Today in History
History's Happenings for October 25
(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
Half a league, half a league,
More than just a stirring poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the Charge of the Light Brigade was not fiction. It actually happened on October 25, 1854.
The Crimean War, for any who wish to study it further, becomes an obvious example of why our Founders urged us to keep the United States out of "entangling foreign alliances".
An argument which began in 1852 as a struggle between French-backed Roman Catholics and Russian-backed Orthodox Christians for control of shrines in the Ottoman-occupied Holy Land, devolved in 1853 to war between Russia and Turkey. The defeat of the Turkish fleet in the Black Sea prompted outcries in Britain and France, and they too declared war on the Czar, in 1854.
Meanwhile Austria, Russia's erstwhile ally on whom she had depended for support, also threatened war unless Russia ceded certain occupied Turkish territories to her. Not wanting to lose her sole remaining "friend", Russia complied.
And you wonder why Washington said what he did?
But politics are politics. There was still a real war, with real dying, and real heroes. Not only did the relatively short Crimean War produce the life-saving legacy of Florence Nightingale and her nursing corps, but also both the legend and the fact of the heroic charge of the Light Brigade.
In September, 1854, the combined British-French Army landed on the Crimean peninsula, which juts out into the Black Sea from the southern Ukraine. Their objective was the major port and Russian naval base at Sevastopol, to which they laid siege.
On October 25, the two armies clashed near the small town of Balaklava, where the Russian artillery commanded the heights overlooking a long, narrow valley. Guns, infantry and cavalry were implanted on both flanks and at the head of the valley.
Several isolated Turkish gun emplacements had been captured by the Russians earlier on, and the British commander wanted them back. He ordered his infantry to advance on the positions. They refused -- it was suicide. He then ordered his cavalry, consisting of light and heavy units, to take back the positions before the Russians could move the captured guns.
The cavalry commander, in the commotion of battle and unable to clearly see the objectives, misunderstood his orders and instead ordered his light cavalry -- the Light Brigade, under Lord James Cardigan -- to advance up the valley directly toward the main Russian positions.
Mystified by the insanity of the order, Cardigan nonetheless led the Brigade of 661 mounted men up the valley in three lines, taking fire from both sides and the front. Gradually the Brigade picked up speed until what remained of the force hit the Russian position at the head of the valley at full gallop, charging over the guns and into the defending Cossacks, pushing them back and breaking up the gun crews. Despite the heroic effort, the weight of numbers forced the Brigade to withdraw, harried by the enemy as their tired horses straggled back to their lines not twenty minutes after the charge had begun. Of the 661 who started up the valley, 195 returned, including Cardigan.
A failed charge? A mistake, a blot on British military history? Incredibly some attempted to make it that after the War.
But mistake or not, no one could take away the heroism of those men, who rode into the jaws of death in that valley. Nor could they dispute the fact that, after having been overrun by a single light brigade of cavalry, Russian moral was badly damaged, and the Cossack cavalry thenceforth refused even to engage their British counterparts, regardless of odds.
The War ended in 1855 after the Allies took Sevastopol, and was generally regarded as a useless and costly undertaking. Lord Cardigan gave his name to a sweater.
When can their glory fade?
On October 25, 1930, a brand new company formed by the merger of Western Air Express and Transcontinental Air Transport, first flew regularly scheduled passenger flights across the United States.
Originally named Transcontinental and Western Air (T&WA), the new airline offered service from Newark, NJ to Glendale, CA, with an overnight stop in Kansas City. The total trip time was 36 hours.
The first ever flight across the country had taken place in 1911, when aviator Calbraith P. Rogers piloted his Wright biplane from Brooklyn, NY to Long Beach CA in 84 days. Actual flying time? Three days, 10 hours. We imagine he had a few breakdowns ... remember that Nellie Bly traveled around the world in only 72 days -- in 1889!
In 1946, seven years after Howard Hughes bought a controlling interest in the company -- now familiarly named Trans-World Airways -- TWA initiated regularly scheduled overseas passenger service as well, with flights between New York and Paris.
It was on this day in 1971 that, bowing to the growing leftist pressure in the General Assembly as small third world countries became independent and joined, the United Nations removed the membership seat held by Taiwan and gave it instead to Red China.
Communist China had been excluded from the U.N. since its inception in 1945, and the Nationalist government then in power had been taken to represent all of China. When the Nationalists were defeated and driven to the offshore island of Taiwan in 1949 the U.N., still mainly in the hands of western industrialized democracies, continued to recognize the exiled Chinese government as the legitimate one. As one of the founding members of the U.N., China held -- and still holds -- a permanent seat on the Security Council, with its accompanying Veto power.
Red China adamantly refuses to allow the readmittance of Taiwan, even as a separate member, out of fear that such action would legitimize her claim as an obviously independent nation. China still considers Taiwan to be a renegade province which must, eventually, be returned.