Gentlemen, Choose Your Weapons
I’m surprised that Chris McNab did not include the machine gun in “The Six Most Influential Weapons in History” [Winter 2012]. A lot of weapons were developed or tested in World War I, including poison gas, the airplane, submarines, and aircraft carriers. But at the time, none had an impact like the machine gun.
Thanks to this weapon, a whole generation was lost, empires toppled, and new nations were born. As a defensive weapon, the machine gun ended the centuries-old practice of armies lining up abreast to charge. Mobility became the order of the day.
The one weapon that has likely killed the most people didn’t even get mentioned—the Roman gladius.
Robert Michael Impson Cole
The field radio? Its development has changed the way we conduct war, the way we coordinate forces, and the way we resupply those forces, to say the least.
Michael G. Halvorsen
Yuba City, Calif.
I would add the tank—it was protection from most artillery and a mobile cannon. And aircraft carriers—they give the fighter the ability to dominate everywhere. Also, missiles and drones, the parachute, helicopters, and the nuclear submarine.
No Gatling gun? Repeating rifles? Mines? Strategic bombers?
Eric J. Hensley
Who Are Those Guys?
The Extra Round photo on page 97 of your Winter 2012 issue (above) is certainly an arresting image. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that one in my many tomes on the 1904–1905 Russo-Japanese War. Even more surreal than the Russian defense are the three observers. From the shape of their hats, two of them look like Japanese officers. But who is the taller European (perhaps American) guy in the fedora? A journalist?
In the 1980s, my company, Potsdam Tin Soldiers, depicted this war in one of our sets. Our defense was a simple barbed-wire fence—nothing as elaborate as that shown in the remarkable photo.
Colonel E. Joe Shimek III
In the Winter 2012 issue’s Ask MHQ, Carlo D’Este says George Patton couldn’t have had bipolar disorder given his military success. But Air Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding was totally insane, and he led RAF Fighter Command during the summer of 1940 and was the architect of the Battle of Britain victory. After the triumph, Dowding was sacked—too off the wall. He spent his spare time speaking with the dead and ghosts.
Under some circumstances, the insane can function well in many pursuits, although sanity is recommended.
Vietnamization Was No Answer
It is too sweeping a generalization to conclude that Vietnamization worked because of the South Vietnamese army’s resistance at the 1972 Battle of An Loc [“How Richard Nixon Almost Won the War In Vietnam,” Winter 2012]. True, the ARVN fought tenaciously there, but just the year before, it was decisively beaten during Operation Lam Son 719 in Laos.
The best that can be said is that the ARVN could hold its own only if supported by overwhelming U.S. airpower and only if the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) attacked in the open in the context of a set-piece battle, presenting a target from the air. Airpower would have been dramatically less effective if the NVA had continued with guerrilla insurgency tactics; the ARVN was incompetent at counterinsurgency warfare.
In order to defeat the NVA, the ARVN needed to match the enemy in skill, tenacity, and leadership in tactical situations—counterinsurgency and guerrilla warfare, large-scale mechanized operations, etc. There is no evidence that the ARVN was even close to achieving this level of efficiency in 1972 or 1975.
Francisco J. Gonzalez
Cottage Grove, Minn.
In “Sea Change” (Winter 2012), we stated that Admiral Hyman Rickover ran the U.S. Navy’s nuclear program until 1972; he ran it until 1982.
Originally published in the Spring 2012 issue of Military History Quarterly. To subscribe, click here.