Friday, February 27, 2015

The Monarchist Vietnam War

Thai military unit given honors by US forces
The war against communism in Vietnam, and more broadly across Indochina, is almost universally considered an “American war”. This is not due to America shouldering the largest burden in the fight against communism in Indochina but more because of a sort of obsession with the United States by the hyper-patriot “Yankee Doodle” types on one hand and the anti-American hysterics on the other, both of whom see the United States as the center of the world and the driving force behind everything that happens in it. However, it may surprise some to know that the United States was not the only country involved in fighting the expansion of communism in Southeast Asia and, more to our point, of the coalition of countries that were involved fully half of them were monarchies. It is rather unfortunate that their contribution and their sacrifices are often forgotten (though some seem to prefer it that way) because, while their contribution in numbers was not immense, they played a critical part in several key areas of the conflict. If one were to look at the war more broadly, in the larger sense of the struggle against the communist domination of Southeast Asia, monarchies played a still larger part.

British SAS in the Malaya Emergency
As in Europe, the roots of the Cold War go back to World War II with foreign invasions upsetting the political status quo and giving rise to the first internal conflicts between pro- and anti-communist forces. This was seen in Malaysia where largely communist dominated Chinese guerilla groups formed to fight the Japanese occupation. Likewise, in Vietnam, the communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh organized the Vietminh to oppose the Japanese and the short-lived Japanese-sponsored Empire of Vietnam as well as the return of French colonial rule. The Allies, because of the war situation, gave support to such groups but they became extremely problematic as soon as the war was over. From 1948 to 1960 an all-monarchist war against communism raged in Malaysia between the forces of the British Empire and Commonwealth Realms against a communist insurgency backed by China, Indonesia and the Soviet Union. It was a much more small-scale conflict than that in Indochina, but no less intense and ultimately it was the monarchist side that prevailed which is why the monarchial federation of Malaysia exists today as a prosperous, independent Commonwealth country. If things had gone the other way, if the communists had prevailed, all the Malaysian monarchies would have been lost.

In Indochina, it was thanks to the forces of the British Empire that the communists did not seize control of the whole of Vietnam in the August Revolution of 1945. They took power in the north and central thirds of the country but in the south the British refused to allow this and even re-armed the surrendered Japanese forces to prevent a communist takeover before the French authorities could resume control. This was all the more controversial considering that, in other parts of the country, some Japanese had joined with the Vietnamese communists, perhaps out of shared support for communism or, as is more likely, simply out of a racist desire to fight non-Asians no matter what the underlying political cause. It was also controversial as the United States, under President Roosevelt, had made no secret of the fact that it opposed the restoration of French colonial rule in Indochina. That attitude, however, changed with the communist victory in China and the oncoming tidal wave of communist aggression from Korea to Malaysia. It is also worth noting that the areas of Indochina where the communists were the least successful were those areas where monarchist sentiment was strongest such as in Laos and Cambodia.

Emp. Bao Dai with French General de Lattre
The First Indochina War, seen by most as simply a clash between the French Republic on one side and the Vietnamese communists on the other, was actually a monarchist war as well. The non-communist Vietnamese were organized into the State of Vietnam which was not officially a republic but not a traditional monarchy either. It was rather like Francoist Spain prior to 1947 or Manchukuo from 1932-1934. Officially it was simply a “State” but the Chief of State was the legitimate monarch and it was effectively a monarchy. We know from history that the French defeat doomed the Vietnamese former-Emperor turned “Chief of State” Bao Dai but what is less well known is that it would have doomed the monarchies of Laos and Cambodia as well had not other factors intervened. Both countries had communist revolutionary movements and both had originally been established under the guidance of the Vietnamese communist leaders. In fact, when the United States first began to take the situation in Indochina seriously, the greatest concern was not South Vietnam where President Ngo Dinh Diem seemed to be holding his own but rather the Kingdom of Laos which was more fractured and seemed less stable and in greater peril than any other country in the region.

On the Lao front there were basically two warring factions and one faction which tried to remain above the fray. The Royal Lao Army of King Sisavang Vatthana, wanted more than anything to keep the Cold War from spreading to Laos, then there were the communists who fought a vicious guerilla war to gain power for themselves and the anti-communist forces that opposed them which consisted to a large extent of Hmong warriors backed, not-so-secretly, by the United States. The Kingdom of Thailand also played a critical part in the war in Laos as many Thai mercenaries fought on behalf of the anti-communist forces with the, again, not-so-secret blessing of the Thai royal government. The United States sent considerable military assistance to the Kingdom of Laos to aid in combating the communist Pathet-Lao and, at the time, the Kingdom of Laos received more U.S. foreign aid than any other country. Fellow monarchies such as Japan, Thailand and Australia also provided valuable assistance to the struggling royalists of Laos. The Pathet Lao had mostly Vietnamese advisors along with a few Soviet and a number of Chinese who were hoping that Laos could be secured, its monarchy abolished and made into a puppet-state through which China would have an open road to attack the Kingdom of Thailand.

King Savang Vatthana of Laos
For more than a decade the hard fighting Hmong, Thai and Lao royalists backed up by American air support fought a grueling and heroic struggle against communist domination for the preservation of the Kingdom of Laos. American President Kennedy landed a force of US Marines in Thailand to stand ready to intervene in Laos if the communists gained the upper hand. However, he quickly agreed to a proposal by the Soviets to withdraw forces and keep Laos neutral. Despite having ignored a similar, previous agreement, Kennedy went along and pulled the Marines out of Thailand and ordered the US ambassador to back the neutral faction. Meanwhile, the Soviets had no intention of doing the same and merely channeled their support through North Vietnam so that large sections of Laos effectively came under the control of the communist Vietnamese. The war in Laos went on but cooled from a boil to a simmer as both sides seemed to realize that all would depend on the fate of Vietnam.

In the war in Vietnam, while the South Vietnamese and United States obviously supplied the vast majority of the fighting forces, monarchist participants on the side of South Vietnam included Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Laos. Monarchies not directly involved but which were supportive of the South Vietnamese struggle included Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom and the Empire of Iran. During the course of the war more than 60,000 Australians served in the war in Vietnam losing 521 killed and over 3,000 wounded. They gave heroic service in numerous operations, one of the most famous being the Battle of Long Tan in Phuoc Tuy where 108 Australians defeated about 2,000 North Vietnamese regular army troops. Likewise, 3,500 New Zealanders served in the Vietnam War with losses of 37 killed and 187 wounded. The Kingdom of Thailand, as well as supplying troops to the war for Laos, dispatched the “Queen’s Cobra” battalion to South Vietnam where it served from 1965 to 1971. Thailand also supplied bases for American air forces and support centers for American and other allied personnel. The Australians had a particularly good combat record and more than a few have commented since that the American high command could have profited by adopted Australian methods of counter-insurgency operations.

Troops of the Royal Australian Regiment in Vietnam
For the monarchist cause in each of the Indochinese countries each had a unique set of circumstances and must be dealt with separately. Starting with Vietnam, it had the disadvantage of losing its monarchy first when the August Revolution brought down the Japanese-backed Empire of Vietnam in 1945. That was really the end of the traditional Vietnamese monarchy. However, with the creation of the French-backed State of Vietnam (also recognized by the US, UK & others as the legitimate Vietnamese government) there was hope that a more modern sort of monarchy could survive. That it did not was due to the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu after which France washed its hands of Vietnam and left the anti-communist cause in Indochina in the hands of the United States. The biggest blow to the monarchy-in-all-but-name State of Vietnam, at least as far as the monarchy was concerned, came after the appointment of the American-backed Catholic nationalist Ngo Dinh Diem as Prime Minister. He set about breaking up the system of patronage that the former Emperor Bao Dai ruled through and so aroused the opposition of many.

The best chance for removing Diem was probably the attempted coup launched by General Nguyen Van Hinh, a Bao Dai loyalist, but Diem stood firm and Bao Dai blinked, recalling General Hinh who left for France and never saw Vietnam again. When Bao Dai finally summoned Diem to France to dismiss him it was too late and Diem organized a referendum in 1955 that saw the State of Vietnam become the Republic of Vietnam with Diem as president. Most regard that as the effective end of all monarchist hopes in Vietnam, however, that may not be the case. Ngo Dinh Diem had, as a young mandarin, been hand-picked by Emperor Bao Dai and promoted rapidly in government. He was known as a monarchist as well as a nationalist and came from a Catholic family that was close to the imperial court. His father, Nguyen Van Kha, had been a high-ranking official under Emperor Thanh Thai and had left public service in protest when the French deposed Thanh Thai. Diem had been aided in his career and had family ties with the staunch monarchist Nguyen Huu Bai, probably the most prominent Catholic in the imperial government at the time. His famous sister-in-law, best known as Madame Nhu, was a great-granddaughter of Emperor Dong Khanh, grandfather of the last Emperor Bao Dai. So the ties between Ngo Dinh Diem and the monarchy were numerous and far reaching.

President Ngo Dinh Diem
As such, and considering that Diem acted against the former Emperor only when his own position was under threat, it may have been possible to have effected a restoration of the monarchy under Diem. When the administration of President Kennedy turned against Diem, if they had been more realistic and far-sighted, they could have arranged a sort of compromise that, under the circumstances, Diem may well have accepted. The proposal could have been for a restoration of the Emperor or perhaps even the elevation of the Prince Imperiale Bao Long for a fresh start, with Diem reverting back to a more limited role as prime minister or perhaps stepping down completely on the understanding that he could come back at some point when the situation had changed. It is speculative but given the personal history of Diem and his family, I cannot help but think that there was some glimmer of hope for a monarchist revival up until Diem was assassinated in 1963. There were still many members of the Imperial Family in the country, the Emperor’s mother still lived in the Forbidden City in fact but after the death of Diem there would never be anyone in power in Saigon with such a monarchist past or so many connections again.

In Laos, it is strange considering how widely criticized Vietnamese Emperor Bao Dai was for his cooperation with the French, that the leaders of the royal house did not face the same situation despite being even more pro-French than Bao Dai was. During World War II both King Sisavang Vong and the Crown Prince refused to collaborate with the Japanese and remained supportive of France. Prince Phetsarath led the Japanese-allied pro-independence forces and gained widespread public adoration but that never put him at odds with the rest of the family and the King was eventually reconciled with him. If there was one man who probably could have saved Laos from all of the troubles it was to endure in the course of the Second Indochina War it was Prince Phetsarath. Even decades of communist oppression has not managed to destroy his popularity amongst the Lao people. Unfortunately, Prince Phetsarath died in 1959 of a brain hemorrhage and the country soon began to fracture as discussed above.

Prince Sihanouk at Khmer Rouge rally
The Kingdom of Cambodia easily represents the most difficult case and it will always be one that few, if any, monarchists can look at without being troubled. Unlike Vietnam and Laos, Cambodia entered the era of the Vietnam War in probably better shape than any other Indochinese country. King Norodom Sihanouk had successfully navigated the French and the Japanese, cooperating with both, turning on both and escaping with his throne intact and independence for his country. An especially bountiful crop at the right time caused his popularity to soar to near godlike status and Cambodia under King Sihanouk seemed more united, prosperous and happy than any other country in the region. Unfortunately, the cancer that was the communist Khmer Rouge was in place, waiting for an opportunity to exploit.

King Sihanouk proclaimed neutrality in the Cold War but seemed to enjoy ‘dancing along the Demilitarized Zone’ as it were. He looked the other way as the communist terrorist group, the Viet Cong, established bases in Cambodia from which to attack South Vietnam, refusing offers of American support to remove them. The anti-communist forces became increasingly frustrated with Sihanouk and when he left on a friendship tour to Communist China, North Korea and the Soviet Union it was taken by everyone as a clear indication of where he stood (though in all probability it was likely an effort at playing both sides of the fence, hedging his bets as it were). While he was out of the country, in 1970 there was a military coup led by General Lon Nol, a man known as a right-wing monarchist but also a staunch anti-communist who was eager to take action against the Vietnamese presence in Cambodia. Lon Nol declared Prince Sihanouk deposed and himself President of the new Khmer Republic. Today, the most widely repeated story is that the coup was backed by the American CIA to get rid of King Sihanouk with Lon Nol as the willing traitor. However, though widely assumed, there has never been any actual evidence of CIA involvement and Lon Nol was actually extremely reluctant to remove Sihanouk as Head of State. In fact, he finally did so only at actual gunpoint.

President Lon Nol
However, big plans to drive out the Vietnamese communists and wipe out the native red elements proved unsuccessful. Lon Nol suffered a stroke the following year and while the Americans and South Vietnamese took care of the Vietnamese communist strongholds in the border areas, the deposed Sihanouk threw his considerable prestige behind the Khmer Rouge, urging people to flee to the jungle and join the guerillas. So Cambodia presented the world with an odd picture: a republic led by a monarchist which was struggling for survival against a communist insurgency that was notoriously anti-monarchist being backed by the former monarch. Even when acting under duress, Lon Nol felt so terrible about what he done to Prince Sihanouk that he bowed down in tears before the Queen Mother Kossamak to beg her forgiveness. For his part, Sihanouk lived in a palace in North Korea until the end of the Vietnam War when American support for the Khmer Republic was cut off and the Khmer Rouge seized power. He returned to Cambodia but was held prisoner by the fanatical communist regime and was only allowed to leave in order to argue the case of Democratic Kampuchea against Vietnam after which, rather than return, he relocated to China and North Korea until the eventual UN referendum saw him restored in a more limited constitutional monarchy.

That was a phenomenon that was unique and has never been repeated. For monarchists in Cambodia, there simply were no ideal options after 1970. Those who followed the King into the future dominated by Pol Pot came to regret it as the Khmer Rouge not only tossed aside the King after coming to power but went on to massacre about a third of the entire population in their drive to create a “pure” communist state. So, odd as it may seem, the best thing to do would have been to support Lon Nol and his republic. Given the depth of his attachment to the monarchy, I have no doubt that King Sihanouk could have easily returned to the throne, especially after Lon Nol was able to rid himself of the arch-republican Son Ngoc Thanh in 1972. There may have even been a restoration of the monarchy without Sihanouk if the republic had survived as the other major backer of the regime was Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak (a cousin of Sihanouk though opposed to him) who reportedly harbored hopes of his son becoming King of Cambodia. As it turned out, after the Khmer Rouge takeover in 1975 Lon Nol fled the country and Sirik Matak was executed.

Last of the King & Queen of Laos
So, all in all, a great deal hung in the balance for monarchists in the Vietnam War. The fate of the Kingdom of Laos was decided by the conflict, in almost any other case that of Cambodia would have been and even in Vietnam itself there remained at least room for hope prior to the communist takeover in 1975. The elderly Phan Khac Suu was briefly President of South Vietnam in 1964-65 (during the chaotic years after the assassination of Diem and before the administration of Nguyen Van Thieu) and he had, in the past, been known as a supporter of Emperor Bao Dai and was a member of the strange Cao Dai sect which had been supportive of the monarchy. If he had gained a greater following there may have been some chance for a restoration with the former Emperor still in France, ready to be restored if asked (and if he wished). What is important to remember is that the cause that those monarchists in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam who fought against the communist takeover and those of Australia, New Zealand and Thailand who helped them in that struggle, was a noble one and one worth fighting for. It is unfortunate that it has come to be seen solely as an “American war” and thus something to oppose and condemn by those who follow the fashionable chattering class in being against absolutely anything the United States is for. It does a disservice to all those brave military forces of the Queen of Australia and New Zealand, the King of Thailand and the local monarchs who sacrificed a great deal to stand against the tide of communist expansion in Southeast Asia.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Austrian Style of the Confederacy

During the American Civil War neither side was without some monarchial connections. Men of royal rank actually fought on both sides, which is not all that surprising given what a titanic struggle it was. Given that the conflict marked the bloodiest war ever fought in the western hemisphere, it is only natural that others would be drawn in by it. Of course, the war did not directly concern the subject of monarchy at all as it was a war between two factions of republicans. Indirectly (as we have covered here over the years) it had a great impact on a number of monarchies in the world, particularly in effort to revive monarchism in the Americas by the Spanish in the Caribbean and the French in Mexico (and perhaps beyond). Both sides, however, had republicanism imprinted on them from birth and both used republican terms to insult their enemies. The Confederates, in the south, for example, were fond of referring to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln as “His Majesty, Abraham I” while the adherents to the Union in the north often branded the southern rebels with the title of “Tories”, originally the term for those loyal to the King in the American War for Independence and which had come to be applied to anyone viewed as a traitor to the American cause and ideals, particularly, in this war, with the notion that “all men are created equal”.

Deification of Lincoln
North and south may have had similar political prejudices concerning monarchy but no one could say they both exhibited a similar level of antagonism toward the institution. The southern Confederacy, then as now, could easily be viewed as the more royal-friendly of the two governments. It was the more tradition-minded, aristocratic, “Old World” part of America but this view was also due to a great deal of political expediency rather than genuine sincerity. The Confederacy was clearly outmatched in the struggle and, as such, it was in the interests of the south to persuade other powers to intervene and most of the foreign powers in the world in 1861 were monarchies. As such, a stridently republican attitude would not have served the south well. The north, on the other hand, was in a dominant position from the outset and, needing no direct foreign assistance, simply wanted foreign powers to stay out of the conflict and, indeed, threatened war against any who would even talk of making peace between the north and south. As such, anti-monarchy sentiment was quite common in the north though the great powers of the world tended to fall more on one side than the other depending on their own politics. This never extended to outright support but one could see prospective alliances waiting to happen. It was clearly in the best interests of the French Empire for the Confederates to win and Britain, while less sure, tended at the higher levels of society to favor a divided America as well. With Britain and France showing more sympathy for the Confederates, this left the Russian Empire showing more sympathy for the United States as a counterweight.

The United States also had a more republican fervor to it, not because of the American people, but because of Europeans. After the Revolutions of 1848 many European republicans had fled to American shores and most foreign immigrants flocked to the big cities of the north such as Boston or New York City. There were many German, Irish, Polish and Sicilian immigrants to the north who were far more zealous republicans than any native-born Americans for whom kingly rule was a distant memory and who, even earlier than the war, had even developed a bit of nostalgia for the old days of colonialism under King George. However, there was one particular immigrant to the American south whose influence gave the Confederacy a very monarchist appearance, even if not everyone in Dixie’s Land realized it. When the southern states seceded and southern boys marched off to war, they bore more than a passing resemblance to the armies of the Hapsburg Empire of Austria-Hungary.

Nicola Marschall
Nicola Marschall was a Prussian-born immigrant to the American south from a family, appropriately enough, of tobacco merchants. He arrived via New Orleans in 1849 and soon moved to Alabama. He did return to Germany for a time but came back and seems to have regarded Marion, Alabama as his home. By profession he was an artist and taught art in the south for a time. In those days, private schools that served the children of high-born southerners offered gainful employment to a number of Europeans as wealthy planter families wanted their offspring to be as “cultured” as the aristocrats of Europe. Every such southern child was expected to be well educated in art and music as well as being well-read in the classics. This reached such an extent that, though few remember it today, before the war it was very unusual to find a member of a wealthy planter family in the south who could not speak French. As an artist, Marschall painted landscapes and portraits and during his career had several notable people pose for him such as Otto von Bismarck, President Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis. However, his contribution to the monarchial appearance of the Confederacy did not come from his paintings. That started when a friend persuaded him to submit an entry for a possible design for a national flag for the new Confederate States of America.

Austrian & Confederate flags
A congressional committee had been set up to review designs for a proper flag for the Confederacy and they ultimately chose the design submitted by Nicola Marschall. It became known as the “Stars & Bars” because of its similarity to the United States flag or “Stars & Stripes”. However, if one had looked beyond American shores they would have been able to see clearly what the real influence was behind the first national flag of the Confederacy. With a field of three broad “bars” of red-white-red with a dark blue canton containing a circle of seven stars (for the seven original Confederate states) it was almost an exact duplicate of the unofficial national flag of Imperial Austria which Marschall would, of course, have been very familiar with. There was clearly an effort being made to keep it in line with the “style” of the American flag but it was obviously mostly influenced by the Austrian flag, adjusted by simply replacing the crowned arms with a more American circle of stars. The flag was formally adopted as the national flag of the Confederacy on March 4, 1861 and first came to world attention when it was raised over Fort Sumter, South Carolina after the first battle of the war.

However, the similarities between the Confederacy and Imperial Austria went beyond simply the flag that was flown above them. Another congressional committee was called upon to design a proper uniform for the Confederate army and, once again, via a friend of a friend, Marschall ended up being the one whose design was adopted. Thanks to the Prussian artist, the Confederates would march to war looking a great deal like soldiers of the Hapsburg Emperor. This time, the inspiration dates back to 1857 when Marschall, while in Verona, Italy (at that time under Austrian rule) had seen some Austrian sharpshooters and was quite taken with their stylish uniforms of grey tunics with green facings and stars on the collar to differentiate rank among the officers. The uniform Marschall designed for the Confederate army was very similar to this, although, ultimately, very few would end up following the official regulations exactly.

Regulation uniform for CSA artillery officers
The uniform of a grey tunic (in practice almost invariably replaced by a frock coat or jacket), blue trousers and a French-style kepi (cap) in branch-of-service color was very similar to that worn by the Austrians. For officers, rank was denoted by bars on the collar for company officers and stars for field and general officers as well as by the braid on the sleeves forming a design known as an “Austrian knot”. It was a very smart uniform though it was rarely seen as it was intended due to a shortage of materials, an aversion to uniformity and matters of practical necessity. The tunic, for example, proved very unpopular and few persisted in wearing it with most soldiers wearing a short jacket and most officers a frock coat. The kepi was also rather unpopular and for most southern troops was replaced with a broad-brimmed “slouch” hat. Colorful facings, trim and braid also tended to disappear as the war dragged on and more plain uniforms were adopted because of cost, shortage of materials and to avoid standing out as a target. Still, some, like Lt. Colonel Archer Anderson (a staff officer for several prominent Confederate generals) and Lt. General James Longstreet were among the few who persisted in wearing the Austrian-style tunics when other officers would not.

So it was that, aside from individual units on both sides that adopted the style of troops fighting for monarchs, from French Zouaves and chasseurs to Scottish highlanders, Hungarian hussars and Italian Bersaglieri, it was the Confederate armies that marched to war wearing uniforms and flying a flag that were both inspired by those of the Austrian Empire. What Emperor Francis Joseph might have thought of such a thing, we can only imagine.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Today in Pan-Monarchist History

It was on this day in 1921 that the pan-monarchist army of White Russian General Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg (MM blog mascot) drove out the Chinese republican forces from the Mongolian holy city of Urga to restore the Bogd Khan ('Holy King') to his rightful throne. Sure, most consider him a murderous lunatic but he probably saved Mongolia from total extermination by his action. It was supposed to be the first step in an anti-communist, pan-monarchist crusade by the Baron, and a fine first step it was, but the ultimate goal was not to be achieved. At least not yet...

Friday, February 20, 2015

Thoughts on Lèse-majesté

I would be willing to bet money that as soon as anyone reads the title of this post the first country they are going to think of is the Kingdom of Thailand. This is extremely unfair but not unexpected as the elite media (at least in the western world) never misses the chance to give a great deal of publicity to every case of lèse-majesté that comes up in Thailand. It may, therefore, surprise some people to know that some degree of lèse-majesté laws remain on the books in a number of monarchies around the world, even if they are not always as dutifully enforced as in the “Land of Smiles”. Thailand does seem to be singled out, possibly because the monarch is so loved and honored in Thailand and the leftist global elite just cannot tolerate people having such feelings, but they do report efforts to enforce such laws in other countries on the rare occasion that a case is actually brought forward. It seems that those who like to accuse others of being “reactionaries” (as if that were a bad thing) are the ones who like to exaggerate and become nearly hysterical every time lèse-majesté laws are applied so they can try to scare people with images of absolute monarchy, royal tyranny trampling on free speech and so on. It fits their favorite narrative quite well.

The only relatively recent instances of lèse-majesté laws being applied in Europe that I can recall off-hand were from The Netherlands, Spain and Monaco. The Spanish case involved a magazine being fined for featuring a lewd cartoon of the King and Queen (then the Prince and Princess of Asturias); hardly a harsh punishment. In the Netherlands it involved a man spending a week in jail for making extremely rude remarks about then Queen Beatrix. Again, an extremely light punishment considering that his remarks could have been taken as a threat to the Queen’s safety (and I certainly would have treated them as such). The most recent case that I can remember involved a drunk Frenchman who was jailed for six days in Monaco for insulting the Sovereign Prince after being arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. So, he earned free accommodations in Monaco for the better part of a week for insulting a man who is an almost absolute monarch in his own country. Personally, being forced to stay in Monaco under almost any circumstances hardly seems like punishment but it made all the papers of course. One would think that the people living and visiting monarchies around the world lived in daily fear of being carted off in irons for speaking disrespectfully of the sovereign. Such is hardly the case.

The remaining monarchies in other parts of the world have similar laws, such as in the Middle East, Malaysia and Brunei and they are more uniformly enforced whereas in Europe, even where they remain on the books, they seldom are. Some monarchies, however, have no such laws but societal norms tend to make them less necessary. Japan, for example, no longer has lèse-majesté laws on the books but saying anything derogatory about the Emperor or Imperial Family would not be tolerated in polite society so most of the insults hurled at members of the Imperial Family are confined to the internet. The situation is somewhat similar in Cambodia where insulting the monarchy in print or in person could get you into some trouble but it can be done on the internet with the authorities being able to do little about it. However, the idea that only monarchies have such laws is absolutely false. Republics cannot have lèse-majesté laws in the same way monarchies can by their very nature but many, many republics have laws that come to the same thing, however, once again, how evenly they are enforced is another matter. Not long ago the republican government in Turkey, for example, made it illegal to say anything insulting about the country of Turkey, the government or anything Turkish really.

Numerous republics have laws protecting foreign heads of state from being insulted if not their own, as such things could cause international problems. However, again, these are not always enforced. In Poland, in 2005, for example, people were jailed for insulting Pope John Paul II and Russian President Vladimir Putin, yet in all the Iraq War protests, no one was ever given similar treatment for insulting US President George W. Bush though I think pretty much everyone in Europe did it (you would be very un-cool if you didn’t). In the case of Poland, insulting a beloved son and religious icon like John Paul II could be expected to provoke a reaction and while President Putin is certainly not beloved in Poland, an insult in his direction could prompt retaliation whereas an American President would never respond to such antics and everyone knows it. For quite a few republics it is illegal to insult the president though such laws are not always enforced. In Italy, for example, it is illegal to insult the President of the Republic but the law is not always enforced. However, not too long ago legal action was taken against someone for insulting the Pope who is protected by Italian law according to the terms of the Lateran Treaty. In the United States it is legal to insult the president but not to threaten the president. However, during the administration of President Obama, there was a dramatic increase in the number of people “investigated” by the Secret Service for insulting the President on the grounds that such insults “could” have been threatening.

When it comes to monarchies and comparing their lèse-majesté laws to republics, however, I consider it more indicative to look at laws pertaining to the desecration of flags. Such laws are also quite widespread all around the world and often include laws protecting the desecration of foreign flags and not just the national flag. In fact, in some countries, such as the Kingdom of Denmark, it is perfectly legal to burn the Danish flag but illegal to burn the flag of a foreign country. Why do I say this is indicative? Because a monarch, like a flag, represents a whole country, a whole people as no politician, no matter how he or she is chosen, ever could. Put in those terms, even some republicans may be able to understand why some people might actually support lèse-majesté laws. In Mexico, for instance, no one would think twice about insulting the King of Spain and most would see no reason why a Spaniard should be punished for insulting the King of Spain. Yet, when it comes to the Mexican national flag, there are quite strict laws preventing it from being treated in any way that could be construed as disrespectful and this is regarded as entirely appropriate.

Of course, the issue is also complicated by the European Union. In Britain, for example, there were clear laws against insulting the monarch or advocating for the abolition of the monarchy but such laws were overruled by EU guidelines on free speech. However, the “free speech” laws of Europe are as myriad as they are confusing to the point that people can march in the streets with signs saying “Death to the Jews” perfectly freely but other people will go to prison for denying the Holocaust. But then, plenty of countries have odd laws regarding speech. The most recent I learned of was a law in South Korea, not against insults but against praise; it is illegal to praise North Korea, communism or Japan (though I cannot imagine such laws being enforced). I could at least see some reason for that list up until “Japan” appeared. There was also a recent case of a Japanese journalist being arrested for reporting some rumors of misconduct on the part of the South Korean President, which I tend to think may not have happened if the reporter had been anything other than Japanese. Punishing a reporter for reporting something seems to be going too far to me but, again, this was mostly likely a symptom of the on-going antagonism between Japan and South Korea rather than a case of real censorship. The government wasn’t being anti-free speech so much as just anti-Japan.

As most could probably guess, I have no problem with lèse-majesté laws nor do I have any problem with laws against the desecration of national flags (even though my country doesn’t have them). On one level, I look at it like this; whether you are tearing up a picture of Queen Elizabeth II in England or burning the American flag in the United States you are attacking the symbol of a country and if you feel that way about the country you should pack your bags and get the hell out -no one is forcing you to live there. If, on the other hand, you want to tear up a picture of “Call Me Dave” Cameron or Gordon “IS ALIVE!” Brown, I would have no problem with that. Similarly, if an American feels he can only express himself by burning the flag of the Democrat or Republican parties I would have no problem with that. Doing something like that is showing contempt for a government, a political faction or ideology and that is a totally different thing, to my mind, from an act with disrespects an entire country as a whole and a symbol that represents everyone in it.

As I recently said concerning the horrific Charlie Hebdo massacre in France, I have no problem with laws which protect symbols or figures or anything that a country at large holds sacred. However, no one can force others to treat as inviolable something which they do NOT hold sacred, which is what was at the heart of the massacre in Paris. It does not bother me at all that a country like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the Sultanate of Brunei forbids insulting Mohammed. Anyone who would go to such a country and make such insults is someone wanting to get in trouble, however, they cannot expect that countries which are largely irreligious treat their religion (Islam) as sacred. Personally, I think insulting any major religion is in poor taste, needlessly antagonistic and unnecessary but you cannot expect a country that routinely insults its own historic faith to treat another faith (such as Islam) as sacred just because you do. It would be impossible anyway which is why such attacks will never be anything more than criminal terrorism. If someone in Russia insults the Prince of Wales, I may not like it but there really isn’t anything I or anyone else can do about it so trying to make a law against it would be rather pointless. However, someone insulting the Queen in Great Britain itself absolutely should be against the law and such laws should be upheld, even if the only penalty is to be deported to France or Ireland. Does that make me an enemy of “free speech”?

Obviously, I don’t think so, even though no country has absolute freedom of speech no matter where you go. I have no problem with reasonable debate and discussion in the ‘public square’ a country. One can do that without resorting to insults. For example, one can point out why they do not accept the Islamic religion or state why they think Mohammed was not what he claimed to be without drawing lewd cartoons of him involving bestiality. One can also say why and on what points they disagree with tenets of Catholicism without resorting to vandalism against sacred images or pictures of the Pope just as one can explain in great detail what disagreements they have with the policies of a certain government without resorting to the childish antics of burning a flag. On the subject of persons I would also say that I do not find it all unjustified to have different standards for monarchs than for politicians. For instance, an American who insults an American President will not offend me. If reasons are given I may agree or disagree with such points (though not much as painfully few have even been moderately good in my opinion) but no more than that. For a real precise example, let us say that someone insulted President Ronald Reagan to me, the only American chief executive of my lifetime that I consider fairly decent. I would not agree with such behavior, but I would not be “offended” by it. However, if someone were to insult the Queen of Denmark or the Emperor of Japan, I would be offended (to put it lightly). The reason is that there is a clear difference to me between a person who had a position of leadership thrust upon them and one who sought a position of leadership of their own free will. I feel the same about privacy laws for famous people. I do not feel at all the same when a celebrity, who chose to enter a profession which depends on media attention and popular support, complains of their privacy being violated as when the privacy of, for example, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is violated. They are two entirely different things to me.

How then would this attitude affect monarchists living in republics (some of you may be asking)? My position would remain mostly unchanged, though I would have to say “mostly” because one seldom finds any guidelines that can cover absolutely every contingency. For example, the Hungarian freedom-fighters who defaced the communist Hungarian flag by tearing out the arms in the center; that does not bother me at all as it was the symbol of a regime imposed on Hungary unjustly by a foreign power. But then, that is an easier case. What about the desecration of a flag in the French Republic? In such a case, though it certainly would not stir such feelings as it would for a monarchy, I still would have to say that I would rather it did not happen. Happily, I have never seen such a thing. Happily, I most often see monarchist demonstrators waving royalist flags rather than burning republican ones and that seems more appropriate to me. Burning flags (or books, effigies or icons etc) always seemed rather barbaric to me, something uncivilized. I have seen photos of nationalist protestors in Japan defacing South Korean flags and I do not approve of it (even if I may be in agreement with what they are actually protesting about). For one thing, I just find it unseemly and needlessly antagonistic and for another the flag of the Republic of Korea (unlike the communist north) is essentially the same as the traditional flag of the Kingdom of Korea and it pains me to see it disrespected (just as it pains me to see South Korean protestors disrespecting the Japanese flag). For similar reasons I could not relish seeing the flags of republics like Germany or Russia being disrespected. In the case of Russia, the flags in use today are essentially the same as in the days of the Russian Empire. Germany is a little different but the black-red-gold flag was also the flag of the monarchial German Confederation under the Hapsburgs and I just see no need to make a dramatic display of destroying it.

I would also draw a distinction, even if it made little difference to my ultimate position, between those countries which became republics because of the violent overthrow of a monarch and those which did so by coming to an agreement with their monarch. Most of the republics in the world today, after all, did not spring into being by overthrowing a monarch but by separating themselves from one, in most cases the Spanish or British monarch. If, for example, some man in India who longed for the days when the British monarch was still Emperor of India decided to burn the Indian national flag, I might not be as offended as I would be by the desecration of a monarchist flag or a picture of the Queen but I would still not be best pleased. The British monarch agreed to the independence of India quite freely and such a demonstration would only hurt the image of those in India who have a friendly attitude toward the United Kingdom. It would simply inflame Anglophobic sentiments in the subcontinent rather than encouraging greater Anglo-Indian friendship. If such an individual were known to be a monarchist, it would simply make monarchists look bad and so boost the prestige of the republic in comparison. I think most people could understand that such a demonstration would also be seen rather differently in a country like India or Burma or Kenya than in a republic which arose not because of a country gaining independence from another but from the overthrow of a legitimate native monarch.

Finally, I would say that one reason why I support laws protecting the integrity of monarchs from insult and slander is that I think too many monarchies today (and plenty of republics too for that matter) have become so liberally “broad minded” that even treason seems to be tolerated. This is extremely dangerous and must be fought against. Especially in a country in which the monarch reigns but does not rule, it should not be seen as “extreme” to insist that the legitimacy of the monarchy is the one thing everyone must be required to agree on. Every country has to have something like that, some foundational core that is above dispute that is a litmus test for being a loyal subject or (these days) a loyal citizen. That would not even preclude having reasonable debates about the nature of that core but that adherence to the core itself must be enforced and upheld. There is such a thing as treason and there are such things as traitors and we have to get away from this mentality that all speech and all points of view must be tolerated, even if it means tolerating betrayal and open and avowed enemies in your midst. Anyone who does that, being perfectly free to leave the country for one with institutions more to their taste, is openly making themselves an enemy and should be treated as such. Given how widespread republicanism has become, no dissident in a monarchy is ever very far away from a republic. If they choose to stay and continue to insult and slander what every loyal person should honor, they are willingly choosing to face the consequences of that. I just think there should be some.
Speak not ill of the king, not even in your thoughts and do not 
curse the rich even in your bedchamber for a bird of the air 
will carry your voice and that with wings will relate the matter.
-Ecclesiastes 10:20

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Monarchist Military Advancement in World War II

Everyone knows that military technology developed rapidly during the Second World War. A conflict which still featured bi-planes and cavalry charges ended with jet propulsion, guided missiles and atomic weapons. Most, however, view the republican powers of the conflict as being the ones on the cutting edge. While this is certainly a major part of the story, with Nazi Germany developing many of the most innovative weapons and the United States opening the nuclear age, it is not the whole story. The major monarchies of the Allied and Axis forces actually were the first to come up with many of the later weapons systems that republican powers put to best use and so tend to get the credit for. All were actually much more advanced and further along on ‘the cutting edge’ than most people realize. It only happened that, in many cases, the monarchies in question did not utilize these innovations for a variety of reasons. This holds true whether in looking at weapons or in the fields of strategy and tactics. Nazi Germany certainly made great strides and the United States and Soviet Union of course emerged as the strongest powers but much of their success was built on a foundation first set down by countries where monarchs still reigned.

General Fuller
There is probably no better example, and no better place to start, than the British Empire. On land, sea and air British military innovations set the standard that others followed. Many of the ideas that came to be associated with other powers actually had British origins. Aside from military historians, how many are aware that the concept and the formation of the German Blitzkrieg was actually born in Britain? First of all, as most know, it was the British who developed the tank as an effective fighting vehicle in World War I but elements in the British army also knew that armored warfare would be essential going forward but new tanks and new methods of employing them would be necessary. Much of the work later attributed to German General Heinz Guderian was based on the original theories of British Major General John Frederick Charles Fuller. Never heard of him? It would not be surprising, mostly because General Fuller, in the inter-war years, was affiliated with the British Fascist party and so officially remains on the “naughty” list and has never been someone that any in Britain felt like defending or boasting about. This is to take nothing away from Guderian, who rightly is credited for developing the German tank arm and putting these theories into effect but they were based on the ideas of Fuller.

Likewise, it was in army exercises on Salisbury plain in 1928-1929 that the British army’s “Experimental Armored Force” was tested in serious war games. This force consisted of light and heavier tanks, armored machine gun carriers, armored scout cars, artillery units and infantry and engineers in mechanized vehicles as well as RAF support from the air. The tradition-minded generals threw standard infantry and cavalry units at the EAF in vastly superior numbers, stacking the odds heavily against them and yet the EAF won every time and with relative ease. The Germans learned a great deal from this and the famous German Panzer Divisions of mechanized infantry, tanks and artillery backed up by air support were all based on the proven success of the Experimental Armored Force in Great Britain. The Germans basically took ideas developed in Britain and utilized them to best effect, even more so than the British themselves who were hampered, in the early days of the conflict by the strictly defensive attitude of their French allies. In some ways, the Germans may have learned the lesson too well as German military thinking tended to bind the air forces to the army on the ground more than in other countries.

The Gloster Meteor
This also highlights another area of British military excellence which was in the war in the air. Everyone knows about the heroism of the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain in which the Germans suffered for concentrating more on attacking ground targets while the British focused on shooting down German planes in aerial combat. Of course, the most successful fighter pilots, by far, in World War II were German, an honor no one can diminish. However, it is important to note that all of the most successful German pilots achieved their victories almost entirely against the Soviets. Many who had spectacular records on the eastern front were hard pressed to show much success at all when flying against the RAF. For example, one of the greatest pilots in the history of aviation was German Captain Gerhard Barkhorn who scored 301 victories during the war but who never shot down a single enemy plane when flying against the British. One of the reasons why the German ace Hans-Joachim Marseille (the “Star of Africa”) was so famous, despite having fewer victories than other aces like Barkhorn, Gunther Rall or Erich Hartmann, was because he flew against the British and so his 158 victories seemed impressive even when compared to pilots with over 200 or 300 victories against Soviet air forces. The RAF was also the first to put radar to effective practical use and this British innovation was quite crucial to victory in the Battle of Britain. Likewise, while Germany (not unjustly) is credited with pioneering jet propulsion, the British had been working on it even before the war began and came out with the famous Gloster Meteor jet fighter in 1944.

In the war at sea, it is no surprise that the British, who had dominated the oceans for so long, were also on the cutting edge. With HMS Ark Royal the British built the first modern aircraft carrier in World War I and in actions during World War II such as the raid on Taranto and the sinking of the Bismarck, it was the Royal Navy that proved how effective aircraft could be in the new age of naval warfare. In submarine warfare the British became famous for the success their submarines had at sinking enemy submarines and Royal Navy mini-subs, known as X-craft (or XE-craft in the Pacific) scored major successes with the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz and the Japanese cruiser Takao. HMS Turbulent, one of the rugged, heavily armed T-class subs operated by the Royal Navy sank 90,000 tons of Axis shipping and the T-boats in particular played a crucial role in choking off the flow of supplies to Axis forces in North Africa at the height of the conflict. Commander Ben Bryant, the most successful British submarine captain to survive the war, sank 32 Axis ships as compared to the most successful American sub commander who sank 24. Both remarkable achievements but it shows how the Royal Navy were not just on the receiving end of submarine warfare. The British had an excellent record on the seas as well as above and below them.

Of course, having been on the receiving end of the most successful submarine campaigns in history, in both world wars, the British were, by necessity, the undisputed leaders in anti-submarine warfare, developing hydrophones, active sonar, the depth charge and further developing existing systems to win the Battle of the Atlantic. In fact, when the USA entered the war they foolishly ignored British advice and so allowed the German U-Boats to do a great deal of damage before adopting tried and true British methods of combating the submarine menace. Another major success was the capture of a German code machine which highlights another area in which the British Empire excelled which was at intelligence gathering, code-breaking and espionage. It is really no wonder that the most famous “secret agent” around the world is British. Britain was quite adept at developing new methods of intelligence gathering as well as successfully passing false information to the Axis. In fact, Britain was so successful at this that in the mid-to-late war years there was hardly any German operation that the British did not know about in advance. In the Atlantic, London knew what German subs would be assigned to where or at the Battle of El Alamein, the British knew when and where the Germans would attack well before the offensive began.

When it comes to military innovation and records of success in new fields, particularly in World War II, few probably would even consider the Kingdom of Italy. Yet, this is mostly due to how masterful the British were at another wartime tactic: propaganda. The Italians were actually extremely innovative even though, to their detriment, they did not always utilize the ideas of their best and brightest. Most will no doubt be very surprised to learn just how ahead of the curve the Italians were, what feats they were able to accomplish and how much more they might have. Far too many people have simply come to accept a grossly unfair caricature of the Italian military forces that has been repeated so often as to become accepted as a matter of fact. On land, sea and air the royal Italian military was far more advanced and innovative than most people realize. During World War II, the Italians accomplished some remarkable things and, again, contrary to popular perception, had some very expert and effective commanders. For example, when it came to the Blitzkrieg tactics later made famous by the Germans, to a large extent these were first put into effect by the Italian troops under General Ettore Bastico in Spain during the Santander offensive fighting for the nationalists in the civil war. He heavily trained his troops for specific objectives, managed coordination between infantry, artillery and air units for support and emphasized the need for speed in the advance, to keep advancing, to never stop and never allow the enemy a moment to reorganize himself. The result was a great victory for the Italian forces in Spain and a crushing defeat for the Spanish republicans.

Semovente da 105/25 Italian tank destroyer
Even though, on the ground, the Italian army was a predominately infantry formation with tanks that were not designed for the type of war Italy ended up fighting, and they always lagged behind the more industrially advanced countries, they were still able to hit above their weight on several occasions by improvising. One example was the formation of a “Special Armored Brigade” in response to the stunningly effective British Operation Compass. This unit was made up of L3/35 tankettes and M11/39 tanks and M13/40 tanks of which only the M13/40’s are usually deemed to have been even close to acceptable standards of quality. Yet, along with infantry trained in anti-tank tactics they were thrown in to confront 177 very heavily armored British Matilda tanks at Mechili. In an engagement on January 25 the Italian forces took out 15 British tanks in 15 minutes, forcing the enemy to retreat. When the British attacked again, they lost another six tanks before retreating. A month before a group of very outmatched M11’s managed to destroy 35 of 57 attacking British Matilda’s. Such engagements were not enough to be decisive but it showed what even outclassed Italian units were capable of. The Semovente 75/18 tank destroyer, and its variants, proved very effective weapons but were too few to be decisive and if the P40 heavy tank had been produced in time to work the bugs out, it could have made a very big difference to the Italian war effort.

One of the many factors that hampered Italian armored effectiveness was a lack of radios and this was also a problem for most Italian aircraft. This is all the more frustrating considering that an Italian, Guglielmo Marconi, is usually credited with inventing the radio. Similarly, the Italians invented a workable radar set but, for some reason, it was never widely employed which put Italian naval units at a disadvantage. However, one area of new technology where Italy did quite well was in submarine warfare. At the beginning of the war Italy actually had the largest submarine fleet, by tonnage, in the world and in the course of the conflict Italian submarines would sink more than half a million tons of Allied shipping. In fact, the most successful non-German submarine commander of World War II was an Italian, Captain Gianfranco Gazzana-Priaroggia who took down 90,601 tons of Allied shipping. The Italians also excelled at special-forces type operations using small torpedo motor-boats, demolition frogmen and human-guided torpedoes (though not of the suicide-type such as the Japanese kaiten). These units (Decima Flottiglia MAS) were able to sink numerous ships, even major warships, in some of the most heavily defended Allied harbors in the world such as Gibraltar, Alexandria, Egypt and Sebastopol, Ukraine. During the naval war in general, it is often overlooked that for a considerable period of time in 1942 the Italian Royal Navy won total control over the central Mediterranean, the major opportunity for the invasion of Malta that never came.

Italian airborne division Folgore
When it came to the war in the air, the Italians again had a record of cutting edge innovation. The Italians were the first to use aircraft in combat (during the war with Ottoman Turkey) and it was the World War I Italian General Giulio Douhet who was the first to develop theories on air warfare by the large-scale use of bombers. Much of what the Allies accomplished in their bombing campaigns against Germany and Japan were based on the original ideas of General Douhet. The Italians were also pioneers in the use of paratroopers and carried out the first airborne drop in 1927. The Italian airborne divisions in World War II never had the opportunity to do what they were intended to (due to the cancellation of the invasion of Malta) but they more than proved their worth, particularly the Folgore Division which fought almost to the death, buying the time for the Germans to retreat at El Alamein. Fighting until they were reduced to using improvised weapons and until their ammunition was exhausted, the Folgore repelled numerous British attacks by vastly superior forces and destroyed over 120 tanks and armored vehicles. In terms of aircraft, lack of sufficient industrial capacity meant that Italy often lagged behind but the Italian forces did manage to produce planes such as the Macchi C.205 “Greyhound” that proved superior to the American “Mustang” fighter as well as the formidable Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 “Sparrowhawk” bomber that destroyed 72 Allied warships and 196 Allied freighters before the 1943 armistice. The Italians had also developed the Caproni Campini N.1 jet aircraft which first flew in 1940 and was believed at the time to be the first flight of a jet aircraft (the Germans had been first but had kept it secret). It was not terribly successful nor was more than one model ever produced but Italian engineers had developed jet engines for planes and boats as early as the 1930’s.

The Italian Royal Air Force also pulled off some very surprising long-range bombing attacks, including an air raid on the British-held emirate of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. Most hair-raising of all was the plan to attack no less a target than New York City. The first idea was to use the “human-torpedoes” to be brought close to New York harbor by Italy’s most successful submarine, the Leonardo DaVinci which was specially modified for the task. However, after a postponement the sub was sunk and so another plan was hatched to use a large sea-plane to transport the craft to striking distance, stopping in mid-Atlantic to be refueled by submarine. However, the plan was postponed again because of some other secret weapon that was to be used instead. What could this have been? Italy also had a specially modified trans-Atlantic bomber that was being outfitted to carry an especially heavy payload. Some have speculated that this was part of an effort to deliver an Italian atomic-bomb and, as much as most dismiss the idea, there is at least some circumstantial evidence to suggest this may have been the case. As early as 1939 Italian atomic scientists at the University of Milan were issued a patent for a nuclear reactor they had designed and Italian scientists were later sent to Germany where they had better facilities to continue their nuclear research. We do know that at some top-secret German nuclear tests the only foreigner present was an Italian officer and Mussolini was one of only a dozen individuals Hitler informed about the operation, no doubt because of the participation of Italian scientists in the development of the weapons. How close they came to success we do not know due to much of the documentation being destroyed and much still being classified by the British government, however, there is no doubt that the oft-derided Kingdom of Italy was highly advanced in nuclear research.

Japanese Type 3 Chi-Nu tank
Finally, we have the third of the major monarchial powers involved in World War II, the Empire of Japan. In terms of weapons for the army, there was not much that was very remarkable from Japan which tended to lag behind the other major powers in tanks and heavy weapons that were the latest trends in military technology. However, it made up for that by surpassing all others in terms of air and naval warfare innovations. Still, for the Imperial Japanese Army, while weaponry may have been lacking, innovation in strategy and skilled leadership was certainly not. One need only consider the fact that such major world powers as the United States and the British Empire both suffered their worst military defeats at the hands of Japan in the early days of the war. When it came to the latest in military weaponry, tanks, aircraft, naval aviation and submarine technology, Japan certainly had the most difficulty when it came to tanks. In border clashes with the Russians in Mongolia, the Japanese suffered severe setbacks even though, especially at that time, the Russians themselves were far from being up to the standard of other powers. Japan was hampered in this regard by never fighting an enemy in which armored combat was really essential. The Chinese never fielded much of a challenge in that regard and the attacks on Southeast Asia were made against colonial powers that were already engaged in a fight for survival in Europe and they had no tanks to defend these colonies and most had only token military forces designed to maintain law and order rather than repel a determined invader. Still, in some of the island battles it became clear that some answer had to be made to the rugged and reliable American M4 Sherman and by the end of the war Japan did develop some tank types that would have posed a challenge, such as the Type 3 Chi-nu. However, it was produced so late in the war that it was reserved to defend the home islands against an invasion that never came so that none were tested in battle.

On the sea and in the air, however, things were very different. The Japanese were absolutely on the cutting edge of developing military aircraft. The famous Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter, mostly used in naval aviation but which was ground-based as well, was regarded by both Axis and Allied countries as the best carrier-based fighter in the world at the time. In the early weeks and months of the war, the Japanese Zero shot down 12 Allied planes for every one of their own lost. It gave Japan a marked advantage over anything the British or Americans had on hand to use against it. The only problem was that, once the war began, it became extremely difficult for Japanese industry to keep up as American fighters continued to improve. However, the biggest loss was in pilots. The most successful fighter pilots of the war, after the Germans, were the Japanese, the most successful being Lieutenant Hiroyoshi Nishizawa who, even by the most conservative of statistics, shot down far more planes than the best British, Russian or American pilots. An expert Japanese pilot in the latest aircraft proved to be capable of victory even against enemy forces that were considerably superior in number. The problem was that so many of these expert, remarkably well trained pilots were lost at the disastrous Battle of Midway that Japanese naval aviation was never able to recover. Pilots simply could not be trained and new planes designed and manufactured fast enough to keep up with what the war effort demanded.

Yokosuka "Ohka" rocket plane
However, it was the Japanese who proved the real value of naval aviation and the centrality of the aircraft carrier in modern warfare. As mentioned, they took a lesson from the British raid on Taranto, but not many others did. Too many military leaders around the world regarded Taranto as a fluke, a case of the British being lucky and later felt satisfied when it was shown that the damage to the Italian fleet had not been quite as extensive as was first thought. However, after the overwhelming, stunning, Japanese victory at Pearl Harbor (the worst defeat in the history of the United States Navy) no one could ignore the results. The innovative military thinking of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto had been vindicated dramatically. Japan also developed, during the war, the Kawanishi N1K “Strong Wind” interceptor that proved more than a match for the American “Corsair” or “Mustang” and at least a match for the famous F6F “Hellcat”. However, it was impossible to produce these in sufficient numbers for them to have much of an impact. Production quality was also a problem for the Nakajima Ki-84 “Gale” fighter but when it was properly built, had good quality fuel and an expert pilot it was an extremely effective aircraft and was capable of such high speed (nearly 400mph) that it was able to intercept the B-29 Superfortress bombers. Using technical data supplied by Germany, Japan also had several designs for jet aircraft by the end of the war but they were too late to see service. Now, even if one were to discount these craft because none were completed and they were based on German technology, Japan developed craft independent that were very similar. Probably the most famous was the Yokosuka MXY7 “Cherry Blossom” (Ohka) which was a rocket-propelled suicide plane. Its speed was so great that it was virtually unstoppable in its final attack and forced the US Navy to re-organize their anti-aircraft defenses. They did not have much of an impact, as a suicide-weapon it was a weapon of desperation but showed how far “outside the box” Japanese military designers were able to go.

The one area where Japanese innovation stood out more than any other, and so much so that it really requires very little in the way of explanation, was in naval warships and submarines. Already pioneers in the utilization of aircraft carriers, the Imperial Japanese Navy pushed the boundaries of military technology for both traditional warships and in new fields such as the submarine fleet. The problem was that most of these never had the chance to really engage in the sort of battle for which they were intended. Nonetheless, the designs were positively astounding and some have never been surpassed even to this day. Undoubtedly the most famous Japanese naval vessel of the war was the battleship Yamato, though its sister ship, Musashi, was probably even more formidable. These were, quite simply, the largest battleships ever built and will probably always remain so. They were built as part of the thinking of the Japanese naval high command which was focused on a major, decisive, battle such as was won by Admiral Togo at Tsushima in the war against Russia. With these two monster warships, Japan was confident of being able to totally dominate any ship-to-ship engagement with any navy in the world.

super-battleship Yamato
The problem, of course, was that such a battle never came about, partly because of Japan’s own victory at Pearl Harbor which largely decimated the American battleship force. The US struck back with aircraft carriers and submarines and the two huge battleships remained in port, protected from such threats, for most of the war. However, they did finally come out to do battle, when the odds were irreversibly stacked against Japan, at Leyte Gulf. Coming under attack from the air, as opposed to from enemy surface ships which she was intended to combat, the Musashi was finally sunk but only after enduring an unbelievable 17 direct bomb hits and (believe it or not) 19 torpedo hits at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944. The Yamato went out in 1945 on a suicide mission against US forces at Okinawa and was likewise sunk by American carrier planes but likewise it took no less than 7 direct bomb hits and being struck by 10 torpedoes before the massive ship went down. There was a third such ship planned but during construction it was decided to turn it into an aircraft carrier rather than a battleship and the result was the Shinano, the largest aircraft carrier in the world and the largest warship of any kind ever built up to that time. Unfortunately for Japan, it was sunk by an American submarine before it ever launched a single aircraft in combat, which at least goes to show that the cautious attitude towards the Yamato and Musashi had been justified.

Japan also broke plenty of records under the water as well. No one was as innovative as Japan when it came to submarine design, though Japanese boats were so poorly utilized that they never came close to scoring anywhere near the success that Germany or Italy did. This was partly due to an over-ambitious strategy combined with overly-cautious tactics (which meant few ever got the opportunity to score many victories) but also because of the level of innovation itself which resulted in Japan producing so many different types of subs that none were able to be mass-produced in the numbers needed to have any appreciable impact on the war effort. Nonetheless, Japan produced highly advanced boats that demonstrated immense creativity and technical know-how. One area Japan was famous for was in combining air power with submarines. Many Japanese subs were equipped with small scout planes that could be launched and recovered from the sub itself to serve as reconnaissance aircraft. One even took up a few incendiary bombs which were dropped on the west coast of the United States. However, as the war situation became more desperate, many subs were forced into carrying cargo to isolated, starving garrisons on the islands of the south Pacific.

super-submarine I-400
It is all the more remarkable though, given how Japanese subs were never used to their full potential, that some still did manage to pull off incredible successes. For example, in the Battle of Midway, Lt. Comm. Yahachi Tanabe of the I-168 daringly steered under a screen of US destroyers to sink the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown and the destroyer USS Hammann. Even more incredibly, Tanebe and his crew then managed to survive the ensuing counter-attack and evade the US warships to return damaged but intact to Japan. Most famous of all was Lt. Comm. Takakazu Kinashi of the I-19 who, on September 15, 1943, scored the single most successful submarine attack in history when one salvo of torpedoes took down the aircraft carrier USS Wasp, damaged the battleship USS North Carolina and sank the destroyer USS O’Brien. In terms of boat designs, Japan produced the super-streamlined SenTaka class boats which actually had a higher underwater speed than even the most advanced late-war German Type XXI, making them the fastest submarines up to that time and which were also extremely deep-diving. However, they came too late to see action. Similarly, Japan produced the very famous SenToku class boats, I-400, I-401 and I-402 which were massive ‘double-decker’ submarines equipped with three Seiran bombers. Originally intended to be used for surprise bombing raids against Washington and New York they were later planned for an attack on the Panama Canal but the war ended before they reached their target. These had a longer-range than any submarine in history, giving them more endurance than any sub before the nuclear era and they were the largest submarines ever built up until the launch of the American nuclear ballistic missile submarine USS Benjamin Franklin in 1965. In fact, some of the early American missile subs were probably based off of the I-400 design.

All of this is important information to know, even for those monarchists who are not terribly interested in weapons of war and military technology. It demonstrates how completely absurd the republican accusation is that monarchy is some sort of obstacle to progress or that countries with monarchies are stuck in the past, bound to tradition and blind to progress. On the contrary, monarchies respect tradition because they honor their past which gives them the courage to go forward onto new ground. There are many fields one could look at and military advancements are clearly no exception. In a world where republican powers have the most military muscle today, it is worth remembering that they didn’t get their all on their own. It was the British who invented the first fully automatic machine gun, the British who invented the tank, the torpedo, radar and who pioneered naval aviation, it was the Kingdom of Italy that first used aircraft in combat and had the first paratroopers and it was the Empire of Japan that built the largest battleships in history -and that’s only looking at the major monarchies of World War II. To be fair, a few republics have proven quite innovative and have achieved remarkable things in a number of fields but the point is that monarchies have as well. Having a dictator chosen by the party elite or electing a president based on a popularity contest does not guarantee achievement any more than having a hereditary monarch precludes it. Monarchies have a proven record of being willing to try new things just as they have the good sense to hold on to what has proven to work best.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Monarch Profile: Emperor Claudius II

The Roman emperor known as “Claudius the Goth” was born on May 10, 214 AD in the province of Illyricum (roughly modern Croatia) and he would be the first of several accomplished Illyrian emperors. Although he has been widely praised, at least by many secular historians, his actual record would leave more than a few wondering why. Which, of course, is not to say that he was a disaster but simply that his achievements may have been a bit exaggerated due to other motives by those penning the history books. He had a distinguished record as a soldier and earned steady promotion to major military commands during the reigns of Emperor Valerian and Emperor Gallienus. When Gallienus was assassinated near Milan in September of 268, the army considered Claudius to be the obvious choice to succeed him. There was certainly public support for such a move and the Roman senate found nothing objectionable about him. He was not far away at the time, commanding the reserves at what is now Pavia, Italy and he immediately took charge and seized Milan and executed Aureolus, commander of the Dalmatian cavalry who had defected to the enemy in the Gothic War that was being fought and who had killed Gallienus. However, as no other conspirators were punished, some have always suspected that Claudius himself may have been party to it.

In any event, measures were taken to ensure unity rather than a spirit of retribution. The newly declared Emperor Claudius II successfully petitioned the senate to deify the late Emperor Gallienus and ordered that there be no persecution of his loyalists. Emperor Claudius II remained at the front to continue the war against the Goths, though having taken Milan he had to first move north to confront another barbarian invasion, this time the Alemanni, (southern Germans) who were pouring across the Alps into northern Italy. After a decisive victory at Lake Garda, and wintering in Rome, Claudius II returned to the front and led a successful campaign against the Gothic invaders, earning the title “Gothicus Maximus”. However, there were Roman defeats as well, particularly in Thrace where the Goths won a considerable victory. However, the Roman legions were placed in a commanding position for victory due to the outbreak of a terrible plague that devastated the Gothic forces. Unfortunately for Emperor Claudius II, the spread of disease knew no preference between Roman and barbarian and the same plague claimed his life as well. Emperor Claudius II died in camp in August of 270.

During his reign, much of the Roman Empire that had fallen away was reclaimed but about as much was also lost. As Roman fortunes rose in the west, they fell in the east. Gaul had broken away previously and tried to set up a rival power under its own line of Gallic emperors and Claudius II sent Roman forces to reclaim at least southern Gaul east of the Rhone River. Hispania (Spain) had fallen to the Goths but had finally shaken off their rule and pledged loyalty to Rome once again, which was certainly a great benefit and left Claudius II well placed to launch a more ambitious campaign to restore Roman rule to the whole of Gaul. However, he was then preoccupied by the Gothic invasion and even more alarming was the news from the east where the famous Queen Zenobia had come to power (in what is now Syria) and advanced as far as Ankara in Turkey. The following year her forces conquered Egypt, cutting Rome off from its most vital source of grain. Obviously, that was a situation that left little time for dreams of Gallic conquest. The first priority of the Emperor was to secure Italy and defeat Zenobia so as to prevent food shortages in Rome that would be ruinous. However, before any of that could be done, Claudius II had departed this life.

Having no children of his own, Claudius II was succeeded by his brother who became Emperor Quintillus. According to the official history of the Roman emperors, the two also had another brother named Crispus whose daughter, Claudia, was the mother of Emperor Constantius Chlorus who was the father of Emperor Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman Emperor. If so, this would be somewhat ironic given that one of the things Claudius II was praised for by some of the senatorial class was in being a more strictly pagan Roman emperor who began enforcing religious laws with more vigor than had previously been the case. Of course, some have also argued that this genealogical connection was a forgery, something invented by the partisans of Emperor Constantine to give him a more illustrious imperial family history. In such cases, it is virtually impossible to prove with absolute certainty which side is correct in its assertions.

One other incident occurred that makes Emperor Claudius II rather noteworthy and that concerned some trouble of a religious sort. Persecution of Christians was rather intermittent in the Roman Empire, with periods of fierce persecution being followed by long periods when anti-Christian laws were relaxed or left un-enforced. Some of these laws were being enforced in the reign of Claudius II and there was a certain Roman priest who came to the attention of the authorities. He had become well known for administering the sacraments in violation of the law, particularly it seems for secretly marrying Christian couples. He was arrested but still carried on converting people to Christianity. Severely beaten and stoned, the priest did not die and was brought before Emperor Claudius II. Rather than beg for his life, he tried to convert the Emperor to Christianity! That did not happen and due to his persistence he was ordered to be beheaded. While awaiting execution he converted the blind daughter of the governor of his prison to Christianity and while praying for her, her blindness was healed. The grateful girl would remain faithful to his memory for the rest of her life, long after the priest was martyred on February 14, 269, cherishing a last, small note he had written to her, which the healing power of Christ enabled her to read, which ended with the words, “from your Valentine”.

A happy St Valentine’s Day to all from The Mad Monarchist
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