The Lost Battalion Dispatch #21 for the Week of November 20, 2022

A Curated Weekly Review of Interesting
Historical Occurrences

The Lost Battalion Dispatch #21
for the Week of November 20, 2022

This Week in History

To the Green Fields Beyond,

a Galaxy Far, Far Away,

and

a Day of Thanksgiving

British Mark IV tank stuck in a German trench at Cambrai

The Battle of Cambrai began on November 20, 1917.

“Through the mud and blood to the green fields beyond,” was the objective of British Tank Force commander Brigadier General Hugh Elles. He used massed tanks to break through a seemingly impregnable German defense of barbed wire and trenches on the first day, making more progress in six hours than was typically made in three months.

The tanks proved unreliable however and were unable to sustain their advance. The Germans were also able to counter them in an area where a specialist anti-tank unit was deployed. Finally, the British failed to follow up quickly in sectors where they achieved initial success, allowing time for German reinforcements to arrive.

A German counter-offensive using stormtrooper infiltration tactics took back much of the ground that had been gained. Each side suffered half a million casualties before the battle came to a halt due to attrition in early December.

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Michael Collins

November 21, 1920 was Bloody Sunday in Ireland.

After the Easter Rising of 1916 was crushed by the British, the Sinn Fein party won a landslide victory in the 1918 elections and formed a breakaway government in January 1919. They then launched a guerilla war against the British known as the Irish War for Independence.

Early on the morning of November 21, Michael Collins, the Irish Republican Army’s Director of Intelligence, launched an operation to eliminate British intelligence agents in Dublin. 15 people were killed, including two civilians caught in the crossfire. In reprisal, the British dispatched troops to Croke Park where a football game was being played between Dublin and Tipperary. The troops had orders to seal off the stadium and search everyone inside. Instead, they opened fire almost immediately, later claiming that IRA guards had fired first to warn any wanted men inside to escape. 14 people in the stadium were killed including Michael Hogan, a player for the Tipperary team. Three IRA prisoners were killed in Dublin Castle that evening while allegedly attempting to escape.

This was the first of two infamous Blood Sundays. The second occurred in 1972 when soldiers opened fire on a protest march. In the 21st Century, British investigations critical of the actions of the soldiers involved in both incidents were finally released to the public.

General Friedrich Paulus sent a telegram to Adolph Hitler on November 22, 1942, stating that the German 6th Army was surrounded in Stalingrad. This was a result of Russia’s Operation Uranus which had been launched a few days earlier, wiping out the Romanian troops guarding the flanks of the German advance into the city.

Because Hitler had delivered a speech declaring that German troops would never leave Stalingrad a few weeks earlier, he refused to allow the surrounded troops to break out of the trap. Instead, he asked Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering to establish an airbridge to supply the 6th Army while a relief force was assembled. Luftwaffe commanders argued that it would be impossible to deliver the 700 tons of daily supplies the army needed. They were overruled but later proved correct. On average, 82 tons per day were delivered.

Operation Winter Storm, the German relief effort, began on December 12. By the 18th, General Erich von Manstein had pushed his relief army to within 30 miles of Stalingrad. Paulus’ officers requested authority to breakout toward the relief, but Paulus declined, partially because his tanks did not have enough full to reach the German spearhead.

Starving and running out of ammunition, German troops continued to resist in the Stalingrad pocket. On January 30, 1943, Hitler promoted Paulus to the rank of Field Marshall, a tacit invitation to commit suicide rather than become the only German commander of that rank ever to surrender. Paulus disappointed him in this, later declaring that he was captured by surprise and did not surrender on January 31. On February 2, the last remaining German force, led by General Karl Strecker, radioed a final message before surrendering. Strecker declared that his men had done their duty and replaced the customary “Heil Hitler” ending with “Long live Germany.”

Fredrich Paulus after “not surrendering” to the Russians

Edwin Hubble

American astronomer Edwin Hubble ignored scientific “consensus” and had his findings that the Andromeda “nebula” was actually a far-distant galaxy published in the New York Times on November 23, 1924. It would be five years before he could overcome the objections of fellow astronomers and have his paper published in a peer-reviewed journal. Many of his colleagues continued to scoff at his work even then but it is now recognized to have fundamentally changed our view of the universe.

During Hubble’s lifetime, the Nobel Prize for Physics did not recognize work in astronomy. He campaigned to change this unsuccessfully. After his death, the Nobel committee did so but the prize can not be awarded posthumously. He was memorialized in 1990 when NASA launched the space telescope that bears his name.

B-29s prepare to take of from a Mariana airfield

111 B-29 Bombers of the 73rd Bombardment Wing took off from the Northern Mariana Islands on November 24, 1944, to drop the first bombs on Tokyo since the Doolittle raid. The target was an aircraft factory on the edge of the city.

The raid was made possible by the seizure of the islands as part of Admiral Chester Nimitz’s island-hopping campaign across the Pacific. Airbases constructed on the Marianas became “fixed carriers” in the ocean, allowing long-range bombers to reach the Japanese mainland.

Flying at 30,000 feet, where few Japanese fighters could reach and anti-aircraft fire was ineffective, the B-29s were hampered by bad weather and high winds. Only 24 bombs actually hit the target, causing little damage. Changes in tactics would make subsequent B-29 raids much more effective. Raids employing over 300 bombers at once destroyed much of Tokyo and Nagoya with incendiary bombs in March of 1945.

The effectiveness of these air attacks and the perceived inability of the Japanese government to stop them demoralized the country’s population to the point of surrender months before B-29s dropped atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950 wreaked havoc on November 25 of that year.

All-time record low temperatures were recorded in many Southern cities. 57 inches of snow fell on Pickens, WV. A wind gust of 94 miles per hour was recorded in New York City where coastal flooding breached dikes and flooded the runways of La Guardia Airport. The storm killed 383 people and cause over $66 million in damage (over ¾ of a billion in today’s dollars).

Despite all this, the annual University of Michigan/Ohio State game was played in Columbus, OH, earning the nickname “The Snow Bowl.” Michigan won by recovering a blocked punt in the endzone at the end of the first half.

The Snow Bowl

November 26, 1789, was set aside as a day of thanksgiving by President George Washington with the following proclamation:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

George Washington

Conquer the Galaxy!

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About the Lost Battalion Dispatch

This weekly newsletter is brought to you by Cher Ami, the homing pigeon whose heroic flight helped bring relief from a barrage of friendly fire to the First Battalion, 308th Infantry of 77th New York Infantry Division and alerted high command that over 500 American troops were holding out against all odds while surrounded in the Argonne Forest during World War One.

At Lost Battalion Publishing we take inspiration from the historical Lost Battalion that never gave up, never lost hope, and persevered despite a series of devastating setbacks.

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