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Military History - September 2013 - Letters From Readers

Originally published by Military History magazine. Published Online: July 03, 2013 
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Frozen Chosin
Thomas Ricks' article "Close Call at Chosin" [May], a very fine one indeed, reminded me of a friend of mine, Jesse Bailey, who was a private in General O.P. Smith's division during the early part of the Korean War. Jesse was impressed by the fact that Smith would ask individual Marines their names when he first met them, and would remember the names when he next met the men. Jesse and the other men genuinely felt that Smith really cared about the well-being of his men, and while not everyone loved him like a father, he had the respect of the men in his command. Jesse believed that if it hadn't been for Smith's foresight in caching supplies along the Marines' route north, the Chinese would have overwhelmed them during the retreat from Chosin.

Stephen M. Kerbow
Uvalde, Texas

Tom Ricks' excellent "Close Call at Chosin" misjudged Mao Zedong and his Chinese troops. The numerous losses incurred by the Chinese divisions were, to Mao and the Chinese leadership, inconsequential and even desired.

The recent biography Mao: The Unknown Story, by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, portrays the communist leader as a vindictive, unforgiving, cold-blooded killer with the following plan: After the fall of the Nationalist government in 1949, Mao "inherited" hundreds of thousands of anticommunist Nationalist troops who were trapped on the mainland and could not escape to Formosa. Secretly condemned to death, as were all those who opposed or were associated with anti-Mao efforts, these troops were "encouraged" to fight the U.S./U.N. army occupying North Korea (and some border areas in China).

'Mao's plan was to have two enemies kill off each other (Nationalists and Americans, etc.) while gaining political advantage'

Mao's plan was to have two enemies kill off each other (Nationalists and Americans, etc.) while gaining political advantage. Mao had promised Joseph Stalin to bottle up American forces in Asia, thus keeping them out of Europe. Stalin promised to build factories in China. The U.S./U.N. forces did Mao a favor by killing so many of Mao's Chinese "enemies." It is ironic that the high Chinese casualties mentioned in Ricks' article were no disaster for Mao, as the author maintains. It was a disaster for the many Chinese who were once our allies. Unfortunately, Mao is the one who won. He bottled up American military might for years using proxy North Koreans and predominately old/expendable Nationalist troops while getting Russian factories and industrializing China.

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E.J. Neiburger
Waukegan, Ill.

Grenada
I really enjoyed Sharon Tosi Lacey's article ["Small Island, Big Lessons," July] on Grenada. [The caption to the photo on P. 53] indicated surprise to see some of the Army Rangers wearing the older OD green Vietnam–style jungle uniforms in 1983.

Those uniforms were within regulation to wear up until about 1989, as I recall. I used to love wearing them.

Many guys in my unit would wear them just to be different in the late 1980s, plus they were a heck of a lot cooler in the summer than the heavyweight woodlands at the time (the lightweight woodlands were not always easy to get).

John M. Rainey
Former Specialist
U.S. Army
Baltimore, Md.

I read with great interest your article on Grenada. I was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in September 1983 as a 19-year-old paratrooper fresh out of jump school. On October 24, returning to my barracks at the end of the day, I was told by my first sergeant to go to my room and stay there until told otherwise. The whole time I am thinking to myself, What the hell have I done now to gain his unwanted attention? It was not until several hours later I learned the division had been placed on alert, and we were headed somewhere. Our first thought was Lebanon, but we soon found out it would be a tiny island in the Caribbean called Grenada. I did not get to go, instead I spent the entire time down at Green ramp on Pope Air Force Base, N.C., handing out C rations to the grunts boarding the C-141s outbound to that island. My picture, handing out those C rats, hung in the Grenada portion of the 82nd Airborne museum on Fort Bragg for years afterward.

Edward Sartorius
Former Sergeant
New Jersey National Guard
Randolph, N.J.

Camouflage
[Re. "Camouflage," by Stephan Wilkinson, May:] In 1940 Reader's Digest published a vignette titled "Call to the Colors For the Color-Blind." An Army air observer had correctly spotted all camouflaged gun positions, while an Air Corps observer identified only a few. Investigation revealed the Army observer was color-blind. The camouflage material on the guns reflected light in contrast to the surrounding terrain, so it was easy for him to identify. This supposedly led to searching for recruits who had been rejected because of color-blindness.

Lt. Col. William Goldsmith
California Air National Guard (Ret.)
Studio City, Calif.

Wartime Surgery
In your January issue you had a blurb ["WWI Records Reveal Dawn of Plastic Surgery," News, by Brendan Manley] regarding Sir Harold Gillies, the Royal Army surgeon whose plastic surgery techniques reconstructed the faces and jaws of British military personnel maimed in the war. Your readers might be interested to know that such procedures were also pioneered by an Armenian-born American oral/maxillofacial surgeon named Dr. Varaztad H. Kazanjian, who went to the battlefields of France with the Harvard Medical Corps to treat the wounded. He is considered, with Dr. Gillies, one of the fathers of modern plastic/maxillofacial surgery.

Dr. Jack L. Lieberman
Morton Grove, Ill.

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