Homer Lea’s Influence

Although small in stature the Californian Homer Lea (1876 – 1912) rose to become a leading geopolitician of his time and Lt. General in the Chinese Army. He was an adviser to leading British and German military leaders. In 1916 V.I.Lenin is claimed to have said that thousands of people would study the works of Lea. This became reality as Lea’s books were obligator reading at German, Japanese and Russian military academies.

Among his highranking supporters were former Secretary of State Elihu Root, Generals Adna Chaffee, Harrison G. Otis and J.P. Story. They believed he was able to predict coming conflicts in the 20th century.

Before writing his major works Lea had joined a revolutionary Chinese movement after leaving Stanford University, where he had studied. The society planned to overthrow the Empress Dowager of China, the Manchu ruler of China. In 1899 he left California for China, met Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Sun chose Lea to be his military advisor and later chief of staff. On his way to China Lea visited Hawaii, Guam and the Philippines, which he examined as potential battlefields.

Those around Homer Lea suggested he make his escape. But the little general was unfazed, sending the messenger on ahead to tell his troops to hide in the mountains and wait for his arrival. The Boxer Rebellion was in full swing by the time Lea reached the ragtag remnants of his command. After a short period of intensive training, Lea’s men began their march toward Peking.
He arrived in the imperial capital just as the 20,000-strong multinational army was relieving the besieged foreign legation compound. Lea’s contingent was too unskilled to have much impact upon events. Yet the Westerner, wearing the lavish golden uniform of a Chinese general, was noted by the international press and by Maj. Gen. Adna Chaffee, whose American contingent was followed into the capital by Lea’s army of undisciplined coolies.

Tzu-hsi, disguised as a peasant, fled the city in a horse-drawn cart. Her armies withdrew, pursued by Homer Lea’s force, while the multinational troops remained in Peking, busily plundering its portable treasures. No match for the imperial army’s rear guard when it turned on them, Lea’s irregulars were soundly defeated. Bereft of any support, he decided to flee to Hong Kong and wait for a turn of events.

In 1900 General Chaffee led a multinational expedition to put down the Boxer Rebellion. Lea arrived in the imperial city just as Chaffee relieved the foreign legation compound. The general met with him in Peking and became a supporter of the efforts to create a democratic China. Lea continued with an irregular force to fight for the Chinese revolution.

Lea after some time returned to California to raise money in support of Dr. Sun. In 1904 Lea established a Western Military Academy in the United States to train Chinese officers. This resulted in various legal problems because the military training of foreigners in America. Lea now travelled the United States to raise support including from the White House.

The Valor of Ignorance

Homer Lea’s first book (The Valor of Ignorance) was published in 1909. It was written in 1907 after the Russo-Japanese war. It was a geopolitical warning that Japan was on the rise. The empire in the east had plans for expansion. The book was published in Japan under the title The War Between Japan and America and reprinted 24 times. Ardent readers of the book were General Douglas MacArthur and then Colonel Charles Willoughby, who would play an important role during World War II and the Korean War under General MacArthur.

Willoughby once wrote that Lea was a scientist who studied the science of war.

His deep knowledge made it possible for him to study the symptoms of approaching conflict.
Great causes existed for a coming conflict between Japan and the United States an described the tactics that would be used.

In Germany Emperor Wilhelm II was so impressed by the book that he invited Lea to observe German military maneuvers. He also met leading German army officers.

Lea’s first book underlined the necessity of military preparedness to ensure American survival. He was not listened to. Between the two world wars there were strong sentiments of isolationism and pacifism in America.


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