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Letters from Readers - May 2008 - Military History

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: April 29, 2008 
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On the Last Train to Berlin

The new German currency—the D-mark—was distributed to West Germany on June 20, 1948. It caught the Russians flatfooted, and they were quite upset. Their goal was to get the West out of Berlin, and as payback, on June 24 they announced that access to Berlin by road, rail and water was terminated.

By June 26, General Lucius Clay directed that we resume rail traffic to Berlin. We had a train of 54 cars in Brunswick ready to go. As dusk fell, I—a 23-year-old MP lieutenant—and six GIs armed with Thompson submachine guns climbed aboard. I was to permit the Russians to examine the paperwork, but they were not to open any car and examine the contents. Finally, I was to use such force as necessary to ensure compliance.

Surprisingly, we got the necessary locomotive change and reached the outskirts of Berlin early the next morning. After a couple hours of sleep, we climbed into a 3/4-ton truck for a long trip back to Brunswick. The next two trains also got through without incident.

With train No. 4, they got tough. It got nowhere. Later the Russians sank a couple of railroad ties vertically into the ground between the rails. That really terminated rail traffic.

Colonel H.V. Freitag
U.S. Army (Ret.)
Schofield, Wis.

Shell-shocked

I like Military History very much, but sometimes you really miss the target! Why in the world did you use a 7.62X39 AK cartridge for the letter I in "Sniper" [by Geoffrey Norman, March/April]? That represents sniper rifle performance about like a garbage truck represents elegance. You could have at least pictured a 7.62mm NATO/.308 Winchester cartridge used in the Remington 700 in Vietnam.

George Reynolds
Altona, Ill.

Joan of Arc

I thoroughly enjoyed Kelly DeVries' article "Joan of Arc" [January/February]. A stern code of ethics, a strong sense of personal morality, "obedience to the unenforceable" [to quote John Fletcher Moul-ton]—these are qualities a leader must have at the core of his or her being, as Joan of Arc had shown. This is why military schools and colleges stress duty and honor, love of God and country. They know that without a firm moral base a person is too unsure of him or herself to be an effective leader.

Evan Dale Santos
Adelanto, Calif.

Paths to Glory

David Zabecki's interesting and informative article on U.S. Marines Smedley Butler and Dan Daly ["Paths to Glory," January/February] could have also included the information that retired Maj. Gen. Butler was involved in the 1932 Bonus March. He harangued the
assembled World War I veterans, labeling them as great Americans who deserved immediate payment of the bonus.

It would have been more than interesting had Butler decided to lead the Bonus Army in resisting when General Douglas MacArthur, assisted by his aide, Dwight Eisenhower, with Major George S. Patton in command of some troops, broke up the rally.

John Dellinger
Lakewood, Colo.

Truth Hertz

I found your article on the Hertz horn naval mine [Power Tool, by Jon Guttman, January/February] to be interesting. Bushnell (1777), Fulton (1812) and Immanuel Nobel (1855) all made and used contact-fused naval mines before the U.S. Civil War. During the war, the Confederates had a number of contact-fused mines, the one designed by Brig. Gen. Gabriel James Rains one of the most common and effective. These did not require someone to sight the oncoming target and detonate the weapon.

The Hertz horn first appeared in 1867 and was invented by Albert Hertz. The famous engineer Heinrich Hertz was only 10 or 11 years old when this mine was introduced.

Colonel William Schneck
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Fort Belvoir, Va.

Editor responds: Thank you for the info! Even the naval researchers at Annapolis had a hard time unraveling the history of the Hertz horn.

Life Is Like…

I was pleasantly surprised to see listed "Victoria's Chocolate" among the Christmas gifts given to troops in various wars [News, December]. The tin from my grandfather has been passed down through the family. Inside the tin Corporal Louis Squire kept his discharge papers. He served with the Leinster Regiment, Royal Field Artillery, in the Boer War, during which he was wounded. The tin is inscribed, I wish you a Happy New Year. Victoria.

Gloria Squire Malmud
North Arlington, N.J.

Au Contraire

I was disappointed in John Farr's article ["Napoleonic Action," December] on the 10 top war movies of the Napoleonic era.

A Tale of Two Cities (1935) is a truly great movie, but it is not about Napoléon or the wars of that era. Woody Allen's Love and Death (1975) is about the era, but it is a farce not worthy of a history magazine's list. The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) is not only set in the pre-Napoléon timeframe, but the last-minute rescues of people on the way to the guillotine were extremely implausible. In short, a nice story but it is too historically weak for a history magazine.

I am surprised that some version of War and Peace did not make Farr's list. The 1956 version, staring Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda, won three Oscars and several other awards. It is only 208 minutes long, thus under Farr's four-hour time limit. Not as well known, but a collector's item for students of Napoléon's campaigns, is the 1970 Dino De Laurentiis production Waterloo, starring Christopher Plummer as Wellington and Rod Steiger as Napoléon. The battle scenes are some of the best ever filmed. Both these films were more worthy of this list as Napoleonic war movies than some of those selected.

Colonel Arthur Carey
U.S. Army (Ret.)
Jonesboro, Ga.

Vive La 4th!

I enjoyed the article and photographs of the August 1944 Liberation of Paris ["La Libération!" September].

I was surprised that no pictures of the 4th Infantry Division were included. The 1st Battalion, 110th Regiment, of the 28th Division participated in the liberation and the parade, but the 4th Infantry Division took the city. After many weeks of contact with the enemy, the 4th was in no condition to do a parade; therefore, the 28th was called on. For some reason, the 4th Division is rarely mentioned in military history magazines.

Bert C. Nicholson
Danville, Ill.

 



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