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Treating our Military Like Shit- The Sad Reputation of the United States towards its Military and Veteran’s

PT  1 The American War for Independence

Setting the Trend of Neglect

Every March 17th we celebrate a Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City that predates the United States Constitution. It was started by the proud Irish veterans of Washington’s Northern Army.  While they were worthy heroes who had survived disease, deprivation and the Hell that was 18th Century Warfare it’s a safe bet they didn’t get any money from the Federal Government to help them pay for it.

How can I be so sure? Well for one thing there Congress consistently neglected to pay or supply them through an eight year horror story. Valley Forge is a good example of how the soldiers suffered for the cause of Liberty.  The war had started in the North and it was brutal and pervasive. In the south

The Purple Heart is the very first Award in American Military History

The Purple Heart is the very first Award in American Military History

there were key engagements, but it was on a much smaller scale due both to population and the smaller size of the force Britain sent to defend it.  Washington’s Continental Army fought bravely and relentlessly against the hated and vicious British Oppressors.

Regarded as criminals by the Crown many Continental soldiers suffered inglorious deaths on prison barges after capture by the British in places like New York City after bold open rebellion broke out

The American’s had been tempered a by an earlier war which where the British had used them as Cannon Fodder. In the So

Valley Forge is a good illustration of how badly Congress neglected the Continental Army

Valley Forge is a good illustration of how badly Congress neglected the Continental Army

Called French and Indian War in the 1760’s, or as European Historians call it The Seven Years War was a savage conflict fought along the Canadian Border and as far west as the Appalacian Mountains.  The British attempted to use European type warfare and gotten their asses kicked by the outnumbered French and their Native American Allies who used prototypical guerilla warfare as a force multiplier. They consistently made insane decisions and avoidable mistakes where they hedged their bets by risking the lives of the Colonial militia. This was not only dispiriting, but particularly embarrassing for the British as the Americans regularly appointed themselves as well or better than their British counterparts. Despite being mostly inept and being on the receiving end of  a lot of one sided ass kickings the British won. This was only because the Seven Years War was a worldwide war between the French and British and it was events elsewhere that determined the outcome of the conflict.

The French and Indian War had Americans good and pissed off before the British even started passing tax laws and being really oppressive. Worse yet for the British, the Americans had noticed something about the way the war had been prosecuted.  It was stark and it was decisive but apparently was lost on the British themselves- British Military Tactics were laughably inappropriate for war in the America’s. The Colonists had SEEN the British get beat badly in many engagements, mostly because of incompetence and intransigence.

A Nation is Born in Spite of Itself

Enter the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775 and the war against British tyranny was on with a vengeance. The Northern Army was pressed hard and got used to fighting without luxuries like food or shoes. The first years of the war saw mixed success but the Americans were definitely trending down in the conflict and it looked like we were heading for a total defeat. Key cities were taken, thousands of Americans were killed or captured yet they still refused to surrender. It’s noteworthy that among the few early victories were achieved through surprise attacks and guerrilla warfare.  Crossing the Delaware in the dead of winter to surprise a bunch of Hessians at the battle of Trenton is a good example of the kind of determination required for the Continental’s to so much as bloody the nose of the British and they’re mercenaries.  The attack itself was carried out in such an unconventional way it stunned the British. In fact Americans are more familiar with the Battle simply as “Washington Crossing the Delaware” for good reason; it was considered so insane to attack across an icy river on Christmas night the Hessians didn’t even post guards.  Even in good weather 18th Century Armies had a really tough time crossing natural barriers like rivers and mountains. The near bloodless complete victory against the hated Hessians, who were well known for simply killing those attempting to surrender, galvanized the Continentals.

In the end it was only sheer stubbornness and a healthy hatred of the British (who would likely just hang them as criminals) that kept the Rebellion alive.

Washington’s guile was born of experience gained when he had served in the aformentioned French and Indian War and being a survivor of several military fiasco’s where the British officer corps operated in a way that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory again and again.  He KNEW he was better than these guys and he knew he could beat them because he had an army of fanatical liberty loving Patriots who absolutely despised the British and somehow got over never getting paid or fed to prevail over a Superpower.  In the face of all these challenges Washington’s troops still showed up and invented new ways to fight and win with inferior numbers and limited ammunition. One tactic could simply be defined as the “Shoot three times and run like Hell,” where they Americans simply disengaged before the British could get close enough to do any real damage.

How under supplied were the Americans?  “Ready, Aim, Fire!” was then a uniquely American approach to battle born of

Battle of Trenton by Charles McBarron

Battle of Trenton by Charles McBarron

necessity. It was in part because they were so short on ammunition. The British commanded their soldiers to fire in a significantly different way using  their vastly superior numbers to create a massive shotgun type effect to maximize lethality.  Washington simply had his men fire a few rounds and retreat. They could do this all day (or until they ran out of ammo) because the British would never get close enough to get off an effective volley. This morale killing approach and the inability of their leaders to adjust to it could not have been very reassuring to the British soldiers.

The Navy, such as It was, was mostly a bunch of licensed profiteers. The “Federal Navy’ was basically John Paul Jones and his crew, who got their ship from the French and then used captured ships.

What do all these people have in common? They were undersupplied, underappreciated and largely ignored after the War, especially by Congress (what a shock!). Aside from a free meal at Fraunce’s Tavern not much appreciation was shown them when they ultimately prevailed over the worlds greatest super power.

Victory through Force of Will and Innovation

Think of the American War for Independence as a reverse Vietnam with the British cast as us and the Americans playing the part of the Viet Cong. A long war of attrition; a refusal to give up and a willingness to absorb massive casualties is about the only reason we won.  Basically public opinion in Britain was the the real reason we finally prevailed, which is another parallel to Vietnam, is that the British public plain old got sick of the war and public opinion forced the hands of their  leaders.

When the British finally threw in the towel the scars of the war ran deep in our new nation.  George Washington himself created the Purple Heart Award, originally known as the Badge of Merit. It was awarded to only 3 of the tens of thousands of the Soldiers who fought in the Continental Army. It’s the very first medal of any kind in the United States military. Sadly, that’s about all they got.

Despite suffering through endless defeats, privation and disease Congress had a hard time ever getting around to paying them. Many never saw a dime.  Thus began our Nations shameful tradition of neglecting the Heroes who secure our Liberty.

So enjoy the St Patrick’s Day Parade and remember the Veterans of Washington’s Army who never made a cent risking their lives for years wearing down the army of an oppressive Superpower. Sadly, it’s also probably a safe bet that’s about as close as we’re gonna get to a parade for Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan in this city but I’ll cover that later in this series when I address the shameful treatment of our current returning Veterans.

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