Bomb Blast in New York Sparks
War on Terrorby Jeff Provine
says: we're very pleased to present a new story from Jeff Provine's
excellent blog This
Day in Alternate History Please note that the opinions expressed in this
post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).
By September 16th 1920,
a little after noon, while crowds of businessmen were leaving their
offices for lunch all along Wall Street, an unassuming horse and wagon
exploded just outside the Morgan Building. Later analysis proved the bomb
to be set with a timer and loaded with iron weights as shrapnel.
Thirty-eight people were killed and hundreds more injured.
The attack was a tragedy, but the overall desire was to return to
"business as usual". With a bombing so close to the stock exchange,
leaders were fearful of a panic, and so the damage was cleaned overnight.
The board of governors for the stock exchange opened on the 17th without a
problem. Rumors circulated that the explosion had been an accident. Soon,
however, the Bureau of Investigation released flyers discovered in a
nearby post office box with the cryptic message, "Remember. We will not
tolerate any longer. Free the political prisoners or it will be death for
all of you. American Anarchist Fighters!"
As the investigation continued quietly, people assumed it may have been an
attack in reaction to the Sacco and Vanzetti, who had been arrested for
murder in Massachusetts. People rallied behind the market in face of these
"reds", and the celebration for Constitution Day continued at the same
spot. Despite police surveillance, a package bomb exploded from a garbage
bin, killing an additional seven. In Boston at the Farmer's Market,
Washington, D.C., outside the Capitol, and San Francisco near the Mint,
similar explosions followed.
"The "Red Scare" of 1920 was prosecuted ny Atornet
General A. Mitchel Palmer with more zeal than competence. Its influence
would persist, however, for it would bring to prominence a young J. Edgar
Hoover, who in 1924 would be named director of the then poorly-respected
Federal Bureau of Investigation primarily on the strength of his own
anti-leftist zealotry during the Scare. Hoover, of course, would remain
FBI Director for nearly fifty years, until his death during the Nixon
presidency. " - reader's commentThe press seized the news, and the
populace began to demand action. Wilson's term in office was nearly over,
and the extremely ill president did not seem able to confront the issue of
safety. Quoting the Washington Post, presidential hopeful Warren G.
Harding said, "This is an 'act of war', and if it's war they want, it's
war they'll get!" His words were dangerous in a world so soon after the
Great War, but the gamble paid off, and he was elected in the largest
majority since Washington. Immediately, Harding and his cabinet set upon
establishing Security for Our Homeland. To prevent further plots, security
checkpoints were set up at all train stations with passengers and baggage
checked as well as bags being searched at important facilities such as
museums, libraries, and public offices. Immigration came into heavy
suspicion, especially as alcohol was run across the Canadian border,
prompting many to call for a wall to be built.
Investigations pointed to Galleanists conducting the plot. All known
accomplices were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and spirited to
federal penitentiaries. The leader, Luigi Galleani (pictured), had been
deported to Italy, where he had been further exiled to an island and
watched by government officials. Harding demanded that Galleani return for
trial on conspiracy to commit murder. When the Italian government did not
move quickly enough, he sent Marines to collect the anarchist personally.
Foreign reporters described the action as an "invasion", but Harding
refused to acknowledge that he had done anything beyond justice.
As his term progressed, Harding approached the League of Nations with
evidence (which many critics said was scant at best) that the Bolsheviks
of Russia had been responsible and were preparing more "actions of mass
destruction". He encouraged other nations to redouble their support in the
Russian Civil War, but if they refused, America would "do it alone". The
Russian War, as it was called but never officially since Congress did not
declare war, simply funded the American Expeditionary Force for Freedom.
Many suspected Harding's administration of corruption, but most vocal
opinions were drowned out by cries of patriotism.
" think that if the US was sufficiently motivated,
we could have gone into Russia and done the Bolsheviks some serious
damage, if not overthrown the regime completely. By the early 1920s, a lot
of Russians were already bitterly regretting the revolution" - reader's
commentThrough the 1920s, the sense of panic would gradually
subside in America while the war in Russia continued in a dogged fight
against urban and guerrilla warfare. Many would call for a withdrawal of
American soldiers by letting the Russian Republican Army defend the
country itself, but neither Harding, Coolidge, nor Hoover fulfilled the
promise to establish a timetable. The economy made a swift downturn in
1929, and Democrat Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 began the steady withdraw.
America was ready for a time of isolationism, but the world dragged them
back to action as the 1940s began the Second World War. Hitler's Fascists
stormed Russia in 1941, citing the same principles of security Harding had
and conquering it within a matter of months. Though over a million German
troops would be caught up in the bloody occupation of Russia, further
Germans would storm the beaches of Britain. Faced with overwhelming odds,
the Allies would fight at tremendous losses until the tide of the war
changed with the Atomic Bomb.
Beleaguered, economically depressed, and bringing up a generation calling
for renewed isolationism, America would spend the rest of the twentieth
century as something of an unwilling patron, constantly at guard for
another attack by terror in a post-colonial world.
says in reality though suspected, the Galleanists were never proven the
source of the Wall Street bombing. Bombings were periodic, but hardly often.
Rather than searching for conspiracies, the American populace endured
radicals while being suspicious of immigrants in a "Red Scare" that was
frightening but never fully terror.
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Today in Alternate History web site.
Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
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