Tag: Military History

Ten Rifle Companies

 

Today is the 246th Birthday of the United States Army. On June 14th, 1775, the Second Continental Congress passed the following:

“Resolved, That six companies of expert riflemen, be immediately raised in Pennsylvania, two in Maryland, and two in Virginia… [and] as soon as completed, shall march and join the army near Boston, to be there employed as light infantry, under the command of the chief Officer in that army.” (here)

McClellan, and Other Leaders Who Got It Wrong

 

Officers of the 69th Infantry New York, at Fort Corcoran, VA, with Col. Michael Corcoran. (Mathew Brady/NARA)

American history is replete with examples of military leaders making foolish and erroneous declarations.

Perhaps none did so more frequently and with such significant consequences than George B. McClellan, arguably the worst commander in U.S. military history, a man who never missed an opportunity to be wrong with a spectacular inability to recognize it.

Achieving Peace through Massive Superiority

 

Thomas S. Power, the Strategic Air Command’s leader in the late 1950s and early 1960s was easily caricatured. The ultimate bomber baron, he was routinely mocked as a warmonger. Dr. Strangelove’s General Buck Turgidson was a parody of Power. After retirement, to ease the path of the fighter mafia in taking control of the Air Force, its establishment tacitly supported criticism of Power.

“To Rule the Skies: General Thomas S. Power and the Rise of the Strategic Air Command in the Cold War,” by Brent D. Ziarnick is a new biography of Power. It provides a more balanced view of Power’s life and his contributions to the Strategic Air Command and to peace. In it Ziarnick overturns many conventional wisdom myths about Power.

Power came from an immigrant family in New York City. Ziarnick traces Power from these origins to his eventual rise to command. Power never attended college, and may not have graduated high school. He scrabbled his way into the Army Air Corps studying to be a flying cadet at night, working construction during the day.

Reading the Enemy’s Mail

 

One of the most storied commanders of World War II was German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel.  A hero in his own country he was Britain’s most admired enemy during that war. He gained much of his reputation while commanding the Afrika Korps against the British in Egypt. Rommel claimed his success was due to his ability to think like his opposite number, putting himself inside the mind of his opponent. It turned out Rommel was not reading his enemy’s mind. He was reading his mail.

“War of Shadows: Codebreakers, Spies, and the Secret Struggle to Drive the Nazis from the Middle East,” by Gershom Gorenberg, examines espionage and signal intelligence during the 1940-42 African campaigns.

Gorenberg takes a fresh look at World War II in Africa using previously unpublished memoirs and interviews of surviving participants (some made years ago, saved and archived) and recently declassified war records. Many records, especially those relating to wartime espionage and signal intelligence remained classified into the opening years of the twenty-first century.

Fighting On Despite Desperate Odds

 

Why do men fight, and why are willing they willing to continue to fight to the last man, preferring death to surrender? T. E. Lawrence’s said men go to war “because the women were watching.” According to Michael Walsh, in his new book, Lawrence’s answer holds more truth than irony. Men fight for their families.

“Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All is Lost,” by Michael Walsh, investigates the last man phenomena. It explores why men fight, and why they are willing to continue fighting even when they know they will lose.

Walsh examines history through the lens of combat, starting with the Ancient Greek Battle of Thermopylae and continuing through the Marine retreat from the Chosin Reservoir in the Twentieth Century. In thirteen chapters he explores sixteen last-stand battles.  Some, including Thermopylae, Masada, and the Alamo, the defenders lost and dying almost to the last man. In others, like Rorke’s Drift and the Battle of Pavlov’s House at Stalingrad, defenders triumphed against terrible odds.

The US Navy Faces Off Kamikazes at Okinawa

 

As the war turned against them in World War II, Japan tried a new tactic: the kamikaze. Pilots used their aircraft as one-way bombs against Allied warships and transports.  The campaign started during the invasion of the Philippines in October 1944 and continued until the last day of the war.

“Rain of Steel: Mitscher’s Task Force 58, Ukagi’s Thunder Gods and the Kamikaze War off Okinawa,” by Stephen L. Moore, examines the most intense phase of the kamikaze campaign, that fought during the Allied invasion of Okinawa.

Moore touches on the whole of the kamikaze effort. He looks at its origins, how the Japanese developed it, and their kamikaze attacks prior to and after the conquest of Okinawa. He also examines the US reaction to the campaign, including the tactics developed to counter the kamikazes. The meat of the book is the fighting off Okinawa, however.

A War Easier to Start than End

 

Professor Paul Rahe, of Hillsdale College, is writing a multi-volume study of Sparta’s grand strategy during the Fifth Century BC. The first book “The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta: The Persian Challenge” looked at Sparta during the Persian War.

“Sparta’s Second Attic War: The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta, 446-418 B. C,” by Paul A. Rahe continues his study of the Peloponnesian Wars. The third volume in the series, it examines the second phase of the war between Sparta and Athens, fought between 431 and 421 BC.

The book picks up where his previous volume, Sparta’s First Attic War leaves off, in 446 BC. It covers more than the active phases of the war. Rahe examines the build-up to the active war and its immediate aftermath, including Sparta’s victorious war with Argos and her allies in 418 BC.

A Navigator’s Account of SAC

 

Between 1946 and 1992 the Strategic Air Command was the United States’s main shield against Soviet aggression. Its bombers flew constantly, fueling aloft to reach any point in the world.

“SAC Time: A Navigator in the Strategic Air Command,” by Thomas E. Alexander, is the memoir of a man who spent three years in the Strategic Air Command and thirteen years in the Air National Guard.

Alexander served the Strategic Air Command as a junior officer.  He was a navigator, not a pilot. Rated a bombardier, navigator, and radar bombardier, he did not crew SAC’s jet glamorous bombers. He navigated KC-97 Stratotankers, a piston-engine aircraft that refueled other aircraft. The book may be the more interesting because of this perspective.

The United States in a Perilous Year

 

The United States is going through some hard times right now. Some might believe 2020 to be the most challenging year faced by the Republic. The oldest among us remember a year far worse than 2020 or even the 1960s.

“The Year of Peril: America in 1942,” by Tracy Campbell, recalls that year. The United States had been unexpectedly thrust into a war, one we appeared to be losing in 1942.

Campbell takes readers through that year. He reveals the fear stalking the American public, especially early in 1942. People expected the attack on Pearl Harbor to be followed up by a Japanese invasion of the American homeland. Air raids by long-range German bombers were also expected.

On Independence Day, when so much seems to be going wrong, perhaps we need to take a step back, share a laugh, and then focus some attention on those whose dedication makes this and every Independence Day possible. This episode meets both of those needs as Dave sits down with comedian David Deeble to bring the blood pressure down a bit by looking at the lighter side of life. Everything is fair game, from rioters toppling garden gnomes, to the proper placement of deer crossing signs in this freewheeling and fun exchange.

Then, Dave talks with new Ricochet Member Nick Plosser, who has started his own podcast called The Half Percent. The podcast provides a needed outlet and opportunity for active duty military, veterans, guard and reserve troops to tell their story, share their experiences, and bring you into the world of that half percent of Americans who are serving their country in uniform at any given time. Nick is an inspiring gentleman, and has even persuaded Dave to be a guest on an upcoming episode of his podcast (we understand there will be humor and bourbon involved, though we’re not sure which comes first). If you’re looking for reasons to celebrate Independence Day, this episode will do the trick.

A New Look at a Global Conflict

 

The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars was the world’s first truly global conflict. Although the Seven Years’ War and Wars of American Independence were fought globally, the round of fighting triggered by the French Revolution saw major campaigns on a wider geographic scale than seen previously or since. No war, including World War II saw major fighting in as many different continents.

“The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History,” by Alexander Mikaberidze examines the conflict from a global perspective.

Mikaberidze links all of the different wars fought between 1792 and 1815 into a greater global whole. It reveals answers to puzzles that seem inexplicable when focusing just on the wars directly involving France.

Member Post

 

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday. Book Review ‘Over There in the Air’ examines the relationship between Aggies and […]

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This Week’s Book Review: Heavy Date over Germany

 

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘Heavy Date’ offers a look at war through a young man’s eyes

By MARK LARDAS

Member Post

 

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday. Book Review Prominent engineer helps change engineering world By MARK LARDAS Preview Open

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Rahe’s ‘Sparta’s First Attic War’ Provides a Clear Account of a Neglected Period of History

 

Today, few are aware of the 70-year struggle between Athens and Sparta, known collectively as the Peloponnesian Wars. Neglected in today’s history classes, most people who know of it largely recall the last phase of the war, where Sparta conquered Athens.

Sparta’s First Attic War: The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta, 478-446 B.C., by Paul A. Rahe, examines the period leading up to that phase of the Peloponnesian Wars. It examines the period when Sparta and Athens moved from allies to rivals, and finally to enemies.

The book follows the 34-year period between the end of the Second Persian invasion of Greece and the start of the five-year truce ending the first war between Sparta and Athens. Rahe traces the events of that period. These include the decline of Persia’s seapower and Athens’s subsequent growth as a naval and economic power.

‘Lady Death’ the Story of a Successful Sniper

 

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the Soviet Army’s most successful female sniper during World War II. A fourth-year history student when Hitler invaded Russia, she quit school to enlist as a sniper. In 1941 and 1942 she racked up 309 kills.

“Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper,” by Lyudmila Pavlichenko, is an English translation of her memoirs. She died in 1974, leaving a manuscript copy of her memoirs, which remained unpublished until this century.

In it she recounts her life, with a primary emphasis on her wartime experiences. She shows how she became an expert marksman before the war, joining shooting teams at work and in school, becoming fascinated with both the machinery of the rifle and the art of shooting.

Now it’s Time to do an Update on YouTube History and Firearms Channels

 

Awhile ago, I did a post about the YouTube history channels I’d been watching as a respite from the simplistic sensationalist garbage on the TeeVees. Here’s an update, with some new finds.

Even though the Great War ended one hundred years prior to November 11, 2018, The Great War channel is still soldiering on. Dedicated to events, week by week, that happened a century ago during the war, the channel is still a great resource if you are interested in that conflict. Now that the war is “over,” the channel does updates on the aftermath. Boy, there is still a lot of fighting going on.

Book Review: “Smoke ’em” Shows Military’s Role in Masculine Rite

 

Anyone serving in the U.S. military before 1980 remembers the cry opening every break: “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.” Almost everyone, from the lowest private to the most senior officer present, would light up a cigarette.

Smoke ‘em if You Got ‘em: The Rise and Fall of the Military Cigarette Ration by Joel R. Bius examines the link between the military and cigarette smoking. He shows how cigarette consumption and the military were connected.

In 1900 cigarettes were a surprisingly small fraction of tobacco consumption. Around 7 percent of all tobacco products were retailed in the form of cigarettes. Cigarette smoking was viewed as unmanly and un-American.

The Siege of Fort Loudoun, 1765

 

Friday marked the 253rd Anniversary of the Siege of Fort Loudoun, November 16–18, 1765.

This happened at Fort Loudoun, Pennsylvania. A company of frontier militia, known locally as “The Black Boys” for the distinctive way they blackened their faces with soot and grease, laid siege to the local fort, then manned by a detachment of British regulars. These troops, experienced soldiers of the 42nd Royal Scots Regiment of Foot, also known as “the Black Watch,” were pinned down for two full days by the continuous harassment and interdiction fire from the militiamen’s rifles. Despite holding what ought to have been a superior position given the prevailing infantry tactics of the time, the British commander surrendered the fort and retreated back to Fort Pitt. There were no deaths, but neither were the British ever able to employ maneuver to bring their smoothbore muskets or bayonets against the militia.