Monday, May 7, 2012

May 7th -A Couple of Interesting Historical Events

May 7th is an interesting date in history. Several events occured on this date, including the sinking of the Lusitania and the French defeat by the Viet Mihn at Dein Bein Phu. I choose 2 events to write about: Germany's Unconditional Surrender ending World War II and Chief Pontiac's Rebellion in Colonial America in 1763.

Germany Surrenders

On this day in 1945, the German High Command, in the person of General Alfred Jodl, signs the unconditional surrender of all German forces, East and West, at Reims, in northwestern France.

At first, General Jodl hoped to limit the terms of German surrender to only those forces still fighting the Western Allies. But General Dwight Eisenhower demanded complete surrender of all German forces, those fighting in the East as well as in the West. If this demand was not met, Eisenhower was prepared to seal off the Western front, preventing Germans from fleeing to the West in order to surrender, thereby leaving them in the hands of the enveloping Soviet forces. Jodl radioed Grand Admiral Karl Donitz, Hitler's successor, with the terms. Donitz ordered him to sign. So with Russian General Ivan Susloparov and French General Francois Sevez signing as witnesses, and General Walter Bedell Smith, Ike's chief of staff, signing for the Allied Expeditionary Force, Germany was-at least on paper-defeated. Fighting would still go on in the East for almost another day. But the war in the West was over.

Since General Susloparov did not have explicit permission from Soviet Premier Stalin to sign the surrender papers, even as a witness, he was quickly hustled back East-into the hands of the Soviet secret police, never to be heard from again. Alfred Jodl, who was wounded in the assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944, would be found guilty of war crimes (which included the shooting of hostages) at Nuremberg and hanged on October 16, 1946-then granted a pardon, posthumously, in 1953, after a German appeals court found Jodl not guilty of breaking international law.

Pontiac's Plot Foiled

On this day in 1763, Major Henry Gladwin, British commander of Fort Detroit, foils Ottawa Chief Pontiac's attempt at a surprise attack. Romantic lore holds that Gladwin's Seneca mistress informed him of the western Indians' plans for an uprising.

When Pontiac arrived at the fort with his men, who were concealing weapons under their trading blankets, they discovered that Gladwin had assembled his men and prepared them for a defense of the fort. Knowing that, without the element of surprise, their efforts would not be successful, Pontiac withdrew and instead laid siege to the fort for the rest of the summer, while his allies successfully seized 10 of 13 British forts in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions by June 20. The western Indians' efforts to unite all Native Americans in an attempt to free themselves of addictions to European trade goods and alcohol, guided by their spiritual leader, a Delaware named Neolin, seemed to be succeeding. However, the French failed to come to the Indians' aid in driving the British back to the Atlantic as hoped, dooming the rebellion.

British General Jeffrey Amherst, who first angered western Indians in 1760 by curtailing the tradition of gift exchange long practiced by both the French and English governments, unleashed one of the earliest uses of biological weaponry on the Indians in response to their uprising. He ordered Colonel Henry Bouquet of Fort Pitt to "Extirpate this Execrable Race," by distributing smallpox-infected blankets among them. The plan succeeded in breeding a deadly smallpox epidemic among the Indians in 1763-64.

Live Long and Prosper... (and don't accept blankets from the Redcoats)

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