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The New York Military Affairs Symposium
Women Warriors: A History
by David E. Jones
Although not great history, Women Warriors: A History is still a valuable work. David E. Jones, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, provides a global, ancient-to-modern survey of women warriors, so only cursory mention is made of most historical events. Given these literary circumstances, Professor Jones, thus, can be forgiven for some noticeable errors of fact and lack of depth. This is particularly so in light of the service he performs in reprising a large chunk of the warrior culture for women.
After one finishes reading this book, all questions concerning women's ability to perform well in combat have been put to rest. Moreover, one concludes that women's historical aggression has been woefully under-reported. The testosterone issue aside, Jones also offers examples in which women constituted a much larger percentages of military forces than to which other sources have alluded. Two are: in the mid-nineteenth century, 5,000 African Dahomey women comprised more than 45 percent of the kingdom's army and in the Nicaraguan Sandinistas final push against Anastasio Somoza's army in the 1970s, women comprised 30 percent of the rebel forces. As to the warrior spirit, one riveting case is that of Queen Durgautti of Hindustan. Ruling over wealthy lands in the fourteenth century, the Queen and her son were attacked by a local mogul. After her son fell in battle, a general rout ensued. In response, Durgautti rode her elephant into the opposing Muslim army and the rallied troops followed. During the fight, the Queen was struck in the eye by an arrow. She broke off the shaft and continued her charge with the arrow tip still in her eye. After she was hit a second time, she ordered her elephant handler to kill her to prevent her from being taken captive, which he refused. Grabbing the dagger, the Queen stabbed herself to death.
In the book, Jones does not dwell on sociology, but relates extensive historical incidents. Two historical cases, however, do stand out as important sociological trends for European women. The first is the power of medieval nuns and abbesses. Women heading monasteries and convents held great local power as they presided over large tracts of land, collected large amounts of taxes in the villages, and could field armies. In the fifteenth century, Abbess Renee de Bourbon of France went on a campaign to reform local monasteries, finding the most recalcitrant one to be at Fontevrault. Occupied by warrior nuns and monks, it resisted her efforts for twelve years. Finally in 1477, the Abbess raised an army in Paris and attacked the monastery. Her forces won the day and all the residing monks and nuns were forced to sign a loyalty oath to her. Jones continues:
Jones credits the loss of the perception of women as legitimate sources of power which began in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Europe to the acceptance of the more patriarchal mores of Greco-Roman cultures which were rediscovered during the Renaissance and the Reformation.
Continuing with this theme of the coupling of military and political power, Jones' ladies of the dark ages and medieval Europe are particularly impressive for two reasons: 1) in today's blameless society in which everyone seems to seen as a victim, few identify with the aristocracy; so little mention is made of upper class women who had and wielded power and were duty-bound to do so and, 2) Jones catalogues an impressive number of women who ruled feudal states, co-ruled with their husbands, or were regents to their children. Princess Torborg, daughter of King Erik of Sweden, ruled her own province and defended it in numerous battles. She chose her suitors by challenging the men to single combat. In 1417, Jacqueline inherited the title of Countess of Hainault, Holland, and Zeeland. Lord Arkell rebelled against her rule, laying siege to the town of Gorku. The Countess sent 300 ships and 6,000 knights against him. She personally led the final attack, pursued Arkell through the castle, and killed him in hand-to-hand combat. This portrayal of a substantial number of women holding both political and military power bolsters women's historical claim to political authority.
As Jones states in his introduction, in all the state-level societies he has studied, government codes of etiquette, behaviors, and diplomacy are based on male military codes. "Without these rules, this substructure of agreement, the superstructure of the state could not stand. Warrior codes flowered early in the formation of states, and the historical records reveal active women warriors not only reflecting male martial codes but also forming them." The implication for modern society is that if women are barred from the warrior culture, they are delegitimized militarily and politically within their societies. Their rights of citizenship and to governance become questionable, if they do not have the same responsibilities as men in upholding the government. For instance, during the 1984 vice presidential campaign, Geraldine Ferraro found that some women were appalled at her assumption of a role they deemed not appropriate to her sex.
Although Professor Jones has done a real service in bringing to the light of day the scope of women's combat roles, one does wish he had provided more historical context and analysis. As an anthropologist, he could have gone more deeply into the interplay between the military and religion, he might have given some reasons for the development of matrilineal societies, and he could have more generally discussed the effects of the spread of Western civilization and Islamic fundamentalism on women's military roles.
Jones does comment incisively on the issues of physical strength as they relate to combat, from his perspective as a karate instructor. He decisively states that the importance of upper body strength in hand-to-hand combat declined with the appearance of projectiles and bladed weapons. The most important skills for a fighter to develop are: "footwork, balance, speed, experience, knowledge, mental equilibrium, and sensitivity to movement." With proper training, women can defeat men in combat and vice versa.
As to sources used, unfortunately, Jones largely accessed secondary ones. In the case of those cited for the American Civil War, he did not employ the best. With this said, however, there is great value in efforts made to comprehensively pool extant histories on such a "lost" subject. Jones did find a number of books and articles which were published in the past and in foreign countries which are very valuable and add much to his theme. The book also features a wonderful set of illustrations which include a photo of Cambodian women soldiers and a print of Delores Rodriguez, a sapper in the Peruvian War for Independence.
Caveats aside, Women Warriors is a highly recommended book, if for no other reason than to enable the reader to grasp the scope of women's warrior history. The writing is absorbing, readable, and goes quickly. As someone who has tried to encourage others to research in this field, my personal thanks go to Professor Jones for his considerable and valuable efforts.
Women Warriors: A History by David E. Jones. Washington, D. C.: Brassey's, 1997. 265 pp. Illus., notes, index. $24.99.
-- C. Kay Larson
The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918-1940
by James S. Corum.
One of the most misunderstood military forces in history is Hitler's Luftwaffe. It has long been derided by a great many American authors, such as Samuel Mitcham, Jr. and Edwin P. Hoyt, to name two of the more popular ones, as a force so tactically oriented that it was little more than the handmaiden of the Army." The basic reason for this misconception is, as James Corum points out in his introduction, that the vast majority of American popular writers on the Luftwaffe lack one minor skill needed to write accurately on the German Air Force -- the ability to read German.
Working largely from documents located in the National Archives in Washington and the Bundesarchiv-Militararchiv in Freiburg, Germany, Corum has produced the best single volume history of the Luftwaffe during the inter-war period.
Much like his earlier book The Roots of Blitzkrieg, Corum picks up his story at the end of the First World War. Like a number of other scholars of the German Army and Air Force, Corum emphasizes the evolutionary nature of the Luftwaffe's development, first as a clandestine air service in the Versailles Treaty period and later as the Third Reich's most technologically advanced service. He ends with the Luftwaffe's failure in the battle of Britain.
The book's two greatest strengths are its cogent discussion of German air doctrine as it developed into what would ultimately be called Operativ Luftkieg, or "Operational Air War," and its relentless myth puncturing. Unlike so many authors who either cannot read German or simply do not bother to do original research, Corum has read just about every German document or article related to air doctrine. On the basis of this research, Corum argues that the Luftwaffe was a much more balanced force than its critics maintain. It was indeed a strategic force, but only within the context of a war in central Europe. With its strategic targets no more than 120 miles away from the German border, the aircraft the Luftwaffe possessed in 1939 were more than ample to allow the Luftuwaffe successfully to conduct aerial warfare at every level. In addition, the book has an excellent number of personal portraits of the key figures involved in the development of the Luftwaffe.
The book also punctures a great number of myths about the Luftwaffe. Aside from the popular nonsense about the Luftuwaffe being only a support force for the Army, Corum also decisively refutes the notion about the bombing of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War being a terror bombing. He points out that the town was garrisoned by two Basque battalions, and that it was a critical road junction for the twenty-three battalions holding the defensive line east of Bilbao, crucial to their successful retreat. Corum also notes that the Germans were ignorant of Basque culture, and that the total number of people killed was no more than 300, not the wildly inflated figure of 2,500 that is commonly claimed. (Any former member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who reads this is strongly advised to take a sedative first.)
The book also has a number of fascinating photographs, many from the private collections of the families of Luftwaffe commanders whom Corum interviewed. The only real drawback the absence of maps, which would have been a useful addition in the chapter on the Spanish Civil War. Taken all together, this is a superb work that, along with The Roots of Blitzkrieg, marks Corum as one of the premier scholars of German military history in the United States.
The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918-1940 by James S. Corum. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1997. 378pp., illus., index. $35.00. ISBN: 0-7006-0836-2.
Quotation from Chairman
The moment of victory is the moment of greatest danger.
Giant of the Grand SiŤcle: The French Army, 1710-1715 by John A. Lynn. Cambridge: The University Press, 1997. xx, 651 pp. Illus, maps, tables, diagr, notes, bibliog, index. No price given. ISBN: 0-521-57273-8.
Observing that while everyone knows the French Army was the finest military instrument of the seventeenth century, but it nevertheless remains "The Great Unknown," the author (who is well known for his masterful Bayonets of the Republic), proceeds to present an exhaustive treatment of the subject.
This work must be understood to be more than the ordinary run of studies on armies that appear quite frequently. To be sure it tells of organization and tactics, of uniforms and weapons. But it also discusses French military policy, administration, recruiting, discipline, morale, rations and fodder, fortifications, siege techniques, and much else beside, such as dueling customs.
A valuable work for anyone interested in the Age of Louis XIV or the French Army going into the eighteenth century.
-- A.A. Nofi
The Road to Total War: The American Civil War and the German Wars of Unification, 1861-1871. Edited by Stig Forster and Jorg Nadler. Washington: German Historical Institute, 1997. 705 pp. Illus, notes, bibliog, index. $84.95. ISBN: 0-521-56071-3
This volume is essentially the published proceeding of a conference on this comparative history topic that was hosted by the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., in April 1992.
The idea behind the conference and this volume is an interesting one, a comparison between the American Civil War and the Wars of German Unification. Unfortunately, there is something lacking in the execution. Part of the reason for this is stated by the editors in their introduction, namely that with the exceptions of Carl Degler, Annette Becker, and Jay Luvaas, there are very few historians with the right combination of expertise to be able to make the proper comparisons. Indeed, in reading the essays, one gets the impression that the German authors did not know very much about the American Civil War, and that the American authors, with the exceptions noted, either did not know very much about the German Wars of Unification, or even know German.
This, however, is not to say that the essays are not themselves worth reading. Individually most of the essays are quite good, and cover some often neglected aspects both wars, especially the Franco-Prussian War. Although the ultimate goal of this book was not achieved, the idea behind it does suggest the possibility of pursuing some real comparative analysis of these nearly contemporaneous wars.
The Wilderness Campaign, edited by Gary W. Gallagher. Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1997. 283 pp. Illus, maps, notes, index. $29.95. ISBN: 0-8078-2334-1
A number of years ago Gary W. Gallagher inaugurated a series of essay collections on significant campaigns of the Civil War. It is one of the best series on the Civil War that has ever been done. The latest volume in the series, The Wilderness Campaign, which is an excellent addition to the literature on the war. The volume includes eight very good essays..
Brooks D. Simpson, one of the best Grant scholars today, starts off with a very perceptive article on the relationship between Ulysses S. Grant, the northern press, and the manner in which the Wilderness campaign was covered. The condition of the respective armies, the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac on the eve of the campaign are dealt with by Gary Gallagher and John Hennessy, respectively.
Gordon Rhea, author of one of the better volumes on the Wilderness, is justly critical of the performance of the Union cavalry in the campaign, which marked Philip Sheridan's debut as commander of the Cavalry Corps. Peter Carmichael's article is sympathetic towards the much maligned A.P. Hill and Richard Ewell, and much more critical of Robert E. Lee, whose failure to concentrate the army quickly almost resulted in a disaster on May 6 1864, before Longstreet's counterattack restored the situation. Carol Reardon's essay on Lewis Grant's Vermont Brigade is a fine examination of the unit that suffered the most casualties of all units involved in the battle on either side.
Finally, the book features a father-son combination. Robert K. Krick covers with his typically exhaustive research the famous "Lee to the rear" incident with the Texas Brigade, while his son Robert E. L. Krick provides an excellent study of Longstreet's flank attack on May 6 that resulted in that commander being wounded in a manner much like Jackson a year earlier at Chancellorsville.
Taken together, this is yet another terrific collection of essays, and a must for anyone with an interest in the American Civil War.
-- R. L. DiNardo
A Signal Victory: The Lake Erie Campaign, 1812-1813, by David Curtis Skaggs and Gerard T. Altoff. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1997. x, 244 pp. Illus, tables, maps, glossary, notes, bibliog, index. $34.95. ISBN: 1-55750-030-4
A solid history of one of the most important "maritime" campaigns in US history, the struggle for Late Erie during the War of 1812, which has not received detailed scholarly attention in nearly a century. The authors take pains to fit the campaign into the bigger picture, discussing prewar plans and stratgic thinking, as well as preliminary operations at some length. Land operations are given excellent treatment.
In providing a readable, clear narrative of the war on the lacustrine frontier, the authors delve into many significant and often ignored aspects of the campaign (and, indeed, of other campaigns in the American wilderness in earlier times), such as the rather considerable naval power of the Indians, with their large fleets of war canoes, the British/Canadian side of the war, the difficulties of building ships in a wilderness, and the many wonderfully unique characters who took part.
Altogether an excellent treatment of a neglected war. The only flaw that this reviewer could find was in the authorsí somewhat cavalier treatment of Maj. Gen. Stephen Van Rensselaer, who was actually much better than they suggest.
The 15th New York "Heavy Foot"
In October 1913 the New York National Guard activated a new regiment, the 15th. Its armory was a storefront and a former dance hall above it. These were up in Harlem, because the regiment was to be recruited from among black volunteers. A project of Governor Charles S. Whitman, the regiment had some problems securing Federal recognition because of its racial composition.
Actually, the race of the troops was not the major problem. There were four black regiments in the Regular Army, and several others in the National Guard. What made the 15th different was that it was to have black officers, at least in company grades. Aside from some chaplains and two regular officers (Maj. Charles Young and 1Lt Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.) there were no black officers in the army or the National Guard.
The cream of New Yorkís black community was recruited, such as James Europe, already famous as an orchestra leader, N.B. Marshall, a noted attorney, Horace Pippin, an artist (who produced some remarkable drawings depicting army life), and Vertner Tandy, an architect, who later designed the landmark 369th Infantry Regiment Armory, in New York. The white officers were from New York's upper crust, including many veterans of the toney 7th Regiment, such as William Hayward, the regimental commander, and Hamilton Fish, Jr., who commanded a company and lived into the 1990s, after achieving considerable fame as a thorn in the side of Franklin Roosevelt. The regimental recruiting surgeon was Dr. George Bolling Lee, a grandson of Robert E. Lee.
During World War I the "15th Heavy Foot" acquired a number of unusual distinctions. It was the only American unit to go overseas still under its state designation, not being officially dubbed the "369th Infantry" until much later. Moreover, the regiment served virtually its entire tour in France as part of the French Army, with mostly French equipment, wearing a combination of French and American uniforms, and even drawing French rations (though, alas, without daily pint of wine). In addition, during the war it went into action carrying the New York State flag, thereby becoming the last American unit to formally carry its state colors into action. And because when upon presenting the state flag to the regiment Governor Whitman had said something like "Never let it drag in the mud," the colors were always carried by the color bearer, even when the troops were taking a break, even during a shelling.
The 369th Infantry saw more front line service than any other American regiment in the war, some 200 days. Among its most notable heroes was Henry Johnson, who earned a Croix de guerre for disposing of five Germans with a knife, while suffering from multiple fractures in both legs.
After World War I the regiment returned to state control. Upon mobilization for World War II, the 369th Infantry was reorganized and redesignated as the 369th Coast Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft), which later became the 369th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion. After the war the regiment returned to the National Guard, and went through several other redesignations and reorganizations, to emerge as the 369th Transportation Battalion, and served in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. Now designated the 369th Support Battalion, the "15th Heavy Foot" remains a major component of the National Guard in New York City.
The Civil War Bookshelf
Some Recent Biographies of Interest
A beneficial effect of the high level of interest in the Civil War is that a lot of relatively obscure people are being treated to biographies. Some of these have proven of unusual value, helping to elucidate some of the more interesting aspects of the war.
Admiral David Dixon Porter: The Civil War Years by Chester G. Heran. Annapolis: The Naval Institute Press, 1996. xx, 376pp. Illus, maps, notes, bibliog, index. $35.00 ISBN: 1-55750-353-2.
The first real biography of the nationís second admiral in many years, this work provides an excellent look at the energetic, brilliant, almost eccentric Porter, one of Lincolnís favorite people and one of the most important Union strategists in the Civil War. The author has not overlooked Porterís wonderful sense of humor (the admiral often traded jokes with Lincoln), nor his ego, and does not overlook blunders. A useful book.
The Life and Wars of Gideon J. Pillow by Nathaniel Chairs Hughers, Jr., and Roy P. Stonesifer, Jr. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993. xvii, 455 pp. Illus, maps, notes, bibliog, index. $37.50. ISBN: 0-8078-2107-1.
An unusually valuable look at the life of one who was arguably the least capable general on either side in the Civil War. The work not only treats of Pillowís military career (which, despite a lack of strategic and tactical ability did have some bright spots, notably in Mexico, due primarily to Pillowís undoubted personal courage and ability to inspire troops), but also his rags-to-riches rise as a frontier businessman, lawyer, and politician.
Lincolnís Abolitionist General: The Biography of David Hunter by Edward A. Miller, Jr. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, 1997. x, 293 pp. Notes, bibliog, index. $29.95. ISBN: 1-57003-110-X.
A good, but not entirely satisfactory biography of one of the more interesting Union commanders. Although stressing his laudable efforts to help "contrabands" and to raise black troops, the work by no means overlooks Hunterís services as a field commander, though it perhaps lets him off lightly for some of his failures in this regard.
New Reference of Note
Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War, edited by Stanley I. Kutler. New York: Macmillan, 1996. xxxiv, 711 pp. Illus, maps, chron, append, biblio, index.
Although not entirely satisfactory as a guide to the Vietnam War, there is a good deal of interesting material to be found herein. Some of the entries (e.g. those on order of battle) are quite good. But others are poor (e.g., that on the use of herbicides --Operation Ranch Hand-- is much too short), and still others show a distinct lack of priorities (e.g., the entry on the literature of the war is nearly twice as long as that on the ARVN). In addition, some entries show a decided political bias (e.g., "Hardhats"). Useful, provided it is supplemented with other works.
The Newsletter is always in need of materials.
Short reviews of current books, recent activities
of NYMAS members, notices of events likely to
be of interest to the membership, and even
short articles are always welcome.
Short Rounds: Brief Reviews of Some Recent Military Books
Victory at Any Cost: The Genius of Viet Namís Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap by Cecil B. Currey. Washington: Brasseyís, 1997. xxii, 401pp. Illus, maps, notes, bibliog, index. $25.95. ISBN: 1-57488-056-X
Although in many ways a useful and interesting work, this life of the Vietnamese communist commander leaves something to be desired as a military biography. Thus, while we are told that Giap was a close student of Napoleon (an odd hero for a communist), we never do learn if he ever had any practical military training. Nevertheless, there are some very useful insights into Giapís understanding of the nature of war, and, on a more practical level, his direction of the wars against the French and the US. A useful work, and certainly better than anything else currently available on this most interesting commander..
The Roman War Machine, by John Peddie. Conshohocken, PA: Combined Publishing, 1996. xiv, 169pp. Illus, maps, tables, diagr, append., notes, bibliog, index. $16.95 paper. ISBN: 0-938289-85-3
A look at the organization, training, logistical, and operational structure of the the Roman armed forces during the late Republic and Early Empire. There is a great deal of useful material here, such as how the Romans seem to have conducted an "amphibious assault" and the frequency that each type of warship (quinqueremes, biremes, liburinians, etc.) was found in the Roman fleets. The author relies heavily on ancient sources, though it is unclear what editions he is using and, moreover, seems not to understands the nature of ancient source material. This causes some difficulties (e.g., the Notitia Dignitatum is hardly a useful source for the late Republic, nor is Vegetius considered very reliable). More extensive use of secondary materials that are critical of the sources would have been advised.
Battles of the Bible by Chaim Herzog and Mordechai Gichon. London: Greenhill/
Mechanicsburg, Pa: Stackpole, 1997. 320 pp. Illus, maps, notes, index. No price given. ISBN: 1-85367-266-1.
This is a thoroughly revised and expanded version of a work that first appeared in 1978. A ground breaking study when it first appeared, the revision has added to its value. Be sure to read the notes, as they are both informative and interesting in their own right. The maps and illustrations are first rate. Useful not only as an introduction to the subject of warfare in ancient times, but also for its insights into the ways in which archaeology and textual criticism, not to mention a healthy dose of real soldiering, can influence the study of military history.
NYMAS í98 Military History Conference
Date: Saturday, 18 April 1998
Time: 9:00 a.m.
Cost: Members, Students, Military, $10.00
NYMAS Membership Notes
Prof. Ted Cook, noted scholar of the Japanese experience in World War II, has become a member of the NYMAS board.
Treasurer Prof. Richard L. DiNardo has been appointed Assistant Professor of National Security Affairs, at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, in Quantico, Virginia. On 8 December he is to speak on "Napoleonís Lasting Influence" at the Smithsonian Institution.
Member James F. Dunniganís book Way of the Warrior: The Management Techniques of the Great Captains, done in collaboration with Dan Masterson, will be published shortly. Mr. Dunnigan is currently working on Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War, with NYMAS Secretary Dr. Albert A. Nofi, who is the author of The Marine Corps Book of Lists, to be published on Armistice Day.
Board member Prof. Kathleen Williams was invited to present a paper on "Huff Duff" at the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, on 23 October. She is presently working on a study of women and the development of US naval technology during World War II.
Longstreet Reconsidered, edited by Treasurer Dr. Richard L. DiNardo and Secretary Dr. Albert A. Nofi, is a collection of papers originally presented at the 1993 NYMAS Military History Conference. It is currently in proofs, and will be published in the Spring.
Mailing Address Changes
The NYMAS Newsletter editor, Albert A. Nofi,
has relocated to the Lone Star State. He will,
however, remain as the editor of The NYMAS
Newsletter. All editorial submissions should be
sent directly to him, by surface mail to:
A. A. Nofi
3506 Duval St.
Austin, TX, 78705-1716
or by email to:
Some Onomastic Oddities of World War II Commanders
A number of senior officers during World War II had rather unusual names.
The German armed forces had several senior officers with rather interesting names. There was a general Pistorius, which is Latin for "grinder," and, of course, an air marshal named Milch, or "milk." But perhaps no one had as odd a name as two brothers, one a general and the other an admiral, who bore the unique moniker Assman.
Not to be outdone, the Italian Army had a General Cheirieleison, Greek for "The Lord is risen."
Onomastic oddities were by no means limited to unusual family names. Several officers had decidedly uncommon given names as well.
Japanís famous Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto bore what was perhaps the most unusual given name of any senior officer. Born when his father was 56 years old, the young man was immediately dubbed Isoruku, Japanese for "fifty-six." And the US Army had a Major General who rejoiced in the name Stonewall Jackson Ė "Stonewall" was his given name, not just a nickname.
NYMAS Lecture Schedule
All talks are held on Fridays at 7:00 p.m., at the CUNY
Graduate Center, 33 West 42nd Street. Consult the Security
Guards for the appropriate room.
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