When John Wolfram joined the US Navy in 1967, he didn’t imagine he would become the first frogman in the water to rescue the Apollo 11 astronauts after the moon landing.

John tells us about the Apollo 11 rescue, serving in Vietnam, and his incredible life.

John Wolfram on top of Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia

Read more about John Wolfram’s life and ministry at www.johnwolfram.com

For over 200 years, the US military has subordinated itself to civilian authority. But in 1783, that authority was challenged. This is the story of how George Washington restored that civilian rule and saved the young republic.

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Scott Rank visits to discuss his podcast Presidential Fight Club, which seeks to answer the question “If all of the presidents fought each other one-on-one, who would win?”

Scott Michael Rank, Ph.D., is the editor of History on the Net and host of the History Unplugged podcast. A historian of the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey, he is a publisher of popular history, a podcaster, and online course creator.

Interview with General Michael Hayden, former Director of the NSA and CIA, on the dilemmas the Bush Administration faced in the War on Terror.

The Spanish-American War is at hand and America faces even more temptations towards imperialism in the Philippine-American War.

Should republics build empires? William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and the path to the Spanish–American War.

In our last episode, we discussed President Polk’s unlikely rise to the White House and his success in annexing Texas and settling the Oregon territory. But by late April 1846, he was leading his nation to war with its southern neighbor, Mexico. As a former dark horse candidate with no military experience, many wondered whether Polk had what it took to win the war. And even more questioned whether Polk’s war was a just war. At stake were his presidency and the future of his country. The story of that war and its legacy for our nation is the subject of this episode of This American President, The Great American Conqueror Part II.

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Daguerreotype of Polk attributed to Mathew Brady, 1849.

In this episode we continue the theme of expansion in early America, telling the story of the Mexican-American War and the president who, though largely forgotten and little understood, remains a giant in the annals of American history.

 

 

 

 

Mexico in 1824. Alta California is the northwestern-most federal territory.

History often seems inevitable. When we look back at a historical event, we usually look at it with the outcomes or the results in mind. For example, when we think of World War II, we know that it ended in 1945. We know that the Allies won. Our entire view of that war is framed by those two facts. So when we study the year 1944, we know that the end is near, that within a year the war would be over, but that’s not how the people who lived at the time experienced it. They didn’t know that things would turn out that way until they did. They were no sure of the future than we are of our own future. Think about it: how sure are you about how things are going to turn out? How sure are you about who will win the next World Cup or next year’s Academy Awards? How sure are you about who will win the next presidential election or how the crisis in North Korea will turn out? Unless you’ve been given some sort of supernatural insight, you are probably like me and have no clue how things will turn out. You feel a sense of uncertainty about these things. That sense of uncertainty… that’s the same feeling every generation had about the times in which they lived. Rarely did anything seem inevitable. And someday, decades or centuries from now, people will probably look at our time the same way; they will view our time period with a sense of inevitability, with 20/20 hindsight. But when you view history that way, where you know the outcome of an event and you view it with that lens, you lose something. You lose the uncertainty… the contingency of the moment. You lose the perspective of the people alive at the time. You lose the element of risk—the stakes that underpinned every event and every decision.

I’ve always felt that American history is especially susceptible to this. In some ways, our country’s history seems inevitable. It’s like there’s a neat, linear progression to how our country came to be. America declared independence, fought a war, defeated the British, created a government, and elected a president. Then it rose to become a world power. Now that America is a fact of life and has become the most powerful nation in the world, it’s hard to conceive of anything differently. It’s hard to imagine the United States not following that straight path.

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