“But test everything; hold fast what is good.” —I Thessalonians 5:21
The Birth of Rudyard Kipling,
December 30, 1865
udyard Kipling published eleven novels and hundreds of poems, short stories, and newspaper articles between 1881 until his death in 1936. From 1890 on, he was one of the most famous story-tellers in the world, a uniquely gifted writer who drew on his experiences in India, the tales told him by his nurse, and his innate sense of the effects of Imperial Britain on the world. In 1889 he traveled throughout the United States for seven months, lionized wherever he stopped, including a day spent with Mark Twain in Elmira, New York. At the age of 26, Kipling married 29-year-old Caroline, “Carrie” Starr Balestier an American who kept their household accounts and correspondence, and bore him three children; she outlived him by three years.
Born in British India, Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was a celebrated English novelist, poet, short-story writer, and journalist
Kipling was born in Bombay, India to John Lockwood Kipling, a professor of architecture and the principal of the J.J. Art Institute in that city, and Alice MacDonald, daughter of a Methodist minister, and described as having a “lively tongue and a match for any wit.” As an “Anglo-Indian” Rudyard’s first five years were spent speaking the local language, and he used Indian idioms from his early learning in books and articles. Rudyard spent his first years in Bombay under the guardianship of Indian nurses and servants, one of whom sacrificed a goat to the god Kali during one of Rudyard’s early childhood illnesses.
Malabar Hill, Bombay, where Kipling was born
John Lockwood Kipling (1837-1911) father of Rudyard Kipling
Alice Kipling née MacDonald (1837-1910) mother of Rudyard Kipling
Just before his sixth birthday, Kipling and his little sister were left in England in the care of a retired officer and his wife, Rudyard’s parents slipping quietly away, never telling the children about their new circumstances. He lived under the tyranny of “Aunt Rosa” until his mother arrived one day from India to spend a summer with him in the country. One biographer suggests that Rudyard Kipling, in those seven years without family, was made to drink deeply of the “waters of Hate, Suspicion, and Despair,” an experience that instilled in him a stoicism that any suffering can be endured. It was also discovered that he had a serious eye problem that the wearing of glasses the rest of his life ameliorated.
Bombay (Mumbai) is situated on the west coast of India and as of 2018 was ranked 2nd most populous city in India and 7th most populous in the world
United Services College in Devon, established in 1874 by a company of army officers
His teen years were spent at the “United Services College” in North Devon, where its cheapness was exceeded only by its inferiority of education, and where he had to learn the skills of self-preservation (again), amid a tumult of teasing, bullying, and beating. The lives of potential civil servants and soldiers in the late 19th Century would hold the British Empire together. The ethos of the “public school” would appear in his novels like Stalky & Co (1899). Kipling returned to India in 1882 and worked as a journalist for seven years where he could hob-nob with his fellow upper middle-class Englishmen, as well as observe Indian life as it was lived in the street and on the farm. He filled his journals with light verse and poetry as well as sketches of Indian life. His Departmental Ditties, Plain Tales from the Hills, Soldiers Three, etc. brought accolades and awards from England and made him one of the greatest short-story tellers of all time. Three years after his death, Hollywood began making films based on his stories, from Gunga Din to The Jungle Book, from The Man Who Would Be King to Captains Courageous.
Rudyard Kipling (center) and other students of United Services College, c. 1882
Westward Ho!, England, location of the United Services College
After a five-year sojourn in America, where he married and initially settled in Vermont and Connecticut, the Kiplings returned to England and settled in Sussex for the rest of their lives. He was the first Englishman to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for literature (1907). His use of the colloquialisms of India and of British soldiers and sailors “broke new ground” and added color to his stories that no one else had ever done with success. Kipling was a master of glorifying and supporting the British Empire, and his books, along with those of his contemporary, and second most popular writer of books for young men, G.A. Henty, probably unknowingly recruited more civil servants and soldiers during that period than any other source.
A 1915 booklet by Kipling containing nautically themed essays and poems
Kipling’s home in Sussex, England from 1902 until his death in 1936
His son Jack was killed in action in the First World War, and Rudyard’s heart-breaking search for his son’s remains has inspired a book entitled My Son Jack. After that war, the literati and other liberal opponents of the British Empire classified Kipling as a “jingoistic imperialist.” Nonetheless, political incorrectness aside, most of his beloved books for children have never been out of print, such as The Jungle Book, and Puck of Pook’s Hill.
John “Jack” Kipling (1897-1915)
Rudyard Kipling died in 1936, age 70. One of his pall-bearers was his cousin Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister of England. He was buried at Westminster Abbey between Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy, and his casket was appropriately adorned with the British flag. As might be expected, Kipling’s works and conservative political views remain controversial in both India and Britain. Both of his homes in those two nations, however, are beautiful museums devoted to his memory and extraordinary literary talents, that still entertain us and elicit appreciation from readers today.
Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, where Kipling’s remains were interred
“God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
Hoover Dam Authorized by Legislation,
December 21, 1928
ne of the most massive engineering projects in history took place from its formal and legal authorization on December 21, 1928 to its grand opening in 1936. Originally called the Boulder Canyon Project, it officially became known as the Hoover Dam, after President Herbert Hoover, a great mining engineer himself, who had begun the talks about such a project when he was Secretary of Commerce in 1922, and stewarded much of the work during his years as President of the United States, 1929-1933. President Franklin Roosevelt changed the name to the Boulder Dam out of hatred of Herbert Hoover and a desire to receive the credit himself. Congress restored Hoover’s name to the Dam in 1947 after Roosevelt’s death.
An aerial view of the Hoover Dam
In the early 20th Century, the “Reclamation Service” began looking at ways to generate hydro-electric power for Los Angeles and other sites as well as build for flood control. They considered the Colorado River a potential dam area, but the technology to transport electricity for more than eighty miles would have to wait a few years for development. Various schemes were proposed, but not until the middle of the 1920s could engineers seriously explore the river region for possible dam sites. A region known as Black Canyon met all the requirements for harnessing the Colorado, and enough of the states through which the river flowed approved the construction of what would become the most massive concrete “arch-gravity” dam in the world.
A 1904 picture of the future site of the Hoover Dam
As designed, the Hoover Dam would be more than 650 feet thick at the bottom and 55 feet at the top. The federal government agreed to provide all the materials, and began to consider bids for the construction. The specs were one hundred pages long, with seventy-six drawings. A consortium of six companies won the bid, agreeing to complete the dam within seven years. A new town was built to house the workers, Boulder City, and a railroad built connecting the job site with Las Vegas, Nevada. A highway connecting Nevada and Arizona was to be built along the top of the dam.
1932—Boulder City, Nevada, originally built to house the workers from the Hoover Dam project
Because the Great Depression hit just about the time the construction began, thousands of potential workers descended on the job site. Three separate camp sites accommodated the unemployed hordes that came for work. Some of them lived in bunk houses clinging to the side of the canyon walls. The project used between 3,000 and 5,000 laborers in the course of construction. Before actual work could begin on the dam itself, four diversion tunnels were dug through the canyon walls so the Colorado River avoided the work-site. Cofferdams were constructed also, to protect the thousands of men digging below the water-line.
1934—Hoover Dam takes shape from the concrete columns in which it was poured
The first concrete was poured June 6, 1933. Before it was all done, 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete was poured, “enough concrete to build a two-lane highway from San Francisco to New York.” They embedded more than 582 miles of cooling pipes within the concrete. The work was dangerous and drew tourists to the site to watch the men swinging across the canyon, the so-called “high-scalers.” In the course of construction, 112 men were killed in various aspects of the construction, from being crushed by falling rock to drowning in the river.
High scalers drilling into canyon wall 500 feet above the Colorado River in Black Canyon, site of Hoover Dam, 1932
Memorial to the 112+ workers who died in the process of building the Hoover Dam, which reads in part “They died to make the desert bloom”
The dam created Lake Mead, the largest man-made lake in the world, and the turbine-generators provide electricity to people in three states. The interior of the dam contains museums and guided operational tours, and attracts more than one million visitors per year.
Lake Mead at Hoover Dam, panoramic view from the Arizona side showing the penstock towers, the Nevada-side spillway entrance and the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, also known as the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge
Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes spear-headed the change of name that Congress had authorized in honor of President Hoover, to the “Boulder Dam” at its dedication in 1936. The new name never really stuck, and many people continued to call it the Hoover Dam, officially affirmed by Congress again in 1947, over Ickes’s protestations. The Dam is a National Historic Landmark and remains one of the most remarkable engineering feats in history. Landmark Events tours this amazing monument to American engineering prowess during our Grand Canyon Adventure.
Join Landmark Events and ICR geologist Dr. Tim Clarey for an incredible journey through the Grand Canyon. Highlights include: tour inside Hoover Dam, dinner cruise on Lake Mead, scenic helicopter ride to the North Rim, horseback riding, skeet shooting and more! Learn More >
Tourists gather around one of the generators in the Nevada wing of the powerhouse to hear its operation explained, September 1940
n 1868 at Fort Laramie, in Goshen County, Wyoming, the United States Government signed a treaty with the Sioux Nation, wherein the Sioux agreed to accept all the land west of the Missouri River in South Dakota as reserved for them, including the Black Hills, and the United States agreed to stay out of land reserved for the tribes. In 1874, George Armstrong Custer led a military expedition into the Black Hills, an area sacred to the Lakota, and reserved exclusively for their use. Custer’s entourage discovered gold there, and white miners from all over the United States flocked to the Black Hills to get in on the bonanza. Needless to say, war erupted again between the Sioux and the interlopers stealing their land and gold. The government in Washington decided it would be easier to create different reservations for the native tribes than try to drive out the American miners. A Hunkpapa Sioux leader named Sitting Bull, who had spent much of his life fighting other tribes and the white soldiers and settlers, was called upon once again to employ his considerable skills in a last gasp to preserve the territory and honor of the tribes.
The signing of the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868, and one of the signature pages from the treaty including marks from the tribal leaders
Sitting Bull (c. 1830-1890) in 1883
Sitting Bull was likely born around 1830 in a settlement of Hunkpapa Sioux, and named “Jumping Badger.” At the age of 14, he participated in a raid on a rival tribe (Crow), and “counted coup,” for which he received as reward from his father, a warrior’s horse, an eagle feather, a shield, a feast, and the name that he carried the rest of his life. Twenty years later, more than two thousand Union soldiers attacked a Lokata village in the “Dakota Indian War,” a village defended by warriors led by Sitting Bull and Gall. Later the same year, Sitting Bull led an attack in which he was struck by a soldier’s bullet which went through his hip and out his back, without serious harm.
Killdeer Mountain Battlefield where fighting ensued after some 2,200 Union troops attacked a Lakota village July 28–29, 1864
At 7,244ft, Black Elk Peak is the highest point in the Black Hills, a small and isolated mountain range that rises from the plains in western South Dakota, and extends into Wyoming
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After the Civil War, the Great Northern Pacific Railroad attempted to survey and lay tracks across Lakota lands, but faced attacks by bands of Sioux warriors led by Sitting Bull, temporarily shutting down the railroad, which led to bankruptcy for men like Jay Cooke, the financier of the Union’s war against the South. After the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, mentioned above, The Great Sioux War erupted in the Dakotas, Wyoming, and Montana. The federal government in Washington ordered the Sioux tribes on to reservations outside the Black Hills, and the shooting began. President Grant ordered the army to track down any natives found outside the reservation and force the “hostiles” by any means necessary back to the reservations. Many natives complied and returned in peace.
Jay Cooke (1821-1905) financier of the Civil War as well as the postwar development of railroads in the North
Sitting Bull’s reputation and natural leadership skills led to great respect both from his and other tribes. His name appeared in Eastern newspapers, and his exploits were recorded for all to read. A ceremonial alliance brought the Northern Cheyanne (traditional enemy of the Sioux) into conjunction with Sitting Bull’s bands. Numerous hostiles were attracted to Sitting Bull’s camp until a camp of more than 10,000 people were assembled. Lt. Col. Custer, the leader of the 1874 expedition, Civil War veteran, and Indian chaser, discovered the three-mile-long camp and attacked with but three battalions of the 7th Cavalry Regiment. Sitting Bull remained primarily the spiritual leader of the assembled tribes as the young men swarmed to the attack along the Little Big Horn River/ “greasy-grass” region in Montana.
Sketches of Sitting Bull are featured on the cover of a December 1877 issue of Harper’s Weekly
George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876) officer and cavalry commander during the Civil War and the American Indian Wars
With the total destruction of one battalion—including the death and mutilation of Custer—and heavy losses in the other two, the headlines in the eastern newspapers screamed massacre, shock and outrage. Thousands of soldiers, cavalry, infantry, and artillery were sent to the Dakotas to track down the fleeing tribes and kill or capture them all. Sitting Bull escaped to Canada, where he remained in exile for four years. After making peace with several traditional enemy tribes in Canada, as well as the Canadian government, Sitting Bull returned to the United States in 1881 with 186 starving family and followers, and surrendered to the Army.
The Battle of Little Bighorn, June 25-26, 1876
In 1885, Sitting Bull was allowed to join Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, where he rode once around the arena each night for fifty dollars per week. He met President Grant and other dignitaries, who appreciated the old Hunkpapa Sioux leader’s newfound respect for his former enemies and willingness to subordinate himself. He gave speeches in the Sioux language, which translators said were supportive but which some historians believe were full of curses and accusations against his captors. He did make a small fortune signing autographs and getting his picture taken.
Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill Cody
A circus poster c. 1899 advertising Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show
In the late 1880s and early 90s, a native “spiritual” movement centered on the “Ghost Dance” attracted many followers from different tribes, including many Sioux. In fear that Sitting Bull might join the movement and lead a rebellion, the Army ordered that he be arrested and incarcerated. They surrounded his house on December 15, 1890 and ordered him out under arrest. In the ensuing confusion and resistance, followers rushed to the house. Gunfire ensued with the shooting of the arresting officer by a Sioux warrior. Sitting Bull was then killed on the spot. When the smoke cleared, six police were dead along with seven of Sitting Bull’s followers.
A Sioux Ghost Dance
Two of Sitting Bull’s wives and two of his daughters pose outside the door of the cabin where he was slain several weeks prior
The old warrior has been the subject of admiration and respect ever since that time, and has been portrayed in movies and books multiple times. His living grandsons, some of whom are professing Christians, keep alive his memory, as do the Lakota as a tribe. His grave, well-marked, is in Mobridge, South Dakota.
Ireland Becomes a Free State:
The Anglo-Irish Peace Treaty,
December 6, 1921
reland’s struggle for sovereignty from her English conquerers endured for over 700 years. Those centuries contain some of the most inspiring, heartbreaking and pertinent stories I’ve ever read—they are the stories of ordinary men and women who were resilient in spite of their losses and who were raised to fight and triumph gloriously.
Birth of the Irish Republic, by Walter Paget (1863–1935)
Growing up in my parents’ home, my favorite coffee table book was a hefty thing, vividly capturing Ireland’s War for Independence from 1916 to 1921, their final struggle to achieve this long hoped for dream. I found the human elements of this war to leap off the page and inspire sympathy, admiration and dread.
Members of the British military and the Royal Irish Constabulary near Limerick, c. 1920
These are quite recent events—only 100 years ago today the Irish War for Independence ended when the Anglo-Irish treaty was signed and the status of Free State for Ireland emerged. This agreement was finally reached after five years of continuous guerrilla warfare causing the deaths of hundreds of civilians and soldiers and eliciting the garnered attention of the whole world.
These treaty negotiations were hampered by continued hostilities on both sides. An agreement might never have been reached if England’s Prime Minister had not threatened to resume outright war if his deadline of three days was not met. So it was that the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed at two in the morning on December 6, 1921. The noteworthy signatories on it include Prime Minister Lloyd George, Lord Birkenhead, Arthur Griffith, Winston Churchill and Michael Collins. The latter wrote his fiancé that same day:
Signed final page of the Anglo-Irish Treaty
“I think what have I got for Ireland?. . . Something which she has wanted these past 700 years—will anyone be satisfied with this bargain, will anyone?. . . I don’t know how things will go now but with God’s help we have brought peace to this land of ours—a peace which will end this old strife of ours forever.”
Michael Collins (1890-1922) lead negotiator and General of the Irish Free state forces was assassinated by anti-treaty rebels the following year
To some, the Treaty was a shameful compromise. To the visionary Collins and many others it was the first giant step towards a free Ireland. As he put it, “It gives us freedom, not the ultimate freedom that all nations desire. . . but the freedom to achieve it.” This did not prevent civil war from breaking out in Ireland after the treaty was accepted and ratified by both popular vote and Ireland’s government. The vote was close and ratification was rushed. Tragically, the treaty was outspokenly condemned by Ireland’s sitting President, Éamon de Valera. This was the spark that ignited further division and outright civil war. It wasn’t until 1937 that Ireland became a fully self-governing republic.
Éamon de Valera (1882-1975), born in New York City to a Spanish father and Irish mother
Once submerged in the details of Ireland’s struggle, it’s easy to identify some of the aspects that may apply to our current political turmoil. It is worth noting that despite its current obscurity, the methods the Irish Republican Army used against the British empire became the acknowledged prototype for guerrilla warfare in the 20th century.
Firstly, this was a war fought by entire families. By that I mean every every man, woman and able child considered it natural and dutiful to assume a role in fighting for self governance, both together and separately: The women furtively carried censored ballots and information in the handles of their milk pails for the purpose of passing intelligence. Children kept watch for and spied on soldiers at street corners as a regular day job. And the men split their duties between earning a living and dismantling a corrupt empire—the latter requiring a vast array of talents.
Secondly, a strong unity of purpose prevailed, and even those citizens not as compelled by revolutionary impulses were loath to turn in a neighbor. This unity may have been the single most important ingredient that made their cause so effective. One significant result was wide-spread confusion in the British intelligence service as their policy was to arrest or execute all suspected civilians in order to maintain martial law.
Constance Markievicz (1868-1927) was a founding member of the Irish Citizen Army, and took part in the Easter Rising in 1916, an attempt to end British rule and establish an Irish Republic
Tragically, many of these families who had fought so ferociously together before the treaty soon turned against one another in the Civil War that followed. While Britain was left in peace, the Irish fought amongst themselves so mercilessly that they left Ireland a wrecked shell of its former ideal. This infighting and terror did not fully stop until the 1990s and the inbred distrust within the nation still haunts each succeeding generation.
In April 1922, Anti-Treaty forces had taken over the Four Courts building in Dublin. The subsequent bombardment by National Army forces in June led to a huge explosion of stored munitions which destroyed the Public Records Office, and along with it a huge swathe of Irish cultural memory
Thirdly, this was a propaganda and information war. The tactic of fighting the British in open combat was nearly eliminated after the doomed Easter Rising of 1916. Instead, the Irish focused on securing the ballot box and infiltrating the network of British spies and assassins. This British network had proved successful at crushing previous uprisings by arresting Irish leaders at the very first suspicion of revolutionary activities. The methods the Irish Republican Army used to achieve this control over government Intelligence were brutal and condemned by the British as unethical. This, however, did not serve to deter the British from inflicting upon the Irish people equally brutal reprisals.
The aftermath of the Easter Rising, a failed attempt to throw off the British government and establish an independent Irish republic
Lastly, unlike many previous uprisings, this final war was the product of a long nurtured cultural struggle known as the Gaelic Revival. There was a general acknowledgment by the generation’s leaders that their long outlawed culture, language and history had to be revived. They knew this heritage must be learned and valued by Ireland’s youth before any martial attempt would be blessed with lasting success.
The aftermath of The Burning of Cork by British forces December 11-12, 1920
With this purposeful throwing off of imperial indoctrination, there grew an ever increasing admiration for America’s founding documents and principles of liberty and self government. Catholic Ireland’s struggle—as in the contemporary communist Revolution of Russia, or even that of the French—was to justify the singularly Protestant assertion that freedom is a God-given right. Asserting that freedom can neither be claimed nor earned, but is a right inherited from God, the one true Lawmaker, dictates that neither Popes nor ordained Sovereigns can take that away. The inhabitants of County Cork found themselves in the thick of this dilemma when the Pope excommunicated the entire county simply for defending their homes as British troops set them ablaze!
In conclusion, in a Christian nation, methods of warfare matter. And when you have once pushed the moral line of conduct against your enemy, it is shockingly easy to use the same methods on your friends, given provocation. By doing so, you destroy what you once fought for and greatly risk destroying the collective conscience of your nation.
Unity in any human endeavor is a miracle without which any struggle is doomed. The prioritizing of self-importance and grudges above truth and duty can divide even the closest of comrades. Comparing other revolutions, however well intentioned, to our own, confirms to us the momentous presence of our merciful God in the crafting of the United States. Many noble people have, in their own countries and lifetimes, striven in vain for the glorious outcome which graced our War for Independence. God makes the time right for revival and prosperity, and a repentant and humble people is a unified people.
Great Seal of the Irish Free State
But thank God there are in every generation, even in Ireland, men with vision and devotion who will give their lives for the advancement of truth, even if they do not live to reap its full harvest. And in a country of storytellers, such as Ireland, those dead heroes are never far from the mind and heart of each subsequent generation as they fight for truth and liberty.
“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” —James 4:14
First B-24 Built at Ford Plant in
Ypsilanti, Michigan, November 28, 1942
hen the Second World War began, the United States military high command realized that bombing the enemy’s war-production, submarines, and field forces would require new technology, new and more deadly machines, and strategies that would complement or even replace ground forces. The airplanes of the First World War proved inadequate for most tactical missions in the Second. American manufacturers competed to design new fighters and bombers, and then convince the Army to buy their models. Automobile plants were converted to the production of both ground armored vehicles and flying machines. New manufacturing plants sprouted in many cities of the United States. Consolidated Aircraft began building planes in the 1920s. By 1936 they had landed a contract to build the PBY Catalina for the United States Navy, a sea-landing aircraft that they continued to build throughout WWII, used primarily in the Pacific Theatre of Operations.
A Consolidated PBY Catalina at sea anchor during WWII
An early model of the Consolidated B-24 plane
In 1938, one year before the start of WWII and three years before the United States joined the Allies against Japan and Germany, Consolidated engineers designed a bomber that met the requirements laid down by the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC). The first prototype came off the line at the end of 1939. The first production line B-24 Liberator left the Ypsilanti, Michigan, Ford Plant on November 28, 1942, the first Liberator of the more than 8,685 that would take to the air from the Michigan plant. More than 18,500 were built in the war, many produced at Consolidated’s main facility in San Diego, which employed 41,000 people by 1941. At the height of production one B-24 was completed every 59 minutes. They carried ten .50 caliber Browning machine guns for self-defense from four turrets and two waist positions, and 8,000 pounds of bombs for short range and 5,000 for long range bombing sorties.
Consolidated B-24J Liberators under construction at the Consolidated-Vultee plant in San Diego, California, during the summer of 1944
More than 100,000 American airmen were killed in WWII, about one-quarter of the nation’s total losses. Almost 7,000 of those deaths were due to accidents, many in the United States. Designing planes and flying the early models, especially, proved hazardous, and the B-24, with a crew capacity of ten men contributed its share of accidental fatalities. In the European theatre (ETO) of operations, the B-24 became known as “the flying coffin,” “the boxcar with wings” and the “widow-maker.” The Liberator was difficult to fly and had a poor low-speed performance compared to its sister B-17. Nonetheless, the B-24 was the most-produced bomber and multi-engine aircraft in history, and fought in every theatre of the Second World War. The pilots liked the roomier cockpit than in the B-17 construction, its larger payload, its ability to take a beating from anti-aircraft fire and fighter planes, and faster speed in the air.
A rare color photograph of a B-24 in RAF service
The typical crew included four officers—Pilot, Co-Pilot, Navigator and Bombardier. The other six men were enlisted, usually sporting three stripes—flight engineer, tail gunner, ball turret gunner, radio operator, and two waist gunners. They flew in a system of four planes in a box pattern, almost wing-tip to wing-tip with “stacks” of the other identical formations not far in a formidable armada of roaring bombers. Every plane had an artistic image and name painted near the nose.
An informal group portrait of a crew of a Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber aircraft of the RAAF, standing beside their aircraft
The United States Air Corps began strategic bombing in the fall of 1942 and did not let up until the war in Germany ended. The Eighth Air Force flying out of English airfields flew B-24s and B-17s, totaling 1,440,000 sorties and dropped 2.7 million tons of bombs on France and Germany, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and military personnel across Europe. The famous Hollywood actor Jimmy Stewart commanded the 703rd Squadron of the 445th Bomber Group, and became one of the most competent, distinguished, and decorated Squadron Commanders of the war. Leading his bomber group as the pilot of a B-24, he rose to the rank of Brigadier General and remained in the Reserves after the war, for the rest of his life. His heroic career in the Eighth Air Force has been recounted in several excellent biographies.
Colonel Jimmy Stewart receiving the Croix de Guerre with Palm in 1944
A consolidated B-24 Liberator of the 15th A.F. releases its bombs on the railyards at Muhldorf, Germany, on March 19, 1945
Strategic bombing became one of the most controversial military actions of the war. Many people, including military policy-makers, understood that Scripture forbade making war against civilian populations and food production. The Joint Chiefs justified raining death and destruction on manufacturing or transportation centers, often located in heavily populated areas, by arguing that such firepower would cripple the enemy’s capacity to continue the fight and thus shorten the war, saving lives in the long run. Pragmatic decisions and revenge usually trumped moral compunction when it came to bombing the cities of Germany and Japan. Ironically perhaps, the German ability to repair damage and rebuild factories, as well as going underground with production, barely stalled until the war ended with Hitler’s suicide and the subsequent surrender of armies. More than 1,200 B-24 crew members were shot out of the sky, and more than 850 of them died.
15th Air Force B-24s fly through flak and over the destruction created by preceding waves of bombers, 1944