World War Two: Philippines (Prewar Part 1-1; 2); Enter MacArthur

By the middle of 1941 international developments had heightened the tension between the United States and Japan and made the defense of the Philippines an urgent problem. The Nazi-Soviet pact, followed by the German Army’s march into Poland in September 1939, had destroyed completely any hope for a peaceful settlement in Europe. The events of the following year made it evident that the United States might soon be involved in war with the Axis in Asia as well as Europe. Denmark and Norway had been invaded by Hitler’s armies in April, Holland and Belgium were conquered in May, and on 21 June France surrendered. Not long after, Japanese troops, with the acquiescence of the Vichy Government, moved into French Indochina. In September, Germany, Italy, and Japan concluded the Tripartite pact, and the following April, Russia and Japan reached agreement and signed a neutrality pact, thus freeing the latter for extension of her empire southward. American efforts to halt Japanese aggression in Asia had met with little success.

On 26 July 1940 Japan was notified that the commercial treaty of 1911 would be abrogated. On the same day Congress granted the President authority to control exports to Japan. Immediately he put the export of oil and scrap iron under government license and banned the shipment of aviation gasoline to that country. By the early part of 1941 shipments of scrap iron, steel, gasoline, and other important war material from the United States to Japan had practically ceased.

While the United States market was being closed to Japan, American economic support to China was increased. In November 1940 Chiang Kai-shek’s government was lent $50,000,000 through the Export-Import Bank; by the end of that year loans to China had reached a total of $170,000,000. Despite these moves, perhaps because of them, Japan continued to exert pressure on the French and Dutch colonies in Southeast Asia to “co-operate” in economic matters.

The possibility of war in the Far East was too real to be ignored and a reluctant Congress began to loosen the purse strings. But the years of neglect could not be remedied quickly. The demand for planes and weapons was great and the supply was limited. The Philippines was only one of many bases that had to be protected.

Hawaii, Alaska, and Panama-which formed a strategic triangle whose defense was considered essential to the safety of the continental United States-had also been neglected and their needs had to be filled first. “Adequate reinforcements for the Philippines at this time,” wrote General George C. Marshall, “would have left the United States in a position of great peril should there be a break in the defense of Great Britain.”

What the United States needed more than anything else was time. But Japan’s occupation of naval and air bases in southern Indochina on 22 July 1941 gave warning that time was short. The Philippine Islands, already almost entirely surrounded, were now further threatened and America’s position in the Far East rendered precarious. Measures to strengthen the defense of the Philippines could be put off no longer.

The Recall of General MacArthur

The establishment of a new American command in the Far-East and the recall of General MacArthur to active duty in the U.S. Army were already under consideration when Japan moved southward in July A month earlier Joseph Stevenot, a prominent American businessman in Manila and president of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, in an interview with Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson in Washington, had urged a closer relationship between the Military Advisor and the commander of the Philippine Department. Stimson had relayed this suggestion to General Marshall at a meeting during which both men discussed MacArthur’s status and agreed he was the logical man to command in the Far East in the event of an emergency.

By a coincidence, on the same day that Stimson talked with Stevenot, Major General George Grunert, the Philippine Department commander, asked permission from the War Department to include representatives of the Commonwealth Government in conferences then being held in Manila. The purpose of these meetings was to formulate plans, based on the expected use of $52,000,000 in sugar excise funds, for improving the defenses of the Islands. The reason for Grunert’s request was to permit him to work more closely and directly with General MacArthur without going through official government channels. Close contact between the department commander and the Military Advisor, he pointed out, was an obvious necessity in making defense plans. General Marshall approved Grunert’s request without question, adding that “MacArthur’s support will be invaluable to you in the accomplishment of the difficult task with which you are confronted.”

The first direct bid for the recall of General MacArthur came from the former Chief of Staff himself and was contained in a letter to General Marshall. In this letter Frazier Hunt, in his book MacArthur and the War Against Japan (New York, 1944), page 12, states that MacArthur offered his services to President Roosevelt early in the spring of 1941. The author has been unable to find the documentary evidence in the files of the Department of the Army to support this assertion.(Ltr, Marshall to Grunert, 29 May 1941, WPD 3251-49. The author has been unable to find a copy of this letter in the files of the War Department but its contents are summarized in a memorandum written by General Gerow and addressed to the Chief of Staff on 6 June 1941 (WPD 3251-50). From internal evidence it appears that MacArthur on the same day wrote a letter covering the same subjects to the President and the Secretary of War. See also ltr, Marshall to MacArthur, 20 Jun 41,WPD 3251-50.)

MacArthur stated that since the Philippine Army was to be absorbed by the U.S. Army in the near future-a step not yet contemplated by the War Department-he intended to close out the office of Military Advisor. A new American military command embracing all U.S. Army activities in the Far East, comparable to the British command in that area, should be established, he told the Chief of Staff, and he, MacArthur, be named commander.

The idea of creating a high command in the Far East had been broached before, but never by so influential a source. In January 1941 the intelligence officer of the Philippine Department had recommended to his superior in Washington that such a command be established. This proposal differed from MacArthur’s in that the department commander was to be designated commander in chief of such a command, while MacArthur put forward his own nomination. The Philippine Department G-2 continued to urge this move during the first six months of 1941, but there is no evidence that it was ever considered by the General Staff in Washington until June of that year, after General MacArthur’s letter to the Chief of Staff.

MacArthur’s proposal was sent to the War Plans Division of the General Staff for study. On 6 June Brig. General Leonard T. Gerow, acting chief of the division, sent his recommendations to the Chief of Staff. He agreed that the British had created such a command, but pointed out that their situation was quite different from that faced by the Americans. The British had accepted strategic direction of naval forces in the Far East, and their troops were scattered throughout the area. U.S. Army forces were concentrated in the Philippines and had responsibility only for the defense of the Islands. Gerow therefore recommended against the establishment of a new command in the Far East. If MacArthur was called to active service, he wrote, it should be as commander of the Philippine Department.

Despite the recommendations of the chief of War Plans, the official reply to MacArthur’s letter expressed a sentiment entirely favorable to the proposal. This reply was contained in a letter dated 20 June from the Chief of Staff to General MacArthur. In it Marshall told the Military Advisor that the War Department’s plans for the Philippine Army were not as broad as MacArthur believed, but that the decision to close out his office rested with him. All that the U.S. Army planned to do at the present time, he said, was to train about 75,000 Filipinos for a period of from three to nine months, contingent upon the appropriation by Congress of the sugar excise and currency devaluation fund.

Both the Secretary of War and I [Marshall continued] are much concerned about the situation in the Far East. During one of our discussions about three months ago it was decided that your outstanding qualifications and vast experience in the Philippines make you the logical selection for the Army Commander in the Far East should the situation approach a crisis. The Secretary has delayed recommending your appointment as he does not feel the time has arrived for such action. However, he has authorized me to tell you that, at the proper time, he will recommend to the President that you be so appointed. It is my impression that the President will approve his recommendation.

The appointment of General MacArthur as commander of all Army forces in the Far East was part of the larger problem, of mobilization and training of the Philippine Army. By July 1941 it was clear that some decision on the use of the Philippine Army would soon have to be made. On 7 July MacArthur presented his views on the mobilization and training of the Philippine Army in a personal letter to the Chief of Staff, adding that the creation of a high command for the Far East “would result in favorable psychological and morale reactions.”

A week later General Gerow summarized for the Chief of Staff the steps being taken for improving the defenses of the Philippine Islands, and on 17 July made the following specific recommendations:

  1. That the President, by executive order call into the service of the U.S. for the period of the emergency all organized military forces of the Commonwealth.
  2. That General MacArthur be called to active duty in the grade of Major General and assigned as commander of Army Forces in the Far East.
  3. That $10,000,000 of the President’s Emergency Fund be allotted to cover the costs of mobilization and training of the Philippine Army for a period of three months.
  4.  That the training program of the Philippine Army for an additional six to nine months be financed from the sugar excise fund, or from other funds appropriated for this purpose.
  5. That 425 Reserve officers be sent to the Philippines to assist in the mobilization and training of the Philippine Army.

Within a week these recommendations had been approved by the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of War. The Secretary immediately requested President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue the necessary executive order, already drafted and approved, for calling the military forces of the Commonwealth into active service of the United States. “Due to the situation in the Far East,” Stimson wrote, “all practical steps should be taken to increase the defensive strength of the Philippines Islands.” One of the most effective measures to accomplish this would be to call the Philippine Army into active service for a year’s training.

Such a program, Stimson estimated, would involve about 75,000 men and would cost about $32,000,000, which would be met by the sugar excise fund. Pending appropriation by Congress, the funds to initiate the program could be met from the President’s emergency fund.

Stimson’s recommendations reached the President at a time when he was thoroughly aroused by Japan’s occupation of air and naval bases in Indochina on 22 July. Already he had broken off negotiations with Japan for a settlement of Far Eastern problems and was considering economic reprisals in the form of a freeze on Japanese assets in the United States. On 26 July, the day after Stimson made his recommendations, the President put the freeze into effect and issued the military order which would bring into the service of the United States the armed forces of the Philippines.

The President’s military order did not mention General MacArthur by name; it was carefully worded so as to place the forces in the Philippines under a general officer of the United States Army, “to be designated by the Secretary of War from time to time.” The actual induction of Philippine Army units was to be accomplished by orders issued by that general officer.

The War Department immediately followed up the President’s action by establishing, that same day, a new command in the Philippines, with headquarters in Manila. This command, to be called U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), would consist of the Philippine Department, those military forces of the Commonwealth ordered into active service for the period of the emergency, and such other forces as might be assigned. At the same time, MacArthur was recalled to active duty, effective on 26 July, with the rank of major general, designated as the general officer referred to in the military order [WPD 3251-52], and put in command of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East is With the establishment of USAF FE and the simultaneous induction of the military forces of the Commonwealth Government, the two separate military establishments which had existed in the Philippine Islands since 1935 were placed for the first time under one command.

The recall of Douglas MacArthur to active duty at the age of 61 brought back into the U.S. Army “one of its most able and experienced senior officers. Son of General Arthur MacArthur of Philippine fame, he had graduated from the Military Academy in 1903 as a second lieutenant of engineers.”

Since then his record had been one of rapid advancement and brilliant achievement. His first assignment had been in the Philippines as a construction officer and he had been aide to his father when the senior MacArthur was chief military observer with the Japanese Army in the war against Russia. In 1907 he served as aide-de-camp to President Theodore Roosevelt. After various assignments in the United States he was ordered to Washington in 1913 for duty with the Chief of Engineers. The following year he accompanied the Mexican expedition to Vera Cruz as assistant engineer officer.

In World War I Douglas MacArthur’s record was outstanding. Transferring to the infantry, he served as chief of staff of the 42d Division, the Rainbow Division, and as commander of the 84th Brigade of that division. He was wounded twice, served briefly in the occupation and returned to the United States in 1919 as a brigadier general of the National Army. That year, at the age of 39, he was appointed Superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point over a number of senior generals. From West Point he went to the Philippines where he commanded in turn the District of Manila and the 23rd Brigade. In January 1925 he was appointed a major general and returned to the United States the following month.

For the next three years General MacArthur commanded a corps area in the United States. In 1928 he returned to Manila as commander of the Philippine Department. Upon completion of this assignment he was brought back to the United States where he commanded the Ninth Corps Area on the west coast for a month and on 1 November 1930 was appointed Chief of Staff, U.S. Army. He held this post five years before going to the Philippines as Military Advisor to the Philippine Commonwealth. On 31 December 1937, after thirty-eight years’ service, eighteen of them as a general officer, MacArthur retired from the Army with the rank of general, to become field marshal in the Philippine Army a short time later. His return to active duty on 26 July 1941 was as a major general, his permanent rank before retirement. The next day action to promote him to the rank of temporary lieutenant general was initiated and approved two days later, effective 27 July.

SOURCE: The Fall Of The Philippines by Louis Morton (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Philippines (Prewar, Part 1-2; 3-4-5); Building the USAFFE


Today’s Extra: Do Pets Really Make People Healthier?

Do Pets Really Make People Healthier?


Who exactly are the people sharing their homes with animals? And how does it affect their lives? One large study aimed to explore just that. It’s been widely reported that pets can improve our health — both mentally and physically. But it might not be that simple. Here’s what researchers have learned about the differences between pet owners and non-owners.


Researchers from the RAND Corporation and UCLA analyzed data from a California health survey of more than 42,000 adults with diverse backgrounds. They aimed to learn how pet owners and non-owners differed “across a variety of socio-demographic and health measures.”

The study broke down pet ownership into four groups: non-pet owners, dog owners, cat owners and people who had both dogs and cats. (Other types of pets were not included in the data.) Here’s what it found.

  • About 26.2 percent of the respondents had a dog, 21.5 percent had a cat and 8.5 percent had both.
  • Women were more likely than men to be either a cat or dog owner (or have both).
  • White people were much more likely to have dogs or cats compared to other races and ethnicities.
  • Pet owners were more likely to be homeowners and married.
  • Pet owners also were more likely to have full-time jobs and make more money than non-owners.

The upshot? “Overall, pet owners are more likely to be: single females or married, younger, White, live in more rural areas, live in homes, and belong to households where everyone is employed full time,” according to the study. So what about the differences in health?


The respondents were asked to rank their general health. They also reported their body mass index and whether they had asthma. Here’s what the data showed.

  • Dog and cat owners ranked their general health as slightly better than non-owners. But once the study controlled for other factors that influence health — such as income and marital status — the differences between the groups disappeared.
  • Pet owners were more likely to have asthma than non-owners, though this survey couldn’t say whether the pets caused the asthma, the people already had it or there was another factor at play.
  • Dog owners were slightly more likely to have a higher BMI.

Besides that, the study found no other remarkable differences in health between pet and non-pet owners after it controlled for socio-demographic factors. “Some of the health differences observed between pet owners and non owners could be over- or underestimated due to differences in socio-demographic variables such as age, race, gender, employment, income, and housing, and not necessarily (or solely) differences in pet ownership patterns,” the study says. For instance, because pet owners tend to have higher incomes — a factor that’s associated with better health — it might appear as though pets have a greater influence on health for those people than they actually do.

Thus, the study points out how difficult it is to determine a causal relationship between pets and health. And it suggests research that doesn’t adjust for other variables could draw erroneous conclusions.


This isn’t to say you won’t see any health benefits from having an animal in your life. As the study says, it’s hard to determine how much each variable contributes to health. So for one person, having a dog might increase their activity level and help them to lose weight. But another dog owner might keep living a sedentary lifestyle and not boost their health.

Still, research has found some promising signs of human-animal interactions, though the results are mixed. “Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure,” according to the National Institutes of Health. “Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.”

Plus, therapy animals work wonders for people with certain health conditions — though there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to this either. For instance, the National Institute of Health cites a study in which one group of teens with diabetes was given a fish to care for, and another group was not. All of the teens also had to keep track of their blood glucose levels. The researchers found the teens with fish were better about monitoring their blood glucose, which suggested that pet ownership helped them to become more disciplined. But there could have been many other factors at play, as well.

The bottom line is having a pet is what you make of it. And our bonds with our animals are highly subjective — the strength and benefits of which likely can’t be truly measured in any study. So if you feel your life is more fulfilling with an animal, there are plenty out there who need homes.

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: The King Worships at the Shrine of Ishtar (Part 21): Assyrian

[1]The richest and the poorest here must stay,
Each proud or humble maid must take her way;
To Ishtar’s temple grand, a lofty shrine,
With youth and beauty seek her aid divine.
Some drive in covered chariots of gold,

With courtly trains come to the temple old.
With ribbons on their brows all take their seats,
The richer maid of nobles, princes, waits
Within grand chambers for the nobler maids;
The rest all sit within the shrine’s arcades.
Thus fill the temple with sweet beauties, crones;
The latest maids are the most timid ones.

In rows the maidens sat along the halls
And vestibules, on couches, where the walls
Were carved with mystic signs of Ishtar’s feast;
Till at the inner shrine the carvings ceased.
Amid the crowd long silken cords were strung
To mark the paths, and to the pillows clung.

The King through the great crowd now pressed his way
Toward the inner shrine, where he may pray.
The jewelled maidens on the cushioned seats,
Now babbling hailed the King, and each entreats
For sacred service, silver or of gold,
And to him, all, their sweetest charms unfold.

Some lovely were, in tears besought and cried,
And many would a blooming bride provide;
While others were deformed and homely, old,
As spinsters still remained, till now grown bold,
They raised their bony arms aloft and bawled.

Some hideous were with harshest voices squalled,
And hags like “dal-khi” from the Under-World,
Their curses deep, growled forth from where they curled.
But these were few and silent soon became,
And hid their ugliness away in shame.
For years some maids had waited day and night,
But beauty hides the ugly ones from sight.

The King astounded, eyed them seated round;
Beneath their gaze his eyes fell to the ground.
“And hath great Accad lost so many sons,
And left so many maids unmarried ones?”
He eyed the image where the goddess stood
Upon a pedestal of cedar wood
O’erlaid with gold and pearls and “uk-ni” stones,
And near it stands the altar with its cones
Of gold adorned with gems and solid pearls,–
And from the golden censer incense curls.

Beside the altar stands a table grand
Of solid metal carved with skilful hand;
Upon it stands a mass of golden ware,
With wines and fruits which pious hands prepare.

The walls are glistening with gold and gems,
The priestesses all wear rich diadems.
The Sar now eyes the maidens, while they gaze;
Thus they expectant wait, while he surveys.
And see! he takes from them a charming girl
With Ishtar’s eyes and perfect form, the pearl
Of beauty of them all; turns to the shrine,
When in her lap he drops a golden coin,
And says, “The goddess Ishtar, prosper thee!”[2]
She springs, for she from Ishtar’s halls is free,
And kneels and weeps before the monarch’s feet,
“O great and mighty Sar I thee entreat,
My will is thine, but all my sisters free:
Behold my sisters here imploring thee!”
The King gazed at the beauteous pleading face,
Which roused within his breast the noble race
Before her heavenly charms transfixed he stood.
Before her heavenly charms transfixed he stood.

“‘Tis well! my daughter, I the favor grant!”
And to the priestess said, “Let here be sent
Great coffers filled with gold! for I release
These maids. Let all their weary waiting cease,
The price I’ll send by messengers to thee.”
And all rejoicing sing a psalmody.

A ring of maidens round the image forms;
With flashing eyes they sing, with waving arms,
A wilderness of snowy arms and feet,
To song and dance the holy measure beat;
A mass of waving ringlets, sparkling eyes.
In wildest transport round each maiden flies,
The measure keeps to sacred psalmody,
With music ravishing,–sweet melody.
The priestess leads for them the holy hymn,
Thus sing they, measure keep with body, limb:

[3]”Let length of days, long lasting years,
With sword of power, extend his holy life!
With years extended full of glory, shine,
Pre-eminent above all kings in strife.
Oh, clothe our king, our lord, with strength divine,
Who with such gifts to gods appears!

“Let his great empire’s limits be,
Now vast and wide, enlarged, and may he reign
(Till it shall spread before his eyes complete)
Supreme above all kings! May he attain
To silver hairs, old age, and nations greet
Our sovereign in his royalty!

“When gifts are ended of Life’s days,
The feasts of the Land of the Silver Sky,
With bliss, the Blest Abode Refulgent Courts,
May he enjoy through all eternity,
Where Light of Happy Fields with joy transports
And dwell in life eternal, holy there
In presence of the gods with sacred cheer,
With Assur’s gods walk blessed ways!”

When they have ended all their joyful song,
They gratefully around their monarch throng;
And kneeling at his feet, they bathe his hands
With tears of joy, and kiss the ‘broidered bands
Of his bright robes, then joyous haste away;
And Erech’s shame was ended on that day.

And now the Sar as his libation pours
The sparkling sacred wine before the doors
That lead to Ishtar’s glorious inner shrine.
He bows before her golden form divine,
Thus prays:

[4]”In thy fair shrine I bow to thee,
O Light of Heaven! bright thy majesty
As glowing flames upon the world doth dawn,
Bright goddess of the earth, thy fixed abode!
Who dawned upon the earth a glorious god!
With thee prosperity hath ever gone.
To gild the towers of cities of mankind!
Thou warrior’s god, who rideth on the wind!
As a hyena fierce thou sendest war,

And as a lion comes thy raging car.
Each day thou rulest from thy canopy
That spreads above in glory,–shines for thee;
O come, exalted goddess of the Sun!”

[5]Against the tyrant King I go to war,
Attend mine arms, O Queen! with radiant car
Of battles! ride upon the giant King
With thy bright, fiery chargers! valor bring
To me at rising of the glistening car
Of Samas, send attendants fierce of war!
But goddess Mam-nutu of Fate and Death;
Oh, keep away from me her blasting breath;
Let Samas fix the hour with favor thine,
And o’er mine unknown path, Oh ride divine!
Thy servant strengthen with thy godly power
That he invincible in war may tower,
Against thy chosen city’s greatest foe,
Who brought on Erech all her deepest woe.”
And from the inner shrine with curtains hung,
The Oracle of Ishtar sweetly sung:

“O King of vast unnumbered countries, hear!
Thine enemy Khum-baba do not fear,
My hands will waft the winds for thee.
Thus I reveal!
Khum-baba falls! thine enemy!
Nor aught conceal.

“The harvest month[6] propitious shines,
Array great Accad’s battle lines!
Before thy feet thy Queen descends,
Before thy will thine Ishtar bends,
To fight thine enemy,
To war I go with thee!
My word is spoken, thou hast heard,
For thee, my favor thou hast stirred.
As I am Ishtar of mine Or divine,
Thine enemy shall fall! Be glory thine!

“Before mine Izdubar I go,
And at thy side direct thy blow.
I go with thee, fear not, my King,
For every doubt and fear, I bring
Relief, to thy heart rest!
Of Sars, I love thee best!”

[Footnote 1: The account given by Herodotus of the worship of Beltis or Ishtar, if true (see Herodotus, i. 199), was one of the darkest features of Babylonian religion. It is probable that the first intention was only to represent love as heaven-born, and that it afterward became sensual in the time of Herodotus. (See Sayce’s edition Smith’s “C.A. of Gen.,” p. 50.) The presence of the women may have been intended at first to present an innocent attraction. See also Rawlinson’s “Ancient Monarchies,” vol. iii. p. 21.]—[Footnote 2: See Herodotus, vol. i. p. 199. Ishtar was called Mylitta or Beltis in the time of Herodotus. We have taken the above description from Herodotus, whose work is mostly confirmed by the cuneiform inscriptions.]—[Footnote 3: The above psalm is found in vol. iii. of Rawlinson’s “British Museum Inscriptions,” pl. 66, and was translated by H.F. Talbot, F.R.S., in vol. i. of the “Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology,” p. 108, and also by M. Lenormant in his “Premieres Civilizations,” p. 177. We have used Mr. Talbot’s transcription.]—[Footnote 4: See terra-cotta tablet numbered “S. 954” in the British Museum; also translation by Rev. A.H. Sayce, M.A., in the “Records of the Past,” vol. v. p. 157.]—[Footnote 5: See fragment in Sayce’s edition Smith’s “Chald. Acc. Of Gen.,” p. 220, col. iii.]—[Footnote 6: The harvest month was the month of Sivan, which is mentioned by the Oracle of Ishtar of Arbela. See “Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia,” vol. iv. pl. 68; also “Records of the Past,” vol. xi. pp. 61-62.]

SOURCE: Babylonian and Assyrian Literature (1901): Translated by Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A.

Moon Phase Calendar for Sunday, December 16th

Moon Phase Calendar

Sunday – 16th December 2018


Current Moon Phase: Waxing Gibbous

Moon Currently in the Sign of Aries

Moon in Aries:

The feeling of uncertainty can make you solve problems faster then is natural. Do not rush as if there was a deadline. Try to slow down so that you can decide what you want to do and proceed at your own comfortable pace.

Organs influenced by Aries Moon Sign:

Organs: Head, teeth, tongue, striated muscles, penis, gall bladder, arteries, blood.

These organs are now more sensitive so provide them with extra care.

Surgical operations:

Surgical operations are not recommended during the Waxing Moon.



By Randy Miller
Since 1793, when the Almanac began tracking heavenly events and seasonal changes, the Moon has been full on the winter solstice just ten times in the Northern Hemisphere. So when will this phenomenon next occur? And how rare is it?


You may be hearing buzz this year about the full Moon and winter solstice syncing up. Although December’s full Moon—the Full Cold Moon—will be visible on the night of the winter solstice (Friday, December 21), the full Moon officially reaches its peak the next day, December 22, at 12:49 p.m. Eastern Time.

That being said, to the average backyard stargazer, the Moon will be full enough to provide a wonderful show on the 21st, so do keep an eye on the sky that night! If the solstice night is calm and cloudless, with the full Moon beaming down on a blanket of snow, it will be irresistibly attractive, and electrical illumination—even your car’s headlights—may seem unnecessary.


The rarity of a solstitial full Moon—the average interval is about 19 years—reinforces the Moon’s role as a beacon playing on human history. Although our research could not find a correlation between these lunar events and significant historical happenings on similar dates in the past, the combination of astronomical forces certainly affect the tides.

As astronomer Bob Berman explains, during this time of proxigean tides [unusually high tides due to the Moon’s phase and proximity to Earth], coastal flooding could occur if there is one more little extra effect, such as a storm at sea, on-shore winds, or low barometric pressure.


The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Napoleonic Wars: After Brienne January 1814

At Brienne Napoleon paused. He had failed in his attempt to score a dramatic success while his foe was still dispersed. But the strategic situation had begun to crystallize. In the centre, in eastern France, Napoleon with about 80,000 men confronted the Allied Grand Army, the latter was about 200,000 strong and its commanders were intent on marching on Paris. In the South of France Wellington, the ‘sepoy general’ as Napoleon contemptuously dubbed him, must eventually overwhelm Soult, unless by diplomacy Spain could be weaned from the alliance, but wellington distrusted his Continental allies and was unlikely to make any damaging stroke: he could be discounted for the present. In the north the situation was radically different. Here Bernadotte, the renegade Marshal of the empire and present Crown Prince of Sweden, commanded. Although he personally was less than lukewarm about fighting his old chief, large numbers of his troops could undoubtedly soon be free invade France. At Lyon Augereau was organizing an army but only extremely slowly: the powerfully built former Parisian street urchin showed few signs of recapturing the brilliant qualities that he had displayed long ago at Castiglione.

The elements of the situation stood out with stark simplicity. With 80,000 men Napoleon had to defeat an allied army of 200,000 and drive it across the Rhine in some two or three weeks, before fresh armies from the north made his position still more untenable. Perhaps even Napoleon himself did not comprehend the full magnitude of his task. The great commanders of the past on occasion had to face similar odds, but almost invariably their armies in every aspect of training and equipment were vastly superior to those of their enemies. Except for the incomparable Old Guard and some battalions of the New (Guard), the well seasoned troops of the Allied were superior to Napoleon’s conscripts both in equipment and experience. That in such circumstances he contemplated continuing the war may seem incredible.

However, besides his genius and his ability to inspire his men to accomplish the almost impossible, Napoleon had certain physical factors in his favor, which he had every intention of exploiting. The large armies he had compelled Europe to raise were now organized in army corps of all arms. The strength of any army corps could fluctuate widely and its composition was far from standard. A French corps might total about 15,000 men and on the line of march extend for approximately seven mile along a road. In battle it normally occupy a front of about a mile and a half or even less. At rest, if there was a danger of attack, it had to be concentrated ready for action. Moving a corps might be likened uncoiling and pulling an immensely long rope through a system of pulleys to coil it neatly again at the far end. A rope, of course, would have a constant thickness, whereas the thickness of corps during a move would vary according to the width of the width and structure of the roads and the number available. If a corps moved on a single road the last unit might get into camp perhaps two and a half hours after the first arrived; this delay would be increased if any defile like a bridge narrowed the width of the column and consequently elongated it.

Near the presence of the enemy it was vital that the last unit should arrive at the camping site well before daylight ended. Regiments had to know where to bivouac for the night, identify their next door neighbours, detail outposts and alarm posts. Food might have to be issued and ammunition replenished. Men would have to be given time to collect firewood and cook their soup. Failure to meet these requirements over any length of time would mean that the regiments faded away from sickness. The short winter days severely restricted the distances the Allied armies could cover. Moreover their generals, looking nervously over their shoulders and wondering what Napoleon had in store for them, trod with great caution. Napoleon, on the other hand, by almost always seizing the initiative, could generally chose where and when the battle would be fought and was not so bound by the hours of daylight.

The difficulties experienced by a single corps moving down a road were more than doubled if two tried to use it. A long column inevitably tended to ‘concertina’; while the head moved at a steady sedate pace the tail would be either standing still or running at top speed. In a very long column this characteristic could add enormously to the fatigue of the men marching in the rear. For this reason it was customary to leave an interval of half a day’s march, about eight miles, between the head of the second corps and the tail of the first. Winter, therefore vastly increased the difficulties of the invaders. The wet soggy ground made movement off the roads slow and fatiguing for the infantry and cavalry and virtually impossible for the guns and transports.

In the province of Champagne the rivers averaged about 50 yards in width and were deep; in the icy conditions the rare fords were scarcely usable, any marching column of troops would have to cross a river by bridge which would act as a funnel, compressing and extending it. In addition the Allied sovereigns repeatedly impressed on their generals that they were not fighting the French but only Napoleon, that a national uprising might imperil the whole enterprise and that on no account should the soldiers be allowed to plunder and antagonize the local population. A carefully organized system of supply was essential; but the problems of bringing forward supplies long distances in vehicles that moved little faster than the marching troops were considerable, and the need to protect then en route could drain away the strength of field armies.

Napoleon was singularly well qualified to turn these difficulties to his own advantage. He moved and struck so fast that a corps moving apparently within easy reach of its neighbour might be crushed before help could arrive. His phenomenal speed arose not solely from the marching powers of his soldiers, great though these were, it arose in the first place from the rapidity with which he thought and acted. Not for him the lengthy analysis of the situation by some earnest staff officer; he needed no one to tell him what to do. He would take time to deliberate over the form that his campaign might take and what he might be required to do, but, once he had that established in his mind, on the battlefield itself a quick glance or so, a few brief orders given with absolute authority, and matters would be in train. His marshals, inured to the vicissitudes of war, might lack inspiration, but they were superb technicians, master craftsmen of their trade. They translated their Emperor’s orders swiftly and undeviatingly into action and the whole army moved into battle with a speed and a smoothness that the Allied armies, seasoned and experienced though they were, cold not hope to match; and the sight of the bearskins of the Guard revealing the presents of Napoleon himself generated a feeling of awe almost as of the supernatural.

Slowly they marched to the hamlet of La Rothiére.

SOURCE: NAPOLEON: The Last Campaigns 1813-15; By James Lawford

Napoleonic Wars: Battle of La Rothière 1 February 1814




By The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Winter officially begins with the Winter Solstice on Friday, December 21, 2018. This is the astronomical first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Enjoy our winter solstice facts, folklore, FAQs, and more!


The winter solstice is the day with the fewest hours of sunlight in the whole year. In the Northern Hemisphere, it always occurs around December 21 or 22. (In the Southern Hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs around June 20 or 21.)

In 2018, the winter solstice arrives on Friday, December 21, at 5:23 pm EST.

Coincidentally, December’s full Moon—the Full Cold Moon—will also appear on the night of the 21st, though it will not be at its absolute peak until the next day. So, keep your eyes peeled for a (near) Winter Solstice Full Moon that night! (Believe it or not, the next full Moon to actually peak on the winter solstice won’t be until 2094!)


Year Winter Solstice (Northern Hemisphere)
2018 Friday, December 21
2019 Saturday, December 21
2020 Monday, December 21


The word solstice comes from Latin sol “sun” and sistere “to stand still.” In the Northern Hemisphere, as summer advances to winter, the points on the horizon where the Sun rises and sets advance southward each day; the high point in the Sun’s daily path across the sky, which occurs at local noon, also moves southward each day.

At the winter solstice, the Sun’s path has reached its southernmost position. The next day, the path will advance northward. However, a few days before and after the winter solstice, the change is so slight that the Sun’s path seems to stay the same, or stand still. The Sun is directly overhead at “high-noon” on Winter Solstice at the latitude called the Tropic of Capricorn.


Question: Why is there such a time lag between the shortest day of the year (shortest amount of daylight hours) and the lowest average daily temperature of the year?

Answer: The day of the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, meaning the one in which we experience the least amount of daylight in 24 hours; it is also the time when the Sun reaches its southernmost point in the sky. Although this part of Earth is cooling, its great thermal mass still retains some heat from the summer and fall.

As the gradual cooling process continues over the next two months, temperatures will continue to fall, and the coldest temperatures will be recorded. The same pattern holds true for the summer solstice in June, as the year’s highest temperatures are recorded later, in July and August (in the Northern Hemisphere).

Question: Was Stonehenge built to celebrate the winter solstice?

Answer: That’s one theory. Stonehenge was constructed in several phases over a period of many centuries. Due to the alignment of the stones, experts acknowledge that the design appears to correspond with the use of the solstices and possibly other solar and lunar astronomical events in some fashion.

There are several theories as to why the structure was built, including that the area was used as a temple to worship the Sun; as a royal burial ground; and/or as a type of astronomical observatory. However, because none of these theories has been proven correct as yet, the true reason (or reasons) for Stonehenge’s existence remains a mystery.

Question: Is the solstice the start of winter or the mid-point of winter?

Answer: There is not a black-and-white answer—it depends. We follow what the astronomical calendar tells us. The solstice is the beginning of astronomical winter. (An almanac is defined as a “calendar of the heavens,” so we use the astronomical definition as well.) Astronomical seasons are based on the position of the Earth in relation to the Sun. However, meteorological seasons are based on the annual temperature cycle.

It is important for meteorologists to be able to compare climatological statistics for a particular season from one year to the next for agriculture, commerce, and a variety of other purposes. Thus, meteorologists break the seasons down into groupings of three months. Winter includes December, January, and February.

Did you know? For the ancient Celts, the calendar was based around the solstices and equinoxes, marking the Quarter Days, with the mid-points called Cross-Quarter Days.


  • Deep snow in winter; tall grain in summer. —Estonian proverb
  • Visits should be short, like a winter’s day.
  • A fair day in winter is the mother of a storm. —English proverb
  • Summer comes with a bound; winter comes yawning.
  • Onion skins very thin, mild winter coming in. 


Winter inspires both joy and woe. Some people can’t wait for the cooler weather, snow, skiing and ice skating, curling up by a fire, and the holiday spirit. You’ll notice a peaceful sort of silence when you walk through the woods—a muffled kind of quiet.

Other people dislike the frigid temperatures, blizzards, and wild weather. In colder regions, winter often means shoveling, snowblowing, dealing with bad roads, and sometimes unbearable temperatures. In warmer regions, the winter temperatures become very mild or cool, and places such as Florida fill up with people escaping the harshness of a northern winter.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac



By Catherine Boeckmann
Today’s rich mosaic of Christmas customs dates back through the ages. Burning the Yule log started well before medieval times as part of a winter solstice celebration. Today, many of us know the Yule log only as a yummy chocolate dessert! Learn more about this custom.

“Yule” was the name of the old winter solstice festivals in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe.

The word “Yuletide” originated from the word “Yule,” which was recorded in Latin writings as early as A.D. 726.

  • At that time, one form of the world “Yule” was guili, which referred to a midwinter period (December and January) in the Roman calendar.
  • The Old Norse term jól referred to a 12-day pagan festival feast celebrated around midwinter.
  • Later, Christians transformed the festival into a celebration of the birth of Christ.

Yule was the darkest time of year; people celebrated because the days would start getting longer after the solstice. The Yule log was symbolic of the Sun’s emergence from its southern reaches and the land’s rebirth.

As Christianity began to spread in the 4th century, the Christmas feast day was set on December 25 by Pope Julius I to align with the Roman pagan holiday Dies natalis solis invicti, “the birthday of the invincible Sun.”


The candles and lights associated with Christmas, meant to symbolize guiding beacons for the Christ child, may have evolved from the Yule og, which was lit to entice the Sun to return as part of the jol (Yule) festival in pagan Scandinavia.

Interestingly, the Yule log was originally an entire tree! Families would bring the trunk of the Christmas tree inside and stick the big end of it into the fireplace! The Yule log would feed the fire through the 12 Days of Christmas (from Christmas Day through the evening of the 5th of January, Twelfth Night). The ashes of Yule logs were said to be very good for plants. Wood ashes do indeed have beneficial uses in the garden!

Isn’t it interesting to learn about the many Christmas customs (the fire, Santa coming down the chimney, Christmas tree, etc.) that make up the rich tapestry of Christmastime?


Today, a Yule log is still a Christmas tradition in some cultures; a large log is traditionally burned in the fireplace on Christmas Eve. For others cultures, the Yule log is defined as a log-shape chocolate cake eaten on Christmas!

  • If you are in the woodlot, plan to cut some of that white birch into Yule logs for your friends. They can be used in fireplaces or as decor. Tied with red ribbon, such logs make ideal Christmas gifts!
  • The Yule log also makes a great centerpiece for either tapers or tea lights (as shown in the photo at the top of this article). You could also use the purple and pink Advent candles. Our town’s Boy Scout troop drilled holes in birch logs to create special candle holders for Scout ceremonies.
  • Make an edible Yule log! Here’s our dessert recipe for a light bûche de Noël! It’s a Christmas favorite, adding a festive flair to any holiday table.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac 

Holidays Around the World: Posadas December 16-24


December 16-24
This nine-day Christmas celebration in Mexico commemorates the journey Mary and Joseph (the parents of Jesus) took from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Reenacting the couple’s search for shelter ( posada in Spanish) in which the infant Jesus might be born, a group of “pilgrims” will knock on someone’s door and ask the owner to let them in. Although they may initially be refused, the master of the house finally invites them to enter, and the Posadas party begins. The children are blindfolded and given a chance to break the piñata (a clay or papier-mâchÉ animal that hangs from the ceiling and is filled with candy and toys) by swinging at it with a stick. The posadas are repeated for nine evenings, the last occurring on Christmas Eve.
The Misa de Gallo, or Mass of the Cock (so-called because it’s held so early in the day), ends after midnight, and then there are fireworks and, in some towns, a special parade with floats and tableaux vivants representing biblical scenes.
In small Mexican villages, there is often a procession led by two children bearing images of Joseph and Mary riding a burro. The adult members of the group carry lighted tapers and sing the Litany of the Virgin as they approach each house. There is also a famous Posadas celebration on Olvera Street in Los Angeles.
Mexico Tourism Board
21 E. 63rd St., Fl. 3
New York, NY 10021
800-446-3942 or 212-821-0314; fax: 212-821-0367
Olvera Street
El Pueblo De Los Angeles Historic Park
845 N. Alameda St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
BkFest-1937, p. 232
BkFestHolWrld-1970, pp. 137, 155
BkHolWrld-1986, Dec 16
EncyChristmas-2003, p. 624
FolkAmerHol-1999, p. 496
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 743
RelHolCal-2004, p. 85