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World Association of International Studies

Post Blockades Lead to War
Created by John Eipper on 09/09/17 6:30 AM

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Blockades Lead to War (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 09/09/17 6:30 am)

David Fleischer, 8 September. talks about the possibility of a naval blockade of North Korea. In the past however, naval blockades or equivalent sanctions that have tried to strangle a nation have brought only war.

The naval blockade of Cuba was resolved because the USSR got what it wanted--the withdrawal of the missiles from Italy and Turkey, and a solemn promise that the US would not invade Cuba. (At that time the US kept its word, not like later with the expansion of NATO. Gorbachev stupidly trusted the US and did not insist on putting it in writing.)

Let's forget the blockade of oil to Japan in 1941 that brought Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

But I want to focus on the harassment of the Italian merchant fleet by France and especially the UK in 1939-'40.

Mussolini, in spite of the Pact of Steel of 22 May 1939, tried to reach peace up to the last moment, and had doubts about which side to join.

The Pact of Steel is rather controversial. Ciano handled it poorly for sure, but he gives one version while the infuriated Mussolini related another version to his daughter Edda. He even thought about firing Ciano. Most probably Ciano was tricked by Ribbentrop to sign something that Mussolini in reality did not want.

In April 1940 Mussolini said to Edda: "It seemed that there was a lessening of tensions with France and UK but their naval blockade is strangling us." See the two Pietromachi reports of 11 May and 8 June 1940. The latter is just a confirmation, but things were already in motion by that time.

The Italian Merchant Ships were not only stopped at sea to be checked if they were transporting forbidden merchandise.  They were also detained in port, stopped for many days and some of the cargo confiscated.

The ship 21 April was stopped and inspected at Aden, Suez, Port Said, and Gibraltar. Can you figure the huge economic damage?

The ship Laura C was stopped at Gibraltar for one month, as was Agata again at Gibraltar, Livenza, and others.

Much merchandise, even if it was not on the list of prohibited items, was unloaded and confiscated. Following the owners' protests, the British authorities sometimes permitted the clearance providing that all expenses by the UK for confiscation, port expenses including piloting, expenses for discharging, storage and reloading were fully paid!

Even dried grapes from Turkey were confiscated, while 200 bags of private mail from the US were confiscated from the liner Rex at Gibraltar. The actor David Niven was on board this ship.

When was was finally declared, the instructions were "Italy will maintain a purely demonstrative attitude. France and UK have informed that they will do the same. Our troops shall not open fire first." This was the first time in history in which a nation declares war with the order to its troops not to shoot.

But France and the UK soon started bombing the towns of the Riviera Ligure (14 June) and Torino (12 June); we were tricked.

JE comments:  In school we learned that the US went to war with Britain in 1812 because it interfered with US shipping.  Is the blockade an act of war in itself, or an excuse for going to war if you already want to?  Does the question matter?

In any case, the North Korean lifeline goes overland, from China.  Tim Brown (next) explains.

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  • Submarine B-59: A Close Call of the Cuban Missile Crisis (Tor Guimaraes, USA 09/10/17 4:37 PM)
    Everyone seems to agree that the Cuban Blockade worked out thanks to the last-minute personal negotiation between Bobby Kennedy and the Soviet government. It was pleasantly surprising how the two sides were able to trust each other's words.

    One obscure incident rarely mentioned by people discussing the topic is that there was a Soviet submarine with nuclear capability which had lost communication capability with headquarters, and was being hunted down by US surface ships. The captain of the submarine thought WWIII had started and was ready to launch nuclear warheads. The on-board political officer (obviously a dirty Communist no less) interjected with a clearer head and convinced the captain not to launch the missile and for sure WWIII.

    Now, that was scary.

    JE comments:  Here is Wikipedia on the B-59 incident.  The lone officer who refused to approve the nuclear torpedo launch, Vasili Arkhipov, may be the sole reason nuclear war was averted and our planet is still hanging in there, 55 years later.  A great unsung hero.  (Arkhipov was the sub-flotilla commander, not the political commissar.)  See the second link:



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