Book Review: Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts That Continue to Shape Our World by Brad S. Gregory

Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts That Continue to Shape Our WorldRebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts That Continue to Shape Our World by Brad S. Gregory

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was looking for something a bit different to read when I came across Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts That Continue to Shape Our World by Brad S. Gregory. My interests in History generally lie in the areas of the military and diplomacy, but I made a good decision when I bought this book. Gregory describes Martin Luther’s religious journey and his part in the Reformation, the history of the Reformation, and how the Reformation and its conflicts changed over time and came to influence and secularize the modern world. Throughout the book, Gregory continues to come back to the same theme, summed up in the first sentence of Chapter Four: “The Reformation is a paradox: a religious revolution that led to the secularization of society.”

I have to admit that this book is well outside of my wheelhouse; although it is a History book, it deals with the History of Religion and theology, both of which I haven’t read a lot about. All that goes to say that I can’t judge this book one way or the other on content or the author’s conclusions. What I can say is that I know a lot more about the Reformation and how it impacted the world today now than I did before I read Rebel in the Ranks.

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An Interesting Early Morning QSO with SN1918WAR, a History Related Special Event Station in Poland

Brunswick – Yesterday morning after breakfast I fired up the mobile HF station to try for some Skywarn Recognition Day contacts. I saw AB4UG tweet that WX4CHS at NWS Charleston, SC was active on 40 Meters, but propagation was too long for me to hear them. I did, however, manage to work two other NWS stations on 40 Meters: WX2PHI, NWS Mount Holly, NJ, and WX8GRR, NWS Grand Rapids, MI. In between those two, though I made one of the most interesting QSOs I’ve had in quite a while.

Since I wasn’t hearing a lot on 40 Meters (it was only just after 0700 local), I tuned over to 20 Meters to see if I could find anything there and was surprised to hear some DX stations. As I tuned around I found something that really caught my attention: a station using the callsign SN1918WAR. It checked two boxes that interest me: a station with a non-standard callsign and since it included 1918, a history-related special event. I already assumed that it was World War I related due to the use of 1918, but a station ID further identified it as having to do with Poland regaining its independence after World War I. I tried for quite a while to make contact with him, all the while hearing 2 area and 1 area US callsigns make it through. I persevered and finally made contact; I only got a 31 signal report (I gave him a 56 back), but neither one of us had any problems understanding the other (compared to WX8GRR, who really had to work to pull my signal out – many thanks by the way!).

The significance of SN1918WAR has to with the radio transmissions made announcing Poland’s independence on 18/19 November 1918. Using captured German military radio equipment in Warsaw and using the callsign WAR, Polish operators transmitted a message to Great Britain, France, the United States, Italy, Japan, Germany and other countries proclaiming their independence. SN1918WAR’s QRZ page describes the WAR station as:

“The WAR radio station was established by German troops in 1915 in the gunner plot in a road hidden between the third and fourth bastions of the Warsaw Citadel. The Telefunken transmitter, with a multiple spark gap Wiena cooled by a fan, generated a power of 4 kW. The L-shaped antenna of the Marconi system was suspended between two 70-meter masts. The receiver was based on a  Telefunken detector and an “E5″ receiver. The station operated on a wavelength of 900 m and the receiver between 600-9000 m.”

They will be operating through the end of 2018 on multiple bands and modes, and you can QSL via email for a PDF certificate. As you’re tuning through the HF bands, keep an ear out for them, this one is a nice one to put in your log!

Book Review: Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 by Gordon S. Wood

Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 by Gordon S. Wood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A few books ago, I read The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 by Robert Middlekauff; I enjoyed it so much that I decided to continue reading the other books in the Oxford History of the United States series. Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 by Gordon S. Wood did not disappoint. It’s a long book that covers a short, but intense period of United States History. From the time the U.S. Constitution took effect to the end of the War of 1812 saw a massive amount of change and political discord. Wood covers it all; exploring the political and economic changes the country underwent and how our relations with other countries transformed. He looks at how the War of 1812 came to be and how it changed the country. He also explores the societal and cultural changes the country underwent, explaining how our character as a people changed. He discusses how the schism between north and south, slave and non-slave states came to be and shows how the stage for Civil War began to be set.

At 797 pages, it is indeed a long read, but it is an engaging and interesting one. You wouldn’t think you could get almost 800 pages from such a short period of History, but Wood does and does it without getting into tedious details. He gets into the personalities of both well known and lesser known figures; his insights into Jefferson, in particular, were something I really enjoyed about the book. The book is well documented and has an extensive bibliography for further reading and exploring his sources. Empire of Liberty is a book that anyone interested in US History should read because it’s a deep dive into an important, transformative period in our History and explains how we became who we are, how we developed our national character. The decision to rate Empire of Liberty five stars was an easy one and I heartily recommend it.

I think that Empire of Liberty also has lessons for the present. You can see shades of today in the sometimes personal struggle between the Federalists and Republicans and in the lack of willingness to compromise. We can see parallels with today in the trade policies that helped bring about the War of 1812. We can reflect on these and apply the lessons to today, hopefully avoiding the traps of the past.

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Book Review: A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin

A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle EastA Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“The Middle East became what it is today both because the European powers undertook to re-shape it and because Britain and France failed to ensure that the dynasties, the states, and the political system that they established would permanently endure.”

A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin is a book that we all should read to get a better understanding of how and why we got to where we are today in the Middle East. Fromkin details and explains the political happenings in the Middle East during World War I and the aftermath of the war. Great Britain and Lloyd George are the focus of the book, the Arabs, French, Germans, Greeks, Italians, Ottomans, and Turks are covered as well. It is a story of failure on the part of the European powers and the poorly thought through partition of the Middle East. What happened was complex and there were a lot of players involved due to changes in Governments and leadership, but Fromkin navigated them well and made the happenings easily understandable. Once you finish reading this book, you’ll understand why there are so many grievances, why so many are understandable, and why there is really no one country or person to blame.

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History Related Amateur Radio Special Event Stations for October 2018

Four history-related Amateur Radio special event stations during October stand out to me. Two o the special event stations honor important figures from US History: Dwight D. Eisenhower and Roger Williams. A third commemorates the birth of one of our armed forces: the US Navy. The fourth commemorates a key battle of the American Revolution and the subsequent surrender of British Forces at Yorktown, VA.

The Grayson County Amateur Radio Club in Sherman, TX will be operating special event station W5I from 8 October to 16 October in commemoration of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s birthday on 14 October 1890 in Denison, TX. Eisenhower was a pivotal figure in American History during World War II and the early part of the Cold War. After the Pearl Harbor Attack, Eisenhower was assigned as a Brigadier General in the US Army to the General Staff in Washington DC where he was responsible for developing war plans against both Japan and Germany. Just six months later, despite having never held an active command higher than Battalion Commander, he was appointed Commanding General, European Theater of Operations and promoted to Lieutenant General. In the run-up to the North African invasion, he was named Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force, North African Theater of Operations. In late 1943, Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and Supreme Allied Commander Allied Expeditionary Force. He would hold both commands until the end of World War II in Europe. Despite not having the experience of command above the battalion commander, Eisenhower proved to be an excellent appointment by President Roosevelt. The job of Supreme Allied Commander was just as much a political job as it was a military job and he did a terrific job juggling the different aims, wants, and politics of the various Allied powers as well as dealing with extraordinary personalities like DeGaulle, Montgomery, and Patton. After World War II, Eisenhower, by now a five star General of the Army served as Military Governor of the American Occupation Zone in Europe, as Chief of Staff of the Army, and finally as NATO Supreme Commander before retiring in 1952. In 1952, Eisenhower was pressed to run for President by the Republican Party and was elected. As President, Eisenhower was noted in the foreign policy arena for working to bring the Korean War to an end, Cold War policy including nuclear policy and the “domino theory,” and his handling of the Sputnik crisis and U-2 incident and in the domestic policy arena for continuing New Deal programs such as Social Security, creating the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (later split into the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education), authorizing the Interstate Highway System, the Civil Rights Act of 1957, and the Little Rock Crisis. On the political spectrum, Eisenhower considered himself a moderate, progressive Republican. It can easily be argued that his experience as Supreme Commander during and after World War II gave him the experience in handling disparate groups and personalities that enabled him to be a great President; he was ranked the 5th greatest President in the 2017 C-Span Presidential Historians Survey. In his farewell address, he offered us advice which is still pertinent today:

“As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

W5I will be operating on or near 14.250 USB, 7.200, LSB, 14.040, and 7.040. QSL via Grayson County ARC, PO Box 642, Sherman, TX 75091.

Providence Emergency Management Agency RACES, KK1PMA, in Providence, RI will be honoring Roger Williams with a special event station on 13 October. Williams is a fascinating figure in US History. A Puritan minister, Williams came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony from England in 1630. Before long, his beliefs in religious freedom and separation of Church and State and his dealings with Native Americans brought him into conflict with the Colony’s leadership. First, he believed that individuals should be able to follow their own path when it comes to religion and that they should not be coerced into following a particular church; in his mind, a state religion was a religion forced upon the people.  Second, he believed that it was not the place of civil authorities to enforce religious laws such as those found in the first five of the Ten Commandments: idolatry (Thou shalt have no other God before me/Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image), blasphemy (Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain), and the breaking of the Sabbath (Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy). These arguments were the antithesis of most of his contemporaries but they would influence our Founding Fathers and the direction our government would take. Also contrary to most of his contemporaries in the Colony was how he dealt with Native Americans; Williams believed in fair dealings with Native Americans. He came to question colonial charters that didn’t reimburse Native Americans for land taken to form those colonies. It was because of those beliefs that Roger Williams was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. After his banishment, he eventually founded Providence Plantation, which eventually became the colony of and then the state of Rhode Island It’s also worth mentioning that Williams was opposed to slavery and attempted to prevent its legalization in Rhode Island. Unfortunately, it was an admirable but unsuccessful attempt.  KK1PMA will be operating on or around 53.02 USB, 14.275 USB,  and 7.275 LSB. QSL for a certificate via Barry Noel, P.O. Box 28091, Providence, RI 02908.

Also on 13 October, NI6IW, the USS Midway (CV-41) museum ship will be commemorating the establishment of the US Navy on 13 October 1775. The United States Navy celebrates its birthday on 13 October because the Second Continental Congress authorized the purchase of two ships, marking the beginning of the Continental Navy. The Continental Navy was shortlived; it was disbanded at the end of the American Revolution because the new government lacked the funds to maintain a standing navy. Between 1790 and 1797, the US Revenue Cutter Service (a forerunner of the US Coast Guard) provided the only armed maritime service that the United States had. In 1794, however, Congress passed the Naval Act of 1794 authorizing a permanent standing Navy; the US Navy was established and by 1797, the first three of the US Navy’s first six frigates were commissioned and in service. For more information on and a good read about the beginnings of the United States Navy, I highly recommend Ian W. Toll’s Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy. NI6IW will be operating on or around 14.320 USB, 7.250 LSB, and 14.070 as well as D-STAR on REF001C. QSL via USS Midway (CV-41) COMEDTRA, 901 N Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101.

On 20 October, K4RC, the Williamsburg Area Amateur Radio Club in Yorktown, VA will commemorate the surrender of British forces after the Battle of Yorktown. The Battle of Yorktown lasted from 28 September to 19 October 1781. Yorktown was more of siege than a battle, American and French forces surrounded the British Army on land and at sea. The Continental Army under George Washington and the French Army under the Comte de Rochambeau surrounded the British Army under Charles Cornwallis. At sea, the French Navy under the Comte de Grasse blockaded the British and prevented reinforcement attempts. The siege began on 28 September and throughout the first half of October, the Americans and French worked closer to the British positions. On 14 October, assaults of the British defenses began and on 17 October the British offered to surrender. Negotiations began and on 19 October, the surrender was official. The British surrender at Yorktown didn’t end the American Revolution, it would continue until 1783, but it did give American morale a much-needed boost. It also caused a collapse of public support for the war in Great Britain and moved the British government to negotiations to end the Revolution. To read more about the American Revolution, I would recommend Robert Middlekauff’s The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 and for reading about the last years of the American Revolution following Yorktown, I would recommend American Crisis: George Washington and the Dangerous Two Years After Yorktown, 1781-1783 by William M. Fowler Jr. K4RC will be operating on or around 14.265 USB and 7.265 LSB. QSL via K4RC, P.O. Box 1470, Williamsburg, VA 23187.