The NYMAS Newsletter

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Summer 1997

A Publication of

The New York Military Affairs Symposium

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When Titans Clash

Wins the 1996 NYMAS Book Award

 

In April the NYMAS editorial committee voted to give the 1996 Arthur Goodzeit Book Award to When Titans Clash: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, by David Glantz and Johnathan M. House, published by the University Press of Kansas in 1996.

Instituted in 1991, the Arthur Goodzeit Book Award, named after the late Arthur Goodzeit, a long-time member of NYMAS and first editor of the Newsletter, has been made annually to an original work in military history which in the opinion of the members of the NYMAS editorial committee is of unusual value.

Previous winners have been:

 

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Feature Review

 

Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend

by James I. Robertson.

Aside from Robert E. Lee, no other figure in the Confederacy has been idolized as much as Thomas Jonathan Jackson, better known as Stonewall. Naturally, he has been the subject of a number of biographical studies, which have ranged from good (Frank Vandiver's Mighty Stonewall, 1957) to extremely bad (the books by John Bower, Bevin Alexander and Paul Cadorph, all published within the last five years). Now noted Civil War scholar James I. Robertson has undertaken the task.

Let me say at the outset that this is the most massive and detailed personal biography of Jackson. Robertson's research in this regard brings new meaning to the word exhaustive. This has allowed Robertson to do two important things. The first is that he has brought out much more information on Jackson's childhood and formative years than before. The second is that Robertson has been able to debunk a number of myths about Jackson, such as the lemon myth, which held that Jackson liked to suck on lemons. The truth is, as Robertson informs us, simply that Jackson as a rule liked fruit. Peaches were his favorite, but also watermelon, apples, pears and even lemons, which were actually relatively rare in the south. Although a rather weighty tome, it is a fairly easy read, marked by Robertson well-crafted prose. It also has several photographs that have never been published before.

Unfortunately, this book has the fault of many biographies. Robertson, a dyed in the wool Virginian, has fallen in love with his subject. To be sure, there is much to admire in Jackson. A poor boy who was orphaned with his sister at the age of seven, Jackson was raised by an uncle who was not much of a father figure. Poorly educated even by southern standards of the day, Jackson made it through West Point to a high standing in his class (1846) by sheer grit and determination. Not born into any religious denomination, he eventually became a Presbyterian, which helped him through the most difficult period of his life, when his first wife died in childbirth, followed by their newborn son.

The main text of the book is 762 pages, roughly two-thirds of deal with the Civil War. This is where the weaknesses of the book appear. The first of these is Robertson's tendency to let Jackson off the hook for several things. The most notable of these concerns Jackson's pursuit of court-martial charges against Richard Garnett for his understandable but unauthorized retreat at First Kernstown. In describing the court-martial of Garnett, that fortunately for Jackson was broken up by the press of events, Robertson actually raises indirectly the issue that Jackson may have lied at the trial, but lets it go there. If any other general pursued such a course, for example James Longstreet, you can rest assured that adjectives such as "vindictive," "malicious," and "spiteful" would have appeared. Problems with the treatment of Jackson do not end there.

Like so many other Jackson fans, for some reason Robertson cannot resist taking some gratuitous cheap shots at Longstreet. One would have to read the book with extreme care, for example, to realize that it was Longstreet, not Jackson, who was Lee's second -in-command. Robertson even shrinks Longstreet, putting his height at "nearly six feet," as opposed to the actual 6’2". Robertson also revives the old notion that Lee camped near Longstreet because he could not trust him, a myth that recent scholarship on Longstreet has completely exploded. In fact, Robertson's depiction of Jackson's personality, when combined with Emory Thomas' of Robert E. Lee, makes it fairly clear as to why Lee preferred to camp with Longstreet as opposed to the dour and humorless Jackson.

While Robertson can be critical of some of Jackson's battlefield performances, he tends to pull some punches here. Jackson's string of failures at the Seven Days are explained by his fatigue, an explanation that has never proven satisfactory. The 600 yard gap in the line at Fredericksburg is left unexplained, although Robertson says it is clearly a black mark on Jackson's record. It surely must have pained Robertson terribly to say that Longstreet performed better in the battle than Jackson.

Finally, Robertson has a number of vignettes in the book which involve encounters with Jackson and enlisted men, or other personalities. While Robertson is justly critical of some sources for propagating myths, he is guilty of the same thing here. For many of these vignettes, he relies on three notoriously unreliable sources, namely an account written by James Power Smith 50 years after the war and published in the Southern Historical Society Papers in 1920, Henry Kyd Douglas' memoir I Rode With Stonewall, which Robertson once suggested be called Stonewall Rode With Me, and the memoir of Heros von Borcke, the Baron Munchhausen of the Confederacy.

These flaws notwithstanding, this is still a book well worth reading. While a more critical study of Jackson in the Civil War is needed, this book will stand as the best personal biography of Jackson well into the next century. Superbly researched and well written, it is a must for anyone with a serious interest in the Civil War.

Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend by James I. Robertson. New York: Macmillan, 1997. 950 pp, illus., maps, index, $40.00. -R.L. DiNardo

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Quotation from Chairman

Bonaparte

 

"The advent of cannon killed the feudal system;

ink will kill the modern system."

 

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Reviews

 

The Black Seminoles: History of a Freedom-Seeking People by Kenneth W. Porter, revised and edited by Alcione M. Amos and Thomas P. Senter. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1996. xi, 284 pp. Illus, maps, notes, bibliog, index. $29.95. ISBN: 0-8130-1451-4

The Black Seminoles is primarily a history of a unique people’s quest for a place to live, which took them from their origins in Florida to Oklahoma, from which they fled slavery among the Cherokee "Civilized Nations" to the safety of Mexico, and then later, to settle in Texas and still later in Oklahoma again. However, the book is also a military history. In both Mexico and Texas the Black Seminoles –who never numbered more than a few score military aged men—supported themselves by serving as military colonists and scouts, usually against the Apache.

There are many notable warriors here, four of whom earned the Medal of Honor, several capable tacticians, and a number of epic battles against enormous odds.

Originally written in the 1940s, and based not only on a thorough sifting of available documentation but also extensive interviews, the book has only now seen print for the first time, after extensive revision and editing to incorporate newly available material.

A valuable work for anyone interested in the Indian-Fighting Army, or in some "rattling good history."

-A.A. Nofi

 

The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary, 1914-1918 by Holger H. Herwig. New York: Arnold, 1997. 490 pp., maps, index. $19.95.

This is a book we have needed for some time. For a long time much World War I historiography has been very much Anglo-centric, the most recent example being the documentary series aired on PBS, which might well have been accurately named Great Britain, the Great War and the Shaping of the Modem World. Herwig, a noted German military historian best known for his work on the German Navy, has written a comprehensive study of the two major Central Powers, seeking to correct this imbalance.

One of the most impressive things about the book is the research. Herwig delved deeply in the archives in Vienna, Berlin, Koblenz, Bonn, and Freiburg. One of the most interesting things here is that Herwig was able to gain access to the material that was formerly in the East German archives, which has been brought to Freiburg. In fact, a pretty fair amount of material on the German Army of World War I did survive World War II, despite the best efforts of Arthur Harris.

Relying on this documentary material, along with a superb grasp of the primary and secondary material, Herwig has put together a fine study of the Central Powers at war. The military operations are well described and analyzed. Beyond this, Herwig gives the reader an excellent feel for the horrors of combat in places such as Verdun, the Carpathians (where sleeping or wounded soldiers were at times eaten by wolves), and the Carnic Alps. Like several other historians, Herwig is more critical as he goes up the chain of command. Moltke, Falkenhayn, and especially Ludendorf all come in for heavy doses of criticism, especially in the grand strategic realm of warfare, the inability to coordinate plans with the Austrians, and for showing a complete lack of understanding in regard to the relationship between policy and strategy. On the Austrian side, Herwig takes some very well-deserved swipes at the legend of Conrad von Hotzendorf as a thwarted military genius. By the time Herwig is finished, the mantle of genius is reduced to the stem of the fig leaf.

Beyond this, Herwig also devotes a great deal of attention to how Germany and Austria-Hungary tried to cope with a war that was nothing like anything in their previous experience. In this regard, Herwig argues that the Central Powers hurt their own position by failing to manage the resources they did have. In addition, in their attempts to amass resources from conquests in eastern Europe often required large amounts of resources themselves. Herwig points out, for example, that after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Germans had to use a million soldiers to garrison the area they occupied, while they were launching their last desperate offensives on the Western Front.

To be sure there are some problems with the book. It is surprising that given Herwig's previous work, the naval side of the war figures very little in the book. In fact, even Jutland gets only a passing mention. While Herwig is justly critical of the Austrians for helping produce the crisis that led to war in 1914, he lets the Germans off the hook in this regard a bit too easily. Finally, Herwig argues that the Germans should have demanded and gotten much more subservience from the Austrians than they did. It is difficult to see how Austria could have been more subservient than they were.

These, however, are minor points. While one might disagree with Herwig on some points, one cannot but admire the breathtaking scope of his scholarship, his excellent grasp of the critical issues, and his highly readable prose. This is a brilliant work by one of the real giants in the field. An absolute must read for anyone with even a passing interest in the subject.

-R. L. DiNardo

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Some Notable Recent Works on Medieval Military History

 

The Cambridge \Illustrated Atlas of Warfare: The Middle Ages, 768-1487 by Nicholas Hooper and Matthew Bennett. Cambridge: The Univ. Press, 1996. Pp. 192. Maps, Illus, tables, index.. 

This book gives the non-specialist reader an overview of medieval warfare while providing the detailed maps that seldom appear in more specialized, short print run, works. he authors are at some pains to refute outdated views that, thanks to the longevity and availability of such older works as C.W.C. Oman's and Hans Delbrück's, are still current among non-medievalists. Still, because of the availability of source materials and of a body of scholarly work to draw on, military actions such as Hastings, the various Crusades, and the Hundred Years War that are already well known to those familiar with the older writers are emphasized within the new paradigm. The book's very up-to-dateness causes a few problems. The phases of Fulk Nerra's program of castle-building are distinguished by color, but are hard to tell apart; the water-color illos of Saifa and Chateau Gaillard are more difficult to read than the line drawings in other works. And there is no spell-check program that will catch the entry in the chronological table that claims that in 1082 the Normans captured Damascus.

-Valerie Eads

 

War and Chivalry: The Conduct and Perception of War in England and Normandy, 1066-1217 by Matthew Strickland. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996. Pp. xxii + 387. Maps, illus, notes, bibliog, index.

What did war have to do with chivalry? Was it all a scam, with the troubadours as early spin doctors? A plot to delude gullible romantics with tales of a Golden Age of knightly conduct, mercy to a noble adversary, and protection of the defenseless? Not quite. It was a sophisticated warfare based on the control of fortified positions and the destruction of an adversary's economic base, tempered by such pragmatic moves as ransoming rather than killing captives who could help pay for the costs of operations. Noble gestures such as granting respites during sieges had the pragmatic benefit to the besieger that a negotiated surrender could result and a bloody and destructive storming could be avoided. Avoiding costly and uncertain battles was part of the pattern, countered by the very real need to earn honor on the field. Even such highly regarded leaders as Richard the Lionheart could be subjected to taunts rather than praise for hard-headed realism.

Some of the strongest material in the book comes in the sections on those who were outside the chivalric circle. The Celts did not take ransoms; they took heads and slaves; Scots became official sub-humans. Infantry were not knights and defeat meant their deaths. Mercy for the defenseless never saved the lives or crops of an opponent's peasants, or fear of God the Church's. After hostilities the Church could be indemnified and penance performed, and caring for the poor was the Church's business. Still, Strickland presents a strong case that despite the pragmatic underpinnings of chivalric behavior warfare in the Anglo-Norman period was different from what went before and came after.

Either the conduct or the perception of war during the 150 years when the king of England was also a French duke would have made a hefty dissertation for a mere mortal. Strickland effectively wrote two, and since the dissertation was cited by scholars before his advisor's signature was dry it's a safe bet that he did it very well. It's just too bad that the publisher couldn't find a way to back up this impressive work with help in proofreading and indexing.

-Valerie Eads

Olivier de Clisson and Political Society in France Under Charles V and Charles VI, by John Bell Henneman. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996. Illus, maps, diagr, genealogies, tables, append, notes, bibliog, index. xiv, 341pp. $54.95. ISB: 0-8122-3353-0.

A detailed treatment of what the author calls "French military society" in the middle decades of the Hundred Years War. Using Clisson as a representative sample, the author investigates the background, wealth, status, and role of the noble professional military class in the administrative, political, social, and, of course, military life of France.

In addition to an enormously useful appendix listing the principal military commanders of the period, there is an interesting genealogical discussions to elucidate the origins of the Clisson family, a typical member of this class. Documentation is extensive, and the footnotes are warehouses of useful information and observations.

-A.A. Nofi

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On Target!

 

Although the old smoothbore musket dominated the battlefield for nearly 200 years, from the late 17th Century until well into the 19th, its accuracy was hardly something to brag about. As one contemporary officer put it, " . . . a soldier must be very unfortunate indeed who shall be wounded by a common musket at 150 yards, provided his antagonist aimed at him." This can be seen in the results of a number of musketry firing tests that were conducted during the late 18th century.

In an English firing test conducted in 1779, "a battalion of excellent Norfolk militia" using the Brown Bess hit its targets about 20% of the time at 70 yards. In another test, a British "marksman" with a Brown Bess scored 100-percent hits firing at a one square foot target at 60 paces. His accuracy at 100 yards was only about 14%.

In 1790 the Prussian Army tested its 1782 musket. The results were not particularly more impressive. The target was an elaborate wood and canvas construction supposed to represent the front of an infantry company (32m by 1.8m). It actually offered roughly 42% more solid surface area than would have been occupied by the troops (30 sq. m rather than 52 sq. m). Moreover, the firing troops were performing under ideal conditions, with no one shooting back.

 

Range Hits

300m 20%

140 40%

70 70%

 

A later similar test, in which the target surface was actually painted with the figures of troops in ranks, suggested that about 25% of the rounds would entirely miss the men. Even rounds hitting the painted figures were not necessarily injurious, since many would strike hats, coat tails, and equipment. An analysis of combat statistics suggests that no more than 15% of the rounds fired seem to have hit anyone. And range was important to lethality: beyond 100 meters serious casualties were relatively few, at 50 meters the slaughter could be terrific. It was these basic facts that molded tactics

 

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The Civil War Bookshelf

 

One of the more important benefits of the seemingly unending flood of books on the Civil War is that we are being trated to valuable treatments of relatively overlooked aspects of the national epic, as can be seen in some of the more recent works on the subject.

 

Monocacy: The Battle that Saved Washington by B. Franklin Cooling. Shippensburg, PA: White Mane, 1997. xviii, 335 pp. Illus, maps, tables, append., notes, bibliog, index. $34.95. ISBN: 1-57249-032-2.

Generally dismissed as a relatively minor incident during Jubal Early’s "Raid on Washington" in the summer of 1864, the day long battle on the Monocacy saw basically raw Union troops hold off a considerably stronger force of Confederate veterans long enough to permit veteran of the Army of the Potomac to reinforce Washington, thereby just possibly averting an embarrassing Rebel assault on the capitol. Cooling who has written several works on the defense of Washington during the Civil War and here presents a coherent, interesting account of this highly unusual battle.

 

The Union Soldier in Battle: Enduring the Ordeal of Combat, by Earl J. Hess. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1997. xii, 224 pp. Notes, index. $29.95. ISBN: 0-7006-0837-0.

The author provides a very close look at the ways in which the Union soldier coped with combat during the Civil War. To some extent a rebuttal to Gerald F. Linerman’s Embattled Courage (1987), which at times read like an anti-Vietnam War tract in terms of its treatment of the soldiers’ motivation and ability to cope with combat, The Union Soldier in Battle is based on a far larger number of letters, diaries, and memoirs. Some of the chapters are "Defining Courage," "The Psychology of the Battle Line," and "Memories." Worth reading.

 

The Alabama and the Kearsage: The Sailor’s Civil War by William Marvel. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996. x, 337 pp. Illus, maps, append., notes, bibliog, index. No price given. ISBN: 0-8078-2294-9

An interesting look at life in the Civil War navies wrapped around a good, solid treatment of the story of the cruisers Alabama and Kearsage, with a lot of interesting detail, including even how the latter ship received its name, and some account of the later fate of many of the principals.

 

Sabres in the Shenandoah: The 21st New York Cavalry, 1863-1865 by John C. Bonnell, Jr. Shippensburg, PA: White Mane, 1996. xiii, 377 pp. Illus, maps, append., notes, bibliog, index. $34.95. ISBN: 1-57249-012-8.

A lively history of a regiment that not only tangled with John Mosby’s guerrillas in northern Virginia, but actually found itself out in the Colorado Territory for a while. In addition to providing a history of the regiment, the book is useful for its look at the interior economy of a volunteer cavalry regiment.

 

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New References of Note

 

Over the last few years Garland Publishing Company of New York has been issuing The Military History of the United States, a series of encyclopedic reference works of considerable quality. The most recent volumes are noted below.

 

The European Powers in the First World War: An Encyclopedia, edited by Spencer C. Tucker. New York: Garland, 1996. xxix, 783pp. Illus, maps, references, index. ISBN: 0-8153-0399-8

This is a mixed bag. When it’s good it’s very good, with entries on such frequently overlooked topics as the Spanish Influenza Epidemic, Georg Bruckmuller, the noted artilleryman, and the Black Hand. But where it should be most accurate it often fails, as in the treatment of the Schlieffen Plan, which completely misses some of its most critical flaws, and the character of German stoss tactics (which are found under "Hutier Tactics). There are also unnecessarily long entries on people who had very minor roles in the war, such as Rupert Brooke, Benito Mussolini, and Hermann Gðring. The work also uses what can only be terms "politically correct" spelling for places in Africa and Asia, so that one looks in vain for mention of Tsing-tao, it being listed as "Qingdao."

-A.A. Nofi

 

The American Revolution, 1775-1783: An Encyclopedia, edited by Richard L. Blanco. New York: Garland, 1993. Two vols. Maps, diagr, O/Bs, glossary, index. ISBN: 0-8240-5623-X

Possibly the best in the Garland series, The American Revolution is an invaluable reference for both the professional and the buff. Entries on such oft neglected topics as "Currency and Coins" and "Military Medicine," as well as for frequently overlooked characters such as José de Galvez, while there are lengthy discussions of the role of each state in the war, analytic pieces on strategy, often detailed treatments on individual battles, and much more.

-A.A. Nofi

 

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Before they Were Famous

 

A lot of people became famous in the Civil War. But fame is a fleeting thing. Some of the more famous –or at least more interesting—senior officers in the Civil War had some curious experiences before the war.

 

-A.A. Nofi

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Short Rounds: Brief Reviews of Some Recent Military Books

 

Washington’s Partisan War, 1775-1783 by Mark W. Kwasny. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1996. xv, 425 pp. Maps, notes, bibliog, index. $35.00. ISBN: 0-87338-546-2.

The first serious look at American guerrilla activity during the Revolution, Washington’s Partisan War focuses on operations in the region around New York City. The treatment of Washington’s growth as a commander, particularly his increasing understanding of the abilities –and limitations—of the militia might well merit retitling the work How Washington Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Militia. An extremely valuable addition to the literature on the Revolution, and a useful antidote to tendency for the militia to overlooked or over blamed.

 

A-Train: Memoirs of a Tuskeegee Airman, by Charles W. Dryden. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1997. xxiii, 421 pp. Illus, glossary, bibliog, index. $29.95. ISBN: 0-8173-0856-3

One of the original "Tuskeegee Airmen," LTC Dryden had a long and occasionally acrimonious career in the Air Force, with combat tours in North Africa, Europe, and Korea. The book provides an interesting look at life in the Jim Crow South and the early stages of desegregation in the Armed Forces.

 

We Delivered! The U.S. Navy Armed Guard in World War II by Lyle E. Dupra. Manhattan, KS: Sunflower University Press, 1997. xvi, 159 pp. Illus, append, bibliog, index. $21.95 paper. ISBN: 0-89745-212-7

A short, but interesting history of the nearly 145,000 members o the U.S. Navy Armed Guard to formed the gun crews defending thousands of merchant ships from mid-1941 to the end of World War II, over a thousand of whom became combat casualties. Particularly useful for the specialist, especially for the Battle of the Atlantic.

 

European Warfare, 1660-1815 by Jeremy Block. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994. xii, 276 pp. Maps, notes, bibliog, index. $30.00. ISBN: 0-300-06170-6

Another round in the ongoing scholarly debate as to whether there really was a "Military Revolution" in the late Renaissance (1560-1660), coming down on the side of the nay sayers. There is some interesting material, but the reader would be advised to become familiar with other side in the debate for a more balanced view of the issues.

 

Taken Captive: A Japanese POW’s Story by Ooka Shohei. New York: John Wiley, 1996. vx, 330 pp. Map, appendix, index. $27.95. ISBN: 0-471-14285-9

An account of the experiences of a young Japanese solider who became a prisoner-of-war of the United States in the Philippines in 1945. First published in Japan in the early 1950s, the book is thoughtful, and provides a great deal of insight into the psychology of the Japanese soldier.

 

The Call of Duty: Military Awards and Decorations of the United States of America by John E. Strandberg and Roger James Bender. Sane Jose, CA: Bender Publishing, 1994. 384 pp. Illus, append., bibliog. No price given. ISBN: 0-912138-54-8

One of best books on American military awards and decorations currently available, The Call of Duty is profusely illustrated, with a discussion of the design –and sometimes redesign—of each American decoration and medal since the institution of the Medal of Honor during the Civil War. It is not merely valuable for the buff or the collector, but also for the historian, including as it does a wealth of historical information in the main text and several detailed historical appendices

 

Injured Honor: The Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, June 22, 1807 by Spencer C. Tucker and Frank T. Reuters. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1996. xi, 268 pp. Glossary, notes, bibliog, index. $35.00. ISBN: 1-55750-824-0

A thorough examination of one of the most controversial episodes in the Nation’s history, the unprovoked attack by HMS Leopard on the USS Chesapeake, which led to the surrender of the latter virtually without a fight. The authors look not only at the circumstances of the incident, but also at its consequences, including its role in the coming of the War of 1812, and at the same time provide a number of interesting insights into life at sea, maritime command, and naval administration in the early 19th century.

 

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NYMAS Membership Notes

 

Treasurer Dr. Richard L. DiNardo recently returned from several weeks research at the Bundesarchiv in Freiburg, where he was collecting material for his upcoming book Axis Coalition Warfare.

In May Board Member Dr. Kathleen Williams delivered a paper at Siena College on "Women and the Development of Naval Technology in World War II." In June Dr. Williams delivered a paper at the U.S. Navy Historical Center, in Washington, on "Huff Duff," high frequency direction finding, in World War II.

The Spanish American War, by Secretary Dr. Albert A. Nofi, was published in June. He is currently working on Dirty Little Secrets of World War II, with member James F. Dunnigan, who is the author of The Digital Soldier, to be published later this year.

 

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Time to Renew!

 

In case you haven’t noticed, September is here, which means that that means it’s time to renew your membership.

1998 Conference Set

 

The 1998 NYMAS Annual Military History Conference, "Vietnam, the Early Years, 1964-1968," will be held at the Williams Club, in Manhattan, on 18 April 1998.

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