Monday 25 March 2013

The World's First Airstrike

Gavotti aboard Farman biplane, Rome 1910
In April 2011, Italy had announced it would join NATO's air attacks in Libya, then in the middle of its civil war. It would later prove a classical case of history repeating itself.

A century ago, in September 1911, the Italian armed forces invaded Ottoman-held Libya with the intent of establishing an Italian colonial empire, something that Italy lacked whilst its French and German neighbors prided upon. This led to the Italo-Turkish war which dragged on until October 1912, with the Italians winning control of Libya, having subdued Turkish and Libyan resistance.

Insignificant as this war may seem to us, the Italian Turkish war saw numerous technological advancements deployed in battle. One of them, most notable, being aeroplanes.

This brings us to the story of a young Italian aviator, lieutenant Giulio Gavotti, who was deployed to Libya to oversee the transport of aeroplanes. But within a few months, Gavotti had done what no man had done before in warfare. Gavotti was the world's first air-bomber, only eight years after the monumental flight of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

On the first of November 1911, Gavotti boarded his Etrich Taube aeroplane and took with him four grenades, weighing a kilo and a half each. Gavotti took off and headed for Ain Zara. It is now a town just east of Tripoli, but at the time he described it as a small oasis. There he would have expected to find Arab fighters and Turkish troops that were allied in the fight against the Italian invasion.
The type of plane used in the airstrike, the Etrich Taube

Flying at an altitude of 600 feet, Gavotti screwed in the detonators and tossed each grenade over the side of the plane. Whilst unknown, Gavotti's mission is believed to have been a failure, having failed to cause any reported casualties.

Back home in Italy, the Italian press was ecstatic, with many newspapers reporting the exploit in high regards, to strengthen support for the war at home. Gavotti had shown it was possible to use aeroplanes to aid warfare (a contrast to the Wright Brothers' opinion that aeroplanes were "tools of peace".) and may have inadvertedly paved the way for the horrors of Dresden, Hiroshima and countless others to occur.
Zepplin bombing, during the Italian Turkish War, 1911.
Future dictator of Italy, Benito Mussolini (then a left-wing socialist), was vehemently opposed to the Italian-Turkish War.

Friday 8 March 2013

The Surrender of Japan: A Brief Overview

Japanese foreign affairs minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on board USS Missouri as General Richard K. Sutherland watches, September 2, 1945
The surrender of the Empire of Japan on September 2, 1945, brought the hostilities of World War II to a close. By the end of July 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy was incapable of conducting operations and an Allied invasion of Japan was imminent. While publicly stating their intent to fight on to the bitter end, the Empire of Japan's leaders, (the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War, also known as the "Big Six"), were privately making entreaties to the neutral Soviet Union to mediate peace on terms favorable to the Japanese. The Soviets, meanwhile, were preparing to attack the Japanese, in fulfillment of their promises to the United States and the United Kingdom made at the Tehran and Yalta Conferences.

The USS Missouri on the day of the signing, 2 September 1945
 On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. Late in the evening of August 8, 1945, in accordance with the Yalta agreements, but in violation of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact, the Soviet Union declared war on the Empire of Japan, and soon after midnight on August 9, 1945, the Soviet Union invaded the Imperial Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. Later that day, the United States dropped another atomic bomb, this time on the city of Nagasaki. The combined shock of these events caused Emperor Hirohito to intervene and order the Big Six to accept the terms for ending the war that the Allies had set down in the Potsdam Declaration. After several more days of behind-the-scenes negotiations and a failed coup d'état, Emperor Hirohito gave a recorded radio address to the Empire on August 15. In the radio address, called the Gyokuon-hōsō ("Jewel Voice Broadcast"), he announced the surrender of the Empire of Japan to the Allies.

General of the Army Douglas MacArthur signing the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Allied Powers
On August 28, the occupation of Japan by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers began. The surrender ceremony was held on September 2, aboard the United States Navy battleship USS Missouri (BB-63), at which officials from the Japanese government signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, thereby ending the hostilities in World War II. Allied civilians and military personnel alike celebrated V-J Day, the end of the war; however, some isolated soldiers and personnel from Imperial Japan's far-flung forces throughout Asia and the Pacific islands refused to surrender for months and years afterwards, some even as far as into the 1970s. Since the surrender of the Empire of Japan, historians have continually debated the ethics of using the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Japanese Instrument of Surrender (click for larger image)

The state of war between Japan and the Allies formally ended when the Treaty of San Francisco came into force on April 28, 1952. Four more years passed before Japan and the Soviet Union signed the Soviet–Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956, which formally brought an end to their state of war.

 Representatives of Japan stand aboard USS Missouri prior to signing of the Instrument of Surrender.

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