Monday, March 2, 2015
In fact, Ludwig and his father may have been more alike than most people think. King Maximilian II had an interest in architecture as well, was also a great patron of the arts (particularly literature) and, as monarch, Ludwig II would carry on with essentially the same policies as his father, especially in regards to foreign affairs. Rather, tensions between father and son seemed to be something of a family tradition. The first Ludwig and Maximilian II did not get along terribly well and so it is not very surprising that he and his son were not very close either. Too much shouldn’t be made of such a thing as it was hardly unique to Bavaria and as cool as fathers and sons could be to each other, things certainly never degenerated to the point they did in places like Britain or Prussia with fathers having their sons arrested! As he grew into adolescence, Prince Ludwig came to have a fascination with ancient German history and mythology, stories of chivalry and knighthood and developed very close friendships with Prince Paul of Thurn und Taxis and his cousin Princess Elizabeth (future Empress of Austria).
It would take time, of course, but it would make Bavaria stand out and it may have, at least in part, been influenced by the international situation in the German-speaking community. When Ludwig II came to the throne the Second Schleswig War had already started and the rivalry between the Kingdom of Prussia and the Austrian Empire for German leadership was becoming heated. Ludwig II was the son of a Prussian mother but his national policy was one of alliance with Austria and he had family ties with the House of Hapsburg as well. The artistic endeavors of the king might have served to raise the status of Bavaria in the midst of this rivalry as well as reminding both sides of their shared German heritage through such works as the King’s favorite composer, Richard Wagner, many of whose works focused on Germanic-Norse mythology and folklore. It would also be untrue to say that Ludwig II cared nothing for his people, something often suggested by his shunning of large crowds and public events of royal pageantry. The King disliked such mob events but frequently traveled around his kingdom, talking individually to ordinary Bavarians on their farms and in small villages. He would listen to them, hear their stories and often, to their joyful surprise, would send generous gifts to them later. Despite all the rumors about the King, he always remained very popular.
The Kingdom of Bavaria was forced to pay an indemnity to Prussia and was, from that point, effectively dependent on Prussia. It had little choice to fall in and go to war with the French Second Empire alongside Prussia and the other German states in 1870. After the French were soundly defeated, Bavaria, having joined the North German Confederation, was to be the second most significant member state of the new German Empire that Bismarck was forming under Prussian King Wilhelm I (Ludwig II’s uncle). The King endorsed the idea of a united Germany but objected to the way it was done and boycotted the official proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Kaiser. Ludwig II gave his rather grudging consent to the union after the reception of a large payment from Bismarck which the King was sorely in need of because of his strained financial situation due to his lavish building programs and patronages. However, one blatant fact that is often overlooked in the King’s objections to how unification came was that it resulted in Bavaria being given a great deal more autonomy than other states. The Kingdom of Prussia was naturally going to be the leader of the new empire but the Kingdom of Bavaria was certainly “number two” in the hierarchy of Germany. If King Ludwig II had taken a different tone, this might not have been the case at all.
The issue of his drifting away from reality is often tied to what is the most often cited “evidence” for his insanity which was the vast sums of money he spent building palaces, castles and theaters. He certainly built a great many and had plans to do even more. Suggestions that he wished to form a secret order of royalists and dreamed of taking over the Canary Islands may have been just a bit on the eccentric side but I am the last person who could criticize him for that. In terms of his spending on so many palaces, it is important to remember that while he did spend himself into enormous debt on these magnificent architectural works of art, it was *his* debt and not that of the Bavarian government. He was not using tax money taken from ordinary Bavarian farmers to pay for these things but was strictly doing it all from his own personal fortune. He also had some odd habits to be sure but so do many other people and there really is nothing concrete that can be pointed to as proof that he was out of touch with reality.
It was a very troubling time for Bavaria and crowds of peasants and ordinary townsfolk had to be dispersed by the police when they rallied in favor of their King. The ministers tried to enlist the support of Bismarck in Berlin, but the “Iron Chancellor” wanted no part of it and refused to get involved. In the early hours of June 12, 1886 Ludwig II was taken into custody and placed under house arrest. The next day he went for a walk with a close friend and the two were later found dead in a nearby lake. The official cause of death was suicide by drowning but the autopsy clearly showed that he had not drowned. How exactly the King met his end may never be determined for certain, instead, it remains one last mystery in the life of a very mysterious sort of monarch. He was succeeded by his brother Otto, who was in turn declared unfit to rule on grounds of insanity and so Prince Luitpold went on being King of Bavaria in all but name until his death in 1912 when all pretense was dropped and his son was declared King Ludwig III, the last King of Bavaria to date. On the whole, Bavaria did not suffer because of any of this and the country prospered during the regency, undergoing what many have called something of a “golden age” which is certainly preferable to the alternative and shows that Prince Luitpold was an able man even if some never forgave him for his part in deposing his nephew.
Friday, February 27, 2015
|Thai military unit given honors by US forces|
|British SAS in the Malaya Emergency|
In Indochina, it was thanks to the forces of the British Empire that the communists did not seize control of the whole of Vietnam in the August Revolution of 1945. They took power in the north and central thirds of the country but in the south the British refused to allow this and even re-armed the surrendered Japanese forces to prevent a communist takeover before the French authorities could resume control. This was all the more controversial considering that, in other parts of the country, some Japanese had joined with the Vietnamese communists, perhaps out of shared support for communism or, as is more likely, simply out of a racist desire to fight non-Asians no matter what the underlying political cause. It was also controversial as the United States, under President Roosevelt, had made no secret of the fact that it opposed the restoration of French colonial rule in Indochina. That attitude, however, changed with the communist victory in China and the oncoming tidal wave of communist aggression from Korea to Malaysia. It is also worth noting that the areas of Indochina where the communists were the least successful were those areas where monarchist sentiment was strongest such as in Laos and Cambodia.
|Emp. Bao Dai with French General de Lattre|
On the Lao front there were basically two warring factions and one faction which tried to remain above the fray. The Royal Lao Army of King Sisavang Vatthana, wanted more than anything to keep the Cold War from spreading to Laos, then there were the communists who fought a vicious guerilla war to gain power for themselves and the anti-communist forces that opposed them which consisted to a large extent of Hmong warriors backed, not-so-secretly, by the United States. The Kingdom of Thailand also played a critical part in the war in Laos as many Thai mercenaries fought on behalf of the anti-communist forces with the, again, not-so-secret blessing of the Thai royal government. The United States sent considerable military assistance to the Kingdom of Laos to aid in combating the communist Pathet-Lao and, at the time, the Kingdom of Laos received more U.S. foreign aid than any other country. Fellow monarchies such as Japan, Thailand and Australia also provided valuable assistance to the struggling royalists of Laos. The Pathet Lao had mostly Vietnamese advisors along with a few Soviet and a number of Chinese who were hoping that Laos could be secured, its monarchy abolished and made into a puppet-state through which China would have an open road to attack the Kingdom of Thailand.
|King Savang Vatthana of Laos|
In the war in Vietnam, while the South Vietnamese and United States obviously supplied the vast majority of the fighting forces, monarchist participants on the side of South Vietnam included Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Laos. Monarchies not directly involved but which were supportive of the South Vietnamese struggle included Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom and the Empire of Iran. During the course of the war more than 60,000 Australians served in the war in Vietnam losing 521 killed and over 3,000 wounded. They gave heroic service in numerous operations, one of the most famous being the Battle of Long Tan in Phuoc Tuy where 108 Australians defeated about 2,000 North Vietnamese regular army troops. Likewise, 3,500 New Zealanders served in the Vietnam War with losses of 37 killed and 187 wounded. The Kingdom of Thailand, as well as supplying troops to the war for Laos, dispatched the “Queen’s Cobra” battalion to South Vietnam where it served from 1965 to 1971. Thailand also supplied bases for American air forces and support centers for American and other allied personnel. The Australians had a particularly good combat record and more than a few have commented since that the American high command could have profited by adopted Australian methods of counter-insurgency operations.
|Troops of the Royal Australian Regiment in Vietnam|
The best chance for removing Diem was probably the attempted coup launched by General Nguyen Van Hinh, a Bao Dai loyalist, but Diem stood firm and Bao Dai blinked, recalling General Hinh who left for France and never saw Vietnam again. When Bao Dai finally summoned Diem to France to dismiss him it was too late and Diem organized a referendum in 1955 that saw the State of Vietnam become the Republic of Vietnam with Diem as president. Most regard that as the effective end of all monarchist hopes in Vietnam, however, that may not be the case. Ngo Dinh Diem had, as a young mandarin, been hand-picked by Emperor Bao Dai and promoted rapidly in government. He was known as a monarchist as well as a nationalist and came from a Catholic family that was close to the imperial court. His father, Nguyen Van Kha, had been a high-ranking official under Emperor Thanh Thai and had left public service in protest when the French deposed Thanh Thai. Diem had been aided in his career and had family ties with the staunch monarchist Nguyen Huu Bai, probably the most prominent Catholic in the imperial government at the time. His famous sister-in-law, best known as Madame Nhu, was a great-granddaughter of Emperor Dong Khanh, grandfather of the last Emperor Bao Dai. So the ties between Ngo Dinh Diem and the monarchy were numerous and far reaching.
|President Ngo Dinh Diem|
In Laos, it is strange considering how widely criticized Vietnamese Emperor Bao Dai was for his cooperation with the French, that the leaders of the royal house did not face the same situation despite being even more pro-French than Bao Dai was. During World War II both King Sisavang Vong and the Crown Prince refused to collaborate with the Japanese and remained supportive of France. Prince Phetsarath led the Japanese-allied pro-independence forces and gained widespread public adoration but that never put him at odds with the rest of the family and the King was eventually reconciled with him. If there was one man who probably could have saved Laos from all of the troubles it was to endure in the course of the Second Indochina War it was Prince Phetsarath. Even decades of communist oppression has not managed to destroy his popularity amongst the Lao people. Unfortunately, Prince Phetsarath died in 1959 of a brain hemorrhage and the country soon began to fracture as discussed above.
|Prince Sihanouk at Khmer Rouge rally|
King Sihanouk proclaimed neutrality in the Cold War but seemed to enjoy ‘dancing along the Demilitarized Zone’ as it were. He looked the other way as the communist terrorist group, the Viet Cong, established bases in Cambodia from which to attack South Vietnam, refusing offers of American support to remove them. The anti-communist forces became increasingly frustrated with Sihanouk and when he left on a friendship tour to Communist China, North Korea and the Soviet Union it was taken by everyone as a clear indication of where he stood (though in all probability it was likely an effort at playing both sides of the fence, hedging his bets as it were). While he was out of the country, in 1970 there was a military coup led by General Lon Nol, a man known as a right-wing monarchist but also a staunch anti-communist who was eager to take action against the Vietnamese presence in Cambodia. Lon Nol declared Prince Sihanouk deposed and himself President of the new Khmer Republic. Today, the most widely repeated story is that the coup was backed by the American CIA to get rid of King Sihanouk with Lon Nol as the willing traitor. However, though widely assumed, there has never been any actual evidence of CIA involvement and Lon Nol was actually extremely reluctant to remove Sihanouk as Head of State. In fact, he finally did so only at actual gunpoint.
|President Lon Nol|
That was a phenomenon that was unique and has never been repeated. For monarchists in Cambodia, there simply were no ideal options after 1970. Those who followed the King into the future dominated by Pol Pot came to regret it as the Khmer Rouge not only tossed aside the King after coming to power but went on to massacre about a third of the entire population in their drive to create a “pure” communist state. So, odd as it may seem, the best thing to do would have been to support Lon Nol and his republic. Given the depth of his attachment to the monarchy, I have no doubt that King Sihanouk could have easily returned to the throne, especially after Lon Nol was able to rid himself of the arch-republican Son Ngoc Thanh in 1972. There may have even been a restoration of the monarchy without Sihanouk if the republic had survived as the other major backer of the regime was Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak (a cousin of Sihanouk though opposed to him) who reportedly harbored hopes of his son becoming King of Cambodia. As it turned out, after the Khmer Rouge takeover in 1975 Lon Nol fled the country and Sirik Matak was executed.
|Last of the King & Queen of Laos|
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
|Deification of Lincoln|
The United States also had a more republican fervor to it, not because of the American people, but because of Europeans. After the Revolutions of 1848 many European republicans had fled to American shores and most foreign immigrants flocked to the big cities of the north such as Boston or New York City. There were many German, Irish, Polish and Sicilian immigrants to the north who were far more zealous republicans than any native-born Americans for whom kingly rule was a distant memory and who, even earlier than the war, had even developed a bit of nostalgia for the old days of colonialism under King George. However, there was one particular immigrant to the American south whose influence gave the Confederacy a very monarchist appearance, even if not everyone in Dixie’s Land realized it. When the southern states seceded and southern boys marched off to war, they bore more than a passing resemblance to the armies of the Hapsburg Empire of Austria-Hungary.
|Austrian & Confederate flags|
However, the similarities between the Confederacy and Imperial Austria went beyond simply the flag that was flown above them. Another congressional committee was called upon to design a proper uniform for the Confederate army and, once again, via a friend of a friend, Marschall ended up being the one whose design was adopted. Thanks to the Prussian artist, the Confederates would march to war looking a great deal like soldiers of the Hapsburg Emperor. This time, the inspiration dates back to 1857 when Marschall, while in Verona, Italy (at that time under Austrian rule) had seen some Austrian sharpshooters and was quite taken with their stylish uniforms of grey tunics with green facings and stars on the collar to differentiate rank among the officers. The uniform Marschall designed for the Confederate army was very similar to this, although, ultimately, very few would end up following the official regulations exactly.
|Regulation uniform for CSA artillery officers|
So it was that, aside from individual units on both sides that adopted the style of troops fighting for monarchs, from French Zouaves and chasseurs to Scottish highlanders, Hungarian hussars and Italian Bersaglieri, it was the Confederate armies that marched to war wearing uniforms and flying a flag that were both inspired by those of the Austrian Empire. What Emperor Francis Joseph might have thought of such a thing, we can only imagine.
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Roman von Ungern-Sternberg (MM blog mascot) drove out the Chinese republican forces from the Mongolian holy city of Urga to restore the Bogd Khan ('Holy King') to his rightful throne. Sure, most consider him a murderous lunatic but he probably saved Mongolia from total extermination by his action. It was supposed to be the first step in an anti-communist, pan-monarchist crusade by the Baron, and a fine first step it was, but the ultimate goal was not to be achieved. At least not yet...
Friday, February 20, 2015
The remaining monarchies in other parts of the world have similar laws, such as in the Middle East, Malaysia and Brunei and they are more uniformly enforced whereas in Europe, even where they remain on the books, they seldom are. Some monarchies, however, have no such laws but societal norms tend to make them less necessary. Japan, for example, no longer has lèse-majesté laws on the books but saying anything derogatory about the Emperor or Imperial Family would not be tolerated in polite society so most of the insults hurled at members of the Imperial Family are confined to the internet. The situation is somewhat similar in Cambodia where insulting the monarchy in print or in person could get you into some trouble but it can be done on the internet with the authorities being able to do little about it. However, the idea that only monarchies have such laws is absolutely false. Republics cannot have lèse-majesté laws in the same way monarchies can by their very nature but many, many republics have laws that come to the same thing, however, once again, how evenly they are enforced is another matter. Not long ago the republican government in Turkey, for example, made it illegal to say anything insulting about the country of Turkey, the government or anything Turkish really.
When it comes to monarchies and comparing their lèse-majesté laws to republics, however, I consider it more indicative to look at laws pertaining to the desecration of flags. Such laws are also quite widespread all around the world and often include laws protecting the desecration of foreign flags and not just the national flag. In fact, in some countries, such as the Kingdom of Denmark, it is perfectly legal to burn the Danish flag but illegal to burn the flag of a foreign country. Why do I say this is indicative? Because a monarch, like a flag, represents a whole country, a whole people as no politician, no matter how he or she is chosen, ever could. Put in those terms, even some republicans may be able to understand why some people might actually support lèse-majesté laws. In Mexico, for instance, no one would think twice about insulting the King of Spain and most would see no reason why a Spaniard should be punished for insulting the King of Spain. Yet, when it comes to the Mexican national flag, there are quite strict laws preventing it from being treated in any way that could be construed as disrespectful and this is regarded as entirely appropriate.
As most could probably guess, I have no problem with lèse-majesté laws nor do I have any problem with laws against the desecration of national flags (even though my country doesn’t have them). On one level, I look at it like this; whether you are tearing up a picture of Queen Elizabeth II in England or burning the American flag in the United States you are attacking the symbol of a country and if you feel that way about the country you should pack your bags and get the hell out -no one is forcing you to live there. If, on the other hand, you want to tear up a picture of “Call Me Dave” Cameron or Gordon “IS ALIVE!” Brown, I would have no problem with that. Similarly, if an American feels he can only express himself by burning the flag of the Democrat or Republican parties I would have no problem with that. Doing something like that is showing contempt for a government, a political faction or ideology and that is a totally different thing, to my mind, from an act with disrespects an entire country as a whole and a symbol that represents everyone in it.
Obviously, I don’t think so, even though no country has absolute freedom of speech no matter where you go. I have no problem with reasonable debate and discussion in the ‘public square’ a country. One can do that without resorting to insults. For example, one can point out why they do not accept the Islamic religion or state why they think Mohammed was not what he claimed to be without drawing lewd cartoons of him involving bestiality. One can also say why and on what points they disagree with tenets of Catholicism without resorting to vandalism against sacred images or pictures of the Pope just as one can explain in great detail what disagreements they have with the policies of a certain government without resorting to the childish antics of burning a flag. On the subject of persons I would also say that I do not find it all unjustified to have different standards for monarchs than for politicians. For instance, an American who insults an American President will not offend me. If reasons are given I may agree or disagree with such points (though not much as painfully few have even been moderately good in my opinion) but no more than that. For a real precise example, let us say that someone insulted President Ronald Reagan to me, the only American chief executive of my lifetime that I consider fairly decent. I would not agree with such behavior, but I would not be “offended” by it. However, if someone were to insult the Queen of Denmark or the Emperor of Japan, I would be offended (to put it lightly). The reason is that there is a clear difference to me between a person who had a position of leadership thrust upon them and one who sought a position of leadership of their own free will. I feel the same about privacy laws for famous people. I do not feel at all the same when a celebrity, who chose to enter a profession which depends on media attention and popular support, complains of their privacy being violated as when the privacy of, for example, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is violated. They are two entirely different things to me.
I would also draw a distinction, even if it made little difference to my ultimate position, between those countries which became republics because of the violent overthrow of a monarch and those which did so by coming to an agreement with their monarch. Most of the republics in the world today, after all, did not spring into being by overthrowing a monarch but by separating themselves from one, in most cases the Spanish or British monarch. If, for example, some man in India who longed for the days when the British monarch was still Emperor of India decided to burn the Indian national flag, I might not be as offended as I would be by the desecration of a monarchist flag or a picture of the Queen but I would still not be best pleased. The British monarch agreed to the independence of India quite freely and such a demonstration would only hurt the image of those in India who have a friendly attitude toward the United Kingdom. It would simply inflame Anglophobic sentiments in the subcontinent rather than encouraging greater Anglo-Indian friendship. If such an individual were known to be a monarchist, it would simply make monarchists look bad and so boost the prestige of the republic in comparison. I think most people could understand that such a demonstration would also be seen rather differently in a country like India or Burma or Kenya than in a republic which arose not because of a country gaining independence from another but from the overthrow of a legitimate native monarch.
Speak not ill of the king, not even in your thoughts and do not
curse the rich even in your bedchamber for a bird of the air
will carry your voice and that with wings will relate the matter.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Likewise, it was in army exercises on Salisbury plain in 1928-1929 that the British army’s “Experimental Armored Force” was tested in serious war games. This force consisted of light and heavier tanks, armored machine gun carriers, armored scout cars, artillery units and infantry and engineers in mechanized vehicles as well as RAF support from the air. The tradition-minded generals threw standard infantry and cavalry units at the EAF in vastly superior numbers, stacking the odds heavily against them and yet the EAF won every time and with relative ease. The Germans learned a great deal from this and the famous German Panzer Divisions of mechanized infantry, tanks and artillery backed up by air support were all based on the proven success of the Experimental Armored Force in Great Britain. The Germans basically took ideas developed in Britain and utilized them to best effect, even more so than the British themselves who were hampered, in the early days of the conflict by the strictly defensive attitude of their French allies. In some ways, the Germans may have learned the lesson too well as German military thinking tended to bind the air forces to the army on the ground more than in other countries.
|The Gloster Meteor|
In the war at sea, it is no surprise that the British, who had dominated the oceans for so long, were also on the cutting edge. With HMS Ark Royal the British built the first modern aircraft carrier in World War I and in actions during World War II such as the raid on Taranto and the sinking of the Bismarck, it was the Royal Navy that proved how effective aircraft could be in the new age of naval warfare. In submarine warfare the British became famous for the success their submarines had at sinking enemy submarines and Royal Navy mini-subs, known as X-craft (or XE-craft in the Pacific) scored major successes with the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz and the Japanese cruiser Takao. HMS Turbulent, one of the rugged, heavily armed T-class subs operated by the Royal Navy sank 90,000 tons of Axis shipping and the T-boats in particular played a crucial role in choking off the flow of supplies to Axis forces in North Africa at the height of the conflict. Commander Ben Bryant, the most successful British submarine captain to survive the war, sank 32 Axis ships as compared to the most successful American sub commander who sank 24. Both remarkable achievements but it shows how the Royal Navy were not just on the receiving end of submarine warfare. The British had an excellent record on the seas as well as above and below them.
When it comes to military innovation and records of success in new fields, particularly in World War II, few probably would even consider the Kingdom of Italy. Yet, this is mostly due to how masterful the British were at another wartime tactic: propaganda. The Italians were actually extremely innovative even though, to their detriment, they did not always utilize the ideas of their best and brightest. Most will no doubt be very surprised to learn just how ahead of the curve the Italians were, what feats they were able to accomplish and how much more they might have. Far too many people have simply come to accept a grossly unfair caricature of the Italian military forces that has been repeated so often as to become accepted as a matter of fact. On land, sea and air the royal Italian military was far more advanced and innovative than most people realize. During World War II, the Italians accomplished some remarkable things and, again, contrary to popular perception, had some very expert and effective commanders. For example, when it came to the Blitzkrieg tactics later made famous by the Germans, to a large extent these were first put into effect by the Italian troops under General Ettore Bastico in Spain during the Santander offensive fighting for the nationalists in the civil war. He heavily trained his troops for specific objectives, managed coordination between infantry, artillery and air units for support and emphasized the need for speed in the advance, to keep advancing, to never stop and never allow the enemy a moment to reorganize himself. The result was a great victory for the Italian forces in Spain and a crushing defeat for the Spanish republicans.
|Semovente da 105/25 Italian tank destroyer|
One of the many factors that hampered Italian armored effectiveness was a lack of radios and this was also a problem for most Italian aircraft. This is all the more frustrating considering that an Italian, Guglielmo Marconi, is usually credited with inventing the radio. Similarly, the Italians invented a workable radar set but, for some reason, it was never widely employed which put Italian naval units at a disadvantage. However, one area of new technology where Italy did quite well was in submarine warfare. At the beginning of the war Italy actually had the largest submarine fleet, by tonnage, in the world and in the course of the conflict Italian submarines would sink more than half a million tons of Allied shipping. In fact, the most successful non-German submarine commander of World War II was an Italian, Captain Gianfranco Gazzana-Priaroggia who took down 90,601 tons of Allied shipping. The Italians also excelled at special-forces type operations using small torpedo motor-boats, demolition frogmen and human-guided torpedoes (though not of the suicide-type such as the Japanese kaiten). These units (Decima Flottiglia MAS) were able to sink numerous ships, even major warships, in some of the most heavily defended Allied harbors in the world such as Gibraltar, Alexandria, Egypt and Sebastopol, Ukraine. During the naval war in general, it is often overlooked that for a considerable period of time in 1942 the Italian Royal Navy won total control over the central Mediterranean, the major opportunity for the invasion of Malta that never came.
|Italian airborne division Folgore|
The Italian Royal Air Force also pulled off some very surprising long-range bombing attacks, including an air raid on the British-held emirate of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. Most hair-raising of all was the plan to attack no less a target than New York City. The first idea was to use the “human-torpedoes” to be brought close to New York harbor by Italy’s most successful submarine, the Leonardo DaVinci which was specially modified for the task. However, after a postponement the sub was sunk and so another plan was hatched to use a large sea-plane to transport the craft to striking distance, stopping in mid-Atlantic to be refueled by submarine. However, the plan was postponed again because of some other secret weapon that was to be used instead. What could this have been? Italy also had a specially modified trans-Atlantic bomber that was being outfitted to carry an especially heavy payload. Some have speculated that this was part of an effort to deliver an Italian atomic-bomb and, as much as most dismiss the idea, there is at least some circumstantial evidence to suggest this may have been the case. As early as 1939 Italian atomic scientists at the University of Milan were issued a patent for a nuclear reactor they had designed and Italian scientists were later sent to Germany where they had better facilities to continue their nuclear research. We do know that at some top-secret German nuclear tests the only foreigner present was an Italian officer and Mussolini was one of only a dozen individuals Hitler informed about the operation, no doubt because of the participation of Italian scientists in the development of the weapons. How close they came to success we do not know due to much of the documentation being destroyed and much still being classified by the British government, however, there is no doubt that the oft-derided Kingdom of Italy was highly advanced in nuclear research.
|Japanese Type 3 Chi-Nu tank|
On the sea and in the air, however, things were very different. The Japanese were absolutely on the cutting edge of developing military aircraft. The famous Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter, mostly used in naval aviation but which was ground-based as well, was regarded by both Axis and Allied countries as the best carrier-based fighter in the world at the time. In the early weeks and months of the war, the Japanese Zero shot down 12 Allied planes for every one of their own lost. It gave Japan a marked advantage over anything the British or Americans had on hand to use against it. The only problem was that, once the war began, it became extremely difficult for Japanese industry to keep up as American fighters continued to improve. However, the biggest loss was in pilots. The most successful fighter pilots of the war, after the Germans, were the Japanese, the most successful being Lieutenant Hiroyoshi Nishizawa who, even by the most conservative of statistics, shot down far more planes than the best British, Russian or American pilots. An expert Japanese pilot in the latest aircraft proved to be capable of victory even against enemy forces that were considerably superior in number. The problem was that so many of these expert, remarkably well trained pilots were lost at the disastrous Battle of Midway that Japanese naval aviation was never able to recover. Pilots simply could not be trained and new planes designed and manufactured fast enough to keep up with what the war effort demanded.
|Yokosuka "Ohka" rocket plane|
The one area where Japanese innovation stood out more than any other, and so much so that it really requires very little in the way of explanation, was in naval warships and submarines. Already pioneers in the utilization of aircraft carriers, the Imperial Japanese Navy pushed the boundaries of military technology for both traditional warships and in new fields such as the submarine fleet. The problem was that most of these never had the chance to really engage in the sort of battle for which they were intended. Nonetheless, the designs were positively astounding and some have never been surpassed even to this day. Undoubtedly the most famous Japanese naval vessel of the war was the battleship Yamato, though its sister ship, Musashi, was probably even more formidable. These were, quite simply, the largest battleships ever built and will probably always remain so. They were built as part of the thinking of the Japanese naval high command which was focused on a major, decisive, battle such as was won by Admiral Togo at Tsushima in the war against Russia. With these two monster warships, Japan was confident of being able to totally dominate any ship-to-ship engagement with any navy in the world.
Japan also broke plenty of records under the water as well. No one was as innovative as Japan when it came to submarine design, though Japanese boats were so poorly utilized that they never came close to scoring anywhere near the success that Germany or Italy did. This was partly due to an over-ambitious strategy combined with overly-cautious tactics (which meant few ever got the opportunity to score many victories) but also because of the level of innovation itself which resulted in Japan producing so many different types of subs that none were able to be mass-produced in the numbers needed to have any appreciable impact on the war effort. Nonetheless, Japan produced highly advanced boats that demonstrated immense creativity and technical know-how. One area Japan was famous for was in combining air power with submarines. Many Japanese subs were equipped with small scout planes that could be launched and recovered from the sub itself to serve as reconnaissance aircraft. One even took up a few incendiary bombs which were dropped on the west coast of the United States. However, as the war situation became more desperate, many subs were forced into carrying cargo to isolated, starving garrisons on the islands of the south Pacific.
All of this is important information to know, even for those monarchists who are not terribly interested in weapons of war and military technology. It demonstrates how completely absurd the republican accusation is that monarchy is some sort of obstacle to progress or that countries with monarchies are stuck in the past, bound to tradition and blind to progress. On the contrary, monarchies respect tradition because they honor their past which gives them the courage to go forward onto new ground. There are many fields one could look at and military advancements are clearly no exception. In a world where republican powers have the most military muscle today, it is worth remembering that they didn’t get their all on their own. It was the British who invented the first fully automatic machine gun, the British who invented the tank, the torpedo, radar and who pioneered naval aviation, it was the Kingdom of Italy that first used aircraft in combat and had the first paratroopers and it was the Empire of Japan that built the largest battleships in history -and that’s only looking at the major monarchies of World War II. To be fair, a few republics have proven quite innovative and have achieved remarkable things in a number of fields but the point is that monarchies have as well. Having a dictator chosen by the party elite or electing a president based on a popularity contest does not guarantee achievement any more than having a hereditary monarch precludes it. Monarchies have a proven record of being willing to try new things just as they have the good sense to hold on to what has proven to work best.