Greeks Bearing Swords
[Re. the May cover, “Defying the Sultan”:] Though it portrays Greek rebels, Louis Dupré’s painting shows, to my keen Marine eye, swords with Mamluk hilts. A Marine officer’s version of this sword has been in use since the early 1800s and is the oldest weapon in continuous use in the Department of Defense. I guess with Greece being under Ottoman control, they would use Ottoman weapons.
John H. Thompson
Editor responds: Rebels generally use whatever they can get their hands on, and the Ottomans in Greece had plenty of weaponry at hand. The type of saber depicted in Dupré’s painting may actually be the Turkish kilij, whose design derives from swords used by, among other predecessors, the Mamluks.
‘A Marine officer’s version of this sword has been in use since the early 1800s’
I believe you mistakenly used a picture of someone other than Russian Czar Nicholas II on P. 9 [“Ongoing Quest to ID Romanovs,” News, May 2016]. Nicholas so closely resembled his cousin King George V of Great Britain that they could have been twins. This is shown by the paintings and photographs in your feature article [“The Last Warrior-King,” by Richard Selcer, PP. 42–51]. But the photo of the bald-headed gentleman on P. 9 shows no resemblance to either. You may have meant to illustrate Alexander III, whose DNA is being used to confirm the found remains of Nicholas, his czarina, Alexandra, and their five children, all murdered by the Communists in 1918.
Editor responds: Yes, that is a portrait of Alexander III. The Russian Orthodox Church has asked for incontrovertible forensic identification of all seven family members before entombing the remains—considered holy relics—at the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Raising the BAR
As a World War II veteran [Company C, 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division] who carried a BAR [M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle] off and on from Bastogne to the Elbe River, I was disappointed that you failed to mention the weapon in your March feature on automatic weapons [“Full-Auto Firepower,” by Jon Guttman]. It appeared late in World War I but saw much service in World War II and Korea. Each squad in an infantry company during World War II had a BAR man and an assistant who carried extra magazines and took over the weapon if the regular man became a casualty. During a combat patrol of the village of Hilfarth, Germany, on Feb. 24, 1945, I fired 11 of my 13 magazines.
[Re. “Rethinking Rommel,” by David T. Zabecki, January:] Zabecki writes Erwin Rommel “owed his spectacular interwar rise within the Wehrmacht to Adolf Hitler’s direct patronage.” This is not true. He owed it to his extraordinary World War I feats, his receiving the equivalent of the Medal of Honor for them and his well-received book about them.
As commander of the 7th Panzer Division at the outset of World War II, Rommel adapted to the concept of blitzkrieg so successfully that the architect of it, Heinz Guderian, had nothing but praise for him. It was from these achievements Hitler appointed Rommel to command the Afrika Korps to bolster the Italian front in Libya.
Here we are still talking about Rommel 70 years later. Is that not proof in itself of his significance?
Japan’s Last Fight
Sir Max Hasting’s article “Japan’s Last Fight,” in the July 2015 issue of Military History, and particularly the illustrative maps on PP. 30–31, made me think perhaps it wasn’t Little Boy after all that convinced the emperor it was better to end the war but the declaration of war by the Soviet Union in Japan’s frontiers, particularly on the island of Sakhalin. Perhaps to have the Russian army at Japan’s gates was a menace too evident to ignore. Maybe, when Hirohito asked his people to “accept the unacceptable and endure the unendurable,” he knew a Soviet Japan would be really unacceptable and unendurable, so he decided to surrender to the Americans to avoid that possibility.
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