Friday, July 4, 2014

The Battle of Hamel: What to World War One is the 4th of July?

I hope that you are having a nice and relaxing fourth of July. I also hope that you do not give into temptation by playing with fireworks and then proceeding to lose an eye or a finger.

Independence Day is a birthday party. As such, it is usually considered poor form to talk about the guest of honor's bad behavior in the past or present, dwell on his or her moral and ethical shortcomings, or stage an intervention about their excessive drug of alcohol use.

I am a poor guest because while drinking and eating the host's food, I would still tell them the truth about themselves if so provoked and pushed. But, I promise to be on good behavior today. I will do my obligatory read of Frederick Douglass' "What to the Slave is the 4th of July?", meditating on the little known fact that more blacks fought for the British than the colonies during the Revolutionary War, playing a few rounds of Empire: Total War, and watching Dr. Gerald Horn's interview on Democracy Now where he details how the notion of freedom as understood by white colonial rebels was constructed around their ability to enslave black people.

During the Revolutionary War and the battle for American independence, "liberty was in the air" and black Americans found ways, as we always have, to further our own struggle for liberty and full citizenship rights.

The Don Lemons of the world, with all of their silly talk about not being "Americans with a prefix" would probably consider such truth-telling observations during Independence Day to be impolitic and rude.

July 4th is a special day for Americans; July 4th is likely just another day on the calender for the rest of the world.

July 4th has history. Given the 100th anniversary of World War One, I was curious as to what major events occurred on that day during the Great War.

Of course, there were the obligatory parades commemorating American independence from the British (this set of photos is a very rich example of how World War One was a means for white ethnics and others to become "fully American" because military service and martial prowess demonstrated their bonafides as members of a "masculine" and "robust" race).

On the killing fields of Europe, July 4th, 1918 was the day when one of the most important battles of World War 1--and of the 20th century--took place. The Battle of Hamel involved a coordinated assault by Australian, British, and American forces (that latter being used in an offensive role for the first time during the war) which subsequently defeated the Germans.

Military historians consider the Battle of Hamel to be the beginning of "modern" warfare because it involved the use of "combined arms" (infantry; armor; planes; artillery). Hamel was also important because the Allied victory that day, and the strategies deployed during the engagement, would foreshadow the defeat of the Entente powers in the months to follow. The combined arms approach used at the Battle of Hamel is not much different from the strategies and tactics that remain the bedrock of military planning in the 21st century.

Do you have any July 4th factoids or other random bits of information (related or not to this day) to share? What are your weekend plans and any BBQ mishaps to report?


Learning IS Eternal said...

July 4th and any alleged holy day was just that, another day. Africans in this country would continue on as slaves for another 100+ years after 1776.

I too, will try to keep the birthday girls' treacherous temperment and murderous past to myself.

Keep it movin'.

Do you think this is even a lost thought to someone that today does not bare the same excitement from the 1st nations' folk, enslaved descendants and other non-white individuals or do they really see it as another triumph by the U.S. as a whole?

Miles_Ellison said...

It's best just to keep it simple for the masses. Telling people that they're celebrating the fight for independence from a tyrannical imperialist monarchy just so that rich people could win the freedom to not pay taxes, enslave black people, and eliminate the indigenous population of the North American continent with a combination of gunpowder, syphilis, and smallpox would be too complicated for this nation of postliterates.

chauncey devega said...

You got another quotable there fitting--pardon my pun--for a t-shirt!

chauncey devega said...

white freedom is based on black submission and servitude. that dynamic continues in the present. do black and brown folks know this. yes. are they able or willing to articulate it? some. white society as a whole knows this fact deeply and intimately. likewise, to give voice to it is impolitic. thus, the schizophrenia about black freedom.

chauncey devega said...

Good sharing there.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

thanks, glad to share.

The feelings are a mixed bag. Lots of disappointment about this country's history. Still holding onto the illusion of the promise of freedom and the reality for so many.

I'm reminded of Coates' phrase "patriotism a la carte" as well as Martin Luther King's musing of whether black folks would be able to celebrate at the 200 year anniversary in 1976.

Courtney H. said...

Thank you for sharing this.

Buddy H said...

My favorite author (I discovered him when I was very young) is Robert Benchley. He is mostly unknown today (his grandson wrote "Jaws") or if he is known, it's as a film comedian, a reputation he loathed. He was a life-long pacifist. His beloved older brother was killed in the Spanish-American War.
He was fired from his job at the Tribune newspaper during World War One for running a pictorial of African American soldiers next to a photo of a southern lynching. It was just too much for his bosses.

During the 1930s he wrote a column, "The Wayward Press" for the New Yorker, where he was critical of newspapers for their hypocrisy. Here is his column for July 1927:

"Probably the least important news story during the month was the Herald Tribune's spectacular two-day exposure of the big Soviet Plot to stir up American Negroes to revolt.
On June 29 a bombshell, signed by Mr. M. Jay Racusin, told how the "flame of Bolshevism, kindled by Lenin... is being quietly concentrated upon the United States through the instrument of the American Negro." Details of nefarious plot "the Herald Tribune, through its investigation, is now able to present for the first time."
It turned out to be not only the first time but also the next to last time, constituting probably one of the shortest scares in all the history of Bolshevism. For on June 30, accompanying a short followup story about Government officials being "amazed at the disclosures that Soviet Russia was training American Negroes for an uprising against the United States," the Herald Tribune's own editorial page disposed of the matter by characterizing it as "fantastic" and "grotesque" and dismissing it as another evidence of "Soviet stupidity."
Thus, entirely within the four walls of the Herald Tribune building was the tocsin sounded and the "false alarm" bell rung, the entire fright lasting only forty-eight hours, and America is safe again."

joe manning said...

Imagine an alternative history: if the Brits had had Lincoln's tactical savvy they would have issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1776 and actively recruited slaves to fight. This might have tipped the balance to forestall another 100 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow, and 60 years of "color blind" racism.

Courtney H. said...

Thank you. Unfortunately, I am not on Facebook (I really do not like a lot of people knowing all of my business), but I appreciate the invitation and the link.