Don’t Know Much About® Dorothea Lange

Daughter of Migrant Tennessee Coal Miner Living in American River Camp near Sacramento, California (1936)  Credit: Gift of the Farm Security AdministrationMoMA Number:313.1938 Source: Museum of Modern Art

Daughter of Migrant Tennessee Coal Miner Living in American River Camp near Sacramento, California
(1936) by Dorothea Lange Credit: Gift of the Farm Security AdministrationMoMA Number:313.1938 Source: Museum of Modern Art

Dorothea Lange was born on May 26, 1895, in Hoboken,NJ.3c28944r

Best known for her photographs of Depression-era America, she also recorded the  the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

 

Photo by Dorothea Lange of Japanese-American grocery store on the day after Pearl Harbor Source: Library of Congress

 

Following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan, there was a wave of fear and hysteria aimed at Japanese and people of Japanese descent living in America, including American citizens, mostly on the West Coast. In February 1942. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 which declared certain areas to be “exclusion zones” from which the military could remove anyone for security reasons. It provided the legal groundwork for the eventual relocation of approximately 120,000 people to a variety of detention centers around the country, the largest forced relocation in American history. Nearly two-thirds of them were American citizens. (Smaller numbers of Americans of German and Italian descent were also detained.)

Photo Source: National Archives

The attitude of many Americans at the time was expressed in a Los Angeles Times editorial of the period:

“A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched… So, a Japanese American born of Japanese parents, nurtured upon Japanese traditions, living in a transplanted Japanese atmosphere… notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a Japanese, and not an American…” (Source: Impounded, p. 53)

The exclusion order was rescinded in 1945 and internees were allowed to leave, although many had lost their homes, businesses and property during their confinement. However, the last camp did not close until 1946.

In 1980, Congress established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians to investigate the internment and, in 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which provided for a reparation of $20,000 to surviving detainees.

One of those detainees was Albert Kurihara who told the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in 1981:

“I hope this country will never forget what happened, and do what it can to make sure that future generations will never forget.” (from Impounded, Norton)

Photographer Dorothea Lange also photographed the internment camps and her censored images were published in 2006 in the book Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment (WW Norton, 2006).

The National Parks Service offers a Teaching With Historic Places lesson plan based on the camps some of which are now part of the National Parks System including Minidoka in Idaho and the Manzanar camp in California.

The Library of Congress offers an extensive collection of Lange photographs.

 

Who Said It? (May 26, 2015)

This picture, The Trail of Tears, was painted by Robert Lindneux in 1942. It commemorates the suffering of the Cherokee people under forced removal. If any depictions of the "Trail of Tears" were created at the time of the march, they have not survived.  Image Credit: The Granger Collection, New York

This picture, The Trail of Tears, was painted by Robert Lindneux in 1942. It commemorates the suffering of the Cherokee people under forced removal. If any depictions of the “Trail of Tears” were created at the time of the march, they have not survived.
Image Credit: The Granger Collection, New York (Source PBS Online)

Andrew Jackson “Second Annual Message to Congress” (December 16, 1830)

Andrew Jackson (1825) by Thomas Sully (Source: US Senate)

Andrew Jackson (1825) by Thomas Sully (Source: US Senate)

The benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly 30 years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation….

 

Toward the aborigines of the country no one can indulge a more friendly feeling than myself, or would go further in attempting to reclaim them from their wandering habits and make them a happy, prosperous people. I have endeavored to impress upon them my own solemn convictions of the duties and powers of the General Government in relation to the State authorities. For the justice of the laws passed by the States within the scope of their reserved powers they are not responsible to this Government. As individuals we may entertain and express our opinions of their acts, but as a Government we have as little right to control them as we have to prescribe laws for other nations….

 

The present policy of the Government is but a continuation of the same progressive change by a milder process. The tribes which occupied the countries now constituting the Eastern States were annihilated or have melted away to make room for the whites. The waves of population and civilization are rolling to the westward, and we now propose to acquire the countries occupied by the red men of the South and West by a fair exchange, and, at the expense of the United States, to send them to a land where their existence may be prolonged and perhaps made perpetual.

Doubtless it will be painful to leave the graves of their fathers; but what do they more than our ancestors did or than our children are now doing? ….

Complete Text and Source:  Andrew Jackson: “Second Annual Message,” December 6, 1830Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

 

The Indian Removal Act was signed into law by Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830. It gave the president authority to grant unsettled lands west of the Mississippi in exchange for Indian lands within existing state borders.

“A few tribes went peacefully, but many resisted the relocation policy. During the fall and winter of 1838 and 1839, the Cherokees were forcibly moved west by the United States government. Approximately 4,000 Cherokees died on this forced march, which became known as the ‘Trail of Tears.'”

Source: Library of Congress, Indian Removal Act “Primary Documents in American History”

 

THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF AMERICA AT WAR-Speaking Calendar

 

 

The Long Room at Frances Tavern Museum

The Long Room at the historic Fraunces Tavern Museum

List of Speaking Engagements:

June 4        Pritzker Museum and Military Library Chicago, IL  7 PM

June 6       Printers Row Lit Fest Chicago 2 PM

June 11       Fraunces Tavern Museum New York City    6:30 PM

June 13      Barnes & Noble, William and Mary College Store, Williamsburg VA 4-6 PM

June 14       Barnes & Noble Tidewater College Store Norfolk, VA   2-3:30 PM

June 18       Mount Vernon Public Library, Mount Vernon, NY    6:30 PM

THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF AMERICA AT WAR: Untold Tales from Yorktown to Fallujah (May 5-Hachette Books?Random House Audio)

THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF AMERICA AT WAR: Untold Tales from Yorktown to Fallujah (May 5-Hachette Books/Random House Audio)

 

 

 

June 6-Appearing at Printers Row Lit Fest

On Saturday June 6, I will be taking part in the Printers Row Lit Fest  in Chicago. This two-day event is a book lover’s paradise. I will be speaking at 2 PM Saturday June 6.

 

For more information about the Festival and the schedule of writers who are appearing, check out the Printers Row site.header-festpass

“Did you know?” from THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF AMERICA AT WAR

1920px-Surrender_of_Lord_Cornwallis

War stories. They help shape a nation’s identity.

But if these stories sweep facts under the rug, they are ‘foundation legends,’ not history. I tell the stories our schoolbooks often leave out, the stories that don’t fit the tidy patriotic version that makes us feel proud but are not always complete or true. The real story – the “warts-and-all-version”—is always more interesting and more instructive.

Here are some “Did-you-know” facts from my newly published The Hidden History of America At War  –from the American Revolution to the War in Iraq.

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

  • George Washington gets credit for winning the American Revolution. But without the French Navy, foreign loans and sacrifices by black patriots, the cause might have been lost. Washington, a slaveholder, didn’t want black men in his army. But when he got desperate for troops he opened his ranks to black soldiers and he was impressed at how bravely they fought.
  • John Laurens isn’t a household name like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. But this “forgotten founder” helped lead the fight at the decisive battle of the American Revolution at Yorktown, Virginia, and was a voice of conscience who tried to convince George Washington, a slaveholder– to embrace abolition.
  • The son of a major slave trader, John Laurens was so intent on enlisting blacks in the military that he designed a uniform for African Americans.
  • It’s inspiring to think that patriotic “Minutemen” grabbed their trusty muskets and left their farms to whip the mighty British redcoats in the American Revolution. But that is not how the Revolution was won. George Washington was wary of the militias who often wanted and needed to get back to their shops and farms. Washington insisted on a trained, disciplined, standing army. Irish and German immigrants, out of work teenagers and African Americans filled the ranks of his Continental Army. But these “rabble” frightened the founding generation. The Minutemen and other militiamen come down in lore as patriots ready to take up arms and defend freedom. But Washington thought militias were undependable, calling them a “broken staff.”
  • Heroic images of “Washington Crossing the Delaware” don’t hint at what happened later in New Jersey when his drunken troops mutinied –he had the ringleaders executed by firing squad. Washington was a strict disciplinarian who once built high gallows and threatened to hang American deserters.
  • American troops fought bravely in securing victory over the British at Yorktown. But two overlooked factors helped defeat the British: ­disease and the burden of harboring refuges, slaves who flocked to the British in hopes of being emancipated.

    Recreation go the Redoubt # 10 at Yorktown (U.S Army War College-Army Heritage and Education Center)

    Recreation of  Redoubt # 10 at Yorktown (U.S Army War College-Army Heritage and Education Center)

  • Fear of leaving slaves in charge of the homestead kept men in Virginia and other slaveholding from joining the militia during the Revolution.
  • Washington and Jefferson made sure to collect their runaway slaves when the Revolution ended. The American Revolution was fought to protect “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” But insuring the continuation of slavery was high on the list of priorities for the new nation.
  • After the Revolution, Marquis de Lafayette had a plan to buy land where Washington could free his slaves and set an example of abolition. But Washington never took up the offer.
Civil War Commissary Cabin (Source U.S. Army War College/Heritage and Education Center)

Civil War Commissary Cabin (Source U.S. Army War College/Heritage and Education Center)

 THE CIVIL WAR

  • Military casualties in the Civil War are well documented. But also horrific are the civilian tolls in places like Petersburg, Virginia, which was the scene of a nearly yearlong siege. The situation in Petersburg got so dire for the civilians that some held macabre “Starvation Parties” with no refreshments served. Flocks of local birds disappeared and local butchers sold “mystery meat.”
  • Lincoln initially resisted letting blacks join the army during the CivilWar.  But by the end of the war, “Colored Troops” made up 10% of the Union Army.  When U.S. Colored Troops” were admitted to the Union ranks during the Civil War, they often got the dirty work such as collecting the dead bodies and were paid less than white soldiers.

THE SPANISH AMERICAN WAR

  • President William McKinley couldn’t  locate the Philippines after annexing them during the Spanish American War.
  • Water torture didn’t begain in Iraq. Americans used the “water cure,” a form of torture, in the Spanish American War. At Senate Hearings in 1902, William Taft testified about use of the “water cure” on people in the Philippines by Americans, a national scandal that reached all the way to Theodore Roosevelt’s White House.

    Theodore Roosevelt (Photo Source: NobelPrize.org)

    Theodore Roosevelt (Photo Source: NobelPrize.org)

  • Anti-­Catholic venom is an overlooked reason why WASP America wanted to liberate Cuba from Spain during the Spanish American War.
  • Black soldiers were mistakenly thought to be immune from tropical diseases. That was one reason they were sent to fight in Cuba during the Spanish American war.
  • The “Buffalo Soldiers,” who were black men, fought bravely in Cuba during the Spanish American War. But Teddy Roosevelt who led the Rough Riders got the headlines and glory‹and later revised the story of what really happened to reap self-aggrandizing benefits.
  • President William McKinley professed to have been divinely inspired to annex the Philippines and “Christianize” this largely Catholic country during the Spanish American War.
  • The great American writer Mark Twain opposed American imperialism and wrote about replacing the American flag with one featuring black stripes and skull and crossbones.
  • Racist policies surrounded Teddy Roosevelt’s “Great White Fleet.” Black sailors who had served and fought on American ships since the Revolution, were kept from service except in the boiler rooms.

WORLD WAR II

  • Widespread sexual violence was inflicted on women during the Battle of Berlin. Among the causes: the practice of issuing vodka to the Red Army. The number of women raped by the Soviet troops in Berlin is estimated between 95,000 and 133,000, with as many as 10,000 deaths as a result—many from suicide; altogether two million German women are thought to have been raped by the Soviet Red Army troops.
  • The Red Army crushed the Nazis at the close of World War II but Cold War animosities kept their crucial role out of America’s “Good War” narrative.
  • General Dwight Eisenhower didn’t know the Germans had been developing atomic weapons or about the Manhattan Project when he agreed to let Stalin take Berlin.

 

vietnam

Vietnam Fire Support Base (Model) at the US Army War College- Army Heritage and Education Center

THE VIETNAM WAR

  • As President, Eisenhower weighed and then dismissed using atomic weapons in Vietnam. Seeing what devastation the atomic bombs had wreaked on Japan influenced Eisenhower to not use these weapons again, especially against an Asian country.
  • When television news reports brought the “Living Room War” of Vietnam into American homes and showed how the U.S. Government was lying, reporters became as significant as the troops.  The media let the public in on what was really going on– America was not winning the war.
  • Vietnam wasn’t only about Communism and “falling dominoes.” It was about Catholic versus Buddhist, government corruption and longstanding class differences inside Vietnam.
  • The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave President Johnson authority to widen America’s role in the Vietnam conflict, was drafted weeks before the questionable attack on American ships– which triggered the resolution.
  • The My Lai Massacre received wide media attention but purported atrocities and the killing of as many as 3,000 Vietnamese in the city of Hue got little notice.

THE WAR IN IRAQ

  • The battle for Fallujah exposed how little Americans knew about who was fighting the war in Iraq. “Handsome Johnny” had been replaced as a fighter as the war was being outsourced to private, for-profit contractors in Iraq in an unprecedented way. The American troops were once referred to as a “junior partner” in the war effort.

 

© 2015 Kenneth C. Davis All rights reserved

The Hidden History of America At War (Hachette Books Random House Audio)

The Hidden History of America At War (Hachette Books Random House Audio)

“War Stories”-The Hidden History of America At War

This video is a brief introduction to my new book, THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF AMERICA AT WAR: Untold Tales from Yorktown to Fallujah (published May 5, 2015 by Hachette Books and Random House Audio)

“His searing analyses and ability to see the forest as well as the trees make for an absorbing and infuriating read as he highlights the strategic missteps, bad decisions, needless loss of life, horrific war crimes, and political hubris that often accompany war.”

–Publishers Weekly *Starred Review Link Full Review 

More Advance Praise for THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF AMERICA AT WAR

The Hidden History of America At War-May 5,2015 (Hachette Books/Random House Audio)

The Hidden History of America At War-May 5, 2015 (Hachette Books/Random House Audio)

 

 

“There’s only one person who can top Kenneth C. Davis—and that’s Kenneth C. Davis. With The Hidden History of America at War, he’s composed yet another brilliant, thought-provoking, and compelling book. . . Davis offers a hard-hitting and sometimes critical look at some of the most consequential wartime decisions made by presidents and policy makers, but his admiration and respect for the men and women who have served and sacrificed so much for this nation is unwavering.”

—Andrew Carroll, editor of the New York Times-bestsellers War Letters and Behind the Lines

“With his trademark storytelling flair, Kenneth C. Davis illuminates six critical, but often overlooked battles that helped define America’s character and its evolving response to conflict. This fascinating and strikingly insightful book is a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand our nation’s bloody history of war.”

—Eric Jay Dolin, author of Leviathan and When America First Met China

“A fascinating exploration of war and the myths of war. Kenneth C. Davis shows how interesting the truth can be.”

—Evan Thomas, New York Times-bestselling author of Sea of Thunder and John Paul Jones

June 4-Speaking at the Pritzker Military Museum (Chicago)

On June 4, I will be speaking at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago at 6 PM. I will be there to discuss my new book, THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF AMERICA AT WAR:Untold Tales from Yorktown to Fallujah.

I hope you will join me

The Hidden History of America At War-May 5,2015 (Hachette Books/Random House Audio)

The Hidden History of America At War-May 5,2015 (Hachette Books/Random House Audio)

Starred PW Review of “The Hidden History of America At War”

The first critical review of my book, The Hidden History of America At War: Untold Tales from Yorktown to Fallujah appeared in  a “Starred Review” in Publishers Weekly.

“His searing analyses and ability to see the forest as well as the trees make for an absorbing and infuriating read as he highlights the strategic missteps, bad decisions, needless loss of life, horrific war crimes, and political hubris that often accompany war.”

Please read the full review here

atwar

Kirkus Review-The Hidden History of America At War

KIRKUS REVIEW

Six turning points in military history and American democracy.

Don’t Know Much About… series author Davis (America’s Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders Who Shaped a Nation, 2008, etc.) begins with the 1781 battle that decided the American Revolution. In Yorktown and its aftermath, we learn that George Washington favored a large standing army, despite the insistence of many that a diffuse corps of “citizen soldiers” would be a better safeguard of democracy. From Yorktown, the author moves to the 1864 Battle of Petersburg, Virginia. Davis defines specific moments when the U.S. military’s role and self-image changed significantly. His stories are always analytically rigorous, and thus he describes at length the so-called “water cure” as it was employed as a method of torture by Americans during the Spanish-American War. Throughout the book, the author is careful to emphasize the critical role of African-Americans, both in the acknowledged triumphs of groups like the U.S. Colored Troops and in the disgraces visited upon black servicemen. Davis also makes sure to give voice to the fact that the actions of the Greatest Generation were not always so valiant. Russians were not the only soldiers who left a swath of brutalized women in their wake. While the Americans were not given the same license as Soviet troops avenging more than 25 million casualties, they still committed crimes. Davis’ chapter on Vietnam offers a damning view of a military beset by those more interested in “management” than “leadership”—e.g., Gen. William Westmoreland. In the final chapter, on Fallujah, the author discusses the sickening scene of charred American mercenaries hanging from a bridge, failures of military policy, and a sense that the best military in the world is only as good as its civilian leadership.

Complete Text of Review

The Hidden History of America At War-May 5,2015 (Hachette Books/Random House Audio)

The Hidden History of America At War-May 5, 2015 (Hachette Books/Random House Audio)

The Divisive History of Memorial Day

Author Kenneth C. Davis discusses Memorial Day on CBS THIS MORNING

 

It is a well-established fact that Americans can argue over anything. And we do. Mays or Mantle. A Caddy or a Lincoln. And, of course, abolition, abortion, and guns.

But a debate over Memorial Day –and more specifically where and how it began? America’s most solemn holiday should be free of rancor. But it isn’t and never has been.

Born out of the Civil War’s catastrophic death toll as “Decoration Day,” Memorial Day is a day for honoring our nation’s war dead.

Waterloo, New York claimed that the holiday originated there with a parade and decoration of the graves of fallen soldiers in 1866. When LBJ signed a proclamation there in 1966 that seemed to cement Waterloo’s claim.

But according to the Veterans Administration, at least 25 places now stake a claim to the birth of Memorial Day. Among the pack are Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, which says it was first in 1864.( “Many Claim to Be Memorial Day Birthplace” )

And according to historian David Blight, Charleston, South Carolina can point to a parade of emancipated children in May 1865 who decorated the graves of fallen Union soldiers whose remains were moved from a racetrack to a proper cemetery.

This “We–were-first” sentiment is weighted by emotion.  Few towns, north or south were untouched by death in a conflict that claimed 800,000 lives.  Historian Drew Gilpin Faust called it a “Republic of Suffering.”

But the passions cut deeper than pride of place.

From its inception, Decoration Day (later Memorial Day) was linked to  “Yankee” losses in the cause of emancipation.

Calling for the first formal Decoration Day, Union General John Logan wrote,  “Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains…”

Leader of the Grand Army of the Republic, Logan set the first somber commemoration on May 30, 1868, in Arlington Cemetery, the sacred space wrested from property once belonging to Robert E. Lee’s family.( When Memorial Day was No Picnic by James M. McPherson.)

In other words, Logan’s first Decoration Day was divisive— a partisan affair, organized by northerners.

In 1870, Frederick Douglass gave a Memorial Day speech in Arlington that focused on this division:

We are sometimes asked, in the name of patriotism, to forget the merits of this fearful struggle, and to remember with equal admiration those who struck at the nation’s life and those who struck to save it, those who fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and justice.

I am no minister of malice. I would not strike the fallen. I would not repel the repentant; but may my “right hand forget her cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,” if I forget the difference between the parties to that terrible, protracted, and bloody conflict.

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Needing to mourn their losses, southern states created their own Confederate Decoration Days with grave decoration and picnics afterwards becoming annual rites. But the question remains: what inspired Logan to call for this rite of decorating soldier’s graves with fresh flowers?

The simple answer is—his wife.

While visiting Petersburg, Virginia – which fell to General Grant 150 years ago in 1865 after a year-long, deadly siege – Mary Logan learned about the city’s women who had formed a Ladies’ Memorial Association. Their aim was to show admiration  “…for those who died defending homes and loved ones.”

Choosing June 9th, the anniversary of “The Battle of the Old Men and the Young Boys” in 1864, a teacher had taken her students to the city’s cemetery to decorate the graves of the fallen. General Logan’s wife wrote to him about the practice. Soon after, he ordered a day of remembrance.

The teacher and her students, it is worth noting, had placed flowers and flags on both Union and Confederate graves.

On this Memorial Day, as America wages its partisan wars at full pitch, this may be a lesson for us all.

More resources at the New York Times Topics archive of Memorial Day articles

The story of “The Battle of the Old Men and the Young Boys” is told in  THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF AMERICA AT WAR

The Hidden History of America At War (Hachette Books Random House Audio)

The Hidden History of America At War (Hachette Books Random House Audio)

 

© 2015 Kenneth C. Davis