History Impossible
The Devil Soldier and His Ever Victorious Army (Approbation)

The Devil Soldier and His Ever Victorious Army (Approbation)

June 12, 2020

In the mid-19th century, as one country in the West was on its way toward the most famous civil war, another country in the East was in the grips of one far larger and more significant than any that had come before or would come afterward, if only in terms of numbers. By the end of this conflict, known as China's Taiping Rebellion, over 20 million people would lay dead, and China's relationship with the West would never be the same.

While the man who started this conflict--a self-proclaimed prophet and younger brother to Jesus Christ named Hong Xiuquan--was forming the seeds of this rebellion within his tortured mind, the man who would change the course of the Rebellion itself was coming of age and beginning his habit of traveling the world looking for adventure and action. That man's name was Frederick Townsend Ward, and his influence would be felt and then eventually forgotten across the world, thanks to his largely omitted place within the ranks of great men who fought in this great conflict.

This is the story of Frederick Townsend Ward, as well as the story of the fall of China as everyone--including the Chinese--would know it for nearly 100 years. This is the story of how an American adventurer became an American mercenary and then became a citizen of the Chinese Empire, and more importantly, a hero to its people, namely those living in the growing port city of Shanghai, largely thanks to his formation of the greatest soldiers China had yet to see: the Ever Victorious Army, whose elite training at Ward's hand would shape the future of China's military forever.

History Impossible has been made possible by the following generous supporters on Patreon and PayPal:

  • Elias Borota
  • Matthew Dakus
  • Gavin Edwards
  • Peter Hauck
  • Jose Martinez
  • Mike Mayleben
  • Judy McCoid
  • Kostas Moros
  • Molly Pan
  • John Pisano
  • Edmund Plamowski
  • PJ Rader
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  • Mark Reed
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  • Ricky Worthey
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An Impossible Interview III: JD Huitt, History Underground

An Impossible Interview III: JD Huitt, History Underground

May 3, 2020

In this newest entry into the Impossible Interview series, I had a chance to sit down (via Zoom) with the incredibly talented and generous-with-his time J.D. Huitt, the brains behind and face of History Underground and the excellent History Traveler series on YouTube (remember: LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE!). He ranks among the top three history content creators that I diligently follow on YouTube for his excellent-quality videos exploring famous (and not-so-famous-but-should-be-famous) historical locations, ranging from Arlington Cemetery to the beaches of Normandy to Ford's Theater to a German U-boat housed in a museum I somehow missed while living in Chicago. It's a little overwhelming at first due to the sheer volume of content, but it's all top-notch and I was glad to get to know a fellow history fan a little better (and keep in mind: J.D. is fighting the good fight working as a high school history teacher and from the sounds of it, doing it very well).

This was more of a two-way interview since it both appears here in glorious audio form and on YouTube in video form, but it turned into a very interesting conversation both about History Impossible's process and History Underground's process, as well as the psychological approach to history, the consequences and realities of COVID-19, the weaponization of history, and even our stories of encountering political extremists. It was a fun time for both of us and I think it'll be a fun time for all of you as you wait for the next installment of the West Meets East trilogy.

And quick note before anyone corrects me: I called J.D. the first history teacher I've managed to interview for the podcast, by which I meant the first HIGH SCHOOL history teacher I've gotten to interview. My previous two conversations with Daniele Bolelli and CJ Kilmer were indeed conversations with history teachers, but they are operating at the college level, so I'd be more inclined to call them professors. Semantics aside, enjoy the show!

History Impossible has been made possible by the following generous supporters on Patreon and PayPal:

  • Tony Androsky
  • Elias Borota
  • Matthew Dakus
  • Gavin Edwards
  • Peter Hauck
  • Jose Martinez
  • Judy McCoid
  • Kostas Moros
  • Molly Pan
  • John Pisano
  • PJ Rader
  • Martin Reddin
  • Mark Reed
  • Stephen Roblem
  • Sam
  • Emily Schmidt
  • Ricky Worthey
  • Steve Uhler
An Impossible Pop Quiz: Blood, Bardos, Bullets, and Buddhism

An Impossible Pop Quiz: Blood, Bardos, Bullets, and Buddhism

April 23, 2020

Surprise!

In light of the current quarantine in which becoming starved for content is actually a very real possibility, as well as a way to say thank you to all of you for your patience as I toiled away at this most recent episode, I decided the time would be right to toss a freebie everyone's way, with a special thank you directed at all of you kind enough to be financially supporting History Impossible through Patreon and PayPal donations.

Normally the Pop Quiz is a fun goof to be enjoyed by the Patrons of History Impossible, but since everyone needs a laugh now and then--whether it's because life is being a jerk to a lot of us right now or because listening to the mainline History Impossible episodes can just be so soul-crushing (believe me, I'm right there with you)--both Molly and I thought it would be appropriate for the Pop Quiz to be available to everybody who tunes in. We know it's not for everybody, but it can indeed be a fun distraction. Regardless, from the bottom of my and Molly's hearts, thank you for listening, enjoying, and laughing, and please: stay safe out there.

Blood, Bardos, Bullets, and Buddhism (Appropriation)

Blood, Bardos, Bullets, and Buddhism (Appropriation)

April 13, 2020

Let's set the stage:

The most explosive event of the 20th century has just occurred and it has nothing to do with Nazis or atomic bombs or American blue jeans. In 1917, the world's largest terrestrial imperial power began to rip itself apart and would continue to do so during the next half decade, leading to the only other power with the ability to challenge the United States.

The First World War and the Russian Revolution are both well-tread territory, as is the subsequent Russian Civil War, but what many might not realize is that these events were much more complex than Great Powers destroying one another or  Communists overthrowing the Romanov monarchy. The world had been turned upside down. And not only were there far more interests at play in this new Great Game of the 20th Century--including everyone from Russians to the Chinese to the British to the Japanese--but a vacuum had been created, threatening to suck away and destroy any and all traces of meaning that had been built up over the previous millennium. That vacuum--more of a singularity--was unlike anything that had ever been experienced and it acted as a calling card for all sorts of bizarre and unlikely figures of differing political and religious ideologies, searching for the purpose that they lost. And since their world was no longer one they recognized, they would all become seduced by the legends and real-or-imagined mystique of the lands of Genghis Khan. 

Hardly any of these figures and their followers ever directly crossed paths and hardly any of them could ever be considered allies or fellow travelers of one another, with some being communists, others being religious nationalists, and some even being monarchist reactionaries. However, they all had one thing in common: they had been seduced by "the East" and were all determined to find their place in it, regardless of how ablaze with chaos and violence it had become. This is a story of legend and prophecy, of grand adventure and harsh survival, woo-woo telepathy experiments and communist sexual liberation, brutal theocratic violence and revolution, and a warlord that would fit right in with the world of Apocalypse Now or Blood Meridian: this is Central Asia in the early 20th century and the Europeans who tried to make it their last hope.

History Impossible has been made possible by the following generous supporters on Patreon and PayPal:

  • Tony Androsky
  • Elias Borota
  • Matthew Dakus
  • Gavin Edwards
  • Peter Hauck
  • Jose Martinez
  • Judy McCoid
  • Kostas Moros
  • Molly Pan
  • John Pisano
  • PJ Rader
  • Martin Reddin
  • Mark Reed
  • Stephen Roblem
  • Emily Schmidt
  • Jake Smith
  • Matthew Wilson
  • Ricky Worthey
An Impossible Interview II: CJ Killmer

An Impossible Interview II: CJ Killmer

February 2, 2020
In this inaugural 2020 episode of History Impossible (and on the one year anniversary no less!), I sit down with CJ Killmer, host of the long-running and incredibly well-done Dangerous History Podcast. CJ has been one of my long-time inspirations for his capacity for detailed, deep dives into parts of history I literally had no interest in for most of my life (i.e. The American Civil War) and manage to completely draw me in with his nuanced, but strong takes.
 
In this conversation, we discuss a wide range of topics, from anarchism to the Civil War's moral gray areas to the long-held notion of the American civic religion before moving on to get into the weeds as to why Woodrow Wilson just might be one of the most nefarious presidents in American history. It was a fun, in-depth, and incredibly illuminating conversation and I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I did having it.
Music provided by Pudge and Punk Rock Opera.

History Impossible has been made possible by the following generous supporters on Patreon and PayPal:

  • Elias Borota
  • Matthew Dakus
  • Gavin Edwards
  • Peter Hauck
  • Trevor Lindborg
  • Jose Martinez
  • Judy McCoid
  • Kostas Moros
  • Molly Pan
  • John Pisano
  • PJ Rader
  • Martin Reddin
  • Stephen Roblem
  • Emily Schmidt
  • Jake Smith
  • Matthew Wilson
  • Ricky Worthey
The Prisoner on the River Kwai (Forgiveness)

The Prisoner on the River Kwai (Forgiveness)

December 20, 2019

Content Warning: This episode contains graphic depictions of physical and psychological torture.

A world away from the war raging across the European continent, a completely different theater of warfare was being conducted by the Empire of Japan and the Allied forces in Asia. Immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, attacks were made against the British Empire's and French territories in Southeast Asia, including the supposedly impregnable fortress of Singapore. After Singapore fell and the 80,000 troops taken prisoner would soon come to learn their own version of horror shared by victims of Hitler's hatred across the globe. 

Under the rule of the Japanese, starvation, relentless corporal punishment, and torture were the rule. Good treatment including proper food and medical care was the exception. And this was all exacerbated by the brutal slave labor being instituted to accomplish the greatest and arguably most sadistic railway project ever endeavored by a modern nation: to create the connecting railway between Burma and Thailand, then called Siam. Thousands would die and many more would suffer. And at the center of this was a man named Eric Lomax.

Lomax suffered as many others suffered during his time enslaved by the Japanese--beaten, interrogated, and tortured for the simple act of drawing a map of the railway and assisting in making a radio. He would remain a prisoner of their cruelty even long after the Japanese surrendered in August of 1945. Nightmares, emotional self-destruction, and callousness towards those he loved most. And then he would learn the identity of one of his torturers.

This episode of History Impossible--the finale of 2019--covers all this and more.

Special thanks to the musical talents by Eric Harper with "Os Ventos Detras Os Montes" and Magnus Moone with "Pin Lights".

History Impossible has been made possible by the following generous supporters on Patreon and PayPal:

  • Elias Borota
  • Matthew Dakus
  • Gavin Edwards
  • Peter Hauck
  • Trevor Lindborg
  • Jose Martinez
  • Judy McCoid
  • Kostas Moros
  • Molly Pan
  • John Pisano
  • PJ Rader
  • Stephen Roblem
  • Emily Schmidt
  • Jake Smith
  • Matthew Wilson
  • Ricky Worthey

Please consider joining the ranks of ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, or perhaps even investors, producers, and executive producers over at www.patreon.com/historyimpossible

The American Executioners (Vengeance)

The American Executioners (Vengeance)

November 5, 2019

Content Warning: This episode contains extremely graphic depictions of genocide, torture, and human experimentation.

On April 29th, 1945, one day before Adolf Hitler killed himself, the true evil of the National Socialists--and the necessity of crushing them--finally became known to the American men fighting through Germany. It all began with seeing a set of boxcars, filled from stem to stern with the starved, decaying bodies of thousands of Jews who had been traveling by rail for weeks, as their captors fled the approaching Allied forces without a care in the world for the miserable existence of their human cargo. From the train tracks and moving into the camp known as Dachau, the American troops were then greeted by both the words "Arbeit macht frei" adorning the camp's gates contrasted with the starving, skeletal, and dying faces of the prisoners housed within. 

Some of the men wept. Some frantically prayed to an unresponsive god. Some clenched their fingers so tightly into their palms that blood trickled to the ground beneath their feet. Some swore revenge, even if nothing had been done to them personally. And some achieved this revenge, if only vicariously and on behalf of the victims of Dachau. This is the story of that vicarious revenge, an examination of the events leading up to it, and a meditation on the ethics of summary execution committed by American troops against Nazis with their hands raised in surrender.

History Impossible has been made possible by the following generous supporters on Patreon:

  • Elias Borota
  • Peter Hauck
  • Trevor Lindborg
  • Jose Martinez
  • Judy McCoid
  • Kostas Moros
  • Molly Pan
  • John Pisano
  • PJ Rader
  • Emily Schmidt
  • Matthew Wilson

Please consider joining the ranks of ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, or perhaps even investors, producers, and executive producers over at www.patreon.com/historyimpossible

An Impossible Pop Quiz: The Werewolves of the Fourth Reich

An Impossible Pop Quiz: The Werewolves of the Fourth Reich

October 21, 2019

It's the end of one era and the beginning of another. With the launch of History Impossible's Patreon, things with the Pop Quiz are different. This will be the final free episode the Pop Quiz series, which will now be accessible to the supporters of History Impossible at the 5 dollar level or higher (along with other great goodies).

So to celebrate, Molly and Alex took a trip down memory lane about werewolves, Nazism, Nazi terrorists, and Nazi trauma. It was, believe it or not, a lot of fun! Many things were discussed, including the notion that Nazis don't actually exist anymore as well as the non-resemblance of the tragic Franz Oppenhoff to Mr. Moneybags (or was it Colonel Sanders?).

In any event, it's about as silly as they come and while it's understandable that this lighter, relaxed fit version of History Impossible isn't for everyone (we do read those iTunes reviews here! Thanks for the constructive criticism, by the way), it's a fun way to exorcise the demons that can arise from reading about all the awful things human beings do to each other. 

So for her final pop quiz as we've all come to expect, the question inevitably comes up: how did Molly do? What grade did she get? Sit back, fix yourself a Halloween-themed drink, tune in, and find out!

The Werewolves of the Fourth Reich (Trauma)

The Werewolves of the Fourth Reich (Trauma)

October 2, 2019

On April 30th, 1945, Adolf Hitler's brain was ripped apart by the bullet he'd fired through his skull. That is how we believe the Second World War ended. But in reality, the struggle to crush the most evil of regimes and its ideas was just beginning and arguably never ended. This is the story of how that struggle began with the Germans who refused to believe that the end--their end--had come, and as a result, transformed (if only metaphorically) into packs of werewolves, men who had unleashed the beast lurking somewhere within them, causing one of the least discussed insurgencies in modern history.

In this epic tale covering both the Nazi ideology's supernaturally-minded roots themselves as well as the results of crushing Nazism and the origins of our sheer terror at the regime and ideology's meaning, we'll dive into some of the strangest ideas and most desperate figures we've covered in History Impossible so far. From the occult and esoteric origins of the Nazi religion to the unrepentant true believers in the Fuhrer (some of whom thought him to be alive). From the bombings of Allied occupiers' administrations to the assassinations of collaborators and "traitors". From the decapitation wires strung across the roads of rural Germany to the sugar packets filled with explosive powder. From the streets of Berlin to the streets of Charlottesville.

Welcome to the Fourth Reich. 

Many thanks to the musicians who contributed their work to this episode, including Kai Engel with their song "Dark Alley".

An Impossible Interview I: Daniele Bolelli

An Impossible Interview I: Daniele Bolelli

September 2, 2019

In this special edition of History Impossible, a trend is broken: this is not about a particular story in history. This is about a man. Or rather, a conversation with a man. The one, the only, Daniele Bolelli, host of popular podcasts History on Fire and The Drunken Taoist and known for semi-regular appearances on popular podcasts like the Joe Rogan Experience and the Duncan Trussell Family Hour.

Daniele has been in History Impossible's corner since day one and some wonderful collaborations have come out of it, including the episode we both crafted concerning Lyudmila Pavlichenko, better known as Lady Death back in July, not to mention some upcoming collaborations we'll both be filling you all in on in the coming months.

So in this conversation, Daniele and I cover a wide range of topics, of course including history, but with dashes of politics, philosophy, and literature. There's even a "debate" about the merits of Blood Meridian! Fingers crossed that we don't manage to alienate significant portions of our audiences (with apologies to Jordan Peterson fanboys), but for the rest of you who stick around, enjoy the conversation!

Also thanks to Punk Opera for their badass song, "The Road", used at the end of the episode.