The NYMAS Newsletter
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The New York Military Affairs Symposium
© 1998 NYMAS & The Authors
Dereliction of Duty
Wins the 1997 NYMAS Book Award
In September the NYMAS editorial committee voted to give the 1997 Arthur Goodzeit Book Award to H.R. McMaster, for his Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam (New York: Harper-Collins, 1997)
Instituted in 1991, the Arthur Goodzeit Book Award, named after the late Arthur Goodzeit, a long-time member of NYMAS and first editor of the Newsletter, has been made annually to an original work in military history which in the opinion of the members of the NYMAS editorial committee is of unusual value.
Previous winners have been:
War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage
by Lawrence H. Keeley.
Reviewed by Paul V. Walsh‘This is an important book’ is certainly a phrase that appears too often in book reviews, but never was it more applicable than in this instance. As the author notes in the first chapter, while an ocean of books have been published covering warfare during the one percent of human existence known as ‘civilization’, only a handful of studies have appeared that concern themselves with the nature of warfare during the ninety-nine percent of human existence before civilization. The significance of this particular study is that it successfully challenges the commonly accepted version of ‘primitive warfare’ established by previous works. In doing so it has led this reviewer to rethink a number of basic assumptions about mankind and war.
Keeley, a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, was prompted to write this book because of his ‘failures’ on two different levels. On a professional level, he failed to obtain a grant to excavate newly discovered Early Neolithic sites in Belgium until after he had substituted the word ‘enclosures’ for ‘fortifications’ in his proposal. On an intellectual level, he failed to recognize the high rate of homicides during his excavation of prehistoric village sites in the San Francisco Bay area, and, in his BA thesis, he failed to take into account the existing evidence for the importance of military activity among the Olmec and the Classical Mayans. Keeley states, "Like most archaeologists in the post-war period, I emerged from the first stage of my education so inculcated with the assumption that warfare and prehistory did not mix that I was willing to dismiss unambiguous physical evidence to the contrary" (p. ix). Therefore, the author has set out, through a careful examination of ethnographic and archaeological evidence, to study the direct effects of ‘primitive war’ in order to assess its intensity, lethality, and general effectiveness, and, in doing so, contrast it with its ‘civilized’ counterpart.
In chapter 1 "The Pacified Past: The Anthropology of War", Keeley reviews how the depiction of primitive warfare has changed over the centuries. This has largely been the story of the rise and fall of the competing theories of Thomas Hobbes (the ‘Myth of Progress’; pre-state peoples lived in a state of perpetual war) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (the ‘Myth of a Golden Age’; humans are inherently peaceful, only being driven to war by want/hunger). Needless to say, the Hobbesian theory reigned supreme during the age of imperialism, only to be superseded by the Rousseauian theory in our own century due to ethnographic observations (of peoples pacified by Colonial administrations), the accounts of natives (which downplayed the brutality of past warfare), and the accounts of Western observers (who judged primitive warfare by the formal battles that they witnessed, a feature so central to their own culture’s approach to war, rather than by the more frequent and lethal tactic of raiding). According to Keeley, this produced a version of Rousseau that depicted primitive warfare as virtually non-lethal, a version encapsulated in the two standard works A Study of War by Quincy Wright (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1942) and Primitive War: Its Practice and Concepts by Harry Holbert Turney-High (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1949; 1971); "Typically, Wright, and especially Turney-High, gauged the military efficacy of a practice [in primitive warfare] by how clearly it resembled that of the modern military, rather than by its effects" (p.12). The latest version of this myth of the peaceful savage has appeared in the collection of essays War in the Tribal Zone edited by R. Ferguson and N. Whitehead (Santa Fe, New Mexico: School of American Research Press, 1992), which argues that it is only through Western contact that the conditions are produced that foster war. But, asks Keeley, was there not scarce but highly valued items to fight over, the dissemination of new weapons technologies, the movement or increase in populations before contact with Western states? Indeed, if this Neo-Rousseauian theory is correct, there should be no archaeological evidence for warfare prior to Western contact (such an interpretation is aided by archaeologists’ tendency to define any evidence of prehistoric warfare in exclusively symbolic terms, thus denying their practical functions: fortifications are symbols of exclusion, while arms and armor are status symbols).
In subsequent chapters Keeley examines the evidence for primitive warfare and compares it with current ethnographic and archaeological interpretations. He demonstrates that the practice of warfare was nearly universal among primitive peoples and, thus, far more prevalent than is generally accepted, that primitive societies mobilized a percentage of the overall male population for war that was equal to their civilized counterparts (though, because of the complex administrative structure of modern armies, a far higher percentage of primitive participants actually engaged in combat), and that archaeological evidence, though limited, suggests similar conclusions for prehistory. Keeley argues that one of the factors that has led to a modern misinterpretation of the lethality of primitive warfare is the tendency among Anthropologists to examine formal battles, while neglecting the far more common and deadly practices of ambushes and small scale raids, as well as the less frequent but still important (and far more lethal) practices of large scale raids and massacres. The author also argues that, contrary to popular wisdom, it is civilized warfare that is the more ritualized of the two, pointing to practices such as taking prisoners, the treatment of civilians, and the usage or banning of different weapons (granted, these features are too often honored more in the breach, but they exist as ideals nonetheless). Indeed, one of the aspects that makes primitive warfare so much more deadly than its civilized counterpart is the near universal practice of killing all adult males that are taken captive. Keeley points out that while scholars have explained the outbreak of warfare among both primitive and civilized peoples by the long term cause of economic factors and the short term cause of immediate acts of violence, the short term cause is emphasized to explain war among primitive peoples, while the long term cause is emphasized to explain war among their civilized counterpart. In fact, territorial acquisition was as much a goal of primitive aggression as it was/is in civilized warfare. Keeley argues that the dismissal of such a possibility is due to a confusion between cause and effect; virtually all peoples, primitive and civilized, identify the need to redress a wrong as their motivation for going to war, while the acquisition of territory is explained merely as a side effect.
Where the author is at his weakest is when he makes comparisons between primitive and civilized warfare, particularly in chapter 5 "A Skulking Way of War: Primitive Warriors Versus Civilized Soldiers" and in the concluding chapter "A Trout in the Milk: Discussion and Conclusions." Keeley claims that, on a tactical level, primitive warfare was not merely the equal of civilized warfare but its superior, calling it ‘war reduced to its essentials’. The author further argues that because guerrilla warfare is so closely related to primitive warfare, it is also superior to civilized conventional warfare. In one instance Keeley states, "Despite being subjected to repeated military campaigns by one of the finest civilized armies of any era [the Roman Legions], Scotland was never conquered; Ireland was simply left alone" (p.76). Clearly he is confusing capabilities with intentions; was it ever actually the Romans’ intention to conquer either Scotland or Ireland? Keeley does acknowledge that on the highest strategic level civilized warfare is superior, as it has been able to bring to bear a concentration of resources and power through a hierarchical political organization that primitive societies simply could not match. But the author’s dismissal of civilized conventional warfare on the tactical level as overly ritualized and therefore inferior, ignores the fact that much of the ‘ritualization’ of conventional warfare has actually been the means by which the armed forces of a state concentrated and coordinated its military resources on the field of battle in order to (ideally) produce a decisive (read "quick") outcome to a conflict. When primitive peoples turn to unconventional tactics in the face of the overwhelming strength arrayed by civilized states on the battlefield, it is not because such tactics are superior (indeed, they take far longer to decide the outcome of a war, thus prolonging the conflict with all of its suffering), but because such tactics are the only option for resistance when they cannot face the enemy in the open without being slaughtered. In short, like most revisionists Keeley occasionally pushes his arguments beyond what they can support; he makes a better anthropologist than a military historian.
Despite his misreading of the comparative strengths of primitive and civilized warfare, Keeley’s fundamental assertion that war was as common and terrible (if not more so) for our prehistoric and primitive counterparts as it is for us remains valid. The author argues that the refusal to accept this fact in both the scholarly community and popular culture serves to both blind us to the correct path to peace (more civilization, not its rejection) and denies primitive peoples their full humanity:
"The myth of either primitive or civilized superiority deny the intellectual, psychological, and physiological equality of humankind. In fact, the proponents of the pacified past disclaim the idea that all people share a common nature by denying that all societies are capable of using violence to advance their interests" (p.179).`
War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage by Lawrence H. Keeley. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. 245 pp. Maps, charts, illus., noted, bibliog., index. Hardbound, ISBN 0-19-509112-4 $ 25.00; Softbound, ISBN 0-19-511912-6 $13.95.
Medal of Honor Chaplains of the Vietnam War
Since the Civil War chaplains have several times earned the nation’s highest honor. During the Vietnam War three did so, two of them posthumously.
All three of these men were Roman Catholics. Although Catholics comprised only about 25 percent of the population, nearly a third of all Americans who died in Vietnam were Roman Catholics.
After his discharge, Fr. Litkey, became active in the anti-war movement. In a gesture or protest he later returned his Medal of Honor to the Pentagon.
Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War, by Richard M. Ketchum. 448 pp. Illus, maps, notes, biblio, index. New York: Henry Holt, 1997. No price given. ISBN 0-8050-4681-X
Richard M. Ketchum's latest work on the American Revolution is military history at it's finest. Combining detailed portraits of the major characters with strategic analysis and a fast-paced and exciting narrative, this book brings to vivid life one of the most crucial moments in American history. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the book is it's balance. There are no evil villains here, only complex human beings with their own virtues, flaws and goals.
Ketchum illustrates the enormous complexity and scope of the war from the British perspective, and the extreme difficulty which they had managing it across thousands of miles of ocean
Burgoyne's 1777 Hudson River campaign was conceived as the master stroke that would bring the rebels to their knees. Instead, it resulted in the loss of an entire British army and the entry of France into the war against the British, events that are generally considered to be crucial to the success of the Revolution. How could a powerful and experienced British army, under an aggressive and successful commander, come to such dismal fate?
Ketchum discusses the various factors that contributed to the outcome of this campaign. These include personal rivalries, military victories and defeats, logistics, overly optimistic plans and harsh terrain, and British under-estimation of the fighting skills of the American soldier.
All of this and more is woven together in a lively narrative that pulls the reader into the story.
This book is the best study available of this pivotal campaign. It is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in military history, the American Revolution, or the American or British armies.
Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War II, by David M. Glantz. Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1998. xvii, 374 pp. Illus, maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0-7006-0879-6.
Col. Glantz is no stranger to the NYMAS membership, who awarded his When Titans Clash the 1996 Arthur Goodzeit Book Award. His new book Stumbling Colossus is an in depth inquiry into the actual state of the Red Army going into World War II based on newly available materials from Russian archives. It is an superior work.
Perhaps the most useful chapter in Stumbling Colossus , is "The Soviet Soldier," a look at the men in the ranks using letters, diaries, and other documents long suppressed or only now being published, without the overburden of "party line" propaganda that presumed all Red Army men were uniformly brave, selfless, and dedicated to the preservation of the Soviet Motherland. While such treatments have long been a commonplace of works on Western armies, nearly five decades of Soviet censorship prevented this aspect of the history of the Red Army from being examined at all.
There are also chapters on mobilization, combat readiness, the air forces, combat support and rear services, intelligence, and more, plus several interesting appendices, the most valuable of which is an examination of the evidence on the "Correlation of Forces" between the Germans and Soviets on the eve of the war, as it has evolved in historical treatments and official statements over the years, in contrast to evidence newly available from the archives.
A very valuable work for anyone interested in World War II.
Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler's Defeat in the East, 1942-1943 b Joel S. A. Hayward. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998. xxiii, 323 pp. Illus., maps, notes, biblio, index.. $39.95. ISBN: 0-7006-0876-1.
One of the things we have long needed in terms of the history of the German Air Force is some good operational campaign history. Far too many books on the Luftwaffe concern themselves with incredible technical minutiae, or concentrate overly on some personalities, most notably Hermann Göring. Richard Muller's very good work The German Air War in Russia was an important step in the right direction. Joel Hayward's Stopped at Stalingrad extends this much further.
Stopped at Stalingrad is really a campaign history of Luftflotte 4 and its part in the 1942 German summer campaign in Russia, which culminated so disastrously at Stalingrad. The major personality of the book is General (later Field Marshal) Wolfram von Richthofen, who started 1942 as the commander of Flieger Korps VIII, and from July 1942 on was the commander of Luftflotte 4; a man whose arrogance was matched only by his ability as the Luftwaffe's best field commander.
Hayward's book has two very interesting arguments. First, Hayward revives an old argument concerning the question of where the turning point of the war was. Since the late 1970's the now accepted conventional wisdom is that the German defeat at Moscow in December 1941 was really the turning point of the war. Hayward seems to challenge this, although he does it more by implication than by open argument. The second argument Hayward advances is that the Luftwaffe could have crippled Soviet oil production by launching large-scale bomber raids against Baku in the summer of 1942, when the German advance brought the major Soviet oil producing areas within range of the Luftwaffe's bombers. Here I think Hayward is on firmer ground. Richthofen did launch two large-scale raids on the oil refining facilities at Grozny with impressive results.
The attritional nature of the campaign, and the failed air lift to supply the Sixth Army are well covered. Hayward also gives good coverage to lesser known aspects of the campaign, such as air operations over the Black Sea, aimed at bottling up the
Soviet Black Sea Fleet. The book is splendidly researched and well written. Hayward has the knack of being able to explain even very technical matters in easily understood prose.
The book does have some minor flaws. Although one might expect it in a work of this nature, the ground campaign is not particularly well covered. Also Hayward consistently misidentifies some units, the most egregious example being the Army's Grossdeutschland Division, which Hayward consistently identifies as an SS unit.
These minor flaws notwithstanding, this is a superb piece of work. It is an absolute must for anyone with an interest in the war on the eastern front, and on the Stalingrad campaign in particular.
Quotation from Chairman
"My custom is to sleep on the battlefield"
Special Book Offer to NYMAS Members!
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Some Notable Recent Works on World War I
The end of the Cold War seems to have refocused attention on the importance of World War I in shaping the twentieth century. One consequence of this is that serious scholarly study of the Great War has revived, as can be seen in the following works.
Pershing and His General: Command and Staff in the A.E.F., by James J. Cooke. Westport, Ct.: Praeger, 1997. x, 167 pp. Illus, notes, biblio., index. $57.95. ISBN: 0-275-95363-7.
An important study of the development of the staff of the A.E.F., which had to be created ex novo, and to the problems which this caused in the execution of American operations in France in World War I. The book provides some interesting word portraits of the several of the more notable characters in the A.E.F., and has some useful insights into overall planning for the A.E.F. (demonstrating, for example, that Pershing’s oft touted goal of 100 divisions in 1919 was unattainable), as well as operations and strategy as well. However, the suggestion that the A.E.F. was a hallow army by the Armistice seems unwarranted, particularly considering that it had taken fewer casualties since the onset of the Kaiserschlacht than had either the British or the French.
The Test of Battle: The American Expeditionary Forces in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign, by Paul F. Braim. Shippensburg, Pa.: White Mane, 1998. xix, 247 pp. Illus, maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN: 1-57249-085-3
A revised edition of a work originally published a decade ago, The Test of Battle looks at the performance of the A.E.F. during its most crucial fight, in the grueling Meuse-Argonne, probably second only to the Bulge as the largest battle in the history of the U.S. Army. The author does a good job of critically analyzing many of the problems faced by the A.E.F., including a shortage of equipment, inadequate training, and the lack of an effective replacement system, but also demonstrates that the American troops overall performed well, given the circumstances. While the author probably correctly concludes that the U.S. did not win the war for the Allies, he omits to mention that it is unlikely the Allies would have won it themselves without American aid.
Field Marshal Sir William Robertson: Chief of the Imperial General Staff in the Great War, by David R. Woodward. Westport, Ct.: Praeger, 1998. xiv, 230 pp. Illus., notes., biblio., index. $59.95. ISBN: 0-275-95422-6.
This is not a biography of "Wully" Robertston, the first enlisted man in the British Army to rise to field marshal. Rather, it focuses on his actions as Chief of the Imperial General Staff for much of the war, for which he has shared much of the criticism of the "senseless slaughter" that was the Western Front. The author, a confirmed "Westerner," attempts to rebut this criticism, and makes a good case that Robertston had a better understanding of the nature of the war than Douglas Haig, who nevertheless tended to get his way due to political influence. An interesting book.
British Logistics on the Western Front, 1914-1919, by Ian Malcolm Brown. Westport, Ct.: Praeger, 1998. xvi, 261 pp. Map, diagr., tables, notes, bibliog., index. $65.00. ISBN: 0-275-95894-9.
An important study of a surprisingly neglected aspect of the Great War, the enormous logistical effort required to keep the armies in the field and fighting. The work is surprisingly readable, considering its subject matter, and the text is supplemented by more than two dozen tables and diagrams. Brown covers considerable ground, from artillery availability to staff college curricula, from dock construction to rolling stock availability, and more. He extends his treatment to the post-Armistice period, when the B.E.F.’s logistical system collapsed. Very useful for the serious student of World War I.
VD in the American Army
Venereal disease has been a major cause of personnel non-effectiveness in armies for centuries. The U.S. Army seems to have been keeping statistics on venereal disease since at least the late 1820s. They are rather revealing, particularly those from supposedly uptight Victorian times.
Period Situation Rate
1829-1838 Peace 6%
1840-1846 Peace 7%
1846-1848 Mexican War 9%
1849-1854 Peace 7%
1861-1865 Civil War 8.2%
1880-1890 Peace 8.3%
1895 Peace 7.4%
1897 Peace 8.4%
1917-1918 World War I 8.7%
1941-1945 World War II 4.9%
1950-1953 Korea 14.6%
1965-1972 Vietnam 32.5%
1990-1991 Gulf na
The percent figure under Rate indicates the proportion of the troops reporting a venereal during the indicated period.
Note that figures for the 1990-1991 Gulf War, though believed to be low, appear to have been kept secret so as not to offend Saudi sensibilities.
Looking at the figures through World War II, one would have assumed the problem of VD in the Army had been resolved. It hadn’t.
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 and anecdotes are always welcome.
By 1943 Albert Speer had become the German Armaments Minister, and pretty much had the ultimate power to determine the allocation of Germany’s industrial resources in the furtherance of the war effort.
As it happened, German naval regulations prescribed a decorative dirk – a dagger-- as a part of the dress uniform for officers, petty officers, and naval cadets, as can sometimes be seen in pictures of German naval personnel, rather incongruously dangling from their belts as they board their submarines. Perceiving a shortage of this vital piece of military equipment, in 1943 the Kriegesmarine requested that Speer arrange for the manufacture of 50,000 of the things.
Apparently controlling his temper, Speer turned the Navy down, informing it that the metal might better serve Germany’s war effort if used for something besides insuring that naval personnel were nattily uniformed. The Navy appears to have protested this decision right up to Hitler, to no avail.
The Kiregsmarine’s attitude was in sharp
contrast to the more no-nonsense approach of the U.S. Army with regard to uniform details. As millions of men were being mobilized, the Army realized that even small economies in uniform trim could yield immense savings.
As a result, distinctive insignia, the little metallic badges worn on the shoulders to identify a soldier's regiment, were dispensed with during the war, with a consequent savings of over 75 tons of various metals, paints, and enamels, while cloth enlisted men’s rank stripes, formerly worn on both arms, was reduced to being worn only the right arm, effecting yet more savings. These economies may seem small, but it was a matter of a penny here and a penny there adding up to a great many dollars.
Mailing Address Changes
Remember, all submissions for The Newsletter should be sent directly to the editor, by surface mail to:
A. A. Nofi
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Austin, TX, 78705-1716
or by email to:
Brief Reviews of Recent Books
The Long Road of War: A Marine’s Story of Pacific Combat, by James W. Johnston. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1998. xii, 178 pp. Illus, map, notes, biblio. $29.95. ISBN: 0-8032-2585-7.
A somewhat angry memoir of combat with the 1st Marine Division on New Guinea, New Britain, Peleliu, and Okinawa, by a former 5th Marines machinegunner. It contains some interesting sidelights on the standard gripes of the line troops vs. the REMFs. Worth reading for anyone interested in the Pacific War.
The Lincoln Brigade: A Picture History, by William Loren Katz and Marc Crawford. New York: Atheneum, 1989. x, 84 pp. Illus, map, biblio., index. $14.95. ISBN: 0-689-31406-X
A propaganda piece by those American mercs who, having survived the Fascist bullets during the Spanish Civil War, still believe the Communist lies. But the pictures are nice.
We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History, by John Lewis Gaddis. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1997. xi, 425 pp. Notes, biblio., index. $14.95 paper. ISBN: 0-19-878071-0.
An interesting, post-Cold War look at the formative years of the great East-West ideological conflict that dominated the four decades following the Second World War. Although there are no earth shaking revelations, Gaddis traces the origins and development of the conflict through the Cuban Missile Crisis in some detail, with many unusual insights. A useful read for anyone trying to understand the Cold War, or the intricacies of international politics at any time.
The Defeat of Japan, by David Rees. Westport, Ct.: Praeger, 1997. x, 219 pp. Illus, notes, biblio., index. $59.95. ISBN: 0-275-95955-4.
A solid account of the final year of the Pacific War. The work falls essentially into three parts: operations and politics from June 1944, when Japan was effectively defeated, through the end of that year; operations and planning in the first half of 1945, including Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Olympic, and the decision to use the bomb; and from Hiroshima to the occupation of Japan. Adherents of the "Criminal U.S." school will find little comfort herein.
Resistance Fighter: A Teenage Girl in World War II France, by Elisabeth Sevier, with Robert W. Sevier. Manhattan, Ks.: Sunflower University Press, 1998. xxii, 183 pp. Illlus, notes, bibliog, index. $18.95 paper. ISBN: 0-89745-223-2
The adventures of a 16-year old French girl in the Resistance and later the French Army. A good read, with many interesting insights into the Resistance.
America’s Lost H-Bomb! Palomares, Spain, 1966, by Randall C. Maydew. Manhattan, Ks.: Sunflower University Press, 1997. x, 160 pp. Illus, maps, diagr., tables, notes, biblio., index. $16.95 paper. ISBN: 0-89745-214-3.
A readable sensationalistic look at the 1966 B-52G/KC-135 accident off the coast of Spain that released some contamination from three damaged nuclear weapons. The author takes a non-sensationalistic look at the causes of the crash, the clean up, and the effects on the local environment. There is also a useful, non-hysterical appendix detailing the 32 known U.S. nuclear "accidents."
The Most Monstrous of Wars: The Neapolitan Guerrilla War in Southern Italy, 1806-1811, by Milton Finley. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina, 1994. xv, 161 pp. Illus, maps, notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 1-57003-006-5
To the good, this work sheds some light on a generally overlooked insurgency, one preceding and portending that which Napoleon would face in Spain, equaled it in ferocity if not scale. Nevertheless, it is not a wholly satisfactory work. For one thing, despite its title it is primarily focused on operations in Calabria, touching only lightly on other areas, such as the highly effective operations of the famous Fra Diavolo in the Terra di Lavoro. In addition, it seems clear that the author is not conversant with Italian: The bibliography is long on materials in English and French and short on those in Italian, and though he several times mentions a guerrilla leader nicknamed Mangiafranca he apparently doesn’t realize that it means "Eats the French." Still, an important look at a neglected campaign of considerable importance.
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