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Subject: ‘War’

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Israel won the Six Days’ War and crushed her Arab neighbours

Posted in Historical articles, History, War on Wednesday, 19 March 2014

This edited article about the Middle East first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 599 published on 7 July 1973.

Israeli forces,  picture, image, illustration
Israeli forces on the move by Graham Coton

On Wednesday, June 7, 1967, Israeli paratroops stormed the Mount of Olives on the east side of the Old City of Jerusalem. There was a brief pause. Then over the crackling intercom came the voice of their commander: “Paratroopers, today we stand at the gates of the Old City where so many of our dreams lie. Be proud.” The order to move was given and vehicles climbed the steep track to St. Stephen’s Gate. By ten o’clock they were at the Temple and the Western Wall. The paratroopers, boys of 19 who had grown up with the State of Israel, wept. It was the climax of the Six Days’ War.

The Six Days’ War between Israel and the Arab states was a crisis of the first magnitude. But it arose and was resolved so quickly that the world had barely time to tremble. The war had become inescapable as the series of border incidents and retaliatory threats between Israel and the Arabs escalated to an intolerable degree. Arab radio propaganda had become frenzied in its shrill denunciation of the Israelis who, it insisted, had dispossessed the Arabs of part of their homeland. “Fight Arabs,” shrieked Radio Damascus. “We shall hang the last imperialist soldier with the entrails of the last Zionist.”

The Arab states began military and diplomatic manoeuvres that could only spell war, not only to the watchful Israelis but to a now attentive world. In May President Nasser of Egypt sent Egyptian troops into the Sinai Peninsula. He asked the United Nations Emergency Force, which had been sent after the Suez crisis to keep the peace, to withdraw. Finally he closed the Straits of Tiran, cutting all access to Israel through the Gulf of Aqaba. And in case anyone still had any doubts about Arab intentions Nasser declared: “We have completed our preparations and are ready to confront Israel.”

At the end of the month King Hussein of Jordan and the Egyptian President hugged each other at Cairo airport, clearly indicating that Jordan was on Egypt’s side. The remaining major Arab power, Syria, was equally explicit in its intentions: “Only Palestine-born Jews will be left in Palestine,” declared a Syrian leader, “but I think none of them will be left alive.”

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General Robert E. Lee became a national hero after his surrender

Posted in America, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, War on Wednesday, 19 March 2014

This edited article about the American Civil War first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 599 published on 7 July 1973.

General Lee and his horse 'Traveller' surrenders to General Grant.
General Lee astride his horse 'Traveller' surrenders to General Grant by James E McConnell

The spring sunshine beat down on the long lines of ragged men. Suddenly a bugle blared and guns fired in salute, while into sight rode a tall, handsome, bearded man, in grey full-dress uniform. At once, a great yell, the immortal, unforgettable Rebel yelled of the Confederate Army, burst from thousands of throats.

The soldier on the horse, General Robert E. Lee, took off his hat to his men and the ear-splitting yell rang out again.

“Does it not make the General proud to see how these men love him?” asked an onlooker, who was standing by one of Lee’s staff.

“Not proud,” replied the officer. “It awes him.”

It was 1864 and the Confederacy, the group of Southern States which had broken away from the U.S.A. in 1861, had just a year more to live. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia were the key to Southern survival.

Lee was a Virginian. Born in 1807, he was the son of a hero of the War of Independence against Britain, and the Army seemed his destiny from childhood. He did well from the moment he entered it, in war and in peace, until the fatal year of 1861 found him, along with countless other Americans, in two minds as to which side to support.

As the finest officer in the Army, both sides wanted him to lead their forces! At this tragic hour, he had therefore to choose between State and Union. It was an easy choice for some, but not for him. He believed in the Union; and unlike many Southerners, he was passionately opposed to slavery, which was a part of the Southern way of life because the slaves picked the all-important cotton, and which was a cause of the war.

The other cause was the Southerners’ belief that a State had the right to decide what it did (like allow slavery) whatever the Government in Washington said. It was this that finally decided Lee. First and foremost he was a Virginian. He would side with Virginia.

The Confederates had to win fast before the sheer size of the North and its colossal industrial power swamped them. Lee’s men were born fighters and his officers were the pick of the old United States Army. His second-in-command was the granite-like “Stonewall” Jackson, so called because the sight of him and his brigade standing like a stone wall at the First Battle of Bull Run (July, 1861) had rallied the rest of the army. The two men made a matchless team.

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The Black Watch won great battle honours at Ticonderoga

Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Scotland, War on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

This edited article about Canada first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 596 published on 16 June 1973.

Indians attack British,  picture, image, illustration
Indians attacked the British under Abercromby's command

It began with a ghost in Scotland and ended in a massacre in America.

The ghost appeared to Duncan Campbell of Inverawe Castle in the western Highlands, not long after the rising of 1745, when so many gallant Highlanders had perished trying to place Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne of Britain.

One night in those wild and dangerous times Duncan Campbell, the Laird of Inverawe, let a stranger covered in blood into his castle. The stranger said he had killed a man in a fight and that pursuers were after him. Campbell agreed to shelter him, but the frightened, blood-stained fugitive made him swear on his dirk that he would not betray him to his pursuers.

Suddenly, there was loud knocking at the door. Duncan Campbell opened it and was told by heavily armed men that his own cousin, Donald, had been murdered. Sick at heart, Duncan did not betray his unwanted guest because of his oath, but that night Donald’s ghost appeared to him and begged him to avenge his murder. Duncan explained that he could not and Donald said: “Very well, then, Inverawe. We shall meet again at Ticonderoga!”

The strange word meant nothing to Duncan Campbell, who later joined the famous Black Watch regiment, which had been raised some years before to police the Highlands. He often mentioned his experience, but none of the other officers had heard of Ticonderoga either.

In 1756, the Black Watch was sent to America where war had broken out once again between Britain and France, the French then owning Canada, and the British possessing 13 colonies which were to become the United States 20 years later. Britain had started the war, known as the Seven Years War in Britain and the French and Indian War in America, with a series of disasters. Her troops, which were trained to fight in the rigid patterns of European warfare, could not cope with the nightmare of war in the American forests, the sudden terrifying war-whoops, bullets and arrows cutting into the ranks, fired by unseen enemies behind dense masses of trees. And their red coats made them perfect targets for enemy marksmen.

By 1750, however, things were a little better. The great William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, had become Prime Minister at home and the war was being properly run, and the British Redcoats were learning something of forest warfare. True, British officers looked down on local American troops, however experienced, and some of the colonists were only too eager to let the British do all the fighting for them. But now, in mid-1758, a great expedition was sailing up the Hudson River to attack Montreal in French Canada by way of a series of lakes that stretched almost continuously up to Canada. Other attacks were under way from different directions, but this one was the big push.

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The Suez Crisis damaged Britain’s international reputation

Posted in Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Invasions, War on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

This edited article about the Suez Crisis first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 596 published on 16 June 1973.

Suez Crisis,  picture, image, illustration
British tanks enter a street in the Egyptian town of Port Said in November 1958, after an Anglo-French bombardment has devastated buildings, by John Keay

In July 1956, the British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, gave a formal dinner – an uncomfortable affair for the men, who had to wear strictly conventional attire. In the middle of the banquet, news was brought to the Prime Minister that President Nasser of Egypt had nationalised the Suez Canal. Eden got rid of his guests as quickly as politeness allowed and called an immediate meeting of his ministers. “The Egyptian,” he told them, “has his thumb on our wind-pipe.” It was in this mood of desperation that he committed an act of aggression which destroyed his reputation and that of his country for many years to come.

President Nasser had come to power following the expulsion of the ineffective and corrupt King Farouk from Egypt. He inherited an impoverished country which had lost face in its struggle with the new state of Israel and which badly needed a boost to its morale. A project to build a great dam – the Aswan dam – seemed to offer a chance to improve the country’s economy and to bolster its prestige: Nasser compared the project in importance to the building of the pyramids. At first the United States and Britain agreed to finance the scheme; but Nasser’s anti-western policy led them to withdraw their help. It was in retaliation for this act that the Egyptian President nationalised the Suez canal, intending to use its revenues to finance his dam.

Nasser’s action caused great alarm in Britain and France. Both countries felt certain that he would eventually close the canal to the oil supplies from the Persian gulf which were vital to Europe’s industrial development, and Nasser’s intemperate speeches did little to allay these fears. In both countries he was regarded as a second Hitler and neither government intended to trust him as Hitler had once been trusted. The French had a separate grievance: Egypt was an open supporter of the Algerians who had recently revolted against France.

Attempts were made to settle the crisis by diplomacy. The United States supported Britain and France, but without enthusiasm. America, after all, was much less dependent on the canal than Europe. A way had to be found, said the American John Foster Dulles, to make Nasser disgorge what he was attempting to swallow. Dulles was thinking of negotiation. Britain and France were thinking of force.

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The Cuban Missile Crisis was about not losing and saving face

Posted in America, Communism, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Politics, War, Weapons on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

This edited article about the Cold War first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 595 published on 9 June 1973.

Russian nuclear missile,  picture, image, illustration
Russian nuclear missile on a military parade in Red Square

On Sunday, 14th October 1962, a warm autumn day, an American U-2 plane returned from a reconnaissance flight over western Cuba. Rolls of negatives from its camera were rushed to processing laboratories and then to an interpretation centre where specialists peered at the blown-up photographs frame by frame.

By the next day, they had identified a launching pad, a series of buildings for ballistic missiles and a missile itself on the ground. At breakfast on Tuesday, John Kennedy, the American president saw the photographs They supported the reports of his intelligence agents, in Cuba and confirmed his worst fears. The Russians were installing nuclear weapons in Cuba.

How had the missiles come to be there? Since the revolution in Cuba which had brought Fidel Castro to power, Cuba’s links with the East had grown stronger, while Castro himself had said of America: “Understanding is impossible.” But why should the Russians, who had never before placed nuclear missiles in another country, install them on an island many thousands of miles away from Russia, lying next to their main adversary, and governed by an avowed enemy of the United States?

It had been done as a trial of strength. For some time, a group of Russian leaders had been convinced that the Americans had become too rich, too soft and too liberal to fight; and that the Soviet Union could safely use its utmost nuclear force against them. Krushchev, the Soviet leader, did not agree with this view but he had to put it to the test. That was why he decided to install over sixty missiles with a range of up to 2,000 miles, right under the Americans’ noses.

This would double the Soviet potential striking force against America, and if America took no action in return, she would lose face throughout the world, particularly in other places, such as Berlin, where there was open confrontation between East and West.

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The first airmail service began during the Siege of Paris

Posted in Aviation, Communications, Historical articles, History, Transport, War on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

This edited article about communications first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 594 published on 2 June 1973.

First airmail service 1870,  picture, image, illustration
The world's first regular airmail service was established in 1870 when manned balloons were used to carry sacks of letters from the besieged city of Paris to the outside world

Air-mail letters led a somewhat adventurous life in the pioneer days of flight. Balloons tended to get blown off course and land in out of the way places and the early aircraft, even if they took-off safely, could never be relied upon to land in one piece.

In the besieged city of Paris in 1870 it seemed as though the struggle against the encircling Prussian armies was hopeless. The tight ring of steel around the sprawling capital of France was complete and the sound of gunfire could be heard throughout the city. The last trickle of refugees had stopped and food supplies were already running short.

Yet for all their mastery of the land the Prussians could not cut off Paris completely from the rest of the world. Every two or three days a huge manned balloon would rise up from the centre of the city, rapidly gaining height until the stronger air currents could carry it safely over the Prussian lines. With the pilots in the gondola of these frail machines were bags of letters, keeping the world informed of their plight and maintaining the morale of defenders by linking them with their relatives in the safety of provincial France.

This was the world’s first regular air-mail letter service and despite the apparent calm and peace once the balloon was airborne, it was a dangerous and exciting business. First came the breathtaking view of Paris with the Seine running through it like a silver ribbon. There was little time to admire the view, however, for any loss of height might put them within range of the enemy sharpshooters below. Then, for all their skill, the pilots were likely to be at the mercy of the winds.

One balloon had the misfortune to strike some very contrary winds and landed in Bavaria, 470 miles away and in the heart of the enemy’s territory. Another had an incredible 14 hour journey during which hurricane force winds swept it over 1,000 miles to Lifjeld in Norway and at speeds exceeding 100 mph.

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An American traitor and a British spy met very different ends

Posted in America, Espionage, Famous Last Words, Historical articles, History, Revolution, War on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

This edited article about the American Revolution first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 594 published on 2 June 1973.

 Death of Major Andre,  picture, image, illustration
The Unfortunate Death of Major Andre

Visitors to the battlefield of Saratoga in New York State, U.S.A., can see one monument so strange that it seems to make no sense.

The battle, fought in 1777 between the British under General Burgoyne and American regulars and militiamen, was a turning point in the American Revolution, for the defeat of the British helped bring France in on the side of the one-year-old United States and make their final victory certain.

The strange monument commemorates the soldier who did more than anyone else to bring about the American victory, but it does not name him! The inscription relates that he was the most brilliant American soldier and that he became a major-general after the battle. It has a cannon carved on it, also a wreath, a badge and a boot, and that is all.

Elsewhere in the state, on a hill overlooking the Hudson River, is a granite memorial erected by Americans to honour a man who could have lost the war for them, a British officer they hanged as a spy in front of a vast crowd who mourned for him. His name, John André, is engraved in the stone of his memorial.

The two monuments are linked, for the first commemorates the achievements of the most famous of all American traitors. Benedict Arnold, before he betrayed his country, and the second, the man who was his link with the British High Command. Treachery and scandal bind the two forever in history, one of whom died unlamented and disliked in London in 1801, the other on that hill overlooking the Hudson. More than half a century later, John Andre’s body found a final resting place in Westminster Abbey.

The American Revolution began in 1775 after relations between Britain and her 13 American colonies had reached breaking point over many issues especially the fact that the colonists were taxed without their being represented in the British Parliament. From the beginning, many of them stayed loyal to the Crown, so it was as much a civil war as a struggle for independence.

But one person whose loyalty to the American cause was certain was Benedict Arnold, or so everyone believed.

His exploits early in the war were fabulous. He was 34 when it broke out and soon became the most dashing of all American commanders, more so even than a far greater man, the American Commander-in-Chief, George Washington.

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Pompey the Great was defeated by the even greater Julius Caesar

Posted in Ancient History, Famous battles, Historical articles, History, War on Saturday, 15 March 2014

This edited article about Pompey the Great first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 590 published on 5 May 1973.

Pompey the Great,  picture, image, illustration
Pompey the Great

In the last century before the birth of Christ, the powerful Roman republic unwittingly built itself a monster. The menace came in the form of thousands of foreign slaves, taken in conquest and put to work on farms in southern Italy.

There were too many of them and they were unmanageable. And, just as some earthquake-prone cities wait for the predicted catastrophe to destroy them, so the ancient Romans waited in dread for the slaves to revolt.

And it happened. The year was 73 B.C. and the man who began it was a Tracian slave named Spartacus. With the speed of a forest fire spreading, a hundred thousand slaves burst from their bonds and held the lower half of Italy in a grip of terror. In Rome, there was panic, with the mob clamouring for action against the bandit insurgents.

In haste, the Senate appointed Marcus Crassus to lead the attack against Spartacus. Crassus was given six legions and he did his work well. He drove Spartacus back across Italy and in the year 71 B.C. defeated the slaves and killed Spartacus. Crassus was pleased with his triumph and celebrated it by crucifying 6,000 of his prisoners along the Appian Way all the way to Rome.

As the victorious general began his triumphant homeward march, a remarkable thing happened. A small band of slaves who had escaped were surprised by the army of another Roman general, Gnaeus Pompeius, on his way home from a war in Spain. The band of slaves was, of course, swiftly annihilated.

A few days later, before the astonished Crassus, Gnaeus Pompeius blandly told the Roman Senate that he was the man who had put down the slave revolt and saved Rome.

This astonishing claim was typically Roman in its flamboyance and typical of Pompeius, whom we call Pompey the Great. Like many of his great contemporaries – the famous orator Cicero, the immortal Julius Caesar – he was a man driven almost mad by ambition, ready to lie, cheat and conquer to earn personal fame.

Pompey’s ultimate target was the dictatorship of the Roman Empire. In the end only one man was capable of cheating him of it – Gaius Julius Caesar, the greatest military leader the world has ever known. But if Caesar had not been there Pompey, always easily influenced, never quite sure of himself, may not have gone down in the record books as one of the greatest of world leaders.

He was born into a noble Roman family in 106 B.C., the son of a high ranking Roman army officer. At 17, he was serving in the army under his father: young Pompey had already found his forte, for it was as a soldier that he was going to make his name and as a civil administrator that he was to unmake it.

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The Russian threat to India was through Afghanistan

Posted in Historical articles, History, War on Friday, 14 March 2014

This edited article about Afghanistan first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 590 published on 5 May 1973.

Messenger in Zurabad,  picture, image, illustration
A messenger leapt from his rearing horse to warn the governor of Zurabad that rebels were active in the foothills… and Alexander Stephen was heading with a small party straight towards them

The rider came down from the foothills, his head buried in his horse’s fleecy mane. The gatekeepers of Zurabad, recognising one of the governor’s Salor messengers, let him through without hindrance. He galloped through the narrow streets, scattering the stall-holders and idling groups of tribesmen, halted, rearing, in the courtyard of the governor’s quarters, and ran to the governor’s room. He made a low bow to the Persian official who sat there and delivered his message parrot-fashion. A party of 300 Sariks was terrorising the district around Pul-i-Katun; Mr. Stephen’s party must not leave until the marauders departed. The Persian frowned. But Mr. Stephen had already left: hadn’t the messenger passed him on the road? The Salor shook his head. There were two routes into the mountains, he said; Mr. Stephen must have taken the second. The governor went to the window and looked up at the snow-topped mountains. Somewhere up there Alec Stephen was riding into captivity. Curtly, he ordered his soldiers to stand by.

For most of the 19th century Britain had watched with increasing alarm as the Czars of Russia steadily built up power in Central Asia. By 1880 their influence had spread deep into Turkestan, almost to the borders of Afghanistan. In the past 40 years Britain had fought three wars in Afghanistan in order to keep control over the rulers of the country. For Britain, it was essential that Afghanistan should remain a friendly buffer state between Russia and India.

But in the final Afghan war Britain and the pro-British rulers were badly mauled and the country was no longer a reliable guard to the back-door of India. If Russia gained control of the tribes who wandered along the border between Turkestan and Afghanistan, what was to stop her infiltrating Afghanistan itself? And if she controlled Afghanistan, then the back-door to India was wide open.

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Frederick the Great, the warrior-king of Prussia

Posted in Historical articles, History, Music, Philosophy, Politics, Royalty, War on Thursday, 13 March 2014

This edited article about Frederick the Great first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 588 published on 21 April 1973.

Frederick the Great, picture, image, illustration
Frederick the Great with Count Agarotti (far left) and Voltaire (right) in the music room of his palace at Sans Souci by Roger Payne

“My motto is ‘Die or conquer.’ In other cases there is a middle course; in mine there is none.” The speaker was Frederick the Great, King of Prussia; writer, philosopher, poet, musician and one of the greatest military strategists Europe has ever produced.

For the most part Frederick did conquer; at least he never had to carry out the implied threat of suicide in his motto. But after plunging all Europe into a continuous turmoil of war in the 18th century – in the Seven Years War alone he was involved in 17 major battles – it is interesting to reflect upon what Frederick has left in Europe nearly 200 years after his death.

His kingdom of Prussia in North Germany no longer exists. His famous palace of Sans Souci at Potsdam lies, almost inaccessible to western travellers, behind the Iron Curtain. And the land of Silesia, in the 18th century a country in its own right for which Frederick fought for two decades, has now been swallowed up as a part of Poland.

Only Frederick’s name and his achievements, rather than his possessions, remain of any use to Western Europe. Certainly the greatest of those achievements was that he gave to the German people a sense of unity. A German historian has said of him: “He not only raised his country to the rank of a great power, but he also lighted for it a torch of truth so powerful that the way to further light and glory can be missed only by the most reckless carelessness.”

It was this greatness, this “torch of truth” which gave the Germans pride in themselves, which led on to their great contribution to the worlds of science and art, and in particular music, in the 19th century.

Yet astonishingly, Frederick had little personal preference either for German people or German things. When he founded an Academy of Sciences in Prussia it was a French Academy, using the French language. When he wrote, it was always in French, the language he preferred to speak. He paid Frenchmen twice as much as Germans. After his first meeting with Voltaire, the French poet and philosopher who subsequently became a great friend, he wrote joyously, “I have now seen the two things nearest my heart – the French army and Voltaire.”

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