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Military History - July 2012 - Letters From Readers

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: May 03, 2012 
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Belgrano's Pearl Harbor Legacy
A footnote to your excellent "The Mystery of Pearl Harbor," by Jeffrey Record, in your January issue is the story of USS Phoenix, one of the ships at Pearl Harbor. This ship survived unscathed from the Japanese attack and World War II.

Sometime after World War II it was sold to Argentina and renamed General Belgrano. In 1982 Great Britain and Argentina went to war over possession of the Falkland Islands, [and] General Belgrano was sent to that area of operations for action. This vessel would have provided Argentina with the heaviest guns in the naval conflict.

However, it was—unknowingly—tracked by Britain's nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror for days. The sub eventually got orders to attack General Belgrano, [and] Conqueror fired three torpedoes, two of which struck Belgrano. One blew off the bow of the ship, forward of the leading gun turret, and the other hit amidships. As a result General Belgrano sank with the loss of 321 Argentine sailors.

The third torpedo missed its intended target and struck an accompanying destroyer [the former USS Borie] but did not explode.

Philip A. Wallis
Surfers Paradise,
Queensland Australia

Boxer Rebellion
[Re. "David Silbey: China's Boxer Rebellion," May Interview:] Silbey failed to mention another contributing factor to the Boxer Rebellion: Barbara Tuchman's book Stillwell and the American Experience in China, 1911–1945 mentions the Opium wars. With a loss of customs revenues, a growing opium problem and a feared breakdown of a cordon against foreigners, the imperial Chinese government went to war. The Treaty of Nanking, which followed the First Opium War, was also a contributing factor, as was the principle of extraterritoriality, which followed the Second Opium War.

Michael Luzzo
Kennewick, Wash.

Define 'Roman'
Edward G. Lengel in his article, "Roman Folly at Edessa," in the May 2012 issue of Military History, errs when he states that Valerian was the only Roman emperor ever captured by the enemy. Romanus IV Diogenes, who was just as much a Roman emperor as Valerian, was captured by the Seljuk Sultan, Alp Arslan, at the Battle of Manizikert in 1071.

Don Squires
Jamaica Plain, Mass.

Ed Lengel responds: Thanks for your comment. The question is whether Romanus IV Diogenes is more accurately characterized as a Roman or Byzantine emperor. There is a clear line of succession between the two empires. Byzantium was the eastern portion of the Roman empire that endured for almost a thousand years after the sack of Rome and final dissolution of the Western empire in 476. However, historians debate whether 11th century Byzantium was really Roman, since by that time Rome had been severed from the empire for some 600 years. By my definition Valerian was the only Roman emperor captured by the enemy—but there is certainly room for debate.

Key Slept Where?
[Re. "Big Night in Baltimore," by Hugh Howard, March:] Excellent article!

I'm confused, though, about where Key spent the night. Edward S. Delaplaine and Victor Weybright, in their older biographies, write about the Fountain Inn on High Street. Ralph Eshelman, in his Travel Guide to the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake, says it was the Indian Queen Tavern on Baltimore Street. Anthony Pitch says "a hotel at Hanover and Market Streets." Robert M. Poole ("Star-Spangled Banner Back on Display," Smithsonian, November 2008) says "a Baltimore hotel."

The other vexing part is the ship the three were on. Some say HMS Tonnant, some say HMS President.

Jay Roberts
Alexandria, Va.

Hugh Howard responds: Your query—like many concerning the poorly remembered War of 1812—has no certain answer. Neither the name of the place (the Indian Queen is called a tavern, hotel and inn in various sources) nor its address is consistent from one to the next of many good sources. My preference is for the earliest report that seems otherwise reliable.

Regarding the ship, I am quite confident it was HMS Tonnant, judging by primary documents, including Admiral Sir George Cockburn's own letters.

Northrop P-61
[Re. "America's Best Fighter Planes," March 2012:] Whoever identified the P-61 Black Widow as a Republic P-61 was grossly in error. As a onetime Northrop employee, I am compelled to correct this improper designation. Northrop was the designer and builder of the P-61. I built an excellent model of the aircraft around 1963. Alas, it was badly damaged in one of my several moves around the country; but I still recall most people remarking, "What's that airplane?" when they saw it on the credenza behind me.

Tom Keeton
Carson City, Nev.

GW's Brew
We home brewers are not surprised at George Washington's inclusion of molasses with his other beer ingredients ["War Rations," by Brendan Manley, March 2012, P. 12]. It jacks up the sugar content of the wort and thereby jacks up the alcohol content of the final product. It doesn't explain his bad teeth, but it may explain why he accidentally started the Seven Years' War. It probably didn't taste much better than the wine I made on a submarine patrol some years ago.

Sam Catlin
Richmond, Va.

East Berlin?
On P. 34 of your May issue, on the inset map illustrating Axis control in the years 1940–41, Berlin is in the wrong place. It is shown in modern-day northern Poland, a couple of hundred miles or more east of where it has always been.

Randall A. Smith
Rusk, Texas

Editor responds: No excuses, Randall. We work hard to nail down every detail on cartographer Steve Walkowiak's beautiful and incredibly detailed maps. Berlin slipped our notice and, apparently, a degree of longitude. We regret the error.

Send letters to Editor, Military History, Weider History Group, 19300 Promenade Drive, Leesburg, VA 20176 or via e-mail. Please include name, address and phone number.



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