The Gadsden Purchase Drama

Today in History, December 30: 1853 –

The Gadsden Purchase. The last major expansion of continental US territory takes place when US Ambassador to Mexico James Gadsden and Mexican President General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna sign a treaty giving over a large segment of what is now New Mexico and Arizona from Mexico to the US for 15 million dollars to facilitate a southern US railroad, because a more northern route was too mountainous. The story seems pretty plain. But as I researched it, I found more and more intrigue and drama to be involved.

Gadsden was an ardent slavery proponent, sent on this mission by then US Secretary of War Jefferson Davis to negotiate the agreement on behalf of President Pierce. Gadsden and Davis, of course, shared views that more slave holding states should be added to the Union.

This was a point of major contention in the Congress, which debated the treaty extensively for those very reasons. Santa Anna, having lost badly in the war for the independence of Texas (Tejas) and the Mexican-American War, had been in and out of office repeatedly. Ironically, he was willing to sell additional Mexican territory to the United States so that he could afford to fund a Mexican army to defend against…the United States.

This last purchase established the current continental boundaries of our nation. Primarily because southern business interests didn’t want to depend upon a northern railroad route to ship their goods to California, not trusting the Yankees in this pre-Civil War era.

Pearl Harbor…An Unmitigated Failure for Japan

Today in History, December 7: 1941 –

Did you know that the Japanese surprise attack on the bases at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was…a tremendous failure? In spite of the horrific losses in lives and the loss of combatant ships and aircraft, the Japanese Task Force missed their primary targets. The battleships and most of the aircraft they destroyed were obsolete…and they knew it.

They were after the American aircraft carriers, which they recognized as the next generation capital ships. Their intelligence was that the American carriers were in port at their berths, but the Kawanishi flying boat that provided that info couldn’t catch that the carriers left soon after it’s recon mission.

The Japanese aircraft failed to destroy the dry dock facilities at Pearl…allowing the repair of many of the ships damaged during the attack, and importantly, the USS Yorktown after the Battle of the Coral Sea, allowing her to take part in the tide-turning Battle of Midway.

And due to Admiral Nagumo’s decision to cancel another sortee, the attack failed to destroy or damage the fuel storage depot at Pearl. Had they done so, the entire fleet would have been forced to retreat the 2500 miles to San Diego (if they could make it there). The US fleet could not have operated from Pearl for nearly a year if they had lost that fuel depot. So while the attack was a flashy victory for the Empire, it was a tactical loss. America’s industrial capacity quickly replaced the losses. God bless our heroes that lost their lives that day.

What was supposed to be the backbone of the US Pacific Fleet, several Battleships, were either completely destroyed or so badly damaged that it would take years before they could put to sea again. the Arizona was virtually blown apart by a direct hit that ignited her magazines (her ammunition stores); the Oklahoma rolled over and capsized; only one of the behemoths managed to get steam up and make a run for the sea. But her commander wisely beached her, fearful that she might be sunk in the channel and put the entire harbor out of commission for months.

The Army commander, more worried about sabotage than air attacks, had ordered all of the Army Air Corps’ aircraft lined up wingtip to wingtip so they could be more easily guarded. They made easy targets for strafing Japanese fighters. Only two Army fighters made it into the air to do battle with the enemy (my father grew up with one of the pilots).