Military History – November 2011 – Letters From Readers

9/8/2011 • Dwight Eisenhower, MH Letters

George Marshall Remembered
The wartime photo of Winston Churchill with General [George] Marshall accompanying your article on the general [“America’s Finest General,” by Kevin Baker, September] reminded me of an incident I observed just before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953.

Covering the event for my newspaper, I looked down from the gallery erected in the south transept on the distinguished guests in the choir stalls below. There was Sir Winston, looking hot and bothered in his voluminous dark-blue Garter robes and mopping his brow with a large handkerchief. Then along came an erect figure clad in formal civilian morning dress—General George Marshall, President [Dwight] Eisenhower’s special representative to the queen’s coronation. Churchill, his discomfort forgotten, rose and pumped the new arrival’s hand. They stood chatting for some minutes with evident mutual plea-sure, doubtless recalling wartime experiences together.

Frederick Brian Turner

I enjoyed your article on George Marshall, but I completely disagree with your conclusion. Marshall was a great leader of Americans—from Washington—but he was not the finest of our battle-tested generals (admittedly to his chagrin). He was more politician than general—he had to be.

I am a retired soldier who saw combat in Vietnam, Laos, Panama and Iraq. Like most soldiers (and Marines, sailors and airmen) I would define fine generals (and admirals) as those who lead large numbers of men in combat on battlefields. Success in desperate battle, not bureaucratic infighting, makes for a fine general/admiral. Marshall’s destiny did not lead him in that direction, so his reputation as a fine combat general remained unresolved. He was a fine American, but not our finest general.

Colonel Wayne Long
U.S. Army (Ret.)
Chester, Md.

On P. 30, third column [of “America’s Finest General,” by Kevin Baker, September], George Catlett Marshall Sr. was described as being affiliated with “Augustus,” Kentucky. The name of this Ohio River town now in Bracken County is Augusta.

On Sept. 27, 1862, Augusta was raided by Confederate Colonel Basil Duke, leading elements of Morgan’s Raiders. Augusta was defended by 150 home guards under the direction of Colonel Joshua T. Bradford. In the ensuing conflict, several buildings in town were set afire, among them the business of my mother’s great uncle, Thomas Houk (Howk).

Mark R. Owen
Germantown, Md.

35th ID Veteran
An article in your September issue concerns my old outfit, the 35th Infantry Division.

Hallowed Ground [“The Reichswald, Germany,” by David T. Zabecki] brought back memories. We moved up to the Rur River on Feb. 7–8, 1945, into foxholes and concrete pillboxes on the Siegfried Line and were scheduled to jump off on February 10. We were opposite the German town of Hilfarth, the only one still in German hands west of the Rur. The Germans opened up the dams—jammed the gates instead of destroying them (they were thinking postwar).

We were not able to jump off until February 25. In the intervening time we ran patrols in water as high as chest-deep. The water was not all bad, because it heaved up many mines, [making] them visible in the searchlights over the crossing site.

We captured the bridge across the Rur intact; artillery had cut the demolition wires. We had some mine casualties, others from small arms and mortars, but nothing like what we would have had if they hadn’t opened the dams.

My unit [Company C, 1st Battalion, 137th Infantry Regiment] met the British 1st East Lancashire Regiment of the 53rd Welsh Division on March 3, 1945, at Geldern, Germany. A British officer came into our lines and bragged, “Lads, we dashed six miles today.” Our platoon sergeant, Scotty McCrae of Nebraska, countered with, “We dashed 13 and got here before you.”

Just a little story from an eyewitness.

James G. Graff
Middletown, Ill.

Off Target
The September 2011 issue has a one-page article on the “English Longbow” [Hand Tool, by Jon Guttman], with a small note about broadhead arrowheads. The bottom arrowhead is denoted as a type that “could pierce chain mail and most types of plate armor.” My knowledge of this subject leads me to dispute this statement. The typical broadhead was a hunting and/or war arrowhead designed to inflict maximum tissue and organ damage in the target and cause rapid incapacitation and death. The needle bodkin was most often used to pierce chain mail, cloth armor or leather armor. The triangular, short bodkin was used to penetrate plate armor. My reading also indicates that typical bow draw weights would be more on the order of 125 to 150 pounds. Sixty to 100 pounds would have been a very young man’s bow.

Mel Beaty
Medford, Ore.

Jon Guttman replies: Thanks for your feedback, which expands on why we wrote “most plate armor” in the callout. From the 14th century on, plate armor evolved into ingenious blends of grades of steel, thickness and angles, all in an effort to thwart, or at least limit, missile damage. By the 15th century various grades of certified “proof armor” could deflect or sustain hits from arrows, bolts and even early harquebus and musket rounds. Such armor was cleverly crafted for flexibility and weight distribution, allowing the wearer surprising agility. That development kept the knight in business for another century—if he could afford it, as suits of armor were custom tailored.

First Helo Assault
“What We Learned from the Suez Crisis” [by Stephan Wilkinson, July] states, “The Royal Marines pulled off history’s first troop-carrying helo assault, on Port Said.”

As a soldier, while it pains me to no end, I have to point out that the U.S. Marines conducted the first helicopter assaults, during the Korean War. Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron 161 (HMR 161) used the Sikorsky H-19 on Sept. 21, 1951, to ferry troops into an objective. The operation was called Summit and was a company-sized helicopter assault.

The Marines also used helicopters in Operation Ripple in 1952.

Tracy-Paul Warrington
Chief Warrant Officer
U.S. Army (Ret.)
San Antonio, Texas

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