May 2015 Readers' Letters | HistoryNet MENU

May 2015 Readers’ Letters

2/25/2015 • Military History Magazine

The War That Wasn’t

There are a few things I would add to the article “The War That Wasn’t” [by Robert M. Citino, January]. When I was a captain in 1981–82, I was assigned the G3 section of the 8th Infantry Division in West Germany. The NCO in charge of the vault containing the general defense plans was SFC Clyde Conrad. In 1990 retired SFC Conrad was convicted in German court of being a spy for Hungary. V Corps’ war plans ultimately went to the Soviet Union. Hopefully we had spies collecting war plans of the Soviets.

In 1991 at Fort Benning I escorted a German brigadier general. He commented that with the unification of West and East Germany the German army had to take in East German officers. His assessment was they were not very competent. His inspection of East German armored vehicles concluded they were in very poor shape. As an infantry company commander in 1980 I knew I would have to fight outnumbered. I felt my M113s with .50-caliber machine guns would be outmatched by a larger infantry force with BMPs. Hopefully, given what the BG said of the quality of East German forces, we would have had a chance.

The U.S. Army did not always have a forward defense, however. My brigade was in V Corps reserve west of Fulda. Brig. Gen. Frederic Brown, 8th ID commander, said that where I was defending had been the zone of the corps covering force in 1958.

Major Scott Adams
U.S. Army (Ret.)
Mount Vernon, Wash.

Desert Storm

[Re. “From the Highway of Death,” What We Learned, January:] Stephan Wilkinson is either confused or naive.

I was the senior G3 OPS NCOIC of one of the XVIII Airborne Corps command posts during Desert Storm and made many of the briefings at CENTCOM/ARCENT HQ. We were told numerous times that Arab forces would only free Kuwait and advance no farther. The French told us numerous times they would not go north of the Euphrates River. Coalition forces faced some 45 divisions—bombed and starved, but numbers do count. The Saudi royal family indicated that going north of the Euphrates could shut off our supply lines, and there was a possibility the Syrian or even Egyptian divisions who advanced into Kuwait and stopped could attack our rear echelons or seize our supplies. Meanwhile Saddam Hussein had 50-plus divisions (many Republican Guard) along his borders with Turkey/Jordan/Iran, while we had around 17 divisions total (only nine U.S./U.K.). Just how in blazes were we supposed to topple Saddam in 1991 without starting a Muslim/Christian war?

SFC William J. Frazer
U.S. Army (Ret.)
Knoxville, Tenn.

Empire vs. Tribe

[Re. “Empire vs. Tribe,” by O’Brien Browne, January:] Browne should go back and reread ancient history. To imply that the Celtic tribes and culture were on a par with Rome is attempting to rewrite history. Nowhere in my readings have I come across Romans wanting to become Celtic citizens (if at all possible), compared to Celts wanting to become Roman citizens. May I respectively remind Browne that the Roman empire stretched from Hadrian’s Wall to North Africa to the Middle East as far as Armenia? I don’t recall reading about Celtic engineering feats, architectural skills, judicial foundations or social customs that have come down to Western civilization over the millennia.

Joseph S. Placa
Roselle, N.J.

Funston Facts

[Re. “Funston of the Philippines,” by Chuck Lyons, January:] This is the first time your magazine has taken up the subject of Maj. Gen. Frederick Funston since the August 1995 issue. Though I am pleased to see Funston featured in another article, I was disappointed to find errors.

In the second paragraph Funston’s birthday is incorrectly given as Sept. 11, 1865, when in fact he was born on Nov. 9, 1865. Within the same paragraph the author also states Funston failed the West Point entrance exam in 1884. In actuality, he merely did not place in the rankings that year. Interestingly, within a few years Funston outranked the candidate who had received the slot ahead of him.

Later in the article, in the second-to-last paragraph, when referring to Funston’s participation in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, the author writes Funston was “commander of the Presidio of San Francisco” and “also declared martial law, infamously ordering all looters to be shot on sight.” Funston was not the direct commander of the Presidio but commander of the larger Pacific Division. Though it is often said Funston declared martial law, this was not the case. Funston operated in cooperation with civilian authorities. It was the mayor who authorized the looter policy. Funston’s quick action to assist local authorities was instrumental but not a breach of his legal authority.

Finally, I would suggest readers follow the author’s advice on the recommended readings as far as Memories of Two Wars, but the chapter in Susan Ware’s book, Forgotten Heroes, is not worth your time. Professor Mark Carnes, who wrote the chapter, relied on sources like Stuart C. Miller’s book, Benevolent Assimilation, which is laced with errors. General Funston, as a subject, deserves much better. For accuracy and reliability the reader should seek out Brian M. Linn’s books.

Jarrett Robinson
Thompson’s Station, Tenn.

Editor responds: The primary sourcebooks on Funston’s life are, indeed, laced with errors, something we failed to recognize prior to publication. Thank you for holding us accountable.

King Philip’s War

In “Blood and Betrayal” (January) Anthony Brandt states King Philip’s War saw the largest European-style army of 1,000 colonists and allied Indians ever formed in North America, in 1675 (P. 32). Should not this honor be given to Sir Francis Drake’s capture of St. Augustine, Fla., from the Spanish with about 1,000 men almost a century earlier, in May 1586?

George R. Muller
Lambertville, N.J.

Editor responds: Drake’s expeditionary force did number about the same, but it hadn’t been “assembled in North America,” nor was it a combined force of colonists and Indians. Worth noting, though.

History Repeats

The article [“Allenby Captures Jerusalem,” by Michael S. Neiberg] in the November issue of Military History about [General Edmund] Allenby’s expedition to conquer the Turks in Palestine is so ironic. In 1917 Allenby set up his headquarters in Rafah, south of Gaza, from which to direct his surprise campaign against Beersheba rather than attack the Turks at Gaza. One of the biggest [present-day] battles in Gaza took place at Rafah, [pitting] the Israeli army against Hamas. In the first you have Christian Europeans fighting Muslim Turks, in the second you have Christian-backed Israelis fighting Arab Muslims. This has been the case for 1,000 years in the Middle East and in the world.

Justin M. Ruhge
Lompoc, Calif.

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

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