Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Culper Spy Ring Is Watching You, Seriously They Are

So you think the CIA and FBI was just created out of thin air? WRONG! The United States has a long history of spying and gathering information on foreign nations. It all began in the hot summer of 1778 in the middle of the Revolutionary War. It started in a big way too, reporting from behind enemy lines in British occupied New York City. It was started by none other the our first President George Washington, as he saw it necessary for the cause of the Independence. So with an order from Washington the Culper Ring was born and the history of American spying was underway.


Now why would Washington wait until 1778? Well because the American's were finally picking up so momentum and had the British on their heels, kind of. As the smoke cleared after the Battle of Monmouth, the American's forced the British to retreat back to New York City. The Americans were on a roll at this point, Washington had turned his retreat during the summer of 1776 to a real ass kicking tour through New Jersey by the summer of 1778. At this  point Washington knew he had the British trapped on Manhattan and knowing the size of Manhattan he knew it would be easy to gather intelligence by using spies. He intrusted Major Benjamin Tallmadge, of New York and because he had some experience in spying on the British, to find those loyal to the cause of Independence. He first enlisted Nathan Hale, as he was known very well by Tallmadge and Hale was also familiar with spying on the British. It was from here that the Culper Ring grew into a complex network which would supply Washington and the Continental Army with much needed information on British activities.


With the Culper Ring now established, the network of spies spread across the New York City area. Now, Tallmadge and Hale were both well known patriots, so they entrusted Abraham Woodhull, a friend of Tallmadge, and Robert Townsend a well known merchant in Manhattan. It was through these two men that the network reported to Washington.Woodhull was the first to start spying on the British. He would travel into Manhattan and pretend to visit his sister. However, it was pretty obvious he wasn't visiting his sister and was just wandering around like a lost tourist looking for British troop movements and just plain snooping around. It was after the British tried to arrest him that Woodhull knew he needed an inside man. That inside man was Robert Townsend. Townsend was able to more easily find out about British troop movements and about British supply ships coming in to the port. It was then between the these two that the Culper Ring gets it's name. For some reason Woodhull signed a letter to Townsend as "Samuel Culper Sr." which Townsend's response letter was signed "Samuel Culper Jr." It was in these letters that the two communicated in a coded language described as "gibberish." Now what pushed these two to help in the fight for Independence? Well Woodhull is believed to have started spying as a form of probation for illegal trading on the black market. As for Townsend, he was inspired by the words of Thomas Paine's Common Sense, the mistreatment against his family and friends by the British and lastly was his relationship with Woodhull. Together these two men gathered much need information and played a key roll in the fight for American Independence.


So how did Woodhull and Townsend pull it off? Was it just the two of them? How did they get the information around? Well they had free range to do whatever they wanted since they were spies. The first step was to grow the network and gather as much information as possible. They needed a link between Woodhull, in Connecticut, and Townsend, in Manhattan, so they employed Austin Roe as a courier, another friend of Woodhull's. Roe's cousin's Phillip and Nathan also acted as couriers depending on the location of Washington headquarters. Townsend also used his own sister Sarah and cousin James to wander New York and take notes on the British. They also used other local business owners to report on movements and just general gossip. One of their key spies was James Rivington. He was so because he worked as a publisher for the Royal Gazzette which was the pro British newspaper in New York City. It was through these spies that intel on the British was gathered and relayed back to Washington himself. But how? Well the information gathered in the city was given to Austin Roe. Roe would then take the information back to Long Island with the "supplies" he was picking up. Then a signal from Woodhull's neighbor Anna Strong would give an alert to Caleb Brewster to come collect the information from Roe. From there the intel was taken across the Long Island Sound and then onto Washington through American controlled Connecticut. Sounds complicated right? Well it was, but they pulled it off and you won't believe some of the events that would have taken place in the Culper Ring wasn't there to foil the British plans.


Now what is the Culper Ring's biggest claim to fame? Foiling the plan of America's most famous bad guy, Benedict Arnold. For my faithful reads, mainly my mom, will know that I am a staunch defender of Mr. Arnold and his actions in the cause of American Liberty. Now with that said I will put my personal views on Arnold aside and tell how the Culper Ring saved West Point from falling into the hands of the British. Major Andre, Arnold's contact with the British, was stopped at a checkpoint in Tarrytown, New York. When Andre was stopped he had not only the plans to West Point but a letter written by Arnold on how he planned to hand over West Point. As word spread through the American ranks Major Benjamin Tallmadge, aka "Samuel Culper Jr.," found out and demanded that Andre be turned over to Washington, instead the commanding officer had Andre turned over to, Colonel Jameson, who then turned Andre over to Benedict move right? So as we know Arnold then switched sides and became known as America's greatest traitor, even though I strongly disagree and think Jane Fonda should take that spot. That may be the Culper Ring's biggest and most bad ass part of the Revolutionary War, but without the work they did behind enemy lines and without the information gathered in New York City the cause may have been lost and Washington and his forces may have never been as successful as they were.


Yes, the legend of 355 lives on. For those comic fanatics, you may be familiar with the name 355 from the DC Comic line of Y:The Last Man. Now, 355 in the comic mirrors the 355 in real life. 355 was a "bodyguard who works for a mysterious US government agency," according to Wikipedia. But little is known about the actual 355, so little even a name is unknown. Most historian believe the 355 was a woman from a Loyalist family which would explain how the the amount of information was gathered out of New York City. The reason for that belief is that information about Major Andre when he was stationed in New York flowed like water from a faucet, but when Andre was out of the city the well basically dried up. Aside from her link to New York, there is only one other mention of 355 in any Culper Ring letters. The identity and value of 355 has never been found. Some believe that 355 was Anna Strong, a link in the spy chain. Others feel that 355 was inside the city, mingling with the British officers and officials and that 355 was code for "lady." Some say that 355 was found out to be a spy, imprisoned and died on The Jersey, a British prison ship. Then there are some that say 355 never even existed and that the mention of 355 was in reference to something else. One thing is for sure, when dealing with a spy ring, nothing will ever be truly known. However, if 355 was real, the information she obtained would make her a hero, right up there with Molly Pitcher and Nancey Hart. Without the work of an agent like 355, the American fight could have taken longer and cost greater.


What do we learn from the Culper Ring? Well we learn that without them, the American cause for Independence may have not happened. We can look back and see that without the work they did the British may have had much more success against the Americans. The information gathered on British movements, forts, shipments and plans was proven to be key to Continental Army. The Culper Ring spoiled the plans of Benedict Arnold and stopped countless attacks on unsuspecting American regulars and militia. The Culper Ring is full of mystery which makes it alluring. However, the little that is known about them makes them harder to study and even harder to understand. What we do know is that the Culper Ring set the standard for how America would gather intelligence. They and they alone risked their and their families lives every time they walked the streets of New York. It was the one weakness that the British never saw coming, spies within their own stronghold. Not knowing who your enemy is will only ensure your defeat, and the Culper Ring was that enemy. Today, there are no monuments to the work of the spy ring, no mention in American History classes, just talks amongst history buffs like myself and the occasional History Chanel show. But they must be looked into more, for the simple reason that without them Washington would not have some of the success that makes him the hero he is today. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Watch Out American Presidents, It's the Curse of Tippecanoe!

What if I told you the American Presidency is cursed? I am willing to bet you'd laugh or just not care at all but you should. Why? Well because it's American History and it's important. Also it will when you least expect it, like during games of Trivial Pursuit or when you want to impress someone with your vast knowledge of U.S. Presidential history, it will make you look like a genius. Now how can the Presidency be cursed and more importantly why. Well it all starts in the early 1800s during the "Tecumseh's War" and falls squarely on the actions of one man.


So our 9th President and first victim of the curse, William Henry Harrison is to blame for the Curse of Tippecanoe. Harrison was the governor of the Indiana Territory. How does that relates to the curse? Well just hold on, I'm getting to that. Harrison worked out a deal with the Natives which gave the U.S. Government control of a larger amount of Indiana then the Natives believed they were giving up. Basically, Harrison pulled a fast one on the Natives. He played the regional Natives against each other in order to secure the deal for the land. The Treaty of Fort Wayne (1809) took three million acres of Native land and opened it to the white man. Once the Natives realized what happened, they regrouped and "Tecumseh's War" was on.


"Tecumseh's War" was named after the Shawnee leader, Tecumseh. The war was between the Natives of the Great Lakes region and the U.S. Government. The conflict erupted shortly after Harrison's questionable treaty.  That Natives main goal was the stop westward expansion. The war climaxed in 1811 at Tippecanoe. Tecumseh's brother, Tenskwatawa lead his men against none other then Harrison and his men. The Natives struck first and used the element of surprise to their advantage. However, the attack was brief as the Natives ran out of ammunition. Harrison then led an attack and destroyed the towns and camps of the Natives, which then forced them to scatter in every direction. This spelled the end for Tecumseh and his cause. Tecumseh continued the fight for two years before being killed at the Battle of the Thames during the War of 1812, by none other then, well the troops under the orders of William Henry Harrison. After his death was reported the Natives surrendered to Harrison. Now is Harrison to blame for the curse? What could be the root of such a curse? Could it have been the initial treaty he used to stiff the Natives, or the retaliation of destroying the Natives homesteads or perhaps the fact Harrison was in charge of having Tecumseh killed. I am willing to go out on a limb and say it's all three of those factors. 


 Harrison returns a hero after the war. So what do most war heroes do? Well that start a political career of course. Harrison first became a Congressman and then made his way to the Senate. After sometime in D.C., Harrison was then an envoy to Colombia where he tried to convince Simon Bolivar on the finer points of American Democracy. It wasn't until 1836 that Harrison was nominated for the Presidency. He was trounced by President Van Buren but would later defeat Van Buren in 1840, thus starting the Curse of Tippecanoe. Now not only was Harrison the first victim of the curse but also the most infamous. Now after he won the election it was time for the new President to give his inauguration speech. The 68 year old Harrison wanted to prove he was still the bad ass he was at the Battle of Tippecanoe, so he delivered the longest inaugural address...IN AMERICAN HISTORY, in the middle of a rain storm and without proper attire. So within days Harrison dies of pneumonia and the Curse of Tippecanoe was now in effect, and started with the man who was responsible for the death of Tecumseh.


So the blood thirsty curse was on and it wasn't satisfied with just Harrison's death. The curse would now span for the next 120 years and claim the lives of six sitting Presidents. Now not just any President was the target of the curse but only Presidents that took office in a year ending in zero and would strike every twenty years (talk about anal). Now you might be thinking, I'm totally reaching here, but your wrong. After Harrison died of pneumonia the next three Presidents were assassinated. Abraham Lincoln, who took office in 1860, was killed during his second term April 15, 1865 by John Wilkes Booth at Ford Theatre. James Garfield, 1880, was assassinated during his first term on September 19, 1881 by Charles Guiteau in Washington D.C. Next on this death tour was William McKinley, 1900, he was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz in Buffalo at the Temple of Music on September 6, 1901. The next two Presidents to face the Curse of Tippecanoe were not assassinated but  died of sudden and unforeseen causes. Warren G. Harding, 1920, suffered a heart attack during his first term and dropped dead on August 2, 1923. After him FDR, 1940, who single handed may have saved the U.S. and beat the Nazis suffered a cerebral hemorrhage during his fourth term on April 12, 1945. The finally victim of Tecumseh's revenge was John F. Kennedy, 1960. Kennedy was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. So there we have it, every years for 120 years the elected President died while in office. But which President could have broken the curse? How could it be possible? Well it was one man, the Holy Father of the GOP, the man that can do no wrong in the eyes of Republicans, everyone's favorite actor-President Ronald Reagan.


Of course Ronald Reagan would be the one to break the curse. Now was it The Gipper's persona or was it something more? Did the curse finally run it coarse and it's thirst for revenge was satisfied? I am going to say, no. Reagan took office in 1980 and the curse struck him as it did the previous Presidents. As Reagan was leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel in D.C. on March 30, 1981, Reagan and three others were shot. The shooter was John Hinkley Jr. and he took aim right at Dutch's chest. Now it seems the curse has struck again right? Well, actually wrong. But what stopped the curse?  The answer, medical technology. Looking back we can see Ole Tippecanoe (Harrison) died in 1840 of pneumonia, before the disease was fully understood.  Honest Abe (Lincoln), took a bullet directly to the head which no one was coming back from in the 1860s. Boatman Jim (Garfield) was shot at point blank in the spine where the bullet remained lodged and the lack of understanding how to remove a bullet from the spine lead to his death. The Napoleon of Protection (McKinley) again was left with a bullet inside him which lead to infection and ultimately his death. Wobbly Warren (Harding) was diagnosed with an acute case of pneumonia by doctors, who were wrong, and Harding would shortly die of a heart attack due to lack of treatment. FDR suffered a cerebral hemorrhage which was due to the stress that he endured during his four term Presidency. And Jack Kennedy, like Lincoln died of a direct hit to the head which lets be realistic a bullet to the head like that will never be able to be cured. So we can see the prior victims of the curse died due to lack of medical technology, while Reagan was rushed to the hospital and was treated with top of the line technology. So for all your Reaganmanics it wasn't the man but the technology around him. But did the curse stop with Reagan? It looks that way. The Curse of Tippecanoe ran a solid 120 years before ending but could it really be over?


If the curse really wanted to continue it would have continued with Dubya. Now before everyone jumps down my throat as an anti-Bush person, relax, take a deep breathe, there is reasons why I say this. The reason being that Bush Jr. took office in 2000. So if the curse were to continue after Reagan it would have come back with a vengeance on President Bush. But nothing happened to Bush. I guess nothing bad can really happen to the President when he spends close to 500 days on vacation under the close watch of security. So how can the curse get past that? No would be assassin would dare try to get into Camp David and Bush was in pretty good health during his Presidency. So is the curse over or just on a hiatus? As an American I am hoping its over but as a person who has a thing for the oddities of history I am hoping its not. However, we will find out together in 2020 to see if the Curse of Tippecanoe makes a comeback tour. So as the new President it elected that year, grab your popcorn, a seat in front of the TV and wait for the curse to rear its ugly head again or if you believe the curse is over just go about your days but just remember the curse made an attempt in 1980, skipped 2000 and could be back in 2020. 

9/11, Just Another Terrorist Attack in the History of NYC

That's right, Islamic extremists weren't the first terrorist to attack the great City of New York. So who could have been? And more importantly, why would they? Well, it all took place during the early parts of World War I, and I think we all know who is responsible for it, well except for maybe those who slept through US History II. Those crafty Germans made their way onto American soil and targeted a military depot in Jersey City, New Jersey known as Black Tom Island. Now why there? I mean New Jersey? What could be so special about this depot? Well lets just jump right into it and take a look at the first major terrorist attack on New York City.


Ok, so here is the background on Black Tom Island. The island sat off the shore of Jersey City, NJ. Now as for the name, local legend has it a freed slave by the name of Tom lived on the island, hence the name of the island. Now how did a military depot find it's way to this small island? Well, Fort Gibson (now, Ellis Island) was home to one of New York City's harbor defense installations. In the late 1800s there was a growing need for a new immigration center and the location of the Fort came under fire. The main claim was a "fear" of it's proximity to Manhattan and the possibility of an attack and damage to not just to New York City but the shipyards in Brooklyn. So the powers that be moved the munitions depot a few hundred feet south to Black Tom Island and as we will see it it wasn't far enough.


Just like on 9/11 people asked, "how could this have happened?" Well sit tight, I am about to explain that. So by the 1916, Black Tom Island was now connected to the mainland by railways used by the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Black Tom Island was home to several warehouses, piers and railway tracks. Black Tom really met it highest capacity in 1915 due to the British blockade of Europe, American's had no place to sell the overstock of military supplies, so they kind of just sat there as one big target. But on the night of July 29, 1916 a barge was docked at Black Tom with some special contents. What were they? Well it contained two million pounds of various ammunition and over one hundred pounds of TNT. Why? Well the barge was waiting to be loaded and sent off to England, the following day. But why was it there? Well according to New Jersey City University, it was to avoid a towing charge of $25...seriously the U.S. government could pay a $25 towing charge? As we will see the location of Black Tom, the cheapness of the government and as we will see the lack of security at the depot led to the first terrorist attack on New York City. 


So lets recap. World War I is raging in Europe (check!). England has blockaded the axis from buying American weapons (check!). There is a barge loaded with explosives less then half a mile from New York City (check!). The Americans are on the brink of joining the war in support of the allies (check!). Poor security watching over a military depot (check!). Ok, so what are we missing? Oh I know, German saboteurs. The attack on Black Tom started with a Slovak immigrant by the name of Michael Kristoff. Kristoff served in the U.S. Army but was turned by German agents. Kristoff claims the night of July 30, 1916, two of the guards working at Black Tom were also German agents which allowed him to slip in undetected with a briefcase of explosives. Now why would Kristoff need more explosives? Well I guess every bit counts when you're trying to blow up a military depot. So what happened? Kristoff planted the bomb and bailed. He got away because all the other guards were also running for their lives. The two German agents disguised at guards lit two small fires which would guarantee the explosion. At 2:08am the entire area was awoken by the explosion. The explosion was felt in Journal Square which was 5 miles away. Ok, 5 miles not a big deal but in lower Manhattan windows were blown out, Times Square windows were shattered, and the surrounding area reported felling an earthquake. It was also reported the following morning that the Philadelphia, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and Maryland were rocked by the blast and recorded a 5.5 earthquake of the Richter Scale. The blast also halted the immigration process of Ellis Island and the arm of the Statue of Liberty was damaged (which is why we are not allowed in the torch of Lady Liberty.) So the first terrorist attack on New York City didn't just affect the city but almost the whole Northeast. In the wake of the explosion there were several related deaths. First, and most obvious, is the barge's captain which gives a whole new meaning to going down with the ship. Second, are two responding police officers, one from the Jersey City Police Department and another from the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The last was a 10 month old infant that was thrown from her crib (I think that one might be thrown in there as a little propaganda.) Aside from the few unfortunate deaths, several hundred people where injured. After the initial blast a few smaller explosions continued the next few days.


 So obviously an investigation ensued. Michael Kristoff was the first to get nailed. Kristoff was found out and admitted to planting the explosives and being paid $500 by those dastardly Huns. The two German agents were never found. But several agents in the German Embassy were looked at and even German Ambassador Count Johann Heinrich van Bernstoff, and honestly how could they not suspect him just look at that name, it screams bad guy. Also famous German insurgents were looked at like Kurt Jahnke, Lothar Witzke and Franz von Papen were all suspected of playing a role in the attack. However, no one was ever really punished or prosecuted. Actually the payments for damages to the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company were not fully reimbursed until 1979, really? 63 years later? Come on Germany. Aside from the LVRR pretty much everyone else has forgotten about the Black Tom Explosion, even you.


There it is, the only reminder of the Black Tom Explosion. I am willing to bet that visitors to Liberty State Park automatically assume that this display of patriotism is linked to the 9/11 attacks, but you're wrong (so haha, and in your face!) The flags actually mark the site of the explosion on 7/30. That and a small plaque that maybe a few joggers have read. But why is Black Tom important? Well it is the first time the U.S. faced a terrorist attack. Second, this was not an act of war but terrorism. The U.S. was not involved in WWI and the Germans went after them unprovoked. Third, it is important because of the affects of it. It rocked the northeast and would ultimately be a factor in the U.S.'s entry into the war. So there are three solid reasons for it's importance and significance in American history. Oh, and one more reason... it is a great story, espionage, the greatest city in the world and explosions. I mean someone should write a movie about this. In the end the Black Tom Explosion is another piece of history lost to time, hopefully I could bring it to some kind of light and share this interesting part of American History with you.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Oh Canada...America is Coming For You : America's Plan to Invade Canada!

So what if I told you the United States was supposed to have sixty states. I am pretty sure most of you would call me crazy, but your wrong. What if I told you the United States northern boarder wasn't supposed to stop at Canada, what if I told you Canada wasn't even supposed to exist? Well if you know your Canadian geography, you know Canada has ten provinces and I think we can see were this is going. In the 1920's the U.S. developed War Plan Red, which had the main goal of taken Canada before Britain's imperial power had a chance to use Canada, to attack America. 


Now, when I heard about this my first thought was, "Holy Crap, Canadian Bacon is based on a true story and Sheriff Bud Boomer (John Candy) is a national hero." Unfortunately, that is not true. However, there was a plan drafted that called for America to be ready for a British invasion, that would start in The Great White North. So what was the answer? Well it is a usually cliche, the best defense is a good offense. War Plan Red called for an invasion of Canada to stunt any type of British military offensive. But why be afraid of the British? I mean they are our "chaps from across the pond" or something like that. And we did just help them out in the "war to end all wars." So whats the deal? Well basically the fact that the British only looked out for number one and over the course of 150 years there had been numerous spats between America and those Limey Brits.

                                                    National Archives

The War of 1812 was the first problem between an independent America and Great Britain. Now what were the Redcoats thinking? The Americans just boated them out of the colonies about 30 years prior, I guess those Brits wanted a mulligan. Regardless of my silly idea there were several concrete reasons for the war and it was mainly the British being cry babies. First, England placed trade restrictions on America...wait...what? As you could imagine President Thomas Jefferson pretty much laughed at that. Second, was the Royal Navy basically kidnapping American sailors. They grew their navy to such a size that in order to get enough sailors the British government resorted to shanghaiing Americans. Third, the British aided and supported Indian raids on American frontier towns. And then the Brits demonized the U.S. for expanding...what? So we can see that Britain needed to relax and stop trying to boss America around. By 1812 the U.S. government had enough and now President James Madison was like, "seriously England, go back to the village green and play some cricket or whatever that silly game you play is." Ok, so that is  not a direct quote but either way, the War of 1812 was underway.


The War of 1812 had three main theaters: the Atlantic, Canada and Southern states. Basically how it went down was the Atlantic was a series of naval blockades and battles. The American and British Navies exchanged shots and blockaded each others ports. The theater lead to no clear winner, instead it left both sides gaining and losing advantages. However, the most famous events, at least here in the states, would be the writing of the "Star Spangled Banner" written by Francis Scott Keys at the Battle of Fort McHenry. Followed closely by the Burning of The White House and Washington D.C., a disastrous event often overlooked in the scope of history classes. The Southern Theater, which showed the strength of the American Army and is most famous for future President Andrew Jackson's defeated the British at the battle of New Orleans. The Canadian front was was much like that Atlantic, a back and forth struggle. In the end it resulted into a changing of the boarders and the U.S. expanding its reach further north. In the end the War of 1812 can be seen as an American victory, especially since in Jolly ol' England they talk less about this then the Revolutionary War. But this was not the last time these two would go to arms with each other...


So after getting their bums handed to them twice by the Stars and Stripes, England kept on messing around in America. Three seperate incidents all led to the creation of War Plan Red. Now I must warn you these next three events are really obscure, so obscure that even all-knowing Wikipedia doesn't have pages dedicated to them. First, in 1838 The Aroostook War took place over boarders. Both the U.S. and England sent troops to the present day Maine/Canada boarder. There was no actual military conflict and both sides quickly agreed to peace treaty. Several years later, The Pig War, again another border dispute. This was also quickly resolved as the U.S. realized they were greatly out numbered and figured another boarder agreement would be best for both parties. The third and final problem came during the Civil War. The Trent Affair was kind of a part of the Civil War and kind of a diplomatic problem. The event unveiled that the Confederates were heading across teh pond to work out a deal with the Brits. The goal was to gain an allegiance and help in defeating the Union. Things cooled down between the U.S. and England, well because President Lincoln had some bigger problems than England and that was keeping the country together and putting those Rebels back in their places. So we can see how after about a century of problems from those Tommys the U.S. had to be prepared for trouble. Where might that trouble come from? Well from our Canukastan of course. The British still had close ties with Canada and the U.S. feared that heading into the 20th century.


Now the U.S. has no beef with Canada. I mean, as an American, my only problem with Canada is that they call ham "Canadian bacon". I mean come on, its clearly just ham and not its delicious counterpart bacon. Oh, also what is the deal with that weird 55 yard line on a Canadian football field...? Ok, sorry aboot that I am getting a bit off track. Nonetheless, the U.S. and Canada have always had a peaceful coexistence but their relationship with England is what forced the U.S. to draft this plan. Now what kind of plan is it? Well its one that the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canuks, Montreal Canadians and hell the Quebec Nordiques and Winnipet Jets defenses could never stop. It is so thorough that when I compare the American plan to the Canadian you might think I am joking, but I am not.So lets sit back and check out the American plan to invade "The True North, Strong and Free."


So whats the plan? Was it really the plot of Canadian Bacon? Was the Niagara County Sheriffs Department on high alert? Was a garbage truck covered in anti Canadian propaganda part of the plan? Is there a Hacker Hellstorm? Could the President have said "Surrender pronto, or we'll level Toronto." Unfortunately all of these things are just part of, perhaps, one of the greatest underrated American comedies ever. But the U.S. had a plan that was aimed to take control in the quickest amount of time. Of course it started with blockades of Canada's Atlantic ports and ports on the Great Lakes. The U.S. military also built airfields and disguised them at public airports, this allowed for a speedy attack but still kept secrecy.  The plan then ordered area of importance and what tactics would be used to gain control. In Nova Scotia, a blockade and poison gas attack was planned to prevent Britain from even gaining a foothold in North America. Also ground troops would be used in something similar to the D-Day landings at Normandy. There was also a back up plan in case Nova Scotia could not be taken. It was to then take New Brunswick which the U.S. Army could then bomb and attack British forces on Nova Scotia. After this U.S. troops would move north from New York into Quebec City and Montreal, then securing Canada from British advancements westward. At the same time U.S. troops from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota would take Toronto and the surrounding areas, preventing Canadian/British attacks on America's industrial centers. Winnipeg is the next target because of it's importance to the Canadian rail system., controlling Winnipeg controls the movement of British/Canadian troops. After this it is just closing up the back door and taking Vancouver and the Pacific provinces. This would not even allow for a British invasion from the west and thus making them continue to focus on an eastern attack. The main goals of this plan are to isolate the mainland, control the railways and occupy the cities but the key to it all way to do it quickly and prevent the British from establishing a military presence.


Now Canada was just going to sit there and pretend that they were totally safe up there. Sure they had their Molson Canadian, hockey and maple syrup but they had a plan too. However, their plan did not involve a full scale invasion of the U.S. and take over New York City and Washington D.C. and fly the Maple Leaf over America. They did though have Defense Scheme No. 1. Yes, it sounds pretty scary I know but just listen The U.S. never had much to worry aboot. The main goal of Defense Scheme No. 1 was to occupy a few American cities near the boarder in order to give the British time to arrive and keep the Americans occupied with regaining their cities. Now which cities you may be wondering, the Canadians targeted Seattle, Minneapolis, Albany and Great Falls (its in Montana). They would then move their forces to the boarder and when it looked like the Americans were moving into Canada they would destroy every bridge and railway leading from the U.S. The ironic thing aboot this plan is that the Canadians came up with this before War Plan Red was even though about. Guilty conscience Canada? What we can see is that while America opted for brute strength tactics, Canada went the more strategic route in planning both offensively and defensively.


Luckily in the history of the two great countries, neither plan had to be used. World War II was right around the corner at the time these plans were enacted and its pretty clear that the Nazis were a much bigger threat then Canada was to the U.S. So where are we today? Is War Plan Red still around? Of course it isn't. Canada is America's buddy. I mean Canada has given us so much, basketball, the Rascal Scooter, IMAX films, insulin, Brian Adams, roller skates, Pictionary, the pacemaker, zippers I mean the list goes on and on. So why would America ever invade Canada? It seems that invading Canada would only happen in England tried to invade or impede on America's sovereignty.  The relationship between the two nations has always been peaceful and looks to stay that way. NAFTA links the two economically and politically. The two have nothing but to gain from each other in every aspect. In a way Canada is America's really friendly cousin who gets along with everyone and doesn't want to be bothered with the problems America gets into. In the end, actions following these two plans would have destroyed North American relations. Fortunately, the plans were never used and Canada has chose to just beat the U.S. at hockey every chance they get, eh.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Jack The Ripper: A Royal Family Cover Up?

Ok, so if you don't see it coming already I feel obligated to warn you that this is totally a conspiracy theory piece. That's right, I have finally given in to my obsession with conspiracy theories and figured what better part of history to talk about the the worlds most famous serial killer, Mr. Jack the Ripper. So by now, that your two sentences into my opening paragraph, I bet your asking how can this be a conspiracy? Well hold onto your knickers because this theory involves hookers, doctors, a Prince, the Queen of England and France. Now how are these all related? I guess your going to have to keep reading, and trust me you'll want to.


The story of Jack the Ripper is perhaps the best known murder mystery in history. We also know, well you should from reading my other works, that I tend to stick to American History but this is theory is just too good to pass up. But let me quickly recap what is actually known about Jack the Ripper. The Ripper was and still is unknown and was given his name by an anonymous letter which was allegedly written by the killer himself. He murdered five prostitutes in London's Whitechapel district in 1888. Not only did he murder them, but the bodies were subjected to mutilation and he then proceeded to remove some organs. The murders gripped the city of London and the situation was not helped by publications of letters that were supposedly written by Jack the Ripper which all included facts about the murders that only the killer would know. The murders then mysterious stopped in the beginning of November (1888). But why? Well this is where the conspiracy starts.


Yes, it is a cheesy looking cover, something like you'd find at a garage sale or second hand store but it contains perhaps the most entertaining theory on Jack the Ripper. Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution was written by Stephen Knight, however Knight didn't just make this up out of thin air. Knight was inspired by the claims of Thomas Stowell and Joseph Gorman. Now who are these two blokes? Well, Stowell was a surgeon who did an independent study of the Jack the Ripper case and private notes of the Sir William Gull ( the Royal Family's doctor) and came to the conclusion that the Royal Family was tied to the murders. Mr. Gorman also claimed that the Royal Family was involved but that he was a directly linked to those involved. This two men and their claims are the basis for Knight's book, but it is their words and works that made this conspiracy come to life.


The image above does not depict a madman with a blood lust, but more like a man that is patient and focused. This fits directly into Stowell's study, but the man in the picture will be explained a little bit later. Stowell was not some crack pot conspiracy nut ball, he was quite educated, obtaining a PHD in Medicine (1927), Industrial Health (1954) and served on several committees relating to health standards. But it was in 1970 when Stowell dropped the bomb on the world that Jack the Ripper was a Royal Family cover up. Now, with Stowell shaking up the Royal Family Tree, it was the talk of England. So what was his theory? Well hold on, grab some tea and crumpets and get ready for a smashing good time.


This dashing fellow dressed like he just walked off the cover of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover is Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. According to Stowell, it is this man that is the reason for the Jack the Ripper murders. Now the important link of Prince Victor is that he is the grandson of Queen Victoria. Stowell found that the Prince was institutionalized in the fall of 1888 after he committed the first for murders. The reason for committing the murders? Well the Prince had syphilis. Stowell put together that the Prince may have contracted the disease as a child on a visit to the West Indies. He goes on to explain that the Prince also escaped the institution to commit the final murder before finally dying of his disease. However, and of course, the Royal Family called Stowell a liar. First, Royal Doctors that treated Albert Victor claim he died of pneumonia. Second, Royal Family Historians claim that at the times of the murders Prince Albert Victor was attending Royal Family functions. Finally, at the time of the Prince's stay at the institution Royal Family Historians again, claim he was serving in the British Army. Now if that doesn't stink of cover up I don't know what does. Oh wait, here is the icing on the cake. On November 9, 1970 Thomas Stowell passed away, coincidentally an apology letter was printed in The Times, which is supposedly written by Stowell himself. The letter claims that Stowell retracted his statements claiming the Royal Family member was involved. And to make it even more fishy, Stowell's son destroyed all his father's papers claiming them to be "nothing of importance." Now could Stowell have stumbled across the truth? Could the Royal Family again covered up the Jack the Ripper murders? Before you ponder this, wait till you hear the next theory.


Now this fine gent is Sir William Gull, the Royal Family physician who mysteriously retired in 1889. Joseph Gorman was interviewed by the BBC in a Jack the Ripper investigation inspired by Stowell's theory. Gorman claimed to be the son of Walter Sickert, a well known painter in London. Gorman stated that Sickert had passed on the story of Prince Albert Victor and the cover up of the murders, along with his own relation to the Royal Family. Gorman states that the Prince and Sickert become close friends. During a night out the Prince met Annie Elizabeth Cook and began a relationship. The problem here is, well, Annie was not only poor but Irish and Catholic something that would not sit well with the Royal Family. However, love could not be stopped and Albert Victor and Annie Elizabeth were married (1885) in the Whitechapel section of London and the marriage was witnessed by Sickert and Mary Jane Kelly (the final Ripper victim). The couple then produced a child, well more like the heir to the throne, Alice Margaret Crook. The family had a small and unnoticeable residence in Whitechapel, but that was all about to change.


That's right cue the creepy music, let the fog role in because this is were the fiction rubs elbows with fact. As all marriages go, everything is perfect and lovey dovey and then the Royal Family finds out and ruins everything. Word of the Albert and Annie's marriage had reached the top, Queen Victoria and Prime Minister Lord Salisbury. The Crown was furious at the news of an Irish heir and feared revolution across the British Empire. Salisbury called for a raid on the apartment but before British officials could reach the house Albert was tipped off. He then sent his daughter to live with Annie's close friend, Mary Jane Kelly. As Albert and Annie were taken into custody, Albert was confined to Buckingham Palace were he died of "pneumonia" and Annie was declared insane, by none other then Sir William Gull and placed in an insane asylum for the next 30 years before dying in 1920. So, I am sure your piecing this together already but here is were the killings start. Mary Jane Kelly along with friends, who were also fellow ladies of the night, Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman and Elizabeth Stride had the bright idea to blackmail the Royal Family. It was due to this and the fact there was an Irish heir to the throne that Salisbury, the Crown and Scotland Yard conspired to silencing and eliminating all evidence of the child. The killings were then the duty of Sir William Gull. He lured these women into his carriage and then murdered them and removed organs as to look like the killer was deranged and to make it more of a conspiracy, to look like the Free Masons were involved. However, Gull never expect for the Ripper killings to become on of histories greatest mysteries and have historians, conspiracy nuts or skeptics look deeper into the killings. But the killings are still  unsolved and there are still no leads to who the murderer actually is.


So what happened to Alice? All those that knew of her existence were silenced, so where did she go? According to Gorman, Alice would eventually grow up and become mistress to Walter Sickert and from that affair came himself. Others say that Alice was ushered off to France to be protected from meeting the same fate as her parents. As for Knight's take, he believes Gorman's story but still could not find a trace of Alice...anywhere. So could Alice have grown up to mother Gorman, which would then make the heir to the British throne a Irish/German Catholic? Or was Alice sent off to France to never know her true identity, which in that case would make the heir to  the throne a French national of Irish ethnicity. Either way this aspect sure throws a wrench in the story of Jack the Ripper and Royal Family history.


Today, this is the Royal Family but is it the real Royal Family? After Stowell, Gorman and Knight's theories were presented the Royal Family was defended from within and without. Every theory had holes punched clean through it by the British Government. And lets be honest, imagine the news of an Irish heir to the British Crown, England as we know it would be turned upside down due to the history between the two countries and peoples. But how true are these theories? Can they be trusted? I sure don't know but they do make for great entertainment. Any type of controversy surrounding the Royal Family will always lead to a conspiracy, it always has and always will. I like to believe there is some truth behind this accusations, but again I love a good conspiracy. It would also give a good ending to the murders and a mystery that seems to have no answers.