The NYMAS Newsletter
No. 19, Winter 2000-2001
A Publication of
The New York Military Affairs Symposium
© 2001 NYMAS & The Authors
2000 NYMAS Arthur Goodzeit Book Award
Raising Churchill's Army:
David French has set out on the difficult task of trying to explain the shortcomings in the performance of the British Army in World War II. The book is a reaction against the tendency to attribute Allied victory in the war to "brute force" rather than the fighting capabilities of the Allies, as well as the excessive adulation of the Wehrmacht evident in some military history writing since the 1980s. The author places the development of the British Army before World War II in the broader context of British defense policy which tended to place greater emphasis on the navy and air force, as well as colonial policing, than upon the needs for a future war on the continent.
A central theme of the book is the attempts to combine the lessons of the First World War with the changing technology, and the difficulty of translating new doctrine into actual combat techniques. The author systematically examines the interplay between doctrine, the training of officers and troops, the introduction of new weapons, and British defense policy in general, based on extensive archival research. With the stage set, the final four chapters of the book examine the disastrous performance of the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1940, the attempts to reform the army in 1940-43, the mixed performance in the desert campaign, and the improved though far from ideal combat record in 1944-45.
This is a sober, well argued, and well reasoned account that will serve as one of the essential studies of the major armies during the war. Due to the relatively small size of the book, the coverage of the 1944-45 campaign is rather short, but will be supplemented with Russell Hart’s forthcoming book on the combat performance of the Allied and German armies in Normandy.
This reviewer would have liked to have seen more comparative analysis of the British and American armies in Europe to provide some insight into the combat effectiveness of the Allies. But the author has already wrestled with a complex and difficult subject in a most impressive fashion.
Raising Churchill’s Army: The British Army and the War Against Germany 1919-1945, by David French. Mew York: Oxford University Press, 2000. Pp. 360. $55.00. ISBN: 0198206410. –Steve Zaloga
The Class of 1861: Custer, Ames, and Their Classmates After West Point
Reviewed by C. Kay Larson
The Class of 1861 is a collective autobiography wherein these West Pointers offer their views of themselves, as well as of their classmates. Two classes actually graduated from the U.S.M.A. in 1861, one in May and one in June, to fill the need for officers. This also changed the five-year course instituted by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis in the early 1850s back to a four year course; the fourth year cadets graduated a few weeks after their fifth year colleagues.
Approximately half the book covers the graduates' comments just before and during the war. The other half discusses some of their postwar careers, so slightly more biographical material is offered there. Small biographical paragraphs on each man are also found in the appendix.
What makes this book a unique one and a real treasure is the men's commentary. Do not look here for intricate chronologies of events and discussions of strategy and tactics, except in editorial form. In searching for women's exploits during the war, I have trekked through hundreds of pages of memos in the official records of the Union and Confederate armies and navies, and tell people they're some of the best writings they'll ever encounter. Officers' accounts are not the average wartime diary entries--little talk of camp gambling, river swims, sentry swapping, stag dances, and prayer meetings. Here was a group of educated and very literate writers, as that was their basic form of communication. Even former slaves who joined the Union Army come out minor Ernest Hemingways. Thus, in Kirshner's book, not only do we have the same high level of literacy, but also we find an ambitious cohort group who offer sophisticated views of the war that belie their young ages.
A propos of the above, I think the two best comments in the whole book are found in the chapter, "Courage and Ambition." Kirshner begins by explaining the Civil War necessity of officers leading by example, namely, from the front. He adds that the feeling of immortality common in youth may have abetted these actions. Col. Theodore Lyman wrote from Meade's headquarters:
but I can tell you that there are not many officers who of their own choice and impulse will dash in on formidable positions. They will go anywhere they are ordered and anywhere they believe it is their duty to go; but fighting for fun is rare; . . . . unless there is a little of this in a man's disposition he lacks an element. Such men as Sprigg Carroll, Hays (killed), Custer, and some others, attacked wherever they got a chance, and of their own accord.
In his memoirs Southerner William W. Blackford wrote that while attached to J.E.B. Stuart's staff he met many West Pointers and over the long run he gained, "the impression, which has ripened into conviction since, that the average West Point officer who had reached the age of forty in the discharge of the duties of the army officer, in time of peace, is worthless in war. Of course, there are brilliant exceptions in both the Northern and Southern armies, but they are exceptions." As an example of the courage and élan of these young men, Brig. Gen. S. A. M. Wood, CSA, described a charge at the Battle of Shiloh by Maj. John Herbert Kelly commanding the 9th Arkansas Battalion. After leading his troops through a deep pond onto a field, Kelly "sat on horseback in the open ground and rallied his men in line as they advanced." In another case, Peter C. Hains recalled his classmate's words at the First Bull Run when their artillery unit was attacked by Virginia cavalry, "above the uproar and confusion came [Edmund] Kirby's cool order, 'Canister--double charges--load'."
The energy and training these young men offered their armies became important in another respect, what I call the "Ray Spruance theory of history." Of course, Spruance was the naval commander who was largely responsible for winning the decisive World War II Battle of Midway. What people like Spruance point up is that there is no "great man" (or woman) theory of history, for in the final analysis, all great personages require a very large and very competent supporting cast who will be molded by the society from whence they come. It is these second and third tiers of actors who become very important in wartime, as they provide a professional bulwark. As an example, in his memoirs Ulysses Grant described the difficulty of constructing thousands of feet of bridges over bayous running strong, swift currents during the Vicksburg campaign. So competently were the four bridges built that only one siege gun was lost during the crossing. "These bridges were all built by McClernand's command, under the supervision of Lieutenant Hains of the Engineer Corps." Indeed, these young cadets so distinguished themselves that a few were promoted to general while still in their twenties: George Armstrong Custer, John Herbert Kelly, Thomas L. Rosser, and Emory Upton.
In discussing Custer, Kirshner reminds us that the way historical figures are remembered in one age may not be the way they were treated in their own. A Vermont photographer commented on how celebrity photographs sold saying that, of course, Grant and Lincoln were two of the most popular subjects. However, he doubted that the two combined won the degree of devotion that was accorded Custer by children, women, and men.
Kirshner highlights one figure I have often thought has been overlooked in the Civil War pantheon of stars: Adalbert Ames. Ames was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry in his first battle, the First Bull Run. He married Blanche Butler, daughter of Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts. During Reconstruction Ames served as a brave, able governor of Mississippi who was intent on upholding the rights of blacks. He was forced to resign under threat of impeachment (on trumped up charges), and death. His great-grandson, George Plimpton, wrote the foreword to this book and offers the best anecdote in the work.
Emory Upton, called "the class genius," is prominently featured. After the war Upton became one of the most influential officers ever in the American army. His Infantry Tactics: Double and Single Rank, adopted by the Army in 1867, was heralded as "the greatest single advance in tactical instruction" since the American Revolution. He later published on cavalry and artillery tactics. He wrote The Military Policy of the United States, "the first scholarly analysis of American military history." Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson called Upton the "most accomplished soldier in our service." Tragically, Upton committed suicide in 1881 while serving as commander of the Presidio in California.
The other admirable features of Kirshner's book are the chapters on the postwar lives of a number of the West Pointers. For example, John Whitney Barlow led the exploring expedition to Yellowstone Park which led directly to Yellowstone becoming the first National Park in 1872.
Kirshner also provides a wonderful set of graduation photographs of almost all the cadets. There is something particularly compelling about seeing photos of men in the bloom of relative innocence (for some hell-raised at the Point) and optimism of youth who you know are destined to see both triumph and tragedy in the near future. Even their names give one pause. Today's appellations for young people such as Jonah, Luke, and Antonio do not hold a candle to Victorian ones--Adalbert Rinaldo Buffington, Nathaniel Rives Chambliss, Campbell Dallas Emory, and Pierce Butler Manning Young. Other details such as family relations are equally riveting. Another socialite who had an ancestor in this class is Gloria Vanderbilt. Henry Algernon du Pont, first in the May class and a Medal of Honor awardee, worked in the family chemical business after the war. His father had been a West Point graduate. Henry wrote a biography of his uncle, Rear Adm. Samuel Francis du Pont, one of the most accomplished Union naval officers (his wartime letters are equally worthwhile reading).
My problems with the Class of 1861 mainly concern context and meaning. Kirshner should have provided more chronology and explanation of events, to inform the reader and create composition and balance. For instance, I know little of the details of Custer's Last Stand and would have liked more information on it, although the major error of dividing his forces is explained. Without more context, meaning also is lost. For instance in the Vicksburg chapter, Hains comments on Grant's crossing the Mississippi River at Bruinsburg (below Vicksburg) and that the countryside was replete with provisions. What is not explained is the fact that this crossing and Grant's foray northeast into Mississippi (to get between Pemberton and Johnston) during which time he was cut off from his supply lines was the one daring movement made by Grant during the war which equaled some of those made by Lee and Jackson in Virginia. On the other hand, these omissions may not have been totally the author's. Apparently the publisher eliminated many pages of content which they were foolish to do.
Finally, one editorial comment is necessary. In the postwar chapter on Barlow, Kirshner points out that one painter accompanied the Yellowstone expedition, Thomas Moran, offered a new trout recipe for the group; not mentioned is that Moran was one of the most important late nineteenth century American landscape painters, noted for his western scenes.
All in all, The Class of 1861 is a highly recommended book. It is the kind you will go back to and reread, if not in whole, in part. Kirshner has done a remarkable job culling innumerable memoirs and other tracts to complete this work. Again, it is more than refreshing to read thoughts of people who can put them articulately together in logical order, using correct and usually eloquent English, unlike many public figures today.
NYMAS Current Lecture Schedule *
Mar 2 "Planning for D-Day," Russell Weigley, Temple University
Mar 9 "Women Writers, National Socialism, and World War II," Georgette Fleischer, Columbia University
Mar 16 "MacArthur's Amphibious Commander: Doug McKenna, Marine Corps University
Mar 23 "Napoleon's Conscription System," Isser Woloch, Columbia University
Mar 30 Roundtable – "’Let God Judge Between Us’: The Prisoner of War Controversy in the Civil War," Maj. George Sarabia, USMA
Mar 31 Conference: New Interpretations of the American Civil War **
Apr 6 "Australia’s Vietnam War," Jeffrey Grey, Marine Corps University
Apr 13 "When Good Intentions are Not Enough: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli War, 1967," Capt. Diana Holland, USMA
Apr 20 "Political Partisanship and Officer Professionalism: Comparing the Wilsonian and Clintonian Eras," Col. Lance Betros, USM
Apr 27 "The Battle of France," Col. Robert Doughty, USMA
May 4 "The Second Seminole War: The Native American Perspective," Capt. Kevin Clark, USMA
May 11 "Staff Rides," Don Britter, Marine Corps University
May 16 "The Countess Strikes Back: Matilda of Tuscany at Sobara, July 2, 1084," Valerie Eads, CUNY/NYMAS
May 25 "The French Army and the Dreyfus Affair," David Gordon, Bronx CC/NYMAS
June 1 "Naval Operations in Vietnam," Frank Uhlig and Bob Riley, Naval War College
June 8 "The Reform of the Hapsburg Army," Dan David, NYMAS
June 15 "The PLA 1st and 2nd Phase Offensive, Nov-Dec 1950, James Dingeman, NYMAS
Talks are held on Friday evenings at the new CUNY Graduate Center, at 365 Fifth Avenue, between 34th and 35th Streets, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Ask security personnel for the room number .
* Consult the NYMAS Website for possible changes
** See notice elsewhere in The Newsletter
Two Notable Recent Books on the Origins of World War I
The Arming of Europe and the Making of the First World War, by David G. Herrmann. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996. Pp xii, 307. Maps, notes, biblio., index. $52.50. ISBN: 0691033749. Armaments and the Coming of War: Europe, 1904-1914, by David Stevenson. Oxford: Clarendon Pr., 1996. Pp x, 463. Figures, tables, biblio., index. $89.00. ISBN: 0918202083.
The four decades prior to the outbreak of the First World War are noted for two significant events. The first was an enormous increase in the size of the major armies on the European Continent and the second the adoption of a technology that dwarfed all previous expenditures. The authors of the two books reviewed here have done a great deal to improve our under-standing of what is believed be a major cause of the great conflict that erupted in 1914. Others see this arms race as a symptom of a greater malaise overtaking the European balance of power.
David Herman deals with the arms race among the armies of Europe. He focuses on the impact of the new technology. By the beginning of the 1890's these armies had adopted smokeless powder for their rifles and machineguns and later for artillery. The continental armies invested heavily in the development of railways. This made it easier for them to deploy their massive conscript armies with greater efficiency. They also invested in increased engineering assets and telegraphic services. The actual size of the traditional infantry branch remained the same until a few years before the war. The additional money and manpower went into the artillery and the support services.
David Stevenson starts his study in 1904 and finishes with the outbreak of the war in 1914. He deals with the arms race both on land and sea. His observation is that the competition was responsible for a loss of stability in the European Order. His examples being the Anglo-German Naval Race and a military culture based on rapid mobilization and concentration against a possible opponent. Germany feared the Franco-Russian Alliance and planned a decisive strike against their major opponent, the French Army, in order to knock it out before the Russians could effectively intervene in the war. Austria-Hungary was concerned that even the existing Russian garrison in Poland could overwhelm the Austrian forces in neighboring Galician. Serbia posed another set of problems for the Daubing Monarchy. A pre-occupation with using a first strike against a possible opponent overtook the general staffs.
Both authors have made a valuable contribution to our understanding of how the balance of power changed and why European politics became increasingly unstable.
Note that while the hardcover editions of these books are expensive, the good news is that both have paperback editions. –Dan David
Medieval Warfare: A History, edited by Maurice Keen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. Pp. xii + 340. Illus,
Medieval Warfare is a valuable summary of the state of knowledge and scholarly understanding of the practice war in Europe from the fall of Rome to the Renaissance. The thirteen essays, are divided into two parts. The first part is essentially a survey of the military history of the Middle Ages in chronological fashion (e.g., "Carolingian and Ottonian Warfare," "Warfare in the Latin East," etc.). The second part deals with specific aspects of warfare in the period (e.g., "Fortifications and Sieges in Western Europe," "War and the Non-Combatant in the Middle Ages").
The essays, which are by some of the most respected authorities on the period, such as Christopher Allmand and Michael Mallett, are uniformly clear and comprehensive. The are surprisingly comprehensive and complex, considering their length, effectively weaving political, social, and economic threads together. The major omission is that coverage of Byzantine and Islamic developments is superficial, due, the editor notes, to considerations of space.
The volume presents several interesting and novel ideas. For example, that the use of the couched lance was by no means as revolutionary a development as has often been suggested, arising largely in response to the increasing prevalence of mounted armies; the overhead thrust actually being more effective against infantry (Andrew Ayotn, "Arms, Armour, and Horses"). Another interesting observation is that most sieges failed, and in fact most fortified places probably never endured a siege (Richard L. C. Jones, "Fortifications and Sieges").
One of the more interesting things the book touches upon is the surprising number of cases in which dismounted armies defeated mounted ones, long before the Hundred Years War, most notably with an excellent description of Courtrai in 1302 (Clifford J. Rogers, "The Age of the Hundred Years War"), particularly if urban militiamen were involved, for they were often veterans.
Without question an important book for anyone interested in Medieval warfare. --A.A. Nofi, CNA
Ernest R. May, Strange Victory: Hitler’s Conquest of France. New York: Hill and Wang, 2000. Pp. 594, maps, appendices, bibliography, index. $30.00. ISBN: 0-8090-8906-8.
Certainly if there has been one campaign of World War II where the "conventional wisdom" has had a remarkably long shelf life, it is the 1940 campaign, when the German Wehrmacht stunned the world by overrunning France in a remarkably short time. The conventional wisdom has long held that the root of France’s defeat lay in moral sphere. A dispirited French Army, lacking confidence in itself and its leaders, was rapidly overwhelmed by the German Army, honed to a fine edge after its easy victory in Poland. The tone for this school of thought was certainly set by the great French medievalist Marc Bloch in his classic posthumous work, Strange Defeat. Although this view has been revised somewhat through the work of scholars such as Robert Doughty, Eugenia Kiesling, and Martin Alexander, to name a few, the moral school has enjoys a strong degree of support to this day. May now challenges this school of thought in this book.
May traces the story of France’s fall from Hitler’s ascent to power to the conclusion of the decisive battles of May 1940 that culminated in the British evacuation from Dunkirk. In the course of his examination, May challenges a number of long accepted notions about the campaign. The most notable of these is what contemporaneous documents indicate about the mood of the French government and high command during the period 1939-1940. Contrary to popular accounts, May shows that at the time, the French had almost unlimited confidence in the ability of the subsequently much maligned Maurice Gamelin. The French fully expected to emerge from the war victorious, confident that the German economy would collapse under the strain of any kind of prolonged war,
clinched by a successful offensive after a proper period of mobilization and preparation. May also gives a fair amount of credit for the German victory to Hitler, arguing that he had a much better instinctive under-standing of the weaknesses of the Anglo-French, as opposed to his much less confident generals. There is also a great deal of excellent detail about both the French and German intelligence services, the information they collected and how each side used it. May concludes with a very useful chapter on what policymakers today can bring away from this event.
The book has its share of flaws. There are some details that struck this reviewer as simply counter-factual. May, for example, claims that Benito Mussolini spoke "incomprehensible" German, which is certainly contrary to what almost every expert on the Duce says, as well as to contemporaneous evidence. While May does provide a good discussion of the events of May 1940 and how at times sheer dumb luck played to the Germans’ advantage, he overlooks the superiority of German divisional organization, which played a crucial role. While May is very good on French doctrine, he gives entirely too much credit to Heinz Guderian as the progenitor of German doctrine.
Finally, some of May’s conclusions run counter to his narrative. In his final chapter, for example, he says that policymakers need to discount the input from so-called "area experts." Yet, in his analysis of why the Germans won, May gives great credit to Col. Ulrich Liss, who played the Allied side in the war games run by the General Staff to test the so-called "Manstein Plan." Liss was correctly gauged what the Allied reaction would be precisely because he was an expert, having spent years mastering both British and French doctrinal publications. For the modern military commander, however, this once again points out the need for good "Red Cell" play in map exercises.
These flaws notwithstanding, this well-researched and well-written book marks a major contribution to the literature on World War II. It will remain the standard work on the campaign for a long time to come. --R.L. DiNardo, USMC C&SC, Quantico, Va.
The Lusitania: The Life, Loss, and Legacy of an Ocean Legend, by Daniel Allen Butler. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2000. Pp. xii, 291. Illus, append., notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 0-8117-0989-2.
A very careful examination of the famous case of the RMS Lusitania, the torpedoing of which in 1915 became an important factor in the eventual American entry into World War I.
Although the book gets off to a slow start – the author devotes over 50 pages to the outbreak of the war – once he gets started, Butler does a masterful job of unraveling the complex issues involved. He provides a thoughtful look at the intricacies of the "cruiser rules," which had government commerce raiding for generations, and how they were affected by changes in technology and policy.
With regard to the Lusitania herself, Butler demonstrates that the ship was definitely carrying contraband. But he goes on to conclude that despite this the U-20 had no way of knowing that the ship was operating in violation of international law, and that it was thus not a legitimate target; In short, the sinking was a "bad bust."
Butler then proceeds to delve into the political ramifications of the sinking. The result is a valuable book for anyone interested in the origins of World War I, in the law of war, or in the history of submarine warfare. --A.A. Nofi, CNA
Five Days in London: May 1940, by John Lukacs. New Haven: Yale University, 1999. Pp. xvi, 236. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $xyz. ISBN: 0-300-08030-1
Five Days in London deals with what the author considers to be the most critical period in the history of the Second World War, from Friday, May 24th, through Tuesday, May 25th, 1940, when Churchill, newly installed as Prime Minister, and facing the imminent collapse of France, managed – not without difficulty nor always with unwavering confidence – to rally the British government and people to continue to fight, thereby, while not winning the war, at least "did not lose it."
There is a great deal of new material here, including insights into Churchill’s own doubts about the ultimate outcome of the war, and F.D.R.’s initial reservations about Churchill’s character and abilities. There is also considerable material on Lord Halifax, the somewhat enigmatic figure who might easily have been Churchill’s replacement, and would certainly have been less determined to prosecute the war.
An immensely valuable contribution to the literature of World War II. –A.A. Nofi, CNA
Words of Wisdom
Short Rounds: General
Terror on the Chesapeake: The War of 1812 on the Bay, by Christopher T. George. Shippensburg, Pa.: White Mane, 2001. Pp. ix, 213. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 1-57249-058-6.
Although there are detailed accounts of various aspects of British operations against Washington and Baltimore in the summer of 1814, Terror on the Chesapeake is the most comprehensive examination of the entire campaign yet seen, and in a number of instances provides the best available account of some often overlooked aspects of campaign, such as treatment of the Battle of North Point. The book provides a great deal of useful information on organization and troop movements, and is very well provided with maps.
Marines Under Armor: The Marine Corps and the Armored Fighting Vehicle, 1961-2000, by Lenneth W. Ester. Annapolis: Naval Institute, 2000). Pp. xviii, 267. Illus, tables, append, notes, biblio., index. $32.95. ISBN: 1-55750-237-4.
A very good look at the use of armor by the Marine Corps. Marines Under Armor integrates technical, organizational, doctrinal, and operational material into a coherent story that reads well. Valuable for anyone interested in armor or the Marine Corps.
War and the World: Military Power and the Fate of Continents, 1450-2000, by Jeremy Black. New Haven: Yale University, 1998. Pp. x, 334. Illus, maps, notes, biblio., index. $17.95 paper. ISBN: 0-300-08285-1.
A remarkably coherent survey of the conduct of war across more than five centuries, with due regard not only for technological, organizational, and political factors, but also with considerable success in tracing common developments across cultures. Rather than a "the West and the rest" treatment, the author manages to integrate the experiences of a broad variety of societies. This leads to often striking parallels, such as the very similar experiences of Spain in its conquest of the New World and the Turks in their conquest of the Middle East, both alike at least partially the result of superior technology, technique, and organization. A good book for anyone looking for a single-volume treatment of the ways of war over the past few centuries.
Stars in Khaki: Movie Actors in the Army and the Air Services, by James E. Wise, Jr., and Anne Collier Rehill. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000. Pp. xi, 241. Illus., append., biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 1-55750-958-1.
Stars in the Corps: Movie Actors in the United States Marines, by James E. Wise, Jr., and Paul W. Wilderson III. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1999. Pp. x, 246. Illus., append., biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 1-55750-949-2.
Stars in Blue: Movie Actors in America’s Sea Services, by James E. Wise, Jr., and Anne Collier Rehill Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1997. Pp. xi, 316. Illus., append., biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 1-55750-937-9
These amusing and often highly informative volumes make very suitable reading for the military historian, as well as for the layman and younger folks who may have an interest in military history. Aside from the coverage of the frequently interesting contributions of the men involved, there are appendices that deal with role of women who were not necessarily in the service (including the very important contribution of Hedy Lamar to naval communications), a look at some men who didn’t serve, and more.
Painted Steel: Steel Pots, Volume II, by Chris Arnold, Bender Publishing., 2000. $49.95.
The latest volume in a series aimed at militaria collectors who specialize in helmets. The earlier volume covered the standard US steel helmets. This new volume covers the decoration, rank insignia, and camouflage painted on the helmets, hence, its title. However, this volume may have a somewhat wider audience as the second half of the book is a history of the development of tankers and armored vehicle crew helmets for the US Army. This seems to be the first comprehensive account of the subject, and it will be of interest to those who specialize in the history of US armored vehicles. This book is very well produced, but the subject and price will probably limit it to a fairly narrow audience. –Steve Zaloga
The Philadelphia Navy Yard: From the Birth of the U.S. Navy to the Nuclear Age, by Jeffrey M. Dorwart, with Jean K. Wolf. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2001. Pp. viii, 271. Illus, maps, plans, notes, biblio., index. $45.00. ISBN: 0-8122-3575-4.
Histories of institutions are usually dull, but The Philadelphia Navy Yard is an exception. The book not only provides an interesting look at the history and politics of the yard, but includes useful material on the evolution of naval architecture and maritime tech-nology. Worth reading for anyone interested in the history of the navy or in logistics. And, by the way, there’s nothing in here about any secret experiments in teleportation.
Niagara 1814: America Invades Canada, by Richard V. Babuto. Lawrence, Ks.: University Press of Kansas, 2000. Pp. xii, 410. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0-7006-1052-9.
Set within an adequate overall look at the entire War of 1812, this work concentrates on operations on the Niagara frontier in 1814. Niagara 1814 provides a clear, often insightful look at organization, tactics, operations, and personalities, while its analysis of basic American strategy, which focused excessively on the western theater when greater efforts should have been made in the east. An excellent treatment.
Battle of Britain Day: 15 September 1940, by Alfred Price. London: Greenhill/Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole, 1999. xi, 180 pp. Illus, maps, append., biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 1-85367-375-7.
When originally published, in 1990, Battle of Britain Day, was, surprisingly, the first treatment of that momentous occasion which was based on a thorough examination and comparison of both British and German documents. Liberally seasoned with interviews of common citizens as well as pilots, this ground-breaking work remains the best treatment of the day’s events. Of particular value is the final chapter, in which the author summarizes some of the main points of the book by posing and answering a series of questions ("How many German aircraft were shot down . . . ," "What role did Ultra play . . . ," and so forth). A very valuable work for anyone interested in air power or the Battle of Britain.
Special Book Offer to NYMAS Members
Combined Publishing has made the 300 page hard cover volume James Longstreet: The Man, the Soldier, the Controversy, edited by Richard L. DiNardo and Albert A. Nofi, available to NYMAS members at a reduced price.
The work embodies the proceedings of the 1993 NYMAS Military History Conference, regularly sells for $29.95. NYMAS members can get it for only $25.00, plus $3.00 shipping and handling. All proceeds going to the Longstreet Memorial Fund and NYMAS.
You may order by email,
or by check, from
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Conshohocken, PA, 19425
Short Rounds: World War II
A War to be Won: Fighting the Second World War, by Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett. Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University, 2000. Pp. xvi, 656. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN: 0-674-00163-X.
An overview of the World War II by two noted scholars, A War to be Won attempts to synthesize current scholarship on the war. They are generally successful, though the chapters dealing with pre-war diplomatic developments are unsatisfactory. For example, their assumption that the democracies would have won a war against Germany in 1938 over the Sudetenland is not generally accepted. Other flaws include a total failure to mention the Italian role in Rommel’s desert victories, and rather charitable view of Hirohito’s role in the war.
Mussolini’s Shadow: The Double Life of Count Galeazzo Ciano, by Ray Moseley. Yale: New Haven, 1999. Pp. x, 302. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $xyz. ISBN: 0-300-07917-6.
A biography of Il Duce’s son-in-law – and foreign minister – Mussolini’s Shadow, while not a white wash of Ciano’s life and works, is rather charitable towards him, though the overall picture that emerges is one of an unscrupulous, ambitious, and indecisive figure. Of particular value are those portions of the book that deal with the period of uncertainty between the outbreak of the World War II in 1939 and Italy’s entry into the conflict as a German ally on June 10, 1940.
MacArthur Strikes Back: Decision at Buna, New Guinea, 1942-1943, by Harry Gailey. Novato, Ca.: Presidio Press, 2000. Pp. ix, 267. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $27.95. ISBN: 0-89141-702-8.
Although focused on the Buna-Gona campaign of 1942-1943, MacArthur Strikes Back, actually provides a very clear, detailed look at operations in northeastern New Guinea from the initial Japanese landings in July of 1942 until Australian and American forces overran the last Japanese strongholds in the Buna-Gona area in early 1943. Unlike many authors who have dealt with the war in New Guinea, Gailey devotes considerable attention to the Australians, who, in fact, did much of the fighting. He is particularly good in discussing the alleged failures of the 32nd Infantry Division that led to the relief of its commander. A valuable book for anyone interested in the Pacific War or command in war.
Heydrich: Henchman of Death, by Charles Whiting. Barnsely, South Yorkshire: Leo Cooper, 1999 (U.S. distributor Combined Publishing). Pp. xi, 180. Illus., index. $29.95. ISBN: 0-85052-629-9.
A penetrating biography of one of the most complex and important figure in the Nazi regime, Reinhard Heydrich. The author provides some unusual and interesting insights not only into Heydrich’s personality and character, but also into to inner workings of the Third Reich. Worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the Second World War.
Allies and Adversaries: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Grand Alliance, and U.S. Strategy in World War II, by Mark A. Stoler. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2000. Pp. xxii, 380. Notes, biblio., index. $37.50. ISBN: 0-8078-2557-3.
A look at the complex, often hostile, relations between the American chiefs of staff and their British counterparts, and how this influenced the development of strategy during World War II. Although some of the story will be familiar, the author has dredged up a good deal of new material, and provides some interesting insights into how the often tense relations among these officers helped shape the war.
Into the Shadow Furious: The Brutal Battle for New Georgia, by Brian Altobello. Novato, Ca.: Presidio Press, 2000. Pp. vi, 408. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 0-89141-717-6.
A clear, understandable account of the battle for New Georgia, a complex joint operation in a very difficult environment. Using first hand accounts to supplement official documents and reports, the author not only integrates the operation into the larger framework of the Solomons Campaign, from both sides, but provides a number of interesting looks at matters not usually mentioned in treatments of battles, such as the effect of the wildlife on the troops.
Patton and His Third Army, by Brenton G. Wallace. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole, 2000. Pp. xviii, 232. Illus., maps, tables, append. $14.95 paper. ISBN: 0-8117-2896-X.
Brig. Gen. Wallace’s Patton and His Third Army originally published in 1946, and here reissued with a new introduction by Martin Blumenson, who calls it a "remarkable memoir," provides an excellent look at the operations of the Third Army during World War II. Although, as Blumenson points out, the book has some errors, it also provides an insider’s look at how Patton and his army operated, and a lot of interesting little looks at the nature of war in the period. An excellent book to give to someone who is interested in learning something about the war, but who has very little background in the subject.
A Nation Collapses: The Italian Surrender of September 1943, by Elena Aga-Rossi, translated by Harvey Fergusson II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Pp. xii, 187. Notes, biblio., index. $44.95. ISBN: 0-521-59199-6.
Although short, this is a surprisingly comprehensive and compelling account of the collapse of Italy in the summer of 1943. The author manages to weave together an effective account of the diplomatic, political, and military events in both the Allied and Axis camps, providing a number of important insights and a great deal of material not hitherto seen in English. Worth reading for anyone interested in the Second World War.
Minuteman: The Military Career of General Robert S. Beightler, by John Kennedy Ohl. Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2001. Pp. xiv, 290. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $59.95. ISBN: 1-55587-923-3.
Beightler was the only National Guard officer to command a division – the 37th – from its federalization in 1940 through combat – in the Pacific – and on until deactivation, and one of only two Guard major generals permitted to transfer to the Regular Army after the war. Minuteman gives an excellent look not only at Beightler’s career – and that of his division, one of the best in the Pacific – but also on the often strained relationship between the Regular and Guardsmen, and on the organization, training, and operation of an infantry division. An important book for anyone interested in the National Guard, the Pacific War, and the U.S. Army as an institution.
NYMAS 2001 Spring Conference
New Interpretations of the Civil War
Date: March 31, 2001
Time: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Place: CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York.
The Union High Command – Russell Weigley, Temple University
Science and Technology in The Civil War – Charles Ross, Longwood College
War and Freedom: Moments of Emancipation in the Natchez District of Mississippi, 1861-1865 – Anthony Kaye, Freedmen and Southern Society Project, University of Maryland
The Veteran Reserve Corps – Paul Cimbala, Fordham University
Admission to the Conference is free. For further information, consult the NYMAS website, nymas.org.
NYMAS Membership Activities
Executive Director Prof. Kathleen Broome Williams will be delivering a lecture on March 14 at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Norfolk, on "Secret Weapon" and another on March 20 at the Naval Historical Center, Washington Navy Yard, on her forthcoming new book Improbable Warriors, which deals with women scientists engaged in war work during World War II. And on December 16, 2000, Dr. Williams acquired a grand-daughter, Natalie Holder Williams, by courtesy of her son Brooke and his wife Valerie.
On January 13, 2001, Director and Boardmember Prof. Richard L. DiNardo married Ms. Betty O'Hearn in Florida.
"Mighty in War: The role of Matilda of Tuscany in the War between Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry IV," a doctoral dissertation by Boardmember Dr. Valerie Eads, will shortly be published by UMI and Contentville.
Director and Boardmember Dr. Albert A. Nofi, has been assigned to be the CNA representative to the CNO’s Strategic Studies Group, an independent institute attached to the Naval War College, Newport, R.I. The second edition of Al’s The Alamo and the Texas War for Independence has just been published by DaCapo Press.
Some Recent Works on Peacekeeping and MOOTWs
Over the past decade the principal occupation of the military forces has been in peacekeeping and other military operations other than war. This has posed special problems, and resulted in an unusually crops of books and articles.
Why Peacekeeping Fails, by Dennis C. Jett (New York: St. Martin’s, 1999).
A very perceptive analysis of the problems the affect peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations. Although the focus is on U.N. peacekeeping operations, most of what Jett says would seem to have broader application. This is not an optimistic work
Jett uses the full range of U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance operations since 1947 to examine the question of why some succeed and most seem to fail. He makes a number of important observations about the problems of peacekeeping. Quite early in his book Jett asks a very perceptive question, what constitutes success? Is it keeping the lid on, righting a wrong, making things better? It certainly seems so.
Noting that peacekeeping has been most effective in interstate conflicts, he goes on to point out that there is no general agreement as to what constitute appropriate grounds for international intervention in the internal affairs of a state. In what circumstances is international intervention appropriate? Often it’s media focus – frequently exaggerated or biased – on a problem that prompts calls for intervention. As a result, "the pressure to act, even when doing nothing would be the better course, will remain strong and will not always be resisted." Examples of this phenomenon at work abound: Somalia, Rwanda, Northern Iraq, and more. These undertakings often turn out badly, or become open-ended commitments. In many internal conflicts there can be no negotiated peace. At best it may be possible to cobble together a cease fire. But "Many parties in civil wars sign peace agreements for tactical reasons." The feuding factions may have reached a state of mutual exhaustion, and see the international peacekeeping effort as a way to gain some breathing space to regroup. Invariably, even when intervening with the general consent of the feuding parties, one will end up being perceived to be taking sides by one or more of them. Just providing humanitarian aid evenhandedly will inevitably be seen as a partisan act, since each faction will perceive that its opponent is being strengthened. Even when agreeing to elections, individual factions may be dissembling. In fact, intervention has actually exacerbated some internal wars, such as in Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, and Angola.
Jett points out some inherent problems that plague the peacekeeping community, a network of U.N. officials, diplomats, NGOs, and others. One is that they seem not to appreciate that no two situations are the same. Also, there is a great reluctance to place blame, and a great desire to keep trying even when local factions are no longer willing to cooperate; "The U.N. is slow to acknowledge publicly that cooperation is being withheld, and reluctant to pull out when it is." Peacekeeping forces usually operate under very restrictive rules of engagement, with limited political mandates, which can lead to situations such a Srebrenica, in which heavily armed peacekeepers were unable to rescue people being herded away for massacre because they themselves did not come under attack. NGOs often help worsen problems because their devotion to their autonomy "is one reason why international responses to emergencies have been so chaotic."
One very interesting observation that Jett makes is that in many situations there are "Enough resources for war, but not for peace." These are the thorniest peacekeeping problems, such as Liberia and Angola, where warlords can grow wealthy even as the country as a whole sinks into increasingly greater desperation. In many situations, "Unless the U.N. is willing to use force, its effort will amount to nothing."
Making Peace Prevail: Preventing Violent Conflict In Macedonia by Alice Ackermann (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2000)
The theme of this work is "preventive diplomacy." It focuses on why, unlike the situations in Bosnia and Croatia, independence for Macedonia did not lead to chaos and slaughter. There is a lot of background on the situation in the other Balkan states, and a side-look at the Rwandan disaster as well. The tone of the work is quite idealistic.
Ackermann’s idealism leads her to some dubious conclusions. For example, she says "However oppressive and exploitive, Turkish rule was also a time of peaceful coexistence" among the various ethnic groups, which conveniently overlooks centuries of religious discrimination, occasional massacres, and the devsirme, which for centuries took the first-born son of every Christian family for the Sultan’s service at the age of seven. This is like saying that the period of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe or of European domination in Africa led to an era of "peaceful coexistence" among the numerous indigenous ethnic groups. She also tends to dismiss the importance of some issues. In fact, Macedonia’s gratuitous adoption of Alexander the Great, the "Star of Vergina," and the White Tower of Saloniki as national symbols were very insulting to Greeks, and hardly suggestive of peaceful intentions.
On the other hand, Ackerman correctly identifies the haste with which the states of the European Community recognized the independence of Slovenia and Croatia as a major contributory factor to the subsequent disaster in the region, but fails to follow this conclusion to its logical consequence, that there are no generally accepted international criteria for recognizing new states; Why was the secession of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia from Yugoslavia acceptable to the international community, while that of Biafra from Nigeria was not, nor that of Aceh or Moluka from Indonesia, or, indeed, of Krjnia from Croatia?
Also valuable is Ackerman’s suggestion that too often there have been "missed opportunities" to stave off disastrous developments because "early warning indicators" of communal conflict or other humanitarian disasters have been overlooked, misunderstood, or simply ignored. Ackermann also right observes that one reason for the relative "success" of peacemaking during the Cold War was the mutual convergence of the interests of the superpowers in avoiding becoming embroiled in local wars.
Deliver Us From Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords and a World of Endless Conflict by William Shawcross, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000).
An interesting and, considering that Shawcross is generally regarded as a leftist (though he has revised his wartime hostile views of the U.S. role in Vietnam), not very optimistic look at some of the problems of peacekeeping. The author essentially suggests that we are entering a period in which there will be a lot of small wars, primarily internal. He makes a great many observations on the problem of trying to provide humanitarian assistance, and ending up prolonging the agony. For example, quoting a relief working, providing food relief may end up as a ". . . giant magnet pulling people out of the fields into the towns and out of the towns into the airport," while ignoring "how people normally got food and how that could be supported."
The book is essentially a long introduction followed by a series of case-studies. In the introductory portion, Shawcross notes the many problems that plague humanitarian efforts, such as the "CNN effect," which essentially exploits humanitarian instincts for profit. He also notes that most humanitarian relief organizations are staffed by young, enthusiastic, but largely untrained and unsophisticated personnel. He also gets into what might be termed the "absurdities of peacekeeping," such as using forces from Third World dictatorships to help "build democracy" in places like Cambodia.
On a philosophical level, Shawcross wrestles with the "right" of humanitarian intervention, noting the complex political issues that it raises.
The case studies deal with the principal humanitarian disasters of the past decade (Somalia, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, and so forth), most which he argues were failures, either because action was not take soon enough, or because such actions as were taken were wholly inappropriate.
Much food for thought.
Hard Choices: Moral Dilemmas In Humanitarian Intervention, edited by Jonathan Moore (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998)
This is a book that needs to be read by policy makers. As the subtitles indicates, the book’s 16 essays – including a very thoughtful one on intervention and national sovereignty by Kofi Annan – deal with philosophical, moral, and practical issues related to humanitarian intervention.
Essays range in subject matter from specific case studies (Haiti, Rwanda, Somalis), to less tangible matters, such as the role of NGOs, the problem of War Criminals and crimes against humanity, to the role of the media. One particularly insightful essay deals with the impact of HIV an humanitarian interventions.
The consensus of the essays is that the end of the Cold War, during which "all other ethical, political, and economic issues" were essentially put in deep freeze, led to the opening up of that freezer, and we had "history explode in our face." As a result, the most common form of conflict in the past decade, and presumably for some time to come, will be "communal conflicts," which are the ones that "the international system is least ready to address," but are "precisely the ones that invite intervention." One essay observes that a major impediment to timely intervention is the notion that war is something that should be done only as a "last resort," an idea rooted in the tradition of interstate conflict, presupposing functioning governments with whom one can negotiate, a situation not always applicable in humanitarian disasters, in which, some would argue, the "ethics of extreme urgency" are increasingly overcoming traditional scruples about using force and the inviolability of national frontiers. One of the essayists, Harvard professor J. Bryan Hehir, makes this point well by noting that U.S. opposition to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990-1991 was within the classic interstate mould, while our intervention to support the Kurds against Saddam Hussein’s genocidal policies – which as an "internal" matter was beyond the traditional purview of another sovereign state – was an afterthought, essentially forced on Pres. Bush due to public outcry.
A number of the essays deal with the dilemmas of intervention, issues which often cannot – and never – be known. For example would intervening in Bosnia sooner have ended the violence earlier, or perhaps precipitated even greater violence? Indeed, might the violence have ended sooner had there been no intervention at all?
In addition to Kofi Annan’s "Peacekeeping, Military Intervention, and National Sovereignty," several other essays are of particular interest, including one on Rwanda by Romeo A. Dallaire, Mary B. Anderson’s "’You Save My Life Today, But for What Tomorrow?’ Some Moral Dilemmas in Humanitarian Aid," "The Morality of Sanctions," by Larry Minar, and Michael Ignatieff’s "The Stories We Tell: Television and Humanitarian Aid."
An important book. But there are a number of historical inaccuracies (e.g., one of the contributors says that the death toll from "both world wars and all civil wars" in the twentieth century was 35 million, whereas the toll for World War II alone was probably over 80 million).and the translation of ultimo ratio regum is incorrect ("The king’s final argument," rather than "the last resort of kings."). More importantly, there is not much said about the often wildly varying state of training and equipment of the troops and other personnel provided by member states for humanitarian operations, and there might have been more treatment of cultural problems attendant upon interventions, not to mention the often enormous logistical obstacles.
Getting to Dayton: The Making of America’s Bosnia Policy, by Ivo H. Daadler. (Washington: Brookings Institution, 2000)
A surprisingly even-handed treatment of the development the U.S.’s role in Bosnian War, getting to Dayton focuses on how circumstances converged so that a policy which for a time seemed to be "lurching like a punch drunk boxer," "shifted suddenly, and dramatically, and ultimately achieved what none who had valiantly tried had been able to accomplish before." In the process Daadler makes a number of important points about the problems of policy making and peacekeeping. For example, he notes that the need for consensus in most international bodies often hampers prompt and effective international action, and how it is necessary in peacekeeping operations to employ judiciously both diplomacy and troops.
One very valuable point he makes is to ask whether in peacekeeping operations is it our intention to "end a war or build peace?" This is a critical issue that seems not to be very well-addressed in policy-making circles, particularly when there are public outcries to "do something," leading to disasters such as Somalia.
With regard to the actual operations, Daadler suggests that putting time limits on interventions is not particularly productive, and urges the necessity for open-ended commitments. He also seems to suggest that larger forces are better than smaller ones, and is implicitly critical of restrictive rules of engagement. These are all sound recommendations.
Among the factors influencing American policy treated in the book are our relations with Russia on the development of American policy and the tension between an interventionist Department of State and a cautious Department of Defense, as well as how indecision by our NATO partners led to an indecisive American policy.
In passing, Daadler touches upon – but overlooks – a two points of American policy that were inherently contradictory, a commitment to preserve the territorial integrity of Bosnia with an implied promise to support Bosnian Serb independence.
Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa, by Alex de Waal (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997)
An effective critique of the "humanitarian international" which, in the name of promoting humanitarian relief, actually often exacerbates the problems.
The author, a co-director of the London-based African Rights organization, discusses the culture of humanitarian relief agencies, which, usually staffed by ill-trained, if idealistic volunteers, are impervious to change, often focus on the wrong issues, and are usually fiercely oppose working in cooperation with governmental instructions.
Perhaps de Waal’s most telling observation is that famine is largely a consequence of authoritarian regimes. Indeed, he points out that there has never been a famine in a country with responsive democratic instructions.
Peace Operations and Intrastate Conflict: The Sword or the Olive Branch, by Thomas R. Mockaitis (Westport, Ct.: Praeger, 1999).
A critical analysis of peacekeeping operations in intrastate conflicts. Observing that, "Neutrality in a civil conflict is a myth, the author points out that many of the problems which have plagued peacekeeping efforts in intrastate conflicts over the past decade had already been encountered earlier, most notably in the Congo in 1960, but that the institutional memory in the peacekeeping community is extremely poor. He goes on to note that some problems are ultimately intractable, so that while some operations, such the observer missions in the Middle East and Kashmir, or the peacekeeping missions in Cyprus and Sinai, which have been going on for decades "with no end in sight hardly [seem] like a good solution until one looks at the bloodbaths in Rwanda or Bosnia."
Focusing on three major UN operations, the Congo, Somalia, and the former Yugoslavia, Mockaitis points out many of the more obvious errors, spreading the blame for the failure of peacekeeping in intra state conflicts pretty broadly. In a concluding chapter he proposes some fundamental changes to the "paradigm" of peacekeeping.
The NYMAS website, managed by members James Dingman and Robert Rowen, has proven to be a great success, with an enormous number of "hits" per day, and has even been listed as a reference for several university military history courses.
In addition to the most up-to-date schedule of NYMAS conferences and lectures, as well as a complete file of back issues of The NYMAS Newsletter, the site includes very extensive links to websites dealing with current and historical matters of military, strategic, and policy interest.
Website of Interest
Jews in the Civil War
A very well done website, with a variety of different types of material. The site is not confined to Jews and military service, but looks at the Jewish community in the United States in the period. The site includes a number of biographies of Jewish soldiers, politicians, and civilians on both sides, as well as articles and, on topics as varied as "A Black Jewish USCT Officer" and "Confederate Soldiers Celebreat Passover."
In addition, there are a number of amusing anecdotes, a lot of good pictures, and some useful links. There is also a database on Jewish soldiers in the Civil War, and a "bookstore" of materials on Jews in the war.
Jews in the Civil War is part of a larger website, Jewish-American History on the Web, which includes a number of other references to Jews in the military service of the United States, as well as extensive links.
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