Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Setting the Stage for War Plan Crimson

I thought I would share with you some of the history elements that  underpin War Plan Crimson A Novel of Alternate History.

The first fact that War Plan Crimson rests upon was the so-called "Business Plot" of 1933. A largely forgotten piece of American history, it has only been left neglected because the idea seems so outlandish. Yet the facts are basically as I have presented them.

In the summer of 1933, Gerald MacGuire, a Wall Street bond trader, approached General Smedley Darlington Butler. Eventually, after some preliminary discussions, MacGuire told Butler the real reason for their talks: for Butler to lead a veterans' army of 500,000 men to Washington, ostensibly to head off another coup attempt. Butler would become the "Secretary of General Welfare" to take the worries off an ailing Roosevelt's shoulders. Roosevelt would become a virtual prisoner, kept on as a figurehead until he was forced to retire. The conspiracy was connected the conservative American Liberty League, which included such individuals as former presidential candidate Al Smith and industrialist Irénée du Pont, whom Butler claimed was backing the plot.
U.S. M-2 tank on parade, Washington, 1939.

However, Butler did not go along for the ride. Half-disbelieving what he told, he asked a reporter friend, Paul Comly French, of the Philadelphia Inquirer, to confirm the story. Incredibly, French was able to confirm with MacGuire the existence with of the coup plot. In 1934, the House of Representative's Special Committee to Investigate Nazi Propaganda Activities in the United States investigated Butler's and French's claims and found them warranted. But no charges were ever pressed.

Martin B-10s on exercise, late '30s. A radical advance in aircraft design, they could easily out-run any enemy fighters they might meet.

Once the story broke, many concluded this was some kind of elaborate joke. But both Butler and the Senate committee insisted otherwise. So why was this very real threat to democracy so downplayed? One major factor was that the people who allegedly backed the coup were the high and the mighty and may well have included figures in Roosevelt's own administration. So sleeping dogs lie.

The second fact that this novel rests upon is the existence of War Plan Red, which I've previously mentioned on this blog. War Plan Red was one of the colour-coded series of war plans the United States had in readiness to meet contingencies it might face. It was originally conceived in the late 1920s over a potential conflict between the British Empire and United States over trade. Canada, otherwise known as "Crimson," was seen as a probable battleground. In 1934 War Pan Red was amended to include the use of poison gas against the presumptive Canadian enemy. It also was revised to include strategic bombing against Halifax should that strategic port refuse to yield. As late as 1939, with war in Europe looming on the horizon, these plans were still being updated.

U.S. Nevada-class battleships at sea, during the 1930s.

How close did this plan come to fruition? Closer than you might think. In August 1935, the U.S. Army held a series of war games, the largest in its history, involving over 36,000 men manoeuvring just south of the Canadian border, near Ottawa. Another 15,000 men were held in reserve in Pennsylvania. The war game's scenario was of a motorized invasion of Canada by U.S. forces. The first attack would be repulsed by the defenders, only to be overwhelmed and defeated when American reinforcements arrived. Earlier, in February of that year, the U.S. War Department had gained approval for the construction of three military airbases budgeted at $57 million in the Great Lakes region. They could be handily disguised as civilian airports but could also be used to dominate the industrial heart of Canada.

The Armstrong-Whitworth Siskin was the main RCAF fighter of the 1920s and 1930s.

The Candian counterpoint was Defense Scheme One - also discussed elsewhere at length on this blog- which called for a plan for a series of pre-emptive raids into the United States by Canadian forces upon an state of apprehened war. The early 1920s saw a brief period of worsening tensions between the United States and the British Empire that culminated in the Washington Naval Conference of 1922, which resulted in, among other things, a friendlier relationship between the two nations. However, at the time, Defence Scheme One was an understandable response, given the context.  James Sutherland "Buster" Brown, who drew up the plan, was very cognisant of the apparent threat posed by Canada's southern neighbour. A staunch soldier of Empire, he took a hard look at Canada's strategic situation. Militarily and population-wise, the country was out-numbered 10:1 by the United States, with most of Canada's population and industry strung out along its southern border, all within easy striking distance. Help, from the Mother Country and the rest of the Empire, was a long ways off.

British Vickers Mk VII Tank, 1937. Also used by Canadian Army.

Brown saw the need to buy time until help could arrive. But an in-depth defence was impossible in Canada, so Brown looked south and found his answer. Defence Scheme One consisted of a series of preemptive strikes by "flying columns" – fast, mobile forces –on several different axes of attack. Relying on surprise, they would strike quickly into the United States, destroying bridges, power-plants, telephone exchanges and factories as they withdrew. They would be using American territory to buy time and slow down the American advance until Imperial reinforcements could arrive.

Of course, I am grateful that history worked out the way it did. The United States and Canada have had a long history of peacefully - with the occasional friendly bump - sharing the continent.  To think it could have gone otherwise is chilling.

In the meantime, you can purchase both War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History, for $2.99 and  Elvis Saves JFK! for just 99 cents (both are free to preview). Both books are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.

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