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"on American soil"

Discussion in 'Atlantic Naval Conflict' started by A3O, Jun 22, 2016.

  1. A3O

    A3O New Member

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    Hello, I'm coauthor of a new book about U-boats in American waters (title: So Close to Home). When I make public presentations about the story, I'm often asked why there has always been the claim that none of WWII was fought "on American soil."
    I'm still trying to formulate a complete explanation and wondered if others on this forum could assist?
    Given that the U-boats were in the mouth of the Mississippi and sinking ships within sight of spectators on land, I wonder if the "soil" part just splitting hairs? Also, the saboteurs (Operation Pastorius) landed here, literally bringing the war to America -- but not fighting, per se.
    In your opinions, is "on American soil" simply a phrase used to exert American superiority and whitewash our vulnerabilities and unpreparedness for the U-boat attacks?
    When I am pressed to explain, I often turn to James Bradley's Flags of Our Fathers and say that the post-war patriotism (bond sales, etc) helped to create this myth of American impregnability, part of the reason so many people react with surprise when they read our book and learn for the first time that U-boats were right here, killing Merchant Mariners and even civilians on board ships between American ports.
    Thank you in advance for addressing this question.
     
  2. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    As far as conflict on land goes nothing more than a nuisance. I think Japan did nearly as much damage with their balloon bombs as the U-boats. Having two large bodies of water separating the U.S. from the rest of the world helped.
    Compared to actual war zone areas we were fortunate; No tank battles, No air raids, No ground force incursions and really no concern of any one of these happening.
     
  3. Dave55

    Dave55 Member

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  4. Rantalith

    Rantalith Member

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    As stated above I think most would agree, we just did not want to know. But a lot of people forget that Japan landed on and occupied the Aleutian Islands in Alaska
     
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  5. Victor Gomez

    Victor Gomez Ace

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    What happened in the Aleutians is so often forgotten, thank you Rantalith for reminding us of this U. S. soil where the Japanese began to occupy.
     
  6. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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  7. Rantalith

    Rantalith Member

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  8. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I skip a lot of posts.
     
  9. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    As a former Alaskan and forever an Alaskan at heart, I thank Rantalith for remembering us. Nuisance indeed!
     
  10. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    This would go to the "Splitting of hairs"...Alaska was still a territory, not a State.

    Other well known attacks on US territory...
    -Guam Island was a US territory.
    -Wake Island was a US territory.
    -The Hawaiian Islands were a US territory.
    -The Philippine Islands were still a US territory, although it was in the process of transitioning to an independent country.

    The there is the story about the bombardment of the Isla de Mona some 40 miles west of Puerto Rico, although the bombarding vessel has never been identified. Was it a U-Boat or a US vessel or aircraft?
    http://www.ericwiberg.com/bahamas/uboatpatrols/RSmg%20FINZI%20Mar%202%201942.html


    Now, as to attacks on the continental United States proper...

    - I-17 bombarded the Ellwood Oil Field near Santa Barbra, California on February 23, 1942, causing minimal damage.
    - I-25 bombarded Battery Russell of Fort Stevens, Oregon on June 21, 1942, damaging a baseball field and some power & telephone poles.
    I-25 would return again to Oregon a few months later and use her E14Y1 Glen floatplane to drop fire bombs on Oregon forests on September 9th & 29th, 1942. Small fires were started, but quickly burned themselves out.


    As had been mentioned earlier, the Japanese Balloon Bomb campaign, while extensive, caused little perceptible damage - The deaths of a pastor's pregnant wife, Elsie Mitchell, & the 5 Sunday school children she was chaperoning on a picnic, and another balloon bomb knocked out power to the Hanford atomic production facility. Still, some 9,300 were launched against the United States & Canada, and if any caused fires, they were not known about, and simply chalked up as natural wildfires, so this complicates damage assessment.
    This is covered very well here: http://library.uoregon.edu/ec/e-asia/read/balloon.pdf



    That "war" had already been brought to American soil by the earlier Duquesne Spy Ring
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duquesne_Spy_Ring


    Hardly...Any one who looks at photos of London and New York City will tell you that.

    When did Washington DC, New York City, or any major/minor/podunk town in the USA ever look like London after an air raid?
    [​IMG]

    what vulnerabilities that existed were well-known to those that needed to know. We had a small air force, an army hardly worthy of the name, and a navy that was undergoing a massive expansion.

    Further, these vulnerabilities were not critical to the existence of the United States, nor could they not be corrected in a rather fashion. Germany could have sunk double the ships it did off the US East Coast & Caribbean...It still would not have changed anything.


    America was impregnable...No amount of German commerce warfare was going to bring down the United States. Germany struck at the US East Coast to get at supplies going to Britain.

    Here is a clue, the primary intention behind US gas rationing for civilians was not to save gas...
     
  11. Dave55

    Dave55 Member

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    Well, I meant the Germans were a nuisance on American soil, not the Japanese. I know about the Aleutian battles
     
  12. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    The Germans were never a nuisance on American soil...Well, except when they had to much to drink and played German opera really loud.
     
  13. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    Legally I believe the US had a 12 mile off ashore "line" that defines it's International territory. It varies nation to nation the 12 mile limit is the most common, the Chinese may differ. It is not land but under law the territory of the US.

    Certainly more abstract is the depth of 600 feet ( 182.88 Meters in the more educated world :)) known as the continental shelf which is the geologic definition of a continent's edge. National boundaries extend out to that limit for cases of oil drilling, etc. I am not certain if it comes into play in the current South China Sea dispute. A map of the North Sea Continental Shelf boundaries dividing oil areas is revealing.

    I am not making an argument for recognition of the above two limits, just an arcane bit of information.
     
  14. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Yes, now. But, I believe that the 3-mile limit was still the rule-of-thumb, but even then it was on the decline

    Worth a read... https://ia600302.us.archive.org/31/items/threemilelimitof02swar/threemilelimitof02swar.pdf
     
  15. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    The sub attacks in Sydney aren't counted as "on Australian soil" - It took Tindall in Darwin to be shot whilst shooting a Zero from the ground to have the first combat death on the Australian mainland...
     
  16. Rantalith

    Rantalith Member

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    I am sort of an Alaskan. I have house in Seward
     
  17. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    It's more complicated than that. Nations, including ours, have designated Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) that go out as much as 400 miles. Foreign vessels can transit those zones, but they can't fish or set up offshore casinos or brothels (yeah, that has happened...) or perform any kind of military exercise on the water or in the air above that water within the EEZ. In Alaska it's a routine thing to scramble fighters when Russian aircraft cross the line. They play games out there, light each other up with weapons tracking radar, etc. They harass them until they leave the zone.
    We use the same rules for boarding foreign vessels suspected of drug trafficking within the EEZ. If they're outside the EEZ, we have to contact the embassy the vessel is flagged under to board them. Inside the EEZ we can board them without such permission. Back in my day, they'd fly a Cuban flag no matter where they were really from. The Cubans wouldn't talk to us, so they would be tracked until they crossed the EEZ and we'd swoop in.
     
  18. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    I stand by my comment that it was seen as a concern but nothing more than that. Compared to most Countries across the Pacific or Atlantic, America's Lower 48, Canada and Mexico enjoyed a rather Peaceful 3 1/2 years. To put it another way; Continental North America was like a very large Rest Camp for American GI's. Someplace to relax and have nothing to fear.

    If someone really wanted to argue about fighting on US soil I seem to recall a place where nearly 3,000 American servicemen died. It wasn't American soil but it pissed us off enough to do something about it.
     
  19. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I agree. Despite the Japanese invasion of some Alaskan islands, the continental US was never the scene of battle. U-Boats in the Atlantic and Caribbean? Sure. But they never really presented a threat, except for shipping. While that is not a minor thing, U-Boats were not designed to occupy land areas.
     
  20. Markos

    Markos Member

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    I read your note with great interest since I am also completing a history-inspired fictional book about the Battle of the Atlantic. Although many Americans seem to have vague knowledge that U-boats cruised our way, I have been surprised to learn that most are unaware of the extent of damage done by U-boats in 1942-43 off our coast, the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.

    I had a similar experience with presentations around my previous book Enemy in the Mirror about the Japanese submarine attack on Fort Stevens, firebombing of Oregon forest and death of church group by balloon bomb. Not just young people, but many war babies like me don't know about these events.
     

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