Remembering South Africa’s participation in World War I: The battle of Delville Wood and the sinking of SS Mendi
by Herman Warden
South Africa entered World War I as a divided society; which results in the commemoration becoming more complex than in a unified society. During the Apartheid era, the battle of Delville Wood was celebrated as South Africa’s ‘finest hour’ in World War I. However, in the minds of black South Africans commemorating South African participation in World War I the sinking of the SS Mendi stands out. In post-Apartheid South Africa, the SS Mendi seems to have surpassed the battle of Delville Wood as South Africa’s most celebrated sacrifice in World War I. The aim of this paper is to determine how South Africans commemorate their participation in World War I, with specific reference to the battle of Delville Wood and the sinking of SS Mendi. A brief overview of the battle of Delville Wood and the sinking of the SS Mendi will be given. Thereafter, it will be determined how the battle of Delville Wood and the sinking of the SS Mendi were commemorated historically. Lastly, the paper will explore how both these events are presently commemorated in South Africa.
USS North Carolina vs Bismarck
by Edward J. Langer
Throughout naval warfare there has been the “what” if question. What would have happened if two supposedly evenly matched warships fought a duel? Always we favor our own. But during World War Two when it was expected to have epic battleship battles there were very few, leaving us with many questions, few answers and much speculation. Most “what if” questions deal with the IJN Yamato versus the USS Iowa. That’s for someone else to tackle. This paper will explore the strengths and weaknesses of the Bismarck and its contemporaries - those battleships launched between 1939 and 1941. All of these ships should be similar in capabilities. This is not the usual one paragraph comparison but a more in-depth study.
Imperialistic Wars of Expansion and the Deployment of Modern Weapons
by Edward J. Langer
From the beginning of time man has been in constant conflict with his fellow man. War, death and destruction sometimes seem the norm and peace the exception. Thomas Hobbes, the 17th century English philosopher, says “that the natural state of humans is constant war with each other and that their lives are nasty, brutish and short.” While we may or may not agree with Hobbes and hope that deep down inside man there is the desire for peace, from the time of Cain and Able in the bible to the present there have been many conflicts. During the 19th century into the beginning of the 20th century up to World War One, there were many wars, large and small: wars of aggression, wars of independence, civil wars, border wars and wars of imperialistic expansion. This paper will examine three conflicts caused by capitalist/imperialistic expansion and will demonstrate that in an imperialistic war that the side that maximizes the latest weapons technology won the battle and ultimately the war and that control of the sea was essential to ultimate victory. What set these conflicts apart are that they are among equal world powers and not between a European Power and a technologically primitive society.
Book Review: Gallipoli
A Review by LtCol Rich Beil USMC (Ret.)
This book falls under the category of popular, as opposed to academic history, and provides an example of why military history in general, and popular
military history in particular, is viewed with distain in the discipline. While this may be objectionable to those whose interest lies in military
history, the view in academic circles exists nonetheless.
This book is written for a wide audience that knows little about World War I,
Gallipoli, or history at all. Reading the reviews on Amazon.com, one is led to
believe that it represents new scholarship. While the first person accounts
provide an interesting perspective, for those who have studied World War I in
general, and Gallipoli in particular, it provides little that is new.
Operation Compass 1940: Total victory for the British
by Roger Daene
American General George S Patton once said that you always attack and never let your enemy rest. ("Quote Fancy", n.d.) That was also the motto of his adversary German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. Rommel would make his name in France 1940 by living out that old maxim of war. His career and legend would begin to soar in North Africa when he arrived in March of 1941. Against incredible odds and harsh conditions, Rommel would prove again and again that an enemy can never be allowed to rest. However, he was not the first to demonstrate that maxim to be true. Before his arrival, British Generals Archibald Wavell and Richard O'Connor would face tilted odds in North Africa. Their offense began as a local operation to recapture some areas taken by the Italians in the opening months of the war and to push them back to Libya. It ended with nearly all of Libya captured and less than 20,000 Italians escaping out of 150,000. 30,000 British, Indian and Australian soldiers never let the enemy rest.
On June 10th, 1940 Italy declared war on both France and Great Britain. France surrendered after the sledgehammer blows of the Germans in just six weeks and shortly after Italy's entrance into the war. The fall of France empowered Mussolini to believe that he could conquer areas he sought because with France out of the war and Great Britain defending their homeland. This would leave their colonies open to Italian conquest. Italy sought to control Egypt and the valuable oil resources of the area. With France out of the war, British convoys would either sail past Gibraltar and then through the Italian controlled Mediterranean. Their only alternative was to take the much longer route around the Cape of Good Hope and around the eastern coastline of Africa.
Book Review: APc-48 - Combined Edition...
A Review by Ben Young
My curiosity was always up to learn of my maternal Uncle's WWII service in the US Navy...He was one of those veterans who, for reasons of his own, never spoke of his military experiences unless asked a direct question concerning his service...Therefore the only information immediately available to me was the sketchy memories of family members...During my work life, which included USAF service, employment with various companies and operating my own businesses, I could never seem to devote the time needed to fill in the blanks...
Following retirement I was able to begin research starting with picking the brains of family members including my Mom (my uncle's older sister) and my cousins, all of whom provided much valuable information, including the saved letters my Uncle had written to my Mom from the Pacific Theater...These letters allowed me to determine the ship upon which he served, as well as his rating and some of the areas to which his unit deployed...Not being his direct descendant prevented me from obtaining his personal military records from either the VA or his hometown county courthouse...His widow and their only child had also gone on to their reward...The internet then became my primary source of information concerning the Small Coastal Transports (as these hulls were classified by the CNO)...
Book Review: Fighting Blind: A Green Beret’s Story of Extraordinary Courage
A Review by Bob Seals
The human cost of war has always been staggering. Our most recent conflicts, whether described as an all-encompassing Global War on Terror, or the seemingly more politically correct Overseas Contingency Operations, are no exception to this truth. Of all services, the U.S. Army has paid the heaviest price since 911 with almost 42,000 active, guard and reserve soldiers, killed or wounded while serving overseas, according to Department of Defense figures. Amidst all this blood and carnage of war, some individuals arise who are seemingly able to overcome all the pain and horror that combat inflicts upon them. Ivan Castro is one such man.
Fighting Blind: A Green Beret’s Story of Extraordinary Courage is the extraordinary account of a soldier who lost his vision forever in 2006 to an enemy mortar round during fighting in Iraq. A first person, “as told to” narrative, the book is the life story of a fun loving young American soldier who served his nation well, paid a high price for that service, and overcame his wounds against the darkness that now surrounds him.
Book Review: The Secret State: A History of Intelligence and Espionage
by Steven Christopher Ippolito, Ph.D.
John Hughes-Wilson’s book, The Secret State: A History of Intelligence and Espionage is an excellent read. It is an examination of the practical aspects of intelligence and spying in history and world affairs. Hughes-Wilson is an effective writer; however, he is also verbally merciless. He has no politically correct sensibilities, and his penchant is to spare no one. The result is a strong treatment of the nature of intelligence and espionage, the second oldest profession as currently practiced, world-wide, by approximately 100 intelligence agencies (Pun, 2017). In the 19th century, the spy’s profession was popularized by Rudyard Kipling in his novel, Kim, through the use of a term that has proven durable, historically: The Great Game
(Campbell, 2014; Christensen, 2012). The game was a reference to the secret war
waged between England and Russia, over land in Central Asia (e.g., Afghanistan)
and, potentially, India, a conflict that adumbrated the Cold War of the 20th
century (Share, 2015). However, the principal combatants in this “war” were not
soldiers; rather, they were covert operatives, diplomats, and scientists (e.g.,
geographers), all of whom were engaged, in the words of Count Karl Nesselrode,
the Russian Foreign Minister in 1837, a veritable “’tournament of shadows’”
(Share, 2015, p. 1106). However, the shadowy goings-on within the field of
international jousting is an inevitable consequence of polity leaders’ attempt
to navigate the ship-of-state within the turbulent waters of the International
System. Thus, a critical function of intelligence is to help guide the movement
of government and shape its policies and official actions (Herman, 2008).
Member Article: Was the Civil War Modern? – No.
by Michael Collie
After the Second World War, many American Civil War historians came to argue that the Civil War was the first modern/total war. As summarized by Mark Grimsley, in The American Civil War: a Handbook of Literature and Research this theme includes a number of contentions. Troops armed with breech-loading infantry arms and artillery, primitive machine guns, and ironclad ships, early balloons, and trench warfare in the Civil War are cited as evidence. The use of railroads, steam ships and riverboats, and telegraph are said to have affected strategy. New mass armies of volunteers and emphasis on industrial capacity influenced battles and campaigns. The status of civilians as legitimate targets of armies and strategy may be the most significant aspect making the American Civil War the first modern and total of the new period of war, so the argument goes.
Although a common theme in American Civil War historiography, recent scholarship has begun to question this interpretation. The idea of modern war is an imprecise term. Any war is modern for its own time. The reference to “modern war” is more reasonably meant to distinguish twentieth-century industrial-age war from previous periods. The question should be at what point was truly “modern” industrial war achieved as opposed to simply partial development. The term “Total War” is properly and clearly a twentieth-century term and phenomena that is not applicable to campaign conditions prior to 1900.
Book Review: Agent 110: An American Spymaster and the German Resistance in WWII
by Steven Christopher Ippolito, Ph.D.
Veteran Wall Street Journal reporter, Scott Miller, has written an interesting history of the World War II espionage activities of Allen Dulles (1893-1975), the future Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Dulles, the son of Presbyterian minister, was once described by British intelligence agent, Kenneth Strong, as the “’last great Romantic of Intelligence,’ a man whose stock-in-trade consisted of secrets and mysteries” (Miller, 2017, p. xiv). Born into a patrician American family that boasted at least two Secretaries of State, it is, perhaps, no surprise that Dulles would later gravitate toward government work. President Benjamin Harrison appointed Dulles grandfather, John Watson Foster (1836-1917), a Civil War veteran of the Union Army, Secretary of State, where he served between 1892 and 1893; and Allen’s brother, the well-known, John Foster Dulles would also serve as Secretary of State, under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, beginning in 1953, serving at a critical time during the Cold War era. Additionally, both Dulles brothers were the nephews of another Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, who served in the State Department between 1915 and 1920. Robert Lansing was an uncle to Allen and John Foster Dulles through marriage, having married John Watson Foster’s daughter.
Miller has focused his biography of Dulles, primarily, from the early to mid-1940s, when Allen Dulles, whose agency designation was Agent 110,
was posted to Switzerland by General William (Wild Bill) Donovan (aka, Agent
109), head of the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) (Messenger, 2015).
Member Article: “Hit ‘Em Where They Ain’t,” General of the Army Douglas MacArthur and Baseball
by Bob Seals
The roar of the crowd, the crack of a wooden bat on a ball, the deep emerald green grass of the field, our national pastime of baseball has had a profound effect upon countless American youths over the years. One such youth so influenced by the sport was an Army cadet who played, advocated and remained a fan of baseball his entire life, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. As a young man in the latter years of the nineteenth, and early years of the twentieth century, MacArthur played varsity level baseball in high school and at the United States Military Academy at West Point. However, most are relatively unfamiliar with how the sport significantly influenced him, and ultimately his thinking, in regards to warfare.
General MacArthur today is remembered as a great fan of Army football, perhaps due to his gridiron enthusiasm and long friendship with legendary West Point football coach Earl "Red" Blaik, but baseball was the sport he played, coached, advocated and used, to an extent, in his thinking. Baseball was, to a degree, a paradigm for his thoughts and the operational concepts that helped guide his approach to warfare, to include his most notable campaigns of World War II. These campaigns were described by MacArthur as “leap-frogging,” or three dimensional “triphibious” land, sea and air operations used to support “the classic strategy of envelopment,” on the long path back to the Philippines.
Member Article: Origin of the Movement Around Pope's Army of Virginia, August 1862
by Michael Collie
Following the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1863 the Army of Northern Virginia went into winter quarters along the south bank of the Rappahannock River. Confederate Lieutenant General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's headquarters was at the Moss Neck Plantation eleven miles southeast of Fredericksburg. General Robert E. Lee and Major General J.E.B. Stuart made camp near Hamilton Crossing within 8 miles of Moss Neck and about four miles south of Fredericksburg. The proximity of these headquarters allowed frequent contact between the staffs during the winter of 1862-1863.
From the civil war journal of Jedediah Hotchkiss, Confederate Lieutenant General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's topographic engineer, we find in the entry of March 4th 1863:
"We talked of the battles of Groveton Heights, etc. He [Stuart] said Gen. Jackson was entitled to all the credit for the movement round the enemy and Gen. Lee had very reluctantly consented to it."
Member Article: The Battle of Tondibi: The Moroccan Conquest of the Songhay Empire
by Comer Plummer, III
On Tuesday morning, April 12, Judar Pasha woke well before dawn. Like many men, he had passed a fitful night. Outside, he could hear the sound of the camp breaking up. Crabby animals. Anxious men. The air in the tent was heavy. There was a shaft of lighter darkness from the flap. Otherwise, the blackness was absolute.
Judar’s eyes refused to adjust. He began to grope, for his chain mail vest, for his cloak. After a few moments, he managed to locate his boots, rearranged by his nocturnal perambulations. As Judar emerged from his tent, his servants moved in to begin packing up.
He waved away the proffered tea. In a moment, he gestured. Taking several steps toward the river, Judar relieved himself while scanning the emerging landscape. The land he surveyed was a nondescript tract of desert named Tengodibo, near Tondibi, about fifty kilometers north of Gao, in the east of present day Mali. It was the transitional time of day. Comfortable. The mosquitos had drunk their fill and retired to digest, and the sandflies were not yet up. The first streaking rays of light revealed the few features, the great artery, pale and uninterrupted, a few clusters of acacias, and, of course, great stretches of sand. Cooking fires revealed misty air. Somewhere beyond, out in the murkiness, the Songhay were also stirring. He was grateful they had not attempted a night attack. Such had been his greatest fear. Had the Songhay rushed them en masse they might have been overwhelmed. But, Alhamdulillah, the askiya, as the African king was called, had opted for a daytime confrontation.
Member Article: From "Shell Shock" to PTSD – A History
by LtCol Richard Beil USMC(Ret.)
It has long been recognized that the trauma of combat can result in psychological problems. Military members and veterans today have been led to believe that what is now called PTSD constitutes a mental disorder. They don't believe they are mentally ill, but this is how the civilian mental health community has termed the condition. Consequently, many refuse to seek treatment. By learning the actual history of the condition, those military members and veterans may get a better understanding of what has happened and why. It is believed that this knowledge may actually help them cope with and overcome this condition.
What are the classic symptoms of PTSD? To what extent are these symptoms novel, and to what extent is PTSD simply a restatement of earlier concepts of shell shock or combat fatigue? If PTSD is largely a restatement, why did psychiatric reformers in the 1970s demand with great urgency that it be recognized as a new concept in psychopathology, necessary to respond to the "unique" problems of returning Vietnam veterans? Were those problems truly unique? What is the relationship between military and civilian psychiatry? Why is it that the prevailing methods of describing mental illness seem to shift every twenty to thirty years, as old concepts are jettisoned in favor of new ideas, from "shell shock" and "combat fatigue" to "PTSD", or from "neurasthenia" and "hysteria" in the 19th century, to the "neuroses" and "psychoses" of the 20th which, in turn, were abandoned by the psychiatric profession in the 1990s?
Game Review: Afghanistan '11
by Brian Williams
Afghanistan ’11 is a turned-based strategy game in which the player assumes control of US Army operations in Afghanistan on a mission to win the hearts and minds of the local population while combating insurgency. Afghanistan ’11 is the sequel to Vietnam ’65, which was released in 2015.
In a nutshell, you are given an HQ from which you go about trying to improve the lot of the average Afghan or train and equip the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) to take over combat responsibility. Afghan mood is measured byt the means of a "Hearts and Minds" (H&M) score.
In addition to the H&M score, you have Political Points (PP) which basically act as currency. PP represent the level of support among the American people and can fluctuate greatly with your successes and failures on the battlefield.
Member Article: Tancred Borenius – Forgotten intelligence hero or messenger for wartime Churchillian coup?
by John Harris
The spring of 1941 saw wartime Britain at its most vulnerable and desperate. Nightly bombing raids over the long cold winter of 1940 by the German Luftwaffe had sought to bring the Churchill led government to the negotiating table prior to the implementation of Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa, originally timetabled for May 15th 1941.
Contrary to the usual post war history, many in positions of influence in Britain also favoured a negotiated settlement. All they knew and saw was the nightly devastation from an enemy far superior to themselves in terms of current offensive power. They certainly didn't know of the potential respite from any future German invasion of Russia; indeed the two countries were still active partners in a mutually beneficial trade agreement; their so called Commercial agreement, originally signed in February 1940.
Member Article: Soviet rifle corps in the Russo-German War, 1945
by Bill Wilson
For many in the Wehrmacht, the Red Army was for the entire war a poorly-understood force. German intelligence had some idea of how large the Red Army was at various points during the war, but German misconceptions about the Soviet forces have endured in the popular imagination, lending vague notions of "red hordes" and overwhelming numerical superiority.
Even though the structure of these forces has been made available by Russian sources, it remains a little known topic of the Second World War. Significant among the obscuring factors is the sheer number of formations fielded by the Soviets. Even their largest field force, the fronts, would be difficult to list from memory. Likewise, the situation for combined-arms armies and, further down, rifle corps is even more problematic because of their quantity.
Member Article: The Morality of Okinawa - Applying the Doctrine of "Just War"
by LtCol Richard Beil USMC(Ret.)
In any discussion about war, there is a vast gulf between the pacifist perspective that all war is wrong, and the realist perspective that all's fair in war, sometimes glibly expressed as just nuke ‘em and be done with it. In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us "blessed are the peacemakers" (Matt. 5:9). Elsewhere, in the Sermon on the Mount, he tells us "if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matt. 5:39). From such verses, some have concluded that Christianity is a pacifist religion and that violence is never permitted. But the same Jesus elsewhere acknowledges the legitimate use of force, telling the apostles, "let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one" (Luke 22:36). How are these passages to be reconciled?
Between pacifism and realism lies the concept of the Just War. Judgments on war and wartime conduct go back to Thucydides and the Melian Dialogue  in his History of the Peloponnesian War.
Member Article: Romolo Gessi Pasha: Early Counter-Insurgency Lessons from an Italian Soldier of Fortune’s Campaign in Central Africa
by Dr. Andrew McGregor
Successful counterinsurgencies typically combine the deployment of superior weapons, competent logistics, advanced tactics and the ability to win the “hearts and minds” of the non-insurgent population. What is striking about the success of Italian soldier-of-fortune Romolo Gessi Pasha (1831-1881) against insurgent Arab traders and slavers in the south Sudan was his ability to overcome a much larger group of fighters who possessed similar weapons, had greater experience in both irregular and conventional warfare, held fortified positions, were at home in the terrain and had wide public support in the most influential parts of Sudanese society, including the military. Ultimately, Gessi Pasha would go down in history as the relentless weapon used by Sudanese governor-general Charles “Chinese” Gordon to smite the Arab slavers of Bahr al-Ghazal and destroy their expanding influence.
Gessi is believed to have attended military schools in Germany and Austria before finding work as an interpreter for British forces in the Crimean War, where he would first meet Captain Charles Gordon of the Royal Engineers, later governor of Sudan’s Equatoria Province (1874-76) and governor general of the Sudan (1877-79).
Book Review: Invasion Syria 1941 – Churchill and de Gaulle’s Forgotten War
Review by Michael F. Dilley
Unlike in World War I when much is known and much has been written about the Middle East and Arab countries and the fighting therein, there is little available about fighting in this area during the early part of World War II. That campaign began on 8 June 1941 and ended with a cease fire 34 days later, on 12 July. Because of its length it seems almost like a backwater compared to later campaigns in the area and has been mostly neglected by military historians.
This should change with the publication of Henri de Wally’s latest book, Invasion Syria 1941. This book brings to light a new and very readable account of the events leading up to this campaign as well as those that led to an armistice and even events beyond the armistice. This is all possible because de Wally consulted a wide variety of sources, including memoirs of those involved and later court transcripts of some who were tried for various offenses. Mixed in with all these events is the extremely difficult positions French officers and units were put in because of their conflicting loyalties – to France, to the Vichy government, to Free France, to their own consciences, and to pragmatic survival decisions.
Book Review: Greece - The Decade of War
Review by Michael F. Dilley
The decade of the 1940s was a bloody, divisive period for Greece. During this time Greece faced an invasion by Italy, then an invasion by Germany, and, finally, a Communist-led civil war. These wars are the subject of David Brewer’s latest book, Greece, The Decade of War – Occupation, Resistance and Civil War. This is the third book Brewer has written about Greece. Following college (Oxford University), he held several positions before concentrating his time and efforts studying and writing about Greek history.
In order to understand what happened in the decade of the 1940s, it is necessary to learn, however briefly, the recent history of Greece. Brewer establishes this history and an understanding of its events in an expert manner, showing the lead-up to World War II.
Member Article: The U.S. Army Model 1913 Cavalry Saber
by Bob Seals
For some 159 years, United States Army used an edged sword, the saber, as the primary weapon for mounted troops. Whether called light horse, dragoon, or cavalry, the Army cavalry trooper on horseback carried a saber, with which to engage the various foes of our republic. The last issued Army saber in a long line, the model 1913 saber, became popularly known as "The Patton Saber," after then Second Lieutenant George S. Patton, Jr., who it is commonly believed was somehow responsible for the design and adoption of the new saber, during that very same year. Over the years, some authors, and historians, have questioned the veracity of conventional historical wisdom in naming the model 1913 saber "The Patton Saber," since, after all, how much influence could a lowly Second Lieutenant have had in the U.S. Army's procurement of a new weapon?
The purpose of this article is to introduce the reader to the U.S. Army model 1913 saber, and examine the facts surrounding the adoption of this last saber issued to Army troopers from before the First World War, until its subsequent withdraw as a modern weapon in the interwar year of 1934. A review of the historical record, and timeline, surrounding the saber, does indicate that Second Lieutenant George S. Patton, Jr. was indeed responsible for the Army's adoption of the saber, displaying those considerable powers of single mindedness, will, dedication, and zeal that made him such an effective maneuver combat general three decades later in North Africa and Europe. Patton's thinking, study, experimentation, and advocacy of this new edged weapon were indicative of his professional development as a military leader. This professional development was to ultimately lead the young, but talented officer, to recognize the value of the armored tank replacing a shiny saber as the weapon of choice for a modern mounted Army.
George Smith Patton, Jr. was born on the 11th of November 1885 on his family's prosperous cattle ranch near San Gabriel, California. His childhood out west was a rather idyllic one in Southern California with loving parents, a sister, dogs, horses to ride, fish to catch, birds and wild goats to hunt, and history to read. As a child, surrounded by mementos of his paternal grandfather's service with the 22nd Virginia Infantry, Patton had a fondness for toy swords. His father used a Civil War Confederate sword to play with young George "...kneel[ing] down and we would fight." Later, Patton's father bought him his first sword, "...A store in Los Angeles was having a sale of 1870 French Sword bayonets and I asked for one...later I attacked the cactus with it and got well stuck..."
Member Article: The Somme
by Del Kostka
The River Somme meanders through the picturesque French region of Picardy. Flowing past gently rolling hills and green country meadows, the river’s natural beauty belies a tragedy and horror that unfolded along its banks in the summer of 1916 when two great armies fought to the brink of annihilation over a landscape that neither considered strategically significant. Indeed, few places on earth have come to symbolize useless bloodshed and the futility of war more than the Somme.
The story of the Somme really begins in August of 1914 during the opening days of the First World War. Great Britain entered the war with an extremely small but highly efficient professional army of 250,000 troops. The army’s main role since the end of the Boer War was simply to police the British territorial empire, while Britain’s national security was vested in its large and powerful Royal Navy. Realizing the disparity in numbers between Britain’s land army and the massive, conscript-fueled German and French armies now squaring off on the continent, British Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener issued an immediate call for volunteers to raise an additional 100,000 troops.
Book Review: In the Shadows of Victory: America’s Forgotten Military Leaders
Review by Michael F. Dilley
The typical military history book deals with a single operation or a single war. The biography of a military leader explores the subject’s life. A brand new military history combines aspects of both of these. It is In the Shadows of Victory. The author, Thomas D. Phillips, has taken a slightly different approach with his new book and does an excellent job.
First, he has chosen as his subjects some of the lesser known military leaders in American military history. Second, the scope of his book covers the major American wars from the Revolution to the Wars with the Plains Indians, including the Barbary Wars, the War of 1812, the Seminole Wars, the War with Mexico, and the Civil War. Many of the military leaders in the later wars are seen in junior roles in earlier wars.
Member Article: The First Class at RAF No. 31 Radio School: August to September, 1941
by Paul Renard
U.S. Navy Aircraft Radioman First Class (ARM1/c) William C. “Willie” Fuchs (1919- ) crossed the border into Canada on 12 August 1941 and rode the busy wartime rails across western Ontario to Goderich along Lake Huron with a group of fellow sailors who had just completed a radar course at the Naval Research Laboratory Radio Materiel School (NRL RMS). Leaving the grain freighters of the town’s small harbor and its train station behind, he climbed aboard a bus for the final thirteen miles of his journey along the twisting Maitland River through a flat landscape of remote farms and small woodlots. At the end of his trip was the newly opened Royal Air Force (RAF) No. 31 Radio School (RS) outside of Clinton—a top secret facility reflecting Great Britain’s determination to continue the struggle against the Axis regardless of the outcome of battles in Europe.
Part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Program (BCATP), No. 31 Radio School opened on 20 July 1941 and was ready to begin radar design and maintenance classes for an initial group of 133 U.S. Navy and Army personnel and a few RAF trainees on August 16. Clinton was chosen for its remoteness to preserve secrecy, and because of its rolling countryside and proximity to a large body of water—conditions similar to those of southeast Britain. Its remote location in an insular farming community had two advantages: a lack of distractions for the trainees, and the unlikeliness of encounters with Axis espionage agents. The first class session lasted just under a month, concluding on 13 September. U.S. students consisted of 25 naval officers, 72 Navy enlisted men, and 36 Army enlisted men.
Member Article: The Second Battle of Ypres
by James J. Warrick
By the morning of April 22, 1915, Private Percy Kingsley, assigned to the Canadian Expeditionary Forces 5th Battalion, 2nd Brigade had been living in the trenches along the salient at Ypres for seven days. A young man from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada, he was part of the first nineteen men from his town to volunteer for service in Europe. He had not slept in days given the horrendous conditions in the trenches, often sleeping on “a grave containing a number of dead Germans”. The horror was only beginning and in a matter of hours, he would bear witness to a new type of warfare unlike any seen to date.
That afternoon, the Germans on the Western Front opened another series of artillery barrages along the Ypres salient. Instead of an infantry assault, what followed was a yellow-green cloud that drifted across the no-man’s land toward the Allies. The Second Battle of Ypres saw the first use of chemical weapons in war with its threat of use not taken seriously by the French and British nor was its employment taken advantage of by the Germans. This attack ushered in a new form of warfare in the 20th century and it would forever change the landscape of Europe.
Member Article: France's Forgotten D-Day: Operation Dragoon and the Invasion of Southern France
by Bruce Malone
The United States Seventh Army’s invasion of the southern coast of France on 15 August 1944 is one of the least celebrated Allied combat operations of the Second World War. In the end, Operation Dragoon (originally named Operation Anvil) proved to be one of the most important Allied campaigns, yet it remains one of the most controversial Allied strategic decisions. The American decision to launch Operation Dragoon against strenuous British objections changed the Anglo-American Allied relationship for the duration of the war, as the United States, long the leader in materiel production and numbers of soldiers, assumed the role of strategic senior partner. From start to finish and long afterwards, Allied leaders hotly debated the merits of this campaign and its results. Supporters of the invasion, mostly American, point out its vital assistance to the campaign in northern France, while its detractors, mostly British, find fault for its negative influence on the difficult fight in Italy. Often lost in these arguments are the actual results of this remarkable campaign.
Member Article: The Soviet Invasion of Manchuria and the Kwangtung Army
by Paul S. Teague
From the start of the twentieth century, the Japanese considered Russia, and later the Soviet Union as its potential primary adversary. Defeat in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 temporarily removed the Russian threat and the Japanese proceeded to garrison Manchuria. Initially this garrison consisted of two Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) divisions; however by 1910 this was reduced to six reserve battalions. In 1916 these reserve battalions were replaced by IJA regulars and in 1919 the Kwangtung Army was established with astrength of 10,000 soldiers by the IJA Order Number Twelve.
Officers in the Kwangtung Army considered themselves the guardians of Japan’s frontiers, and they believed the War Ministry did not appreciate the danger to Manchuria that the Soviets posed. The Kwangtung Army moved quickly to consolidate and expand control of Manchuria, and they began political maneuvers to establish a puppet government. A group of Kwangtung Army officers led by Ishiwara Kanji judged that the moment was ripe for bold action.
Member Article: Battle of Buna-Gona
by Paul S. Teague
In the South Pacific the Japanese wanted to establish a perimeter which the
Allies would not be able to penetrate, this perimeter would also allow the
Japanese to interdict the lines of communications between the United States and
Australia, thus isolating Australia. In order to accomplish this, the Japanese
planned to capture Port Moresby, New Guinea and to use the facilities there for
ground based air support against the Americans and Australians. The Japanese
also planned to construct a sea plane facility at Tulagi, and to construct an
airfield on Guadalcanal. The Japanese intentions were to Take Port Moresby and
Tulagi in order to secure air mastery of the Coral Sea and its shores. It was
allied resistance to this that resulted in the Battle of the Coral Sea 4-8 May
1942. The Allies were successful at the Battle of the Coral Sea in that, although the
Japanese were successful in taking Tulagi on 3 May 1942 they were prevented from
landing at Port Moresby. Though the Japanese landing at Port Moresby was
thwarted, they still intended to take it. The entire purpose of the attempted
landing at Port Moresby was to provide the Japanese with facilities to protect
additional movements into Southern New Guinea and to launch raids on Australia
to weaken the Allies ability to move troops.
Member Article: Timothy Webster, Pinkerton Man and Spy
by Walter Giersbach
Few people admire a spy who lives by duplicity, subterfuge and lies, even if he or she is your ally. However, Timothy Webster was a man of honor serving an honorable cause. And he was the first Union spy hanged by the Confederates for it.
Webster was born into a large family in Newhaven, Sussex County, England in 1822. Foreshadowing the mass emigrations to come, the Websters moved to Princeton, N.J. in 1830. About ten years later, he moved again, to New York City, and in 1841, at the age of 19, he married 23-year-old Charlotte Sprowls. A year later their first child, a son, was born. They would have four children in all. 
While Webster had been trained as a machinist, the need to support a family led him to become a policeman. The Municipal Police Act, signed into law in 1845, set up a larger police organization that was the foundation for the modern New York Police Department.
Member Article: Cuban Missile Crisis - Khrushchev’s Last Bluff
by Edward J. Langer
On a routine U-2 reconnaissance flight over Cuba, to see what sort of mischief Fidel Castro was up to, the plane’s cameras caught images of the construction of missile launch pads for offensive missiles.
In October of 1962, the world held its breath as two nuclear superpowers squared off. Was this going to be the beginning of World War three and a nuclear nightmare? Did Khrushchev really have the nuclear capability that Tass claimed he had, or was it just a bluff? Fortunately, through many backdoor meetings, the issue was resolved without a missile being launched.
There have been many books, articles and narratives that have been written that describe the events and the backdoor negotiations that resolved the issue. What was at issue was that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev feared that the United States had a commanding arsenal of nuclear tipped missiles aimed at the Soviet Union. To even the odds Khrushchev developed a plan to place Soviet offensive missiles and technical support soldiers in Cuba.
Member Article: Saint Augustine, Martin Luther and the Origins of World War One
by Edward J. Langer
On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Duchess Sophie were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo,
Bosnia-Herzegovina. Archduke Ferdinand was heir to the throne of
Austria-Hungary. Gavrilo Princip was a member of the Serbian terrorist
organization known as the Black Hand, a group who sought to separate
Bosnia-Herzegovina from the Austrian-Hungary Empire and join it with Serbia
(Servia). Austria reacted to the assassination by attempting to crush any and all Serbian nationalist movements. Serbia looked to Czar Nicholas II of Russia for protection. Austria-Hungary looked to Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany for support. During the month following the assassination there was intense diplomatic activity by all the great powers in Europe to resolve differences between Serbia and Austria-Hungary and to avert another European war. All of this activity came to no avail as war erupted on July 28, 1914 between Serbia and Austria-Hungary.
Member Article: 1127 Days of Death – a Korean War Chronology – Part 1, 1950
by Anthony J. Sobieski
The Korean War, forever known as the ‘Forgotten War’ by many, lasted a total of 1127 days, from June 25th 1950 through July 27th 1953. A total of 38 months. A little over three years in length, but encompassing four years on a calendar. With a beginning that was unlike any other beginning of a ‘war’ up until then, the term ‘Police Action’ became its moniker for many years, with some in the United States and other countries looking to call it anything other than what it really was. It was just too short a time after the end of World War II, with the sacrifices by many, the devastation of so much, burned into people’s memories all too readily. And during the war, who could have guessed there would be an ending that harkened back to the days of World War I, the war to end all wars. Trench warfare and bunkers, large amounts of artillery, and a set day and time to stop shooting. The Korean War was and is a difficult war to describe. Most of the weapons, equipment and tactics were WWII era. Yes, there were some new innovations to the art of killing another human being and to the survival from being killed. But they were far and few between. Personal body armor made its first appearance, and winter ‘Mickey Mouse’ boots, and of course Korea was the first truly jet-age war. Helicopters made their debut, performing search & rescue along with speedy transportation of the wounded. But other than those and a few more, the war was fought with WWII era rifles, artillery, ships (excluding the newer carriers), and at least in the very beginning of the war, fighters, bombers and tanks. Even some of the first men to serve in combat were WWII veterans, many of whom who had already given ‘a pound of flesh’ in the service to their country.
Member Article: Intelligence Gathering Directed by Admiral Sir Reginald Hall Leading to the Involvement of the United States in World War I
by Kevin Mulcahy
The events leading up to United States involvement in World War I were once closely guarded secrets. Since the end of the war, officials began publishing their memoirs, classified documents have been released, and researchers have uncovered information related to German intentions. It has been discovered that one piece of intercepted information may have provoked the United States to declare war against Germany. This information was obtained through the hard work, cunning, and sheer luck of a secret British intelligence operation known as Room 40.
Admiral Sir William Reginald Hall of the British Navy was instrumental in the operations of Room 40. It was in Room 40 that a top secret transmission sent from Germany via the United States to Mexico was decoded. It was also the tipping point that pushed the United States to enter World War I. This history changing document became known as the Zimmermann Telegram.
The Battle of Thatis River
by John Patrick Hewson
In the second half of the sixth century BC a large scale tribal movement took place north of the Black sea. This began when the Massagetai, the largest and most powerful of the tribes of north Central Asia, undertook an aggressive expansion into the steppes of Kazakhstan. During this process they either enslaved or integrated into their horde many of the nomadic horse tribes of central Asia. We know very little about the resulting confederation except that its success was due in part to the development of a new form of elite heavy cavalry known to the Greeks as Kataphraktoi, which became what we know as Cataphracts.
From Small Causes, Great Events - Part 4
by Larry Parker
Operation Cobra, the breakout from Normandy 24-27 July 1944, began with one of the most concentrated and intense carpet bombings in the history of modern warfare. 1500 B-17s and B-24s dropped 2000 tons of High Explosive and an even greater payload of fragmentation bombs on an area five miles wide by one mile deep. The heavies were augmented by 1000 medium bombers and fighter bombers. In just under three hours 2500 planes disgorged over 5000 tons of ordnance plus white phosphorus and a new agent called napalm, saturating the target zone with over 11,000 bombs per square mile. The Panzer Lehr division defending the area, already weakened by six weeks of fighting, was devastated. So great was the concussion that twenty-five ton tanks were flipped onto their turrets. The blast smashed radios and obliterated Headquarters sundering command and control. General Fritz Bayerlein, commanding the elite Panzer Lehr, estimated that seventy per cent of his men were dead, wounded or rendered senseless and incapable of resistance by the shock effect. Regrettably precision munitions were thirty years in the future. Cloud cover, flak, nerves and aim point miscalculations resulted in the fratricide of American forces waiting to begin the ground assault once the air armada had completed its mission. 136 men were killed, another 621 wounded, primarily from the 30th Infantry Division. Indeed the 30th suffered more casualties in three hours from the Army Air Force (AAF) than from the enemy on any day of the war.
A survivor of Operation Cobra wrote, “One’s life is held in balance by a little piece of metal smaller than a man’s finger.” Depending upon the vagaries of combat that “little piece of metal” might kill, wound, graze or miss completely. Should that “little piece of metal” kill the outcome seems inevitable; at that point we tend to disregard the fact that up until the moment of impact, the moment of finality, the preceding moments were infinitely variable, containing a multitude of possibilities. We forget how unpredictable the world looked mere seconds before the fragment struck. This is the trap of hind sight bias. To use another example, because the West dominated much of recent history we assume that dominance was inevitable. It was not. Western dominance was and remains a close run thing. Had the Persians won at Salamis, had Pilate pardoned Christ, had the Chinese harnessed steam power before the West, had any one of thousands of events turned out differently, what would the world look like today?
In Memoriam: Lt(jg) James A. Nist, USNR (1921-1945)
by Bryan J. Dickerson
Seventy years ago this month, Martin and Ethel Nist (my great grandparents) received a Western Union telegram with heartbreaking news. Their youngest son James, a Naval Aviator assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), was reported Missing in Action in the Pacific Theater. Due to need for wartime secrecy, there were few details.