Three Mules


Remember, it is impossible to do justice to Hitler, Churchill, etc. in a few paragraphs. These articles are not intended in any way to be comprehensive. They barely scratch the surface of some of the most important figures and events in history, and only provide the barest minimum of background. Be sure to check the recommended reading list for more in-depth information.

That said, there are actually 9 mules in "Three Mules" ... three sets of three.


"Ramsey and Stanley and Neville
Were the names of the mules
Each wore a bridle encrusted with jewels
And though a murmur of voices
Was rising behind
Each laboured on
And they paid it no mind"


Ramsey MacDonald (1866 - 1937)

Ramsey McDonald was the founder of the British Labour Party and Great Britain's first Labour prime minister. He was party secretary in 1900, won a seat in Parliament in 1906, and was the Labour leader in the House of Commons from 1911 to 1914. He was opposed to Britain's participation in World War I, and lost his seat in Parliament in 1918.

In 1922 he returned to Parliament as Labour party leader. He became prime minister and foreign secretary of Britain's first Labour government in 1924. During the 9 months they were in power, his party improved unemployment benefits, and increased British participation in the League of Nations. His enthusiasm for reform waned, however, by the time of the 1926 general strike.

He remained prime minister until 1935, but his prestige and influence diminished and he became largely a figurehead and Stanley Baldwin assumed effective government leadership.


Stanley Baldwin (1867 - 1947)

Stanley Baldwin was prime minister of Great Britain three times between 1923 and 1937, firsts coming to Parliament as a Conservative in 1908.

In 1922 Baldwin helped persuade Conservatives to withdraw their support of David Lloyd George's government. He became chancellor of the exchequer and then found himself prime minister when Bonar Law had to resign in 1923.

The Conservatives lost the general election at the end of that year, but Baldwin returned to office in November 1924 and remained in power until 1929.

When the Labour government collapsed in 1931, he supported the coalition government of Ramsay MacDonald, succeeding him as prime minister in the summer of 1935. He retired in May 1937, and died on Dec. 14, 1947.

In retirement, Baldwin was criticized for underestimating the threat to peace posed by Nazi Germany. It should be noted, however, that he was not alone in this oversight.


Neville Chamberlain (1869 - 1940)

Elected to Parliament as a Conservative in 1918, he became chancellor of the exchequer and minister of health in 1923. His industry, foresight, and administrative skills were impressive, making him the natural successor to Stanley Baldwin as prime minister in 1937.

Chamberlain was handicapped by military weakness in his dealings with Germany, Italy, and Japan despite high levels of spending on armaments. He pursued a policy of appeasement with these foes, and met with Hitler several times during the Czechoslovakian crisis of 1938. He returned from the Munich Conference claiming to have secured "peace for our time." However, in September 1939 Chamberlain led a united nation into World War II.

In May 1940, Chamberlain stepped down as Winston Churchill took over as prime minister.

"Three mules looked over a fence
At the field beyond
Green as a forest it shone in the sun
Into the stillness they broke
Like a stone in a pond
And kicking the gate down
They brayed at the ground"

Tojo Hideki (1884 - 1948)

Born into a military family, Tojo Hideki graduated from the Imperial Military Academy and the Military Staff College. He was appointed military attache to the Japanese embassy in Germany in 1919. He distinguished himself as an administrator, field commander and disciplinarian; and by 1937 had advanced to chief of staff of the Kwantung in Manchuria. On October 16, 1941 he became premier, and served as minister of war.

Tojo wanted to consolidate Japanese power in Asia and throughout the Pacific. As leader of the Japanese war effort after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 he sought to establish a "New Order in Asia". Under his direction, massive early victories were won, but the Japanese forces were not able to maintain their gains in the face of the Allied counteroffensive. When the Mariana Islands were lost in 1944, Tojo was held responsible and forced to retire.

He was arrested as a war criminal after the Japanese surrender in 1945. He was tried before an international military tribunal after an unsuccessful suicide attempt. He was convicted of war crimes, and hung on December 23, 1948.


Adolph Hitler (1889 - 1945)

Hitler was born in 1889 at Braunau-am-Inn on the Bavarian border. His father, Alois, was illegitimate, and carried his mother's name (Schicklgruber) until he established his claim to the surname Hitler in 1876. Adolph never used any other name.

He saw inequality between races as part of the natural order, and claimed the "Ayrian race" was the sole creative element of mankind. The natural unit of mankind was the "volk", of which the German was the greatest ... and the state only existed to serve the "volk". All morality and truth were to be judged by this criterion.

Mass agitation and propaganda, set against a government struggling with internal and external affairs, strengthened the Nazi party's influence. By the 1930 elections, the party received 6 million votes, making it the second largest party in the country.

Hitler rose to power with the Nazi party, became dictator of Germany in 1933.

He assumed direction of the major strategies of the war right from the start. However, this resulted in many failures. Ariel bombing failed to result in the surrender of Britain he had hoped for. He was so confident his troops would be successful in their assault on Russia that he refused to provide them with winter clothing and equipment.

By the end of 1942 the fortunes of the Reich had changed. Early on, the successes Hitler imagined had been pretty much realized. But now, to preserve his fantasies, he isolated himself from reality. Directing operations from his headquarters,he refused to visit bombed cities or read reports of setbacks.

As the war continued, and Germany's position eroded, plots to remove Hitler from power arose. Several attempts were made in 1943-44. The most nearly successful of these was made on July 20, 1944 when Col. Graf Claus von Stauffenberg set off a bomb at a conference at Hitler's headquarters in East Prussia. Hitler escaped with minor injuries, and those implicated in the plot were executed.

When his planned offensive in the Ardennes failed, his hopes for victory began to revolve around the use of new weapons, the breakup of the alliance, and the death of Roosevelt. Instead of trying to save what he could from defeat, he ordered mass destruction of materials and refused to allow surrender.

From January 1945 on, Hitler never left the chancellery. On April 10, 1945 he committed suicide by shooting himself. Eva Braun, his long time companion who he married just days before, took poison. In accordance with Hitler's instructions, their bodies were burned.


Benito Mussolini (1883 - 1945)

Mussolini was the founder of Italian Fascism, and premier from 1922 to 1943, ruling as a dictator from 1925.

He became editor of the Milan Socialist party newspaper "Avanti!" in 1912. He opposed Italy's involvement in World War I at first, but reversed his position and called for Italy's entry on the side of the Allies. He was expelled from the Socialist party for this stance, so he founded his own newspaper in Milan, "Il popolo d'Italia".

He served in the army until he was wounded in 1917. On Mar. 23, 1919 he founded a revolutionary group called the Fasci di Combattimento. His Fascist movement developed into a "radicalism of the right," gaining the support from landowners, industrialists, and army officers. Blackshirt squads fought local civil wars against Socialists, Communists, Catholics, and Liberals.

Fascists marched on Rome on Oct. 28, 1922. In 1925-26, following the assassination of Socialist leader Giacomo Matteotti, Mussolini imposed a single-party, totalitarian dictatorship. His Corporative State came to terms with Italian capitalism but abolished free trade unions.

Mussolini then turned his attention to foreign policy, conquering Ethiopia in the early 1930s and supporting General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War. In 1939 he formed an alliance with Hitler's Germany, although he kept Italy out of World War II until June 1940 when Germany seemed to be winning the war.

After a series of military disasters in Greece and North Africa, the leaders of his party abandoned Mussolini. The king dismissed him on July 25, 1943, and had him arrested.The Germans rescued him on September 12, making him head of a government in northern Italy. In April 1945, Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, tried to flee advancing Allied forces, but they were captured and shot by Italian partisans on April 28. Their bodies were hung in a public square in Milan.

"Three mules came over a hill
With a sorrowful air
Though we've been judged, they said
It's hardly fair
All that we did was for you
And the good of the cause
Then they went off to the sound of applause"

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (1879 - 1953)

Stalin was born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili in Gori, Georgia, Transcaucasia. He attended the parish school in Gori, and entered the seminary of Tiflis in 1894. There he demonstrated himself to be an able student and ambitious leader. In 1898 he joined a Georgian socialist organization and came under the influence of Marxism. In 1899, just prior to graduation, he was expelled from the seminary because of his "disloyal" views.

He was arrested in 1902 and remained in prison until 1903. While in prison he was elected a member of the Social Democratic committee. He was deported to Siberia, escaped, and returned to Tiflis in 1904 shortly after the Social Democratic Party had split into bolsheviks and mensheviks. At this point he was under the influence of Lenin's writings, and in underground publications he translated Lenin's ideas into Georgian from the Russian.

He played no real part in the revolution of 1905, but advocated a policy of agrarian revolution identical to that adopted by the party in 1917.

Although Stalin did not play an important role in the 1917 revolution, he did lay groundwork behind the scenes. He was an editor of "Pravda", and helped organize Lenin's escape from Petrograd in July.

After the Bolshevik victory he was named comissar of the nationalities, a post he held for 5 years.

In April 1922 he moved to consolidate his power as Lenin's ill health became obvious. He was appointed secretary general of the party, and in this post soon gained control over the whole machinery of the party and the government.

In 1923 Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev joined forced to keep Trotski out of power. After the defeat of Trotski in 1925, Stalin openly broke from Zinoviev and Kamenev, and embraced Bukharin and his associates.

At the height of the drive to industrialize Russia, Stalin introduced the constitution of 1936. At this point he staged purge trials in which the old bolsheviks and military leaders were charged with treason, terrorism and espionage. They were brought to prisons to "confess" their guilt and were either exiled or executed.


Harry Truman (1884 - 1972)

Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States (1945-53), taking the office upon the death of Roosevelt on April 12, 1945. By that time, the plans for final conquest of Germany and Japan had already been laid.

On May 8, he announced the surrender of Germany.

In July, Truman authorized the use of the atomic bomb against Japan. After the bombing of Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9), Japan surrendered unconditionally on Aug. 14, 1945. Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

On September 3, 1939 Great Britain declared war on Germany. That same day Neville Chamberlain appointed Churchill first lord of the admiralty.

In May of 1940 he became prime minister. On May 13, he appeared before the house of commons and told it's members "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat". He proclaimed one aim "Victory - victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be."

Hitler and Germany were the enemy, any anyone who could share the burden of their defeat was an acceptable ally - even communists. When the USSR was attacked in June, 1941 he insisted that "the Russian danger is ... our danger", and offered the assistance of Britain.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 he hammered out an accord with Roosevelt pooling military and economic resources under a combined chiefs of staff. He also managed to arrange an agreement that the defeat of Germany was to take priority over the defeat of Japan.

Military successes did not guarantee political success, however. In 1945 Churchill was voted out of office. Dunkirk Dunkirk (Dunkerque in French) is located on the North Sea coast of France. It is 7 miles (11 km) from the Belgian border. Located on the eastern end of the Strait of Dover, the city is an fishing and industrial center. The city was essentially destroyed during World War II. It was the site of the massive evacuation of about 350,000 British, French, and Belgian soldiers by a fleet of military, commercial, and pleasure craft in the face of the German onslaught (May-June 1940). The city was occupied by the Germans until May 1945.


Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

British statesman and military hero, his career spanned both World Wars. He overcame a childhood stutter to become one of history's greatest orators.

Winston Churchill served as Britain's Prime Minister twice, including during World War II.

He won the Nobel prize for literature in 1953, and was awarded the Order of the Garter in that same year.



Pickett's Charge

George Edward Pickett (1825 - 1875) graduated from West Point in 1846, served in Mexico in 1848 and resigned from the US Army in 1861 to join the Confederacy.

A division commander at Gettysburg, on July 3, 1863, he led his troops as the spearhead of an attack on Cemetery Ridge that was designed to break through the center of the Union line. 15,000 Confederate troops attempted to cross 1400 yards of open field towards the ridge. When they were at a range of 700 yards the Federalist forces opened fire. The Confederate troops broke through, and penetrated the ridge, but could do no more. Weakened by artillery, formations tangled and lacking reinforcements they were forced to retreat. The desperate assault has been called the Confederacy's high-water mark. With the repulsed attack Pickett faded from prominence.