Sunday, September 7, 2014

America's Story (part 16) - Our First 9/11

Wikipedia/Star Spangled Banner Flag

June 1812 - February 1815:

More than 200 years ago, the War of 1812 began.  It has been called the Second War of American Independence.  And it started for many reasons, among them:  the British restriction of American trade, the desire of American expansion, the impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars.

But a turning point came in late summer of 1814.

[reference: War of 1812 - Facts & Summary - and timeline - Timeline | War of 1812 | PBS ]

August 24 - 25, 1814:

In retaliation for American attacks in Canada, the British took the US capital and torched it.   An interesting side note is that on the next day, the weather - a tornado - inflicted more causalities on the British than the fight. So the British cut their occupation short and limped back to their ships. 

[reference: British troops set fire to the White House — This Day in History — 8/24/1814  and A Tornado Saves Washington during the War of 1812 | Historical Digression ]

Many prisoners were taken in this attack on Washington D. C.  Among them was Dr. William Beanes, a colleague of Georgetown lawyer, Francis Scott Key.

Soon it was ...

* September 11, 1814 *

This was our first 9/11 and the turning point of the war at the Battle of Plattsburgh.  The decisive victory over the British naval forces on Lake Champlain lead the British retreat into Canada.  Also it lead to the conclusion of U.S.-British peace negotiations in Belgium, which would formally end the war in 1815.

[reference:  The Battle of Plattsburgh- September 11, 1814 Victory on Lake Champlain  and Battle of Plattsburgh - Facts & Summary - ]

Meanwhile, Francis Scott Key traveled to the British fleet in the Chesapeake to negotiate a release of American prisoners of war, among them Dr. William Beanes.

September 13 and 14, 1814

But after the British victory in Washington D.C. in August, their troops advanced to the vital port city of Baltimore.  They believed it to be the base of the privateers, who preyed on their shipping.   At Fort McHenry was the garrison that was key to the city's harbor defense.

[reference: War of 1812: Battle of Fort McHenry ]

In the Battle of Fort McHenry, the British gave it all that they got as they fired on the fort to get the Americans to surrender.  There ultimatum to the Americans was if the fort lowered the flag, the shelling would stop.

The rest of the story is told here in the clip below - through the eyes of Francis Scott Key:

(for a transcrpt, check out:  The Star Spangled Banner)

And at dawn's early light, Francis Scott Key saw that  - the flag was still there!   

This Georgetown lawyer penned the lyrics of the song from this experience.  They can be found here:  Star Spangled Banner Lyrics - USA Flag Site

For the rest of the story:  The Story Behind the Star Spangled Banner | History | Smithsonian

The Star Spangled Banner was born in the crucible of the American Revolution and the War of 1812, in which we fought the British. Since then, the United States and the United Kingdom have become strong allies.

* September 11, 2001 *

Almost 200 years after the War of 1812, the US was attacked on native soil in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.

[reference:  9/11 Attacks - Facts & Summary - ]

And the British gave this tribute to us, playing the Star Spangled Banner at Buckingham Palace:

It's been 200 years since the lyrics were written.  As we move into the 21st century, the last line of our National Anthem still ends with this question:

Oh, say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

And it's a question each coming generation needs to answer.


Other posts in this series:


Photo from:  Wikipedia/Star Spangled Banner Flag

Monday, September 1, 2014

Culture 101 (part 15) - Persevering and Prevailing during Dark Days Mail 31 December 1940

September 3, 1939 - 75 years ago - Britain and France declared war on Germany.  It was in response to Hitler's invasion of Poland two days earlier on September 1st.

So World War II began.  

And some historians say it was an extension of War World I.  [reference:  Britain and France declare war on Germany — This Day in History — 9/3/1939, HowStuffWorks "World War I" ]

Six years later, World War II would prove to be the most devastating war of the 20th century.  One estimate gives close to 50 million killed.  Some go as high as over 70 million.  But no doubt about it, all corners of the planet were affected by perhaps the greatest conflict in history ... so far.

Many stories have been spun about this war, particularly those of persevering and prevailing during dark times.  And art imitates life in the ...

* Movies *
The King's Speech (2010), is the true story of King George VI facing a crisis in both his personal life and as a reluctant wartime monarch.  First, he persevered and prevailed in public speaking in spite of a speech problem; likewise leading his people through the most trying time in the 20th century.

"The stammering that defined him, and the courage with which he tried to beat it, came to symbolise the vulnerability of the British people as they stood alone against the Nazi tyranny that had the rest of Europe in its grip."   [reference: The King's Speech: the real story - Telegraph

And as World War II began 75 years ago, this speech, dramatized below, was given at the start of the six year marathon of persevering and prevailing over great evil.

Below are the last lines of the King's speech:

"There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield. But we can only do the right as we see the right, and reverently commit our cause to God.

"If one and all we keep resolutely faithful to it, ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand, then, with God's help, we shall prevail."

George VI - September 3, 1939

[reference:  Online Speech Bank: King George VI -- First Radio Address (transcript-audio-video)]

George VI backed up his words with actions. He stood by his people as they experienced enemy raids from the sky on native soil.  The most intense were from September 1940 to May 1941, the first attacks lasting for 57 consecutive days, known as the London Blitz.

Instead of fleeing to Canada or to the countryside, the King stayed in London, which was the target of the most intense Nazi bombings.  Buckingham Palace even took a hit from the raids.  Shown here  ( is a picture of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth walking through London during the Blitz, 1940 or 1941.

The King gave the people courage to stand up to Hitler and his "supermen."  And ultimately, Great Britain and her allies did prevail.  For a transcript of some of the King's Speeches, check out:  HISTORIC ROYAL SPEECHES AND WRITINGS

The trying times of World War II not only influenced the stories shown on the big screen like The King's Speech, but also such genres on the smaller screens like ...

* Science Fiction * 

One such is the longest running Science Fiction television series in history - Dr. Who.  In this following scene from "The Empty Child," the Doctor commends Nancy for the tenacity of her people during a time which Sir Winston Churchill had described as "their finest hour."

Below are some of Dr. Who's comments during the London Blitz:

"1941 ... the German war machine is rolling up the map of Europe ... country after country falling like dominoes .... nothing can stop it ... nothing.

"Until one tiny, damp little island says, No! No, not here.

"A mouse in front of lion  ..."

Another genre is ....

* Fantasy *

Many stories are set during great conflict of good and evil as epic as World War II.  As shown in the clip below from The Lord the Rings,  The Two Towers (2002), Sam's speech reflects perhaps the theme of the trilogy:

Great stories give hope for the future during the many dark days in our history. Heroes and heroines had lots of chances to turn back, but they did not.  As Sam put it -

"Because they were holding on to something ...

"That there's some good in this world ... and it's worth fighting for."

[reference:  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) - Quotes - IMDb]

The King's Speech and Sam's Speech ... a little of Dr. Who - this is a sample of those stories that speak to our soul during dark days.  And during such times, there are heroes and their stories of persevering and prevailing over great evil.  And many of these stories become part of the culture and we pass them on ....

As they give us hope for the good worth fighting for!


Previous posts in the Culture 101 series:

Culture 101 (part 1) - Reagan's Challenge (2012)

Culture 101 (part 2) - Easter Eucatastrophe (2012)

Culture 101 (part 3) - Paul Revere's Ride (2012)

Culture 101 (part 4) - Gold Diggers and the Great Depression (2012)

Culture 101 (part 5) - Blue Bloods and 9/11 (2012)

Culture 101 (part 6) - Gilligan's Island and Breast Cancer Awareness (2012)

Culture 101 (part 7) - Band of Brothers  (2013)

Culture 101 (part 8) - Snow White (2013)

Culture 101 (part 9) - Father Knows Best (2013)

Culture 101 (part 10) - Summertime! x 3 (2013)

Culture 101 (part 11) - Native American Osmosis (2013)

Culture 101 (part 12) - Thanksgivukkah (Thanksgiving and Hanukkah) (2013)

Culture 101 (part 13) - Coventry Carol (2013)

Culture 101 (part 14) - World War I - that Golden Summer of 1914 (2014)


Photo from: Mail 31 December 1940