Apr-24: A Day of Tragic Failures and Terrible Beauty
Aside from the Armenian Genocide which also began on this day (see related Huffington Post column), today is marked by several historic failures – from Spain’s decision to go to war against the United States, to the brief Easter Rising in Ireland, the fatal voyage of Soyuz and the bungled attempt to rescue the American hostages held in Iran in 1980. The Easter Rising, however, was not a complete failure since it became the seed for future Irish Independence.
Spain Declares War on the United States
Tensions between the Spain and the United States grew as the U.S. supported Cuban independence and demanded that Spain surrender control over Cuba. Spain refused and declared war. The 10-week war was a disaster for Spain and ended with the collapse of the Spanish empire with the United States gaining temporary control over Cuba and “indefinite colonial authority” over Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippine islands from Spain.
Ireland’s Easter Rising
From Wikipedia: The Easter Rising was an armed insurrection in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland, secede from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in World War I. It was the most significant uprising in Ireland since the rebellion of 1798.
. . . With vastly superior numbers and artillery, the British army quickly suppressed the Rising, [and rebel leaders] agreed to an unconditional surrender on Saturday 29 April. Most of the leaders were executed following courts-martial, but the Rising succeeded in bringing physical force republicanism back to the forefront of Irish politics.
On its 75th anniversary, the New York Times celebrated its significance, quoting from William Butler Yeats poem, April 1916
The rising was quixotic, had little support and was swiftly put down. Yet with vengeful ferocity, the British ordered the execution, one by one, of 15 rebel leaders, including a trade unionist, suffering from gangrened wounds, who had to be propped up to be shot.
When the grisly business was done, William Butler Yeats wrote, Ireland had “changed, changed utterly: a terrible beauty is born.” The victims themselves sensed that theirs was a blood sacrifice that presaged rebirth and renewal, that their deaths might some day be seen as the secular incarnation of a sacred season. But the Easter Rising also proved to be a dress rehearsal for much good and ill that lay ahead as empires fell and ordinary people entered history.
The Rising ultimately led to the Irish War of Independence which was fought from 1919-1921 and led to the creation of the Irish Free State.
Soyuz 1 Crashes to Earth
Soyuz 1’s was the debut mission of the Soviet Union’s Soyuz spacecraft and a complete and epic failure. Plagued with technical issues from launch, its mission was aborted and its parachute failed to open upon reentry and crashed in the Urals killing Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov, He is the first man to be killed in a space mission.
Neil Armstrong left a memorial on the moon honoring Komorav along with the three astronauts killed in the Apollo 1 fire – Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee.
Hostage Rescue Mission Fails
Operation Eagle Claw was a United States Armed Forces operation ordered by US President Jimmy Carter to attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 diplomats held captive at the embassy of the United States, Tehran on 24 April 1980. Its failure, and the humiliating public debacle that ensued, damaged US prestige worldwide. Carter concluded that the failure to free the hostages played a major role in Ronald Reagan’s victory in the 1980 US presidential election.
The operation encountered many obstacles and was eventually aborted. Eight helicopters were sent to the first staging area, Desert One, but only five arrived in operational condition. One encountered hydraulic problems, another got caught in a cloud of very fine sand, and the last one showed signs of a cracked rotor blade. During planning it was decided that the mission would be aborted if fewer than six helicopters remained, despite only four being absolutely necessary ] In a move that is still discussed in military circles, the commanders asked President Carter for permission to abort and Carter granted the request.
As the U.S. force prepared to leave, one of the helicopters crashed into a transport aircraft which contained both servicemen and jet fuel. The resulting fire destroyed both aircraft and killed eight servicemen.Operation Eagle Claw was one of Delta Force’s first missions.
This failure and subsequent deal between the Reagan campaign and the Iranian regime not to release the hostages before the election, doomed Carter’s presidency. Carter acknowledges as much:
I would say I would send one more helicopter because if I had one more helicopter, we could have brought out not only the 52 hostages, but also brought out the rescue team and when that failed, then I think that was the main factor that brought about my failure to be re-elected. . . . So that’s one thing I would change.