Tag Archives: United States

The Life & Games of Wernher von Braun

Tumultuous times do not only change history-at-large, but also the lives of individuals. A person might have to move to another country and start anew. It’s hard to continue a successful career after such a sharp break in life. It’s particularly hard if the first part of your career was based on the exploitation of slave labor in the service of a totalitarian dictatorship that warred against your prospective new employer. And yet, a German rocket engineer did just that – he developed rockets for the Nazis, transitioned, and then held a crucial position in US rocket development and the space flight program that put the first man on the moon. “How did he do it?”, you wonder? – Gather ’round while I tell you of Wernher von Braun.

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Specific and Universal Responses to Crises: The Truman Doctrine

These days, we experience one of the most violent foreign policy developments of the last decades: Russia has invaded Ukraine. It is the culmination of a crisis that has been in the making for years – at least since the Euromaidan protests of 2013/2014 ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian government and Russia subsequently annexed Crimea. During the entire crisis, the posture of western governments (most notably that of the United States) has been of great interest: Ukraine has sought a closer alignment with the West to gain economic and military assistance. At the same time, Russian president Vladimir Putin has been committed to rolling back western influence and to prevent further countries bordering Russia from joining the western alliances.

US posture has been not uniform over these eight years: The annexation of Crimea presented the Obama administration America with a fait accompli, and Obama reacted with lukewarm sanctions. Obama’s successor Donald Trump was proud of his alleged good personal relationship with Putin, watered down the sanctions, and even attempted to extort Ukrainian president Volodymyr Selenskyy by tying an aid package for Ukraine to Selenskyy’s announcement of investigating Hunter Biden’s business activities in Ukraine. Current president Joe Biden has taken a tougher line on Russia again, but the exact response to the ongoing crisis is still in flux.

That brings us to today’s article: How does the United States react to local crises in faraway countries? After all, most Americans (including many elected officials and bureaucrats) know little of the place in question. Still, America’s global role resting on its political, military, and economic leadership demands that these crises are addressed. This challenge was by no means smaller when America was just about to transition into the role of a global power in the 1940s. One event stood out among the developments back then: Rooted in two specific local crises, president Harry S. Truman’s speech on March 12, 1947, asking Congress to approve of a support package for Greece and Turkey would have far-reaching implications for US foreign policyuntil very recently.

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The Life & Games of Thomas Edison

Every public figure is more than just a person – they’re that person’s public image as well, and this image is often far larger than the person themselves. A prime example is Thomas Edison. Of course, he made a few major inventions (and an immense number of minor ones). But Edison is not just an inventor – he is the symbol of technological and scientific progress, and his fame extends even into fantastical realms. As such, his life is also immortalized by a number of board games.

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Franklin D. Roosevelt (Presidential Ratings, #1)

Last year, I have begun a new irregular series on my blog assessing the merits of UK prime ministers (illustrated through the lens of a single board game per prime minister). The rating system seemed robust enough to apply it to other countries/leaders (at least if they are more or less democratic). Thus, I’m branching out! Today, we’re doing our first US president. And we’re starting with none other than 20th century heavyweight Franklin D. Roosevelt. The accompanying game will be Cataclysm (Scott Muldoon/William Terdoslavich, GMT Games).

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Mining, Decolonization, and the Cold War: The Congo Crisis

60 years ago, the Republic of the Congo – one of the largest newly independent countries in Africa – was embroiled in a bitter struggle. Four domestic factions claimed either their right to rule the country or to secede from it. The struggle was completed by the international agents ensnared it ranging from the old colonial power Belgium over the superpowers to the United Nations who wanted to preserve their business interests, score points in the Cold War, or redefine their international role. We need to look at the Congo’s colonial past before we can understand the Congo Crisis and, following this, its bloody legacy. As always, board games will guide our way.

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The Great Enfranchisement: Women’s Suffrage in the United States and the United Kingdom

The United States are on the eve of an election. In a democracy, this is when the people (so prominent a term in the founding documents of the United States) are called upon to have their say and decide the future of their country. Yet, for a long time in American history, only a very limited amount of Americans were called upon to cast their votes on a Tuesdays in November – because of their race, their class, and also because of their gender. 100 years ago, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States ended the latter practice and gave women equal suffrage rights with men. We’ll look upon the roots of that long struggle for equality and at the political machinations that led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment, drawing strongly on two soon-to-be published board games: The Vote (Tom Russell, Hollandspiele), to be released on November 3, and Votes for Women (Tory Brown, Fort Circle Games), to be released in April 2021. Of course, American women were not alone in their fight for voting rights, and the British suffragettes (more on that term later) were particularly influential with the style of their campaigns – and with the board games they published.

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Unconditional Surrender! (USEAAR, #31)

This post is part of an after-action report of Unconditional Surrender! (Salvatore Vasta, GMT Games) . However, the document is not fictitious – this was the Act of Military Surrender signed by the German High Command at the end of the war. All I changed is the date and the some of the names of the Allied generals present and witnessing (to better reflect the developments on the fronts in this after-action report).

ACT OF MILITARY SURRENDER

  1. We the undersigned, acting by authority of the German High Command, hereby surrender unconditionally to the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force and simultaneously to the Supreme High Command of the Red Army all forces on land, sea, and in the air who are at this date under German control.
  2. The German High Command will at once issue orders to all German military, naval and air authorities and to all forces under German control to cease active operations at 2301 hours Central European time on 12th July 1943, to remain in the positions occupied at that time and to disarm completely, handing over their weapons and equipment to the local allied commanders or officers designated by Representatives of the Allied Supreme Commands. No ship, vessel, or aircraft is to be scuttled, or any damage done to their hull, machinery or equipment, and also to machines of all kinds, armament, apparatus, and all the technical means of prosecution of war in general.
  3. The German High Command will at once issue to the appropriate commanders, and ensure the carrying out of any further orders issued by the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force and by the Supreme High Command of the Red Army.
  4. This act of military surrender is without prejudice to, and will be superseded by any general instrument of surrender imposed by, or on behalf of the United Nations and applicable to GERMANY and the German armed forces as a whole.
  5. In the event of the German High Command or any of the forces under their control failing to act in accordance with this Act of Surrender, the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force and the Supreme High Command of the Red Army will take such punitive or other action as they deem appropriate.
  6. This act is drawn up in the English, Russian and German languages. The English and Russian are the only authentic texts.

Signed at Berlin on the ⁠ 12th⁠ day of July, 1943

VON FRIEDEBURG              ⁠KEITEL ⁠           STUMPFF
On behalf of the German High Command

 

IN THE PRESENCE OF:

CARL SPAATZ
On behalf of the
⁠Supreme Commander
⁠Allied Expedtionary Force

KONSTANTIN ROKOSSOVSKY
On behalf of the
⁠Supreme High Command of the
⁠Red Army

⁠At the signing also were present as witnesses:

F. DE LATTRE-TASSIGNY
General Commanding in Chief
⁠First French Army

KENNETH ANDERSON
General Commanding in Chief
Eighth Army⁠, United Kingdom

You can see the current state of affairs in the game in the Twitter thread:

The Nuclear Bomb (End of World War II, #3)

World War II ended 75 years ago, and so does this miniseries on the matter. The two previous posts on the Great Power conferences and the meeting of Western and Soviet forces have focused on Europe. When the guns fell silent there, fighting still raged on in Asia and the Pacific, where the United States, China, and the British Commonwealth slowly retook the Japanese conquests. Before the Allies would attempt an invasion of the Japanese home islands, they brought their naval and aerial power to bear – including their newest weapon. After years of research and testing, the first nuclear bomb was ready to use. The Americans hoped it would shock the Japanese into accepting surrender. Since then, we live in a nuclear world – with all its implications on the ensuing Cold War, arms control, and board games until today. Continue reading

Decolonization in the Cold War (Decolonization, #3)

Sixty years ago, a whopping 17 former African colonies became independent nations. In commemoration, I’m doing a miniseries on decolonization on this blog. So far, you can read an overview over decolonization and a closer look at decolonization processes within a colony. Today, we’ll deal with decolonization in the international context of the Cold War. All too often, it is assumed that the anticolonial movements and newly independent states were mere pawns in the games of the superpowers. However, they had quite some agency of their own. As you rightly expect, we’ll look at how different board games deal with the complex relationship between the Cold War and decolonization. Continue reading

Report on the Three-Power Conference in Tehran (USEAAR, #25)

This post is part of an after-action report of Unconditional Surrender! (Salvatore Vasta, GMT Games) and therefore entirely fictitious.

Written by Salvatore Graniti, Counsellor of Legation in the Italian diplomatic service, posted at the Foreign Ministry in Rome

November 30, 1942

To his excellency the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Italy

Sir,
the following draft for a report on the three-power conference between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America held in Tehran is most humbly submitted to you.
The three powers have made agreements regarding the conduct of the war in Europe and the Pacific as well concerning the future peace order for Europe. Continue reading