May 2014 – Letters From Readers

2/27/2014 • MH Letters

War and Healing
[Re. “War and Healing,” by Dr. Gerry Greenstone, March:] I have always thought Captain James Lind introduced limes as the initial successful therapy for scurvy, and that is why the British have long been called “limeys.” Oranges and lemons have more vitamin C, but limes were still quite effective. This therapy was one of the major reasons Britain became the world’s pre-eminent naval power.

Dr. Leon Hyman
Kailua Kona, Hawaii

Editor responds: The term “limey” actually postdates Lind’s Treatise on the Scurvy by almost a century and was originally styled “lime-juicer.” The earliest known use came in 1859, and the term was later shortened to “limey.” It does refer to the Royal Navy’s use of dietary vitamin C, in a daily ration of citrus juice, as a means of thwarting scurvy, a practice that did keep British sailors healthy during their efforts to “rule the waves.”


I am a physician with a strong interest in history and really enjoyed “War and Healing.”

Another “warrior-physician” who deserves mention is Army Medical Corps Colonel Bailey K. Ashford. Born in Washington, D.C., in 1873, Ashford attended medical school at what is today George Washington University, graduating in 1896 and enlisting in the Army shortly thereafter. As a young lieutenant Ashford accompanied Maj. Gen. Nelson Miles’ expeditionary force during the invasion of Puerto Rico in 1898. He went through the land campaign and later served as medical officer for the military hospital in Ponce. Ashford is credited with the description and treatment of the North American hookworm, a parasite that decimated the local population and troops, causing severe anemia and heart failure in thousands at the time. He also developed the Army Department of Tropical Medicine. Ashford served in World War I, and after serving in the Army for 30 years, most of them stationed in Puerto Rico, remained there, married and later died in 1934. He is buried at the Puerto Rico National Cemetery. The main avenue in the fashionable Condado tourist section of San Juan is named after him, and his house, on the avenue that bears his name, has been preserved as a museum. His biography, A Soldier in Science, provides an easy-to-read description of both Spanish American and Great War experience from a medical corps junior officer’s point of view.

Dr. J. Edwin Nieves
Yorktown, Va.

Doolittle Raider
Regarding the article “Richard Cole: Doolittle’s Copilot Over Japan” [Interview, March]: On P. 14 Cole stated, “In late December [1941] a pilot by the name of Everett Holstrom sank a Japanese submarine off the Strait of Juan de Fuca.” I have read an account that it was 40 miles off the mouth of the Columbia River. A second patrol aircraft reported and confirmed an oil slick and debris.

Although Lieutenant Holstrom (later a brigadier general) has been credited with sinking a Japanese submarine on Dec. 24, 1941, postwar records indicate no Japanese submarine was sunk, or for that matter attacked, on that day. It was thought he may have sunk the Japanese submarine I-25. That sub was indeed in the area, but records indicate it wasn’t attacked. Neither were the Japanese submarines I-9, I-10, I-15, I-17, I-19, I-21, I-23 and I-26, all operating off the West Coast of the United States at that time.

Sgt. Maj. Mike R. Vining
(U.S. Army, Ret.)
South Fork, Colo.

Editor responds: Everett W. “Brick” Holstrom did claim credit for the first Japanese submarine sunk off the West Coast of the United States. In his celebrated memoir Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, fellow Doolittle Raider Ted Lawson backed up Holstrom’s claim, having spotted the oil slick and debris mentioned in Sgt. Maj. Vining’s letter. And U.S. naval authorities later confirmed the reports. However, Japanese wartime records have yielded no confirmation of any such attack, let alone a kill.

Fort Erie, 1814
[Re. “Bloody Stalemate at Fort Erie,” by James W. Shosenberg, March:] It was interesting to see something about the War of 1812, which is largely unknown to most Canadians, even though it could have had a profound effect on our country’s history.

From a Canadian point of view the war was more important for what did not happen: the takeover of Upper Canada (Ontario) and Lower Canada (Quebec) by the Americans. If the U.S. forces had been successful in their attempts to seize our territory, it is very likely that today Toronto, Montreal, Windsor and Ottawa would all be American cities. Both countries claim many heroes from that war, but I gather it yielded at least two iconic American legacies: “Old Ironsides” and the Star-Spangled Banner.

Dr. Gerry Greenstone
Surrey, British Columbia

‘I’ve never heard a World War II veteran complain that his Garand was trash, and that he wished the Soviets had done a reverse lend-lease of their rifles’

Soviet Superiority?
In response to Ferdinand E. Banks’ letter regarding the article “AK-47,” by Stephan Wilkinson, September: Banks asks, “Why couldn’t we have had equipment like this when we needed it?” Reading between the lines, I am assuming Banks is referring to our failure to make the M4 Sherman into something capable of taking on Tigers.

Sherman tanks were no worse than T-34/76s in that they had to be employed in numbers and suffered horrendous losses against German heavy tanks. When we found the Sherman insufficient, we didn’t up-gun it. Instead, we designed the M26 Pershing. Much has been made of the Pershing [90mm] gun’s deficiencies, but this is simply a case of the German 88mm being an incredibly difficult gun to surpass in terms of performance. It’s not that our gun was all that bad; it’s that the 88 was all that good. Tiger tanks suffered from horrendous mobility and mechanical-reliability issues. Their ability to stand off at long ranges was their only real asset.

As to the AK-47’s superiority as an infantry weapon, that argument has always been made against the M16. The M16 family’s shortcoming, if any, is that it is in fact too sophisticated for a soldier with an IQ less than his boot size to use. I’ve never heard a World War II veteran complain that his Garand was trash, and that he wished the Soviets had done a reverse lend-lease of their rifles.

Andrew Burt
Former Spec. 4, U.S. Army
Angier, N.C.

Missing in Action
I saw that you gave a very favorable review of Rick Atkinson’s book The Guns at Last Light [Interview, “Rick Atkinson: World War II Finale,” May 2013]. He wrote at length of the Normandy Invasion, where I lost one cousin, and where another cousin sustained wounds. He also wrote in detail about the Battle of the Bulge, where my brother-in-law distinguished himself and received disabling wounds. However, he did not give any ink to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the “Rescue of the Lost Battalion” action. The U.S. Army designated that hostile conflict as one of its top 10 battles of all time. The 442nd suffered more than 800 casualties in rescuing 230 men of the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was the most decorated infantry regiment in the history of the U.S. Army. Its commendations included eight Presidential Unit Citations and 21 Medals of Honor. The 442nd also had the highest casualty rate of any regiment in the U.S. Army. Consequently, it was nicknamed the “Purple Heart Battalion.”

Many members of the 442nd were from our Seattle area, including my friends Shiro “Kash” Kashino, who was awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star and the Combat Infantry Badge, and was wounded six times; Vic Izui, who was awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star and the Combat Medical Badge, and was twice wounded; and George Funai, my closest friend, who was awarded the Bronze Star and the Combat Infantry Badge.

The Japanese have a word, enryo, which means “humility.” Consequently, you will not find one among them writing about their war record. That is why, as a friend and a veteran, I am.

John Boise
Bellevue, Wash.

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