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Military History - May 2010 - Letters From Readers

Originally published by Military History magazine. Published Online: March 04, 2010 
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Revisiting the Pueblo Incident
In your piece "Acts of War" [by Mitch Lerner, March], the author writes, "Many in the armed forces continued to treat the men [of USS Pueblo] with contempt for surrendering and cooperating with their captors." This assertion contradicts my own experience. In 1973, as newly minted naval flight officers, I and my classmates were sent to SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) school. During the resistance phase, we were held in a "POW camp" to receive training in how to resist during captivity. Our instructors had nothing but praise for the Pueblo crewmen and held them up to us as role models to aspire to should any of us ever be captured. As the SERE school instruction reflected official Navy thinking as regards the Pueblo Incident, and barely five years after the incident itself, I find the author's assertion puzzling.

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Michael Nollet
Melcher-Dallas, Iowa

Mitch Lerner's article on the capture of USS Pueblo was excellent. However, it failed to tell us the last part of the story. What is the status of our ship on the rolls of the U.S. Navy? Is it still there, awaiting return or recapture? Or has it been written off as a lost ship?

Steve Carmick
Chehalis, Wash.

Editor replies: Pueblo remains on the U.S. Naval Register, listed as "Active, in commission." Pyongyang has made overtures to return the ship, but only if the United States were to normalize diplomatic relations.

Father Duffy
Enjoyed reading "Broadway's Fighting Priest" [Valor, March], by David T. Zabecki.

Francis Duffy was no stranger to death and dying. On March 7, 1918, 21 men of 1st Platoon, Company E, 165th Infantry Regiment, were the first soldiers of the old 69th to fall in battle in the wood they called the Rouge Bouquet, a slice of land with twisted trenches, the bottoms duckboarded over so soldiers would not sink up to their knees in mud.

Duffy, chaplain of the 165th, chose St. Patrick's Day as a time to commemorate the fallen, and those in the trenches who could get away slipped up to hear the service. "What your forefathers have done in the past," Duffy said, "I feel confident you will do in the future. The Irish love right and liberty, and they have fought and always will fight and fight valiantly when either right or liberty is at stake." Pointing toward the sound of German guns, he explained, "You will uphold on that front the name and reputation of the 69th, of which I am proud to be chaplain."

In the afternoon, the regiment held a concert under the trees, and Duffy recited Joyce Kilmer's newly penned "Rouge Bouquet." As the chaplain read the final words of the poem, the bugler standing next to him played "Taps," while a distance away another answered.

Major G. William Glidden
(U.S. Army National Guard, Ret.)
Vice President and Historian
New York State Military Heritage Institute
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Stolen Valor
Want to compliment you and William H. McMichael regarding "Thieves Among Us" [March], the great article concerning Stolen Valor and all the fake "heroes" with bogus service among us. Good reporting on this concern.

This article should bring more attention to this serious problem. There are more resources out there to help stop the phonies. One is Report Stolen Valor at www.reportstolenvalor.org, and another great one is at www.pownetwork.org, which tracks phony POWs along with bogus veterans.

Lt. Col. Tom Lasser
(U.S. Army, Ret.)
Redondo Beach, Calif.

As a Marine Vietnam vet whose highest personal decoration is a richly undeserved Good Conduct Medal, thank you for your article, "Thieves Among Honor." When I was in the Massachusetts Senate, State Rep. Royall Switzler (R-Wellesley) claimed heroic service as a Green Beret in Vietnam. He was exposed as a fraud when he ran for governor in 1986, ending his career in politics. Unfortunately, some exposed frauds, like Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) whose fictional tales of heroism were exposed by Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), still continue to serve. Both are in B.G. Burkett's great book, Stolen Valor.

Robert A. Hall
Des Plaines, Ill.

Hidden Cities
Enjoyed the pictorial section on the Manhattan Project cities ["Secret Weapon, Hidden Cities," January]. I have always wondered about these sites but have never been able to find anything in depth about them. I would be interested to know what was done at each facility, how people were chosen to work there, what the security measures entailed, what life was like inside the wire, etc.

Tom Owens
Bowie, Md.

Editor responds: For more background and images of the Manhattan Project cities, check out the new book Historic Photos of the Manhattan Project (Turner Publishing, 2009, $39.95), with text and captions by former Department of Energy scientist Timothy Joseph.

I have two hobbies, the first is my interest in military history, and I enjoy reading your mag. My second hobby is collecting comic books. I couldn't help but notice in your January 2010 issue a picture in the article "Secret Weapon, Hidden Cities." [On P. 51] is a picture of a young boy selling comics for 5 cents. I was able to identify two on his stand: The first is the #18 issue of Mutt & Jeff, and the second is the #31 issue of Captain Marvel Jr.

Depending on condition, each of these could be worth over $500 today. I hope his big sale failed and this boy (now probably 80) still has them!

Donald D. Levi
Owosso, Mich.

Folly at Dieppe
Regarding Mountbatten and Dieppe ["What We Learned from the Dieppe Raid," January]: Nigel Jones was being too kind. Mountbatten's combat record was something less than mediocre, seeing as he managed to get three destroyers shot from under him. He was no coward; unfortunately, his courage was of the sort that tends to attract more than its fair share of hostile fire.

If anyone cares to check any Canadian military history accounts, such as those by Jack Granatstein, one will find out why no heavy bombers or capital ships were involved: Neither Bomber Command nor the Admiralty were being run by political sycophants. (Winston more than made up for that.) Similar illogic saw Prince of Wales and Repulse being sent to Singapore (without an aircraft carrier) and Mackenzie King (Canada's prime minister) volunteering the Winnipeg Grenadiers and another battalion to reinforce the garrison at Hong Kong in the autumn of 1941. If one digs deeper, it is also apparent that King also pushed for Canadian participation in Jubilee [the Dieppe raid], wanting to run with the big dogs.

Don Adamson,
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Canada

Blunders
I read with much interest the article "Germany's Fatal Blunders" [by Williamson Murray, January]. Normally, I would not find myself on the side of critics of your authors. However, the essential premise of Murray's article—that the German General Staff of both world wars lacked strategic vision, and this resulted in their ultimate defeat—seems to turn military historical thinking completely on its head.

Military leaders are supposed to be tactical, not strategic, thinkers. That is what they are trained and hired for. I believe this view is widely shared by the political masters of the military and can be summarized by a quote from Georges Clemenceau on the subject: "War is too important to be left to the generals."

The scenario for failure involves the straying into the tactical arena of the political leadership, which should have confined itself to the strategic objectives of waging war. Had the political leadership of Germany stayed out of the tactical arena, there would have been no Stalingrad, there would have been no two-front war (three, if you include the campaign in North Africa), and many of the battles of the war would have been conducted very differently.

History is filled with examples. Vicksburg and Gettysburg were successes because, unlike Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg, they were not micromanaged by Lincoln, though the president had a better idea than any of his generals up to Grant that the object was to destroy the Confederate army, not take Richmond. The examples go on and on.

Geoffrey K. Wascher
Germantown, Wis.

Dale Dye
[Re. "Dale Dye: On Point in Hollywood," Interview, Oct/Nov:] In the picture of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Dale Dye, there is visible in the background one of the egregious errors in the movie [Saving Private Ryan]. The beach obstacles consisting of a long pole with a mine at the end are shown facing the sea. Actually, these poles faced landward such that the flat-bottomed landing craft would ride up onto them and hit the mine on the top of the pole.

I also grimace at the idea of any officer placing insignia of rank on his helmet as shown on both Hanks' and Dye's. Some may have done this, but they were marked men for German snipers. There is a scene later in the movie where the young translator is chastised for saluting Captain Miller because to do so identifies him as an officer. What difference does it make when a sniper looking through his scope clearly sees the bars on his helmet?

Brent F. Moody
Captain, U.S. Army (1964–68)
Phoenix, Ariz.



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