Category Archives: nationalism

Impressions of Bavarians, 1934

From A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube, by Patrick Leigh Fermor (Journey Across Europe Book 1, NYRB Classics, 2011), Kindle pp. 121-123:

“Hans.” “ What?” “Can you see me?” “No.” “Well, the dumplings are enough.”

The inn-keeper’s wife, who was from Munich, was illustrating the difficulties of the dialect by an imaginary conversation between two Bavarian peasants. They are seated on either side of a table, helping themselves from a huge dish of Knödel, and it is only when the plate of one of them is piled high enough with dumplings to hide him from view that he stops. In ordinary German, this dialogue would run: “Hans!” “Was?” “Siehst Du mich?” “Nein.” “Also, die Knödel sind genug.” But in the speech of Lower Bavaria, as closely as I can remember, it turns into: “Schani!” “Woas?” “Siahst Du ma?” “Na.” “Nacha, siang die Kniadel knua.” Such sounds were mooing and rumbling in the background all through this Bavarian trudge.

The inns in these remote and winter-bound thorpes were warm and snug. There was usually a picture of Hitler and a compulsory poster or two, but they were outnumbered by pious symbols and more venerable mementoes. Perhaps because I was a foreigner, politics seldom entered the conversations I had to share in; rather surprisingly, considering the closeness of those villages to the fountain-head of the Party. (It was different in towns.) Inn-talk, when it concerned the regional oddities of Bavaria, was rife with semi-humorous bias. Even then, many decades after Bismarck’s incorporation of the Bavarian Kingdom into the German Empire, Prussia was the chief target. A frequent butt of these stories was a hypothetical Prussian visitor to the province. Disciplined, blinkered, pig-headed and sharp-spoken, with thin vowels and stripped consonants—every “sch” turning into “s” and every hard “g” into “y”—this ridiculous figure was an unfailing prey for the easy-going but shrewd Bavarians. Affection for the former ruling family still lingered. The hoary origins and the thousand years’ sway of the Wittelsbachs were remembered with pride and their past follies forgiven. So august and gifted and beautiful a dynasty had every right, these old people inferred, to be a bit cracked now and then. The unassuming demeanour of Prince Ruprecht, the actual Pretender—who was also the last Stuart Pretender to the British throne—was frequently extolled; he was a distinguished doctor in Munich, and much loved. All this breathed homesickness for a past now doubly removed and thickly overlaid by recent history. I liked them for these old loyalties. Not everyone is fond of Bavarians: their fame is mixed, both inside Germany and out and one hears damning tales of aggressive ruthlessness. They seemed a rougher race than the civilized Rhinelanders or the diligent and homely Swabians. They were, perhaps, more raw in aspect and more uncompromising in manner; and—trivial detail!—an impression remains, perhaps a mistaken one, of darker hair. But there was nothing sinister about the farm people and foresters and woodcutters I spent these evenings with. They have left a memory of whiskers and wrinkles and deep eye sockets, of slurred speech and friendly warmth and hospitable kindness. Carved wood teemed in every detail of their dwellings, for from the Norwegian fiords to Nepal, above certain contour-lines, the upshot of long winters, early nightfall, soft wood and sharp knives is the same. It soars to a feverish zenith in Switzerland, where each winter begets teeming millions of cuckoo clocks, chamois, dwarfs and brown bears.

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CSS Shenandoah Finally Surrenders

From The Civil War at Sea, by Craig L. Symonds (Praeger, 2009), Kindle Locs. 2369-2400:

After its adventure in Melbourne, the Shenandoah headed into the South Pacific, where Waddell encountered a string of bad luck. Forewarned of the Shenandoah’s presence by the American consul at Melbourne, U.S. shipping had fled the area so that no prizes were available, and a series of fierce storms battered the rebel raider as it struggled northward. Then on April Fool’s day, the Shenandoah found and captured three American brigs that were anchored off the idyllic island of Pohnpei in Micronesia. On that same day, nearly halfway around the world near Petersburg, Virginia, Federal troops broke through Lee’s lines at Five Forks, the event that prompted Lee’s decision to evacuate the Richmond-Petersburg lines and begin his retreat to Appomattox. By the time the Shenandoah left Micronesia and sailed north to begin its assault on the American whaling fleet in the Pacific, Lee had surrendered.

After a brief visit to the Sea of Okhotsk, where the ship and its crew battled ice storms and fog, the Shenandoah entered the Bering Sea in mid-June. There the pickings were plentiful, and the Shenandoah captured one whaling ship after another, burning most of them and using the others as cartels for the prisoners. Newspapers found on board one of the whaling ships reported that Charleston and Richmond had fallen to the Yankees. On another, the ship’s captain declared unequivocally that the war was over, that Lee had surrendered his army. Waddell demanded proof, but the whaling boat skipper could only reply that he had heard in San Francisco that the war was over. That was not good enough for Waddell or the members of his crew, one of whom wrote in his diary “There is no doubting the fact that the Confederacy has received in prestige a heavy blow, but further I do not believe.” Waddell was conflicted. If the war was indeed over, all his actions could be construed as piratical. But he had heard nothing officially, and it was always possible that the Yankees were publishing lies, something he believed them to be capable of. A few days later, Waddell captured another prize that had even more recent newspapers on board. These confirmed the fall of Richmond, but also stated that the rebel government had moved to Danville, Virginia, and that Jefferson Davis had resolved to fight on. The Shenandoah’s rampage continued. In four days (June 25-28), it took and burned 15 whaling ships and bonded three others.

Leaving the Bering Sea in early July, Waddell took the Shenandoah south along the North American coast with a plan to enter San Francisco Bay in the dark of night, steal up on the Union ironclad that was stationed there, board it in the dark, and take it. Then with both the Shenandoah and the Union ironclad under his command, he would place the city of San Francisco itself “under contribution,” that is, he would demand an indemnity from the city to avoid being shelled.

While en route there, however, the Shenandoah encountered the British bark Baracouta on August 2, and from it Waddell received chilling news. The war was indeed over. President Davis had been captured, southern armies had surrendered, and the people of the South had been “subjugated.” This time, there was no doubting the facts. As one officer wrote in his diary, “We now have no country, no flag, no home.” Describing this as “the bitterest blow,” Waddell pondered his next move. In his initial orders, written the previous October, Bulloch had suggested to Waddell that after he had completed his mission “the best disposition you could make of the Shenandoah would be to sell her, either somewhere on the west coast of South America or to adventurous speculators in the Eastern seas.” Uncertain whether that was still possible, and unwilling to surrender his command to the Yankees, Waddell resolved to take his ship to a European port. Waddell may have worried that the Yankees would consider him a pirate for having made most of his captures after the war had ended. In any case, he ordered the guns dismounted and struck below, pointed his ship southward, and began a 17,000-mile voyage back to the Shenandoah’s port of origin.

The Shenandoah passed Cape Horn in mid-September and turned north. Six members of the crew, fearful of being caught by a Federal steamer in the long run back to England and hanged as pirates, petitioned Waddell “to land us at the nearest and most convenient port,” and 10 others urged him to take the ship to Cape Town. Waddell’s officers supported him in his decision to return to Liverpool, and in a testimony to Waddell’s leadership, the rest of the crew, some 71 persons, signed another other petition expressing confidence in whatever decision he made. Discipline held, and so did Waddell’s luck. Though several ships were sighted en route to England, none pursued the disarmed Shenandoah, and on November 6, 1865, after a round-the-world the-world cruise of 58,000 miles, during which it had captured 38 prizes, the ship dropped anchor in the Mersey River near the British ship of the line HMS Donegal. Waddell distributed the prize money that had been taken before the end of the war to the members of the crew, and put the rest of it ($820.28) in a bag and gave it to the paymaster of the Donegal. After four more days in a kind of legal twilight, the officers and men of the Shenandoah were released unconditionally, and the Civil War at sea came to an end.

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Civil War “West”: Rivers and Rails

From The Civil War at Sea, by Craig L. Symonds (Praeger, 2009), Kindle Locs. 1304-1325:

It is important to acknowledge that during Civil War, “the West” referred not to places like Arizona and New Mexico, or even Texas and Arkansas, which constituted the “trans-Mississippi West,” but instead to the expanse of territory between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. The Ohio River marked its northern boundary, and the Gulf of Mexico its southern, and it encompassed all or part of six states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia. It may seem odd to think of Georgia as part of the West since it borders the Atlantic Ocean, but strategically much of Georgia—especially Atlanta—was more closely tied to the West than the East. This vast western area got less public attention than the epic battles in Virginia both at the time and subsequently, and until recently Civil War literature tended to treat it as a secondary theater, though a good argument can be made that this expansive region was the decisive theater of the war.

Moreover, there were important differences in the way the war was fought in the West. First of all, the western theater was simply much larger. In the East, which contained both of the national capitals, most of the headline-grabbing battles took place in an area bounded by the Allegheny Mountains to the west and the Chesapeake Bay to the east. Gettysburg marked its northern limit and Petersburg its southern. Though it seemed enormous to the soldiers who had to march across it from place to place, it was a relatively small area, roughly the size of Massachusetts. By contrast, the war in the West ebbed and flowed in an area nearly 20 times as large. Given those dimensions, railroads were critical. Confederate General Braxton Bragg moved his army over 1,000 miles by rail to outflank a Union army in 1862; James Longstreet took two divisions across five states by rail to reinforce the Confederate army on the eve of Chickamauga in 1863; and Joseph E. Johnston and William T. Sherman fought an entire campaign over control of the Western & Atlantic Railroad in 1864 in what may have been the decisive campaign of the war.

Even more critical, however, were the rivers. The rivers in the West were essential not only to the movement of armies, but also to the transport of the supplies necessary to sustain those armies. Transport ships could carry more men and goods, and do so more quickly and efficiently than railroads. And while rampaging cavalry might be able to interrupt railroad traffic by tearing up rails and burning bridges, they could not stop the flow of the rivers. Of course, transports could be ambushed by parties on shore, such as the battery the rebels briefly established at Commerce, Missouri, and for that reason, gunboats were necessary to escort the transports and keep the rivers secure.

In addition, the rivers were geographical realities that affected the strategic planning of both sides. In the East, where the main field armies of both sides slugged it out between Richmond and Washington, the rivers ran mostly west to east—that is horizontally as they appear on a map—athwart any potential Union line of advance, making them defensive barriers that worked to the South’s advantage. Civil War scholar Daniel Sutherland has named the Rappahannock-Rapidan River line in Virginia the “dare mark” beyond which Union armies advanced only at their peril. But with the exception of the Ohio River, the principal rivers in the West ran either north-to-south, like the Mississippi, or south-to-north, like the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers—that is, vertically as they appear on a map. Consequently they served not as barriers to a Union attack, but as avenues along which Union armies, supported by river gunboats, could advance. For these reasons, Union planners began to consider a river gunboat flotilla from almost the first days of the war.

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Confederate Commerce Raiding Effects

From The Civil War at Sea, by Craig L. Symonds (Praeger, 2009), Kindle Locs. 1238-1257:

Altogether during the war, eight Confederate commerce raiders captured and destroyed some 284 Union merchant ships valued at more than $25 million. Most of them were sailing ships, and a third of them (97) were taken by either the Alabama or the Florida.

In assessing the impact of these rebel raiders, as in assessing the impact of the blockade, numbers alone cannot tell the full story. William Dalzell, whose 1940 history The Flight from the Flag remains a classic, argued that the ripple effect of those 284 lost ships went well beyond the immediate impact of sunken ships and lost cargoes. The success of the Florida and the Alabama in particular led to a significant jump in maritime insurance rates, which reduced the profit margin even for ships that never encountered a rebel raider. Moreover, the rebel raiders engendered such fear within the American maritime community that many merchants abandoned American-flag ships altogether and shipped their goods in foreign bottoms. Facing a dearth of customers, American shippers either sold out or reregistered their ships in foreign countries. Whereas in 1858 only 33 American-built vessels registered as British ships, a total of 348 did so in 1863. Thus while the raiders sank or burned some 150,000 tons of Union shipping, they were also instrumental in provoking the transfer of another 800,000 tons to foreign registry. In all, nearly a million tons of merchant ships-half of the U.S. merchant marine-ceased to fly the American flag. In the fall of 1863, a reporter for the New York Herald noted that of the 176 ships then in New York Harbor, only 19 of them flew the American flag. The others flew the flags of England (93), Bremen (20), France (10), Denmark (6), Hanover (6), Hamburg (6), Prussia (4), Belgium (3), Norway (3), Austria (3), Holland (2), and Sweden (1). Indeed, American-flag shipping dropped nearly as spectacularly during the war as southern cotton exports. While the blockade reduced southern cotton exports from 2.8 million bales in 1860 to 55,000 in 1862, rebel commerce raiders effectively reduced Union shipping from 2.2 million tons in 1860 to fewer than 500,000 by 1865. Considering that the South invested considerably less in building and equipping its handful of raiders than the North did in establishing and maintaining the blockade, the southern decision to adopt a strategy of guerre de course [war on commerce] seems more than validated.

On the other hand, the raiders’ impact on the economy of the North was not nearly as devastating as the impact of the blockade was to the economy of the South. The hundreds of American-owned ships that adopted foreign registry to avoid being targeted by the rebel raiders were not lost, merely reflagged. During Britain’s wars with France earlier in the 19th century, much of its trade shifted to American-flag vessels to prevent their capture by French privateers. American commerce in this period had thrived as a result, but so, too, had the British economy. Now the situation was reversed, and during the Civil War much of America’s trade shifted to British-flag vessels. In both cases, the home economy continued to prosper. An editorial in the New York Sun in March of 1865, only weeks before Appomattox, noted “There never was a time in the history of New York when business prosperity was more general, when the demand for goods was greater, and payments more prompt, than within the last two or three years.

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Perils of Civil War Blockades

From The Civil War at Sea, by Craig L. Symonds (Praeger, 2009), Kindle Locs. 669-691:

Night was the most dangerous time, for that was when the blockade runners were most likely to attempt a run in or out of port. In the middle of a moonless night, perhaps in a misting rain, a slightly darker shadow amid the blackness might be perceived creeping through the anchored ships of the squadron. Wary of firing into a friend, the officer of the deck might order that the night signal be made asking “friend or foe?” At this order, the signal officer might fumble in the dark for Coston flares, and put up the required combination of red or white flares. If the appropriate response was not forthcoming, a rocket might be fired into the dark sky to alert the rest of the squadron. Feet would pound on the ladders and decks as men tumbled up from below to cast loose the big guns and train them out into the darkness seeking the shadowy outline of the blockade runner going past at 10, 12, or even 14 knots. Muzzle flashes would light up the night, temporarily blinding the gunners. Some ships would slip their anchors and set out in pursuit. Then it was over, more often than not with the runner escaped, the men angry about their missed opportunity, and the officers frustrated.

A typical encounter took place off Charleston on June 23, 1862. At 3:00 A.M., in the pitch black of the pre-dawn darkness, the deck watch on the wooden side-wheel steamer USS Keystone State spotted an unidentified steamer coming out of Charleston and making for open water. The watch officer fired a gun, slipped the anchor cable, and set out in pursuit. Thus alerted, the USS Alabama and the USS James Adger, flagship ship of the squadron, joined the chase, and all three Union warships set out at full speed after the illicit vessel. After three hours and more than 40 miles, the Alabama and James Adger found themselves falling further and further behind and they gave up the chase to the swifter Keystone State, which had a reputation as the fastest ship in the squadron. When the sun rose, the commander of the Keystone State, William LeRoy, identified the chase as the Nashville, a notorious blockade runner recently renamed named the Thomas L. Wragg. LeRoy ordered the coal heavers to redouble their efforts. To lighten ship and gain speed, he ordered the ship’s drinking water pumped over the side and jettisoned several lengths of anchor chain. Slowly but steadily the Keystone State began to gain on its quarry.

On board the fleeing Nashville, the officers and crew grew desperate. They threw their entire cargo, cotton valued at more than a million dollars, overboard, and then they began tearing apart the deck cabins to burn the wood and raise more steam. The Nashville pulled ahead again. For more than 300 miles, the two ships raced across the ocean at full speed, heading southeast. Finally after an all-day chase, with each ship squeezing every ounce of speed out of its engine, the Nashville slipped into a squall and disappeared. Eventually it reached Abaco in the British Bahamas. LeRoy, vastly disappointed, pointed, returned to resume the interminable blockade of Charleston. Statistically this went into the books as the successful escape of a blockade runner, though of course the loss of the Nashville’s cargo meant that it resulted in no benefit to the Confederacy.

But there was more. When the James Adger returned to the blockade squadron off Charleston after its 80-mile roundtrip pursuit of the Nashville, its commander, John B. Marchand, learned that during his absence another notorious blockade runner, the Memphis, had slipped into the harbor past the blockading squadron and was aground on the beach at Sullivan’s Island under the guns of Fort Moultrie. The Confederates were already at work removing its cargo by lighters. It was mortifying to Marchand to report to Du Pont at Port Royal that two ships had successfully violated the blockade.

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Logistics of Early Sidewheel Steamships

From The Civil War at Sea, by Craig L. Symonds (Praeger, 2009), Kindle Locs. 78-97:

Despite their self-evident logistical limitations, the tactical superiority of paddle steamers in the Mexican War led Congress in 1847 to approve three new side-wheel steamers (the Susquehanna, the Powhatan, and the Saranac), and one with a screw propeller (the San Jacinto), all of which would play prominent roles in the Civil War. Like all steamers of that era, each of these ships carried a full suite of masts and spars and were labeled “auxiliary steamers” because they were expected to navigate under sail at least as often as they did under steam. They were, in fact, transitional vessels that straddled the age of sail and the age of steam. The principal reason for including the San Jacinto in the program was to compare a screw-driven vessel against a paddle-wheel vessel, a comparison that was marred by the fact that the San Jacinto had a number of engineering flaws-including a propeller shaft that was 20 inches off the centerlines.

Despite that, it very soon became evident that the side-wheel steamers were inferior to screw steamers. When the Susquehanna was dispatched to the Far East by way of Capetown and the Indian Ocean in 1851, it took eight months to steam 18,500 miles, and it burned 2,500 tons of coal en route. Simple division shows that this yielded an average of 7.4 miles of forward progress for each ton of coal burned. Because coal cost an average of about $10 a ton in 1851, it cost the government about $1.35 (more than a full day’s pay) for every mile that passed under the Susquehanna‘s keel. Moreover, the lengthy transit time was a product not only of its relatively slow speed (8-10 knots) but also of the fact that the Susquehanna had to stop eight times en route to refuel, spending 54 days in port recoaling. Finally, all of those coaling stops were necessarily at foreign ports because the United States had no overseas bases in the mid-19th century. Even after the Susquehanna arrived-finally-on station at Hong Kong, it remained dependent on foreign sources of fuel to stay there. Obviously, for a navy with far-flung responsibilities and no overseas coaling bases, steam power continued to have significant limitations.

A second problem with side-wheel steamers like the Susquehanna was that those enormous paddle wheels on each side obscured much of the ships’ broadsides, thus limiting the number of guns they could carry, and those big paddle wheels made very inviting targets. If one of the paddle wheels was damaged by enemy fire, the ship’s mobility would be dramatically affected, and the helmsman would need great skill to prevent the ship from yawing off course or even steaming in a circle. Navy Lieutenant W. W. Hunter suggested that the solution was to turn the paddle wheels on their sides and place them below the water line, thus putting them out of the line of fire and restoring storing an uninterrupted broadside. Dubbed the Hunter’s Wheel, this seemed to offer a technological and tactical solution. But in practice the Hunter’s Wheel proved stunningly inefficient. In 1842 the USS Union was engineered to operate with Hunter’s Wheels, but while they dramatically churned up the water and burned extravagant amounts of coal, the ship made no better than five knots, and in 1848 its engines were removed and it was employed as a receiving ship. In the end, the best solution proved, after all, to be Ericsson’s screw propeller, and in the mid 1850s, during a burst of naval expansion, the U.S. Navy returned to it for a new generation of warships.

The Powhatan and Susquehanna were among the “black ships” in Commodore Perry’s expeditions to Japan.

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December 1941 Turning Points

From World War II at Sea, by Craig L. Symonds (Oxford U. Press, 2018), Kindle pp. 208-209:

None of the celebrating pilots aboard the six Japanese carriers could possibly have known that just the day before, on the other side of the world, Marshal Georgy Zhukov had directed a counterattack of half a million Russian soldiers against German forces outside Moscow. Before the winter was over, the Russians would push the Germans some two hundred miles to the west. Japan had joined the war at almost the precise moment that the German juggernaut was exposed as vulnerable after all.

However tactically successful, the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor stands alongside Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union as one of the most reckless and irresponsible decisions in the history of warfare, and along with the Russian counterattack outside Moscow marked a decisive turning point in the Second World War. It brought the United States and its vast industrial resources fully into the conflict and galvanized American public opinion in such a way as to ensure not only an eventual Allied triumph, but what Roosevelt in his December 8 speech to Congress called “absolute victory.”

In view of that, it is easy to overlook the fact that the raid on Pearl Harbor was only one element of Japan’s grand strategy. In fact, the Japanese began to seize the southern resource area—the actual target of all their planning—at virtually the same moment their aircraft were crippling the American battle fleet. On December 4 and 5, as Nagumo turned his carriers to the southeast (and Zhukov assembled his divisions outside Moscow), Japanese invasion flotillas left Hainan Island, in the South China Sea, and Cam Ranh Bay, in Indochina, to steam southward into the Gulf of Siam. Even as the first plane lifted off from Nagumo’s carriers, a Japanese invasion force of twenty-one transports, escorted by a light cruiser and four destroyers, began landing soldiers on the north coast of British Malaya at Kota Bharu, just below the border with Thailand (formerly Siam). Ninety minutes later (as Fuchida’s planes were lining up for their attack run on Battleship Row), a second invasion force of twenty-two transports, escorted by a battleship and five cruisers plus seven destroyers, began landing soldiers at Singora Beach inside Siam, 130 miles up the Kra Peninsula.

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Overfishing Problems Worldwide

From Cod, by Mark Kurlansky (Penguin, 1998), pp. 198-200:

Overfishing is a growing global problem. About 60 percent of the fish types tracked by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are categorized as fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted. The U.S. Atlantic coast has witnessed a dramatic decline in the bluefin tuna population, though Gloucester fishermen refute this on the grounds that they still have good catches. Mid-Atlantic swordfish stocks are diminishing. Conch and redfish are vanishing from the Caribbean. Red snapper, which is a by-catch of shrimp, is in danger of commercial extinction in the Gulf of Mexico. Peru is losing its anchovy population. Pollock is vanishing from Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk. With 90 percent of the world’s fishing grounds now closed off by 200-mile exclusion zones, fishermen have been searching greater depths for new species. Little is known about the ecology of these depths, but since they often have very cold water, reproduction is probably very slow. Orange roughy was introduced to the world markets after implementation of the 200-mile zone and immediately gained such popularity that five tons an hour were being hauled up from the depths near New Zealand. In 1995, the catch nearly vanished.

The collapse of the Soviet Union destabilized many fishing agreements. Russia has become a major cod fisher, and cod has become almost the equivalent of cash in the Russian Barents Sea fishery. The reason the Canadians have been buying Russian cod processed in Norway is that Russia has been flooding the Norwegian market.

With the Atlantic long overworked by Europeans, the action has been switching to the Pacific, where not only are there large Japanese, Russian, American, and Korean fleets, but the Chinese, who do not have a history of international cooperation, have been notably enlarging their fishing capacity.

Replacing the Atlantic with Pacific fisheries is an old idea. Pacific cod was one of the reasons the United States bought Alaska from the Russians in 1867. But since the major markets were far away along the Atlantic, the Pacific cod did not have the same success as the Atlantic cod. Nevertheless, in 1890, a half million Pacific cod were landed. An 1897 book by an American scholar, James Davie Butler, suggested that with the alternative of a Pacific cod fishery, the only remaining bone of contention between the United States and Canada, cod fisheries, would be less important, and the way would now be cleared for “eventual union with Canada.”

But the Pacific cod is a different fish, its flesh less prized. It does not migrate, and it does not appear to live more than twelve years. More important, the catch has never measured up to that of its Atlantic cousin. Instead, walleye pollock has become the prize of the northern Pacific, “the cod of our times,” as a Gorton’s employee put it, and that fish is becoming so overfished that not only its stocks but its predators, sea lions and several species of seabirds, have dramatically declined since the mid-1970s.

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New England’s Codfish Aristocracy

From Cod, by Mark Kurlansky (Penguin, 1998), pp. 78-80:

By the eighteenth century, cod had lifted New England from a distant colony of starving settlers to an international commercial power. Massachusetts had elevated cod from commodity to fetish. The members of the “codfish aristocracy,” those who traced their family fortunes to the seventeenth-century cod fisheries, had openly worshiped the fish as the symbol of their wealth. A codfish appeared on official crests from the seal of the Plymouth Land Company and the 1776 New Hampshire State seal to the emblem of the eighteenth-century Salem Gazette—a shield held by two Indians with a codfish overhead. Many of the first American coins issued from 1776 to 1778 had codfish on them, and a 1755 two-penny tax stamp for the Massachusetts Bay Colony bore a codfish and the words staple of Massachusetts.

When the original codfish aristocrats expressed their wealth by building mansions, they decorated them with codfish. In 1743, shipowner Colonel Benjamin Pickman included in the Salem mansion he was building a staircase decorated with a gilded wooden cod on the side of each tread. The Boston Town Hall also had a gilded cod hanging from the ceiling, but the building burned down, cod and all, in 1747. After the American Revolution, a carved wooden cod was hung in the Old State House, the government building at the head of State Street in Boston, at the urging of John Rowe, who, like many of the Boston revolutionaries, was a merchant. When Massachusetts moved its legislature in 1798, the cod was moved with it. When the legislature moved again in 1895, the cod was ceremoniously lowered by the assistant door-keeper and wrapped in an American flag, placed on a bier, and carried by three representatives in a procession escorted by the sergeant-at-arms. As they entered the new chamber, the members rose and gave a vigorous round of applause.

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Rehabilitating Japanese War Veterans

From Faces Along the Way, by Ferdinand Micklautz (Miko Oriental Art and Publishing, 2010), pp. 243-244:

The war had ended in 1945, and this was 1948. Japan had surrendered and we were rebuilding it to be an anti-war, pacifist nation. (It was no accident that the American lady chosen to tutor Crown Prince Akihito was a Quaker.) The victors didn’t mind feeding women and children and the aged. But the idea of turning around and helping the very men they’d been trying to kill, and who had been trying to kill them, was utter anathema. It was so much so, that no one dared to make a public case for the Japanese war veterans.

The fact was, however, that of all Japanese in need of rehabilitation and assistance, the war veterans made up by far the largest group. There were multitudes of them, nationwide, from one end of Japan to the other, and … the luckier ones were buried in remote and inadequate hospitals. The rest of them were on the streets, begging and getting along as best they could.

I may have been the first person in Japan to address this issue publicly. In the course of setting up our rehabilitation program, I held several press conferences, and at one of them, a courageous Japanese reporter asked me if the services being developed nationally would also be available to the war wounded who had been in the military. The MacArthur/SCAP attitude towards Japan’s war veterans was too well known, and so the reporter didn’t dare use the term “veterans”; instead, he danced around it very carefully.

Not me. “Veterans,” I stated, and all over the room eyes went wide, “will be treated just the same as civilians or anybody in need. There will be no discrimination at all.” There was a ripple of surprise, mostly silent but I could see it in their faces. Then the shock of hearing the word “veterans” used in public passed, and in its place was relief and approval.

Back at [Public Health & Welfare] there was a bit of discussion about what I had said, but none of it was outright criticism and I wasn’t slapped down for having broken the unofficial ban and speaking as I had. The word traveled through Japan that veterans, too, would be eligible for rehabilitation, and that barrier came down.

Available by print-on-demand from Lulu.com. Newly available in Japanese translation.

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