7 May 1941

7 May 1941


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7 May 1941

May

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Iraq

Rashid Ali, the leader of the Iraqi coup, flees from Baghdad (but see also 29 May)



Hitler’s Last Airdrop: Crete 1941


While the Fallschirmjager had had some success with airborne assaults in the Low Countries and in Greece, the drop on Crete was a dearly bought victory. Hundreds of paratroopers like this one died before reaching the ground, and scores of gliders were blown from the air. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 1011-166-0527-22, Photo: Franz Peter Weixler)

CORPORAL HANS KREINDLER KNEW SOMETHING WAS WRONG. His transport had approached the island low and slow, slicing through a beautiful Mediterranean morning toward the drop zone 450 yards west of the village. That was when he heard the explosions and saw big white puffs in the sky, and bright streaks whizzing past the aircraft. A blast rocked his own Junkers Ju-52. This wasn&rsquot how they&rsquod briefed it before takeoff. &ldquoLight resistance&rdquo&hellip&ldquodemoralized enemy.&rdquo They didn&rsquot look so demoralized, he thought grimly.

No more time to think. He got the signal from the dispatcher and was out the door. The next 15 seconds would be the longest of his life. He remembered hearing a new sound. Thump! he heard. And then again, Thump! as bullets hit their targets, slamming into the bodies of other men in his 13-man stick. Already, he could see some of his comrades hanging lifeless in their chutes, descending to the island. Thump! Thump! It hadn&rsquot even landed yet, but the 7th Airborne Division was already dying.

THE GERMAN WEHRMACHT continues to enjoy a high reputation as a fighting force, the finest professional army of modern times. Scholars, military professionals, and buffs alike obsess over its flexible system of command and control, its skill at combined arms, its meticulous planning, its drive, its aggression. But anyone who thinks that &ldquoGerman planning&rdquo is synonymous with excellence, or who thinks that any officer wearing a red stripe on his trousers (the simple, even spartan, indicator of membership in the elite German General Staff) could do no wrong should take a closer look at what happened on the Mediterranean island of Crete in May 1941.

Some of the finest minds in the Wehrmacht came up with just the sort of German operational plan that has been so beloved by military historians over the years. It was bold, aggressive, and pioneering. Yet the operation destroyed the division that carried it out. So high were the casualties in Operation Mercury that the German führer, Adolf Hitler&mdashnever one to spare the lives of the men under his own command&mdashswore that he would never attack this way again. And while Hitler was wrong about a good many things in this war, it is hard to argue with his reasoning this time.

Nevertheless, the Allies would draw a very different lesson from Crete. James Gavin&mdashwho would go on to command America&rsquos vaunted 82nd Airborne Division&mdashwas then a young infantry captain teaching in the tactics department of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He read the reports out of Crete, and years later he still remembered the excitement they stirred in him and others. Despite their heavy losses, the Germans seemed to have broken through into a &ldquonew dimension in tactics.&rdquo He decided, then and there, to become a paratrooper. Gavin wouldn&rsquot be the only one to make that choice.

THE AIRDROP ON CRETE was the culmination of two developments, one long-term and the other short-term. The long-term development was the rise of the airborne arm before the war. Virtually every army in the world experimented with paratroops and glider-borne infantry during the 1920s and 1930s. In an era obsessed with restoring mobility to military operations, airborne troops seemed an ideal solution, using &ldquovertical envelopment&rdquo to keep battlefields fluid and to prevent trench deadlock. In Germany, planners viewed the paratrooper (Fall­­­­s­­chirmjäger) as yet another means to pursue their ideal of Bewegungskrieg (the war of movement) and to avoid the static positional warfare (Stellungskrieg) that had ground down the German army in World War I.

In the opening campaigns of World War II, paratroops helped to achieve those goals, although the operations were not without cost. Airborne forces played a crucial role in the economy-of-force invasions of Denmark and Norway (Operation Weserü­bung) in April 1940, for example, when two companies captured the Danish fortress of Vordingborg and secured the long bridge linking the Gedser ferry terminal to Copenhagen. It was a picture-perfect landing, and led to a bloodless capture of the bridge&rsquos small garrison.

Another company landed at Aalborg, in the far north of the Jutland peninsula, seizing the two key airfields there to use as staging bases for the invasion of Norway. A company-sized drop at Dombås in Norway, however, ended badly, with the paratroops jumping directly into a Norwegian strongpoint guarding the railroad junction leading to Åndalsnes and Trondheim. They suffered heavy losses in the jump, found themselves surrounded by the Norwegians, and had to surrender four days later.

In the 1940 campaign in the west (Operation Yellow), the airborne again played a major role. Paratroops formed the spearhead of the drive into the Netherlands by Army Group B, led by Gen. Fedor von Bock. While they disrupted the Dutch defenses, once again there were problems. The landings around The Hague, intended to secure three airfields, ran into a storm of Dutch antiaircraft fire. Although they managed to seize their objectives, they could not hold them. The Dutch would take some 1,200 German prisoners in the course of the fighting there, just about the only POWs they took in this short campaign.

A bit farther to the south, glider-borne troops seized the mighty Belgian fortress of Eben Emael in a daring coup de main, landing directly on top of the fortification and destroying its heavily fortified guns with newly designed shaped charges. It was&mdashand still is&mdasha stunning achievement. They also took part, somewhat less successfully, in the great German panzer drive through the Ardennes Forest, landing at Nives and Witry on May 10, an operation known as the Niwi landing.

THE SHORT-TERM FACTOR leading to the airdrop on Crete was the unexpected campaign in the Balkans in April and May 1941, which arose out of Benito Mussolini&rsquos ill-advised decision to invade Greece in October 1940. Thanks to the subsequent humiliation of the Italians at the hands of a poorly equipped but hardy Greek army, and the equally ill-advised British decision to rush assistance to the Greeks, the Balkans campaign was the &ldquolightning war&rdquo par excellence. Conducting two simultaneous operations&mdashOperation 25 against Yugoslavia and Operation Marita against Greece&mdashthe Wehrmacht ran over and around every defensive position in its path.

Yugoslavia, surrounded even before the first shot was fired, was incapable of putting up much resistance, and German casualties in the entire campaign numbered only in the hundreds Greece wasn&rsquot much more trouble, even with British intervention.

Gen. Friedrich List&rsquos Twelfth Army carried out an end run around the major Greek fortifications of the Metaxas Line, hooking through southern Yugoslavia and thus unhinging any Greek attempts to make a stand to the north. The inadequate British intervention, consisting of Force W&mdashtwo divisions (2nd New Zealand, 6th Australian), the 1st Tank Brigade, plus a small commitment of airpower&mdashnever did get a secure footing. One by one its defensive positions fell to direct assault or a turning movement: the Alíakmon Line fell on April 11, the Mount Olympus position on April 16, and the Thermopylae Line on April 24.

Throughout the campaign, the Commonwealth troops were under almost constant and unopposed attack by the German Luftwaffe, a problem that none of the Allied powers had yet solved. The defenders would evacuate Greece from ports in Attica and the Peloponnesus in the course of the next week. It had been another distressing experience for a British Expeditionary Force. (Wags began to joke that BEF stood for &ldquoBack Every Fortnight.&rdquo)

Indeed, so rapidly had the Wehrmacht overrun Greece that plans to utilize German airborne formations had barely kept up. Gen. Kurt Student, commanding Germany&rsquos airborne arm, came up with one suitable mission after another, only to find that the ground forces had already overrun the intended position. Only once did he draw a bead on a target and hit it. On April 26, two battalions of the 2nd Fallschirmjäger Regiment dropped onto the Isthmus of Corinth. They seized the bridge over the Corinth Canal before the British could destroy it, and German engineers quickly cut the line to the detonator. Disaster followed when a lucky shot by a British antiaircraft gun set off the charge over the bridge anyway. The subsequent explosion dropped the bridge and killed most of the German paratroops crossing it, along with the German war correspondent filming the action. The chilling footage of this disaster survived.

The departure of Force W presented the Wehrmacht with a classic dilemma. As fast and as far as it had come, it had now run out of room. As in the west in 1940, it had reached its nemesis: the sea. There was no German navy to speak of, and Germany&rsquos Italian allies were increasingly skittish about sailing off into dangerous waters, even ones in their own backyard. Not for the last time in this war, German ground forces appeared to have conquered themselves into an impasse.

But unlike their post-Dunkirk lull, the Germans decided to pursue. There was still one Ger­man force capable of continuing the advance and going after the beaten British and Commonwealth forces. Student now had an entire airborne corps under his command (XI Fliegerkorps), pairing a complete parachute division (7th Flieger Division) with an &ldquoairlanding&rdquo division (22nd Luftland Division), configured for air transport and ready to land at an airfield once the hunters from the sky had captured it.

General Student now saw an ideal opportunity for action, one that would aim high and establish the bona fides of the paratroop arm once and for all. The target was Crete. Seizing the island would help round up the demoralized and fleeing enemy it would allow German bombers to launch raids against Alexandria (350 miles away), and perhaps even Suez (500 miles) and it would put a chink in the chain of British naval bases in the Mediterranean linking Gibraltar and Suez. It all seemed reasonable enough, and at an April 21 conference with representatives of the Luftwaffe, Adolf Hitler gave his assent. Four days later, on April 25, Führer Directive 28 would contain the outline for Operation Mercury, the airdrop on Crete.

AS WAS TYPICAL OF GERMAN OPERATIONS over the years, all this was done very quickly. For centuries, Ger­man planners and field commanders alike had favored the kurtz und vives campaign, a &ldquoshort and lively&rdquo blow that hit the enemy hard and fast and left him too dazed to respond. The desired end-state was the Kessel­schlacht, the &ldquocauldron&rdquo battle that encircled and destroyed the enemy. It had worked well over the years, but the stress on maneuver often meant that other important aspects of war making&mdashthings like intelligence gathering, counterintelligence, transport, supply, and logistics&mdashwere given short shrift.

So it was with Crete. No one in the German high command had given the island much thought until April 1941, and now suddenly there were plans to conquer it.

Moreover, the operation had to be wrapped up quickly. Hitler already had his sights set on the great campaign in the east, Operation Barbarossa, to be launched in June. Directive 28 stated specifically that Operation Mercury was in no way to delay the start of operations against the Soviet Union.

Such a helter-skelter approach meant that there were loose ends aplenty. The 22nd Luftland Division, for example, was unavailable. It was in Romania, helping guard the Ploesti oil fields against any Soviet threat, and there was neither the time nor the available transport to bring it south. In its place was the veteran 5th Mountain Division. It was exhausted, to be sure, from the pounding march over the mountains in the recently concluded Greek campaign, but as always that left German planners unmoved. If the men were tired, they could rest after they had conquered Crete. The bigger problem was that the division was not configured for landing from the air, nor had it ever been transported by air.

Likewise, the haste in launching this operation meant that it would be impossible to gather enough transport aircraft to get the entire 7th Flieger Division to Crete at once. Even if all the aircraft had been available, the airfields and facilities in southern Greece were completely insufficient to hold and service them all. As a result, an already complex plan to land the paratroops in three groups&mdashWest, Center, and East, corresponding to the Maleme-Canea sector, the Suda-Retimo sector, and the Heraklion sector&mdashhad to cope with further complication.

Now the three groups would have to land in two separate waves, with the first landing in the morning and a second later in the day. Group West would be part of Wave 1 Group East part of Wave 2. Between these sites, however, Group Center would be split, with part of it landing in the morning and part in the afternoon. The prize for each of these groups was an airfield: at Maleme in the west, at Retimo in the center, and at Heraklion in the east. Once the paratroops had secured an airfield, the 5th Mountain Division would fly in and land, supplying the muscle to conquer the rest of the island.

It wasn&rsquot necessary for all three airfields to fall, but it was absolutely imperative that one of them be controlled in the first 48 hours, the approximate hold-out limit for the lightly armed paratroops. Then, once a sizable portion of the coastline was in German hands, there would be a third phase, when a motley flotilla of motorized sailboats, Greek caïques, and, frankly, anything else that would float shipping the rest of the 5th Mountain Division to Crete. Needless to say, this was not a simple operational prospectus.

THERE WAS ONE LAST PROBLEM. The haste of the planning process made it impossible to establish an accurate estimate of Commonwealth strength on the island. Even by the usually low standards of German intelligence gathering, there was a serious undercounting. The Germans, with a force of some 22,000, expected to meet some 15,000 enemy troops on Crete. The actual number on the ground was more like 42,000, including the better part of two complete divisions: the 2nd New Zealand in the western sector of the island and the 6th Australian in the east. Even considering that 10,000 of these were poorly armed Greek troops, it was a still formidable force to defend a mountainous island that was only 140 miles long and just seven miles wide at its narrowest.

Despite all the ad hockery, improvisation, and misfires, Operation Mercury would turn out to be yet another military history milestone for the Wehrmacht: the first operation conceived, planned, and executed solely by parachute troops. It would be much larger than any previous German paratroop operation. Making the jump this time would not be a battalion or a handful of companies but the entire 7th Flieger Division, under the command of Lt. Gen. Wilhelm Süssmann. It would be assisted by a special assault detachment (Sturmregiment) of four battalions: three consisting of parachute troops and one of glider-borne infantry. Two regiments of the 5th Mountain Division, under the command of Maj. Gen. Julius Ringel, were standing in Greece, ready to be flown to Crete once the paratroops had seized an airfield. Air support, in the form of Lt. Gen. Wolfram von Richthofen&rsquos VIII Fliegerkorps, would be lavish: almost 300 medium bombers, 150 Junkers Ju-87 Stuka dive-bombers 100 Me-109 fighters, and about the same number of the twin-engine Messerschmitt Me-110 fighter-bombers.

Off they went. At first light on May 20, 1941, the skies over Crete were suddenly filled with German transport aircraft. Paratroops landed up and down the length of the island, both by parachute and by glider. The three principal targets&mdashthe Maleme-Canea sector, Retimo, and Heraklion&mdashwere spread along 70 miles of the northern coast of Crete. [See map.] Student&rsquos troops were landing everywhere, relying heavily upon the disruptive effect of airborne surprise. Student called it a &ldquospreading oil slick,&rdquo with small groups inundating the countryside, then eventually forming up into a larger mass. Once again, as in Denmark and Norway, the Germans demonstrated their gift for solid staff work, and all of these widely dispersed landings were on time and on target.

THIS TIME THE DROP turned into a bloodbath. Since the airdrop was such a rushed affair, the Germans had made no real effort to disguise the buildup of their air assets in Greece. Using information gleaned from British intelligence intercepts, Commonwealth planners knew every detail of the German airborne plan well before it began. When the 7th Flieger Division landed, the defenders were ready. Every landing was made under heavy fire and suffered heavy losses&mdasha paratrooper&rsquos nightmare. Hundreds of men died before they even hit the ground.

At Maleme, the defending New Zealanders had honeycombed the gently sloping and terraced hills with machine gun nests and artillery emplacements. These now literally exploded into fire around the beleaguered paratroops.

A glider detachment under Maj. Walter Koch, meant to blaze a trail for the follow-on paratroops, was the first casualty. Defenders blew one glider after another out of the sky, and Koch himself soon went down with a head wound. New Zealanders virtually destroyed the 3rd Battalion of the Sturmregiment, 600 men under the command of Maj. Otto Scherber, east of Maleme. In the opening minutes of Operation Mercury, almost 400 would die, including Scherber himself. Officer casualties were especially problematic, leading to command-and-control problems from the outset.

General Süssmann, the divisional commander, never even made it to Crete the wings of his glider tore off while still in Greek airspace and he was killed over the island of Aegina. Likewise, the commander of the Sturmregiment, Brig. Gen. Eugen Meindl, took a burst of fire in the chest. He would command his unit for the rest of the day, blood oozing from his wound, until he was evacuated from Greece on May 21.

As bad as the first wave had it, the second had it far worse: the paratroops in the later jumps at Retimo and Heraklion landed on fully alerted defensive positions. The phrase that comes to mind is &ldquoturkey shoot.&rdquo At Retimo, ground fire from the 2/1 Australian Battalion virtually destroyed two battalions of the 2nd Parachute Regiment under Col. Alfred Sturm. One Australian soldier described the greeting they gave the paratroops as &ldquoEmpire Day, with everyone firing.&rdquo

The same thing happened at Heraklion the sacrificial victim this time was the 3rd Parachute Regiment under Col. Bruno Bräuer. Here, hours of preparatory bombing by the Luftwaffe produced not a single casualty among the dug-in defenders of the 2/4 Australian Battalion. The raids did serve to announce the coming of the paratroops, however, and antiaircraft fire blew one transport plane after another out of the air. The Australians even had a handful of tanks at Heraklion, and several hapless paratroopers perished under their tracks. The Black Watch Regiment was defending near the Heraklion runway. Its regimental history describes the situation:

Every soldier picked his swaying target and fired and picked another and fired again. Many Germans landed dead, many were riddled as they hung in trees and telephone wires, some tangled with each other and fell like stones, one was cut up by another aircraft&hellip

At both of these later drops, the surviving paratroops could do nothing but make a mad scramble off of their landing zones, head for the relative safety of the mountains, and wait to be relieved.

But things didn&rsquot get much better for those lucky enough to survive the other landings. German intelligence failures now came home to roost. Virtually everything was wrong, from the number and composition of the defending Commonwealth forces to the attitude of the civilian population. Enemy strongpoints appeared on German maps as &ldquoartesian wells.&rdquo A position that was marked as &ldquoa British ration supply depot&rdquo on the road between Alikianou and Canea, a perfect target for paratroops, turned out to be a large walled prison.

The Greeks, barely considered in the German plan, fought well, as they had against Italy since the previous October. At Kastelli, the 1st Greek Regiment smashed a detachment of the Sturmregiment and killed the commander, Lt. Peter Mürbe. The Cretans, who were supposedly anti-British, joined eagerly in the defense of their homeland, taking potshots at the Germans, spearing wounded paratroopers, or mutilating the dead. (An uncounted number of Cretans would pay with their lives during German reprisals after the campaign.)

Moreover, this disastrous first day was taking place against the backdrop of a relentless timetable. It wasn&rsquot enough for the paratroops to simply consolidate, a task that would have been hard enough under the circumstances they had to move out and seize an airfield. Lightly armed for greater mobility (most jumped with only a pistol, four hand grenades, and a knife), paratroopers could not long sustain combat with ordinary infantry. Their small arms came down in separate canisters for them to retrieve after landing, but the landings had been under such heavy fire that the German jumpers never did get to most of their canisters. By the end of the first day, none of the three airfields on Crete was anywhere close to being in German hands.

Ultimately, it was the tangled nature of the Commonwealth command structure on Crete that rescued Operation Mercury. Lt. Gen. Bernard Freyberg, the commander of the force defending Crete (called Creforce) as well as the 2nd New Zealand Division, had only received his appointment on April 30, and he must have wondered what he had gotten into. The ragged remnants of the same units that had been dismantled by the Germans in Greece, Creforce was a disparate grouping: 17,000 British, a large number of Greeks (perhaps 10,000 to 12,000), some 8,000 New Zealanders, and more than 6,000 Australians. Given enough time to drill and work out acceptable command procedures, and with a victory or two under its belt, such a force might have become a well-oiled machine. That was not the case on Crete. One officer put it this way:

We were a motley collection. We didn&rsquot know where our own people were we didn&rsquot know where the enemy were many people had no rifles and no ammunition. If anyone fired at you, he might be (a) an enemy, (b) a friend, (c) a friend or an enemy who didn&rsquot know who the hell you were, or (d) someone not firing at you at all.

Making the command situation even more chaotic was the presence of large numbers of Cretan irregulars fighting on the Allied side, some 16,000 Italian prisoners taken by the Greeks in the mainland fighting, and the king of the Hellenes, George II. Thousands of noncombatant Commonwealth troops also shared the island. These were depot and support formations, part of the logistical train for the failed expedition to Greece. Units like the Australian Army Service Corps Stevedore Company, the 1003 Docks Operation Company, and the Mobile Naval Base Defense Organization Maintenance and Labour Units were not going to aid materially in the defense.

They were mouths to feed, however, and their survival was absolutely essential to the future defense of Egypt.

Moreover, Freyberg could not simply plan to counter enemy paratroops. He also had to worry about landings from the sea. We may know today that Axis amphibious landings were a forlorn hope Freyberg certainly did not. Having so many dissimilar forces assigned so many different missions left Freyberg unable to coordinate his response to the landings. Creforce units that observed German airlandings did their best, and in many cases shot them to pieces. But far too many units on Crete simply stayed in place, waiting for orders that never came.

While Creforce outnumbered the Germans, the imbalance in airpower more than offset that advantage. It is incredible that Prime Minister Winston Churchill could tell Freyberg to hold Crete to the last man and to turn the port of Suda into &ldquoa second Scapa,&rdquo then expect him to do that with three dozen aircraft, only half of which were serviceable at any one time. The British, however, needed to preserve their front-line aircraft for Egypt.

Freyberg had earned a reputation as a fighter in World War I, and had a Victoria Cross to prove it, but he could see that the situation here was probably irremediable. So he spent most of May attempting to turn his tattered force into an army, all the while observing the depressing spectacle of uncontested sorties by Richthofen&rsquos squadrons turning northern Crete into an inferno. Once the battle started, it only got worse, as Creforce reserves found that road movement attracted Stukas.

German air superiority had a lot to do with the most famous&mdashor infamous&mdashevent in the battle for Crete. The airfield at Maleme quickly became the focus of the fighting. When elements from the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Battalions of the Sturmregiment formed up and headed for the field, they had come under heavy fire from a dominant height to the south, known to the locals as Kavsakia Hill but destined to go down in history as Hill 107. A Commonwealth infantry battalion, the 22nd New Zealand, held it firmly.

The first day saw a daylong, back-and-forth struggle for Hill 107. It was a confusing fight, without clear front lines, and with heavy losses on both sides. In the course of the day, the Germans fought with an increasing sense of desperation. The campaign, and the very survival of 7th Flieger Division, hung in the balance. The commander of the 22nd New Zealand, Lt. Col. L. W. Andrew, however, was feeling the same kind of pressure. His casualties had been heavy (about half of his unit), communication with his subordinate companies was intermittent, and the counterattack he launched late in the afternoon, spearheaded by two Matilda infantry tanks, had broken down as soon as it began. The struggle for Hill 107 was a classic example of an information-poor battle for both sides, and, typically, both felt that they were losing.

It certainly seemed that way to Student, as bad news poured into his headquarters at the Grande Bretagne Hotel in Athens. Not only had his men failed to seize an airfield but it wasn&rsquot even possible to say that any of his forces had a secure airhead. Maleme, where Ger­man forces held about half the field, was the only place on the map where they were even close to success.

STUDENT NOW MADE A BOLD and risky decision: The next day, the 5th Mountain Division would begin landing at Maleme, whatever the situation there. His original plans had called for the first reinforcements to land at Heraklion, since it was centrally located on the island&rsquos north coast. He now scrapped that plan in favor of ramming everything he could find into Maleme. He also decided to land the few reinforcements he had left&mdasha mere handful of companies&mdashto assist the Sturmregiment in its fight for Maleme airfield.

Just as Student was reaching his decision, the New Zealanders around Maleme were reaching one of their own. Believing the German force to be much larger than it actually was, having no contact with his neighboring battalions, and fearing that the long arm of the Luftwaffe would return in the morning, Colonel Andrew decided to withdraw from Hill 107. As we survey the situation today, his decision seems disastrous, but not incomprehensible. The New Zealand official history comments, fairly, on the &ldquohard conditions in which he had to make his choice.&rdquo

[Andrew] had spent a most exacting day trying to control a battle where all the circumstances were inimical to control. Communications within his battalion had failed him almost completely and outside it they had proved extremely bad. He and his HQ had been severely harassed by bombing and strafing throughout the day to an extent for which neither training nor experience had prepared them. The enemy attack itself was of a kind still novel and from the start induced the feeling&mdashand the reality as well&mdashof enemy all round the perimeter and inside it also. Then battle had begun with an enemy breach in the defence. The support he had expected and counted on from 21 and 23 Battalions had failed to materialise and this meant a radical departure from the original battle plan.

Indeed, Andrew had spent much of the day pleading for reinforcements from his commander, Brig. James Hargest of the 5th New Zealand Brigade, and threatening to withdraw from Hill 107 if they did not show up soon. Hargest had two other battalions that had more than held their own that day, but also had to be concerned about a seaborne landing east of Maleme and further airborne drops.

The official history says, charitably perhaps, that he &ldquomisread the situation.&rdquo That evening, Andrew&rsquos 22nd New Zealand Battalion moved east, eventually linking up with its sister battalions, the 21st and 23rd.

EARLY IN THE MORNING on May 21, the Germans launched a last, desperate assault against Hill 107. Leading one of the columns was a first lieutenant, Horst Trebes. Leading the other was Dr. Heinrich Neumann, the chief regimental surgeon and now a de facto battalion commander. To the astonishment and relief of the Germans, the hill was empty.

There was still tough fighting this day, however, as Trebes, Neumann, and men like them, commanding improvised squads of surviving German paratroops, fought to push back the Commonwealth defenders from Maleme airfield. They succeeded only partially, and on the afternoon of May 21 the airfield was still within range of enemy artillery. Just 24 hours into the operations, Mercury was about to reach a dramatic climax.

Around 5 p.m., the first Ju-52s began to arrive. They had to run another gauntlet of fire, many aircraft being blown apart as they tried to land, others skidding off the short, 2,000-foot runway (just a &ldquopostage stamp,&rdquo one German report called it). Soon, the blazing wrecks of more than 80 aircraft and hundreds of dead bodies littered the airfield. Planes landed, disgorged their men and cargo, and immediately took off again. Gradually, enough aircraft made it safely down, either on the airstrip or directly on the beach, to deliver a battalion of the 100th Mountain Regiment under Col. Willibald Utz, and then elements of the 85th under Col. August Krakau. By nightfall, these units were in action, with their organic light artillery on and around the airfield. The next day they began slithering up the winding mule paths into the mountains to silence the British guns.

Although there was tough fighting left, the arrival of 5th Mountain Division had sealed the fate of Creforce. Through the rest of the campaign, the Germans were driving east out of Maleme. General Ringel was now in overall command of Ger­man troops on Crete, and he handled this part of the operation deftly, combining a series of direct thrusts along the coastal road by the paratroops with flanking maneuvers to the south by his tough mountaineers. As always in this phase of the war, these maneuvers took place under cover of nonstop bombing and strafing by Richthofen&rsquos Stukas and Messerschmitts.

Commonwealth troops abandoned one defensive position after another, usually after the Germans had turned their positions. The New Zealanders put up one hard fight at the town of Galatas, between Maleme and Suda, on May 25. The Germans took the town, lost it to a Kiwi counterattack, and then took it back again the next morning. The New Zealanders even took prisoners here, including Cpl. Hans Kreindler (who earlier described his harrowing jump). He would be freed once his comrades had retaken the town, and would go on to survive the war.

Freyberg had by now decided to abandon the island. Over the next three days, his little army had to cross Crete&rsquos mountainous spine under heavy air attack and with Utz&rsquos 100th Mountain Regiment nipping at its heels, make for the tiny port of Sfakia on the southern coast, 40 miles away. Even the British official history called it a &ldquomelancholy&rdquo occasion.

Once at Sfakia, the British managed to carry out yet another evacuation under fire. It was the usual British combination, one that the Germans had run into before: a tenacious rear-guard effort, led by Col. Robert Laycock&rsquos battalion-sized commando unit, known as Layforce and the heroism of the officers and men of the Royal Navy, who carried out their mission while dodging&mdashor failing to dodge&mdashLuftwaffe bombs the entire time. Still, it was far from a complete success for the British. Some 16,000 Commonwealth troops managed to get away.

The Hellenic king escaped as well, after a few harrowing moments when German paratroops dropped just outside the villa sheltering him. Yet about 13,000 men fell into German hands, including virtually all the defensive garrisons in the eastern zones of Retimo and Heraklion. It was all over by May 31.

What are the lessons of Mercury? Friends of the airborne claim it was a clear demonstration of the power of the parachute arm. Student&rsquos intrepid Fallschirmjäger, they argue, attacked and seized an island surrounded by hostile waters, held by defenders who outnumbered them by some three to one, and who knew they were coming.

Naysayers, however, point out its very high human cost. The Germans lost some 4,000 men killed and 2,500 wounded from a single, small division of just 12,000 men. These were elite soldiers, and expensive ones, moreover, with highly specialized skills and training. They could not be easily replaced.

This was the point of view of the one man on the German side who counted, Adolf Hitler. &ldquoCrete proved that the days of the parachute troops are over,&rdquo he told Student at a July 17 reception in honor of bearers of the Ritterkreuz (Knight&rsquos Cross). Paratroops had lost the element of surprise, Hitler said. Student, shaken by the loss of so many of the men he had trained personally, called Crete the &ldquograveyard of the German airborne force.&rdquo Never again would the Wehr­macht launch a large-scale airborne operation.

The Allies, however, apparently learned the exact opposite lesson. Having lost Crete, they began to consider what other feats paratroops might accomplish. In the wake of Operation Mercury, they began to enlarge and upgrade their airborne forces, and to ready them for action. At the time of Mercury, for example, there was a lone American parachute battalion. Five months later, there were four. Once the United States had entered the war, those battalions quickly became regiments, then divisions, and eventually formed the world&rsquos first paratroop corps, the XVIII Airborne.

HISTORIANS AND PUNDITS ALIKE have criticized Hitler&rsquos verdict. It is one of those inexplicably bad führer decisions on which the issue of the war allegedly hung. But how wrong was he in this case? Certainly, the Allied experience with airborne landings would be mixed: a near fiasco on Sicily, where transports disgorged many of their paratroops into the sea near chaos behind Utah Beach in June 1944, where only the weak nature of Ger­man opposition prevented a potential disaster and finally, a real debacle at Arnhem in Operation Market Garden in September 1944.

About the catastrophic Soviet airborne drop at Kanev in 1943, perhaps the less said, the better. Suffice it to point out that it is probably not a good idea to wait to brief aircrews and paratroops on an airborne mission until they are already in the air, and that dropping an airborne force directly onto a panzer division is rarely a good practice.

Nor is it wise to carry out a drop without performing at least a rudimentary reconnaissance of hostile antiaircraft assets. For all these reasons, the Germans crushed the landings the few Soviet airborne troops (desantniki) who survived found themselves scattered helplessly over an area 20 miles wide by 60 miles long.

What of Mercury itself, however? On one level, it showcased German operational skills. These included split-second timing, extremely close liaison between ground and air forces, the ease with which Ger­man infantry and gunners formed ad hoc task forces under fire, and Student&rsquos leap into the breach opened by the evacuation of Hill 107. Such things had been seen before in German military history, and they would be seen again. The entire campaign was audacious, involving, as Student pointed out, &ldquoour one parachute division, our one glider regiment, and the 5th Mountain Division, which had no previous experience of being transported by air.&rdquo The victory on Crete was hard fought, but not undeserved.

There were problems here, however warning signs for future German operations. The Wehrmacht&rsquos intelligence before the drop had not been merely insufficient, it had been abysmal. The Germans grossly underestimated the size of the Commonwealth force on Crete. Counterintelligence had been altogether absent. The Germans had made no effort to hide their airborne buildup in Greece, and the British were able to predict with remarkable accuracy what was about to hit them.

The drop was so dispersed and scattered that it is impossible to detect a &ldquopoint of main effort,&rdquo or Schwerpunkt, something that had traditionally been crucial to German military operations. They tried to be strong everywhere on Crete, and were strong nowhere. The final verdict: Any operation that requires heavily laden transport aircraft to land on an airstrip under direct fire of artillery has probably cut things just a bit too close.

Finally, what of those brave men who had the unenviable task of jumping into die Hölle von Malemes (the hell of Maleme)? For all the time and care and calculation that go into an airdrop, operational planning will never be an exact science, no matter who is doing it. This is true for a German operation like Mercury, planned on the fly in a matter of weeks, and it is also true for an Allied operation like Overlord, planned systematically by an army of technicians over a span of 18 months.

No military planner or staff officer wakes up in the morning and decides to foul things up on purpose. The complexity of military operations in the modern age, however, virtually guarantees that things can and will go wrong, often terribly wrong. Eighteen months of meticulous Allied planning really did, after all, result in a frontal assault by a single U.S. infantry division against a German infantry division dug into the bluffs of Omaha Beach.

So it was on Crete, where some very fine military minds put together a plan that caused many men&mdashfar too many&mdashto jump to their deaths.

Robert M. Citino, a history professor at the University of North Texas, has written extensively on the German army. His most recent book is The Wehrmacht Retrreats (University of Kansas).


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Contents

It was not until 1963 that evidence of the presence of ancient hominids was discovered in Ethiopia, many years after similar discoveries had been made in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania. The discovery was made by Gerrard Dekker, a Dutch hydrologist, who found Acheulian stone tools that were over a million years old at the Kella site, near Awash. [5] Since then many important finds have propelled Ethiopia to the forefront of palaeontology. The oldest hominid discovered to date in Ethiopia is the 4.2 million year old Ardipithicus ramidus (Ardi) found by Tim D. White in 1994. [6] The most well known hominid discovery is Lucy, found in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia's Afar region in 1974 by Donald Johanson, and is one of the most complete and best preserved, adult Australopithecine fossils ever uncovered. Lucy's taxonomic name, Australopithecus afarensis, means 'southern ape of Afar', and refers to the Ethiopian region where the discovery was made. Lucy is estimated to have lived 3.2 million years ago. [7]

There have been many other notable fossil findings in the country. In Gona stone tools were uncovered in 1992 that were 2.52 million years old, these are the oldest such tools ever discovered anywhere in the world. [8] In 2010 fossilised animal bones, that were 3.4 million years old, were found with stone-tool-inflicted marks on them in the Lower Awash Valley by an international team, led by Shannon McPherron, which is the oldest evidence of stone tool use ever found anywhere in the world. [9] In 2004 fossils found near the Omo river at Kibbish by Richard Leakey in 1967 were redated to 195,000 years old, the oldest date in East Africa for modern Homo sapiens. Homo sapiens idaltu, found in the Middle Awash in Ethiopia in 1997, lived about 160,000 years ago. [10]

Some of the earliest known evidence of early stone-tipped projectile weapons (a characteristic tool of Homo sapiens), the stone tips of javelins or throwing spears, were discovered in 2013 at the Ethiopian site of Gademotta, and date to around 279,000 years ago. [11] In 2019, further evidence of Middle Stone Age complex projectile weapons was found at Aduma, also in Ethiopia, dated 100,000-80,000 years ago, in the form of points considered likely to belong to darts delivered by spear throwers. [12]

The earliest records of Ethiopia appear in Ancient Egypt, during the Old Kingdom period. Egyptian traders from about 3000 BC refer to lands south of Nubia or Kush as Punt and Yam. The Ancient Egyptians were in possession of myrrh (found in Punt), which Richard Pankhurst interprets to indicate trade between the two countries was extant from Ancient Egypt's beginnings. Pharaonic records indicate this possession of myrrh as early as the First and Second dynasties (3100–2888 BC), which was also a prized product of the Horn of Africa Region inscriptions and pictorial reliefs also indicate ivory, panther and other animal skins, myrrh-trees and ostrich feathers from the African coastal belt and in the Fourth Egyptian Dynasty (2789–2767 BC) a Puntite is mentioned to be in the service of the son of Cheops, the builder of the Great Pyramid. [13] J. H. Breasted posited that this early trade relationship could have been realized through overland trade down the Nile and its tributaries (i.e. the Blue Nile and Atbara). The Greek historian and geographer Agatharchides had documented seafaring among the early Egyptians: "During the prosperous period of the Old Kingdom, between the 30th and 25th centuries B. C., the river-routes were kept in order, and Egyptian ships sailed the Red Sea as far as the myrrh-country." [14]

The first known voyage to Punt occurred in the 25th century BC under the reign of Pharaoh Sahure. The most famous expedition to Punt, however, comes during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut probably around 1495 BC, as the expedition was recorded in detailed reliefs on the temple of Deir el-Bahri at Thebes. The inscriptions depict a trading group bringing back myrrh trees, sacks of myrrh, elephant tusks, incense, gold, various fragmented wood, and exotic animals. Detailed information about these two nations is sparse, and there are many theories concerning their locations and the ethnic relationship of their peoples. The Egyptians sometimes called the Land of Punt, "God's-Land", due to the "large quantities of gold, ivory, and myrrh that could be easily obtained". [15]

Evidence of Naqadan contacts include obsidian from Ethiopia and the Aegean. [16]

Etymology Edit

Ancient Greek historians such as Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus used the word Aethiopia (Αἰθιοπία) is used to refer to the peoples who live immediately to the south of ancient Egypt, specifically the area now known as the ancient Kingdom of Kush, now a part of modern-day Nubia in Egypt and Sudan, as well as all of Sub-Saharan Africa in general. The name Aethiopia comes from the ancient Greek word "Aethiops" (burned-look). [17]

In ancient times the name Ethiopia was primarily used to refer to the modern-day nation of Sudan which is based in the Upper Nile valley and located south of Egypt, also called Kush, and then secondarily in reference to Sub-Saharan Africa in general. [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] Reference to the Kingdom of Aksum designated as Ethiopia dates only as far back as the first half of the 4th century CE following the 4th century CE invasion of Kush in Sudan by the Aksumite empire. Earlier inscription of Ezana Habashat (the source for "Abyssinia") in Ge'ez, South Arabian alphabet, was then translated in Greek as "Aethiopia".

The state of Sheba which is mentioned in the Old Testament is sometimes believed to have been in Ethiopia, but it is more often placed in Yemen. According to the Ethiopian narrative, best represented in the Kebra Nagast, the Queen of Sheba slept with King Solomon and bore a child named Ebn Melek (later Emperor Menelik I). When he was of age, Menelik returned to Israel to see his father, who sent with him the son of Zadok to accompany him with a replica of the Ark of the Covenant (Ethiosemitic: tabot). On his return with some of the Israelite priests, however, he found that Zadok's son had stolen the real Ark of the Covenant. Some believe the Ark is still being preserved today at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum, Ethiopia. The tradition that the biblical Queen of Sheba was a ruler of Ethiopia who visited King Solomon in Jerusalem in ancient Israel is supported by the 1st century AD Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who identified Solomon's visitor as a queen of Egypt and Ethiopia.

Dʿmt Edit

The first kingdom known to have existed in Ethiopia was the kingdom of D'mt, which rose to power around the 10th century BCE. Its capital was at Yeha, where a Sabaean style temple was built around 700 BCE. The D'mt kingdom was influenced by the Sabaeans in Yemen, however it is not known to what extent. While it was once believed that D'mt was a Sabaean colony, it is now believed that Sabaean influence was minor, limited to a few localities, and disappeared after a few decades or a century, perhaps representing a trading or military colony in some sort of symbiosis or military alliance with the civilization of Dʿmt or some other proto-Aksumite state. [27] [28] Few inscriptions by or about this kingdom survive and very little archaeological work has taken place. As a result, it is not known whether Dʿmt ended as a civilization before Aksum's early stages, evolved into the Aksumite state, or was one of the smaller states united in the Aksumite kingdom possibly around the beginning of the 1st century. [29]

Axum Edit

The first verifiable kingdom of great power to rise in Ethiopia was that of Axum in the 1st century CE. It was one of many successor kingdoms to Dʿmt and was able to unite the northern Ethiopian Highlands beginning around the 1st century BCE. They established bases on the northern highlands of the Ethiopian Plateau and from there expanded southward. The Persian religious figure Mani listed Axum with Rome, Persia, and China as one of the four great powers of his time. The origins of the Axumite Kingdom are unclear, although experts have offered their speculations about it. Even who should be considered the earliest known king is contested: although Carlo Conti Rossini proposed that Zoskales of Axum, mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, should be identified with one Za Haqle mentioned in the Ethiopian King Lists (a view embraced by later historians of Ethiopia such as Yuri M. Kobishchanov [30] and Sergew Hable Sellasie), G.W.B. Huntingford argued that Zoskales was only a sub-king whose authority was limited to Adulis, and that Conti Rossini's identification can not be substantiated. [31]

Inscriptions have been found in southern Arabia celebrating victories over one GDRT, described as "nagashi of Habashat [i.e. Abyssinia] and of Axum." Other dated inscriptions are used to determine a floruit for GDRT (interpreted as representing a Ge'ez name such as Gadarat, Gedur, Gadurat or Gedara) around the beginning of the 3rd century CE. A bronze scepter or wand has been discovered at Atsbi Dera with an inscription mentioning "GDR of Axum". Coins showing the royal portrait began to be minted under King Endubis toward the end of the 3rd century CE.

Christianity Introduced Edit

Christianity was introduced into the country by Frumentius, [32] who was consecrated first bishop of Ethiopia by Saint Athanasius of Alexandria about 330 CE. Frumentius converted Ezana, who left several inscriptions detailing his reign both before and after his conversion.

One inscription found at Axum states that he conquered the nation of the Bogos, and returned thanks to his father, the god Mars, for his victory. Later inscriptions show Ezana's growing attachment to Christianity, and Ezana's coins bear this out, shifting from a design with disc and crescent to a design with a cross. Expeditions by Ezana into the Kingdom of Kush at Meroe in Sudan may have brought about its demise, though there is evidence that the kingdom was experiencing a period of decline beforehand. As a result of Ezana's expansions, Aksum bordered the Roman province of Egypt. The degree of Ezana's control over Yemen is uncertain. Though there is little evidence supporting Aksumite control of the region at that time, his title, which includes King of Saba and Salhen, Himyar and Dhu-Raydan (all in modern-day Yemen), along with gold Aksumite coins with the inscriptions, "King of the Habshat" or "Habashite", indicate that Aksum might have retained some legal or actual footing in the area. [33]

Toward the close of the 5th century CE, a group of monks known as the Nine Saints are believed to have established themselves in the country. Since that time, monasticism has been a power among the people, and not without its influence on the course of events.

The Axumite Kingdom is recorded once again as controlling part – if not all – of Yemen in the 6th century CE. Around 523 CE, the Jewish king Dhu Nuwas came to power in Yemen and, announcing that he would kill all the Christians, attacked an Aksumite garrison at Zafar, burning the city's churches. He then attacked the Christian stronghold of Najran, slaughtering the Christians who would not convert.

Emperor Justin I of the Eastern Roman Empire requested that his fellow Christian, Kaleb, help fight the Yemenite king. Around 525 CE, Kaleb invaded and defeated Dhu Nuwas, appointing his Christian follower Sumuafa' Ashawa' as his viceroy. This dating is tentative, however, as the basis of the year 525 CE for the invasion is based on the death of the ruler of Yemen at the time, who very well could have been Kaleb's viceroy. Procopius records that after about five years, Abraha deposed the viceroy and made himself king (Histories 1.20). Despite several attempted invasions across the Red Sea, Kaleb was unable to dislodge Abreha, and acquiesced in the change this was the last time Ethiopian armies left Africa until the 20th century CE when several units participated in the Korean War. Eventually Kaleb abdicated in favor of his son Wa'zeb and retired to a monastery, where he ended his days. Abraha later made peace with Kaleb's successor and recognized his suzerainty. Despite this reverse, under Ezana and Kaleb the kingdom was at its height, benefiting from a large trade, which extended as far as India and Ceylon, and were in constant communication with the Byzantine Empire.

Details of the Axumite Kingdom, never abundant, become even more scarce after this point. The last king known to mint coins is Armah, whose coinage refers to the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 CE. An early Muslim tradition is that the Negus Sahama offered asylum to a group of Muslims fleeing persecution during Muhammad's life (615 CE), but Stuart Munro-Hay believes that Axum had been abandoned as the capital by then [34] – although Kobishchanov states that Ethiopian raiders plagued the Red Sea, preying on Arabian ports at least as late as 702 CE. [35]

Some people believed the end of the Axumite Kingdom is as much of a mystery as its beginning. Lacking a detailed history, the kingdom's fall has been attributed to a persistent drought, overgrazing, deforestation, plague, a shift in trade routes that reduced the importance of the Red Sea—or a combination of these factors. Munro-Hay cites the Muslim historian Abu Ja'far al-Khwarazmi/Kharazmi (who wrote before 833 CE) as stating that the capital of "the kingdom of Habash" was Jarma. Unless Jarma is a nickname for Axum (hypothetically from Ge'ez girma, "remarkable, revered"), the capital had moved from Axum to a new site, yet undiscovered. [36]

Zagwe Dynasty Edit

About 1000 (presumably c. 960, though the date is uncertain), a non-Christian princess, Yodit ("Gudit", a play on Yodit meaning "evil"), conspired to murder all the members of the royal family and establish herself as monarch. According to legends, during the execution of the royals, an infant heir of the Axumite monarch was carted off by some faithful adherents and conveyed to Shewa, where his authority was acknowledged. Concurrently, Yodit reigned for forty years over the rest of the kingdom and transmitted the crown to her descendants. Though parts of this story were most likely made up by the Solomonic Dynasty to legitimize its rule, it is known that a female ruler did conquer the country about this time.

At one point during the next century, the last of Yodit's successors were overthrown by an Agaw lord named Mara Takla Haymanot, who founded the Zagwe dynasty (named after the Agaw people who ruled during this time) and married a female descendant of the Aksumite monarchs ("son-in-law") or previous ruler. Exactly when the new dynasty came to power is unknown, as is the number of kings in the dynasty. The new Zagwe dynasty established its capital at Roha (also called Adeffa), where they build a series of monolithic churches. These structures are traditionally ascribed to the King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, with the city being renamed Lalibela in his honour though in truth some of them were built before and after him. The architecture of the Zagwe shows a continuation of earlier Aksumite traditions, as can be seen at Lalibela and at Yemrehana Krestos Church. The building of rock-hewn churches, which first appeared in the late Aksumite era and continued into the Solomonic dynasty, reached its peak under the Zagwe.

The Zagwe dynasty controlled a smaller area than the Aksumites or the Solomonic dynasty, with its core in the Lasta region. The Zagwe seem to have ruled over a mostly peaceful state with a flourishing urban culture, in contrast to the more warlike Solomonids with their mobile capitals. David Buxton remarked that the Zagwe achieved 'a degree of stability and technical advancement seldom equalled in Abyssinian history'. The church and state were very closely linked, and they may have had a more theocratic society than the Aksumites or Solomonids, with three Zagwe kings being canonized as saints and one possibly being an ordained priest. [37]

Foreign affairs Edit

Unlike the Aksumites, the Zagwe were very isolated from the other Christian nations, although they did maintain a degree of contact through Jerusalem and Cairo. Like many other nations and denominations, the Ethiopian Church maintained a series of small chapels and even an annex at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. [40] Saladin, after retaking the Holy City in 1187, expressly invited the Ethiopian monks to return and even exempted Ethiopian pilgrims from the pilgrim tax. His two edicts provide evidence of Ethiopia's contact with these Crusader States during this period. [41] It was during this period that the Ethiopian king Gebre Mesqel Lalibela ordered the construction of the legendary rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.

Later, as the Crusades were dying out in the early fourteenth century, the Ethiopian Emperor Wedem Arad dispatched a thirty-man mission to Europe, where they travelled to Rome to meet the Pope and then, since the Medieval Papacy was in schism, they travelled to Avignon to meet the Antipope. During this trip, the Ethiopian mission also travelled to France, Spain and Portugal in the hopes of building an alliance against the Muslim states then threatening Ethiopia's existence. Plans were even drawn up of a two-pronged invasion of Egypt with the French King, but nothing ever came of the talks, although this brought Ethiopia back to Europe's attention, leading to expansion of European influence when the Portuguese explorers reached the Indian Ocean. [42]

Early Solomonic period (1270–1529) Edit

Around 1270, a new dynasty was established in the Abyssinian highlands under Yekuno Amlak, with aid from neighboring Makhzumi Dynasty deposed the last of the Zagwe kings and married one of his daughters. [43] According to legends, the new dynasty were male-line descendants of Aksumite monarchs, now recognized as the continuing Solomonic dynasty (the kingdom being thus restored to the biblical royal house). This legend was created to legitimize the Solomonic dynasty and was written down in the 14th century in the Kebra Negast, an account of the origins of the Solomonic dynasty.

Under the Solomonic dynasty, the chief provinces became Tigray (northern), what is now Amhara (central) and Shewa (southern). The seat of government, or rather of overlordship, had usually been in Amhara or Shewa, the ruler of which, calling himself nəgusä nägäst, exacted tribute, when he could, from the other provinces. The title of nəgusä nägäst was to a considerable extent based on their alleged direct descent from Solomon and the queen of Sheba but it is needless to say that in many, if not in most, cases their success was due more to the force of their arms than to the purity of their lineage. Under the early Solomonic dynasty Ethiopia engaged in military reforms and imperial expansion which left it dominating the Horn of Africa, especially under the rule of Amda Seyon I. There was also great artistic and literary advancement at this time, but also a decline in urbanisation as the Solomonic emperors didn't have any fixed capital, but rather moved around the empire in mobile camps.

Under the early Solomonic dynasty monasticism grew strongly. The abbot Abba Ewostatewos created a new order called the Ewostathians who called for reforms in the church, including observance of the Sabbath, but was persecuted for his views and eventually forced into exile, eventually dying in Armenia. His zealous followers, also persecuted, formed isolated communities in Tigray. The movement grew strong enough that the emperor Dawit I, after first trying to crush the movement, legalized their observance of the Sabbath and proselytization of their faith. Finally under Zara Yaqob a compromise was made between the new Egyptian bishops and the Ewostathians at the Council of Mitmaq in 1450, restoring unity to the Ethiopian church. [44]

Relations with Europe and "Prester John" Edit

An interesting side-effect of Ethiopian Christianity was the way it intersected with a belief that had long prevailed in Europe of the existence of a Christian kingdom in the far east, whose monarch was known as Prester John. Originally thought to have been in the Orient, eventually the search for Prester John's mythical kingdom focused on Africa and particularly, the Christian empire in Ethiopia. This was first noticed when Zara Yaqob sent delegates to the Council of Florence in order to establish ties with the papacy and Western Christianity. [45] They were confused when they arrived and council prelates insisted on calling their monarch Prester John, trying to explain that nowhere in Zara Yaqob's list of regnal names did that title occur. However, the delegates' admonitions did little to stop Europeans from referring to the monarch as their mythical Christian king, Prester John. [46]

Towards the close of the 15th century the Portuguese missions into Ethiopia began. Among others engaged in this search was Pêro da Covilhã, who arrived in Ethiopia in 1490, and, believing that he had at length reached the far-famed kingdom, presented to the nəgusä nägäst of the country (Eskender at the time) a letter from his master the king of Portugal, addressed to Prester John. Covilhã would establish positive relations between the two states and go on to remain there for many years. In 1509, Empress Dowager Eleni, the underage Emperor's regent, sent an Armenian named Matthew to the king of Portugal to request his aid against the Muslims. [47] In 1520, the Portuguese fleet, with Matthew on board, entered the Red Sea in compliance with this request, and an embassy from the fleet visited the Emperor, Lebna Dengel, and remained in Ethiopia for about six years. One of this embassy was Father Francisco Álvares, who wrote one of the earliest accounts of the country. [48]

The Abyssinian-Adal War (1529–1543) Edit

Between 1528 and 1540, the Adal Sultanate attempted, under Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi, to conquer the Ethiopian Empire. Entering, from the low country to the south-east, and overran much of the Ethiopian plateau, forcing the Emperor to take refuge in the mountain fastnesses. In this remote location, the ruler again turned to the Portuguese. João Bermudes, a subordinate member of the mission of 1520, who had remained in the country after the departure of the embassy, was sent to Lisbon. Bermudes claimed to be the ordained successor to the Abuna (archbishop), but his credentials are disputed. [ citation needed ]

In response to Bermudes message, a Portuguese fleet under the command of Estêvão da Gama, was sent from India and arrived at Massawa in February 1541. Here he received an ambassador from the Emperor beseeching him to send help against the Muslims, and in the July following a force of 400 musketeers, under the command of Cristóvão da Gama, younger brother of the admiral, marched into the interior, and being joined by native troops were at first successful against the enemy but they were subsequently defeated at the Battle of Wofla (28 August 1542), and their commander captured and executed. The 120 surviving Portuguese soldiers fled with Queen Mother Seble Wongel and regrouped with Ethiopian forces led by the Emperor to enact several defeats on the Adal over late 1542 and early 1543. [49] On February 21, 1543, Al-Ghazi was shot and killed in the Battle of Wayna Daga and his forces were totally routed. After this, quarrels arose between the Emperor and Bermudes, who had returned to Ethiopia with Gama and now urged the emperor to publicly profess his obedience to Rome. This the Emperor refused to do, and at length Bermudes was obliged to make his way out of the country. [48]

Oromo Movements Edit

The Oromo migrations were a series of expansions in the 16th and 17th centuries by the Oromo people from southern areas of Ethiopia to more northern regions. The migrations had a severe impact on the Solomonic dynasty of Abyssinia, as well as being the death blow to the recently defeated Adal Sultanate. The migrations concluded in around 1710, when the Oromo conquered the kingdom of Ennarea in the Gibe region. [ citation needed ]

In the 17th century, Ethiopian emperor Susenyos I relied on Oromo support to gain power, and married an Oromo woman. While initial relations between the Oromo and Amhara were cordial, conflict erupted after the emperor tried to convert the Oromo to Christianity. [50] Many Oromo entered in emperor Susenyos' domain in response. [50]

In the 17th and 18th centuries, much of the Oromo people gradually underwent conversion to Islam, especially around Harar, Arsi and Bale. The Oromo Muslims regarded the Imam of Harar as their spiritual guide, while retaining some of their original culture and socio-political organisation. Scholars believe the Oromo converted to Islam as a means of preserving their identity and a bulwark against assimilation into Ethiopia. [50]

By late 17th century, the Oromo had friendly relations with the Amharas. So when emperor Iyasu I tried to attack the Oromo, he was convinced by local Amharic rulers to back down. The Oromo also formed political coalitions with previously subdued people of Ethiopia, including the Sidama people and the locals of Ennarea, Gibe and Kingdom of Damot. [50]

Gondar as a third permanent capital (after Aksum and Lalibela) of the Christian Kingdom was founded by Fasiladas in 1636. It was the most important center of commerce for the Kingdom. [51]

Early Gondar period (1632–1769) Edit

The Jesuits who had accompanied or followed the Gama expedition into Ethiopia, and fixed their headquarters at Fremona (near Adwa), were oppressed and neglected, but not actually expelled. In the beginning of the 17th century Father Pedro Páez arrived at Fremona, a man of great tact and judgment, who soon rose into high favour at court, and won over the emperor to his faith. He directed the erection of churches, palaces and bridges in different parts of the country, and carried out many useful works. His successor Afonso Mendes was less tactful, and excited the feelings of the people against him and his fellow Europeans. Upon the death of Emperor Susenyos and accession of his son Fasilides in 1633, the Jesuits were expelled and the native religion restored to official status. Fasilides made Gondar his capital and built a castle there which would grow into the castle complex known as the Fasil Ghebbi, or Royal Enclosure. Fasilides also constructed several churches in Gondar, many bridges across the country, and expanded the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Aksum.

During this time of religious strife Ethiopian philosophy flourished, and it was during this period that the philosophers Zera Yacob and Walda Heywat lived. Zera Yaqob is known for his treatise on religion, morality, and reason, known as Hatata. [52]

Aussa Sultanate Edit

The Sultanate of Aussa (Afar Sultanate) succeeded the earlier Imamate of Aussa. The latter polity had come into existence in 1577, when Muhammed Jasa moved his capital from Harar to Aussa with the split of the Adal Sultanate into Aussa and the Harari city-state. At some point after 1672, Aussa declined and temporarily came to an end in conjunction with Imam Umar Din bin Adam's recorded ascension to the throne. [53]

The Sultanate was subsequently re-established by Kedafu around the year 1734, and was thereafter ruled by his Mudaito Dynasty. [54] The primary symbol of the Sultan was a silver baton, which was considered to have magical properties. [55]

Zemene Mesafint Edit

This era was, on one hand, a religious conflict between settling Muslims and traditional Christians, between nationalities they represented, and, on the other hand, between feudal lords on power over the central government.

Some historians date the murder of Iyasu I, and the resultant decline in the prestige of the dynasty, as the beginning of the Ethiopian Zemene Mesafint ("Era of the Princes"), a time of disorder when the power of the monarchy was eclipsed by the power of local warlords.

Nobles came to abuse their positions by making emperors, and encroached upon the succession of the dynasty, by candidates among the nobility itself: e.g. on the death of Emperor Tewoflos, the chief nobles of Ethiopia feared that the cycle of vengeance that had characterized the reigns of Tewoflos and Tekle Haymanot I would continue if a member of the Solomonic dynasty were picked for the throne, so they selected one of their own, Yostos to be negusa nagast (king of kings) – however his tenure was brief.

Iyasu II ascended the throne as a child. His mother, Empress Mentewab played a major role in Iyasu's reign, as well as her grandson Iyoas too. Mentewab had herself crowned as co-ruler, becoming the first woman to be crowned in this manner in Ethiopian history.

Empress Mentewab was crowned co-ruler upon the succession of her son (a first for a woman in Ethiopia) in 1730, and held unprecedented power over government during his reign. Her attempt to continue in this role following the death of her son 1755 led her into conflict with Wubit (Welete Bersabe), his widow, who believed that it was her turn to preside at the court of her own son Iyoas. The conflict between these two queens led to Mentewab summoning her Kwaran relatives and their forces to Gondar to support her. Wubit responded by summoning her own Oromo relatives and their considerable forces from Yejju.

The treasury of the Empire being allegedly penniless on the death of Iyasu, it suffered further from ethnic conflict between nationalities that had been part of the Empire for hundreds of years—the Agaw, Amharans, Showans, and Tigreans—and the Oromo newcomers. Mentewab's attempt to strengthen ties between the monarchy and the Oromo by arranging the marriage of her son to the daughter of an Oromo chieftain backfired in the long run. Iyasu II gave precedence to his mother and allowed her every prerogative as a crowned co-ruler, while his wife Wubit suffered in obscurity. Wubit waited for the accession of her own son to make a bid for the power wielded for so long by Mentewab and her relatives from Qwara. When Iyoas assumed the throne upon his father's sudden death, the aristocrats of Gondar were stunned to find that he more readily spoke in the Oromo language rather than in Amharic, and tended to favor his mother's Yejju relatives over the Qwarans of his grandmothers family. Iyoas further increased the favor given to the Oromo when adult. On the death of the Ras of Amhara, he attempted to promote his uncle Lubo governor of that province, but the outcry led his advisor Wolde Leul to convince him to change his mind.

It is believed that the power struggle between the Qwarans led by the Empress Mentewab, and the Yejju Oromos led by the Emperor's mother Wubit was about to erupt into an armed conflict. Ras Mikael Sehul was summoned to mediate between the two camps. He arrived and shrewdly maneuvered to sideline the two queens and their supporters making a bid for power for himself. Mikael settled soon as the leader of Amharic-Tigrean (Christian) camp of the struggle.

The reign of Iyaos' reign becomes a narrative of the struggle between the powerful Ras Mikael Sehul and the Oromo relatives of Iyoas. As Iyoas increasingly favored Oromo leaders like Fasil, his relations with Mikael Sehul deteriorated. Eventually Mikael Sehul deposed the Emperor Iyoas (7 May 1769). One week later, Mikael Sehul had him killed although the details of his death are contradictory, the result was clear: for the first time an Emperor had lost his throne in a means other than his own natural death, death in battle, or voluntary abdication.

Mikael Sehul had compromised the power of the Emperor, and from this point forward it lay ever more openly in the hands of the great nobles and military commanders. This point of time has been regarded as one start of the Era of the Princes.

An aged and infirm imperial uncle prince was enthroned as Emperor Yohannes II. Ras Mikael soon had him murdered, and underage Tekle Haymanot II was elevated to the throne.

This bitter religious conflict contributed to hostility toward foreign Christians and Europeans, which persisted into the 20th century and was a factor in Ethiopia's isolation until the mid-19th century, when the first British mission, sent in 1805 to conclude an alliance with Ethiopia and obtain a port on the Red Sea in case France conquered Egypt. The success of this mission opened Ethiopia to many more travellers, missionaries and merchants of all countries, and the stream of Europeans continued until well into Tewodros's reign.

This isolation was pierced by very few European travellers. One was the French physician C.J. Poncet, who went there in 1698, via Sennar and the Blue Nile. After him James Bruce entered the country in 1769, with the object of discovering the sources of the Nile, which he was convinced lay in Ethiopia. Accordingly, leaving Massawa in September 1769, he travelled via Axum to Gondar, where he was well received by Emperor Tekle Haymanot II. He accompanied the king on a warlike expedition round Lake Tana, moving South round the eastern shore, crossing the Blue Nile (Abay) close to its point of issue from the lake and returning via the western shore. Bruce subsequently returned to Egypt at the end of 1772 by way of the upper Atbara, through the kingdom of Sennar, the Nile, and the Korosko desert. During the 18th century the most prominent rulers were the emperor Dawit III of Gondar (died May 18, 1721), Amha Iyasus of Shewa, who consolidated his kingdom and founded Ankober, and Tekle Giyorgis of Amhara – the last-mentioned is famous as having been elevated to the throne altogether six times and also deposed six times. The first years of the 19th century were disturbed by fierce campaigns between Ras Gugsa of Begemder, and Ras Wolde Selassie of Tigray, who fought over control of the figurehead Emperor Egwale Seyon. Wolde Selassie was eventually the victor, and practically ruled the whole country till his death in 1816 at the age of eighty. [56] Dejazmach Sabagadis of Agame succeeded Wolde Selassie in 1817, through force of arms, to become warlord of Tigre.

1855–1936 Edit

Under the Emperors Tewodros II (1855–1868), Yohannes IV (1872–1889), and Menelik II (1889–1913), the empire began to emerge from its isolation. Under Emperor Tewodros II, the "Age of the Princes" (Zemene Mesafint) was brought to an end.


WWII Memorial revises history in Roosevelt quotation-Fiction!

A inscription on the new WW II memorial in Washington DC cites President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous “Day of infamy” quote about the attack of the Japanese on Pearl Harbor in 1941, but leaves out the phrase “So help us God.”

The eRumor is simply wrong.

There is a list of all the inscriptions on the World War II Memorial on the official website at www.wwiimemorial.com. One of them is from Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech, but is not the portion quoted in the eRumor.

According to the website, this is the inscription:

“DECEMBER 7, 1941, A DATE WHICH WILL LIVE IN INFAMY…NO
MATTER HOW LONG IT MAY TAKE US TO OVERCOME THIS
PREMEDITATED INVASION, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, IN THEIR
RIGHTEOUS MIGHT, WILL WIN THROUGH TO ABSOLUTE VICTORY.”

The inscription uses the first phrase from Roosevelt’s speech then jumps down several paragraphs and draws a sentence from a portion of the speech that does not have any connection to the expression “So help us God.” That phrase is near the end of the speech in a paragraph that says, “

With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.”

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American Island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. This morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

But always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, 1941 a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.


A Pearl Harbor Disappearance May Finally Have Been Solved

Early in the morning on December 7, 1941, a 22-year-old civilian flight instructor named Cornelia Fort happened to be airborne over Honolulu, giving a lesson to a student who was at the controls of an Interstate Cadet, a tiny single-engine trainer. As they turned and headed back toward the city airfield, the glint of a plane in the distance caught her eye. It seemed to be heading right at them, and fast. She grabbed the stick and climbed furiously, passing so close to the plane that the little Cadet’s windows shook.

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Daughter of the Air: The Brief Soaring Life of Cornelia Fort

Looking down, she saw a Japanese fighter. Off to the west, she “saw something detach itself from a plane and come glistening down,” she later recalled. “My heart turned over convulsively when the bomb exploded in the middle of the Harbor.” Fort and her student landed at the airport and ran to the terminal as a warplane strafed the runway. “Flight interrupted by Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor,” she later noted in her logbook.

Her close encounter, widely celebrated in the wake of Pearl Harbor, is re-enacted in the opening scenes of the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! and at air shows even today. Her plane, though, appeared lost to history.

Now, as the 75th anniversary of the attack approaches, a former fighter pilot thinks he’s found it. Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Greg Anders, executive director of the Heritage Flight Museum in Burlington, Washington, knows that the Interstate Cadet he bought from a collector in 2013 was in Honolulu at the time of the attack FAA records prove it.

But showing that it’s the one that Fort flew has taken some detective work. That’s because the registration number on his aircraft, NC37266, isn’t the same as the number penned in her logbook, NC37345. Why the difference? He argues that her logbook, which is archived in the Texas Woman’s University Libraries, is not the original document but a copy she made after a December 1942 fire at her family’s Nashville home destroyed many of her belongings. Anders discovered that the registration number in her logbook belonged to an aircraft that hadn’t even been built by the time of her first notation. Of the 11 other Cadets that have a paper trail to Pearl Harbor, Anders says he’s got the one that best fits the timing and description of Fort’s. The full story of Fort and her legendary plane appears in an Air & Space/Smithsonian collector’s edition out this month, “Pearl Harbor 75: Honor, Remembrance, and the War in the Pacific.”

Cornelia Fort’s Interstate Cadet NC37266 (The Pearl). (Courtesy of Lyle Jansma, LostAviatorsofPearlHarbor.org)

It makes sense that a young pilot looking forward to a flying career would take pains to reconstruct her logbook, Anders says: “You don’t show up at an airline interview as a female in 1945 and say, ‘I have this many flying hours, but I can’t prove that because my logbooks burned up in a fire.’ You’ve got enough trouble because you showed up as a female.”

Fort developed a reputation as a home-front hero after Pearl Harbor. She soon returned to the mainland and joined the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), a civilian group created by the Army Air Forces to fly military aircraft from factories to bases. In March 1943, she was flying formation in a Vultee BT-13 trainer over Texas when another plane clipped hers. She crashed before she could bail out—the first woman pilot to die in active service.

Buy the "Pearl Harbor 75" Air & Space Special Anniversary Edition

Featuring the great air battles of the Pacific War, untold stories of forgotten campaigns and individuals, and outstanding wartime and action photography


World War II Today: June 7

1940
Allied troops fall back on Bresles front, 60 miles north of Paris.

King Haakon of Norway, his family and government, evacuate from Norway to Britain as Germans advance.

1941
The first of five heavy night raids by the RAF begins on Brest as Prinz Eugen shelters there.

First US Lend-Lease planes flown to Maine and shoved over border into Canada, because neutrality laws forbid landing in Canada.

1942
General Erich von Manstein hurls his troops in the grand assault on the besieged port of Sevastopol in a two-pronged assault. The Soviets resist fanatically in excellent fortifications. The Germans gain ground but take heavy casualties, and have to bring in reinforcements to take the city. However, the continuous German attacks wear down the defenders ammunition supplies, which must be brought in by sea through a tight German blockade maintained by the Luftwaffe, E-boats, and Italian midget submarines.

All Jews over six are forced to wear the ‘Star of David’ in Occupied France.

The Japanese make landings on Attu and Kiska Islands in the Aleutian Islands.

In the Battle of Midway, carrier USS Yorktown sinks due to damage by Japanese submarine I-168 the previous day, but the US is victorious in the major turning point of the Pacific War from now on, the Japanese will be on the defensive.

Maj. Gen. Clarence Tinker, commander of US Seventh Air Force, is killed when his plane is lost off Midway, the first Native American to reach rank of major general and the first US general killed in WWII.

1944
British troops liberate Bayeux, five miles inland from the Normandy coast. All beachheads are reported as established.

The British 2nd Division is now only 55 miles from Imphal.

Mokmer airfield on Biak is captured by U.S. troops.

The Americans take Civitavecchia on the western coast of Italy.

1945
King Haakon VII returns to Norway, on the fifth anniversary of his leaving the country.

The first allied cargo ship for three years enters Wewak Harbour, in New Guinea.


My experience in the bomb blitz on Hull May 7th/8th 1941

On the night of the 7th/8thMay 1941, our house received a direct hit with a landmine. This took place about 11pm, but we had already had windows blown out and incendiary (fire) bombs dropped in the road outside. At the time, my brother Ken and I were outside our house, in Home Guard uniforms. I was 17 yrs old and Ken was 18 yrs old, having just returned from Home Guard Training.
Our house was situated at the entrance to King George Dock (main gate entrance) and opposite was an office building where two railway policemen were on duty. These two men were helping us dispose of the incendiaries, when the land mine conveyed by parachute came floating along and caught on a Poplar tree adjacent to our house. One policeman thought it was part of a plane, but my brother shouted, “RUN! It’s a Landmine!” We ran in to our house, but the policemen would not have reached their office when the mine exploded.
My brother Ken was in front of me and was killed. In the house were my Father, (who was a Dock Master), my Mother and two sisters, Muriel and Winifred, Muriel was killed. Mother and Father were okay because they were in the cupboard under the stairs and this was the only part of the house left standing.
I saw a yellow flash and then came what I thought was a waterfall, but I was sliding slowly down the rubble on to the road. I remember spotting a bit of fire still alight in the Police office fireplace. Assisted by my Father I was able to lie near this fireplace, waiting for an ambulance. When one finally arrived, it was full, but had a trailer attached, in which my sister Winifred and I were placed.
Then followed the horrendous journey, we were bumped over hose pipes and being subjected to terrific heat as we passed burning buildings. We were admitted to the Children’s Hospital in Park Street as there was no room at any of the other hospitals we called at.
My sister had a large hole in her calf, but fortunately her stocking had plugged the wound. I had holes in my face and a broken elbow. After experiencing the following night’s blitz and receiving treatment, we were transferred to Driffield Hospital. I being in uniform, finished up in Pinderfield’s Military Hospital, among survivors from Dunkirk. I was discharged in October 1941

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FDR`s Pearl Harbor Speech

The following famous speech took place on December 8, 1941, in a full session of the American Congress and was radio broadcast to the American people and around the world.

"Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives: Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack. It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace. The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu. Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island. This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island. Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation. As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us. Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire."


Last survivor of the USS Arizona that was sunk at Pearl Harbor is laid to rest with his crew-mates as divers take his ashes down to the ship and veterans gather on the anniversary of tragedy

Comments

FDR Sppech to Congress December 8, 1941

Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941,  a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.


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