US Civil War history book – “The Decision Was Always My Own” (Southern Illinois University Press, 2018) – Timothy Smith interview – MHIO Episode 25

Dr. Tim Smith has worked for the National Park Service and now teaches history at the University of Tennessee – Martin. He’s always been interested in the Civil War and he’s written close to 20 books on the subject. We talked about his latest book on Grant at Vicksburg.

1:24- Dr. Smith talks about how he got into history. A course on the Old South at Ole Miss got him interested in Civil War history.

2:47 – The last book on Grant at Vicksburg was Myers book in the 1960s. Dr. Smith is editing a series on Grant so he wrote this book.

4:51 – This book looks at Vicksburg from Grant’s point of view. One of his big gambles was to cross the river south of Vicksburg. Few people [No] one approved of his decision.

7:30 – Grant had a lot of soul searching during the 9 months of the Vicksburg campaign. He nearly gives up and commits to a suicidal attack but then he chooses a gamble type of move instead.

10:54 – Grant corresponded to a lot of different people and Dr. Smith had a huge amount of correspondence to go through to write this book.

13:10 – Sherman was willing to call Grant out when he doesn’t agree with him. But Grant said he never held a council of war even though he got opinions and ideas from other officers.

22:22 – Politicians and newspaper editors pressured Grant to warp up the Vicksburg campaign. People wanted him removed.

27:45 – Grant made plenty of mistakes giving orders at the Vicksburg campaign. He was good at organizing his forces but not perfect. Grant actually didn’t have a good staff and they weren’t very professional. He picked a lot of old Army friends for his staff.

31:06 – Grant was a micro-manager and probably got involved in too much of the menial issues of his army. Grant was a tender-hearted and kind person though.

38:21 – Twenty years ago you had to go to archives for research but now everything is online and at a researcher’s fingertips. One little used source is the two volume history of Grant’s post-war world tour where he discussed the war with a newspaper reporter.

42:44 – Dr. Smith grew up around Vicksburg so he has a lot of experience with the terrain there.

53:15 – His next book is on Grant’s May assaults at Vicksburg. It’ll be a major battle book with plenty of details. He is worried about the interest in the US Civil War but he hopes and thinks it might revive again as this generation gets older.

For more “Military History Inside Out” please follow me on Facebook at warscholar, on twitter at Warscholar, on youtube at warscholar1945 and on Instagram @crisalvarezswarscholar

Guests: Dr. Timothy Smith

Host: Cris Alvarez

Tags: military, history, military history, conflict, war, interview, non-fiction book, US civil war, grant, sherman, confederates, union, Halleck, Lincoln, Vicksburg, Jayhawks, cavalry, attacks, july 4th

Early US diplomatic history book – “Raising the Flag” (University of Nebraska Press, 2018) – Peter Eicher interview – MHIO Episode 24

Peter Eicher spent many decades working in the US Foreign Service. He’s always been interested in history and after he retired he began writing on the history of US diplomacy. I interviewed him about his latest book “Raising the Flag.”

After our interview he wanted to make sure this story was mentioned:

Of course, after we hung up, I thought of the most significant instance of diplomatic-navy coordination recounted in the book — the effort to free American prisoners held in Tripoli during the first Barbary War, and to negotiate peace with the ruler.  More than 300 officers and men from the USS Philadelphia had been captured when the frigate ran aground in Tripoli harbor.  Tobias Lear (once George Washington’s private secretary) was commissioned to negotiate peace and release of the prisoners, in close coordination with a military campaign to put pressure on the Tripoltanians. The campaign included naval action and a land campaign in which William Eaton, erstwhile U.S. consul in Tunis, appointed himself as a general and led a land attack across the desert with a ragtag army of Arabs and mercenaries, plus eight U.S. Marines, to capture the western Libyan town of Derne. This was the famous “to the shores of Tripoli,” which I did mention in our talk.  Lear eventually negotiated the peace and release of the prisoners, on substantially better terms than the government in Washington was prepared to accept.

1:45 – Peter Eicher discusses how he got into history. He enjoyed studying it and joined the US Foreign Service.

3:32 – His first book was Emperor Dead, another diplomatic history. Raising the Flag discusses about the first 70 years of US diplomatic history. Many diplomats were taken to their posts by US Navy ships. He has a chapter about the Barbary Coast and US diplomacy.

8:22 – At this time, US diplomats were given vague orders and often left on their own. Diplomacy changed radically after the US Civil War.

10:11 – Part of the book deals with consuls stationed in areas that are now part of the US. That includes California when it was Mexican.

15:01 – It was difficult for Washington DC to monitor how well diplomats were doing what they were supposed to do.

16:45 – The US’s first diplomat in Argentina and Chile also served as a General in the Argentinian military against Spanish Royalists.

18:17 – In many ways, diplomats and consuls were working a part-time job.

20:38 – Edmund Roberts used a Naval vessel to do his diplomatic work in Southeast Asia and Malaysia. He had the Navy threaten to bombard a Malaysian city because they harbored pirates. There was a lot of naval gunboat diplomacy at the time.

26:30 – The Navy was reformed after the Revolution to deal with the Barbary pirates. It wasn’t disbanded after the Barbary War.

29:40 – The National Archives hold all the main diplomatic correspondence since the nation was formed. However handwritten letters on microfiche can be hard to read.

31:30 – Many of these diplomats knew they were making history so they wrote a lot of reports on their work.

35:05 – The State Department had developed a report style that diplomats were supposed to use. Former Commodore David Porter was regularly reprimanded for not using that style.

40:09 – The diplomat at Monterrey wrote that ships docking in California would lose crews to the gold rush. Many of the diplomats then were dealing with the same trade issues that we deal with today. This includes war in the Middle East, tensions with Turkey and Mexico, trade problems with China.

42:20 – Mr. Eicher’s book contains stories and people that history buffs will never have seen or heard of before. For example, he found information on Daniel Clark who had a lot to do with the Louisiana Purchase and he found many details that historians haven’t discussed before.

45:30 – His stories have swashbucklers, heroes, villains and intrigue. The book is not a general history but is rather a story book of very interesting events with important lessons and morals.

47:45 – One of the most difficult tasks was reading the writing of these early diplomats.

55:45 – A future project may be a book on Americans in France.

For more “Military History Inside Out” please follow me on Facebook at warscholar, on twitter at Warscholar, on youtube at warscholar1945 and on Instagram @crisalvarezswarscholar

Guests: Peter Eicher

Host: Cris Alvarez

Tags: military, history, military history, conflict, war, interview, non-fiction book, Barbary, China, Turkey, Commodore Porter, American Revolution, Civil War, gunboat diplomacy, Japan, Louisiana Purchase, California, gold rush, Mexico, Washington DC, US Navy

Cold War history book – “Sovereign Soldiers” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018) – Grant Madsen interview – MHIO Episode 23

Dr. Grant Madsen has long been interested in history and this led him to earn a PhD in History. Sovereign Soldiers is his first book and explains how the US military transformed the global economy with the economic policies it applied to the occupation of Germany and Japan after WWII.

2:03 – Dr. Madsen talks about how he got into studying and writing about history. He grew up with historians and he felt he made sense of the world historically. He decided to get a PhD in history and the book stems from his dissertation research.

5:10 – Dr. Madsen talks about the details of the book. After WWII, the US military men found that they needed to understand how to run the economies of Germany and Japan. Joseph Dodge was instructed to fix the economy of Japan.

7:28 – There is agreement that these military leaders succeeded in developing the occupied territories and helped the economy of the West. Dr. Madsen examined economic theories and practice in his research.

9:43 – Economic stability seemed to be the key to success. Dr. Madsen feels there was no Keynesian approach to how these economies were developed.

12:03 – The military had economic policies in place as soon as the occupation periods started. These policies were based on New Deal policies but disappeared over the time of the occupations. Germany had cartels and Japan had zaibatsus which had to be worked with to develop these economies.

15:28 – The military dropped its military economic policies quickly in Germany and used a new approach to build that economy. Japan took a little longer to develop.

17:24 – Though the US held all military power in Japan and Germany, it wasn’t useful in imposing US economic will. Clay in Germany and MacArthur in Japan had to be careful on how they used their military power.

20:48 – About 1947, the US military was focused on making Japan and Germany capable of helping to resist the Soviets.

22:46 – There was a fight between State and Defense on who would pay for the occupations. The military was stuck with the bill. Many military leaders didn’t want to be blamed for failure in the occupations since they didn’t think they would succeed. They didn’t want to look bad like it had in earlier decades.

26:06 – In 1947-48, the US strategically decided to make Germany and Japan perimeter defenders against the Soviets. The initial plan was to jointly control Germany with four nations to create worldwide peace and cooperation, but by 1947, Germany became a country that would be a perimeter. Military bases became a way to funnel US money into Germany and Japan.

30:38 – The book starts with the Spanish-American War where the US begins controlling other territories. The US had governance issues when they planned to stay in places only temporarily. The book first focuses mainly on the Philippines during the early occupation. The middle chapters talk about Germany and Japan. The final chapters focus on Eisenhower’s military-economic focus.

35:41 – Joseph Dodge left many useful historical papers to the Detroit Public Library. Mr. Madsen also used the various Presidential libraries for his research. The Eisenhower address took on a different tone as he did his research.

40:36 – One question Dr. Madsen had was how were US leaders using the word democracy. He decided that the word was a stand in for the term economic policy.

43:44 – It’s around WWI that countries realize that military power and industrial economy became strongly linked. Eisenhower jumped up in the ranks quickly because he understood combined arms and industrial conversion of a peacetime economy to a wartime economy.

47:19 – Right after the war, the US and the Soviets discussed what economic system they would impose on Germany. The Soviets planned to just let the Germans starve and had no plan for an economic system there. By 1947, the Soviets imposed communism since they saw they had to grow East Germany to counter the West.

51:28 – In 1950, the Japanese economy was struggling and an anti-American Prime Minister was elected. This was when the US changed course in Japan.

53:11 – Dr. Madsen hopes that the book changes how historians discuss the post war period. Peacekeeping operations are much more common than wartime operations so this is an important subject to study in regards to war and the history of military nation building and peacekeeping.

59:21 – His website is

Links of interest

For more “Military History Inside Out” please follow me on Facebook at warscholar, on twitter at Warscholar, on youtube at warscholar1945 and on Instagram @crisalvarezswarscholar

Guests: Grant Madsen

Host: Cris Alvarez

Tags: military, history, military history, conflict, war, interview, non-fiction book, spanish-american war, Philippines, Germany, Japan, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Soviet Union, economy, military-industrial complex, Keynesian

World War I history book – “German Submarine Warfare in World War I” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017) – Lawrence Sondhaus interview – MHIO Episode 22

Dr. Lawrence Sondhaus is Professor of History at the University of Indianapolis. He has written numerous books about Naval warfare and about WWI with a focus on the Central Powers. I was able to interview him about his most recent book on German submarine warfare in WWI.

1:27 – Dr. Sondhaus talks about how he got into history writing about it. He was a child of the 60s. He had a particular interest in the Central Powers in WWI since he has a Croatian heritage.

3:39 – Dr. Sondhaus was asked to write a book on the Eastern Front in WWI but he suggested a book on German submarine warfare. He tends to study WWI from the perspective of the Central Powers which is uncommon among English writers on WWI.

5:20 – The Central Powers tended to take the lead in WWI with the Allies reacting and so WWI histories should focus on the Central Powers. He also focused on the German politics behind the war.

8:00 – Germans felt the U-boat blockade of Britain was equivalent to the British surface blockade of Germany. The Americans and the UK didn’t accept this. Also, German U-boat warfare in WWI was not as cruel as that of WWII. German U-boats applied cruiser rules.

11:20 – One German U-boat captain captured a number of merchantmen who became POWs for the duration of the war. However, submarines could not generally hold prisoners or tow them to land.

14:10 – Many German U-boat commanders felt they needed to be chivalrous. It was difficult for them to engage in unrestricted warfare because they were unable to be cruel. This was different from WWII.

16:13 – The Lusitania was not the main reason the US entered the war. It was shocking because of the number of people that died but the US took a long time afterwards to enter the war. It took many decades afterwards for the British to admit that the Lusitania was carrying munitions.

20:45 – When measuring cost to gain, the German WWI submarine was the most effective among the three great submarine warfare campaigns.

25:20 – Both sides used gas, submarines, bombed civilians, and other cruel methods, but the Germans are always the first ones to raise the stakes. This makes their image worse after they lose the war.

28:30 – Germans could not believe that their army did some of the cruel things they were accused of but it turned out they had. Germans were unified in support of the war once the Russians mobilized for war. Dr. Sondhaus highlights the feelings of one German politician, Erzberger, who worried that unrestricted submarine warfare would bring the US into the war. German opinion began to drift towards a negotiated peace during the war.

37:00 – Germany came close to winning the war but the Allied convoy system helped stop German success. The US and UK then used the convoy system in WWII.

41:05 – Dr. Sondhaus used British wreck divers maps to help do his research.

48:46 – The Germans suddenly lost their advantage in sinking ships in August 1918. Up until then they were doing well in this regard. But unrestricted warfare alone was not going to win the war for Germany.

49:57 – Dr. Sondhaus came across amazing stories of survival during submarine accidents and mishaps. There were sad stories about U-boat commanders trying to save enemy sailors.

55:02 – A lot of British historians don’t value US involvement in the war as important as other British efforts. This book adds weight to the importance of American involvement in the war.

1:00:25 – German WWI U-boat commanders went on to very interesting and different things after the war.

For more “Military History Inside Out” please follow me on Facebook at warscholar, on twitter at Warscholar, on youtube at warscholar1945 and on Instagram @crisalvarezswarscholar

Guests: Dr. Lawrence Sondhaus

Host: Cris Alvarez

Tags: military, history, military history, conflict, war, interview, non-fiction book, Germany, WWI, world war one, submarine, Britain, UK, U-boats, Italy

Modern warfare history book – “Building Militaries in Fragile States” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017) – Mara Karlin interview – MHIO Episode 21

Dr. Mara Karlin started her career working in the Middle East. She then went to graduate school and interned in the Pentagon on strategic issues. Eventually she served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy & force development in the Department of Defense. She is now a professor at Johns Hopkins University where she teaches in the field of Strategic Studies. This is her first book.

1:54 – Dr. Karlin was a policymaker in the Pentagon in the aughts and she worked on building militaries in Pakistan and Lebanon. She had an early interest in Middle East issues and ended up getting an internship in the Pentagon while studying at Johns Hopkins.

3:55 – The book tries to answer the question of how the US can be successful when it builds militaries in fragile states. The US is adverse to sending in its own military into fragile states. The US tries to work with the militaries in these fragile states. Dr. Karlin looked at various case studies from history.

5:19 – She looked at Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The big failure example is the South Vietnam in the 1950s. If the US had succeeded in building the South Vietnam military then the war could have been avoided.

7:15 – Two other failures are Lebanon in the 1980s and in Iraq in recent years. The closest thing to success is US efforts in Greece after WWII.

9:06 – The US got deeply into Greece’s military affairs. That transformed the Greek military and enabled them to beat guerillas and the US didn’t have to send in troops.

15:13 – There were different levels of cooperation. Institutional and strategic versus operational and tactical. People think that the US only started developing foreign militaries after 9/11.

17:28 – More desperation in a government makes foreign countries more willing to listen to what the US has to say.

21:23 – The US goes through stages of increased and decreased support for foreign militaries. However, the US shows consistency in security goals since WWII. Only recently have security issues been inconsistent.

25:25 – Bipartisan agreement on security affairs has recently begun to diminish.

29:38 – The document she found that hit heard the hardest was finding a declassified CIA agency study of a gap in Beirut where attackers were sneaking through to attack their enemies. She also found information on a US official who wanted to stage a coup in Lebanon.

33:31 – She really enjoyed studying the development of the Lebanese military work she had done years before.

36:35 – Body count ideas developed in the Vietnam War has affected how the US has approached building foreign militaries. Recently, the US is shifting away from this quantitative approach to this issue.

39:00 – Dr. Karlin had to apply a paradigm shift to her initial hypothesis.

42:30 – Dr. Karlin discusses Reagan’s decision to have the USS New Jersey launch strikes in Lebanon.

45:35 – Dr. Karlin discusses why Lebanon and its military development is important to the US.

For more “Military History Inside Out” please follow me on Facebook at warscholar, on twitter at Warscholar, on youtube at warscholar1945 and on Instagram @crisalvarezswarscholar

Guests: Dr. Mara Karlin

Host: Cris Alvarez

Tags: military, history, military history, conflict, war, interview, non-fiction book, United States, France, Lebanon, Vietnam, Greece, Iraq, Syria, stabilization, strategic studies

Modern warfare history book – “Military Cultures in Peace and Stability Operations” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018) – Chiara Ruffa interview – MHIO Episode 20

Dr. Chiara Ruffa has recently published a book about military culture. It’s based on her research with French and Italian military units that had deployed to Lebanon and Afghanistan. I spoke to her about the book.

2:20 – In 2006, Chiara was working for the UN in the Central African Republic in support of the peacekeeping mission. This inspired her interest in the topic this book is about and in her graduate studies.

4:04 – While the book focuses on current events, it traces the military cultures of France and Italy from the 19th century. These cultures affects how militaries carry out their mandates.

8:00 – Peacekeeping operations are a very particular type of operation in that there is much more latitude in interpreting the mission and how to carry it out.   This is important because of the high volume of peacekeeping operations being carried out.

13:53 –Chiara would like multi-national forces to be more open in talking about cultural characteristics of units that are deployed.

17:00 – Military culture is most important at the service level.

25:00 – NATO has standardized much of the ways in which peacekeeping is done however cultures create variations.

26:05 – French military culture has revolved around assertiveness since the Revolution. But this was modified when de Gaulle in 1962 reaffirmed the idea of civilian control over the military.

30:18 – Italy had a shift in military culture that was affected by WWII and by the Cold War. Italian officers push for using the Italian military for peacekeeping. Italy has a change in the culture in the 1990s.

34:13 – Chiara’s first problem in the research was how she would collect data on these militaries. She didn’t have much access to begin with. She started by going to Lebanon and working with French and Italian troops.

46:50 – Chiara had to learn about military organizations from scratch when she started her research.

48:30 – Chiara still wonders how cultures shape Standard Operating Procedures.

1:01:00 – The book will hopefully cross the gap between security studies and peace studies in Europe.

1:05:45 – She’s on twitter at Ruffa.Chiara.

For more “Military History Inside Out” please follow me on Facebook at warscholar, on twitter at Warscholar, on youtube at warscholar1945 and on Instagram @crisalvarezswarscholar

Guests: Chiara Ruffa

Host: Cris Alvarez

Tags: military, history, military history, conflict, war, interview, non-fiction book, France, Italy, Afghanistan, Lebanon, peacekeeping, stability, operations

World War I history book – “California at War” (University Press of Kansas, 2018) – Diane North interview – MHIO Episode 19

Dr. Diane North teaches history at the University of Maryland. She grew up in the Washington, DC area, fascinated by history. She earned her Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Davis and has recently written “California at War” about California’s experience during WWI. I interviewed her about the book.

2:05 – Diane was enthralled by history from an early age and from growing up in Washington, DC. She would listen to debate in the House and Senate after her chores.

3:09 – The WWI centennial was approaching when she began her research so she focused on the war. She wanted to understand what happens to people when the nation goes to war. California had a huge economy and was a trendsetter so she wanted to write on it.

8:01 – She created a new course at the University of Maryland on WWI because of her interest in the war.

9:11 – The book starts on the 1916 parade bombing in San Francisco with 40 injured and ten killed. The first chapter talks about the US men who fought in WWI before the US entered the war. Many Californians served in Siberia from 1918 to 1920.

11:45 – Chapter 2 looks at the women who served overseas during the war.

13:20 – Chapter 3 looks at how the army and navy spend considerable money building facilities in California. Chapter 4 looks at the economy of war. The war accelerated the process of corporate organization and a dramatic rise in industrial employment. She then looks at what people did in the home front to support the war.

14:40 – She also looks at how minorities participated in supporting the war in the home front. Then she touches on how the state and military dealt with the influenza problem.

15:57 – Chapters 7 and 8 deal with the rise of the security state and the role of government. Private organizations were given the power to spy on citizens without government oversight.

18:00 – California also promoted scientific and agricultural development. But these groups also spied on fellow citizens. Colleges, staff and students were also required to sign oaths of loyalty. German language and literature also could not be studied.

20:46 – Efforts were made to keep the press from writing about the IWW and also to get members arrested. Later rights of fre speech, press and assembly were restricted.

22:49 – The navy split the feet after the war and put the pacific fleet in San Diego. This helped in California’s post war boom.

24:01 – One of California’s Senators was a pacifist and he was appalled by US entry into WWI. Berkley enacted an anti-free speech ordinance. California had a real connection with the war effort before the US entered the war because of its trade with Europe.

26:30 – California did have a strong peace movement that quickly got squashed by Federal efforts. The Post office began curtailing free speech and free press by restricting the delivery of certain newspapers.

28:45 – She started her research with the National Archives in DC, Maryland and California.

30:37 – Hollywood was considered vital for the war effort by the Federal government and this boosted the film industry.

33:39 – Diane came across paintings done by an Army officer while in France. Some US forces didn’t return until 1921 or 22 because they were occupying the Rhine.

35:00 – Californians pushed the Federal government to pass many anti-Asian laws and there were many anti-Asian films put out by Hollywood at this time. There were also may pacifist films. But many were also very patriotic. Many of these films were distributed internationally.

37:20 – Diane found interesting documents from Sydney Coe Howard. He was an airplane pilot and he won an Oscar for his screenplay of Gone With the Wind. His letters are amazing and include vivid descriptions of dogfights and the war. She unearthed many journals, letters, photos and drawings from the war.

41:40 – California women do not get the recognition they deserve for their efforts in WWI.

44:00 – Ship and boat building increased considerably in California during this time. The two major universities were the University of California and Stanford University. A committee was formed to examine and organize scientific research at the time to help the California economy.

47:30 – California’s efforts to organize and improve statewide scientific research was held up as an example by the Federal government for other states to follow.

51:42 – Californians were strongly patriotic and believed President Wilson when he said the war would be the war to end all wars.

52:36 – HG Wells wrote a series of lectures before the war that a good war will end all wars and many people including Wilson bought this idea. However the country was very racist and Wilson had re-segregated parts of the Federal government that had been integrated so the soundness of this idea was questionable.

56:00 – The book will be discounted during the month of July.

Links of interest

From the Publisher:

From your local Independent Bookstore:

From Amazon:,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

From Target Books: 

For more “Military History Inside Out” please follow me on Facebook at warscholar, on twitter at Warscholar, on youtube at warscholar1945 and on Instagram @crisalvarezswarscholar

Guests: Diane North

Host: Cris Alvarez

Tags: military, history, military history, conflict, war, interview, non-fiction book, California, WWI world war one, Wilson, Berkley, Stanford, San Francisco, San Diego, Hollywood, US Navy

US Civil War history book – “The Lost Indictment of Robert E. Lee” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018) – John Reeves interview – MHIO Episode 18

John Reeves has taught history and written about financial matters. He’s written a new US Civil War book on the indictment of Robert E. Lee after the war. I interviewed him about it.

1:38 – John Reeves taught history for 15 years. He also wrote on finance for some time.

3:15 – Robert E. Lee tried to bring North and South together after the war. But Northerners wanted to punish him for treason and bring charges against him.

5:36 – Lee applied for amnesty against the charges and studied ways to defend himself.

9:14 – Lee kept his letters privates because he didn’t want to seem to be playing politics.

12:38 – Lee and his fellow defendants weren’t jailed during the trial because of Grant’s insistence that he had made a deal for the Southern leaders to be free until the war was officially over. The war officially ended in August 1866. Jefferson Davis didn’t have this protection though.

16:35 – The defendants were indicted in Virginia because they were accused of making treasonous war in Virginia.

19:37 – Lee defended himself on the merits of the case. He also had to go to DC to testify before a Congressional committee about treason. He was advised by a lawyer, Senator Johnson from Maryland.

23:52 – Lee was called as a witness for the Davis trial.

27:32 – John’s first step was to find the indictment itself. They seemed to have been lost but John discovered they were in the state library of Virginia in Richmond.

33:32 – John found many documents at the Library of Congress including Lee’s papers. But people don’t have permission to look in one box of Lee’s papers. Andrew Johnson’s papers are there too.

38:37 – Lee was accused of treating his slaves brutally.

44:34 – The defense of Lee became entwined with the Lost Cause movement. Robert E. Lee was even in a stained glass window in the National Cathedral.

49:40 – The failure of the indictments provides an idea as to why Reconstruction failed.

56:19 – John is on twitter at reevesjw. His website is


For more “Military History Inside Out” please follow me on Facebook at warscholar, on twitter at Warscholar, on youtube at warscholar1945 and on Instagram @crisalvarezswarscholar

Guests: John Reeves

Host: Cris Alvarez

Tags: military, history, military history, conflict, war, interview, non-fiction book, robert e. lee, civil war, confederates, union, lost cause, arlington, gettysburg, lincoln, andrew johnson, jefferson davis

US Naval history book – “The Free Sea” (Naval Institute Press, 2018) – James Kraska interview – MHIO Episode 17

James Kraska was a Judge Advocate General for the US Navy and has extensive experience on defense issues and Freedom of Navigation issues. He’s currently a visiting Professor of Law at the Naval War College. He has co-authored a book on the history of US enforcement of Freedom of Navigation and we spoke about the book.

1:56 – Professor. Kraska was a Navy Judge Advocate lawyer and in this capacity he learned and practiced the law regarding Freedom of Navigation. He taught at the Naval War College and completed a degree on the subject. Raul Pedroza, the other author, is also a retired Navy JAG and a professor of law.

3:55 – It has been imperative for the US to protect the sea for economic and security purposes. The book is a mix of history and law on Freedom of Navigation. The book starts with the Quasi-War with France and continues all the way through the current Chinese attempts to assert unlawful control of regional seas.

6:55 – The US defends Freedom of Navigation globally because no one else will do it. Many countries depend on the US to maintain order at sea. The Dutch enforced freedom of the seas in the 1500s and then the British took over enforcing these global rights.

8:57 – The US took over from the British around the 1880s. By 1945, the US had fully assumed the role of protecting freedom of the seas.

11:00 – Freedom of navigation is a continuous struggle to maintain these freedoms. The Gulf of Tonkin and Pueblo incidents are examples of violent conflict involving freedom of navigation.

12:37 – Political will and military capability are needed to maintain freedom of navigation. Territorial seas are part of the global commons. The US has operated on territorial seas and also on high seas to protect navigation freedoms. Surveillance aircraft are also used to maintain freedom of navigation on the seas.

17:31 – Using international airspace to protect the seas has been developing for the last hundred years. The International Civil Aviation organization also supports airspace use to protect Freedom of Navigation.

19:00 – The threat of piracy greatly declined by the 20th century as states have cohered into stronger entities. Piracy existed around Somalia because it was a failed state. Before the Treaty of Paris in 1856, many states used privateers to attack enemy shipping. After the treaty, states agreed to stop using privateers. Since then, threats to freedom of navigation come from nation states.

21:40 – Chinese actions now are the greatest threats to freedom of navigation since Germany’s U-boat wars. During the Cold War, the US and Soviet Union worked in tandem to preserve navigational freedoms.   The Soviet Union needed it more than the US due to the location of their bases. China wants to undo parts of the international agreements on freedom of navigation and keep others out of the waters close to their territory. They want to dominate the seas within the first island chain including the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

27:56 – During WWII, Japan wanted to control the seas around East Asia through war. China is trying to achieve the same goal but through a “Finlandization” of its neighbors. China has used fishing claims to try to assert control in these areas but that doesn’t work within the existing international agreements.

32:57 – The main focus of the book is that freedom of the seas is not a condition that [exists] can exist without promotion and protection. If the US stops exercising rights over global seas, then these rights will erode for all nations.

34:45 – Wilson called for a protection of freedom of navigation by all nations and for all nations. Roosevelt also insisted on maintaining these global rights. A group of united nations met during WWII to maintain rights and later they met after the war to form the United Nations.

37:27 – Both authors have extensive experience in this field especially for events over the last 15 years and beyond. They used CIA archives and presidential libraries to do some research.

39:00 – Washington saw the US as a liberal actor that supported all nations and conducted trade with all as well. But European politics continued to drag the US into conflict and affected trade.

42:50 – He was most moved by the sacrifices made to protect US interests. John Negroponte made an impassioned speech on freedom of the seas to remind people how much US security depended on freedom of the seas.

44:58 – His next writing project might be on the free seas from the British perspective. He’s also working on a project about Japan’s relationship with sea.

45:35 – Many of his articles are on the SSRN.


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Guests: James Kraska

Host: Cris Alvarez

Tags: military, history, military history, conflict, war, interview, non-fiction book, freedom of the seas, freedom of navigation, China, US, Britain, Germany, Japan, East China Sea, South China Sea, Quasi-War, Pueblo incident, WWII