Category Archives: History

How a Letter from a Trump Cultist Changed my Life and Threatened my Liberty: Reflections on Trump and his Christofacist Cult


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Sorry for not posting for a week but my ass has been kicked by the work involved in clearing our home of things in order for the painters after having more contractors in the past week. Add to this the new new teaching job and my ass is kicked. Everything hurts, 60 is definitely not the new 40.

As I was getting things cleaned out I found a letter. It was the letter that greeted me at my office a few days that I preached sermon at the JEB Little Creek Fort Story Chapel in July 2017. It was from a fanatical Trump supporter who was upset that I condemned the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents and locking them up in cages on our border with Mexico. During the sermon I never said a word about Trump himself and stayed morality of his administration’s policies.

My accuser was a retired officer who never addressed me face to face and made heinous accusations against me. He sent a similar letter to my Commanding Officer demanding that I be relieved of my position as Command Chaplain and that I be tried by Court Martial. It was a seminal moment in my life. I discovered that the Trump movement was not simply about politics but it was a personality cult devoted to their “Leader” with profoundly racist motives bent on the personal destruction of anyone who opposed his policies.

My sermon actually had scriptural backing in that week’s lectionary readings and was based on the teachings of the Christian Church and backed by history. When I preach I do not deviate from the lectionary texts and seek to apply them to daily life, most of the time this was never about anything political.

The sermons of a chaplain are normally considered one of the most protected types of speech in the military and for that matter in the country, even if they stand against the policies of a President. In fact during my long career I have witnessed conservative Evangelical and Catholic Chaplains venture into politics on a regular basis, sometimes sitting through sermons that were much more partisan and disrespectful than anything I spoke that day, but I do not recall any to have been accused of crimes and investigated for what they said in a sermon preached as part of regularly scheduled religious services.

The official investigation of my “allegedly criminal conduct” in preaching the sermon was grueling. I was called into the investigating officer’s office and read my rights. I refused to answer questions without a lawyer. I had to retain legal counsel and went to Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation who has become a close personal friend. He spoke at my retirement ceremony where his words were remarkably similar to two of my previous commanding officers emphasizing my personal integrity, moral courage and commitment to care for all in my charge, regardless of their beliefs.

The investigating officer interviewed over half of the people present in the service as well as every member of my staff. My attorney handled the situation and in the end I was exonerated and no charges filed. I still have the investigation filed away, but it is now boxed up. Sadly, some of the people who denied that I said the things I was accused of saying also threw in political barbs. All were White male retirees and none ever spoke to me again. I was shunned, but the Black members of the chapel congregation were very supportive, some still keep in touch with me. One said that my sermon was like “hearing the thunder of the voice of God.” Honestly I do miss preaching, but I want nothing to do with the politics of the church.

I elected never to preach in that chapel again, in fact it was the last time I stood in the pulpit for anything other than an official ceremony or memorial service.

The assault on me and my rights by this Trump supporter and my treatment afterwards by the older White members of the chapel made me much wiser about the nature of the Trump Cult. It transitioned from a personality cult to a profoundly religious cult in which any disagreement with the former President was considered heresy and  met by virulent attacks on the offenders, and if they were Republicans saw many expelled or driven from the Party, sometimes even threatened with violence.

The Trump Cult is deeply racist, openly White Nationalist and authoritarian in nature, and supported by violent Neo-Nazi groups, militias and Christian Nationalists, who are probably the most disreputable of the lot.

I get online threats on a fairly regular basis for what I write and truthfully I no longer feel safe in my country, a country I served for nearly 40 years in the military. Sadly, most claim to be “Christians” as if they even know what being a follower of Jesus means. It does not mean making death threats on behalf of a would be dictator, as a good number have done.

Less than a month after my sermon those White Supremacist groups conducted a violent demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump said that there “were very good people” on both sides. Of course he and they only grew more threatening and violent and culminated in the 6 January insurrection and assault on the Capitol, but I digress…

The letter from that man reminded me just how personal this threat is for anyone who actually believes in truth, believes in the promise our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. There are so many times that I resist the urge to spam my accuser’s name all over the world. That man is a despicable moral coward who refused to even follow the clear teachings of scripture of how to confront another Christian over a matter of faith, and instead attempted to use the power of military law in order to destroy me. Of course for him like most of these Christofacists, the teachings of Jesus, Scripture, or the testimony of the Church mean nothing, because the worship Trump uber Alles. They would kill for him, not die for Jesus. That my friends is idolatry and a denial of their Christian faith.

But for me this is a fight that I will not shirk. I cannot stomach supposed Christians who have a higher loyalty to Trump and his racist Cult than they do to Jesus. I quote General Henning Von Tresckow who helped lead the opposition to Hitler and died after the failed assassination attempt, “We have to show the world that not all of us are like him. Otherwise, this will always be Hitler’s Germany.”

Yes, I compared Trump to Hitler. This is because Trump has repeatedly shown that he wants to be like Hitler. True, he is not as smart and unlike Hitler never volunteered to serve his adopted country in wartime, and he has no one as gifted as Joseph Goebbels as his chief propagandist. Nor does he have anyone as Lani Riefenstahl  to promote him as a God as she did in the film The Triumph of the Will. 

That being said, Trump is both a demagogue and coward. He loves authoritarian government and hates the system of checks and balances created by our founders. Today he registered his disappointment that the Courts would not overturn the election, despite the fact nothing he and his lawyers could come up with that could win a single court case of over 60 they filed because they had no evidence and the facts did not support them. His continuous assault on facts and truth bodes ill for all of us, even his followers. Thus he and them and his followers remain a danger to anyone who actually believes that the Declaration or the Constitution. 

But had Trump won the election, or had his insurgents prevented Congress from fulfilling its obligations under the Constitution there is no doubt that he would have gone full Fuhrer.  Had he won or succeed in His coup attempt no opponent would be safe from his Neo-Nazi thugs backed by the full police power of the government and his Christian Theocratic base. The sad thing is that even though he is out of office the threat still remains, largely because of his Cult and a spineless Republican Party that sold its soul to Trump.

I’ll stop for now as it is late. However, it is a good thing that the man who tried to destroy me coming up on four years ago never properly introduced himself to me in person, thus I can’t match his face to my memories. It is a good thing for him because if I recognized him I might be tempted to beat him within an inch of his life if he did not admit his sin against me before my left jab right hook combination  struck his jaw. Of course if that ever happened that sonofabitch would be the victim and I would be in jail. So I won’t give him that as strong as the temptation might be. But to quote the Psalmist in Psalm 139:22 when it comes to men like Jack who tried to destroy my life to defend Trump, “I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.”

That they are so until next time,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, civil rights, ethics, faith, History, leadership, Military, ministry, nazi germany, News and current events, Political Commentary, racism, Religion, US Presidents

Iron against Iron: The Clash of the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads at 159 Years

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Today marks the 159th anniversary of an event which changed naval warfare forever. It was a watershed event which ended the reign of the great wooden ships which plied the oceans of the world under massive fields of canvas sails. 

It took place just a few miles from two of my last three active duty assignments. If it happened today I would certainly been able to watch it from beach any of the beaches were I worked at Joint Base Little Creek – Fort Story.  I could have watched Virginia steam from the Elizabeth River to do battle from my office at the Joint Forces Staff College, or I could have watched Virginia’s transformation from the salvaged wreck of the steam frigate USS Merrimac into the ironclad behemoth she became in Dry Dock Number One at Naval Shipyard Norfolk in Portsmouth, my last assignment on active duty.

On 9 March 1862, two very strange looking ships joined in battle. This is the story of the Battle of Hanpton Roads and the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia. 

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

On the morning of March 8th 1862 the CSS Virginia steamed slowly from her base at Portsmouth Virginia into Hampton Roads at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Awaiting her was a US Navy squadron of wooden warships including the steam Frigate USS Minnesota, the Sloop of War USS Cumberland, Frigate USS Congress and a number of smaller vessels.

The Virginia was an armored ram built from the salvaged remains of the large steam frigate USS Merrimack which had been burned at Gosport (Now Norfolk) Naval Shipyard. After Virginia’s forces seized the yard the hulk was salvaged. When the Confederate States Navy assumed command of the yard , Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory decided to reconstruct her as an Ironclad Ram. 

Her plans had been leaked to the US Navy through by Mary Louvestre  a former slave with a talent for drafting who worked as a seamstress for an engineer at the shipyard. Hearing her employer brag about the ship she went into his office and traced the plans, sending them to Union authorities. Virginia had a casemate of 24 inches of oak and pine topped by two layers of 2” thick iron plating. She was equipped with an iron ram on her bow and was armed with six 9” Dahlgren Smoothbores,  two 7” Brooke Rifles and two 6.4” Brooke Rifles. However she was barely seaworthy and had too deep draft to navigate inland waters. Her engines were unreliable and she had a very slow and long turning radius which hindered her against Monitor.

The United States Navy was also in the process of constructing a number of ironclad ships of different types. The first of these ships to be ready was the USS Monitor, a small ship mounting a single heavily armored (8” iron) turret mounting two powerful 11” Dalghren smoothbore guns. She was designed by Swedish inventor John Ericcson. Her design was best suited for coastal and inland waters and she was was faster and more maneuverable than Virginia.

On the morning of 8 March she was still steaming to Hampton Roads from New York when Virginia came out for battle against the Union blockade squadron.

 

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CSS Virginia 

During the ensuing fight of March 8th Virginia rammed and sank Cumberland which though fatally wounded disabled two of Virginia’s 9” in guns. She destroyed Congress by gunfire which burned and blew up and appeared to be in position to destroy Minnesota the following day as that ship had run hard aground. The losses aboard Cumberland and Congress were severe and included the Captain of the Congress and Chaplain John L. Lenhart of Cumberland, the first US Navy Chaplain to die in battle. During the battle Virginia had several men wounded including her Captain, Commodore Franklin Buchanan.

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Virginia rams the USS Cumberland 

Due to the coming of darkness and a falling tide the acting commander of Virginia, Lieutenant Catsby Ap Roger Jones her executive officer took her in for the night. During the night Monitor, under the command of Lieutenant John Worden arrived and took up station to defend Minnesota.

603px-Battle_of_Hampton_Roads_Map

 

The next morning Virginia again ventured out and was intercepted by the Monitor. The ships fought for over three hours, with Monitor using her superior speed and maneuverability to great effect. During the battle Monitor suffered a hit on her small pilothouse near her bow blinding her Captain,  Lieutenant John Worden, as such Monitor’s executive officer, Lieutenant Dana Greene, the son of Union Brigadier General George Sears Greene, the hero of Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg took command. Neither side suffered much damage but the smokestack of Virginia was pierced in several places affecting her already poor engine performance.  Jones broke off the action and returned to Gosport for repairs and Monitor remained on station.

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles wrote after the battle:

“the performance, power, and capabilities of the Monitor, must effect a radical change in naval warfare.”

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Monitor after the Battle

It did. The battle showed the world the vulnerability of wooden warships against the new ironclads. Monitor in particular revolutionized naval warfare and warship construction. Her defining mark was the use of the armored gun turret which over the succeeding decades became the standard manner for large ships guns to be mounted. Turrets like the warships they were mounted upon grew in size and power reaching their apex during the Second World War.

 

Both Virginia and Monitor reached less than glorious ends. Virginia had to be destroyed by her crew to prevent her capture just over two months after the battle on May 11th 1862.

Monitor survived until January 31st 1862 when she sank during a heavy storm off Cape Hatteras North Carolina with the loss of 16 of her 62 man crew.

The remains of two of those men, recovered during the salvage of Monitor’s engines, turret, guns and anchor were interred at Arlington National Cemetery on March 8th 2012. The relics from Monitor and some from Virginia are displayed at the Mariners Museum in Newport News (http://www.marinersmuseum.org )while one of Virginia’s anchors resides on the lawn of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. Additionally, parts of her armor are displayed at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. 

Those early ironclads and the brave men who served aboard them revolutionized naval warfare and their work should never be forgotten.

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Filed under civil war, hampton roads and tidewater, History, Military, Navy Ships, US Navy

Unexpected Additions on an Already Busy Day: Introducing Sunny Dae, Our New Furry Child


Sunny Dae, Our Latest Unexpected Addition 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today looked like it would be a busy, eventful and productive day. It was that and more. But first an announcement I will keep this site for blogging but will soon have another site to help promote and sell my book which is not possible on this site using links to book sellers, my publisher, and well,  even payments directly to myself through PayPal should you want me to write something for you or even worse. Sorry, I’ve been binge watching the Blacklist again, I do love Raymond Reddington, as he said “Like deep fried butter I am unhealthy yet irresistible.” That website is yet unnamed but will have the domain:

http://padre-steve.com

It will take some time before I have much on it, but at least bookmark the URL.  I will have a link to it on this site, and some materials and articles from this site related to “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!” Racism, Religion, Ideology and Politics in the Civil War Era” and my other books I am working on currently and what I might write about in the future. I will also include information regarding military history staff rides, civil rights tours, and Holocaust site visits, classes and lectures that I will be available for when I form my LLC to make them works right and be fully legal where I am able to teach, write, and travel. I do this so people who want to know the truth and walk sacred lands and visit sacred sites in order to  have a physical connection to those places and people that one cannot just get from reading unless one is incredibly imaginative and sensory.

I experienced that when I led a Reformation tour to Wittenberg, where Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis which began the Protestant Reformation in 1517. That was in 1996 and the internet was still in its infancy so all I knew was from excellent church history professors and much reading. Judy actually faxed materials I had in the United States to me to help prepare. I had a number of people ask how many times I had been to Wittenberg, and I told them that this was my first. They asked how I knew the town and events so well, and I said, I read, I study, and before I ever came here I could see it all in my minds eye. that is something I have always tried to emphasize to my students or those who have made such tours with me.

Speaking of irresistible we became the unexpected rescue parents of a 7 year old Papillon, who was one of the abandoned Puerto Rican Beach Dogs rescued after Hurricane Maria. She has medical problem that her owner, an elderly woman of a very low fixed income could not afford, and took her to our vet, thinking of euthanasia because she didn’t know what else to do, not on the internet not knowing of other resources. However our vet offered to find her the perfect parents so she was not euthanized. The vet’s office called Judy, Judy called me and texted me a picture and I knew we had to be her new family.

Her name is Sunny Dae, we added the middle name because that’s just what we do. She has a very large stone in her bladder which is very painful and untreated would be fatal, but the surgery should go well and we expect a complete recovery.

I got word at 3:00 PM and by 4:30 she was signed over to us. The vet is sucking up $1000 of the $2000 surgery and post surgery costs. The timing is not good as I am looking for a job, we are trying to get our home prepared to sell, and I am still working with the publisher and agent for my book on technical issues. Knowing this the vet’s office posted this message on Facebook to help raise funds paid directly into Sunny’s account to defray our costs.

“Today, a sweet papillon named Sunny Dae was rescued from euthanasia by a couple with an enormous heart. Abbey Animal Hospital is donating $1000 worth of time and supplies to save this sweet dog a bladder stone that is as big as the poor pup’s bladder itself. Unfortunately, the surgery is still very expensive. Any donations would be greatly appreciated to help save this sweet girls life. Please call Abbey Animal Hospital 757-471-1003 to make a donation directly on Sunny Dae’s account. Thank you all so much!!!! Please share and spread the word. — with Judy Keiser Dundas and Steven Dundas.” 

I guess it helps when you are known for how much you love, care for, and treat your furry babies. We’ve been with them since 2003. They have rejoiced with us and grieved with us over the years. Here is what they posted. If you would like to donate to help please call Abbey Animal Hospital in Virginia Beach. This girl is worth it. She is sweet, appreciative, and has already bonded with us. Our other three, Izzy Bella, Pierre, and Maddy Lyn have been slowly warming up to her and gentle with her. They know that she doesn’t feel well. We cannot wait for Sunny to get her surgery because we know that she is going to be a blessing to all of us, and we thank God for her first rescue mommy who decided to listen to our vet. We have chatted a couple of times and she too his overjoyed for us rescuing her baby when she didn’t know what to do or have the resources to help the dog she loved.

So until tomorrow, love life, appreciate others, and care for who you can be they human beings of God’s furry blessings.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Filed under books, books and literature, dogs, History, life, papillons, the blacklist

Draining the Swamp but not the One You are Thinking About


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It has been an exhausting day as I used my shop-vac to remove over 250 gallons of water from my back yard. Since the yard was graded by the builders toward the house the deepest areas were on the patio. The water in the yard ranched from an inch to five inches and after 14 days in which 12 involved rainfall amounts of an inch to three inches a day there was no way for it to drain or evaporate. The rain stopped Monday afternoon and Tuesday was sunny and dry, but there was no noticeable change in the amount of standing water in the back yard. The water was at the very threshold of our back French doors and found was to leak into the house, but thankfully not much got in and we were able to prevent any damage and dry things out before thinks could get worse. But I had to  get the water level down as rain is back in the forecast beginning Saturday and will last several days.

We live in an area called The Tidewater which includes southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The term was the name given to it by the early English gentry settlers as a polite term for a swamp. Speaking of swamps, the Great Dismal Swamp, aptly named by George Washington in his pre-General and President days when he was a surveyor is about 20 miles from where I live.

We have plenty of other swampland, and swampland that has been developed or paved over, including the parcel of land where I live that makes coastal flooding, or flooding caused by major rain events a rather routine experience, made worse by Global Warming and Sea Rise which has created a crisis for the United States Navy, which does not deny either and even produced a report on the danger.

The Tidewater is the home of Norfolk Naval Station which is the largest Naval base and the home port of five Aircraft Carriers. Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth is the oldest and the second largest government shipyard in the United States, it overhauls nuclear submarines and carriers. Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story is the home of East Coast SEALS, EOD, Expeditionary, Coastal and Riverine warfare units, as well as Amphibious ships and amphibious support units. Naval Air Station Oceana is the hub for East Coast Naval Aviation, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, is the Premier Naval Medical Center on the East Coast now that Bethesda is part of Walter Reed. The Tidewater is also the home of Joint Base Langley-Fort Eustis, the home of many Air Force Fighter Squadrons, the Army Training and Doctrine Command, and Transportation Center and School, and a host of smaller installations critical to national security, as well as the home of Newport News Shipyard, the private shipyard that produces all of our nuclear Aircraft Carriers, and conducts their mid-life reactor overhauls. Believe me, my problems with my backyard are very small potatoes compared to the national security issues to our nation represented by Global Warming and Sea Rise, which by the way Norfolk at the Sewells Point Buoy has the highest rise recorded on the East Coast in over a century.

How the hell did I go there, this was all about me initially, but then maybe it wasn’t. Many ordinary homeowners in the area face similar issues that I face because of unscrupulous real estate developers who stripped away the topsoil and built directly on the clay often not grading the soil away from the homes they built. In fact the developer who built our development and many others in the 1980s and 1990s ended up in jail when exposed for all of his deceit, fraud, and criminal negligence that he inflicted on people.

But let me go back a bit. We have a lot of low lying land and many inland waterways in addition to being on the Atlantic coast. Much of the land has minimal topsoil with a thick layer of clay just below. It doesn’t drain easily especially when the natural wetlands that provided protection were paved over in the name of progress, without any thought about the long term damage to our area.

So today I vacuumed out and dumped in storm drains in the front of my house those 250 gallons or more of storm water. Tomorrow I meet with a contractor to get gutters and stains that will direct storm water out of my back yard. Next week  a contractor begins work on painting and dealing with other work inside the house and my front porch. A friend has an electrician who will fix a couple of issues and replace my rare baseball motif ceiling fan in the kitchen and Judy’s Tiffany Coca Cola hanging  light fixture also in the kitchen. I will be getting another contractor to fix my storage shed. I’m waiting on my window contractor to get the new windows and install the  and then I will be ready to put on the market, hopefully no later than 1 April.

In the meantime I need to arrange for a POD unit to take out things that need to be removed for work inside and and sort through to determine whether to keep or discard and to ensure we can stage the house for sale. With what we have done and what we are doing I expect to get a lot more than we paid for it, just based on what the same house and floor plan are going for today.

I have more to write about but it can wait until tomorrow night, or rather later tonight.

So until then,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under Climate change,, History, Loose thoughts and musings, national security, Political Commentary, US Navy

Sorry for the Interruption, but some Good News: “So often people overestimate themselves, misapply their gifts. Wisdom is learning the boundaries of one’s designated lane.”

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Sorry I haven’t posted for what seems like four or five days. However, I spent most of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday until 4:30 AM until my eyes couldn’t make out what I was reading or writing. I got a few hours of sleep, went to a medical appointment and when I returned about 1:00 PM  on Monday. I spent until about 10;15 Monday night to completing  my picture reference page for my book “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!” Racism, Religion, Ideology and Politics in the Civil War Era and their Continuing Importance.”

Let me tell you, and to use a Southern colloquialism believe you me, the parallels with out current time are well to say the least just a bit frightening, especially when dealing with a Racist and Religious White Nationalist insurgency which has many former or current members of the military or law enforcement agencies organized as heavily armed unauthorized so-called and unconstitutional Militias.

This is what makes the book so important now because violent attempts to overthrow elected governments at the state level

Let me tell you that you wouldn’t believe what a pain is the ass that is when  original manuscript, mostly incited and not having high enough pixel resolution to use in the final, fully referenced section you have know idea how difficult it is. First you have to choose the photos, eliminate over half, and then find both tell the story and help evoke the emotional reaction that all the text requires. Facts, truth, and accuracy matter a lot to me, but when it comes to history rather than fiction or fantasy most people are oblivious unless they see videos, films, pictures that both grab them and shake their very souls. Unfortunately books don’t have film or video, so picture, drawings, and paintings have to be carefully chosen in order to truthfully grab whatever decency and humanity they have to make the point. Interestingly some of the best are basically political opinion cartoons. Sometimes just one well doe frame can convey a message more powerfully than a thousand words or text.

So I spent close to thirty hours to properly catalogue and size, and then  ensure appropriate  credit and reference for about 30 picture, about a third of which were not in the original draft manuscript.  I had no idea something that seemed so simple could be so complicated.

Tomorrow I need to figure out how to deposit my materials in the publisher and agent’s online deposit boxes. I also need to get my wish list of would be influencers prepared for my agent, or as I will call them Padre Steve’s propaganda department, send my W-9 Tax form to the publisher to start getting paid, and do an Acknowledgment section. I don’t want to forget all those who inspired and encourage me in this endeavor as well as the five manuscripts in the pipeline, one A Great War in an Age of Revolutionary Change, which deals with the economic, technological, sociological, military and political aspects of the American Civil War. It shouldn’t take too much work to make it publication ready, before I begin the big work on my Holocaust Remembrance book Walk, Remember, Bear Witness: Ensuring that the Holocaust is not Forgotten or Repeated as the last Survivors pass Away. 

Of course, I have my yet unnamed Gettysburg Trilogy which despite being over 800 pages long needs a lot more work, editing and the stuff that proves to be such a pain in the ass, doing the index and photo credits. I do like the writing and editing much more. Maybe once I get some good money flowing in from teaching, the books, and doing military history staff rides and Holocaust pilgrimages to the sites the Nazis committed their crimes and were later served justice I’ll need to hire a really detail oriented flunky; excuse me, assistant who will be capable of asking me questions and thinking on their feet. I don’t don’t do well with ignorance, incompetence, lack of integrity or laziness well.

I also have to get talk to my agent about how to make clean copies of the manuscript free of all the code that went into creating the index and putting the pictures I so he can get it out to my propagandists, or, I’m sorry, rather influences in either print or electronic form so they can spread the gospel of Padre Steve. Believe me, that is not nearly as malevolent as it sounds, I have just re-binge watching The Blacklist with James Spader playing the notorious international concierge of crime Raymond Reddington.

So until the next time I get a chance to post I leave you with this thought from Reddington: “So often people overestimate themselves, misapply their gifts. Wisdom is learning the boundaries of one’s designated lane.”

Until then, have a good night and better tomorrow.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Epic Counterattack By a Brilliant Commander Blinded by Ambition to See or Resist the Truth: Erich von Manstein’s Counterstroke

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am tired as a result I am posting something out of my archives today. It’s actually a paper I wrote for one of my Masters Degree Classes back in 2009 that I decided to post on the site. Since then I have done much more study on the battle from other sources, many more critical of Manstein and revealing of the crimes committed by his troops on the Eastern Front.  I could probably do more with it except to do more biographical work on Von Manstein, but I don’t expect that I will at them moment because I already know much about his strategic and battlefield brilliance, and enough about his character for now. For me character matters more than battlefield brilliance.

The article deals with the crisis that the German armies faced following Stalingrad and how Field Marshal Erich von Manstein succeeded in talking Adolf Hitler out of certain defeat and inflicting a massive defeat on the now overconfident and over extended Soviet armies.

Von Manstein was a brilliant strategist, his bold plan to conquer France in 1940 was a masterpiece, as was his conduct of combat operations on the Eastern Front until his relief in March of 1944 for withdrawing (and saving) his armies from Soviet destruction without Hitler’s approval. Von Manstein was a brilliant commander at the operational level of war, but he also gave his approval and support to war crimes committed by the SS Einsatzgruppen against the Jews and others in his area of operations. He believed that Bolshevism and the Jews were linked, thus in his codicil to Von Reichenau’s Severity Order in November 1941 stated:

“Jewish Bolshevik system must be wiped out once and for all and should never again be allowed to invade our European living space … It is the same Jewish class of beings who have done so much damage to our own Fatherland by virtue of their activities against the nation and civilisation, and who promote anti-German tendencies throughout the world, and who will be the harbingers of revenge. Their extermination is a dictate of our own survival.”

This article depicts Manstein at his zenith when even Hitler was forced to give in to his logic, but barely a year later Hitler relieved him of command as Manstein remained committed to a mobile defense surrendering space while attempting to maximize Soviet casualties.

Manstein is a complex character, he defended German Jews in the Reichswehr yet went on to cooperate in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews in Russia. There is a decent possibility that he had some Jewish ancestry, he opposed the Aryan Paragraph which banned Jews from serving in the German armed forces telling General Ludwig Beck that anyone who had volunteered to serve had already proved their worth. Part of this may have been to protect mixed race grand-nephews who were already serving in the Reichswehr and his concern that he might have Jewish blood.

The SS launched an investigation regarding this, but never completed it. The results of what they found or did not find are unknown. It makes me wonder if I could make an extended trip to Germany and do some research on the topic. This is because based on all of his other anti-Semitic beliefs, if he really did not believe that the Germans had murdered the number of Jews that they did as was recorded in his post-war testimony. Almost all of Von Manstein’s criticisms of Hitler were restricted to the conduct of the war, not the political and moral aspects that formed the heart of Nazi policy and the Holocaust.

Though Manstein knew that Hitler was leading Germany to destruction, he rebuffed his colleagues who attempted to kill Hitler and the overthrow the Nazi regime. Had he supported them he might have brought others with him.

Likewise, though he was tried and convicted of war crimes he was given an early release from prison at the behest of Winston Churchill, Konrad Adenauer and other notables. After his release he went on to advise the German government on the organization of the new Bundeswehr, and become something of a celebrity among military history students, and military officers, especially Britain and the United States.

Manstien’s  post war writings were highly critical of Hitler and for the most part he succeeded in rehabilitating himself, in large part with the help of  Western military historians and theorists of mobile warfare. These men looked at the military aspects of the war and built what amounted to a cult around Manstein and German military and other high ranking Wehrmacht critics of Hitler, with scant regard to the murderous policies of the Nazis, and the personal responsibility and participation of many of them in carrying out Hitler’s decrees. When Manstein died in 1973 at the age of 85 he was the last surviving German Field Marshal and was buried with full military honors.

While it is true that Manstein was a brilliant commander and strategist, he aided and abetted one of the most criminal regimes in history. The German magazine Der Spiegel wrote of him: “He assisted in the march to catastrophe—misled by a blind sense of duty.”

This is something that all military professionals have to guard against. I am less concerned about senior American military leaders than I was last summer, but there are men and women who though in military had or have a higher alliance to for er President Trump than the Constitution as was demonstrated on 6 January. For the moment my fears are assuaged, but I do know that many self-styled “Patriots” more enamored with White Nationalist, Authoritarian and theocratic beliefs then they are in our Constitution and democracy are serving throughout our military. They include enlisted members, officers, probably including a number of General and Flag Officers, and DOD civilians in high ranking positions. In fact Trump appointed quite a few political hacks to permanent civil service positions in DOD, State, Homeland Security and other important positions before he left office. The Biden administration is attempting to move them to positions where they cannot do damage but they are in place.

So, until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

Introduction

After Stalingrad the Soviets followed up on their success and attempted to entrap the rest of Army Group South. Field Marshall von Manstein attempted to save the Army Group and perhaps prevent the Soviets from collapsing the entire German front.

Bild 101I-209-0086-12Manstein (center) planning at the front

Chaos and Peril in the South

As 6th Army died at Stalingrad field Marshall von Manstein was faced with one of the most challenging situations faced by any commander in modern times.  He faced strategic and operational “problems of a magnitude and complexity seldom paralleled in history.”[i] Manstein had to deal with a complex military situation where he had minimal forces to counter the moves of a superior enemy force that was threatening to entrap all German forces in southern Russia. Additionally Manstein had to deal with the “Hitler’s obstinate opposition to a maneuver defense and a Red Army flushed with the victory of Stalingrad.”[ii]Facing him were the six Russian armies of the Voronezh and Southwestern Fronts led by Mobile Group Popov[iii]. These Armies had broken through the Hungarian and Italian armies “making a breach 200 miles wide between the Donetz and Voronezh, and were sweeping westward past Manstein’s flank.”[iv]

flak in caucasus

The most dangerous threat that Manstein faced was to Army Group A in the Caucasus. This Army Group “found itself in danger of being cut off, forcing an immediate withdraw.”[v] Disaster was averted by the desperate holding actions of Manstein’s meager forces, Army detachment’s Fretter-Pico and Hollidt, and winter conditions that made “offensive operations extraordinarily difficult, even for the hardiest Soviet troops.”[vi]

A smart withdraw executed by General von Kleist managed to extricate the Army group “just as the Stalingrad forces collapsed.”[vii] To parry the Soviet thrusts the Germans lacked forces to “establish a deeply echeloned defense” and “instead combined maneuver… with stubborn positional defense to give artificial depth to the battlefield.  In this way the Germans were able to break major Soviet attacks, preventing catastrophic breakthroughs….”[viii] The timely introduction of a battalion of Tiger tanks prevented the Russians from breaking through to Rostov and “cutting the rail and road lines on which First Panzer Army’s retreat depended.”[ix] Even so the escape of the Army Group was narrow. “In terms of time, space, force, and weather conditions it was an astonishing performance-for which Kleist was made a field-marshal.”[x] With the Russians only 70 kilometers from Rostov and his own forces 650 kilometers from that city Kleist executed a withdraw “which had appeared hardly possible to achieve.”[xi] The divisions extricated by Kleist would be instrumental in the coming weeks as Manstein moved to counter the Soviet offensive.

Ostfront, Adolf Hitler, Erich v. Manstein

Hitler and Manstein

Despite the successful withdraw the situation was still precarious in early February, Manstein had no effective contact with his left wing, the bulk of which was tied to Kharkov, The Russians had “virtually complete freedom of action across a fifty-mile stretch of the Donetz on either side of Izyum.”[xii] Manstein was hard pressed to “halt the raids of Mobile Group Popov and other exploiting Soviet tank corps in Operation Gallop.”[xiii] Manstein’s forces in the eastern sector had been divided by Russian penetrations, which threatened 1st Panzer Army’s western flank and blocked the Army Group’s main railway line.[xiv]

On 15 February “the SS Panzer Corps withdrew from Kharkov-in spite of orders from Hitler…that the city was to be held to the last.”[xv] SS General Paul Hausser, the corps commander realized that the order to hold Kharkov was impossible and requested permission to withdraw. This was was refused by General Lanz. Under pressure from encircling Russian forces outside and from partisans inside the city, Hausser disobeyed the order and extricated his troops,[xvi] thereby saving thousands of German soldiers and preserved the SS Panzer Corps as a fighting unit.[xvii] Lanz was relieved by Hitler for the loss of Kharkov and although Hausser would escape immediate censure, “Hitler did see it as a black mark against his name.”[xviii] With Kharkov now in Soviet hands the gap between Manstein’s army group and Field Marshal von Kluge’s Army Group Center increased to over 100 miles.[xix] It appeared that the entire German southern flank was disintegrating.  Manstein estimated the ratio of German to Soviet forces in his area at 1:8.[xx] He believed that the Soviets could advance and subsequently “block the approaches to the Crimea and the Dnieper crossing at Kherson” which would “result in the encirclement of the entire German southern wing.”[xxi] Popov’s Mobile Group crossed the Donets and reached Krasnoarmeiskaia by 12 February. Vatutin committed two additional fresh tank corps toward Zaporozhe, a critical transport node which was also the location of Manstein’s headquarters.[xxii]

SS-Tiger-LSAH-01Tiger Tanks assigned to 1st SS Panzer Division

Hitler arrived to consult with Manstein on 17 February and remained for three days with Soviet forces perilously close.  Manstein only had some flak units and the Army Group Headquarters Company between him and Popov’s advanced elements. On Hitler’s last day “some T-34’s approached to within gun range of the airfield.”[xxiii]

The conference of Hitler with Manstein at Zaporozhe as well as a previous conference at the Wolfsschanze on 6 February was critical to the development of Manstein’s plan to restore the front. Manstein had now gotten both the 1st and 4th Panzer Armies across the Don, and “with this striking force, he felt confident of smashing the Russian offensive if he was given a free hand to withdraw from the line of the Donetz, evacuate Rostov and take up a much shorter front along the Mius river.”[xxiv] The conference on the 6th was one of the “rare moments in the war where Hitler authorized a strategic withdraw on a major scale.”[xxv] Yet as the Russians continued to advance Hitler became concerned and came to Zaporozhe.  At first Hitler would not concede to Manstein, as he wanted to assemble the SS Panzer Corps for an attack to recapture Kharkov.[xxvi]Manstein explained the need for a counter stroke and through much explanation was able to convince Hitler that the capture of Kharkov was not possible unless “we first removed the danger of the Army Group being cut off from its rear communications.”[xxvii]

T34_Stalingrad-Offensive-px800Soviet formations advance

The Russian aim was now obvious[xxviii] and Manstein had correctly discerned their strategy.  Manstein knew that his Army Group had to hold the line on the Mius and then quickly defeat the enemy between 1st Panzer Army and Army Detachment Kempf[xxix] in “order to prevent its own isolation from the Dnieper crossings.”[xxx] The Soviets had outrun their logistics support and had suffered heavy losses of their own and had serious equipment shortages.[xxxi] Manstein explained to Hitler the opportunity offered as it was now the Russians who “were worn out” and far from their supply dumps as the Germans had been in November 1942.  Manstein “foresaw an opportunity to seize the operational initiative with a counter offensive of his own.  Manstein’s target was the Soviet armored spearheads, still careening southwestward between Kharkov and Stalino.”[xxxii] Manstein believed that when the Russian “spearhead lunged, as it must toward the crossings on the upper Dnieper,” then Hoth’s Army would be let loose again.  The three SS Panzer divisions could then “play their rightful role as avengers, and strike southeast to meet 4th Panzer Army, catching the Russian armour in a noose.”[xxxiii] Hitler agreed to Manstein’s plan and Manstein shifted 4th Panzer Army to assume control of the SS Panzer Corps, now reinforced by 3rd SS Panzergrenadier Division “Totenkopf.” Hitler reinforced Manstein and released 7 battle worn Panzer and motorized divisions for his attack.[xxxiv]

Soviet Miscalculation

It was now Stalin’s time to miscalculate. He and his subordinates “continued to believe that they were on the verge of a great victory. German defenses in southern Russia appeared to be crumbling and the Stavka sought to expand that victory to include Army Group Center.”[xxxv] To this end they diverted armies to the north and launched attacks in that direction.  However German defenses were stiff and the plan was “predicated on the assumption of continued offensive success further south.”[xxxvi] Reinforcements from Stalingrad failed to deploy and “Army Group Center’s defenses, prepared for the past year and a half proved formidable.”[xxxvii]

In the south Stalin saw the Dnieper and almost “heedlessly drove his armies towards what he thought would be the decisive victory on the banks of this huge Russian river,”[xxxviii] but, Soviet “ambitions exceeded their available resources and the skill of their commanders.”[xxxix] The SS Panzer Corps withdraw from Kharkov “further heightened the Soviet’s intoxication with victory”[xl] and confirmed their beliefs that the Germans were withdrawing.  Stalin believed that “it was inconceivable that Hitler’s Praetorian Guard would abandon Kharkov except as part of a general order to retreat.”[xli] He believed that the encirclement of Army Group South would lead to a chain reaction and quick way to victory over German forces in the east.  Believing that there was no way for the Germans to recover and establish a solid front on the Mius,[xlii] Stalin continued to drive his forces to attack, yet the Russian offensive in the south had reached what Clausewitz had called the “culminating point” and Stalin’s armies were now extremely vulnerable. “The weather, the devastated communications, and their own inexperience in maintaining the traffic density required to support a deep penetration on a narrow front had combined to force a dangerous dispersal of effort on the Russian advance which had broken down into four separate groups.”[xliii]

panzer ivfPanzers assembling to attack

The Soviet forces were now in a dangerous predicament being spread out across the entire south of Russia.  One group, composed of the 69th Army and 3rd Tank Army pushed against Army detachment Kempf west of Kharkov.  To the south the badly depleted 6th Army and 1st Guards Army were now “strung out down a long corridor they had opened between Izyum and Pavlograd,”[xliv] Mobile Group Popov was lagging further east near Krasnoarmeiskaia.   Additional units were isolated behind the front of Army Detachment Fretter-Pico and near Matveyev.  Soviet commanders believed that the Germans were in worse shape and that “the risks of dispersal were justified.”[xlv] They had not anticipated or made allowance for Manstein’s coolness under pressure and actions to preserve his armor while thinning his front “well past the accepted danger limit.”[xlvi]Likewise the Soviets did not know that the Germans had cracked the code used by the Southwest front and from 12 February on “were now privy to Popov’s and Vatutin’s thoughts,” now knowing precisely where the Russians would attack.[xlvii] Manstein had withstood temptation and Hitler’s pressure to use his reserves “for a direct defense of the Dnieper line.”[xlviii] As such he was prepared to launch a devastating counter-stroke against the dispersed and weakened Russian armies which were still advancing into the trap he planned for them. He had managed to “save his counteroffensive plan from Hitler’s shrill demands that the new reserves be thrown into battle piecemeal to prevent further territorial losses.”[xlix] The stage was now set for a two classic mobile operations.[l]

The Destruction of Mobile Group Popov, 6th Army and 1st Guards Army

Manstein launched his counter-stroke on 21 February against Popov’s Mobile Group using XL Panzer Corps under the command of General Henrici composed of the 7th and 11th Panzer Divisions and SS Motorized Division Viking. Popov’s Group was exposed. Popov had “succeed in cutting the railway from Dnepropetrovsk to Stalino and was itching to push further south to Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.”[li] The Soviets once again had failed to discern German intentions, believing that the Germans were retreating.[lii] Likewise the Soviet high command did not fully understand Popov’s situation. His force was weak in tanks and low on fuel and his Mobile Group was defeated in detail by the German Corps.  Popov’s immobilized tank and motorized rifle formations resisted desperately but were bypassed by the panzers.  The 330th Infantry Division mopped up the remnants of these formations.[liii] The key battles took place around the town of Krasnoarmeiskaia and the battle became a running battle between that town and the Donets River.[liv] Popov requested permission to retreat, but still believing the Germans to be retreating Vatutin gave a categorical “no.” The terrain in the area was “almost completely open”[lv] and “Popov’s proud Armoured Group was cut up like a cake.”[lvi] Popov extricated some of his units but “only after serious losses in manpower and equipment.”[lvii] Despite this it would not be until the 24th that Vatutin would order a halt to offensive operations.[lviii]

kharkovSS Panzers in Kharkov

As Popov sought to get his units out of the German scythe Manstein set his sights on 6th Army, 1st Guards Army and 25th Tank Corps which was approaching Zaporozhe.[lix] He assigned the task to Hoth’s 4th Panzer Army and its XLVIII Panzer Corps under General Knobelsdorf composed of the 6th and 17th Panzer Divisions and the SS Panzer Corps comprising SS Divisions LiebstandarteDas Reich and Totenkopf.[lx] Manstein gave Hoth a brief but explicit order: “The Soviet Sixth Army, now racing towards Dnepropetrovsk through the gap between First Panzer Army and Army Detachment Kempf, is to be eliminated.”[lxi]

The XLVIII Panzer Corps and SS Panzer Corps were unleashed against the exposed flank of the 6th Army and 1st Guards Army.   XLVIII Panzer Corps quickly “seized bridgeheads over the Samara River, and prepared to move north into the rear of the exhausted Soviet Sixth Army.”[lxii] The two Panzer Corps then made a coordinated concentric attack northwest which “came as a complete surprise to the Russians.”[lxiii] Das Reich thrust deep into the flank of 6th Army supported by Stukas from Richthofen’s 4th Air Fleet.  This attack dislodged one Soviet Rifle Corps and destroyed another allowing the division to capture Pavlograd while XLVIII Panzer Corps led by 17th Panzer Division pushed from the south linking up with the SS Corps. This cut off the Soviet 25th Tank Corps and threatened 6thArmy.[lxiv] What followed was a disaster for the Russians.

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary Stavka and the Soviet Front commanders still believed that the Germans were retreating.  6th Army was ordered to continue its advance by the front commander who believed that the two German Panzer Corps were withdrawing.[lxv] In a few days the 17th Panzer Division “gained the Izyum-Protoponovka sector on the Donetz River, while the SS Panzer Corps took Losovaya and established contact with Army Detachment Kempf, which had joined the attack from the west.”[lxvi] XL Panzer Corps with the 3rd and 7thPanzer Divisions and 333rd Infantry Division joined in the attack on Popov’s remaining forces completing their destruction.[lxvii]

As Hoth and Hausser converged on Pavlograd, Das Reich and Totenkopf “swung left to the east and then wheeled back north again running parallel to the Russian divisions fleeing from Forty-eighth Panzer Corps. What ensured was a turkey shoot.”[lxviii]Fleeing Russian forces on the open steppe were visible and engaged at long range.[lxix] Leibstandarte helped by holding the left flank against Russian counter attacks from the units now isolated in the west,[lxx] and Totenkopf’s Grenadiers fanned out supported by Stukas to “kill or capture as many Russians as possible.”[lxxi]

By 1 March the Russian penetrations had been eliminated. Popov’s Mobile Group was smashed, 6th Army and 1st Guards Army badly mauled. 25th Tank Corps and three Rifle divisions had to be completely written off and numerous other corps and divisions took heavy casualties.  Two additional corps, encircled before the offensive began were eliminated by German forces.[lxxii] The Germans counted 23,000 Russian dead on the battlefield, and Manstein noted that “the booty included 615 tanks, 354 field pieces, 69 anti-aircraft guns and large numbers of machine guns and mortars.”[lxxiii] The Germans only took 9,000 prisoners as they were too weak, especially in infantry to seal off the encircled Soviet forces.[lxxiv] Yet the forces that escaped they were in no condition to “block the continued progress of the Panzers and SS.”[lxxv] Now there was a 100 mile gap in the Russian lines with nothing no troops to fill it and only “General Mud” could stop the Germans.[lxxvi] Manstein was not yet finished and the next phase of his operation against the Soviet formations west of Kharkov and that city were about to commence.

The Destruction of 3rd Tank Army

With the immediate threat to his Army Group eliminated and having regained the initiative, Manstein and Army Group South now “proceeded to deliver the stroke against the ‘Voronezh Front’– i.e. the forces located in the Kharkov area.”[lxxvii] But the Russians had not been idle. In order to attempt to assist 6thArmy 3rd Tank Army moved two tank corps and three Rifle divisions south and these ran into Manstein’s advancing panzers.[lxxviii] Manstein’ noted his objective now was “not the possession of Kharkov but the defeat-and if possible the destruction of the enemy units located there.”[lxxix] Between March 1st and 5th his forces advanced on Kharkov. Not knowing the Germans dispositions[lxxx]3rd Tank Army made the mistake of moving between the Leibstandarte’s defensive positions and the attacking divisions of the SS Panzer Corps. Hausser wheeled Totenkopf around and completed an encirclement of these units near Bereka on 3 March.[lxxxi] The Russians made futile attempts to break out but the SS Divisions tightened the noose around them and they were eliminated by the SS Panzer Corps which “engaged in concentric attacks during the three days of hard fighting.”[lxxxii] Even Regimental commanders like Heinz Harmel of Das Reich’s Der Fuhrer regiment became engaged in close combat with the Russians.[lxxxiii] The battle was fought in “snowstorms whose intensity caused the SS severe privations.”[lxxxiv] Totenkopf and Das Reich slammed the Russians “back against the Tiger tanks and assault guns of the Leibstandarte.”[lxxxv] The elimination of these units netted another 12,000 Russians killed,[lxxxvi] knocking “out the last remaining obstacle between the Germans and Kharkov.”[lxxxvii]

Return to Kharkov and Controversy

Manstein turned his attention to Kharkov, supported by Richthofen’s 4th Air Fleet which for the last time in Russia “provided undisputed air superiority for a major German mechanized operation.”[lxxxviii] He decided to “roll up the enemy from the flank and force him away from Kharkov in the process.”[lxxxix]He ordered a “pincer on the town, sending Grossdeutschland around to the north with a reinforced Kempf detachment and the combined force of Hoth and the SS to attack the town from the south and rear.”[xc] Manstein planned to make a wide envelopment to avoid embroiling his panzers in costly urban combat stating “that at all costs the Army Group wished to avoid Kharkov’s becoming a second Stalingrad in which our assault forces might become irretrievably committed.”[xci] To this end he sent Das Reich and Totenkopf which were approaching from the south to west of the city[xcii] while XLVIII Panzer Corps swung east toward the Donetz.[xciii] As Hoth’s forces came up from the south to envelope the city, Grossdeutschland and the XI and LI Corps fought the Russians to the north and west,[xciv] eventually moving up to Belgorod.  By 8 March lead elements of the SS Panzer Corps were on the outskirts of the city.

At this point there is some controversy as to German actions. As noted Manstein wished to avoid urban combat and desired to surround the city and force its surrender.  According to one writer Hoth ordered Hausser “to seal off the city from the west and north and to take any opportunity to seize it.”[xcv] Others including Glantz and House and Murray and Millett state that Hausser “ignored a direct order” and attacked into the city.[xcvi] Manstein does not explicitly say that there was a direct order but notes that the Army Group “had to intervene vigorously on more than one occasion to ensure that the corps did not launch a frontal attack on Kharkov.”[xcvii] Sydnor states that Hausser ignored a direct order by Hoth on the 11th by detailing a battalion of Totenkopf to assist Das Reich and Leibstandarte in retaking Kharkov by direct assault. The order entailed pulling Das Reich out of the city and taking it to the east.[xcviii] Lucas adds that this order came in the midst of hard fighting in the city and could not be carried out by the division.[xcix]Carell notes that on 9 March Hoth instructed Hausser that “opportunities to seize the city by a coup are to be utilized,”[c] and goes into detail regarding how Hoth’s 11 March order applied to Das Reich. It was to be pulled out of action and brought east, but division was heavily engaged and in the process of breaking through Soviet defenses “quicker in fact than if he had pulled “Das Reich” out of the operation and led it all the way round the city along those terrible muddy and time wasting roads.”[ci] In the end the SS took Kharkov, Manstein said that the city “fell without difficulty”[cii] while others note the difficulty of the action and the casualties suffered by the SS.  Kharkov’s capture; the defeat of Rokossovsky’s campaign against Orel and the beginning of the spring Rasutitsa ended the winter campaign and stabilized the front.

Analysis

The Russian winter offensive following Stalingrad had great potential.  Manstein said: “the successes attained on the Soviet side, the magnitude of which is incontestable.”[ciii] The greatest Soviet shortcomings were inexperience in conducting deep mobile operations and the inability of their logistics system to keep up with their advance.  Clark notes that this was their “first experience of an offensive war of movement on a large scale.[civ] Glantz and House are not alone in noting that the “Stavka continued to undertake operations that were beyond its resources.”[cv] Murray and Millett state that they “lacked the operational focus that had marked the Stalingrad offensive.”[cvi] Had they had the resources and ability to execute their plans they might have destroyed all German forces in the south.  They misread German intentions based on their own over-optimistic expectations opened their forces to Manstein’s devastating counter stroke.  Von Mellenthin, possibly showing some prejudice commented that the Russian soldier “when confronted by surprise and unforeseen situations he is an easy prey to panic.”[cvii]

The Germans snatched victory out of what appeared to be certain defeat. They were aided by Russian overconfidence, mistakes and operational shortcomings.  Manstein refused to panic and conserved his forces for his counterattack.[cviii] Kleist brought his Army Group out of what might have been encirclement worse than Stalingrad.  Hitler for the most part gave Manstein operational freedom which he had not provided other commanders.  German Panzer forces conducted mobile operations against superior enemy armored forces and bested them.  Landsers held their own in at critical junctures, especially on the Mius and gave Manstein the opportunity to employ the panzers in the mobile defense.[cix]

Likewise after a miserable winter the Luftwaffe recovered its balance and the coordinated operations between it and German ground forces gave them an edge at a point where the Red Air Force was unable to support the Red Army.[cx] Above all the Germans still maintained the edge in both overall quality of generalship, especially that of Manstein and Kleist, not to exclude Hoth, Hausser and lower level commanders.  Additionally the average German soldier still maintained an edge over his Soviet adversary in the confusion of mobile operations in open terrain.

Manstein and his forces gave Hitler breathing room on the eastern front.[cxi] As Clark notes: “few periods in World War II show a more complete and dramatic reversal of fortune than the fortnight in February and the first in March 1943…it repaired its front, shattered the hopes of the Allies, nipped the Russian spearhead. Above all it recovered its moral ascendancy.”[cxii]

Notes 


[i] Von Mellenthin, F.W. Panzer Battles: A Study of the Employment of Armor in the Second World War. Translated by H. Betzler, Ballantine Books, New York, NY, 1971. Originally Published University of Oklahoma Press, 1956. p245

[ii] Glantz, David M. and House, Jonathan. When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. 1995. p.143

[iii] Ibid. Glantz. P.143. These units include 3rd Tank Army, 1st and 3rd Guards Armies and the 6th, 40th and 69th Armies.

[iv] Liddell-Hart. B.H. Strategy.  A Signet Book, the New American Library, New York, NY 1974, first published by Faber and Faber Ltd. London, 1954 and 1967. p.253

[v] Raus, Erhard. Panzer Operation: The Eastern Front Memoir of General Raus, 1941-1945. Compiled and Translated by Steven H Newton. Da Capo Press a member of the Perseus Book Group, Cambridge, MA 2003. p.185

[vi] Murray, Williamson and Millett, Allan R. A War to Be Won: Fighting the Second World War, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA. 2000. pp.291-292

[vii] Liddell-Hart, B.H. History of the Second World War. G.P. Putnam’s Son’s, New York, NY. 1970  p.478

[viii] Wray, Timothy A. Standing Fast: German Defensive Doctrine on the Russian Front in World War II, Prewar to March 1943. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, KS. 1986. p.161

[ix] Ibid. Murray and Millett. p.292

[x] Ibid. Liddell-Hart, Second World War. p.479

[xi] Liddell-Hart, B.H. The German Generals Talk. Quill Publishing, New York, NY. 1979. Copyright 1948 by B.H. Liddell-Hart. pp.211-212.

[xii] Clark, Alan. Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict, 1941-45.Perennial, an Imprint of Harper Collins Books, New York, NY 2002. Originally published by William Morrow, New York, NY 1965. pp.299-300

[xiii] Glantz, David M and House, Jonathan. The Battle of Kursk.  University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. 1999. p.11

[xiv] Manstein, Erich von. Lost Victories. Translated by Anthony G. Powell, Zenith Press, an imprint of MBI Publishing Company, St Paul, MN. 2004. First Published as Verlorene Siege Athenaum-Verlag, Bonn, GE 1955, English edition Methuen & Company Ltd. 1958  p.417

[xv] Ibid. Clark. p.300

[xvi] Carell, Paul. Scorched Earth: The Russian German War 1943-1944. Translated by Ewald Osers, Ballantine Books, New York, NY 1971, published in arrangement with Little-Brown and Company. pp.196-199

[xvii] Lucas, James. Das Reich: The Military History of the 2nd SS Division.Cassell Military Paperbacks, London, UK, 1999. First published by Arms and Armour, 1991. p.91  Glantz and House criticize Hausser saying that the SS Panzer Corps Staff lacked the experience to perform its mission.  (Titans Clashed p.144) Most other commentators agree with the necessity of his withdraw.

[xviii] Messenger, Charles. Sepp Dietrich: Hitler’s Gladiator. Brassey’s Defence Publishers, London, 1988. p.113

[xix] Ibid. Clark. p.300

[xx] Ibid. Manstein. p.419

[xxi] Ibid. Manstein. pp.418-419

[xxii] Ibid. Glantz and House. When Titans Clashed. p.144

[xxiii] Ibid. Clark. p.300

[xxiv] Ibid. Von Mellenthin. p.251

[xxv] Ibid. Carell. p.191

[xxvi] Ibid. Manstein. p.424.

[xxvii] Ibid. Manstein. p.428

[xxviii] Ibid. Liddell-Hart. Second World War. p.481

[xxix] This had previously been Army Detachment Lanz, but Lanz had bee relieved over the loss of Kharkov.

[xxx] Ibid. Manstein. p.429

[xxxi] Ibid. Murray and Millet. p.292

[xxxii] Ibid. Wray. p.162

[xxxiii] Ibid. Clark. p.302.

[xxxiv] Ibid. Glantz and House. When Titans Clashed. p.145

[xxxv] Ibid. Glantz and House. When Titans Clashed . pp.144-145

[xxxvi] Ibid. Glantz and House. When Titans Clashed. p.146

[xxxvii] Ibid. Murray and Millett. p.293

[xxxviii] Ibid. Carell. p.191

[xxxix] Ibid. Murray and Millett. p.292

[xl] Ibid. Carell. p.199

[xli] Ibid. Carell. p.199

[xlii] Ibid. Carell. p.193

[xliii] Ibid. Clark. p.303

[xliv] Ibid. Clark. p.304

[xlv] Ibid. Clark. p.304

[xlvi] Ibid. Clark. p.304

[xlvii] Ibid. Carell. p.210

[xlviii] Ibid. Liddell-Hart. Strategy p.253

[xlix] Ibid. Wray. p.163

[l] Ibid. Glantz and House. When Titans Clashed. p.147. Note comments by Glantz and House in footnote 31 on relative strengths of forces involved, especially the weakness of German forces.

[li] Butler, Rupert. SS Wiking: The History of the Fifth SS Division 1941-45.Casemate, Havertown, PA. 2002. p.93

[lii] Ibid. Carell. p.211

[liii] Ibid. Carell. p.210

[liv] Ibid. Glantz and House. When Titans Clashed. p.147

[lv] Ibid. von Mellenthin. p.253

[lvi] Ibid. Carell. p.210

[lvii] Ibid. Murray and Millett. p.293

[lviii] Ibid. Carell. p.213

[lix] Ibid. Glantz and House. When Titans Clashed. p.147

[lx] There is difference in various accounts as to which units composed these Panzer Corps. Von Mellenthin adds 11th Panzer to the XLVIII Panzer Corps and some accounts do not list the Liebstandarte as part of the SS Panzer Corps.

[lxi] Ibid. Carell. p.211

[lxii] Sydnor, Charles W. Soldiers of Destruction: The SS Death’s Head Division 1933-1945. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ. 1977. p.268

[lxiii] Ibid. Von Mellenthin. p.252

[lxiv] Ibid. Carell. p.212

[lxv] Ibid. Carell. p.212

[lxvi] Ibid. Von Mellenthin. p.252

[lxvii] Ibid. Carell. p.213

[lxviii] Ibid. Sydnor. pp.268-269

[lxix] Ibid. Von Mellenthin. p.253

[lxx] Meyer, Kurt. Grenadiers. Translated by Michael Mende and Robert J. Edwards. J.J. Fedorowicz Publishing Inc. Winnipeg, Manitoba. Canada. 2001. pp.180-181

[lxxi] Ibid. Sydnor. p.269

[lxxii] Ibid. Manstein. p.433

[lxxiii] Ibid. Manstein. p.433. Sydnor lists an addition 600 anti-tank guns and notes that the tanks were almost all T-34s. (Sydnor. p.269)

[lxxiv] Ibid. Glantz and House. When Titans Clashed. p.147

[lxxv] Ibid. Clark. p.306

[lxxvi] Ibid. Carell. p.216

[lxxvii] Ibid. Manstein. p.433

[lxxviii] Ibid. Glantz and House. When Titans Clashed. p.187

[lxxix] Ibid. Manstein. p.433

[lxxx] Ibid. Meyer. p.181

[lxxxi] Ibid. Carell. p.216

[lxxxii] Ibid. Meyer. pp.181-182

[lxxxiii] Ibid. Lucas. p.95

[lxxxiv] Ibid. Lucas. p.95

[lxxxv] Ibid. Sydnor. p.277

[lxxxvi] Ibid. Manstein. p.434

[lxxxvii] Ibid. Sydnor. p.277

[lxxxviii] Ibid. Glantz and House. Kursk. p.13

[lxxxix] Ibid. Manstein. p.435

[xc] Ibid. Clark. p.306

[xci] Ibid. Manstein. p.435

[xcii] Ibid. Sydnor. p.278

[xciii] Weingartner, James. J. Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler: A Military History, 1933-45. Battery Press, Nashville, TN.(no publication date listed)  p.75

[xciv] Ibid. Raus. pp.189-192

[xcv] Ibid. Messenger. p.114

[xcvi] See Glantz and House p.187 and Murray and Millett p.293

[xcvii] Ibid. Manstein. p.436

[xcviii] Ibid. Sydnor. p.278

[xcix] Ibid. Lucas. p.96

[c] Ibid. Carell. p.216

[ci] Ibid. Carell. p.219

[cii] Ibid. Manstein. p.436

[ciii] Ibid. Manstein. p.437

[civ] Ibid. Clark. p.303

[cv] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.143

[cvi] Ibid. Murray and Millett. p.292

[cvii] Ibid. Von Mellenthin. p.254

[cviii] A comment by Von Mellenthin commenting on Manstein’s coolness in the conduct of his operations compares him to Robert E. Lee. “To find another example of defensive strategy of this caliber we must go back to Lee’s campaign in Virginia in the summer of 1864. (Von Mellenthin. p.245)

[cix] For some additional comments along these lines see vn Mellenthin who notes four points in regard to the counter stroke: 1. High level commanders did not restrict the moves of armored formations, but gave them long range tasks. 2. Armored formations had no worries about their flanks because the High Command had a moderate infantry force available for counterattacks. 3. All commanders of armored formations, including corps, conducted operations not from the rear, but from the front. 4. The attack came as a surprise regarding the time and place. (Von Mellenthin p.254)

[cx] Ibid. Murray and Millett. p.293

[cxi] Despite his success Hitler was not happy with Manstein in regard to giving up ground for operational purposes and Manstein would lose much of the freedom that he enjoyed by March. Wray has a discussion of this.  See Wray. pp.162-163.  The Nazi hierarchy actively promoted the exploits of the SS Panzer Corps and its leaders, especially the commander of the Leibstandarte Sepp Dietrich. (see Weingartner pp. 76-77) The recognition of Hausser would be delayed, some speculate as a result of his disobedience in giving up Kharkov in February.

[cxii] Ibid. Clark. p.306

Bibliography

Butler, Rupert. SS Wiking: The History of the Fifth SS Division 1941-45.Casemate, Havertown, PA. 2002

Carell, Paul. Scorched Earth: The Russian German War 1943-1944. Translated by Ewald Osers, Ballantine Books, New York, NY 1971, published in arrangement with Little-Brown and Company

Clark, Alan. Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict, 1941-45. Perennial, an Imprint of Harper Collins Books, New York, NY 2002. Originally published by William Morrow, New York, NY 1965

Glantz, David M and House, Jonathan. The Battle of Kursk.  University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. 1999

Glantz, David M. and House, Jonathan. When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. 1995

Liddell-Hart, B.H. The German Generals Talk. Quill Publishing, New York, NY. 1979. Copyright 1948 by B.H. Liddell-Hart.

Liddell-Hart, B.H. History of the Second World War. G.P. Putnam’s Son’s, New York, NY.

Liddell-Hart. B.H. Strategy.  A Signet Book, the New American Library, New York, NY 1974, first published by Faber and Faber Ltd. London, 1954 and 1967

Lucas, James. Das Reich: The Military History of the 2nd SS Division. Cassell Military Paperbacks, London, UK, 1999. First published by Arms and Armour, 1991

Manstein, Erich von. Lost Victories. Translated by Anthony G. Powell, Zenith Press, an imprint of MBI Publishing Company, St Paul, MN. 2004. First Published as Verlorene Siege Athenaum-Verlag, Bonn, GE 1955, English edition Methuen & Company Ltd. 1958

Messenger, Charles. Sepp Dietrich: Hitler’s Gladiator. Brassey’s Defence Publishers, London, 1988

Meyer, Kurt. Grenadiers. Translated by Michael Mende and Robert J. Edwards. J.J. Fedorowicz Publishing Inc. Winnipeg, Manitoba. Canada. 2001

Raus, Erhard. Panzer Operation: The Eastern Front Memoir of General Raus, 1941-1945. Compiled and Translated by Steven H Newton. Da Capo Press a member of the Perseus Book Group, Cambridge, MA 2003

Sydnor, Charles W. Soldiers of Destruction: The SS Death’s Head Division 1933-1945. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ. 1977

Von Mellenthin, F.W. Panzer Battles: A Study of the Employment of Armor in the Second World War. Translated by H. Betzler, Ballantine Books, New York, NY, 1971. Originally Published University of Oklahoma Press, 1956

Weingartner, James. J. Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler: A Military History, 1933-45. Battery Press, Nashville, TN.(no publication date listed)

Wray, Timothy A. Standing Fast: German Defensive Doctrine on the Russian Front in World War II, Prewar to March 1943. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, KS. 1986

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Stephen Decatur, the U.S. Navy and “The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age”

“Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!” Stephen Decatur

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am tired after several arduously emotional days. So tonight a rerun of an older post. It is a fascinating story because it has to deal with the amazing courage of the sailors serving in the United States Navy and the determination of President Thomas Jefferson to ensure the freedom of United States and other citizens plying the seas of the Mediterranean Sea from the North African Pasha’s and their raiding fleets of marauding pirates who captures ships from many nations and extorted ransom for their crews. Interestingly it was the young United States that decided to ensure the freedom of the seas for everyone. This is the story of one of the most incredible exploits of that campaign.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

In 1803 the United States Navy was two years into its campaign against the Barbary Pirates who sailed from Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli and Morocco.  For years the United States like other nations had paid tribute to the rulers of these states for free passage of its ships and hefty ransoms to free the sailors that were enslaved following the capture of their ships.  By 1800 tens of millions of dollars had been paid and in that year the amount of tribute paid was 20% of the government’s total revenue.

In 1801 the Pasha of Tripoli Yusuf Karamanli demanded the payment of $225,000 tribute from the new President of the United States President Thomas Jefferson. In years past Jefferson had advised against payment of tribute believing that such payment only encouraged the Barbary States to continue their actions.  The anti-naval partisans and even his Republican allies had blocked his recommendations even though Secretary of State John Jay and President John Adams agreed with him. These partisans insisted that tribute be paid irregardless of the effect on European trade or the fate of American seamen because they believed that the Atlantic trade and involvement in the “Old World” detracted from the westward expansion by diverting money and energy away from the west.  When Jefferson refused the demand and put his beliefs into practice Karmanli declared war on the United States by cutting down the flag at the US Consulate in Tripoli.

Jefferson sent a small force to defend protect American ships and sailors and asked Congress to authorize him to do more as he did not believe that he had the Constitutional power to do more. Congress did not issue a declaration of war but authorized Jefferson to “employ such of the armed vessels of the United States as may be judged requisite… for protecting effectually the commerce and seamen thereof on the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean and adjoining seas.”

Jefferson sent the best of the United States Navy to deal with the situation and US Navy ships soon began to take a toll on the pirate vessels.  The squadron was composed of ships that would become legend in the history of the Navy. Commanded by Commodore Richard Dale, Edward Preble, and later Commodore John Rogers, at various times the squadron included the USS Argus, Chesapeake, Constellation, Constitution, President, Congress, Enterprise, Intrepid, Essex, Philadelphia, John Adams and Syren.  The Constitution, Chesapeake, and Constellation, Congress and President were among the first six frigates authorized by Congress on March 27th 1794. Philadelphia a subscription Frigate paid for by citizens and merchants of Philadelphia, Essex a subscription Frigate pride for by the citizens of Salem and Essex County, Massachusetts, John Adams, a Subscription Frigate paid for by the citizens of Charleston, South Carolina, Argus a 20 gun Brig, Enterprise and Vixen 12 gun Schooners, Syren (later Siren) a 16 gun Brig, and Intrepid a captured Tripolitan Ketch, several smaller American built vessels, and about a dozen gunboats and mortar boats supplied by the Kingdom of Naples, which also provided the Americans with access to the ports of Messina, Palermo, and Syracuse, as well as supplies, and craftsmen to maintain the American Squadron.

Many of the officers who served in the Squadron, including William Bainbridge, Issac Hull, Charles Stewart, David Porter, would continue in service and make names for themselves in the war of 1812 and after.

One of the young officers was the 24 year old Captain of the 12 Gun Schooner USS Enterprise Lieutenant Stephen Decatur the son of a Navy Captain who had entered the Naval service as a Midshipman in 1798 and who had risen rapidly through the ranks due to his abilities and leadership. He was among the few officers selected to remain in service following the end of the Quasi-War with France.  By the time that he took command of Enterprise Decatur had already served as the First Lieutenant of the Frigates USS Essex and USS New York.  After an altercation with British officer while wintering in Malta he was sent home to command the new Brig of War USS Argus. He was ordered to bring her to Europe where he handed over command to Lieutenant Isaac Hull who would achieve fame in the War of 1812 as Commanding Officer of the USS Constitution.  Decatur was given command of Enterprise on when he detached from the Argus.

On December 23rd 1803 while operating with the Constitution Decatur and the Enterprise captured the small Tripolian ketch Mastico which was sailing under Turkish colors.  The small ship was taken to Syracuse where Commodore Edward Preble condemned her as a prize of war, renamed her Intrepid and placed Decatur in command.

Normally such an event would be considered a demotion for an officer of Decatur’s caliber but events at Tripoli had forced Preble to make a bold strike at the heart of the enemy.  On October 31st 1803 the Frigate USS Philadelphia one of the most powerful ships in the squadron under the command of Captain William Bainbridge ran aground on an uncharted shoal and was captured.  Her crew was taken prisoner and the ship floated off by the Tripolians partially repaired and moored as a battery in the harbor until her foremast could be remounted having be cut away by Bainbridge in his  unsuccessful  attempt to float the ship off the shoal.

Burning the Philadelphia

The threat posed by such a powerful ship in the hands of the enemy was too great to ignore. Prebble order Decatur to man the Intrepid with volunteers to destroy the Philadelphia at anchor.  Decatur took 80 men from the Enterprise and was joined by eight more volunteers  from USS Syren including Lieutenant Thomas McDonough who had recently served aboard Philadelphia and knew the ship well.

Under the cover of night of February 16th 1804 Decatur took the former Tripolian ship into the harbor beneath the dim light of the new moon.  Posing as a Tripolian ship he was able to slip past the guns of the forts overlooking the harbor using a Sicilian sailor who spoke Arabic to request permission. This was granted and Intrepid approached Philadelphia and when close enough ordered his crew to board the Frigate. After a brief skirmish with the small contingent of sailors aboard he took control of the vessel and set it ablaze. When he was sure that the fire could not be extinguished he ordered his men back aboard Intrepid and sailed out of the harbor under the fire of the shore batteries and gunboats.

Decatur sailed Intrepid back to Syracuse where he was greeted as a hero and became one of the Navy’s legends.  Pope Pius VII publicly proclaimed that “the United States, though in their infancy, had done more to humble the anti-Christian barbarians on the African coast, than all the European states had done for a long period of time.” Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, one of the most heroic sailors that ever lived and no stranger to daring said that Decatur’s accomplishment was “the most bold and daring act of the Age.

Decatur leading American Sailors in hand to hand combat against Barbary Pirates at Tripoli 1804 his younger brother Lieutenant James Decatur was killed aboard another gunboat in the action

Decatur would return to command the Enterprise and was given command of Constitution and was promoted to Captain bypassing the rank of Master Commander. He would prove himself again against the forces of Tripoli before departing for the United States. He distinguished himself  in the years to come against the Royal Navy in the War of 1812 where when in command of USS United States defeated and captured HMS Macedonian which would serve in the U.S. Navy and later in the Second Barbary War.

During that war, which began in 1815 Decatur’s squadron decisively defeated the Algerian fleet capturing the Frigate Mashouda and killing the highly successful and chivalrous commander of the Algerian raiding squadron Rais Hamidu.  The Pashas of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli all made peace and reimbursed the Americans for the financial damage that they had done.  His victory ended the terror that the Barbary States had inflicted on Europeans for centuries and helped bring peace to the Mediterranean. Following that he became a Navy Commissioner in 1816 and moved to Washington, D.C.

Stephen Decatur more than any one man ended their reign of terror against the United States and the great European powers. The actions of Decatur, Preble, their officers, crews and ships in the Barbary Wars, and the War of 1812 established the United States as a credible nation, willing use its Navy to protect its citizens and commerce overseas, without becoming an occupying power. The latter would not occur for another eighty plus years during the Spanish American War, and continues to the present day.

Of course, that did not apply to our conquest of North America which involved countless small wars which exterminated vast numbers of American Indians, opened vast lands to the expansion of slavery, and the conquest of forty percent of Mexico. I am sure that Decatur, who so boldly proclaimed, My Country Right or Wrong, would not have approved of subjugating non-hostile weaker nations. He lived in a different time, when the United States was being threatened alternately by France, Britain, and the Barbary States at sea, and Britain and its American Indian allies as it expanded west.

Likewise, Decatur did not live a long life. He was killed in duel with Commodore James Barron on March 22nd 1820. Barron had never forgiven Decatur for voting for his conviction and removal from service after being humiliated when his ship, the Frigate Chesapeake, was caught unprepared for action, fired upon, and after twenty minutes surrendered, to HMS Leopard in 1807. Following her surrender several of her men were taken off as supposed deserters from the Royal Navy. Leopard’s commander then allowed Chesapeake to return to Norfolk where Barron was relieved of command and tried by a Naval Court which included John Rogers and Decatur.

Barron was convicted removed from the Navy for at least five years. Six years later he returned from a self imposed exile and petitioned for reinstatement. Decatur remained one of his fiercest opponents, and though reinstated was embittered toward Decatur. Their seconds arranged the duel to be conducted in such a way that one or both would die. During the negotiations between their seconds, Commodore William Bainbridge, and Captain Jesse Elliott, the two came close to reconciling but the seconds pushed for the duel. Decatur was mortally wounded and refused medical treatment, dying late that night. Barron, though horribly wounded, survived, eventually becoming commander of the Norfolk Naval Yard, becoming the senior Naval officer on active duty in 1839. He died in 1851 and is buried in the cemetery of Trinity Episcopal Church, in Portsmouth, VA.

The death of Decatur, a bonafide hero, at the hands of a fellow officer stunned Washington. President James Monroe, the members of the Supreme Court, most of Congress and 10,000 citizens attended his funeral. His pallbearers included four Commodores, and two other officers, followed by many other officers and other ranks. During the funeral, one sailor burst forth and cried out “He was the friend of the flag, the sailor’s friend; the navy has lost its mainmast.”

Decatur to help form the United States Navy, and among its early leaders, who included many valiant and brilliant men, he remains the foremost. While he achieved greatness, it was that night in Tripoli harbor where he was immortalized by the words of Lord Nelson as the man who led “the most bold and daring act of the age.”  Of course Nelson was no stranger to boldness or daring, it was a constant theme of his life even in his final battle at Trafalgar. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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“Then say they were not slain. But dead they are ….” The High Cost of Those Who Voted to Acquit

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have watched every minute of the second impeachment trial. As one of the Deans of the Joint Forces Staff College once noted “Steve, you a a historian masquerading as a Chaplain.” Back in seminary I was asked by many classmates “why are you in seminary and not in law school?” As a historian I have spent a lot of time studying and writing about various criminal trials involving American politicians and International War Crimes Tribunals. If it would result in divorce I might at my late age go to law school, but I have put Judy through enough over our marriage. That being said I might take up a Legal Studies Masters degree on a part time basis. I think that would complement my History and Theology Masters Degrees. Since there are no History PhD. programs close to me that I would be interested in pursuing this might be the best.

I watch high profile legal cases with great interest, especially the lawyering and I have seen and read about some amazing lawyering resulting in convictions or acquittals of of the accused. These lawyers for former President put on an amazing display of ignorance coupled with incompetence, but then they are the only people willing to represent Trump and none of them have exactly great legal reputations to begin with.

The men representing the twice impeached and disgraced former President who besides impeachment is under investigation for multiple criminal charges including rape, attempting to pressure officials to change the results of the election and even more civil charges regarding gross financial and fraud charges.

These lawyers have embarrassed their profession. I know too many excellent attorneys military and civilian to count these jokers among them. David Schoen is best known for representing mob bosses, Trump’s ally Roger Stone during the Muller Investigation and most recently the late Jeffery Epstein. Interestingly Schoen began his career rathe nobly in civil rights cases, something he seems to have little interest in today. Schoen is the sharpest of the three but during the trial he has only spoken for about 45 minutes and will not be available for the closing. He is also said to have threatened to quit the defense Thursday night but Trump talked him out of it. If the impeachment trial ends tomorrow it won’t matter because he will be out of a job because he announced that he will not work on the Jewish Sabbath which ends at sundown Saturday.

This meant that the bulk of the defense was shouldered by Bruce Castor, a former prosecutor in Pennsylvania who most notably refused to charge O.J. Simpson while serving as District of Attorney for Montgomery County. He also promised Simpson that he would never would be convicted. He was wrong. Simpson was eventually convicted. In his initial statements on Tuesday regarding the constitutionality of the impeachment trial his representation was so bad that Trump Wanted to fire him and  Senator John Cronyn said “”The president’s lawyer just rambled on and on.” “I’ve seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments, and that was not one of the finest I’ve seen.”

Castor did nothing to help his defense of Trump or his lawyering reputation on Friday. The other member of Trump’s defense team is personal injury lawyer Michael Van Der Veen who has made a career of litigating car crashes, motorcycle and bicycle crashes and dog bites. Van Der Veen managed not only to be ineffective but insulted and potentially alienated Senators who might vote in favor of acquittal and was cautioned on his profane language by Senate President Pro-Tem Patrick Leahy.

The defense team used just two and a half hours of their sixteen allotted hours in which they repeatedly played the same out of context videos of Democrat politicians and entertainers using the word “fight”  while saying that Trump’s “free speech rights under the First Amendment were being denied” and using the dog whistle of videos showing mostly Black, Brown, Jewish, and Women opponents of Trump using the word fight in civil rights cases, Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and debates on policy questions that never resulted in violence or assaults on the Congress of the United States. The videos were spiced together without any context, not in any chronological order, and enhanced with chilling ominous music. Almost everyone shown in the video now called the #FightClub video are Black and Brown Women of Color, Jews, and other Democratic politicians and entertainers.

Say what you want about the House Managers video presentations on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday they stuck to the facts at hand to document the insurrection minute by minute. They did not add music, and they put each video, statement and tweet in context. The counsels for the defense did not. They pieced together a vile and racist video worthy of Joseph Goebbels and Julius Streicher. The abject racism of Trump’s Counsel and Trump’s GOP in the Impeachment Trial are undeniable and irredeemable.

All arguments used by Trump’s Counsel were false equivalence arguments that would play well on the Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson propaganda shows, and possibly give GOP Senators an off ramp to acquit Trump. But none would stand in a real criminal trial which this is not, despite the facts that all of these attorneys have attempted to compare it to in order to deflect blame from Trump were nothing more than smoke and mirrors and not even very good ones, but good enough for 43 Republican Senators to vote to acquit.

After the traveling Trump clown attorneys finished on Friday the Senate went to the question and answer session where the Impeachment Managers and the former twice impeached President’s legal team answered written questions from the Senators. Once again the twice impeached, under criminal investigation former President’s bumbled their defense refusing to answer any factual questions from Republican or Democratic Senators. They never once actually answered a question but attempted to deflect and deny everything even questioning the actual evidence, saying that they were not permitted to see it though they had it on 9 February as a condition of the bipartisan agreement on the rules of the impeachment trial. They lied. They continued to lie in their closing statement repeating the same distortions, deflections and twisted arguments they made the previous day and went on to make unsupported and scandalous statements about Democrats who had supported the Black Lives Matter movement, and spoke out about the racist, unconstitutional, and criminal actions of Trump and his administration. Their defense on Friday and Closing arguments were difficult to watch, especially those of Counsel Van Der Veen who accused the Democrats of “trying to cancel culture, cancel the Constitution, and cancel the votes of 74 million Trump voters.”


This was despite the fact that for the past four years Trump and his administration have displayed contempt for the Constitution, and bulldozed the institutional guardrails designed to protect Americans from tyranny until the final day of his administration, issuing orders and appointing political hacks into sensitive jobs in the civil service, including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and intelligence services. Nothing like this has every been attempted by any administration in American history. Likewise they attempted to cancel the votes and in some states are still attempting to cancel the votes of the 81 million Americans who voted for Joe Biden by trampling our laws and Constitution. If there is a Cancel Culture movement it is by Trump and his GOP cult who try to narrowly decline culture in its pre-Civil War White Protestant and White Supremacy context. Nothing else matters to them.

But overnight other evidence testified to by a Republican Senator and Representative came into play.

First there were the words of Senator Tommy Tuberville who testified that he told Trump about the break in at the Capitol and the threats to Vice President Pence wo was then fleeing for his life with his Secret Service detail, family, and his military aide who held his nuclear football. Minutes after being told by Tuberville that Pence was in danger and he had to flee, Trump tweeted a threatening message to his enraged and homicidal followers about how Pence had failed. Tuberville confirmed his comments Friday night, but voted to acquit today.

Republican House Member Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington State who was with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who gave a statement undisputed by anyone, including McCarthy. Just before the gavel fell to open the Saturday session Lead Impeachment Manager Jamie Raskin decided that the Managers wanted to call Herrera Beutler as a witness and depose her via Zoom since she was in Washington. In an incredibly angry tirade the defense led by Van Der Veen. threatened to call “hundreds of witness” in response. The Senate the voted on the motion to call witness and agreed by a 55-45 vote to do so. Then it recessed to discuss the matter. After about an hour of negotiations the Senators, especially the Democratic leadership bowed to the pressure that a call for witnesses, depositions and testimony pressured the Managers to accept a compromise regarding Herrera Beutler’s statement. It was read into the record and admitted in written form. It  read:

“In my January 12 statement in support of the article of impeachment, I referenced a conversation House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy relayed to me that he’d had with President Trump while the January 6 attack was ongoing. Here are the details:

“When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol. McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’

“Since I publicly announced my decision to vote for impeachment, I have shared these details in countless conversations with constituents and colleagues, and multiple times through the media and other public forums.

“I told it to the Daily News of Longview on January 17. I’ve shared it with local county Republican executive board members, as well as other constituents who ask me to explain my vote. I shared it with thousands of residents on my telephone town hall on February 8.

“To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president: if you have something to add here, now would be the time.”

I am glad the statement became part of the record but wish she had testified in person, as well as the many insurgents who said that they “acted on the invitation and orders of President Trump.” The Managers said that they reached out to other Republican targets of the insurrection but none would come forward, and that to subpoena them would be an attempt to force potentially hostile witnesses into the dock. Thus they decided to compromise remembering that a witness subpoenaed during Trump’s first impeachment trial had not yet testified. I appreciate that reasoning but wish it had been different.

I think that the Senate should vote to suspend the proceedings as depositions of witnesses are taken was right but the pressure put on the Managers to compromise was ill-considered. But Raskin and other Managers were realistic and admitted that no amount of witnesses would have persuaded that they were already going to vote to acquit based on the technicality rejected by the Senate on Tuesday that a former office holder could be impeached and tried by the Senate.

Unfortunately all of the Democrats seemed to forget something that British Chief Prosecutor Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe told the American Chief Prosecutor Associate Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson as he wore out the trial judges reading documentary evidence into the record. Maxwell-Fyfe told Jackson: 

“As legal strategy  your documentary approach has been unassailable. But as drama, it is, I regret to say, absolutely stultifying. A trial is a show, Robert. Like it or not, it’s a show… And it’s ours to lose. A trial is a show, Robert. Like it or not, it’s a show. And those four learnt men sitting on the bench are as impressionable as any audience….

Witnesses will give this trial a human face. One compelling witness can outweigh a tonne of documentary evidence.” 

Unfortunately I do not think any number of witnesses would have persuaded any number of the Republican Senators who voted to acquit.

A guilty verdict would have been true justice, despite the fact that as a private citizen Trump can be tried in multiple jurisdictions for criminal and civil actions.  But the complaining party at the bar are not simply election officials Trump threatened, Republican and Democratic politicians who admitted that the results of the election were legitimate, but the 81 million people who voted for Joe Biden who Trump tried to cancel their votes and rights as citizens whose votes had been held as valid by every state and every one of over 60 courts from State Courts, up to the Supreme Court of the United States and multiple recounts in every contested state. In spite of that Trump persisted in proclaiming the Big Lie that he “won in a massive landslide, but that his victory was stolen.” Something he repeated on 6 January as some of his insurgents were breaching the Capitol as he encouraged those at the Ellipse to go to the Capitol. He promised to go with them but never did, instead laughing and reveling as the attack was broadcast on television, as was captured in a video taken by his son Donald Junior.

Not only this but the complaining party are free and Democratic societies around the world who look to the United States for leadership for what we were once considered, the best example of a successful pluralistic and multi-ethnic democracy. They have been disappointed and since Trump took office authoritarian governments back by groups like the Nazi Brownshirts and Mussolini’s Fascist paramilitaries have taken power in now former democracies in Eastern Europe, and are growing in influence around the world. This is in large part due to the distain for our Constitution, Republic and democracy.

This failed attempted insurrection or coup against the American Capitol to kill Vice President Pence, Senators and Representatives regardless of their political party in order to stop the ceremonial certification of the Electoral College Ballots, something that Pence had told Trump multiple times that he could not do under the Constitution and would not do.

Trump didn’t tell his private Army that Pence had promised to do his  but instead let them hang on the hopes that Pence would stop the proceedings. When Pence opened the count and promised to do his Constitutional duty, Trump  further inflamed his insurgents by telling them how Pence had failed them, this as they were racing through the Capitol building hunting for him and chanting “hang Mike Pence.” 

I could go on but I am going to stop for the night. The House Managers put on an amazing case that proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump was guilty as charged.Though they failed to convict they convinced the largest number of Senators from the accused party to vote against him. The votes of Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Ben Sasse, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, and Pat Toomey were courageous. Regardless of if they were coming up for re-election in 2022 or 2024, or if the were retiring every one of them put a target on their backs. It won’t be Antifa or anyone on the Left who tries to kill them, but Trump’s violent armed Cult goons.

But to finish I will close with a Robert Jackson’s quote from Shakespeare’s King Lear in his closing at the Major War Crimes Trial at Nuremberg to finish this article adapting it to Trump. Trump stands before the record of this trial as bloodstained Gloucester stood by the body of his slain King. He begged of the widow, as they beg of you: “Say I slew them not.” And the Queen replied, “Then say they were not slain. But dead they are ….” If you were to say of these men that they are not guilty, it would be as true to say that there has been no war, there are no slain, there has been no crime.

That is true of every Republican who voted to acquit Trump Saturday, and every one who voted in the House or Senate not to recognize the results of the Electoral College vote. But the lives of those lost on 6 January 2021, especially Capitol Hill Police Officers cries out “Say they are not slain. but dead they are.” Their blood forever stains the hands of Trump and his insurgents who attempted to overthrow the United States Government by force and violence but who were acquitted by 43 members of the Senate, both true believers and followers of Trump, or cowards desperate to remain in office through the votes of those of Trump’s Cult who fully approve of violence and murder in the pursuit of power.

For the moment Trump and his Cult appear to have escaped justice, but even now over 200 of the insurgents have been arrested and charged, and many others being investigated and sought out. Hopefully thousands will be rounded up and their terrorist organizations exposed and broken up so they cannot commit such violence again. Likewise, as previously noted, Trump himself and many of his close associates are under criminal investigation by Federal and State authorities for a multitude of crimes. Likewise Trump faces criminal action for sexual assault and rape accusations, and financial crimes which threaten the ruin of his personal financial, real estate and entertainment empire. There are also a host of civil lawsuits that he can no longer use his office to escape prosecution.

Even so Trump broke his silence of over a month since the attack claiming that he was innocent and this was only the beginning of his movement. This means that he has tacitly given the authorization to his murderous followers to begin a protracted insurgency against the United States Government, State Governments and political opponents.

If you have not served in a country undergoing an insurgency you have no idea of the brutality. One of my major areas of study before and after I went to Iraq to serve with our advisors was Counter Insurgency Operations.Trust me, from history, theory, and practice I do know what I am talking about, and no local or state, and very few federal police agencies, or emergency services agencies are trained or equipped to deal with what we are about to face and regardless of the outcome our democracy will never be the same, provide that our foreign enemies don’t inflict terrible damage on our country first.

On that happy note I say goodnight.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Impeachment Trial, Day Two of the Prosecution: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American Public”

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today while waiting for my MacBook to download the latest operating system I watched the second day of the House Impeachment Managers prosecution of twice impeached, disgraced, former President Trump. Once again it was a masterpiece of preparation and presentation. The House Managers were exceptionally wise by not simply focusing on Trump’s incendiary speech on the White House Ellipse but going back years playing videos of him urging his voters to violence and to the violence they committed in his name.

Having actually attended one of his rallies in October 2016 trusting that my flight jacket with all my unit patches chronicling my military serve would allow me to pass relatively unnoticed, I was able to watch the rally and talk with supporters one on one. Thankfully none questioned me about my views on Trump they were just eager to share their views with a veteran. They talked about the conspiracy theories promoted by Alex Jones and QAnon, election fraud, massive amounts of racist, Antisemitic, and anti-immigrant statements. The paraphernalia they wore included clothing that espoused both racism and violence, and this was at Regent University, one of the largest and most well regarded Evangelical Christian Universities. The attendees were by and large very well off people, after all Regent is located in Virginia Beach, one of the most affluent, white, and Republican cities in Virginia. Ironically, even though Trump won here in 2016 he lost by a significant margin in 2020 and the Representative for Virginia District 2, Elaine Luria, a Democrat and retired Navy Surface Warfare officer and successful business owner won re-election. Likewise, Senator Tim Kaine carried the city.

But in 2016 Trump, who was preceded by Rudy Giuliani preached his standard stump speech which included the conspiracy theories, the lies about Hillary Clinton, threats against political opponents, and urged the crowd to violence. I was glad that I said nothing because I could have been a victim. But one of the interesting facts is that since the rally was held on private property nobody wearing any anti-Trump or pro-Hillary clothing or paraphernalia were turned away by security personnel including Secret Service officers.

The evidence produced by the Impeachment Managers was designed to cut the legs out from any arguments that his legal team might offer Friday. Once again they were dispassionate in presenting the evidence while using enough video evidence and personal experience to connect with the emotions of how normal people feel when they see the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, the Senate President Pro-Tem, in fact the entire line of succession have to flee for their lives during the insurrection that Trump organized and encouraged the assault, and did nothing to to stop it.

Their arguments were devastating from a legal, Constitutional, historical, religious and moral precedents. There is nothing in the Christian, Jewish, or Islamic religious traditions that would support a not guilty verdict. There is nothing in the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, or anything in American law to support an acquittal. There is nothing in the Greek and Roman classicists arguments about democracy and republics to support any argument to support an acquittal, nor is there anything in the Enlightenment philosophers or jurists to support a verdict of not guilty.

In fact the only argument for acquittal is that of the personal, moral, and political cowardice of the GOP Senators who are so afraid that without Trump’s violent supporters they cannot remain in office. That is cowardice. What would Abraham Lincoln who was expected to lose his bid for re-election in 1864 do? We know that, he expected that he could very well lose but he did not back down. Winston Churchill was another who refused to abandon principle even though it left him in the political wilderness of Great Britain for years until with Hitler threatening to overrun Europe and invade England he was named Prime Minister, and despite so many terrible defeats he remained firm in resisting the Nazis. Neither are they Theodore Roosevelt who when he saw the GOP being taken over by corporate and banking interests intent on harming average Americans split the GOP by running on the Bull Moose platform. He didn’t win, but neither did the GOP. Likewise, he had no hesitation in speaking the truth even when it opposed the sitting President, Woodrow Wilson who would not have been President but for Roosevelt splitting the GOP.

When criticized for his opposition of Wilson’s war policies and even threatened with death Roosevelt wrote to the editor of the Kansas City Star:

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.”

A criminal ex-President is not worth sacrificing one’s office, honor or everlasting reputation to defend, even if his violence filled Cult rises in opposition. I would love to see if just a dozen Republican Senators would remain faithful to their oath of office and the oath they took as jurors in Trump’s impeachment trial. Their cowardice will redound through all American history and into eternity if the God I believe in exists, but then what does eternity matter when leaders are willing to betray their oaths to suck the ass of a former President and his violent supporters who hate the Constitution, the Declaration, and all the highest ideals of our nation. Eternity matters nothing when that is at stake, because eternity and theological beliefs are all suppositional unprovable. I may believe, but I cannot prove those beliefs, and I won’t unlike Trump’s allegedly Christian Cult kill for them.

Friday Trump’s pathetic defense team will likely begin and end their defense of him using arguments false equivalence, trying to re-litigate the constitutionality of the trial itself, something already decided. They will play video of protests in Seattle, Portland, and Minneapolis out of context in order to show that the mon that attacked the Capitol was no different than those protesting the murders of Black men and women at the hands of police and private citizens. At no time did anyone call for killing the Vice President, or members of Congress. Those videos will only be shown for the benefit of the twice impeached ex-President and his Cult of violent supporters. If this was a normal criminal trial the judge would rule the defense out of order for introducing evidence completely unrelated to the crimes of the defendant.

But as I said before, this is not a normal criminal trial, otherwise jurors wouldn’t be allowed to leave the courtroom during the proceedings or meet with the defense attorneys afterward as Senators Cruz, Hawley, and Graham did today in order to plan their defense strategy.

Impeachment was designed at a time when our founders and framers believed that Senators regardless of their political beliefs would be men of integrity and make their vote based on the evidence, not their political future. Now in the light of history and humanity, we know, that unless something miraculous happens that very few men and women Senators of the Republican Party will vote to convict based on the evidence and that they will sacrifice their sacred oaths, honor, and integrity to impeach and bar Donald Trump from ever holding public office again. Their moral cowardice will encourage and foster more violence, more death and anarchy, because they decided that their honor, oaths and integrity were of less value than shit.

The defense begins tomorrow. I hope to be back in time from Richmond to see it, though I might be able to listen to it on my Sirius XM radio in my car.

So, until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

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The Impeachment Prosecutors Open: The defendants denounce the law under which their accounting is asked. Their dislike for the law which condemns them is not original. It has been remarked before that: “No thief e’er felt the halter draw with good opinion of the law.”

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I watched the second day of Donald Trump’s second Impeachment trial transfixed by the masterful way in which the House Impeachment Managers presented the documentary evidence and connecting the dots from the election night until 6 January. I struggled to think of a title for the article because the evidence was so overwhelming and massive it was hard to find just one thing.

The evidence is so overwhelming that if this were a normal criminal trial the defense attorneys would be doing all they could to make a plea bargain deal. But this is not a normal criminal trial and a large part of the Republican Senators serving as jury has sworn their undying fealty to Trump and will not honor either their oaths to the Constitution or the one they took as impeachment jurors. There is no crime evil enough for many of them to hold him accountable for his actions.

I was reminded of the closing arguments of Justice Robert Jackson at the major War Crimes Trial of senior Nazi leaders by the International Military Tribunal. In his closing Jackson said:

The defendants denounce the law under which their accounting is asked. Their dislike for the law which condemns them is not original. It has been remarked before that:

“No thief e’er felt the halter draw with good opinion of the law.”

Many of those involved in the insurrection before during and after said that they were acting on the orders or invitation of Donald Trump. They called the police defending the Capitol “fucking traitors” as they violently assaulted them, even using the Thin Blue Line Flags, symbols of support for police to assault individual police officers.




The images of the attacks by the terrorists were connected with his tweets in real time on that day, including threats against his own Vice President were starting. Watching former Vice President Pence, Senator Mitt Romney, dozens of Senators barely avoiding potential death from the angry mob which was calling for the deaths of Pence, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others which repeating his tweets by megaphone in real time to further enrage the mob. During the assault at least five people died or were killed, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, mortally wounded the attackers who slammed a fire extinguisher into his head. Two officers committed suicide in the following days, 140 more police officers were wounded. How any American could not hold the twice impeached former President responsible for his role over many months beginning before the election to radicalize his base into following his command to come to Washington on 6 January for a “wild time” which he further incited to attack the Capitol that day, something based on his previous orders they came to fulfill.

Trump wanted Pence, Pelosi, Romney, Liz Cheney, Chuck Schumer and others dead. It was a deliberate attempt to seize the Capitol and assassinate them and others. Had it not been for the courage of the outnumbered Capitol and DC Metropolitan Police, the former Vice President, many Senators and Representatives would have been killed, the Capitol taken, the Electoral College certification stopped, and Trump proclaiming himself as President.

But the House Managers were very smart to trace the insurrection back to Trump’s actions before the election and after. In the sixty days after the election, beginning at 2 AM on election night. It was then that the former President spent spinning lies and conspiracy theories about how the election was being stolen from him, and inciting violent revolts and threats against the attorneys general of several states, and elections commissioners at state and county level who were then still engaged in counting votes and in which some states would involve multiple recounts none of which changed the results.

Despite that Trump’s legal teams fired off a volley of over 60 factually and legally unsupported lawsuits which were shot down by Republican majority State Supreme Courts, US District, Appeals, and even the United States Supreme Court. Undeterred, Trump continued trying to overturn the votes, including trying to force the Attorney General Georgia, on 2 January to find the exact amount of votes to make him the winner or the race. On Wednesday Georgia announced that Trump is now being investigated on criminal charges for trying to influence the results of the election.

In spite of all those facts Trump continued to incite his followers. He told them to “walk to the Capitol” and fight like hell”. In a fiery speech lasting over twenty minutes he urged them to fight more than 20 times, while only once telling them to be peaceful. He described how the election had been stolen and that in such a case “normal rules do not apply.” 

Within an hour Trump knew his private army was already inside the Capitol because even Republican Senators and Members of the House were doing all they could to get him to stop the attack. In fact 14 minutes after the terrorists breached the Capitol and Mike Pence and his family was being evacuated by his Secret Service detail Trump tweeted:

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

It was hours before a joyful Trump who thought the insurgents had stopped the . When he finally released a prerecorded statement he told the  insurgents “we love you” called them “patriots” and told them to “go home in peace.”

I will not go into the full timeline and events. I could but the presentation of the Impeachment Managers, Congressman Jamie Raskin, Delegate Stacy Plaskett, Congressman Eric Swalwell, Congressman Joaquin Castro, Congressman Ted Lieu, Congresswoman Madeline Dean, Congressman David Cecilline, and Congressman Joe Naguse is so damning, so overwhelming that I cannot top them.

Instead I simply put one 39 minute segment of the evidence presented by the impeachment managers at the top of this post. However, these is so much more.

Watching the events took me back to Iraq in 2007-2008 and one of the boarding missions I was on during the UN Oil Embargo on Iraq in 2002. I never believed that in my lifetime that I would see an American President attempt to overthrow an election defeat and urge his supporters to commit violence when all legal means had failed.


But besides his direct attack on our Constitution, Republic and democracy before the election until 6 January is just one of many crimes that he and his administration could be prosecuted. I am thinking of the deaths of over 400,000 Americans from COVID-19 a deadly virus that Trump knew as early as a year ago was deadlier than many people thought, but then undermined every effort to contain it or help its victims.


Then there was the treatment of refugees and would be immigrants on the United States – Mexican border including the separation of families, locking children in cages without adequate sanitary or living conditions, and the alleged forced sterilization of women in the custody of the Immigration and Naturalization service and Border Patrol in private prisons on the border, his support for far right racist and White Nationalist extremist groups including Neo-Nazis in actions all over the country which have included attacks on Synagogues, Mosques, and Black Churches.

Likewise the use of heavy handed and brutal police assaults on mostly peaceful Black Lives Matters Protesters, while ignoring looters taking advance of those demonstrations to commit crimes. The most egregious of these was led by the former President himself in broad daylight in Lafayette Park where massive numbers of Metropolitan Police, US Marshals, and numerous other Federal law enforcement agencies backed by the National Guard with active duty Army units in reserve attacked unarmed people doing nothing more than singing or chanting near St John’s Church. The attack on the protesters was notable for its lack of restraint and the President, Attorney General, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff being involved. The SECDEF and Chairman of the JCS quickly distanced themselves from the attack and condemned it, but few others in the Administration or GOP Senators or Congressmen raised a single protest.

On Friday the former President’s defense team is planing on showing videos of BLM protestors, but more focused on the criminal looters in order to draw a moral equivalency argument. They will also show videos of House and Senate members calling for justice after the race based murders of Black Americans by police and ordinary citizens. But none ever called for an attack on the Congress, the White House or the deaths of their opponents. They insisted that the justice system from local police, sheriffs and prosecutors to the Department of Justice obey the laws against unreasonable force and violence. That will be their argument beginning Friday. They will show rioters and burning buildings but not put them in context. It will be like how the Nazis used the Reichstag Fire to seize complete political and police control and shut down opposition political parties and publications.

Sadly, that tactic may work because it plays to the inherent and often violent racism of the GOP base, and many Senators lack the moral, physical, and political courage to confront that base. Of course there are some in the Senate many in the House, and even more in the State and local GOP that are completely on board with all of this, and even now are censuring, banishing, and challenging any GOP office holder that is that 100% in for Trump. This is not the Party of Lincoln, Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan or either Bush. Instead it has become a fascist, racist, theocratic, authoritarian party committed to destroying the Constitution, our Republic, Democracy, and institutions. Despite their election loss they will continue to overthrow the Republic through legal and violent means, just like Hitler’s Nazis.

As a scholar of Weimar, the Nazi Era, the Holocaust and all of the Nuremberg Trials I do not make such comments flippantly, but only in the gravest situations. Trump and his political supporters have sown the wind and our national and people are now reaping the whirlwind that President Trump is most responsible. If he is not found guilty it will green light future Presidents and elected officials to do the same or worse. Police were murdered, 140 wounded, lives threatened, our Capitol building, a symbol of liberty around the world was desecrated.

This impeachment trial is not over, but the great trial facing our country has just begun. The violence is not over.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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