The Tank Turns 103

On this day in 1915, a prototype tank nicknamed Little Willie rolled off the assembly line in England. Little Willie was far from an overnight success. It weighed 14 tons, got stuck in trenches, and crawled over rough terrain at only two miles per hour. However, improvements were made to the original prototype and tanks eventually transformed military battlefields.

The British developed the tank in response to the trench warfare of World War I. In 1914, a British army colonel named Ernest Swinton and William Hankey, secretary of the Committee for Imperial Defense, championed the idea of an armored vehicle with conveyor-belt-like tracks over its wheels that could break through enemy lines and traverse difficult territory.

In the 101 years since, man has upgraded from tanks to arsenals that can take out entire continents. We have invented ways to spend trillions of dollars to kill billions of lives.

It’s called “progress.”

The Fall of Rome

What man builds can come down in an instant. On July 18, 64 A.D., a fire erupted in the world’s greatest city. The market area of Rome is where the flames were first seen. Rapidly, the fire spread to the center of the city. When the flames finally died out more than a week later, nearly two-thirds of Rome had been destroyed.

Emperor Nero used the fire as an opportunity to rebuild Rome in a more orderly Greek style and began construction on a massive palace called the Domus Aurea. Some speculated that the emperor had ordered the burning of Rome to indulge his architectural tastes, but he was away in Antium when the conflagration began.

According to later Roman historians, Nero blamed members of the “mysterious Christian cult” for the fire and launched the first Roman persecution of Christians in response.

Of course, the burning of Rome was a tragedy of international proportion. But it also reminds us that human nature has not changed. When something goes wrong, we still play the blame game. And far too often, Christians are blamed for the problems of the world.

First World War Begins – 104 Year Ago Today

Four days after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Germany and Russia declared war against each other. France ordered a general mobilization, and the first German army units crossed into Luxembourg in preparation for the German invasion of France. During the next three days, Russia, France, Belgium, and Great Britain all lined up against Austria-Hungary and Germany, and the German army invaded Belgium.

The Great War that ensued was one of unprecedented destruction and loss of life, resulting in the deaths of some twenty million soldiers and civilians. Unfortunately, the peace treaty that officially ended the conflict – the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 – forced punitive terms on Germany that destabilized Europe and laid the groundwork for World War II.

The Imperials, a Christian music group, used to sing a song that said, “There will never be peace until Christ is seated at the conference table.” The Bible says there will be wars and rumors of wars in the last days. Historians tell us there have been more wars since World War I than in all the years that preceded the great War.

Today, America is at war with ISIS, whether we call them the “JV Team,” as our president did, or whether we even call them what they are. They have declared war on us. Sure, a military response is required. Of course it is. But make no mistake. In this world there will never be peace – until Christ is seated at the conference table.

American Colonies Declare Independence

On this day in 1776, in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims the independence of a new United States of America from Great Britain and its king. The declaration came 442 days after the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts and marked France’s intervention on behalf of the Americans.

On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to approve a Virginia motion calling for separation Great Britain. The dramatic words of this resolution were added to the closing of the Declaration of Independence. Two days later, on July 4, the declaration was formally adopted by twelve colonies after minor revision. New York, the 13th colony, approved it on July 19. On August 2, the declaration was signed by Congress delegates. The American War for Independence was on, and it would last for five long years.

So enjoy the fireworks show tonight. But don’t forget where it all began – 240 years ago today.

U.S. Constitution Turns 230

By 1786, defects in the post-Revolutionary War Articles of Confederation were apparent, such as the lack of central authority over foreign and domestic commerce. Congress endorsed a plan to draft a new constitution, and on May 25, 1787, the Constitutional Convention convened at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. On September 17, 1787, after three months of debate moderated by convention president George Washington, the new U.S. Constitution, which created a strong federal government with an intricate system of checks and balances, was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the convention. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states. On this day in 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth and last necessary vote to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby making the document the law of the land.

The Constitution was put into operation on March 4, 1789. Since then, Congress has considered 11,539 potential amendments, only 33 of which ever came into law. The document has endured the test of time and continues to guide policy and practice in the United Sates.

In light of current debate on such issues as life, foreign policy, the economy, guns, and terrorism, what matters most is not where legislators end up, but where they begin. When you hear that the Constitution is a “living, breathing” document, cringe. That is code for “We can change it according to the whim of the day.” Apart from Scripture, it is hard to find a more inspired document. It serves to protect us and we need to protect it. The next time you hear your favorite politician make a new proposal, ask yourself, “How does this square with the Constitution?” That’s always a good place to start.

American Revolution Begins

At about 5:00 a.m., April 19, 1775, seven hundred British troops, on a mission to capture Patriot leaders and seize a Patriot arsenal, marched in Lexington to find 77 armed minutemen under Captain John Parker waiting for them on the town’s common green. British Major John Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation, the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, the “shot heard around the world” was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the area. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead or dying and ten others were wounded. Only one British soldier was injured, but the American Revolution had begun.

Eight years and 25,000 deaths later, the United States of America had won her independence and was a free nation. That is how revolutions happen. They start small and end big. One shot was fired, and the world took notice, 241 years ago today.

When’s the last time you “fired a shot”? Take aim at God’s preferred future for you life. He is speaking, if you’re listening. Too often we shoot before aiming. Let God direct you, and take aim at the revolution He has in front of you. Then take your best shot.

The Rushmore Report: Pearl Harbor – Five Things You Didn’t Know

The attack on Pearl Harbor occurred 75 years ago – on December 7, 1941. The day that “will live in infamy” is remembered by only 2.3 percent of today’s population. Of the 16 million American soldiers who served in WWII, only 855,000 are still with us. That is just four percent, with 492 dying each day. So this is a good day to reflect. I offer you five facts about the bombing of Pearl Harbor you probably didn’t know.

My dad served in the South Pacific during the War. I still have his Army trunk, uniform, and medals. WWII brings special meaning to me and my family. The proud service of my dad and his dad (WWI) are why I didn’t have to fight in a WWIII. I’ve been to Pearl Harbor. It is a sobering experience. I hope you enjoy the facts below, as we reflect on the ruthless attack that left 2,403 dead and 1,178 injured.

1. Some of the battleships sunk that day were resurrected.

Of the eight battleships that were targeted during the attacks, all but two were eventually repaired and returned to the U.S. Navy’s fleet. The USS West Virginia and the USS California had both sunk completely, but the Navy raised them, repaired them, and reused them.

Furthermore, bullet holes and damages from the attacks can be seen to this day at many of the active military installations on Oahu, including Schofield Barracks. Rather than repair or cover up the damage, the bullet holes serve as a reminder of the lives lost that day and as motivation for our military to never relax.

2. Veterans of the attack can be laid to rest at Pearl Harbor.

Survivors of the attack have the option to join their lost comrades and make Pearl Harbor their final resting place. Crewmembers who served on board the USS Arizona – which experienced the most devastating damage – may choose to have their ashes deposited by divers beneath one of the sunken Arizona’s gun turrets. Roughly 30 Arizona survivors have chosen this option and less than a dozen of the 355 survivors are known to still be alive.

3. The USS Arizona still leaks fuel.

The day before the attack, the USS Arizona took on a full load of fuel – nearly 1.5 million gallons. Much of that fuel helped ignite the explosion and subsequent fires that destroyed the ship, but – amazingly – some of that fuel continues to seep out of the wreckage. According to the History Channel, the Arizona “continues to spill up to nine quarts of oil into the harbor each day and visitors often say it is as if the ship were still bleeding.”

4. Servicemen stationed in Hawaii took care of the memorial during the 2013 government shutdown.

Servicemen stationed in Hawaii treat Pearl Harbor as a living memorial and have been known to rally around it when times are tough. In October, 2013, for instance, when the U.S. government shut down for more than two weeks, no one was around to take care of the memorial site. A spontaneous group of servicemen and their families gathered to tend to the seemingly abandoned site, raking, weeding, and mowing the overgrown grass. Their message, they said, was to all veterans: “We haven’t forgotten about you. We will not forget about you.”

5. Many tourists from Japan come to visit the memorial.

While most school children can tell you that the Japanese were responsible for the attacks on Pearl Harbor, not everyone realizes that the Japanese now visit the memorial in droves. Japan, now one of America’s strongest allies, is the largest source of international tourists to the state of Hawaii. They pay their respects at Pearl Harbor just as Americans do, and ironically, the economic vitality of Hawaii today depends largely on tourism from Japan.

When we think of defining moments in American history, we think of Pearl Harbor. What was once stamped into Americans’ memories is now mostly American history. Amazingly, the time that has lapsed from Pearl Harbor until today is the same as the span of Reconstruction to Pearl Harbor.

I suggest you find a WWII veteran today – though it may not be easy. Tell him thanks for saving a nation and freedom for us all. Then offer a prayer of gratitude for those who suffered and died – 75 years ago.

In all of American history, two words capture the heart of American greatness, birthed from the horror and tragedy of war.

Pearl Harbor.

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

On this day in 1941 – 75 years ago – Japanese warplanes bombed the U.S. naval base at Oahu Island’s Pearl Harbor. Having received intelligence reports of intercepted coded messages from Tokyo to the Japanese ambassador in the United States, the president anticipated Japanese reprisals for his government’s refusal to reverse economic sanctions and embargoes against Japan.

Franklin Roosevelt had remained firm in his demand that the Japanese withdraw from China and French Indochina and renounce its alliance with fascist Germany and Italy. At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, 360 Japanese warplanes attacked Pearl Harbor, followed by 200 aircraft, which decimated the American ships, destroying 180 planes, and killed more than 2,400 men.

In the short term, the Japanese goal of crippling U.S. naval strength in the Pacific, and thereby giving Tokyo free reign to gobble up more of Southeast Asia and the South Pacific in its dream of imperial expansion, was successful. But the war had only just begun.

Only four percent of the veterans of World War II are still with us. We owe them a debt we could never pay. What happened 75 years ago today was devastating. But America did what she always does. She rebounded. As a part of her response, American troops would set up a communications outpost on the South Pacific island of Bougainville. My dad was a part of that action. Sadly, he would be one of only 17 of 300 men in his unit to survive the battle.

This is a day to remember, reflect, and even rejoice. America was down – but not out. May the spirit that carried us from that day, 75 years ago, to victory, be ours again today.

The Rushmore Report: Four Things You Didn’t Know About Thanksgiving

We all know the story of Thanksgiving. Or do we? This homegrown American holiday has a rich and little-known history beyond the famous feast of 1621. Here are four surprising stories:

1. We don’t know where the first Thanksgiving was held.

If you could ask a Pilgrim about the three-day celebration with the Wampanoag Indians in Plymouth, Mass., in 1621, which most Americans think of as the first Thanksgiving, he would not have used the word “Thanksgiving.” For the Pilgrims, rather, a day of Thanksgiving was imbued with religious meaning and set aside for prayer and worship.

From the Pilgrims’ point of view, their first “Thanksgiving” took place in July 1623. Governor William Bradford declared a day of Thanksgiving to give thanks for the rain that had ended a drought and saved their harvest. Bradford wrote in his journal that the rain fell “with such sweet and gentle showers as gave them cause of rejoicing and blessing God.”

But in 1962, a Virginia state senator objected when President John F. Kennedy mentioned Plymouth as the site of the First Thanksgiving. “America’s First Thanksgiving was actually celebrated in Virginia in 1619,” the Virginian wrote the president, referring to a religious ceremony the English settlers held when they arrived in Berkeley Plantation near Richmond. “Please issue an appropriate correction.”

“You are quite right,” came the reply from JFK’s special assistant, the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. “I can only plead unconquerable New England bias on the part of the White House staff.”

Schlesinger made sure that JFK did not slight Virginia again. In 1963, Kennedy’s Thanksgiving proclamation began: “Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts . . . set aside a time of thanksgiving.” Virginians were pleased to note that their state was named first, followed by the president’s home state of Massachusetts.

2. The Pilgrims likely ate corn instead of cranberries.

If you want to eat what the Pilgrims and Wampanoag ate in the 1600s, put venison, corn, and oysters on your Thanksgiving menu. The venison was provided courtesy of the Wampanoag, who, like every good Thanksgiving guest ever since, brought a contribution to the feast – in this case, five deer.

Turkey may have also been on the table, but unlike today, it was not the centerpiece of the meal. Bradford writes in his Journal that there was a “great store of wild turkey” as well as other fowl at the time of the First Thanksgiving. The early English settlers also ate duck, geese, swan, crane, gulls, and even eagle.

Cranberries grew wild in New England, but if a curious Pilgrim had picked and eaten one, he would not have wanted to eat a second. Cranberries are extremely tart and need sweetening to be palatable. Since sugar was expensive in England, it’s unlikely the Pilgrims had brought any with them on the Mayflower.

3. Not everyone liked the idea of a national Thanksgiving holiday.

It’s hard to imagine Thanksgiving as a source of political controversy. But such was the case in 1789, when George Washington called our first Thanksgiving as a nation. In his proclamation, Washington asked Americans to gather on the last Thursday of November to give thanks for the establishment of “a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Some members of Congress objected. The authority to designate a Thanksgiving Day belonged to individual state governors, not the president, they said. Others said Thanksgiving was a “religious matter” and therefore proscribed. Congress had just debated the text of the First Amendment, so the meaning of separation of church and state was fresh in Members’ minds.

Washington – wise in this as in almost every other matter – issued the proclamation, but then “requested” the governors to proclaim his suggested day of Thanksgiving in their states; he did not order them to do so. Thanksgiving was widely celebrated throughout the land.

4. Football quickly became a central part of the holiday.

The modern-day Thanksgiving holiday began in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of national Thanksgiving in the midst of the Civil War. Every subsequent president has followed Lincoln’s example.

Thanksgiving Day football games are almost as old as the holiday itself. The first Thanksgiving Day football game took place in the mid-1870s, when Princeton played Yale in Hoboken, N.J. The Princeton-Yale game was a catalyst for the creation of a popular audience for Thanksgiving Day football, and by the 1890s there were thousands of games being played across the country.

As Thanksgiving football fever swept the nation, many worried that “King Football” had replaced family and gratitude as the true meaning of the day. The Chicago Tribune spoke for many when, in 1896, it asked whether there was too much football and too little thanksgiving on the holiday.

One aspect of the holiday that has stayed the same over the centuries is gratitude. On the fourth Thursday of November, Americans of all religious faiths, and of none, pause to give thanks.

About the Author

Melanie Kirkpatrick is a Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute. She is a writer-journalist based in Connecticut and New York City. Kirkpatrick is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal.

Election Day

Today is an election day for the ages. But there was another huge election day. It happened 152 years ago today – November 8, 1864. That was the day Abraham Lincoln was elected to a second term. Little did they know how short that term would be.

On November 8, 1864, Northern states overwhelmingly endorsed the leadership and policies of President Lincoln when they elected him once again. With his reelection, any hope for a negotiated settlement with the Confederacy vanished. At this time, Lincoln faced many challenges to his presidency.

The war was now in its fourth year, and many were questioning if the South could ever be fully conquered militarily. Union General Ulysses S. Grant mounted a massive campaign in the spring of that year to finally defeat the Confederate army of General Robert E. Lee, but after sustaining significant losses at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor, the Yankees bogged down around Petersburg, Virginia.

Some of the Radical Republicans were unhappy with Lincoln’s conciliatory plan for the reconstruction of the South. Many Notherners had never been happy with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which converted the war from one of reunion to a crusade to destroy slavery. Weariness with the war fueled calls for a compromise with the seceded states. Five months after Lincoln’s reelection, the collapse of the Confederacy was complete.

The lesson of the 1864 election is that elections have consequences. Lincoln’s opponent would have likely signed a peace treaty with the South that would have sealed the permanence of the Confederate States. By this time tomorrow, we will probably know who our next President will be. And this election will have consequences.

There is another lesson from the 1864 election. Memories fade. Can you name the Democratic nominee who lost to Lincoln in 1864? I didn’t think so. His name was George B. McClellan. He was a Union General who would go on to be elected Governor of New Jersey. But he lost his race for the presidency. And today, no one remembers his name.

It’s hard to imagine ever forgetting the names of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. But fast forward to the year 2168. It will have been 152 years since this dreadful election. Perhaps the nation will no longer remember the election of 2016 – or its candidates. One can only hope.