The NYMAS Newsletter
A Publication of
The New York Military Affairs
NYMAS at the SMH
The annual conference of the Society for Military History was held at Penn State from 15-18 April 1999. Organized by Prof. Carol A. Reardon, one of the leading military historians in the country, the conference was attended by several NYMAS members. Two of them presented papers, Prof. Kathleen B. Williams one titled "Improbable Warrior: Planktonologist Mary Sears and the US Navy," and Prof. Richard L. DiNardo one on "Southern by the Grace of God but Prussian by Common Sense: James Longstreet and Command in the American Civil War." Among the other attendees were several scholars and serving officers, a number of whom had given talks to NYMAS in the past.
NYMAS at the SMH. Left to right, Valerie Eads, Alan Shader, Kathy Williams, Paul Walsh, and Richard DiNardo.
Giant of the Grand Siècle: The French Army 1610-1715
by John A. Lynn
Reviewed by Richard L.
For the better part of a century, if there was such a thing as an 800 pound gorilla in European power politics, it was the French Army. Starting from semi-feudal origins in the late Renaissance, under the successive reigns of Henry IV, Louis XIII, and Louis XIV, it became the preeminent military force in Europe. Under the leadership of such brilliant captains as Turenne, Condé, Luxembourg, and Villars, it shattered the power of Hapsburg Spain and expanded France's eastern borders, until ultimately stopped only by a series of coalitions composed of some very frightened European powers.
All of its activity, however, be it victorious or not, has not been rewarded in the field of historiography. While the British Army of later Stuarts and William III has been the subject of scholarly studies, especially by John Childs, no such broad work has been done on the French Army of the same period since the 19th century. John Lynn, one of the best scholars in the country on French military history, has now most ably filled the gap with Giant of the Grand Siècle.
This book really represents the best of what military history is about in the broadest sense of the term. It is an exhaustive study, from the organizational standpoint, of the French Army at its height during the Ancíen Regime. Lynn deftly takes us through such mind numbing and difficult fields such as administration, supply, and especially finance. The best chapters deal with the concept of command and the motivations of both officers and the men they commanded during the 17th century. Lynn demonstrates how easy it is for less careful social historians (who have generally been critical of the book, regardless of how ignorant they are of its subject matter) to fall into gross misconceptions when they bring the mores, values, and sensitivities of their own era to the study of the 17th century. The best way to proceed, Lynn reminds us, is to take the 17th century on its own terms.
Although the book with a chapter that gives the reader some background about the context of changes in the conduct of war and military organizations during the period, this is not a work for the novice. Before tackling this work, one should read David Chandler's The Art of War in the Age of Marlborough for some more general background on the period. For anyone with an interest in the period, however, this book is a must.
Although Lynn modestly notes that he expects this work to be superseded by later scholarship, surpassing it will be a daunting task indeed.
of the Grand Siècle: The French Army 1610-1715 by John A. Lynn. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 651
pp., illus., index. ISBN: 0-521-57-2738. $64.95
"With two thousand
years of examples behind us we have no excuse, when fighting, for not fighting well."
-- T. E. Lawrence
Son Thang: An American War Crime, Gary D. Solis..
New York: Bantam Books, 1998. xix, 390pp. Notes, glossary, bibliography, index. $6.50 (paper). ISBN: 0-553-57977-0
This is a detailed account of the legal
proceedings against five Marines accused of murdering sixteen unarmed civilian women and
children during the Vietnam War. After a brief description of the night patrol in February
1970 during which the worst Marine atrocity of Vietnam war occurred. The rest of the book follows the rhythm of the law
from the first, flawed, debriefing through interviews, hearings, courts-martial for
premeditated murder and appeals.
The author, now a professor of law at the
U.S. Military Academy, spent eighteen years as a Marine judge advocate, served two tours
in Vietnam and has served as a general court-martial judge.
He bases his account on an analysis of the voluminous legal papers filed in the
case and on extensive interviews with participants. The
courts-martial in particular, which took place in-country, are described in great detail,
with frequent quotes from the trial transcripts. At
each stage Solis explains the nature of the legal proceedings, the origin of the
guidelines and the procedures followed, and the training, experience and ability of the
legal personnel involved, both military and civilian.
This background helps the reader to address the thorny legal and emotional issues
The chief philosophical questions are how
to define a war crime, and how accusations of such can be fairly handled. The main factual question is how well the Marine
Corps handled this presumed war crime in a conflict involving frequent, active
participation on one side of traditional noncombatants such as women and children, and on
the other of inadequately trained and prepared teenagers.
By way of comparison, the author looks at the armys much better known My Lai
legal proceedings and draws some interesting lessons from each. The final conclusions are well-balanced and
objective and therefore in a way inconclusive. The
system of military justice operated as well as it could within the limitations of time,
place, and resources. Perhaps the most
cheering message is that while many flaws in the system emerged, at least there was a
system in place to reveal and vigorously prosecute suspected war crimes. As the author expresses it: "The UCMJ
[Uniform Code of Military Justice] fulfilled its intended international law function
effectively, its criminal sanctions brought to bear in the combat zone." And he continues "
as a nation, America
and her military forces did all they could to carry out international legal
In the course of the chronological account of the legal proceedings the book also addresses another difficult question: How do we account for the widely uneven outcomes and sentences resulting from the separate prosecutions of the same crime? The author explains in compelling detail how the gross inequity of the results actually occurred, and the reasons will surprise few who have any familiarity with the law. The most significant influence on individual outcomes, for example, was the money and resources spent on the defense, especially regarding the importation of civilian defense attorneys. While pondering these and other timeless legal issues, the reader also learns a great deal about the war in Vietnam. There is interesting material to chew on here and it is presented in the candid and uncompromising fashion which the passage of time now allows. Son Thang is worth reading for anyone interested in Vietnam, in military law, or in the very notion of a war crime.
-- Kathleen B. Williams
The U.S. Army in the War of 1812: An Operational and Command Study, by Robert S. Quimby. East Lansing, Mich.: Michigan State University Press, 1997. Tow volumes. ix, 1054 pp. Maps, plans, notes, bibliog., index. $85.95. ISBN: 0-87013-441-8.
A thoughtful, highly detailed study of the armys operations during the Second War for Independence, perhaps the most neglected of Americas wars.
As the subtitle emphasizes, the work is focused on actual operations. These are quite well treated, with often insightful discussions of their origins and objectives, with considerable attention paid to the British side of things as well. The treatment of the actual operations including some of the more obscure ones -- is quite detailed. The discussion of operations on the New York fronts and in the Chesapeake Bay area, are particularly good.
Although he has produced an excellent book, Quimbys effort is not without some weaknesses. His introduction is cursory, and after a mere eleven pages he plunges the reader into the war, with no background on American military policy or overall political and military strategy. Nor does he provide much coverage of mobilization or manpower and materiél. And given their influence on operations, there is very little said about the personalities of most of the senior commanders; Reading The U.S. Army in the War of 1812 one could readily get the impression that the pusillanimous Maj. Gen. James S. Wilkinson was a commander of some merit. However, despite these limitations an important book.
-- A. A. Nofi
MacArthur's Jungle War. The 1944 New Guinea Campaign by Stephen R. Taaffe. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998. 312 pp., maps, index. ISBN: 0-706-0870-2. $40.00.
This is a very fine piece of work on a campaign that has long needed a fresh look. Taaffe's book is a well written, meticulously researched operational level study of the New Guinea campaign. As always, any study of this campaign must deal with the towering figure of Douglas MacArthur. Taaffe, however, does an excellent job at dealing with MacArthur's strengths and weaknesses as a commander. More importantly, Taaffe also gives proper coverage to such overlooked individuals as Walter Krueger, Robert Eicheberger, Thomas Kinkaid, and George Kenney and the critical roles each played in the campaign.
Taaffe has also had the advantage, of which he makes excellent use, of all of the scholarship that has appeared over the past few years dealing with subjects such as intelligence. He shows quite clearly how MacArthur's intelligence chief Charles Willoughby used, misused, read, and misread intelligence gleaned from sources ranging from Australian coast watchers to ULTRA. Finally, the book never loses sight of the bigger picture. The campaign is properly set against the background of the Pacific in general and how it fitted into its conduct.
Well researched and an easy read, this book is a must for anyone with an interest in the Pacific War.
-- R.L. DiNardo
Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece, by Victory Davis Hanson. Berkeley & Los Angles: University of California Press, 1998. xiii, 281 pp. Notes, append, bibliog., commentary, indices. $14.95 paper. ISBN: 0-520-21596-6.
Prof. Hanson, author of Hoplites: The Ancient Greek Battle Experience, which broke considerable ground in examining the nature of battle in the Greek world, has here produced an insightful look at the interrelationship between war and agriculture.
The book is well written and has enough references to ancient literature to please any fan of the classics. Hanson delves into such topics as the interrelationship between agriculture and military organization, the fortification and defense of agricultural areas, the evacuation of rural populace in time or war, and much more. Along the way he makes some startling conclusions.
Perhaps the most important conclusion is that the oft repeated tales of widespread destruction, such as those about the Devastation of Attica during the Peloponessian War, are just that, tales. Drawing upon extensive experience as a viticulturist, Hanson observes that so hardy are the plants that it is virtually impossible to inflict total destruction on vineyards and olive groves. As he firmly points out, of course, that is not to say that there was not an enormous amount of destruction, but rather that there was no long-lasting damage to the agricultural capabilities of a region subject to the depredations of an invader.
Despite its seemingly off the wall subject matter, this is a work of considerable value for anyone interested in warfare in the ancient world.
-- A. A. Nofi
Having taken Vera Cruz, in the Spring of 1847 Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott undertook a daring expedition against Mexico City, in the heart of Mexico. Hearing the news, the Duke of Wellington, 78-years old, said of Scott, then 61, "That poor young man is lost. He has been carried away by successes. He cant take the city and he cant back up on his bases. He wont leave Mexico . . . .
But on 18 September, just five months after the fall of Vera Cruz, Scott took Mexico City. Hearing the news, the Wellington changed his tune,
saying He is the greatest living soldier.
A dozen good essays dealing with various topics related to the Imperial Army in the era of World War II. Of particular note are those on the development of amphibious doctrine, the attempt to deal with the lessons of the defeat by the Soviets at Khalkin-Gol in 1939, and preparations and intelligence forecasting related to the defense of the Home Islands in 1945. The footnotes are worth reading.
You Cant Fight Tanks with Bayonets: Psychological Warfare Against the Japanese Army in the Southwest Pacific. Lincoln, Nb.: University of Nebraska Press, 1998. xvi, 226pp. Illus, notes, bibliog., index. $45.00. ISBN: 0-8032-2167-3.
An interesting look at Allied psychological warfare efforts in MacArthurs theater. Initiated by the Australians and later taken over the Americans, the effort had many false starts. The author is commendably careful in assessing the effects of the Allied effort. Unlike similar campaigns against the Germans and other foes in this and other wars, Allied efforts did not induce mass surrenders. But they did harm Japanese morale, which in turn yielded some benefits to the Allied cause. An interesting book.
Surviving Bataan and Beyond: Colonel Irvin Alexanders Odyssey as a Japanese Prisoner of War, edited by Dominic J. Caraccilo. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole, 1999. ix, 340pp. Illus, maps, notes, bibliog., index. $24.95. ISBN: 0-8117-1596-5.
At first glance this appears to be yet another PW survival memoir. In fact its more. Irvin Alexander, who died in 1968, seems to have been the only field grade officer captured in the Philippines to leave a memoir of his experiences, which gives it a distinctly different perspective than most such works. And the editor has gone a step beyond merely preparing the colonels recollections for publication. In an elaborate series of footnotes, he identifies most individuals mentioned in passing in the text, has supplied a substantial amount of additional information, such as the contents of the occasional Red Cross parcels that the prisoner occasionally received, and details on the losses to American submarines and aircraft of vessels carrying prisoners to Japan, and provides references for further inquiry. Worth reading for any student of the Pacific War.
Peacetime sometimes brings out the worst in armies. The British Army in the years between the World
Wars seems particularly to have suffered from an overdose of peace, particularly during
the years when Field Marshal
Sir Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd was serving as Chief of the Imperial General Staff,
in the mid-1930s.
One of his more creative ideas was a
suggestion that officers of the Royal Tank Corps be issued horses for ceremonial
occasions. Sir Archibald also urged that any
officer involved in a divorce should immediately be cashiered from the army.
But perhaps worst of all, was the way he spent the armys money. In 1937 the Army Riding School at Weeden had a budget of £20,000 for 38 students more than £526 per pupil, while the Tank Corps School, with 550 students, had to make do with £46,000, or about £83 per man.
U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary 60th Anniversary Exhibit
On April 10,
1999, the National Commodore of the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary officially opened an
exhibit commemorating its 60th anniversary, "The Rise of Pleasure Boating and the U.
S. Coast Guard Auxiliary."
The exhibit, put together in a three-year
effort by NYMAS Boardmember C. Kay Larson, features
over 70 photographs, artifacts, and graphics which depict the history of the Auxiliary as
it relates to the growth of pleasure boating and U.S. economic and social trends.
Major events in Auxiliary history are also featured, from the World War II Coastal Picket Force, which conducted anti-submarine operations in the Atlantic, to the Auxiliary's 1997 North Dakota flood operations. The exhibit is housed in the Coast Guard Museum located on the grounds of the U. S. Coast Guard Academy, 15 Mohegan Ave., New London, CT. It will run until mid-November 1999
II: Two New References
The Biographical Dictionary of World War II, by Mark M. Boatner III. Novato, Ca.: Presidio Press, 1996. xiii, 733 pp. Glossary, bibliog. $50.00 hardback/$24.95 paper. ISBN: 0-89141-548-3/0-89141-624-2.
Mark Boatner, already well regarded for his Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, The Civil War Dictionary, and several other notable works, has produced a very good guide to an enormous number of persons prominent during the Second World War. Entries, particularly for some of the more notable individuals are quite detailed. Like any such work a lot has to be omitted, but considering the degree of coverage, an excellent effort. The glossary is particularly valuable for its mini-essays on things ranging from Hitlers 1934 Blood Purge to Police and secret services of the USSR.
Lots of good quotes running the gamut from the likes of Churchill and Roosevelt to the ubiquitous Anonymous. The organization leaves something to be desired for the quotes are arranged by originator, as rather than by subject, so everything by Churchill will be found under The War Leaders. Sections on war songs and war movies are not appropriate to the volume, as they include no quotes. Still, a handy reference.
Essays on the Mexican War, edited by Douglas W. Richmond. College Station, Tx.: Texas A&M, 1986. xiv, 99pp. Illus, notes. $19.95. ISBN: 0-89096-291-X.
An introduction, three essays on unusual topics (The Monarchist Conspiracy and the Mexican War), and excerpts from the diary of an American officer, make for an interesting look at this conflict.
Britain as a Military Power, 1688-1815, by Jeremy
Black. London: University College London
Press, 1999. xii, 332pp. Illus, maps, notes, index. $49.95. ISBN:
An interesting attempt to explain the rise of Britain to Superpower status. Though not wholly successful, the work does make a number of interesting points.
Great American Naval Battles, edited by Jack Sweetman. Annapolis: Naval Institute, 1998. xxxviii, 416pp. Illus, maps, tables, notes, index. $39.95. ISBN: 1-55750-794-5.
Covers nineteen naval actions, from brief ship-to-ship encounters to major battles running over several days. Very good, except for a politically slanted essay on Pearl Harbor.
A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens, by Laurence F. Babits. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1998. Illus, maps, tables, figures, notes, bibliog., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0-8078-2434-8.
A detailed, fresh look at one of the most spectacular victories in American history, using 19 maps to illustrate an action that lasted little more than an hour. Excellent.
U.S. Battleship Operations in World War I, by Jerry W. Jones. Annapolis: Naval Institute, 1998. xi, 170pp. Illus, notes, bibliog., index. $32.95. ISBN: 1-55750-411-3.
Different, and surprisingly good. Worth reading for those interested in the Great War at sea or naval history in general
The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814, by Anthony S. Pitch. Annapolis: Naval Institute, 1998. xviii, 298pp. Illus, maps, notes, bibliog., index. $32.95. ISBN: 1-55750-692-2.
The clearest, most complete account of the Chesapeake Campaign yet seen, marred only by some very poor maps.
With Snow on their Boots: The Tragic Odyssey of the Russian Expeditionary Force in France During World War I, by Jamie H. Cockfield. New York: St. Martins, 1998. xii, 396pp. Illus, notes, maps, bibliog., index. $35.00. ISBN: 0-312-17356-3.
A detailed, readable treatment of an interesting, if often overlooked aspect of the Great War.
three Germans were honored with awards of Samurai swords by Hirohito during World War II,
Hermann Goring, Erwin Rommel, and Bernhard Rogge.
The reasons for the awards to Goring and
Rommel seem pretty obvious, the one being head of the Luftwaffe and the other of the Afrika Korps. But
Rogge was the captain of the raider Atlantis. And
therein lies a tale.
It seems that on 11 November 1940, Atlantis intercepted the British steamer Automedon off the Nicobar Islands, in the Indian
Ocean. Along with sundry other loot, the
raider came away with a copy of the minutes of a meeting of the British War Cabinet dated
8 August 1940 and an 87-page secret report by the Chief of the Imperial Staff concerning
British plans for the defense of Singapore and the Far East, which Hitler very
thoughtfully passed on to his honorary Aryan allies.
Boardmember C. Kay Larson has recently
been promoted to Chief, History Division, Department of Public Affairs, National Staff, U.
S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
In January Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War, by members
James F. Dunnigan and Dr. Albert A. Nofi was published by St. Martins Press. Dr. Nofis The Underground Railroad and the Civil War and Spies and Masterspies of the Civil War will be
published later this year by Combined Publishing. That
same month, Boardmember Prof. Kathleen B. Williams served as a commentator on a panel at
the American Historical Association conference.
In February Prof. Williams presented
"Dateline Saipan: A Marine Remembers," at the
Symposium on Maritime Archaeology and the History of Hawaii and the Pacific in
Honolulu, which was well received, in part due to a very helpful test run of the paper to
NYMAS in January which elicited what she termed some instructive and constructive
comments from the members. That same
month Mr. Dunnigan and Dr. Nofi attended Connections, the annual Air War
College wargaming conference.
In March Prof. Williams organized a
symposium on "Witches, Warriors, Prophets, and Queens " and presented a talk on
"Soviet Women Fliers of WWII" to celebrate Women's History Month at Bronx
In April, of course, as noted earlier in
this issue, NYMAS was represented at the annual. conference of the Society for Military
Prof. Williams chaired a session at the
North American Society for Oceanic History conference, at Lake George, NY, in May. That same month Prof. DiNardo conducted an tour of
the Wilderness battlefield on the occasion of the 135th anniversary
observances, and Dr. Nofi was a guest at the finals of the Texas History Project, an
annual state-wide history contest for junior high school and high school students. In June Prof. Williams will be making a research
trip to Saipan, in the Marianas.
Prof. Williams article
"Scientists in Uniform: The Harvard Computation Laboratory in WWII" has been
accepted for publication by the Naval War College Review.
The Roman Army
Demonstrating the most effective integration of text and graphics of any website yet seen, The Roman Army is well worth a visit not merely by the Romanophiles but by anyone interested in military history.
The site examines a number of notable questions with regard to legionary formations, combat space, and related issues. Animated graphics impart considerable value to the presentation. Well worth a visit.
The New York Military Affairs Symposium
c/o Dr. K. B. Williams
20 Alden Pl.
Bronxville, N.Y., 10708
NYMAS is a tax exempt, not-for-profit membership corporation chartered under the laws of New York State. Donations are deductible from both Federal and New York State taxes. Membership dues are $35.00 a year, payable in September. Checks should be made out to NYMAS and mailed to the Bronxville address.
Return to the New York Military Affairs Symposium home page