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My Lai was a massacre of Vietnamese carried out by American soldiers in Vietnam in March 1968.
My Lai had been identified by American intelligence as a Vietcong HQ. Charlie Company of the 1st battalion of the 20th infantry division was assigned to the attack.
Charlie company was made up of a typical cross section of American society and had performed well in training. However a few basic weeks training at Fort Benning, Georgia did not prepare them for the reality of guerilla warfare in the jungles of Vietnam.
Within days of arriving they were systematically abusing and torturing civilians and captured suspects.
Prior to My Lai they had already lost 4 killed and 38 wounded, due to mines, snipers and booby traps. Frustration and anger were built up to critical levels.
The attack on My Lai took place on a Saturday as this was market day. The soldiers were told that all civilians would be at market and anyone left would be Vietcong. However intelligence was wrong. Early that morning on March 16th, the first American soldiers landed by helicopter. They met with no resistance.
Over the course of the next 4 hours, US soldiers murdered up to 500 men women and children. Not only were they shot but mutilated and killed with bayonets. One G.I. was injured. He had shot himself in the foot. Some soldiers had the strength of character to refuse to obey orders.
Ron Haeberle a US army photographer took official photos which showed a typical search and destroy mission. However Haeberle had his own camera. With it he took pictures of the massacre taking place.
Initial reports described a significant victory against communist forces and commendations were awarded. Early reports of a massacre were denied. However the story was eventually broken and Haeberle's photos proved to be crucial evidence.
Of the men charged with multiple counts of rape and murder only Lt William Calley was convicted. He was given a life sentence but served only 3 days before being put into house arrest for three and a half years. He was then released on parole. His defence, as it had been at Nuremberg, was that he was only following orders.
My Lai was probably the last nail in the coffin of American public support for the war. Although several soldiers were put on trial it was also the US military, government and America itself as a nation which was on trial. This was why only one man was convicted. Everyone was guilty.
My Lai was certainly not the only massacre carried out by US forces, in Vietnam and in other conflicts. However the photos made it impossible to deny.
Activities like those of Senator Joseph McCarthy (Republican) started in the 1950s. It has come to refer to a broader time era and larger movement of the time. Anyone using such tactics.
Senator Joseph McCarthy (Republican) rose to prominence during the Red Scare of the 1940s and 50s caused by the post World War 2 creation of the Communist Bloc in Eastern Europe, the take over of China by the Communists, the acquisition of nuclear technology by the Russians, and the ongoing Cold War.
He suddenly became nationally prominent in 1950 after a speech where he declared he had a list of Communists in the State Department. He never actually produced such a list even though he had a piece paper in his hand at the time. The number of actual communists listed varied from time to time.
There were a number of investigative committees at work in the U.S. government and over the next few years McCarthy would testified on communist activities before them. Notable in this was the House Un-America Activities Committee (HUAC). A group established by the House of Representatives in 1938 to investigate communist activities in America.
McCarthy's accusations often had a air of fact about them but were unsubstantiated by actual documentation. Persons brought before these committees were often not allowed lawyers, nor allowed to cross examine their accusers. Bullying tactics were used to extract information. The accused were encouraged to accuse others. Lists of names (a Blacklist) were compiled and these people were vilified and often driven from their work and community.
Notable in this was the Hollywood Blacklist in which a number of prominent film writers and directors became unemployable in the industry. Some later resumed work under pseudonyms.
The findings of the committees were often later overturned on procedural grounds or facts in the cases were found to be false. In the hysteria this did not matter and the damage was done. There were a number of suicides attributable to this ostracizing.
Companies and groups across the nation began investigating their employees and members for communist activity. They demanded employees sign loyalty oaths. Again, people were hounded from their work and communities on equally thin evidence and questionable procedures.
The televising of the hearings of the HUAC exposed the unfairness of these tactics and there was a public backlash against them.
Less notably McCarthy accused people of homosexual sex crimes in a similar way. He was occasionally anti-Semitic.
McCarthy was censured by the Senate for his actions and faded rapidly from the spotlight. He died in 1957 while still in office.
US Air Force
To find the answer, I first approached it this way - What are the current branches of the US military?
Of the four, only one - the Air Force - would have come into existence only recently (manned powered air flight, courtesy of the Wright Brothers, was only achieved in 1903 and WWI started in 1914) while the others have all existed since the US Revolution (the Marines were originally sharpshooters onboard Navy vessels, targeting enemy officers so as to create confusion on deck).
Which brought me to this wikipedia article about the history of the Air Force and some interesting reading:
The structure of the military has always been a source of frustration and friction both within military and political structures:
The Marines for instance are technically still a branch of the US Navy - the Commandant of the Marines, who is the Commanding Officer of the Marines, has as his boss the Chief of Naval Operations, who is the Commanding Officer of the Navy. But don't tell the Marines that - they don't like being reminded of that fact.
Within the US military, the service with the largest number of boats is the Army. The Navy, in the past, has insisted that Navy personnel should be assigned to operate those boats - the Army wasn't amused.
Within the US military, the service with the largest number of aircraft is the Navy. The Air Force, in the past, has insisted that Air Force personnel should be assigned to those planes - and the Navy was just as unamused as the Army was about that whole boat thing.
And to round off these examples, the Air Force has control of the missile silos and the intercontinental nuclear missiles. And so they felt that they had control over all things nuclear. And so when the Navy developed nuclear powered ships (including submarines) and the Army was looking into nuclear powered tanks (never panned out but they did try), the Air Force felt they should have their personnel in charge of those assets. The Navy and Army weren't amused.
You get the idea.
And so the birth of a separate branch of the military concerning air power involved lots of people being not amused.
The Air Force began its life as a branch of the US Army's signal corps. They acquired planes and trained pilots for WWI and initially the planes were used to spot where the enemy was - they'd fly overhead and find the enemy and see their placement. Quickly, pilots realized they could shoot at other pilots and prevent them from bringing back intelligence (the pre-curser to the modern day fighter plane), and they could drop grenades on enemy troops (the pre-curser to the modern day bomber).
As the importance of air power developed, it was seen that a separate organization dedicated solely to air power should be created, and it evolved into the modern day Air Force.
With money, equipment and volunteerry officers and soldiers.
How not to speak of him! Certainly the name of Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette is well known and respected on the American side of the Atlantic. He is the acknowledged French contribution to the American Revolution.
I am in no way attempting to demystify his myth; but (on this historical and educational site) it is important to consider a few facts.
Lafayette was very young when, in 1775, he crossed the Atlantic on a ship chartered at his own expense and loaded with arms and warriors paid out of his purse. He also had a coffer full of gold coins for the cause as he was aware of Washington's stringent situation.
He was wealthy, he was 19, with just one year of military training and willing to risk not only his life and fortune for the American cause, but also the king's favor.
Louis XVI in fact had not decided which side to take in the looming American war, and certainly did not appreciate the young man making the decision in his stead.
Washington welcomed Lafayette with open arms. He was the first (and from what I have seen the only) ally to show up at his door fully equipped and with money to spare. His other helpers, all hot English haters from the four corners of Europe, had come penniless and expecting to be equipped and placed in a position of command.
Washington loved the young man as a son, he hardly ever put him in a position of danger. But the Frenchman did serve in a number of operations under fire.
By far less acknowledged is the contribution of Louis XVI's regular army.
The new king had eventually made up his mind and paid his shirt for the chip he had kept on his shoulder after his father's 7 Year War.
The American Revolution nearly bankrupted France. But the French army and navy kept up the colours.
The Royal Fleet took part to the fruitless siege of Savannah, where Admiral d’Estaing nearly lost his life; and Rochambeau and his army were decisive in the final victory at Yorktown.
An anecdote that has a certain importance, Colonel Stanton, leader of the expeditionary force that had entered Paris in 1918, had not forgtten what the French had done for the American Independence. He visited La Fayette’s' tomb and, after a moment of intentness, He exclaimed for everyone to hear: "La Fayette, nous voila! "(La Fayette, we are here!).
Though Lexington and Concord came first, they were merely skirmishes. The first Battle of the Revolution was the battle of Bunker Hill, which was fought on Breed's Hill outside Boston on June 17, 1775. Confusion caused it to be named after Bunker Hill, which is where the colonists had some reserve troops.
The British were in Boston and the colonists held positions outside the city. On the night of June 17, 1775, some 1,200 colonists under William Prescott moved onto Breed's Hill and threw up earthworks.
In the morning, the British commander Lord Howe decided to attack. He did this in the proscribed method of the times--full frontal assault. Howe and most British leaders believed the colonists would break and run at the first sign of an attack.
Howe attacked the hill two times, and each time he was forced to fall back with heavy casualties. During his third assault, the colonists ran out of ammunition and were forced to fall back.
The British claimed victory as they held the hill at battle's end, but it was a moral victory for the colonists. It showed they could stand up to the British.
Joseph Warren, an early colonial leader was killed at this battle. Had he lived, he would be remembered today as one of the greatest of the Founding Fathers. Unfortunately, his early death in the war has left him all but forgotten.
Bunker Hill was one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolution.
The Battle of new Orleans was fought on January 8, 1815, two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent (Belgium) was signed to end the war of 1812. But word of the treaty had not reached the U.S., as it took at least a month for news to travel across the ocean at that time.
The British wanted to capture the all-important port of New Orleans. Farmers in the West shipped their crops down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, where the crops would be put on ships that would take them to the East Coast or overseas for sale.
General Andrew Jackson was the officer in charge of defending New Orleans for the U.S. He had his men dig entrenchments to enable them to better defend their position outside the city.
General Edward Packenham was the British leader. His troops were veterans of the Napoleonic Wars. The British army was well equipped and well trained, and Packenham thought they were invincible.
The U.S. army was a patchwork collection of regular soldiers, Native Americans, free Blacks, and even a few pirates.
Packenham ordered his men to attack Jackson's position with a full frontal assault. The strategy was suicidal. The British lost some 2,000 men and Packenham was killed. The Americans lost only twelve men. It was the most lopsided victory in U.S. history. It made Jackson a household name in the U.S. He was referred to simply as "The Hero."
His fame from this battle allowed him to be elected president in 1828.
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