AP History Notes

Posts Tagged ‘japan’

Review of Ostfront: Barbarossa to Berlin-Wargaming World War II on the Eastern Front and Beyond

Chambers, Andy. Bolt Action. Vol. 10, Ostfront: Barbarossa to Berlin. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2015. 112pp. Illustrations, Photographs. $29.95 (Paperback), $15.95 (e-book and PDF).

Wargaming is a growing hobby, coupled with a resurgence in tabletop gaming, that is popular across the world, but particularly in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and in the U.S. There are many periods represented in both historical and fantasy, and even more options for rules and miniatures, allowing players to dream of elaborate tables, with flocked terrain and immaculate buildings, as well as beautifully painted miniature soldiers and vehicles.

One such game, Bolt Action, allows players to simulate squad-level combat in World War II. Created by Warlord Games and authored by Rick Priestley, of Warhammer fame, Bolt Action offers players a multitude of options for recreating World War II fights in miniature. In addition to the main rulebook, one option for Bolt Action players seeking to take on the Eastern Front is the book Ostfront: Barbarossa to Berlin, written by Andy Chambers.

Ostfront takes players from the Far East conflict between the Soviets and Japanese to the Winter War, the various operations that revolved around Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet counter-attack that led to the capture of Berlin. Available armies include German forces, Finnish, Soviet, and Japanese, while theater-specific rules provide interesting opportunities for varying scenarios, including night fighting, mud, ice, and snow.

The book does an excellent job of discussing the intricacies of the individual scenarios, including objectives and various vehicle options. It covered the background history of the broad campaigns and the specific battles.  Featuring exquisite artwork that is customary for Osprey-published works, this book is a must for those who seek to game with German and Soviet forces. It is important to note that it is not a stand-alone set of rules, but a supplement to the main Bolt Action rules.

Having played Bolt Action, I’ve enjoyed the mechanics of the game and the smaller, squad-based, scale. This book is one of several theater-specific supplements that allow players to customize their gaming experiences even more than with the main rules. A well-organized, beautifully-illustrated book, Ostfront will delight gamers seeking to either take on the Soviet Union, or defend the Motherland at all costs. For experienced players seeking to expand their Bolt Action offerings and go in a different direction by fighting the Soviets versus Japan, or Soviets versus Finland, Ostfront should be on your shelf next to the main rulebook.

For more information on the game, please visit their webstore and check out this video.

You can also watch a demo game here.

January 23, 1968: USS Pueblo Seized by North Korean Forces in the Sea of Japan

Following the seizure of the USS Pueblo, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, USN, Chief of Naval Operations and President of the Naval Institute, gave these remarks in an address to the American Bar Foundation on January 25, 1969. This address was published in the March 1969 issue of Proceedings magazine.

USS Pueblo002

“You, as lawyers, will understand why I, as Chief of Naval Operations, and thus in the reviewing chain of command, cannot make comments on the substantive aspects of testimony given during the Inquiry. I will be ready to do this at the appropriate time.

I can, however, put the nature of the Inquiry in proper perspective and, hopefully, reassure the American people that the Court of Inquiry is being conducted in a straightforward, legal and objective manner.

First: What is a Court of Inquiry? It is a fact-finding body—that and nothing more. It is not a court-martial. Witnesses at a Court of Inquiry are not on trial. A Court of Inquiry cannot even prefer charges. It simply records the facts and makes recommendations to the convening authority—in this case the Commander-in-Chief of The Pacific Fleet. These recommendations may cover such things as operational procedures, material improvements, communications, training of personnel, international law—and many other subjects—and, if warranted, the recommendation for further legal proceedings.

Next: Why are we having a Court of Inquiry? A ship has been lost. We always have a Court of Inquiry when this happens—whatever the cause.

Particular emphasis is being placed on protecting the rights of the individuals, and on lessons learned. These lessons will be of great assistance in the future.

When the Inquiry opened its initial session, the first witness was Commander Bucher. He was given the legally required advice concerning his rights as a party to the Inquiry. Counsel for the court made it clear that Commander Bucher was not at that time suspected of having committed any offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Later, when Commander Bucher, in his testimony, indicated that the North Koreans had boarded his ship, the counsel for the court—as required by the law you know so well—told Commander Bucher it was possible that he had violated U. S. Navy Regulations, Article 0730 which reads: ‘The commanding officer shall not permit his command to be searched by any person representing a foreign state nor permit any of the personnel under his command to be removed from the command by such persons, so long as he has the power to resist.’ He explained to Commander Bucher his right to testify no further and gave him the routine, required warning that, if he did so, the information could be used against him later.

Since this simple act of legal procedure—basic to our legal system—caused so much controversy, was so misinterpreted and has caused so many to prejudge the outcome of this Inquiry, let me emphasize three points:

First: Such a warning was not unexpected by Commander Bucher or his counsel­—here are the words of Commander Bucher’s counsel addressed to the counsel for the court: ‘We have discussed this matter with Commander Bucher in some detail. As you know, we had some preliminary conversations with you before this Court of Inquiry convened as to the procedures that would be followed and the manner by which Commander Bucher’s story and the story of the USS Pueblo could be presented to this Court. We obviously anticipated the situation that we find ourselves in at the present moment. We have discussed this in detail with Commander Bucher. In view of your warning, Commander Bucher persists in his desire to fully and completely tell this Court of Inquiry the details of the 23rd of January and the events subsequent thereto. Based on that, Commander Bucher, with the Court’s permission, requests that he be permitted to testify, and complete this phase of the story. Commander Bucher, am I correctly reciting your wishes in this matter? And do I correctly recite that you have been adequately and fully apprised of all your legal rights which include the right to remain silent on this portion?’ Commander Bucher answered in the affirmative.

Second: I would like to emphasize that a Court of Inquiry must begin with a blank record. Newspaper accounts, rumors, second-hand reports or prejudgments cannot be considered. The official record of the Pueblo‘s capture and the treatment of her crew must come from testimony and evidence presented to this Court of Inquiry. For the Court, what has appeared and will appear in public accounts simply does not exist.

Third: Whether the Navy—or anyone in the Navy—was pleased or displeased with Commander Bucher’s testimony could have nothing whatever to do with that warning. I realize I am ‘preaching to the choir’ when I tell you that. However, the requirement to warn Commander Bucher is obviously not so well understood by some.

Ladies and Gentlemen—I am deeply troubled—that what was a routine and totally correct legal procedure has been widely misinterpreted.

As Chief of Naval Operations—I intend to ensure—and the Court itself will ensure—that Commander Bucher’s rights—as well as all others appearing before the Court—are fully protected. Possibly there will be similar warnings concerning self-incrimination as additional witnesses testify. The point to keep in mind is that the Navy is searching for facts—not scapegoats. We are doing so—within limits imposed by national security—in open hearings, because I believe that this is the way the American people would want it done. And we are taking well-tested and legally prescribed steps to protect the rights of all concerned.

I earnestly request you, who are so well-qualified, to assist me in explaining the legal aspects of the Pueblo Inquiry to the American people. And, I earnestly request the American people to be patient, not to prejudge, and to have full trust and confidence that the procedures used in developing the facts surrounding the piracy against the Pueblo are being carried out by experienced men of great integrity who have only the welfare of our country at heart.”

Japan’s Surrender on the USS Missouri

USS Missouri - Site of the Japanese Surrender
On September 2, 1945, Japan unconditionally surrendered to end World War II. They had formally agreed to the terms of surrender two weeks previous. On this date, the Japanese delegation met the allies aboard the USS Missouri which was anchored in Tokyo Bay. General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander, led the Allied delegation. Years of fighting and bloodshed were ended in a half an hour. Interestingly, wallet card souvenirs were printed up and distributed to all who were present on September 2nd.

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The Last Foodtaster in History?

Beachcombing has long thought that food tasting must have been among the very cushiest jobs to have had in the Middle Ages.


(i) No one is going to be stupid enough to kill a monarch or a duke by poisoning their food if they know there’s a taster around. You are safe. Beachcombing doubts there’s one example from history of a foodtaster dying of poisoning. Then if the food has gone off you are, in any case, only eating a little.

(ii) In just eating small amounts you are reserving your palate for the pyrotechnics of each separate dish. After all, how much does the diner actually ‘taste’ after the third mouthful? Certainly, when Beachcombing thinks of delicious meals he thinks of the first couple of bites.

(iii) Imagine the conversations you get to hear from the high table just over your shoulder where the Khan’s ambassador, a transvestite knight, and a unicorn salesman are all chatting to your boss – and what’s even better you are not part of any awkward silences, you just get to enjoy them…  

(iv) The hours. Breakfast, lunch, evening meal… The rest of the day you can walk around the castle, annoy the monastic librarian asking after lost classics or just slum it in the marketplace spending your capital as His personal taster.

But this excellent profession has, of course, long since vanished, disappearing along with the Dukes and Kings that used to sustain it. Hell, the Chinese didn’t even have the decency to employ humans at the last Olympic games using mice tasters to assure that the athletes’ food was up to scratch. In a spirit then of antiquarianism – and partly inspired by an excellent meal he had today – Beachcombing has been dedicating the last couple of hours to the quest for the last salvor in history.

He thought that he had got lucky when he dug up a reference to the mad and bad Ceausescus bringing a food taster with them on their state visit to Buckingham Palace in 1978. After all, ‘the lay God, the heart of the Party and the Romanian nation, the heir of Caesar, Alexander the Great and Napoleon’ could hardly risk his health with a perfidious aristocrat in the room. Interestingly, Ceausecsu also insisted on bringing his own linen so terrified was he of being poisoned: it seems to have been a fixation with the Romanian tyrant.  The British to their eternal (though all too characteristic) shame made the bastard a knight.  Beachcombing wonders (rhetorically) what he would have done if he had had a sword in his hand and Nicolae on his knees before him.

However, Beach has come across rumours of other tasters elsewhere. It transpires – and here Beachcombing’s source is not all that he would like – that the taster of the Royal Japanese Family was only retired in 1989. Can anyone fill in the gaps here or come up with later food tasters? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Just possibly there are some still operating today in the Gulf or equatorial regions?


11 March 2011: As soon as he wrote it Beachcombing felt that he would regret his crack about the Gulf or Equatorial Climes. And, in fact, Ostrich has emailed in with the news that the American President has a taster. Beachcombing quotes, thanks to Ostrich, from the ultra reliable Straight Dope. ‘According to a Washington Post article from July 1990, George H.W. Bush ate out at Washington restaurants a lot by presidential standards, about once a month, and when he did he brought along his own condiments, bottled water, and a taster. On at least one occasion the taster was seen to personally wash all of George and Barbara’s tableware before use and subsequently monitor its whereabouts, sample the food, supervise its service, and uncork and taste the first couple’s wine. Reports from early in Bill Clinton’s first term suggest inconsistent taster use: a March ‘93 Post account of an impromptu dinner with the Gores at a restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, has a trio of Secret Service agents scrutinizing the preparation of Clinton’s food but not actually trying any. But an ‘official’ food taster (described as a ‘veteran of three presidencies’) turns up in a local paper’s feature on a Clinton get-together with Silicon Valley types in Los Gatos, California, a month earlier. And lest you think tasters are deployed only when the president ventures off government turf, a detachment of navy culinary specialists did the tasting (per the New York Times) at a congressional lunch held at the Capitol during George W. Bush’s inaugural festivities in 2001. One presumes security has gotten tighter since (a) the 9/11 attacks and (b) the descent of W’s approval ratings to depths previously plumbed only by hostage-crisis Jimmy Carter and athlete’s foot.’ Thanks Ostrich and fraternal salutations to the Straight Dope!

The search for Fusang

The snow is melting rapidly outside and just in time. Mrs B is suffering in the room above from what look like real contractions – Beachcombing conspicuously absent. Beachcombing then is going to let his source do all the talking today. If he hasn’t written much of a conclusion then the chances are that the balloon has gone up and the new world order has begun. Think Iran with the bomb, neo cons with aircraft carriers – the works in short.

The following appears in the encyolopedia of Ma Duanlin (obit 1322), a medieval Chinese scholar who had access to many ancient sources now lost to us. In his great tomes he describes the land of Fusang – the Fusang, incidentally, was the Chinese solar tree pictured here.

During the reign of the dynasty Tsi, in the first year of the year-naming, Everlasting Origin [499 AD], came a Buddhist priest from [the kingdom of Fusang], who bore the cloister-name of Hoei-schiu, i.e. Universal Compassion, to the present district of Hukuang, and those surrounding it, who narrated that Fusang is about twenty thousand Chinese miles in an easterly direction from Tahan, and east of the Middle Kingdom.

This would put the mysterious Fusang somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean. Its name seems to have been inspired by the monk’s observation of certain trees there.

Many Fusang trees grow there, whose leaves resemble the dryanda cordifolia [much debated translation of course!] the sprouts, on the contrary, resemble those of the bamboo tree and are eaten by the inhabitants of the land. The fruit is like a pear in form, but is red. From the bark they prepare a sort of linen which they use for clothing, and also a sort of ornamented stuff. The houses are built of wooden beams; fortified and walled places are there unknown. They have written characters in this land, and prepare paper from the bark of the Fusang.

The people have no weapons, and make no wars; but in the arrangements for the kingdom they have a northern and a southern prison. Trifling offenders were lodged in the southern prison, but those confined for greater offences in the northern; so that those who were about to receive grace could be placed in the southern prison, and those who were not, in the northern. Those men and women who were imprisoned for life were allowed to marry. The boys resulting from these marriages were, at the age of eight years, sold as slaves; the girls not until their ninth year. If a man of any note was found guilty of crimes, an assembly was held; it must be in an excavated place. There they strewed ashes over him [in a pit?], and bade him farewell. If the offender was one of a lower class, he alone was punished; but when of rank, the degradation was extended to his children and grandchildren. With those of the highest rank it attained to the seventh generation.

The name of the king is pronounced Ichi. The nobles of the first-class are termed Tuilu; of the second, Little Tuilu; and of the third, Na-to-scha, When the prince goes forth, he is accompanied by horns and trumpets. The colour of his clothes changes with the different years. In the two first of the ten-year cycles they are blue; in the two next, red; in the two following, yellow; in the two next, red; and in the last two, black. The horns of the oxen are so large that they hold ten bushels. They use them to contain all manner of things. Horses, oxen, and stags are harnessed to their wagons. Stags are used here as cattle are used in the Middle Kingdom, and from the milk of the hind they make butter. The red pears of the Fusang-tree keep good throughout the year. Moreover, they have apples and reeds. From the latter they prepare mats. No iron is found in this land; but copper, gold, and silver are not prized, and do not serve as a medium of exchange in the market.

Marriage is determined upon in the following manner. The suitor builds himself a hut before the door of the house where the one longed for dwells, and waters and cleans the ground every morning and evening. When a year has passed by, if the maiden is not inclined to marry him, he departs; should she be willing, it is completed. When the parents die, they fast seven days. For the death of the paternal or maternal grandfather they lament five days; at the death of elder or younger sisters or brothers, uncles or aunts, three days. They then sit from morning to evening before an image of the ghost, absorbed in prayer, but wear no mourning clothes. When the king dies, the son who succeeds him does not busy himself for three years with state affairs. In earlier times these people lived not according to the laws of Buddha. But it happened that in the second year-naming Great Light of Song [AD 458], five beggar-monks from the kingdom of Kipin [approx Pakistan] went to this land, extended over it the religion of Buddha, and with it his holy writings and images. They instructed the people in the principles of monastic life, and so changed their manners.

There have been numerous attempts over the years to connect this description to North America and particularly to Mexico. Here Beachcombing has to demure – at least slightly. Not that he doesn’t like the idea of Mexico being converted to Buddhism in the fifth century AD, by monks from Pakistan no less! He is not even put off by a pre-Columbian reference to horses. It takes all sorts and, besides, how easy it is to confuse some other beast of burden with an Arabian stallion. It is not even the vast spaces of the Pacific that worries Beachcombing – a distance so much greater than that across the Atlantic to North America. Beachcombing’s problem is, instead, with the other lands described by this same Buddhist monk who had perhaps quaffed overly on rice wine.  

[The Kingdom of Women] is a thousand li to the east of Fusang. The bearing and manners of the people are very sedate and formal; their colour is exceedingly clear and white; their bodies are hairy and the hair of the head trails of the ground. In the spring they emulously rush into the water and become pregnant; the children are born in the autumn. These female-men have no paps on their bosoms, but hair-roots grow on the back of their necks; a juice is found on the white ones. The children are suckled a hundred days, when they can walk; they are fully grown by the fourth year. Whenever they see a man the flee and hide from him in terror, for they are afraid of having husbands. They eat pickled greens, whose leaves are like wild celery; the odour is agreeable and the taste saltish.  

What we seem to have here are the eastern equivalents of the Irish Brendan legends: fantastic islands out in the ocean where the Chinese could let their imaginative hair down. Other opinions on Fusang exist, including attempts to identify it with Japan. Views on an e-postcard please. drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

Bats fight Japan

Beachcombing recently described  the possible Byzantine use of weaponised crows soaked in pitch and wondered aloud whether other birds or flying creatures had been employed by ancient or medieval armies.

And, almost immediately, like an answer from heaven, he got three emails pointing him to a wonderful story that he’d never heard before:  kudos to Ostrich (a bizarrist of the highest quality), Rick from the Anomalist and Steve W. from Australia who all nodded to the bat bombs of the Second World War.

Beachcombing has been reading ever since and is still shaking his head at the insane weirdness of it all.  

The bat bombs were the brain child of a US dental surgeon, Lytle S. Adams in the period after Pearl Harbour – dentists rate in the ranks of evil somewhere between sociologists and Caribbean dictators.

LSA had been impressed by bats on a recent holiday to the south-western states and asked himself (as you do) whether these beautiful creatures could not be employed for the war effort, especially since bats can lift up to three times their own body weight. Could a bat even be persuaded to carry a small-timed explosive, be released over Japan and then convinced into roosting in local houses where the incendiary would go off? In LSA’s wet dream of destruction, thousands upon thousand of bats carrying sticks of dynamite and the Stars and Stripes would have made an inferno of Japan’s wooden cities.

The US military authorities were all ears and pushed ahead with testing and, from January 1942 to August 1944, thousands of bats, a lot of US military property and absolutely no Japanese houses were destroyed.

The Mexican free-tailed bat – hardly an autarchic choice – was nominated for the task. These were captured in their caves and then hibernated (note the unusual active verb) by being placed in refrigerated conditions. A surgical clip on their chest attached the bomb to the sleeping bats by a piece of string. They were then loaded into  containers that changed through development and that ranged from flimsy cardboard boxes to huge canisters capable of containing a million bats. The bat would – at least theoretically – fly off from the container as it fell towards the ground – parachutes were deployed for the canisters – and, again theoretically, they would flap their way into the eaves of Japanese housing until… bang/fire/fire-service/conflagration/surrender/America GIs singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ in Kyoto.

The bats, however, reacted with an almost unbelievable lack of patriotic fervour. Some refused to wake up from their artificially-induced hibernation and were found dead on the ground after test raids. Others flew away and paid no attention to mock ups of Japanese villages. Then there was a spiteful minority that  worked for the enemy. These bats flew to army buildings and a general’s car causing destruction wherever they went.

The bat bomb project was finally cancelled in August 1944 with not a single fire on Japanese soil having been caused, leaving behind it irritated RandD death-dealers, a melancholy dentist and the spirits of tens of thousands of pissed-off flying mammals.

All in all it might have been cheaper to have paid the Japanese government to burn some of their own houses down.  

Beachcombing has struck a slightly jocular tone here but the bat bombs would, if the war had gone on until 1947, have likely been workable, especially given the material out of which so many Japanese houses were made – wood, paper… Whether it would have been ‘right’ as far as the Japanese, the American taxpayer and the bats were concerned is, of course, another question.

Beachcombing will turn, on another day, to American experiments with pigeon bombers… Then there were the Polish anti-tank dogs and the submarine hunting dolphins. Any other animal weapons from the Second World War? drbeachcombing @ yahoo DOT com

1941 — Declaration of War Against Japan

December 8, 1941

JOINT RESOLUTION Declaring that a state of war exists between the Imperial Government of Japan and the Government and the people of the United States and making provisions to prosecute the same.

Whereas the Imperial Government of Japan has committed unprovoked acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of was between the United States and the Imperial Government of Japan which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on was against the Imperial Government of Japan; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.