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DECEMBER: BATTLE OF HONG KONG 75th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
Following a respectful nod to Pearl Harbor and its 75th anniversary, we canter through the Battle of Hong Kong. We are aided by an interview with a lady who was a young working woman at the time, caught in the heart of the action in Central Victoria: Barbara Anslow. Also with thanks to Pearl Harbor survivor Bruce Gordon for his contributions to the show, and to Hong Kong historians including Tony Banham (and his book, Not The Slightest Chance).
Here’s more on the start of the Battle, and here’s my SCMP feature with eyewitness accounts.
To find out more online, focus on the Battle of Hong Kong at Tony Banham’s Hong Kong War Diary or Phlilp Cracknell’s Battle for Hong Kong blogspot. Search around old Hong Kong, including wartime diaries, in David Bellis’ Gwulo website. And there is a Battle of Hong Kong Facebook group (and a Stanley Interment Camp Yahoo group).
NOVEMBER: HUNGARY 1956 & MAO’s ROLE / TRAITORS: FROM GUY FAWKES to GANG OF FOUR
We examine the links between Mao’s China and Communist Eastern Europe in the 1950s. And we’ll see the decisive influence Mao had on the Soviets’ course of action in cracking down in Hungary. The lessons Mao learned and implemented in China, in terms of how to deal with opponents, still have repercussions today.
Useful historians to look up for more on China’s role in Hungary 1956 are Shen Zhi-hua, Dandan Zhu and Jung Chang and Ian Halliday (Mao: The Unknown Story).
And November is traitor month: it’s the month the Gang of Four were put on trial in China and it’s the month Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament in London. For eight interesting facts on Guy Fawkes and bonfire night, click here.
Click to read (for free) A Chance Kill Part I
OCTOBER: 1911 CHINESE REVOLUTION / TRUMP v CLINTON v 1960
The 10th of October 1911 is the day 2,000 years of imperial rulers reigning over China ended. Today we are asking, how did imperial China come to an end?
Also this month, Noreen and I consider whether ‘civility’ was or is an important trait in US presidential candidates. We examine the rhetoric of the first presidential debates, in 1960, compared with 2016 Trump v Clinton. (On air I mention an article I wrote on civility in global leaders.)
SEPTEMBER: FILIPINOS ‘MASSACRE’ AMERICANS / HOW CHIANG KAI-SHEK THREW AWAY CHINA
Our irregular guest historian Bruce Gordon joins us. As well as being an eye witness to the Pearl Harbor attack, a US air force pilot in Vietnam and Korea and – inadvertently – saving the planet from World War III (click here for that podcast), Bruce was born in the Philippines. He has written about the 1899-1902 ‘Phil-Am War’, and today he tells us about the Filipinos’ day of victory and why subsequent American revenge still affects US-Philippine relations today.
Later on, Noreen and I discuss how the Communists won the Chinese Civil War despite the cards appearing to be stacked in the Nationalists’ favour. How Chiang dealt with communist sleeper agents didn’t help.
On air, I recommend both The China History Podcast and Jung Chang/Ian Halliday’s biography, Mao: The Unknown Story.
AUGUST: 1937 BATTLE of SHANGHAI / WHY IS THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS PAINTING THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS PAINTING?
In the first half, we take ourselves to Shanghai in August 1937 and the forgotten battle for the city. We’ll see why Chiang Kai-shek decided to take a stand in the city, making the Battle of Shanghai the first major clash between the Imperial Japanese forces and the Nationalist Chinese. Saturday shoppers strolling near the river suffer a tragic shock.
In the second half, we’re going to answer my seven-year-old son’s question: Why is the Mona Lisa the most famous painting on Earth? Da Vinci’s masterpiece only became the most famous painting in the world because of a couple of events 150 and 115 years ago…
JULY 4th: BREXIT v AMEREXIT / LET A HUNDRED FLOWERS BLOOM
This month we invite listeners to send in what they consider the biggest historical exits – we’re looking for the most significant exit in history. On that theme, for our July 4th broadcast we make some comparisons ( – some more tenuous than others – ) between the run up to American independence from Great Britain and the United Kingdom’s recent severance from the European Union.
In the second half, we look at July 1957 and why and how Mao ended his invitation to ‘let a hundred flowers bloom’. In February he began to invite criticism of communist policies, in July he showed his true intentions. And many a dictator – not to mention demagogic corporate managers – have used the same tactics ever since.
JUNE: TIANANMEN SQUARE SPECIAL
The events of ‘May 35’, as they have to say online in mainland China, has echoed through Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Revolution’ and beyond. We get to know the key characters during the two months of protests, including the young female student who emerged to lead a revolution.
What have Fidel Castro, Taiwanese terrorists in Hong Kong, a Kashmir Princess, KGV School’s Bruce Gordon and HMS Amethyst got in common?…
We look at war between the two communist giants, the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union – a conflict which began in March 1969. (On air I mention an insightful book – Dr Li Zhisui’s The Private Life of Chairman Mao.) And we’re going to be joined by a special guest who, as a US air force pilot, found himself too close for comfort to the Soviet fleet off China’s coast just as they prepared to strike China in 1969…
In 1969, Bruce Gordon was a US fighter pilot based in Osan, South Korea. One day Bruce was scrambled (in an F-106) against a Russian warplane. When the Soviet plane turned back toward Vladivostok, Bruce looked down and saw a Russian fleet of seven ships lying off the coast of North Korea. He buzzed the ships to see what was going on. He watched what appeared to be a fishing boat pull away from the Russian ships at HIGH SPEED – he knew fishing boats didn’t go at high speed…
And you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out more about Bruce’s story. And take a look at his book, The Spirit of Attack.
Officially, the People’s Republic of China hated the USA, and the USA did not acknowledge the existence of communist China. Yet, culminating in February 1972, the two sides unexpectedly came together. This is the story of how and why.
Transcript of Mao-Nixon meeting, 1972
How ping pong saved the world – video documentary trailer
JANUARY: TAIWAN CRISES, THE PRC AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS
We look at the 1950s Taiwan Strait Crises and how close we came to nuclear war. We see how the tail wagged the dog as little Taiwan bent the US to its will in the 1950s. And, throughout the crisis, we will see how Mao’s provocations eventually persuaded the USSR to help China’s nuclear development.
DECEMBER: BATTLE OF HONG KONG SPECIAL
This month we meet the man who was probably the most important person in Hong Kong during the Battle – a one-legged Chinese Admiral.
We experience the Battle through the words of ordinary people who were there.
And we find out about who the Triads helped and who they conspired to massacre during the Battle of Hong Kong.
To find out more online: Focus on the Battle of Hong Kong at Tony Banham’s Hong Kong War Diary or Phlilp Cracknell’s Battle for Hong Kong blogspot. Search around old Hong Kong, including wartime diaries, in David Bellis’ Gwulo website. There is a Battle of Hong Kong Facebook group and a Stanley camp Yahoo group.
This Month in History: November
We visit Berlin in November 1940 where Stalin’s circumspect Foreign Minister, Molotov, is wooed by Ribbentrop and Hitler: they want the USSR to join the Axis Alliance.
In Spain, General Franco, who desires Gibraltar but not war, makes an impression on Hitler. Hitler later confides to Mussolini: “I prefer to have three or four of my own teeth pulled out than to speak to that man again!”
And we find out about the first ever television broadcast and the first passenger flights between Asia and the US (a seat cost $799US – that’s $14,000 in today’s money!).
This Month in History: October
Noreen Mir and I examine why World War III didn’t happen – when it looked odds on in October 1962. And we look at the three-way war in China in 1940.
We investigate the ‘evidence’ that made the world believe a famous pop star, who is still alive today, “died” in 1969. (For one example, play this link from 7:53.)
We cover some key historical presidential debates and come right up to date with Bernie Sanders v Hillary Clinton. Plus we tangentially leap to President Xi’s UK visit.
This Month in History: September
We look at the first US presidential election debate in history, and we’ll see how a sun tan not only won that election but saved humanity from World War III.
And we examine what provoked the Japanese to join in alliance with Germany and Italy – signing the Tripartite Pact – in September 1940.
Finally, we ask, who is the biggest cheat in sporting history? The 24th September is the anniversary of one big sporting cheat, and you tell us who you think are the biggest, baddest or most audacious cheats in sporting history.
This Month in History: August
Chiang Kaishek and Winston Churchill in 1940: Churchill the Appeaser and Chiang the Artful.
Also, we ask what is it about Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech that makes it so good? And we mention probably the greatest oratory on race delivered since the “I have a dream” speech
And, seamlessly(!), we celebrate the birthday of probably the world’s best clothing-related invention.
This Month in History: July
The US Treasury is currently considering which leading female from history to honour by picturing them on the $10 bill. So which American women from history should feature on the new $10 bill?
Why did Churchill appease the Japanese in 1940 and close the Burma Road?
How did a punk band, a writer and God end communism in Eastern Europe?
We look at one great American female, Amelia Earhart, whose aircraft disappeared over the Pacific on July 2nd 1937 – and now the hunt is back on to find her aircraft, perhaps before MH370.
This Month in History: June
Join RTHK’s Noreen Mir and I for a trip through June 1940 and June 1950. Get to know the Norwegian whose treachery added his name to the dictionary in at least five European languages. Find out why Mussolini waited until June to join in the war and why that delay helped my Polish grandmother to escape. Join us – and my gran – in Paris when it is declared an ‘open city’ in June 1940.
In June 1940 Japan appeared to have its hands full fighting China, so why did it choose now to add to its enemies in Asia? And why did the US decide in June 1940 to move most of its fleet to Pearl Harbor? The answer to both of these questions lies in Amsterdam as much as Paris.
Also, this month 65 years ago: what made North Korea think it could get away with invading the South in June 1950? The story involves British communist spies and the loose words of an American Secretary of State.
And listen out for the Donald Duck/Alcoholics Anonymous connection…
On the day Germany attacked France and the Low Countries, 10 May 1940, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned. Everyone inside and outside of Parliament knew who would be the next PM: the then Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax. So why didn’t matters go to plan?
In May 1940 the Allies’ seaborne Norway campaign descended into abject failure, so surely its architect, the man in charge of the navy, should get the blame? Yet that man, Winston Churchill, is rewarded with a promotion. Why? And why does Britain being left to stand alone in Europe mean China is now left to stand alone in Asia?
We also look at May the month of protest in the Vietnam War. And what do you know about the first American in space?
This Month in History: April
We look at the history of April Fool’s Day; April 1 used to be New Year’s Day – but do you believe me?
The invasion of Denmark and Norway in April 1940 became such a debacle for Britain that the country looked to a belligerent maverick to lead them.
NATO formed in April 1949 and its role in the neo-Cold War has taken on new resonance in recent years. And how come the 1952 Treaty of San Francisco still dictates who’s friends and who’s enemies in East Asia today?
This Month in History: March
I pop my cherry with Noreen Mir, and we look at the Russo-Finnish ‘Winter War’ – and how China doing nothing upsets the USSR to the point it withdraws military support for China’s war against Japan in March 1940.
We look at President Reagan’s ‘Evil Empire’ speech of June 1983 (a forerunner to George W Bush’s ‘axis of evil’). Yet in 1984 – George Orwell’s ominous year – Reagan reaches out to the USSR and begins the end of the Cold War with his ‘Jim and Sally, Ivan and Anya’ speech.
And guess which wooden boy is 75 years old today? But silly putty v Monopoly incites the greatest interest on social media…
Here are a couple of interviews I did about my novel, A Chance Kill: RTHK Radio 3, 9 February 2015 and RTHK Radio 3, 26 February 2015 (Part I, 20min50sec). In April 2015 I also appeared on BBC Radio (link no longer available).
A Chance Kill is available in paperback or ebook from various booksellers
I run two Twitter feeds: On This Day In History 75 years ago and my personal account: Follow @LettersPaul
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