Posts Tagged ‘December 7’

Valet Forge

Posted in General, On This Day on December 7th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

December 7, 1776:  A Date That Will Live in Larceny

The Marquis de La Fayette knew that there was more to life than just the minuet and syphilis. Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert Du Motier–as he was known to his friends–wanted to help the American colonists in their heroic struggle for liberty, so long as he could be a major general. However, 19 year-olds were rarely granted that rank–even in an army where competence was irrelevant. Generals usually invested years of fawning sycophancy over some royal dolt or his favorite mistress.

But America was a land of opportunities for the ambitious teenager. He simply had to find the right official to bribe. Of the American emissaries, Arthur Lee was inconveniently ethical. Benjamin Franklin was skeptical although he might have been willing to let Madame Lafayette persuade him. (If historians had to choose”The Father of Our Country“, Franklin would be named in the paternity suit.) However, Silas Deane had an open mind and hand.

Deane was an operator. When the French government wanted to covertly supply the Americans with arms and money, Deane handled the smuggling and the money-laundering. A man with such entrepreneurial skills might be expected to have a few lucrative sidelines. So, if a rich teenager wanted to be a major general, it was just matter of paperwork. The Continental Congress had not given him that authority, but Deane was never one to be stymied by legality. On this day in 1776, Deane conferred on Lafayette the rank of major general.

Of course, the Continental Congress was somewhat surprised when a French teenager arrived in Philadephia and expected command of an army. The Congress was starting to catch on to Deane’s sidelines; it seems that he had issued a number of questionable commissions. Deane was recalled from Paris in November, 1777 and tried for financial irregularities. However, he was too clever to be convicted.

As for Lafayette, he could not be taken seriously but he proved a very likable young man. Congress did not have the heart to be rude. As long as he agreed not to be paid and stayed under the adult supervision of George Washington, Lafayette would be allowed the title of major general. The young marquis could feel like a hero, and George Washington got the world’s fanciest valet.

p.s.  Let’s not forget the other reason to remember December 7th

Your RDA of Infamy

Posted in General on December 7th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 2 Comments

December 7, 1941:  A Date Which Will Embarrass Sony

So, why did Japan attack America?  Was it vengeance for “Madame Butterfly”?  While that attack certainly would have been justified–how dare that tenor cad Lieutenant Pinkerton abandon his devoted, pregnant geisha–Japan would have had just as much reason to attack Italy.  Imagine 300 Japanese planes bombing La Scala; the problem would be scheduling the attack for the right opera.  The strategy only works for “Madame Butterfly.”  An attack during a performance of “Aida” might not even be noticed; the Japanese bombers would be upstaged by the parade of elephants.  The bombing of “Turandot” might be considered a welcome and light-hearted distraction for the public.  (Puccini died before finishing “Turandot”, and so usually does the audience.)

Japan really was outraged by the Immigration Act of 1924, which completely banned further entry to America by any Asians.  The Japanese agreed that the Chinese, Filipinos, Indians and the rest were inferior; but seeing themselves as the rightful masters of Asia,  the Japanese expected more deferential treatment.  Yet, that affront to Japanese dignity, while not forgotten, did not incite the war with America.

No, the reason for attacking Pearl Harbor was to conquer Indonesia.  Rube Goldberg could have been a samurai tactician.  To conquer China, Japan needed gasoline.  Indonesia–then known as the Dutch East Indies–was the closest source of petroleum in Asia.  Rather than haggle over petroleum exports, the Japanese simply preferred to seize the entire Dutch colony.  But the Netherlands were allied to Britain, and the British base in Singapore offered substantial protection to the Dutch East Indies.  So Singapore would have to be taken before Japan could secure the Dutch East Indies and its oil fields.  War with Britain was inevitable.  (If only those damn oil fields had been in French Indo-China, its colonial administrators were collaborating with the Germans and would also have accommodated the Japanese.)  But Britain was allied to the United States, and so a war with America would seem inevitable.  But a fair fight against the American giant was impossible; besides the Samurai Code really did not require fairness or even a declaration of war.  So Japanese would launch a surprise attack on the American bases in the Pacific, in order to attack Singapore, in order to seize the Dutch East Indies, in order to keep slaughtering the Chinese.

And the Japanese plan worked.  However, the Japanese may have underestimated how the Americans would respond.  In hindsight, bombing La Scala would have been wiser.

And from the archives, another event on this day: