War and the Muses - The "Dragoon Vases" and the "Porcelain Dragoons"
Frederick Augustus (1670-1733), was an important force in
the political and cultural life of Central Europe
for decades, as Elector of Saxony (1694-1733) and King and Grand Duke of
Poland- Lithuania (1697-1706 & 1709-1733).
Perhaps most famous for siring over 250 children, only one of whom was
legitimate, which, along with his imposing physical presence (he was quite tall
for his times, over 5’9”, and weighed in at over 200 pounds), earned him the
nickname “the Strong,” he also managed to win considerable distinction as a
patron of the arts, adorning both his capitals, Dresden and Warsaw, with
palaces, churches, gardens, orchestras, and art collections. Frederick Augustus was particularly fond of
fine Chinese porcelain, which European connoisseurs had recently discovered and
were buying up in enormous amounts, and he would ultimately collect over 20,000
In 1717, Frederick Augustus learned that King Frederick
William I of Prussia
(r. 1713-1740) had some particularly fine pieces in his own collection. So he offered to buy them from his royal
cousin. Alas, Frederick William would
not part with them, even when Frederick Augustus upped the price a couple of
So Frederick Augustus took another tack. Knowing that Frederick William doted on his
army, the wily Saxon made the Prussian an attractive offer; if Frederick
William gave the 48 very fine pieces in question to Frederick Augustus, the latter
would transfer the entire enlisted complement of a regiment of dragoons to the
Prussian Army, 600 trained troopers, valued at 12,000 thalers. The deal was made, and thus Frederick William
acquired the cadre for a new regiment, the 6th Dragoons.
The Prussian 6th Dragoons, promptly nicknamed “Die Porzellan-Dragoner -- The Porcelain
Dragoons,” served for many years in garrison at Konigsberg, and fought with
some distinction during the campaigns of Frederick William’s son, Frederick the
Great, in the Seven Years’ War, most notably at Zorndorf (August 25, 1758),
where they were nearly wiped out. During
the disastrous campaigns against Napoleon in 1806-1807, under Frederick’s not-so-great successors, the
regiment fought at Eylau (February 7-8, 1807) which led to the virtual dissolution
of the Prussian Army. The peace that followed
caused the regiment to be broken up, with elements distributed among the
regiments of the rump army that Napoleon allowed Prussia to retain.
Five years later, with the revival of Prussia in the German “War
of Liberation” (1813-1814), the surviving fragments of the 6th Dragoons
provided cadres for several new regiments, which would eventually become the
1st Dragoons, and the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th Cuirassiers of the new Prussian Army,
of which the 3rd “East Prussian” Cuirassiers was dubbed the “Porcelain
Dragoons.” These regiments would serve
in all of Prussia’s
subsequent wars, until disbanded at the end of World War I, but .
As for the 48 porcelains, which of course have earned the
nickname “Dragonervasen -- The Dragoon Vases,” despite the vicissitudes of
nearly three centuries of wars and revolutions, they’re still on display, in
the Kunstsammlaung in
Profile - The Massie Affair
In February and
March of 1932 the U.S. Fleet engaged in extensive joint maneuvers with the Army
in the Hawaiian Islands and then undertook
Fleet Problem XIII. Normally during cruises
to Hawaii in
connection with maneuvers, the men of the fleet would be given liberty. But this time very few men, officers or
enlisted, made it ashore to enjoy the attractions of the tropical
paradise. This was because of heightened
racial tensions in Hawaii
as a result of the “Massie Affair,” one of the most widely reported racial
incidents of the early 1930s, about which the New York Times alone ran
some 200 stories.
At about 1:00 am on the morning of
September 13, 1931, the badly beaten Mrs. Thalia Fortescue Massie was found by a passing motorist wandering
along a road in Honolulu. Her husband,
Navy Lt., j.g., Thomas Massie was summoned, and Thalia reported that after
leaving a party at a Waikiki nightclub the previous evening, she had been
abducted and raped by several Asian and Hawaiian men.
Given her broken
jaw and numerous bruises, the police accepted Thalia Massie’s story. Five men “fitting the description” who had
been arrested in connection with an altercation over a traffic incident during
which a woman of Hawaiian-Asian background was struck in the face, were
promptly charged with the crime.
The five were
brought to trial on November 16th.
The men were represented by some of the best attorneys in Hawaii, and these soon
proved up to their reputations. The
defense pointed out numerous holes in Thalia Massie’s story.
produced evidence that the Massie’s marriage was not a happy one. Thalia, born to wealth and privilege, had
married Thomas Massie when she was 16, shortly after he graduated from Annapolis in 1927. She soon found the Navy boring, despising
life of a Navy wife and looking down upon her peers. There was evidence of extra-marital affairs
and liquor-fueled public rows with her husband.
During the party in Waikiki on September 12th Thalia had been seen
having a heated exchange with another officer, which culminated in her slapping
his face and storming out of the nightclub.
who examined Mrs. Massie could find no physical evidence of rape. In addition, despite her claim that she had
been dragged along the ground, there were no scuff marks on her shoes nor was
her clothing torn or soiled. On top of
that, the men had all been subject to a medical examination upon their arrest,
and none showed evidence of recent sexual activity. Then there was the problem of the timing, for
the five men had an ironclad alibi; at the moment that Thalia Massie claimed
the rape had taken place the five were involved in the auto accident that led
to their initial arrest.
On December 6th
the jury, an interracial panel, informed the judge that after nearly 100 hours
of deliberations, they could not reach a verdict. The judge declared a mistrial, and the
accused were released on bond pending further proceedings.
“white” opinion in Hawaii,
and indeed across the nation, fueled by racist newspapers, political leaders,
and even Rear-Adm. Stirling Yates, commanding the 14th Naval
District, a man with Southern roots, who publicly called for the men to be
lynched. Within days of the verdict, a
gang of sailors beat one of the accused, leaving him permanently injured. Worse was to come, despite police attempts to
protect the accused.
On January 8, 1932, Lt. Massie,
his mother-in-law Grace Hubbard Fortescue, and two sailors whom Massie
recruited from his ship, abducted one of the accused, Joseph Kahahawai, a
native Hawaiian, from the steps of the courthouse in broad daylight. Attempting to beat Kahahawai into confessing,
they threatened him with a gun, which went off, killing him. Apprehended by an alert police officer while
trying to dispose of Kahahawai’s body, Massie and the others were promptly
arrested. Although the white community,
and senior Navy personnel, praised the murderers, the Honolulu prosecutor’s office placed them on
The trial opened
on April 4, with the celebrated Clarence Darrow representing the accused. Despite Darrow’s eloquence, and a tearful
performance by Thalia Massie, on April 29th Massie, his
mother-in-law, and their two accomplices were convicted of manslaughter by a
mixed race jury. They were shortly
sentenced to ten years imprisonment.
Outraged at this offense against white power, Territorial Governor
Lawrence Judd reduced the sentence to an hour’s confinement in his office. This naturally infuriated Hawaii’s non-white population.
Thus, since the
fleet maneuvers took place at their height of racial tensions in the islands,
senior naval personnel decided that giving thousands of white sailors liberty
would result in race riots.
No second trial
of the surviving accused men was ever held.
Lt. Massie later left the Navy, and the couple returned to the Mainland,
where they eventually divorced. Years
later, Thelma Massie committed suicide.
Affair affected race relations in Hawaii
for decades – in his memoirs, written years after the incident, Yates Stirling
still defended the murderers -- and
continuing white suspicions of Asians played an important part in the disaster
of December 7, 1941.
What Really Happened? Thelma Massie is known to have had
several affairs, among them with the officer whom she slapped at the nightclub,
apparently seeking to end the affair.
Some historians believe he followed her out of the club and beat
her. Some other students of the matter
believe she may have had a casual pickup with someone, and the things turned