Whose 2nd Division?
[Re. “Into the Hornet’s Nest,” by Jack Woodville London, January 2016:] While I enjoyed reading and learning of the heroic exploits of the young soldiers comprising the 71st Brigade in France during October 1918, I believe it would have been more historically accurate if the article had also noted that (unless I’m mistaken) the described 2nd Infantry Division was actually the Marine Corps’ 2nd Marine Division under the command of Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John A. Lejeune. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., is named after him and was dedicated in December 1942 on his passing that November. Lejeune was also the 13th commandant of the Marine Corps.
Colonel Joseph C. Yannessa
U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
‘Unless I’m mistaken, the described 2nd Infantry Division was actually the Marine Corps’ 2nd Marine Division’
Editor responds: You’re correct that legendary Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John Lejeune commanded the 2nd Division, but during World War I the 2nd was an Army division that comprised both infantry and Marine regiments. Twice during the war Marine generals commanded the division. The other Marine commander was Brig. Gen. Charles Doyen, the first recipient of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, who died of influenza before he was able to command the division in the field.
[Re: January 2016 cover headline, Was Rommel a Fraud?:] I have the greatest admiration for both Military History and Maj. Gen. David Zabecki, but I think someone chose the wrong word to describe Erwin Rommel. I understand Rommel did indeed burnish his reputation—as did George Patton, Douglas MacArthur and every German general who claimed to have fought the Russians in order to curry greater postwar favor with the Allies. But Rommel was brilliant in World War I and certainly no slouch in France and the Western desert in World War II. I’m not sure playing up one’s successes (or allowing the propaganda machine to do so) constitutes fraud, even if Rommel did undercut some of his peers. “Careerist,” certainly, but I’d hardly call every careerist in every military a fraud, especially someone with Rommel’s reputation.
Lt. Col. Mark Fassio
U.S. Army (Ret.)
[Re. “Death of a Nation,” by Jorge E. Taracido, January 2016, about the War of the Triple Alliance:] The author seems to imply that Francisco Solano López was somehow a sympathetic character in that conflict. Indeed, for some reason he actually still is regarded as a national hero in Paraguay. However, anybody who has read anything about that conflict knows that López was a raving lunatic with delusions of grandeur who made Adolf Hitler seem a levelheaded statesman by comparison. It is said he actually believed he was going to make himself emperor of all South America. He was the stereotype of the Latin American dictator and actually insisted upon being addressed as “El Supremo.” One reason the war dragged on as long as it did was because his troops were more afraid of him than they were of the enemy, because they knew that if they surrendered, he would have their entire families executed.
However, the author is certainly correct in suggesting the war was a disaster for Paraguay.
Cinco de Mayo
Regarding “Mexican Standoff” [by Benjamin Wood, November 2015]: Check to see whether Cinco de Mayo is really a national holiday in Mexico. Years ago I had a Mexican co-worker, and he told me [May 5] wasn’t a big day in Mexico. Maybe a holiday in Puebla and in or around the respective state, but nationally it wasn’t a holiday or even an acknowledged observance.
John H. Thompson
Editor responds: While Mexico no longer observes Cinco de Mayo as a national holiday, the nation did observe May 5 nationwide for many decades following the 1862 Battle of Puebla, and public schools in Mexico still close on that date each year. A far more significant national holiday is Independence Day, celebrated on September 16 to mark the beginning of the 1810–21 Mexican War of Independence.
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