below the CIC but didn’t explode. Its remaining fuel spread fires throughout its path into the ship, particularly in the petty officers quarters, where it came to lie. The Stark’s luck however would not repeat: 30 seconds later, the same lookout said, “inbound missile, port side… all hands brace for shock!”; the second missile struck eight feet forward from the initial hit, and exploded. 29 sailors were killed instantly, many in their sleep or burned to death shortly thereafter. Eight died later of their wounds or were lost at sea. Twenty more were wounded.

From aircraft acquisition to detonation was just 14 minutes. From the first hail to detonation was less than four minutes.

The Stark never fired any of her weapons. The Perry class frigates are primarily surface combatants or escorts conducting anti-submarine warfare, activities for which they are admirably equipped. They rely on other ships, or preferably planes, for wide area anti-aircraft coverage. They possess point air defense weapons i.e. self-protection only, in the form of the 20mm Phalanx CIWS (Close In Weapons System, a giant Gatling gun) for just such incoming threats. However, the system was down with parts on order, and the crew mistakenly believed they couldn’t calibrate the auxiliary targeting system except in an approved gunnery area. The CIWS was never activated and remained on “stand-by mode”, even though it was operational. Furthermore, there was confusion as per the rules of engagement/readiness condition – The CIC crew believed they could not fire unless fired upon, which was not the case. They could have defended themselves any time after the plane didn’t respond to queries and continued to approach. (Condition III Yellow vs Condition III White, or for US Army folks, roughly the difference between Yellow Tight and White Hold).

If the first missile would have exploded, the USS Stark would have been a catastrophic loss. As it was, “only” a 10’ by 13’ flaming hole was bored into the ship. The fires created by the missiles destroyed the storesroom, the berths, the small postal room, and eventually the CIC. The damage created a severe list which was counteracted by reverse flooding to keep the hole above the waterline. However, the essentially Second World War damage control techniques barely kept the 3000 degree fires and list from sinking the ship. The fires were twice as hot as needed to melt the bulkheads. One third of the crew was incapacitated, and there were simply too many tasks needed to be done. Furthermore, the water used to fight the fires threatened to capsize the ship despite the counter flooding. This fate was avoided by the time consuming and difficult process of sledgehammering holes in the aluminum bulkheads to redistribute the water. The Stark had no modern rescue equipment such as cutting torches or Jaws-of-Life. Only the timely arrival of the destroyer USS Waddel several hours later prevented the exhausted and wounded crew from succumbing to the list and flames. The Stark was further aided by the USS Conyngham who departed Bahrain with only a third of her crew: the rest were on shore leave and couldn’t be found. The fires raged for 24 hours. It was only the combined effort, ingenuity, and perseverance of the three crews that saved the Stark. The next day they managed to escort the stricken ship back to port.

Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government initially blamed the US for violating the declared war zone, but when confronted by conclusive evidence to the contrary, apologized for mistaking the Stark for an Iranian tanker. The attack on the USS Stark was the first incident in the increasingly larger American involvement in the Tanker War.

The Fall of France and the Low Countries, and the Failure of Allied Leadership

Germany invaded France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands on 10 May 1940. The main effort was a surprise attack through the supposedly impassable Ardennes Forest, and the panzer divisions of Field Marshal Von Rundstedt’s Army Group A arrived at Meuse River at Sedan in just three days. Though surprised at the unexpected thrust, French theatre commander General Maurice Gamelin confidently thought they could be held at the river. He expected them to wait for the infantry, artillery, and the heavy bridging equipment still moving through the forest before they treid a crossing. Consequently, Gamelin sent artillery to the Meuse in preparation for a defense along the river. The concentrations were quickly destroyed by Stuka dive bombers, or overrun by aggressive German probes. Gamelin was not prepared for the German armor to cross the Meuse. With infantry and reconnaissance units assaulting the far side in rubber boats, Rundstedt’s panzer divisions seized bridges that the British and French air forces did not destroy. His panzers crossed the last natural obstacle before the excellent tank country of the French central plain.

The German breakthrough at Sedan threatened to outflank both of the main Allied defensive positions along the Maginot Line to the south and the Dyle River to the north. The main French armies and the British Expeditionary Force had advanced into Belgium to meet Germany’s Army Group B, and Rundstedt’s breakthrough found them out of position to meet Germany’s main effort. In response, French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud exclaimed “We are lost!” The new British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who took over after Neville Chamberlain stepped down due to the invasion, spent much of his precious first few days convincing the French to continue the fight.

As shocking as the breakthrough at Sedan was, it lacked the infantry support (whom were still marching through the forest) to defend the vulnerable bridgeheads. Nevertheless, the panzers’ leader Heinz Guderian (pun intended) ignored orders to hold fast and conducted an overly large “reconnaissance in force” to “secure the bridgeheads”. This he did on 14 May, and extended the penetration 40 miles. But his superior was worried about French armored divisions to the north, and rightly so. (Yes, the French had armored divisions). Guderian’s tanks were vulnerable to counterattack without accompanying infantry, artillery, and heavier anti-tank guns.

On 14 May 1940, the French Cavalry Corps struck the German 3rd and 4th Panzer Divisions in the Gembloux Gap just north of the breakthrough at Dinant and Sedan in the first large scale armored battle in West. The German Panzer Is, IIs, IIIEs, 35ts, 38ts, and IVBs were consistently out fought by the French S35s, R35s, H39s and especially the Char B1 bis. Only massive air support from dive bombing Stukas prevented the complete destruction of both panzer divisions. From Gembloux, Guderian’s bridgeheads lay vulnerable and had the FCC been reinforced, the breakthrough would have almost assuredly been pinched off. Instead, Gamelin, like PM Reynaud, was overcome by events and ordered the FCC to retreat. To add insult to injury, he dispersed the FCC amongst the infantry divisions, and thus ended any possibility of halting the Germans at the Meuse.

Further north, the Dutch leadership was also having a crisis of confidence. Due to the Dutch penchant for opening the dikes, flooding the low lands and turning the country into an island called “Fortress Holland” in the event of an invasion; the Germans planned on seizing the country from the air and holding it until the road bound infantry could arrive. Unfortunately for them the Dutch were prepared for this. A spy in the Abwehr, German intelligence, had informed the Dutch of the impending invasion. The German paratroops made some initial successes, but most were wiped out. The Luftwaffe destroyed the small Dutch air force but paid dearly for it, taking 40% casualties in the process. Furthermore Dutch anti-aircraft defenses were extensive and modern, and nearly 3/4s of the German transport fleet was shot down. The Luftwaffe and the Wehrmacht in the north didn’t just get a bloody nose, it was on life support.

By 14 May, the same day the French Cavalry Corps defeated the German panzers, the fight for the Netherlands had reached its climax, and the Dutch were winning. The campaign, supposed to only be a diversion for the fighting further south, was much more difficult than expected. The Germans were desperate and the only uncommitted forces were the Luftwaffe’s medium range bombers. Like Guernica and Warsaw before it, the Germans bombed Rotterdam hoping to destroy their enemy’s will to fight. Unlike, Guernica and Warsaw, this time it worked: Rotterdam was flattened and fearing for their safety, the Dutch royal family fled the country that night. The Dutch High Command surrendered the country the next day. Most of the Dutch Army had yet to fire a round.

Unlike the Dutch, the Belgians, French, and British failed to inflict serious losses on the Luftwaffe. Soon the Stuka sirens broke up any counter attacks and struck terror into the retreating Allied commands. Luftwaffe bombers were seemingly everywhere, and though the Allied air forces outnumbered the Luftwaffe, they were nowhere to be found. They were destroyed on the ground, wasted away or their airfields were overrun. The massive Belgian fortress at Eben Emael was the centerpiece of their defense and fell to creative airborne and glide assault, one of the few German airborne successes in the war. The best Allied troops were fighting on the Dyle River in Belgium and on the Maginot line in the south, and there was nothing left to defeat the German breakthrough in the center. The French high command was paralyzed.

On 15 May, Reynaud phoned Churchill to say the war was lost, and Churchill, in spite of the French historical inclination to do so and still survive, believed him. The next day, the German panzers sprinted out of the bridgeheads and caused even more chaos to Allied command and control. Soon after, Churchill ordered the British Expeditionary Force, which had hardly engaged any Germans so far in the war, to retreat to Dunkirk, and the Belgian Army to the north was cut off.

The Germans defeated the Allies in just six days. They did it by defeating the Allied leadership not the Allied armies. Most of the French, British, Belgian, and Dutch troops hadn’t even fired their weapons yet. The Battle for France and the Low Countries lasted another 40 days through the sheer force of will of what was left of the French Army.

Little Richard and Tutti Frutti

In 1951, Alan Freed’s Imaginary Bandstand began playing rhythm and blues and ruled the nighttime air waves, causing DJ’s across the country to follow suit. By 1954, these rhythm and blues songs spawned a new music genre called “rock and roll” after the African American euphemism for sex. In March 1955, Bill Haley and his Comets’ song, “Rock Around the Clock”, appeared in the movie Blackboard Jungle, and Rock and Roll finally broke onto the music charts.

But there was still a problem with Rock and Roll in 1954 and most of 1955: Though kids of all races listened to Rock and Roll performers of all races on the radio, kids rarely saw the performers. Most never knew if they were white, black, or Hispanic. When the kids did go to live shows, they were generally of the same race as the performers. Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” was the perfect example, released in May 1955, white kids loved it, but white kids that went to Chuck Berry concerts, went there thinking he was white.

Richard Wayne Penniman changed that.

“Little Richard” as he was known to his friends, was inspired by Ike Turner’s Rocket 88 (arguably the first Rock and Roll song) in 1951 to get into the music business. For the next three years he struggled charting as a rhythm and blues songwriter, pianist, and singer, despite his larger than life stage presence. In 1954 he went back to his hometown of Macon, Georgia, disillusioned with the music industry, and washed dishes in the diner at the local Greyhound station. He formed a new band, which played on the weekends, and was convinced by a friend to send a demo to someone he knew at Specialty Records, based in Los Angeles. In summer of 1955, as Rock Around the Clock was on every radio, he got a call and was told to meet producer “Bumps” Blackwell at their studio in New Orleans. Specialty Records wanted a Fats Domino, who was the first R&B artist to successfully bring black music to a white audience.

On the humid and miserable afternoon of 14 September 1955, Little Richard was having a tough recording session. Nothing was working out. Out of frustration, he and Blackwell went next door to (I Shit You Not) The Dew Drop Inn, for a drink or two. Within minutes, Little Richard was playing on the bar’s piano and a crowd began to form. He got a bit wild and gave an impromptu concert right there. His music was missing a bit without his backup band, so he simulated the drum intro to his new song with the now iconic “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bop-bop!”

With just 15 minutes left in the session, he and Bumps raced back next door and recorded Tutti Frutti in just one take. That single take is the same version you hear today. Tutti Fruiti was originally a song about a large cylindrical spaceship making the difficult and uncomfortable journey to the seventh planet from the sun. He knew he had a hit, but because of the risqué material, Little Richard tried it out live before releasing it. In October 1955, he did a series of shows that got bigger and bigger, and the centerpiece was his rendition of Tutti Frutti. The kids went wild, both black and white. Little Richard was the first live black Rock and Roll act to crossover to white kids. Live Rock and Roll, music that didn’t care about the color of your skin, was born.

When Pennimen and Blackwell finally felt comfortable releasing the material in November, Tutti Frutti shot straight to number 2 on the charts, and electrified Little Richard’s career. Tutti Frutti was the first mainstream black American Rock and Roll hit to cross the ocean and chart in the UK. Tutti Frutti and Little Richard’s wild antics on stage became the template for the new genre of music about to take the world by storm: Rock and Roll. Tutti Frutti changed the music industry, and every band and producer wanted their concerts to be like Little Richard’s. The crossover was almost complete. The music industry finally had a black act that appealed to white kids live, now they just needed a white act that appealed to black kids. They found him later that autumn in Bill Halley’s opener, Elvis Presley, a fan of Little Richard. Also, that December, after hearing Little Richard and Tutti Frutti, country singer Carl Perkins wrote “Blue Suede Shoes” essentially creating the devil-may-care sub-genre of Rockabilly. Elvis Presley and Rockabilly would eventually bring the white girls en masse to the concerts and record stores. And where the girls went the bots followed. The beginning of the Golden Age of Rock and Roll was but months away.

Little Richard changed live rhythm and blues forever, and introduced it to a brand new audience. Little Richard’s concerts, where white and black kids mixed and danced to a new form of music, were ten years ahead of the Civil Rights Movement.

Little Richard broke down barriers thought incontestable just the spring before. He didn’t care about skin color, he cared about the fans. We should all be more like Little Richard.

RIP Richard Wayne Penniman

The Capture of Fort Ticonderoga

After the battles of Lexington and Concord, 20,000 American minutemen descended upon Boston and laid siege to it. But the siege quickly fell into an impasse. General Gage couldn’t force his way out, because there were too many Americans. And the Americans couldn’t storm the city, because the guns of the British Navy would break up any assault. The Americans needed cannon and powder to dislodge the British. Furthermore there were rumors that a British army was forming in Canada and the Americans would be caught in the middle if it marched to relieve Boston. The Americans needed time to train, organize and equip their army before the British descended upon them from the north.

Two hundred miles away, the massive Ft Ticonderoga fulfilled both of these needs. It dominated the traditional invasion route from Canada into New England along Lake Champlain and was stocked with cannon and powder. The fort was vital to the defense of the colonies in the French and Indian War, but after Canada was ceded to the British, it no longer had much military value. Its walls fell into disrepair, and in 1775 had a garrison of just forty men.

The Americans actually launched two small, but unconnected expeditions to capture the fort. The first, from the army besieging Boston, was led by the aristocratic, ambitious, and very competent former merchant, then colonial colonel, Benedict Arnold. The second expedition was led by Arnold’s polar opposite: the hard drinking, hard living, and hard fighting frontiersman Ethan Allen and the notorious Green Mountain Boys, his personal militia from The New Hampshire Grants. They had been fighting their own war of independence from New York since 1770 (They eventually won, we call their land Vermont today). They temporarily put aside their differences with their cousins to the south to fight the British. On 9 May, the two expeditions joined forces, and Arnold attempted to take over command of both due to his commission from Massachusetts. But the Green Mountain Boys were going to be led by Ethan Allen, and no fancy pants colonel was just going to try and take over. They refused to fight for anyone else and Benedict Arnold was relegated to second in command: a slight that infuriated the proud Arnold.

The next morning, Allen, with Arnold at his side, launched a joint surprise attack on Fort Ticonderoga. They met almost no resistance and literally caught the garrison commander with his pants down. Allen banged on his door, and yelled, “Come on out, ya rat!” Hundreds of French, Indians, Americans, and British were killed or wounded trying to take and retake Fort Ticonderoga during the last war. In 1775 the “Gibraltar of America” fell before breakfast. As the Green Mountain Boys got drunk on the rum stores and the garrison commander’s personal booze stash, then tore the joint apart, Arnold and his men continued on and seized Crown Point, Fort St Jean, and the ships at anchor up the coast.

On 19 May, a letter from Gage arrived instructing the garrison to prepare for a rebel attack.

Ethan Allen wrote a dispatch to the Massachusetts Congress detailing the success of the expedition. He purposely never mentioned his rival’s name.

Benedict Arnold never forgave him.

Jack Cade’s Rebellion

England’s loss of Normandy after their defeat at the Battle of Formigny against France in April 1450 during the Hundred Years War crushed the morale of the English people. England’s impending loss in the war unleashed French and Norman raiders on English coasts. However to the people of Kent and Sussex, their enemies across the English Channel were the least of their worries.

Corruption in Lancastrian King Henry VI’s court was already legendary, but the loss at Formigny exposed the corruption and incompetence for all to see. There was no longer a war to hide behind. Nobles long used to abusing their Norman and French charges, returned to England and thought they could do the same with their own countrymen. The actions of the soldiers sent by the King to protect the coastal communities from the Norman raiders greatly exacerbated the situation. The cure was worse than the disease. The soldiers looted, raped, and devastated the towns and farms they were sent to defend. Sheriffs and magistrates, King’s men who held their offices through fraudulent elections, sided with the soldiers against the people. The final straw was the death of the Duke of Suffolk.

The Duke of Suffolk was the King’s best friend and closest advisor. Some say he ruled England while the mentally infirm Henry was just a puppet. The Duke was the most corrupt of king’s privy council, all of whom were the most corrupt men in England. His murder was part of the vicious, bitter, and petty internecine squabbles that wracked Henry VI’s court. The Duke of Suffolk’s body washed up on the shore of Kent and the people immediately assumed the King would blame them. Rumors abounded that the Royal Army would march across the countryside with fire and sword expelling the people and turning the entirety of Kent into the King’s personal hunting preserve.

On 8 May 1450, a man named Jack Cade proclaimed himself “Captain of Kent” and vowed to make the people’s demands heard by the king. He declared himself a “Mortimer”, which was the name of Henry VI’s Yorkist rivals. He wrote up a list of complaints and demands, “The Complaint of the Poor Commons of Kent”, outlining the King’s transgressions against the people of Kent. The first point was a declaration of innocence for the Duke of Suffolk’s murder. The remainder of the Complaint detailed the rampant corruption of the King’s men, including unfair taxation, extortion, “perversion of justice”, ruination of the economy, and election fraud. Cade called for an army to give the demands the force of arms. 5000 beggars, shopkeepers, artisans, peasants, destitute soldiers, and outlawed knights and nobles responded.

Initially, the King didn’t take the uprising seriously. He dispatched a small force of knights and men at arms to put it down, but they were ambushed and destroyed in June. Shortly thereafter, the King’s attitude changed when his personal confessor, the Bishop of Salisbury, was tortured and killed by a Kentish mob, as Jack Cade and his army marched on London. The Bishop of Salisbury was the second most powerful man in England, since he knew all of the King’s dirty secrets, and there was no telling what he told rebels. King Henry VI and his court fled London.

Jack Cade struck the London Stone, declared himself the mayor, and set about finding King’s men to try and punish. Cade’s rebels and the people of London existed harmoniously for but a few days. Cade couldn’t keep control of his men. Despite assurances that the rebel army would respect the people of London and their property, Cade’s men began to get drunk and loot. The Londoners understood the behavior of the king’s men better than most, but lost their sympathy for the rebels quickly. On 8 July 1450, the Londoners marched across the London Bridge determined to storm the White Hart Inn where Cade lived and oversaw his tribunals. Cade’s men met them half way. The bloody Battle of London Bridge saw the defeat of Cade’s rebels, and they retreated from London.

Despite the rebel loss, the next day the Lord Chancellor convinced the King to issue pardons and accede to the rebel’s demands in The Complaint of the Poor Commons of Kent. The King did so and the remainder of Cade’s army dispersed. King Henry VI revoked the pardons almost immediately. His men hunted down Cade and the rebels now that they were no longer an army. The King’s men were largely successful. On 12 July, Cade was wounded fighting his pursuers, and died before he could be brought to trial. Henry didn’t care though: he gave the body a mock trial in which Cade was found guilty. Cade’s body was then hung, drawn, quartered, and beheaded, with the parts displayed publically all over Kent until they fully decomposed.

Cade’s Rebellion was unsuccessful but the king’s duplicitous behavior inspired numerous smaller uprisings across England. Worse, the king’s double cross confirmed to his rivals that there was no negotiating with him. If there was any justice in England, it was not going to come from king and his lackeys. Support for the king evaporated in the countryside. The wronged people of England began looking for a new monarch to support, and they found one in the Lancaster’s bitterest rival, the banished House of York. A few weeks after Cade’s Rebellion, Richard of York returned from his exile in Ireland. In 1455, Richard’s White Rose of York was in open rebellion against the Red Rose of Henry VI’s House of Lancaster, in what later became known as The War of the Roses.