Posts tagged war.

October 14, 1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis begins.

One of the defining and tensest moments of the Cold War, “the ultimate exercise in nuclear brinkmanship”, began on this day in 1962, when an American U-2 aircraft obtained images of Soviet nuclear missile installations in Cuba. By placing missiles a mere hundred miles or so off the shores of the United States, the Soviets hoped to counter any American attempts to oust the communist regime in Cuba and play out its role as a leader against Western imperialism; however, the move was also one that Khrushchev stated “would equalize what the West likes to call ‘the balance of power’”. Some - including President Kennedy - interpreted Khrushchev’s challenge as a prelude to a planned Soviet takeover of West Berlin. 

After much deliberation and considering options ranging from nothing to full-scale invasion, the U.S. decided to “quarantine" Cuba through a naval blockade, also warning that it would "regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union". At the same time, an ExComm memorandum noted that the presence of these missiles on Cuba did not significantly upset the pre-existing balance of power. In an interview conducted 25 years later, Robert McNamara stated that U.S. demands that the missiles be removed were politically, not militarily, motivated. The crisis and diplomatic stalemate continued over the following weeks. On October 26, the Strategic Air Command was ordered to DEFCON-2: the alert state signifying a hyper-alert state of military readiness preceding possible nuclear war. DEFCON-2 had never before been ordered, and was thereafter never ordered again, reflecting the widely-held belief that the Cuban Missile Crisis was the highest point of tension between the United States and the Soviet during the Cold War, and that for two weeks, the world sat on the brink of nuclear war. 

That situation of worldwide catastrophe was avoided through accords that involved the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba, the removal of American missiles from Turkey and Italy, and an American guarantee to respect Cuba’s territorial sovereignty.

October 2, 1944: The Warsaw Uprising ends.

The Warsaw Uprising was a military operation that took place between August and October of 1944, an ultimately failed attempt led by the Polish Home Army to liberate the city of Warsaw from Nazi forces. Implemented as part of a national uprising, the operation’s goal was to liberate the city, but it was also to do so before the Soviet Union could assert its authority there over the Polish government-in-exile in London. Polish fighting forces numbered at around 50,000, the majority of whom were fighters for the Home Army, and most were considerably out-armed: the German force, while only consisting of between 10-15,000 men, had at their disposal tanks, airplanes, artillery - and a vulnerable civilian population. Despite these disadvantages, however, Polish forces managed to take back much of the city only a few days into the fighting. While relief and ammunition did come in the form of airlifts, it was not enough. The Germans launched counterattacks, and then massacred approximately 40,000 people (both civilians and fighters) within the span of one week early on in the uprising.

Fierce urban warfare continued  for weeks; the under-armed and under-supplied Polish forces and Warsaw’s civilian population resisted German occupiers for a total of sixty-three days with little outside support except for Allied airlifts. Red Army forces, though nearby, did not offer significant military aid because most Polish resistance fighters supported the Polish government-in-exile and wished to limit the extent of Soviet influence in postwar Poland. Upon the resistance’s capitulation on October 2, 1944, the civilian population of Warsaw was cleared from the city. Between 150,000-200,000 were killed during the fighting, and a further 60,000 were shipped to concentration and extermination camps. The Nazis then methodically razed the city itself, though much of it had already been damaged during the 1939 invasion and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. 

September 8, 1951: The Treaty of San Francisco is signed.

On September 8, 1951, delegates representing forty-eight nations gathered in San Francisco, California, to sign a treaty that officially ended the state of war between Japan and the Allied Powers, six years after V-J Day, and six years after the American occupation of Japan began. China was not invited to the treaty deliberations or signing, because the Allies were unable to decide whether the Taiwanese government or the communist PRC should represent the nation.

The agreement also served to affirm Japan’s sovereignty - when the treaty came into force in April of 1952, Allied occupation ended; it also settled issues of territory: according to the terms of the treaty, Japan was to recognize the independence of Korea (which was formally annexed by the empire in 1910); it was also to relinquish its hold on Formosa (Taiwan) and the neighboring Pescadores, and the Kurile, Spratly, and Paracel Islands. In addition, Japan agreed to accept the judgements of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, and to carry out its sentences. All in all the treaty is commonly regarded by historians as “relatively generous" toward Japan, but it also marked the beginning of what Akira Iriye dubbed the "San Francisco system”.

World War II - the European Theatre (September 1, 1939 - May 8, 1945)

and the story does suggest
a part 2 to the Turing Test:
1. can machines behave like humans?
2. can we?

The Atlantic

September 1, 1939: The Invasion of Poland begins.

One week after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a treaty of non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, German forces launched an attack against Poland. Preceding events like the occupation of the Rhineland, the Anschluss, the Munich Agreement, and overall the gradual revitalization of all parts of the German military (despite restrictions placed by the Treaty of Versailles) bode ill for Europe, but World War II is considered to have officially begun with the invasion of Poland, and with the declarations of war on Germany by France and Great Britain two days later. Though outmatched, Polish forces held off German (and Russian, after the Soviet invasion began on September 17) forces until the final Army unit surrendered on October 6. Though often viewed as weak, backwards, and obsolete, the Polish military inflicted heavy damage upon German forces within the first days of fighting. Around 200,000 Polish civilians were killed during the action.

The conquered territories were subsequently divided up; some portions were directly annexed by Germany, while one area, which contained Warsaw and Krakow, became the separate General Government. Each of the six major Nazi extermination camps (Auschwitz II, Chełmno, Belzec, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka) - used in the systematic extermination of nearly 3.5 million people - was established in either the annexed territories or in the General Government of Poland. 

Hiroshima, August 6, 1945; Nagasaki, August 9, 1945. 

In time I came to an open space where the houses had been removed to make a fire lane. Through the dim light I could make out ahead of me the hazy outlines of the Communications Bureau’s big concrete building, and beyond it the hospital. My spirits rose because I knew that now someone would find me; and if I should die, at least my body would be found. I paused to rest.

Gradually things around me came into focus. There were the shadowy forms of people, some of whom looked like walking ghosts. Others moved as though in pain, like scarecrows, their arms held out from their bodies with forearms and hands dangling. These people puzzled me until I suddenly realized that they had been burned and were holding their arms out to prevent the painful friction of raw surfaces rubbing together. A naked woman carrying a naked baby came into view. I averted my gaze. Perhaps they had been in the bath. But then I saw a naked man, and it occurred to me that, like myself, some strange thing had deprived them of their clothes. An old woman lay near me with an expression of suffering on her face; but she made no sound. Indeed, one thing was common to everyone I saw - complete silence.