Military History – January 2010 – Letters From Readers

Not-So-Indomitable Afghanistan?
In his article “Indomitable Afghanistan” [Aug/Sept 2009], Stephen Tanner states the Soviet Union “ultimately lost” the war in Afghanistan. I do not understand what this is based on. After all, the Soviet Union finally did manage to install Mohammad Najibullah, who, with a lot of aid, managed to keep the country under control and the Taliban at bay. The Najibullah regime outlasted the Soviet Union. Not until the fall of the latter, which deprived its former satrap of his source of aid, did his regime give way to the Taliban.

George Nielsen
The Hague, Netherlands

In the article “Indomitable Afghanistan,” the author states, “…failed would-be conquerors have included Alexander the Great.” My understanding is that Alexander the Great did, in fact, conquer Afghanistan. Although it took him three years to do it and required a considerable portion of his small army to garrison it, he left a stable province, through which he received reinforcements and communications while in India. Almost alone among his conquered provinces, Afghanistan never rose in revolt while he was alive.

John Harrison
Potomac, Md.

Daring Raids
Being a former airborne Ranger, I could not let it go that the raid on St. Francis, Canada, by Rogers’ Rangers during the French and Indian War was not included [in “The Seven Most Daring Raids Ever,” by Stephan Wilkinson, Oct/Nov]. It may have been the greatest raid by a ranging force as far as distances covered, cost in casualties and difficulties encountered, while having a dramatic and probably decisive effect on the outcome of the war.

Brian Gilbert
Verdale, Wash.

A raid of scope and daring from World War II would be the fabulous rescue of more than 2,000 civilian internees [from Los Baños, the Philippines on Feb. 23, 1945], a perfect example of trusting Philippine intelligence and guerrilla groups to provide aid. Lt. Gen. E.M. Flanagan Jr. produced a wonderful book entitled The Los Baños Raid.

Don Fangboner
Lake George, N.Y.

Alfred Buellesbach’s photos from Marcus Cowper’s Battlescapes in your Aug/Sept issue would be beautiful enough without the added interest of helping us to imagine what it was like as armies struggled years before. The idyllic Utah Beach photo especially caught my eye, as my wife and I recently visited the invasion beaches of Normandy. Not all the traces of war are gone, however. The remains of the Mulberry harbor nicknamed “Port Winston” even provided a backdrop for a young boy playing army on the same beach where 64 years earlier soldiers fought for real.

Walter E. Switzer
Mesa, Ariz.

Mad Anthony
[Re. “Fallen Timbers, Broken Alliance,” Aug/Sep:] Hooray for Thomas Fleming! I am neither a military scholar nor a social studies expert, but at last I have seen in print what has seemed abysmally obvious to me since I was a kid. Yes, our forefather’s dealings with American Indians were not particularly enlightened by today’s standards, but Fleming captured it correctly when he referred to the vast movement of people, the clash of totally different ways of life and the pointlessness of hand-wringing. The westward movement followed patterns well established in human history, and I submit it would likely happen again if we had it all to do over in a modern setting.

David Teasdale
Sachse, Texas

Thomas Fleming’s article on the St. Clair–Wayne campaigns in the Northwest Territory, 1791–94, has one serious omission and one misrepresentation that influence understanding of the St. Clair defeat and the Wayne victory.

The omission is to ignore the role of William Wells, a young Kentuckian kidnapped and raised as a Miami warrior. At St. Clair’s defeat, he led the joint Miami-Shawnee attack group that identified and overran St. Clair’s artillery positions after scouting the U.S. Army march order and nightly deployments. Changing sides because he believed the Miamis had been misled by the Shawnees and the British, Wells became chief of scouts for Wayne and conducted many invaluable services as de facto force intelligence officer and translator, persuading Wayne to postpone his attack at the Fallen Timbers until fasting, exhaustion and impatience weakened the American Indian force.

The misrepresentation involves the status of the non-regular Army forces under Wayne’s command. The Kentucky force was composed of civilian volunteers who joined for the campaign under state sponsorship, commanded by Maj. Gen. Charles Scott (Kentucky state forces), an experienced frontier campaigner. Scott and his officers resisted complete subordination to Wayne for good reasons. The Kentuckians had little confidence in Wayne, who had no frontier experience. The Kentuckians had distrusted Wayne’s devious deputy, James Wilkinson, and his two ambitious young aides, William Henry Harrison and William Clark, who later used the 1794 campaign to start careers that took one to the presidency, one to iconic status as an explorer and both to territorial governorships. To call the Kentucky mounted rifles “militia” conjures up images of ill-armed, undisciplined farmers, which they most certainly were not. Harrison did not make the same mistake in undervaluing the Kentuckians when he commanded them in the campaign that crushed the Shawnee-Lakes tribes confederation at the Battle of the Thames in October 1813.

Allan R. Millett
Ambrose Professor of History
Eisenhower Center
for American Studies
University of New Orleans
New Orleans, La.

In “The Seven Most Daring Raids,” by Stephan Wilkinson, Oct/Nov, we incorrectly state that Allied soldiers from Corregidor were among the prisoners on the Bataan death march; Corregidor fell weeks after the death march.

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