Veteran’s Day

These are the men that have kept us free.

The Great War, of course, is when the United States made its debut as the great world power. From our entry in 1917 until today is fairly termed “The American Century” for as the Pax Britannica ended in 1914 and chaos ensued between the wars as we hid in our continent and from 1945 the Pax Americana has been in place.

It could be fairly said that the wars of the 20th Century were the “Wars of Freedom”, for more people have been freed from tyranny by the United States and our allies than at any other time in history.

The legend of American bravery is known worldwide, from the Marine sergeant, who lead the charge at the battle of Belleau Wood, who led the charge with the command, “Come on you sons-of-bitches, do you want to live forever.”( Noting that it is now “Bois de la Brigade de Marine“, in their honor) to General McAuliffe’s response to the German demand to surrender at Bastogne, “Nuts” to the Admiral Nimitz’s comment on Iwo Jima, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Thus has been remarked the common bravery of American troops in every case in all the wars of these Planetary soldiers.

As probably everyone reading this knows, the average American idolizes American soldiers, they have gone from being the unwanted stepchildren of the revolution, because of the mistrust engendered by the occupying British regulars, to by far the most trusted of American institutions, trusted by over  80% of Americans. They have earned it and earned it the hard way by blood, toil, tears, honor, integrity, and sweat from Lexington Green to Afghanistan they have become a legend, at one and the same time, “America’s Army” and the “Army of the Free”. The Armed Forces are the best of America. If you were to ask the common people of any place they have been, you will find their fans, maybe not the government, but the people remember.

If you don’t happen to know, those streamers on the service flags are called battle streamers, each of them remembers a battle going back to Lexington Green. It has been a contentious life we have lived, and freedom always has enemies.

But they have done other things, they are often the first humanitarian aid anywhere in the world after a natural disaster, the mapping of the United States was done by the Army, your GPS system is courtesy of the Air Force and the Internet you’re reading this on was started by the US Department of Defense.

But let us not make the mistake many do, it’s not technology that wins wars, it’s men, and now women as well, women like these:

What do you think goes through the minds of women in the parts of the world that don’t offer women equal rights when these women show up in their midst as American officers and warriors? Think maybe some get the idea that women are equal to men.

I’d say things like this have done more to advance women’s rights than all the feminists yelling in the last fifty years. It was the same when the military integrated in 1948, that’s where it was all proved, although we already knew it, really, blacks have served bravely and well ever since Crispus Attucks was killed at the Boston Massacre.

But you know, it’s always had a cost, often a very high cost, and a wise people don’t forget that no matter the technology, it has to be operated by people and by brave people, from the rifleman to the man who may have to turn the key to unleash Armageddon itself. And in American history, the military has never failed us, even when we and our political leadership has not been worthy of them. Many of us use as a catchphrase a rewording of the last line of our national anthem, instead of  “the Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave“, we are wont to say “The Land of the Free because of the Brave.”

We are also quite content, while not resting in our quest, to be known by the friends we keep.

A few years ago, Jessica reminded us that there are other victims of war besides our soldiers, here is that article:

Thin red line of heroes?

I don’t know how it is in the USA with civilian/military relations in everyday life, but, as ever, Kipling in his Tommy still sums up the British attitude:

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

As a sometime Army wife, I know this all too well.  For a long time, thanks to IRA activity, British soldiers were advised to wear civvies when off duty, and it is indicative of something bad that the first reaction of some of the Top Brass to the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby was to suggest that soldiers might want to revert to that; it is indicative of something right that our soldiers give the old two-fingered saute to such nonsense.

But there’s bound to be a divide between civilians and the military in times of peace when you have a professional army. Although the analogy with Monks might raise an eyebrow or two, there is a parallel (no, not that one).  Soldiers live a life apart. They are trained to do things which ordinary people don’t do, and probably don’t want to do.There has to be a high level of commitment, and at times the dedication to duty means that a soldier puts everything else to one side. Although no soldier’s wife worth her salt would dream of saying so, we all wait in terror for the knock on the door or the telephone call from the CO. Every time we kiss and wave good-bye, we know that for at least one of us, it is the final good-bye. And if your marriage doesn’t come to that honorable end, well the stress and strains on your man and marriage may make it come to another sort of end. The price soldiers pay to serve us all is huge.  But they also serve, who only stand and wait – and love.

Yes, here in the UK on 11 November, Armistice Day, we all remember our armed forces and the glorious dead, and we have pubic ceremonies where we celebrate and congratulate out Armed Forces; but what about the other 364 days? Well, unless there is a particularly horrible series of death, we forget – the ‘we’ being the vast majority of the population who know nothing and care less about our soldiers sailors and airmen.

I don’t know whether it is different in the US, but here, the armed forces are very much the Cinderella services – except when they are needed. Kipling, as ever, said it best:

Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

But how thin does that red line have to be before it breaks?

This is part of that Honor

56 Movie Mistakes: The Longest Day

2014-06-05-robertmitchumlongestday-thumb

Then there is this attempt to denigrate the movie The Longest Day recounting the Overlord operation to liberate Europe.

The Longest Day, which was made in black and white, features a large ensemble cast including John Wayne, Kenneth More,Richard Todd, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Red Buttons, Peter Lawford, Eddie Albert, Jeffrey Hunter, Stuart Whitman, Tom Tryon, Rod Steiger, Leo Genn, Gert Fröbe, Irina Demick, Bourvil, Curt Jürgens, Robert Wagner, Paul Anka and Arletty.

Many of these actors played roles that were virtually cameo appearances and several cast members such as Fonda, Genn, More, Steiger and Todd saw action as servicemen during the war, with Todd being among the first British officers to land in Normandy in Operation Overlord and participated in the assault on Pegasus Bridge. So just for some fun here are some of the movie mistakes – we expect you spotted most of them anyway 🙂

When the ships are about to begin bombarding the beaches you see a group of planes fly by the camera these are Douglas Sky Raiders which did not see service until the late 1940s.

The currency notes in Schultz’s winnings are of a later issue than was in circulation in 1944.

Features LCM-8s, which weren’t built until 1954.

German General Max Pemsel says: “Wir haben starke RADAR-störungen” (We have strong radar interference). The word “radar” was not used, perhaps even not known in Germany in 1944. They used a somewhat similar system, but called it “Funkmeßgeräte” (radio measuring equipment).

General Gavin is wearing a Senior Parachutist badge in 1944.The Parachutist Badge was formally approved on 10 March 1941. The senior and master parachutists badges were authorized by Headquarters, Department of the Army in 1949 and were announced by Change 4, Army Regulation 600-70, dated 24 January 1950.

During the go/no go sequence, a jet can be heard flying overhead as the naval representative is speaking.

During a very early scene in France, the back end of a Citroen 2CV can be seen parked at the side of the street as the German soldiers march down it.

via 56 Movie Mistakes: The Longest Day

And so on for three pages. Yes, it’s interesting and very likely true. But you know, it doesn’t matter a damn. Like the John Ford Trilogy, the story is the thing, and these warriors of America, Canada, Great Britain, France, Poland, and still others did something so heroic here, that all of these relatively picayune mistakes, while regrettable, just don’t matter. This is not a technical documentary, this is a commemoration of one of the greatest days in history, one of the first to try to be fair to all the participants.

I couldn’t find the whole movie on YouTube for you, but if you run the playlist in autoplay, it’ll be kind of like watching it on TV, which is where I fist saw it, long ago and far away.🙂

And then There was One

35C6061F00000578-0-image-a-7_1467192492398From the £ Daily Mail. And why, pray tell, are we dependent on a British paper for this story? In any case, Staff Sergeant David Johnathan Thatcher, died last week, leaving Lieutenant Colonel Richard ‘Dick’ Cole as the last man standing. We’ve talked about some of their traditions before, and you can read that here, as well. Here is some of the Mail’s article.

The final Doolittle Raider, who was one of 80 fliers to take off on the first bombing attack of mainland Japan following Pearl Harbor, attended the funeral of his last remaining comrade-in-arms. 

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Richard ‘Dick’ Cole, from Comfort, Texas, is now the last of the brave airmen who took off from the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942. 

He stood beside his comrade, and friend retired Staff Sergeant David Johnathan Thatcher, who died in Missoula hospital in Montana last week. The 94-year-old former airman suffered a stroke before dying.

35C177B000000578-0-image-a-1_1467191620985The Doolittle Flyers were trained in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor for a top secret mission, known only to a few people. 

The men were told that the mission would be ‘extremely hazardous’ and were told at the beginning, this was the time to back out.

The audacious plan, developed by Lt Col James ‘Jimmy’ Doolittle, would see 16, B-25 bombers attack sites on mainland Japan – even though no body had managed to launch an aircraft that size from an aircraft carrier.

via Montana funeral for Doolittle Raider who helped mission on Japan following Pearl Harbor | Daily Mail Online

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr

The Future of [Civil War] History

Washington DC_Moments in History_2This is very true, and quite interesting. I fell in love with civil war history during the centennial, back in the early sixties, originally through the American Heritage Pictorial History of the Civil War, with its text by Bruce Catton. It was one of the seminal books in my love for history. It spread first to World War II, both from books, and my parents and the generation that had lived through it. Then it spread through, partially, the historical novels of Thomas B. Costain, which ran from biblical through pretty much modern history.

It included Kenneth Robert’s books on colonial (to be) Maine, including Arundel, as well as others. And yes, it also involved some very good teachers (and coaches) when I was in junior and senior high school, and it likely didn’t hurt that dad was interested, and mom was an English teacher. What that legacy does is this, when I look at current events, my mind almost always can find an analogous situation. Amongst other things, that is why I rarely completely despair. Mark Twain was right, you know, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it surely rhymes.

My worries about the future of Civil War history are much broader and much larger than those cited in the articles in Civil War History. I spend a lot of time on the road, speaking to Civil War Roundtables and other similar groups. I’ve traveled to a lot of places—Ann Arbor, Michigan and Bloomington, Indiana in one recent week—and have met a lot of people along the way. One alarming trend that I have spotted in recent years is the graying of the audiences that come to hear me speak or attend my tours. The audiences get older and older, and I see fewer and fewer young people in the crowds. When I first started doing this almost 25 years ago, the crowds were much younger, and I saw many more younger people in the audiences.

via The Future of Civil War History: Eric Wittenberg | Emerging Civil War with a hat tip to Practically Historical

Jessie Childs recently published some thoughts on Elizabethan England and how certainty can become uncertainty. Here is a bit of that.

Unfirm ground is what makes history so thrilling: that sense that the plates are always shifting and that one discovery might change everything. I have not experienced a seismic swallowing up of a once-cherished opinion, but, researching my last book on Catholic dissidents in Elizabethan England, I felt as though I was changing my mind almost every day. I agonised over the relative lenience of Elizabeth I in religious matters. I was kept awake by the nagging feeling that the Catholic family I was writing about was not quite as loyal as it claimed to be. I drew a spider diagram, of the kind used in modern intelligence, and was thrown by the family’s links to the Babington Plot of 1586, even though I could not quite pin them to it. I veered between revulsion at the persecutory practices of the Elizabethan state and sympathy for its operatives, who had to deal with sophisticated terror networks and some very slippery language.

via Shifting Sands: Historians Change Their Minds. Note that the other short articles in the linked article are also quite good.

Not all that different, really, from today, with our problems with terrorists, is it.

And that’s the thing, we can infer lessons from the past, and we should, and I think, must. But we must remember with Hartley that:

The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there,” as well.

 

Reap The Whirlwind

article-2119392-124C288E000005DC-425_964x488Back in 1945, the American, British, Canadian, and Russian armies were starting the end of Hitler’s Third Reich. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t PC, it was war, in a way that we haven’t fought since, but was fairly common before. Today we look back in awe at what our countries did to remove this evil from the world. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pretty, nor was it evil, fighting evil never is.

On 13 February 1945, RAF Bomber Command and the US 8th Army Air Force unleashed over a thousand heavy bombers (mostly B-17 Fortresses and Lancasters). Here’s what Great Satan’s Girlfriend had to say.

Royal Air Force’s Lord Bomber Harris made good on that blood chilling promise. Taking Lord Cherwell’s fact finding thingy about carpet bombing centers of German industry to impose Allied will   – not so much the factories  – but to hit the workers in their homes to make them scream “God! Please! Stop!”

The aim of the Combined Bomber Offensive…should be unambiguously stated [as] the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany.
The destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale, and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing, are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories.

By February 1945 – 3rd Reich had less than a 100 days to live. Kicking and screaming, she was  crashing down in an orgy of pulverized, burning cities and a river of blood — civilian and military, German and non-German. Massive Allied Armies were fixing to strike on the Fatherland’s turf on multiple fronts and sides. Unconditional Surrender was the safe word.  Military history knows no year quite like 1944 -45 and if lucky, will never see another.

via GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD: Reap The Whirlwind.

Dresden became the single most destructive air attack in the history of the world, not excluding Hiroshima or Nagasaki. As was said at the time, The soft democracies taught the supermen how to war. From Air Force Magazine:

[Arthur Travers Harris, known as “Bomber” Harris, in early June 1942] went before RAF film cameras and delivered a chilling, two-minute message, shown on newsreels nationwide. He was unleashing a whirlwind on Germany, he said. “They sowed the wind,” he warned, “and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.” They did. The film has been preserved in the Imperial War Museum.

The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everybody else and nobody was going to bomb them.

At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put that rather naive theory into operation.

They sowed the wind and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.

Cologne, Lubeck, Rostock—Those are only just the beginning.

We cannot send a thousand bombers a time over Germany every time, as yet.

But the time will come when we can do so.

Let the Nazis take good note of the western horizon.

There they will see a cloud as yet no bigger than a man’s hand.

But behind that cloud lies the whole massive power of the United States of America.

When the storm bursts over Germany, they will look back to the days of Lubeck and Rostock and Cologne as a man caught in the blasts of a hurricane will look back to the gentle zephyrs of last summer.

It may take a year. It may take two.

But for the Nazis, the writing is on the wall.

Let them look out for themselves. The cure is in their own hands.

There are a lot of people who say that bombing can never win a war.

Well, my answer to that is that it has never been tried yet, and we shall see.

Germany, clinging more and more desperately to her widespread conquests and even seeking foolishly for more, will make a most interesting initial experiment.

Japan will provide the confirmation.

But the time is not yet. There is a great deal of work to be done first, and let us all get down to it.

But that time did come, and it was done, and evil was rendered impotent for a time. It is good for us to remember how and why it was done, and especially to realize that it will have to be done again one day, and that it would be well for us not to wait so late in the day next time.

The old Roman solution was:

“Burn it Down,

Scatter the Stones,

Salt the earth where it Stood.”

And the reason then and now is: Deterrence. Look what they did to them, we better not mess with them.

East of Eden

146968_600In 1949, the Truman administration withdrew the American forces occupying South Korea and in January 1950 the Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, delivered his famous ‘Perimeter Speech’ which pointedly placed Korea outside our perimeter. It was a major blunder. In June 1950, North Korea attacked, causing the Korean War. The war was fought gallantly by amongst others, the very US forces that had been withdrawn. It was a costly mistake, in both treasure and blood. The war ended mostly because the newly elected General Eisenhower would not rule out the use of nuclear weapons to end it.

Why are we rehashing this now? Because a similar scenario faced Obama in 2009. In Iraq, we had defeated everybody who cared to play. Yes, the initial war (and especially its aftermath) had its problems, mostly caused by not enough troops there to do the job of pacification. But again, when Bush bit the bullet and committed to the surge, eventually the country was pretty much pacified.

In his rush to leave Iraq, Obama made the same sort of blunder. Unlike Truman, he didn’t immediately institute repairs, however costly. Going all the way back to World War II, we had been a counterweight to any and all the extremist groups in the area. Jess said a few day ago, that Britain never had all that much force east of Eden, but British forces were feared. The same was true, except occasionally for the United States. The Middle East never required huge forces over time. Although, at times, it did require large forces, as during the gulf wars. What they did require was the absolute support of Israel, and some small forces, in theater, and the fact of large forces available. That was enough to hold the balance, and keep the fanatics, mostly quiet. That was really not all that much strain for America. Simply having a few thousand troops in Iraq seemed to intimidate all the nutters into keeping the peace. And, in fact, it was safer than Chicago is now.

In a way, it was a less stable counterpart to the Cold War. The forces were held in equilibrium, not so much by what America would do, as by what she could do. But even what she would do was impressive. I doubt many Arab powers were unimpressed by the steady flow of American supplies, flown nonstop from CONUS by the Air Force, during the Yom Kippur war in 1973, in the face of denied overflight rights from all Europe. Who doesn’t want friends like that? You think that maybe had something to do with peace between Israel and Egypt, signed a few years later at Camp David, and which has held (mostly) ever since? Much the same is true for Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, problematic as its religion has always been for the US.

This carefully wrought work of generations, starting possibly with Eisenhower’s intervention, against our two oldest allies, Britain and France, in Suez, in favor of Egypt. This is what Obama has ruined. he has brought it to the point that no one in the region, has any trust in the word of the United States, nor should they. Over the last 8 years, we have proved to be a feckless, toothless allies, almost always willing to support the wrong side.

The post-Pax America  middle east is proving to be a cesspit, that threatens the health of the entire world. Jess’ title was (and is) apt. The tectonic plates are in fact shifting, and where they will end up and the earthquakes they will cause is unknowable but very unlikely to be good for much of anybody.

Lessons? Probably a few. The main one might be that countries driven by the voters are not very reliable over the long term, at least usually. Perhaps living under the existential threat of the Soviet Union forced the people of the United States to buckle down and think long-term, but perhaps instead it was the World War Two generation’s horror at what they had to endure to repair the mistakes of their father’s generation that caused the unusual situation. I think it likely was both. There’s something that sharpens the mind, when in elementary school, you are seriously practicing “duck and cover” that the softer generations that followed mine will never know. or maybe they will, on the streets of home, as the terror attacks mount.

But whatever the cause, Obama has thrown away the carefully crafted perception of power that sustained quasi-peace in the middle east for generations. What will replace it, other than deadly chaos, is unknown. Although the Pakistani guaranty of Saudi territorial integrity may provide a gruesome clue.

I do know this, whatever (if anything) that is to replace that chaos, America will have to lead, and the will to do so has been lacking for ten years. If she doesn’t, and that doesn’t really mean she’ll have to intervene that often, but she must show her inflexible will on behalf of her friends, or chaos will ensue, and likely envelop Europe as well.

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