Strange Wars, Vol. 2

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If you were waiting for more strange and unnecessary wars, here they come!

War of Jenkins’s Ear, 1739-1748:

The War of Jenkins’s Ear was started over just that. In 1731, the Spanish boarded an English merchant ship, and Robert Jenkins, the Captain, had his left ear cut off by the Spanish for being accused of smuggling. The story goes that Jenkins presented his ear to the British parliament, preserved in a jar. In 1739, the British finally declared war due to public outrage against Spain. Over the course of the nine-year war, neither side gained an advantage, and peace was declared in 1748.

The Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years War, 1651-1986:

The longest official war in modern history, this war has a disputed history of its own. In 1651, The Netherlands was allied to Great Britain’s parliamentary government, and therefore was against the Royalist armies led by Charles II. The Royalist navy used Sicily as a base, and had inflicted heavy losses upon the Dutch. That same year, a Dutch admiral visited Sicily demanding reparation from the Royalist fleet for the goods taken from them. As Sicily was not a part of this ongoing feud, they declined to grant the Netherland’s request. As a result, the Netherlands were said to be in a state of war with Sicily. Not a shot was fired, though the Royalist fleet left Sicily shortly afterwards. Like many wars of its era, this war was soon forgotten by both nations. In 1985, a Sicilian historian wrote to the Dutch Embassy to dispose of the myth that the two countries were still at war. The Dutch Embassy instead found that the myth was accurate and still ongoing, and a peace treaty was signed the following year.

Paraguayan War, 1864-1870:

The Paraguayan War (or the War of the Triple Alliance), no doubt the most famous of all the unusual wars, proves that you really don’t need an excuse to declare a war. One can only guess what President Solano Lopez was thinking when he declared war on the Empire of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. It may have been brought on by the Uruguayan War beforehand. In any case, Lopez declared war on the most powerful countries in South America simultaneously, and Paraguay would pay the price. The war was a disaster: Paraguay was devastated, disputed territory given to the Triple Alliance, and about 70% of the male population of Paraguay was killed. After the loss of conventional warfare, Lopez resorted to guerrilla warfare, with even more devastating results. Lopez himself was killed in battle in 1870, thereby ending the bloody war.

These three wars were very Strange indeed. This just goes to show that many nations have used anything (or nothing at all) as an excuse to declare war upon each other.

 

 

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Strange Wars

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There are many strange and ridiculous wars that have occurred throughout history. All of these wars were caused by a singular and very minor dispute.

The Aroostook War, 1838-1839:

The first of these strange and ridiculous wars is one the United States itself was involved in. In the early 1800’s, Canada (then under the governance of the United Kingdom) and the United States had not agreed on a border between the two countries. This resulted in much controversy, as the people living in the land claimed by both nations had no clue as to which country’s laws applied to their own land, and numerous arrests were made against “trespassers”. It was only a matter of time before the dispute boiled to a head. In 1838, a farmer from the United States lost a pig that he owned, and began searching for it. While doing so, he crossed into the modern-day Canadian province of New Brunswick (a disputed territory at the time), and killed a few pigs owned by a British farmer there. The British were angered by this “act of war,” and thus New Brunswick was authorized to raise an army of volunteers to defend British territory. In response, the United States state of Maine was given $10,000,000, and militias were raised. The “war,” though undeclared, would last about a year (1838-1839). In 1839, peace was achieved, and in 1842, a treaty was signed, finally settling the dispute and fixing the border.

The Soccer War, 1969:

Also known as the Football War, the Soccer War occurred in Central America, and was the result of a conflict between El Salvador and Honduras over which country had won  a soccer match. This soccer match was important because the winner would qualify for the 1970 FIFA World Cup, and the match was won by El Salvador 3-2. However, El Salvador accused Honduras of cheating, and took the next logical step: it invaded Honduras with full military force on three fronts. In a war that lasted four days, over 300,000 civilians were displaced and around 3,000 more were killed. El Salvador qualified for the World Cup, although its temper tantrum did not help it win the World Cup.

The War of the Bucket, 1325:

This is possibly the most ridiculous war ever recorded, and my personal favorite to share. The war was between the city-states of Bologna and Modena in Italy. Disputes between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire were tearing the Italian cities apart. Modena was on the side of the Emperor, while Bologna supported the Pope in the dispute over who controlled Italy. In 1325, some Modenese soldiers stole a bucket from the main city well in Bologna, and Bologna, humiliated, declared war on Modena. However, the army from Bologna that invaded Modena was routed, with 4,000 men being killed during the course of the battle. The Modenese army then marched to the Bolognese capital and stole another bucket from the gatehouse before leaving. Both buckets reside in Modena to this very day.

You might have noticed a recurring theme here: all of these wars were caused by a minor dispute that turned into a full-on confrontation. The reasons for that were pride and greed. These countries were only looking for an excuse to declare war, and how the disputes occurred just shows how desperate they were for it. These wars are very strange to consider, but aren’t all wars ridiculous?

 

Cinco de Mayo

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Cinco de Mayo is an annual holiday in the United States that occurs on May 5, with the focus being the celebration of Mexican Culture.

Originally, Cinco de Mayo was celebrated due to the Mexican victory in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. After a civil war in which Mexico suspended debt payments to European countries, Mexico was invaded by the French under Emperor Napoleon III, who used the debt payments as an excuse to conquer Mexico. A very small Mexican army was attacked by a better-equipped and more numerous French invasion army, yet delivered a decisive victory. Though France would go on to occupy Mexico until driven out in 1867 by the Mexicans with U.S. support, the battle featured a significant boost in morale that was needed to further resist the French, who had seldom been defeated since the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Ironically, Cinco de Mayo is not observed as a national holiday in Mexico, though Puebla and Veracruz call it such. In the United States, California originally celebrated Cinco de Mayo as a state holiday, and it is now a national celebration of the Mexican culture, and celebrated as such. Though I do not get school off today, Cinco de Mayo is still an important day on any calendar.

Manzanar

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Manzanar is best known for being one of ten concentration camps where over 100,000 Japanese-Americans were forcibly relocated during World War II in the United States. I visited the Manzanar War Relocation Center on my vacation.

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Me and my brother at the Manzanar War Relocation Center

After the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, giving power to the Secretary of War to relocate Japanese-Americans to “relocation camps.” The conditions at Manzanar, were harsh. The climate caused much suffering to those who were not accustomed to the extremely cold winters and the unbearable summers, and the camp was only partially built at the time. The Japanese-Americans were behind barbed wire and under guard by the United States Army, supposedly there to “protect” them. Roosevelt had condemned over 100,000 human beings to these camps. They were forced out of their homes on the basis of fear alone, and by the same man who had once ironically said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Most accepted their fate at Manzanar, though one protest in camp caused two deaths in 1942. Those forced to live in Manzanar found things to do, like building elegant gardens, and playing baseball and football. However, on November 21, 1945, Camp Manzanar was closed. All incarcerates were given $25 in compensation and sent away, though many no longer had anywhere to go, having lost everything (including their homes) when they were incarcerated. For more information regarding Manzanar, click here.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan issued a formal apology to those who were incarcerated and driven from their homes and their lives, but this does not make up for the wrongs that were forced upon Japanese-Americans, American Citizens whose Constitutional Rights had been violated. We can and will honor their memory, and hope to learn from the mistakes made long ago.

Winchester Mystery House

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Winchester Mystery House

Me and my Family at the Winchester Mystery House (my Mom is taking the photo)

I visited many places on my vacation, one of which was the Winchester Mystery House, a creepy and supposedly haunted Victorian Mansion in San Jose, California.

 

Sarah Winchester was the wife of William Wirt Winchester, the Treasurer of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company until his death from tuberculosis in 1881. Sarah and William had one child, Annie, who died shortly after birth in 1866. After William’s death, Sarah Winchester inherited a fortune worth over $20 million, with a guarantee of $1,000 every year (adjusted for inflation, worth $23,000) today. Believing that she was being haunted by the ghosts of the victims of the Winchester Repeating Rifle, Sarah Winchester moved from Connecticut to California, and bought an unfinished house in San Jose in 1884.

Workers and carpenters finished building “The House That Fear Built”, but Sarah was afraid that she would be killed by the evil spirits if she stopped building the house. Therefore, she continued the construction of the Winchester House from 1884 until her death in 1922, with her workers working day and night on the mansion that would eventually become 7 stories high. During the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, Sarah was trapped inside her own house due to rubble blocking the doorway to her upper bedroom, a scenario that made her even more paranoid, with her taking it as a sign of the spirits being displeased with the pace of her work. She therefore stopped building up and started building outward, and would rarely ever visit the upper rooms again. Sarah Winchester died in 1922 of heart failure, despite having worked continuously on the house since 1884.

When I visited the Winchester Mystery House, I found it to be a very odd house, an assumption many have made. It has doors leading to nowhere, rooms with no apparent purpose, and even a staircase that leads nowhere. These seemingly useless rooms and doors were made to confuse the spirits in her house. Sarah Winchester also had many easy riser stairs made, as she was a small woman in height and also had arthritis. She bought many expensive things, such as windows now displayed in the “$25,000 Room,” obviously worth much more than that now. She even bought a window made by the famed Louis Comfort Tiffany of Tiffany Glass, a window designed to cast rainbows around the room it was installed in, but Sarah put it in a room without direct light exposure. She was very superstitious, and the number 13 was prominent in her design of the house. She even made a set of doors to the house that only she and the workers who installed it ever walked through. One legend tells that around 1903, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Winchester House, but upon knocking on that door, he was told by a worker to “go around back like everyone else.”

During my visit to Winchester House, I learned much about a woman who sadly did not realize the fantasy that surrounded her. Only her belief that evil spirits were hunting for her allowed her to be consumed by fear. Sarah Winchester feared what would happen to her on Earth and built herself an expensive mansion rather than focusing on what is most important: serving God and earning permanent riches in Heaven.

Alcatraz

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One of the most famous landmarks in North America is Alcatraz Island, over a mile offshore from San Francisco, California, which I visited last week during Spring Vacation.

Alcatraz is well-known for being a prison, but the first use of the island was for a lighthouse. Alcatraz originally belonged to Mexico, but was bought by John C. Fremont to become part of California. It was then converted into a military fortress, and was later used to hold Confederate sympathizers during the American Civil War.

In 1934, Alcatraz was made a federal prison, designed to hold prisoners that caused trouble in other prisons. Alcatraz at one point even held Al Capone and Whitey Bulger! Alcatraz was the prison for inmates who caused trouble in other prisons, and was designed to hold the most dangerous criminals. Alcatraz is also widely known for the escape attempts that occurred during its history. For instance, on May 2, 1946, six inmates tried to escape and caused the Battle of Alcatraz, which resulted in five deaths and defeat for the inmates. In June of 1962, four inmates successfully escaped from Alcatraz in an improvised inflatable raft. The fate of those inmates remains unknown. In 1969, after Alcatraz ceased to be a prison, a group of Native Americans occupied the Island to protest federal activities related to American Indians, and would remain until 1971. Alcatraz is an amazing journey of learning, and I learned much about “the Rock” during my visit.

Alcatraz closed as a prison in 1963, but it still grasps a legacy like few other prisons in America and was made a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

 

April 14th

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Today is April 14th, a generally unlucky day as far as history sees it, though not all bad.

On April 14th of 70 A.D. Roman Emperor Titus surrounded Jerusalem and sieged it, the beginning of the end of a Jewish revolt against their Roman rulers. Timur was elected the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire in 1294 on this day, and in 1471, the Yorkist Edward IV of England defeated Henry VI’s Lancastrian army under the command of the Earl of Warwick, thereby regaining the throne. In 1865, US President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, dramatically changing American history. In 1912, the famed Titanic hit an iceberg, the beginning of an infamous disaster that resulted in the deaths of many on board the ship.

However, not everything that happened on April 14th was a disaster! For instance, Noah Webster copyrighted the first edition of his famous dictionary, and the first Abolitionist Society was formed in 1775 by Benjamin Franklin. Also, April 14th is my Dad’s birthday, and is a day that Easter occasionally arrives on.

Peace Corps

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The Peace Corps was created as an organization of volunteers whose purpose was to help other nations understand America, and for Americans to understand other countries’ cultures. The Peace Corps also helps developing countries meet their needs.

The Peace Corps was created in 1961 by US President John F. Kennedy. It was created to help other countries see America more brightly as the nation that came together to help. The Peace corps was not without its critics, however. US Representative Otto Passman of Louisiana reduced the Corp’s funding to minimal levels, and was called “Otto the Terrible” by his own critics. Future President Richard Nixon also opposed the program, and in 1971 he brought the Peace Corps under the management of a new organization called ACTION. However, it was Nixon who saved the Corps from Passman’s reduction of funding.

President Jimmy Carter’s mother served in the Peace Corps, and had a wonderful experience according to Carter. Consequently, Carter made the Peace Corps independent from other agencies by executive order in 1979, and that is how it remains today.

Ancestry.com

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Many people have family that can tell them where they came from: Europe, Asia, or Africa. However, many want to know more about their family, and go back farther than memory allows.

Records, though, do allow you to go back farther into your family history; you just need to know where to find out your ancestry. My family became members of Ancestry.com in 2005, but I first got interested in 2014. By then, our tree had almost a thousand members, and we had gone back to Scottish Royalty. Many people would be happy and satisfied with this cool knowledge, but there was more for me: I found out I was descended of royalty from all over Europe! I am mostly European, and I’m descended of English, Spanish, French, German, Polish, and Scandinavian Royalty, plus much more! Kings of fame such as Alfred the Great and Edward III of England, Olav II of Norway, Charles Martel, Hugh Capet and Philip III of France, and Charlemagne and Otto I of the Holy Roman Empire can be found on my family tree.

I am also descended of John Steele, the first Governor of Connecticut, and William Bradford, the Puritan leader of Plymouth Colony in America. I also have connections to Noah Webster of the Webster dictionary, and am related to Frank and Jessie James, plus Wilhelm II of Germany (the leader of the Axis Powers during World War I).

As far as ethnicity goes, I am mostly European on both sides of my family. On my dad’s side there is a bit of Native-American, Asian, and African, plus a bit of Muslim and Middle-Eastern with the Caliphs of Cordoba, who clashed weapons with my Dad’s Christian ancestors such as Charles Martel and El Cid. On my mom’s side, I was surprised to discover in a DNA test that I am part Ashkenazi Jewish! The Ashkenazi Jew population encompassed 92% of all Jews in 1931, and were the main Jewish target by Adolf Hitler during World War II in the Holocaust.

All of this is my family’s history, and where they came from. Just Imagine who your family could be descended from! Ancestry.com needs a bit of your family history to begin with, but it can take you very far if you work at it. Ancestry.com has been an exciting journey for me, and now my family tree has over 10,000 members! However, the website has one flaw; when you see your family’s profiles, you will realize that although their story has finally been discovered and their legacy once again told, they are not here on this earth anymore. I encourage you to talk to the family that you still have, and to treasure in your heart the stories that your grandparents told you.

 

Sully

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On January 15, 2009, a miracle occurred: a plane crashed in the Hudson River in New York, and all 155 passengers survived.

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Flight 1549 being pulled out of the Hudson

 

US Airways Flight 1549 was supposed to fly from LaGuardia to Charlotte Douglas Airport. However, the airplane struck a flock of geese within three minutes of takeoff and lost thrust in both engines. Disaster appeared to be waiting to swallow the crew and passengers whole, but Captain Chesley Sullenberger (a.k.a. Sully) gave the call to brace for impact and crashed the plane into the Hudson. Water landing are rare, tricky, and rarely successful. The order was given for evacuation, and Sullenberger personally oversaw the evacuation, being among the last to exit the plane. Rescue came shortly after the rough landing, and all 155 passengers survived, with very few  injuries. The investigation of the incident showed that both engines had become inoperable due to the bird strike, and the stimulation tests taken proved that, accounting for the “human factor”, safely landing the plane on an airport was unlikely. Sullenberger became a hero and famous nationwide for his actions, and retired from flying the following year after being acknowledged at such events as the Super Bowl.

A movie titled Sully was released last year depicting the tragedy that didn’t happen featuring Tom Hanks as Captain Chesley Sullenberger and Aaron Eckhart as First Officer Jeff Skiles.

The heroics of Sullenberger and his decisions to immediately turn on the auxiliary power unit and land the plane in the Hudson probably saved the lives of all the passengers and crew on board, and this will not be forgotten. And let’s face it, it’s nice to have something good happen to New York involving planes crashing, wouldn’t you agree?