The Anglo-Irish ‘Treaty’ of 1921 and Pearl Harbor 1941, two anniversaries this weekend.

Monday, 8th December, is the anniversary of Fr Theobald Mathew’s death in Queenstown in 1856.  There are two other anniversaries to recall this weekend, one Irish and the other American.

Irish Treaty Delegates 1921

Irish delegation that negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty 1921. From left to right seated in front: Arthur Griffith, Edmund Duggan, Michael Collins, Robert Barton. From left to right standing at the back: Erskine Childers, George Gavin Duffy, John Chartres.

A little before 2.20 am in the early hours of December 6th 1921 articles of a treaty of peace were signed by a British delegation and an Irish delegation.  Arthur Griffith, one of the Irish delegates later put out a note to announce the signing of the treaty and to express the hope that the treaty marked the end of centuries of conflict between the two nations.  Before leaving the conference room in London, Michael Collins remarked that he believed that he had signed his death warrant, as indeed proved to be the case when this extraordinary man was shot in 1922.  But the treaty set in train events that led to the creation of the Irish Free State, a dominion of the British Empire, in 1922.  Sadly, the new state was crippled from birth by die hard republicans who rejected the treaty and sparked off a civil war.  The constitution of the new Irish Free State came into effect on December 6th 1922.

signature on Anglo-Irish treaty 1921

Signatures on the Irish copy of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 6th December 1921. The treaty was ratified by Dail Eireann in January, splitting the nationalist side and leading to civil war from July 1922. Two of the signatories were dead before 1922 ended – Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins.  Delegation secretary Erskine Childers was executed after a court martial in November 1922.  He opposed the Treaty and sided with the republicans during the Civil War. 

Shortly after dawn, exactly twenty years and a day later, on December 7th 1941, the Japanese navy attacked the US fleet at Pearl Harbor and damaged several airfields in Oahu.  At a US Senate hearing in the spring of 1940, Rear-Admiral Joseph K Taussig declared that war with Japan was inevitable and the US urgently needed to reinforce its Pacific Fleet and its forces in the Philippines.  This statement was contrary to official administration and US naval policy and it earned the Admiral a severe reprimand from a furious President Roosevelt (who effectively blocked any further prospect promotion for Taussig).  Taussig was forced to retire from the US Navy in September 1941.

One of the consequences of the attack on Pearl Harbor was that Ensign Joseph K Taussig Jr, the admiral’s son, was severely wounded (losing a leg) aboard the USS Nevada.  Admiral Taussig was eventually called back to active service at the Pentagon in 1943.  Readers will recall from a previous post, that Admiral Taussig had served in Queenstown during the First World War.

See previous post: The Queenstown Patrol – the US Navy in Cork Harbour in World War I.

This date that has lived in infamy (to paraphrase FDR) has been depicted in film several times.  Might I suggest that the film Tora Tora Tora be the one you might choose to view this weekend for historical accuracy?

Pearl-Harbor attack

The US Pacific Fleet suffered horrific damage and loss of life as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941. Fortunately, the aircraft carriers were at sea on exercise, so they escaped any damage.  Ensign Joseph K Taussig Jr was severely injured aboard the USS Nevada.



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