Military History Digest #138

Table of Contents

1. The Battle of the North Atlantic: Allied Convoys by Charles McCain at World War II History
2. Discovering Private Walker: Using New Technologies to Catalogue Old Relics by Dianne Rutherford at Australian War Memorial
3. Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton: the Dominion of War by Pritzker Military Library at Pritzker Military Library Podcasts
4. Inspired by the Hero of the “Planter” by noreply@blogger.com (Ron Coddington) at Faces of War
5. Edward Thomas and Arras, at the Iwm by George Simmers at Great War Fiction
6. Review: a Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution by Craig Swain at To the Sound of the Guns
7. 8-Inch Parrott Rifles – Army Coast/River Defense Use by Craig Swain at To the Sound of the Guns
8. Privateers &Amp; Pirates: Blackbeard Killed by n/a at About.com Military History
9. Eyewitness Account: Lincoln at Gettysburg by noreply@blogger.com (Ron Coddington) at Faces of War
10. J. Weikert (Althoff) Farm Lane by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
11. Custer Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
12. Slyder Lane by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
13. Spangler Farm Lane by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
14. Benner’s Hill Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
15. Ayres Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
16. Granite Schoolhouse Lane by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
17. United States Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
18. Neill Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
19. North Confederate Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
20. Pleasonton Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
21. Sickles Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
22. Bushman Farm Lane by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
23. Sykes Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
24. Cross, Brooke, and Detrobriand Avenues by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
25. East Confederate Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
26. Buford Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
27. Humphreys Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
28. Slocum Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
29. West Confederate Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
30. Crawford Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
31. South Confederate Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
32. Reynolds Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
33. Hancock Avenue by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
34. Thursday, 21 November 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
35. Guest Post: Recommission Olympia by Lcdr Claude Berube, Usnr by admin at Other Military History Stuff

Continue reading “Military History Digest #138”

Advertisements

Military History Digest #137

Table of Contents

1. John T. Strong by Steve Soper at Third Michigan Infantry Research Project
2. Chauncey Strickland Jr. by Steve Soper at Third Michigan Infantry Research Project
3. Wednesday, 20 November 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
4. Monday, 18 November 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
5. Sunday, 17 November 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
6. A Dominion of the Air by Brett Holman at Airminded
7. World War Ii: Allies Hit Tarawa by n/a at About.com Military History
8. American Revolution: George Rogers Clark Born by n/a at About.com Military History
9. War of 1812: Defeat at Crysler’s Farm by n/a at About.com Military History
10. World Record Flight by Proceedings at Naval History Blog
11. “Paying the Ultimate Price” Corporal Jason Dunham, Usmc by NHHC at Naval History Blog
12. Uss Kirk – (Ff 1087) the Lucky Few by NavyTV at Naval History Blog
13. Guest Post by Liza Schwartz: Remembering Frank Freeland by NHHC at Naval History Blog
14. Congress Allows Arming of Merchant Ships by NHHC at Naval History Blog
15. Albert P. “Scoofer” Coffin and Guadalcanal by NHHC at Naval History Blog
16. Safety First! John Dahlgren and American Naval Ordnance by NHHC at Naval History Blog
17. “I Was Coming Head on at One of Them” Lt. Comdr. William T. Amen by NHHC at Naval History Blog
18. Navy Rips Into Rand by Thomas Rid at Kings of War
19. John J. Stribbling by Steve Soper at Third Michigan Infantry Research Project
20. Warren Solomon Stone by Steve Soper at Third Michigan Infantry Research Project
21. Hew Strachan: the First World War by Pritzker Military Library at Pritzker Military Library Podcasts
22. The Washington Post Goes Whole Hog on the Sesquicentennial by noreply@blogger.com (dw) at of Battlefields and Bibliophiles
23. Allan M. Laing’s “Carols of a Convict” by George Simmers at Great War Fiction
24. Ira W. Speers by Steve Soper at Third Michigan Infantry Research Project
25. 8-Inch Parrott Rifle, Part 2a by Craig Swain at To the Sound of the Guns
26. The P6M Seamaster: Master and Commander of Naught by David Axe at Other Military History Stuff
27. One Hundred Years Ago, 10 November 1910 by UltimaRatioReg at Other Military History Stuff
28. The Battle of Wanat Study by n/a at Other Military History Stuff

Continue reading “Military History Digest #137”

Military History Digest #136

Table of Contents

1. 1945 Color Film of the Battleships South Dakota and Nagato by NHHC at Naval History Blog
2. Crusades: Fatimids Surrender Jerusalem by n/a at About.com Military History
3. Dishman: “a Perfect Gibraltar: the Battle for Monterrey, Mexico, 1846” by noreply@blogger.com (Drew@CWBA) at Civil War Books and Authors
4. Abandoned Wiards by Craig Swain at To the Sound of the Guns
5. John Mccrae: ‘in Flanders Fields’ by noreply@blogger.com (Tim Kendall) at War Poetry
6. Roelof Steffins by Steve Soper at Third Michigan Infantry Research Project
7. Ambrose a. Stevens by Steve Soper at Third Michigan Infantry Research Project
8. Elisha O. Stevens by Steve Soper at Third Michigan Infantry Research Project
9. Joseph Edward Stevens by Steve Soper at Third Michigan Infantry Research Project
10. Usn and Usmc in Bolshevik Revolution by NHHC at Naval History Blog
11. American Civil War: Grant Begins at Belmont by n/a at About.com Military History
12. The Longest Winter: the Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of World War Ii'S Most Decorated Platoon: Front &Amp; Center by Pritzker Military Library at Pritzker Military Library Podcasts
13. Ocean Views (Secret) by Brett Holman at Airminded
14. Northwest Indian War: St. Clair Routed on the Wabash by n/a at About.com Military History
15. There’s an App for That. . . by noreply@blogger.com (dw) at of Battlefields and Bibliophiles
16. An Alphabet Soup of Confusion: Torpedo Craft in World War Two by Charles McCain at World War II History
17. Reinhart (Ed.): “a German Hurrah! : Civil War Letters of Friedrich Bertsch and Wilhelm Staengel, 9th Ohio Infantry” by noreply@blogger.com (Drew@CWBA) at Civil War Books and Authors
18. November at the Pritzker Military Library by Pritzker Military Library at Pritzker Military Library Podcasts
19. Strategy and the Singularity by David Betz at Kings of War
20. French &Amp; Indian/Seven Years' War: 1758-1759: the Tide Turns by n/a at About.com Military History
21. 8-Inch Parrott Rifle, Part 2 by Craig Swain at To the Sound of the Guns
22. The Continental Congress Commits to a Navy, 30 October 1775 by NHHC at Naval History Blog
23. Why Do So Many Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Publish Their Memoirs? by The Bunny at Other Military History Stuff

Continue reading “Military History Digest #136”

Military History Carnival #23

H-War (http://www.h-net.org/~war/) (in conjunction with the Edge of the American West, http://edgeofthewest.wordpress.com ) will be hosting the next Military History Carnival, on April 17, 2010. Carnivals are an ancient and hoary Internet tradition, bringing together the best submitted work on a particular topic from around the web:

“A blog carnival is like a roving journal, a rotating showcase of interesting writing from around the blogosphere within a particular discipline. Individual bloggers volunteer to host a carnival on their personal blog, acting as chief editor for that edition. It falls to them to collect noteworthy items, and to sort through suggestions from the community, many of which are direct submissions from authors. On the appointed date (carnivals generally keep to a regular schedule) the carnival gets published and the community is treated to a richly annotated feast of new writing in the field.” (http://www.futureofthebook.org/blog/archives/2005/10/the_blog_carnival.html)

My belief is to construe military history as widely as possible: drums and trumpets, surely. The face of battle, most definitely. But also memorialization, gender, and anything else that seems related to war in all its forms.

Submit potential entries to hwar@comcast.net with the subject header “Military History Carnival Submission.” The deadline is April 15th.

Further Regionalization

National parties mediate the differences between their regional bases. The Democrats, for example, must negotiate between the interests of their constituencies in the northeast, the upper midwest, and the west coast. What an autoworker in Detroit sees as a critical political issue from a taxi driver in New York City, and both would likely disagree with a barista in San Francisco, or a farmer in North Dakota. The result is often a mishmash of both policies and politicians: Byron Dorgan, Democratic Senator of North Dakota, holds substantially different views than Barbara Boxer, Democratic Senator of California. This is a good thing in electoral terms, as it enables political parties to contest and win national elections.

Regional parties, by contrast, are usually much more consistent (though not entirely) in their ideology, policies, and politicians. This gives them a stranglehold on their particular region. But it becomes a reinforcing cycle: the politicians that emerge from a regional party are the ones that are successful in that region. Politicians who do not adhere to the ideological template are marginalized or forcibly evicted from the party. And with each success and each eviction, the party regionalizes itself further and begins the cycle all over again. This is a bad thing for political parties, as it makes it difficult for them to contest national elections and weakens them everywhere but their particular region.

This syndrome is currently at play in Pennsylvania, where Republican Senator Arlen Spector is in danger from his own party. Specter’s relative moderation no longer seems to fit within the increasingly conservative and increasingly Southern GOP, and so he will be challenged in the Republican primary by Pat Toomey, who’s social conservatism fits much more closely with the current template. If Toomey wins, and it seems likely that he will, it is extremely difficult to see him winning against any reasonable Democratic candidate in a state that went for Barack Obama in 2008 by over 10 percentage points. Even if Specter wins, it will be by moving to the right, something that will weaken him in the general election. The likely flip of the second Senate seat in Pennsylvania to the Democrats will continue the regionalization of the Republicans, which will in turn make it more unlikely that Specter-like figures can survive in the party. The big tent is a useful electoral tool; diversity helps win elections. If the Republicans’ tent continues to shrink, there will be less and less room for actual voters.

Enforcing Military Realism

There is always theater in the writing of a defense budget. That is true no more so than this year, when a string of unusual events has made the American military process even more complicated than usual. In 2009-2010, the defense budget is…

  • Being made by a Democratic President and Democratic Congress for the first time since 1994,
  • Being made in a time of catastrophic economic global meltdown,
  • Being made as the United States is moving out of one war (Iraq) and moving more deeply into another war (Afghanistan),
  • Being made as some of the services are beginning to shift away from a Cold War mentality,
  • Being made as the military struggles to rebuild and enlarge itself after seven years of uninterrupted war,
  • Being made as all the services are struggle with procurement difficulties in their next generation weapons systems
  • Being made as the wide-open spigot of funding that started in the post 9/11 era is finally being twisted shut.

The Obama administration’s first defense budget is a critical one, both to begin the process for dealing with the factors above, and to set a tone of rationality for the coming years of the administration. Before we turn to that budget, let’s peer back at recent defense budgeting history, to get a sense of context. The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 ushered in an era of essentially unfettered defense spending, aimed at winning the Cold War. Defense budgets shot up and remained up for most of the 1980s, reaching nearly 6% of GDP ($840 billion in 2008 dollars).

The end of the Cold War substantially reduced those budgets and the size of the military. What did not change, however, was the essentially unfettered ability of the military to decide its own strategy and purchasing decisions. With the exception of a small period from 1991-1994, the Pentagon essentially on military strategy (“The Powell Doctrine,” for example) and procurement (continued emphasis on Cold War weapons). President Clinton’s difficulties in handling the military essentially led him to abdicate any hard choices about future strategy. There was another brief break from this trend in 2001 as the incoming Bush Administration pushed a self-consciously “transformational” agenda. Donald Rumsfeld tried to break the services from their Cold War mindset, most notably with the cancellation of the Crusader artillery system. All of that stopped with 9/11 and (despite the legendary dislike of Rumsfeld by the military) the military was allowed by American policy makers essentially to run its budgeting ship, with ever increasing funding.

Given this past history, President Obama’s most important responsibility is to enforce realism. Simple sounding in theory, but difficult in practice and notably absent for the last several decades. The two most critical parts of enforcing realism is

  • Budget discipline
  • Building for Real Wars

First, budget discipline. Perhaps the most pernicious practice of the Bush Administration was the splitting of the defense budget from the budgets for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Defense budget &
supplemental budgets, 2001-2008

The latter were paid for with “supplemental budgets” which were passed by Congress separately. The effect was to enforce spending discipline on neither effort. Billions of dollars have been lost in Iraq, while the defense budget has continued to spiral as the military continues to buy larger and more expensive weapons. President Obama seems well on his way to dealing with this one, having announced not only the unification of defense budget and war budgets, but also putting a cap of $537 billion on non-war related defense spending for the next year. As a method for bringing the defense budget under the control, this is a good start.

Second, the Pentagon needs to plan for real wars. This sounds like an obvious idea, but practice has been to plan for potential wars rather than actual ones: wars that the United States might wage, rather than ones they were actually waging. In the Cold War, when the genuine potential existed for a large-scale ground war in Western Europe existed, this practice was marginally defensible, though even then it left the U.S. badly prepared for Vietnam, among other conflicts. But now, when a conventional conflict against China or Russia is all but impossible, and the United States is involved in two counterinsurgencies, the practice is actively dangerous.

F-22 Raptor

The primary goal of the services must be to wage the wars they are actually involved in, not the ones that they believe possible. Doing the former leads to the purchase of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles for the conflict in Iraq and the rewriting of the Army’s Field Manual finally to address counterinsurgency. The latter leads to billions being spent on the F-22, and the use of billion dollar warships to chase pirates off Somalia. The wars that the United States has been involved in in the past few decades have all been asymmetric–against much smaller foes–and a mix of conventional and insurgent campaigns. The defense budget has to focus on preparing for those, not for imaginary conflicts with China. Does that put the U.S. at risk if a massive conventional war comes along? Surely. But no more so than preparing for the large-scale conventional war put us at risk of getting bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this time, America simply does not have the resources to prepare for every contingency no matter how remote. That leaves us only one option: waging the wars we are actually fighting.

GOP Calculus

The GOP made a big show of not cooperating with President Obama’s passage of the stimulus bill last week. No Republican member of the House voted for the bill and only three GOP Senators did so. There are three major political implications of the way the bill was passed:

  • Legislative power in the government rests largely in the hands of three of the remaining Northeastern GOP Senators: Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Once Al Franken is seated as Senator from Minnesota (and it seems more than likely that he will be), any one of those GOP Senators can be the decisive vote to invoke cloture and prevent a Republican filibuster of Democratic legislation. The Democratic majority in the House is so large as to make it functionally irrelevant, unless there is a major Blue Dog revolt. Thus any critical legislative action from the White House is likely to be tailored to those Senators.
  • The calculations of the Republican leadership are those of politicians in a tight spot. After getting soundly thumped in two straight elections and still saddled with the horrendous legacy of the Bush-Cheney Administration (much to Democratic delight, Vice-President Cheney has refused to go quietly into the night). Voting for the bill, they likely figured, gained them nothing. Any success would be credited to President Obama and the Democrats. Voting against the bill set them up as the voice of opposition in case of failure, and offered them a (however hypocritical) way of reasserting their status as the fiscally conservative party. That much of this required the most stringent short and long-term political amnesia–amnesia bad enough actually to provoke the normally-compliant media into noticing–was simply a burden to bear. The criticism that they thus put party interests above national ones is misplaced, as the GOP leadership knew that there was no way they could prevent the bill’s passage in the House and none of the three GOP Senators who voted for it in the Senate have been punished by their caucus. Essentially, the Republicans were playing political theater and they knew it.
  • The regionalization of the Republicans continues. Voting against the auto bailout bill in the last days of the Bush Administration should effectively destroy the GOP brand even further in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. The effective conversion of northeastern GOP Senators into conservative Democrats means that the GOP presence in the northeast is even more reduced, and it is likely that some if not all Senators will lose their next election. Certainly, Arlen Specter is probably doomed in his 2010 campaign in Pennsylvania, if he’s not picked off by a primary challenge. The GOP has become a party of the South and the Great Plains, able to contest states in the West and Midwest, but losing more than they win. The Democrats have now won the popular vote in 4 out of the last 5 Presidential elections, and the GOP’s regionalization means that it will be unlikely to produce a nationally-viable candidate in 2012. Certainly neither Sarah Palin nor Bobby Jindal seem to have country-wide credibility.

What emerges from these three implications are a set of questions. How well will the Specter, Snowe, and Collins work with the Obama administration going forward? Will the GOP’s gamble on being the Party of “No” work? Can the GOP avoid becoming a regional party without the ability effectively to contest national elections?