November 2016 Readers’ Letters | HistoryNet MENU

November 2016 Readers’ Letters

By HistoryNet Staff
8/26/2016 • Military History, MH Letters

Stars Who Served
[Re. “Stars Who Served,” by Roger Di Silvestro, September:] Left out were some of the biggest stars in Hollywood who served in the military, including Glenn Ford, Charlton Heston, Jack Palance, Eddie Albert, Charles Bronson, William Holden, Tyrone Power and George C. Scott.

John Dellinger
Aurora, Colo.

Editor responds: If only we had space to mention all who served, an even longer list that includes Sean Connery, Kirk Douglas, Mickey Rooney, Mel Brooks, Leonard Nimoy, James Arness, Ice-T, Drew Carey, Pat Sajak, Chuck Norris and many more.

Algerian Memories
Stephan Wilkinson’s article “Algerian Quagmire” [September] brought back sad memories, as I was a pied-noir who was a teenager during the war and living in the capital during the Battle of Algiers. The article is well balanced and does not spare criticism of either the French or the Algerian rebels.

However, no mention was made of the Harkis, an armed force of Muslim Algerians who sided with the French during the war and paid a terrible price after independence was declared. Tens of thousands were hunted and massacred, often after being subjected to gruesome torture. Many could not escape to France like my fellow pieds-noirs, because Louis Joxe, then French minister of state, would not allow them to do so—one of the more shameful chapters in French history.

There is one small error in the narrative, as the author translates ratissage as “rat hunt.” Ratissage would be more accurately translated as “search and sweep.” The confusion may have come about because one of the derogatory nicknames pieds-noirs gave Algerians was raton, which means “baby rat.” During the dark period of OAS’s murderous activities small groups of men engaged in ratonnades or “rat hunts.” Any Algerian who happened to cross their path was severely beaten or killed—not something to be proud of.

Your magazine is one of my favorites, and I always look forward to the next issue.

André M. Piquet
San Francisco

Hannibal
Not once in his article [“Why Hannibal Lost,” May 2016] does Richard Gabriel mention Publius Cornelius Scipio, the person primarily responsible for Hannibal’s downfall. (“Africanus” was added to his name as an honor for having defeated Carthage and saved Rome.) It was Scipio’s brilliant strategy to attack the Carthaginians’ main supply base, forcing Hannibal to abandon Italy and face the Romans in Africa, where he was ultimately defeated at Zama.

Richard Valente
Cranston, R.I.

Richard Gabriel responds: It was not Scipio’s decision to at-tack Hannibal’s main supply base in Spain, if for no other rea-son than Spain was not Hannibal’s main supply base. Scipio arrived in Spain in 210 bc; Roman troops had been sent to Spain to counter the Carthaginians in 218 bc under Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus, Africanus’ uncle. In 217 bc Scipio’s father, Publius Cornelius Scipio, arrived with an army of reinforcements. Running battles ensued until 211 bc, when the Carthaginians killed the Scipio brothers and massacred their army at Castulo and Ilorca. By then Hannibal had already defeated the Romans at Trebbia (218 bc), Lake Trasimene (217 bc) and Cannae (216 bc). By the time Scipio was assigned to Spain, Hannibal had already been contained to southern Italy. In Spain a Roman army under Gaius Claudius Nero had pushed the Carthaginians back from the Ebro River. Scipio joined forces with Nero’s army and took command while Nero returned to Rome. By this time Spain had long ceased to be a supply base for Hannibal or anyone else. Hannibal’s withdrawal from Italy to Africa was a result not of the fall of Spain to the Romans, but the fact Scipio landed in Africa in 204 bc and was threatening the capital. With few forces left in Africa—most had been sent abroad—Carthage recalled Hannibal to defend the city. For more information see my book Scipio Africanus: Rome’s Greatest General (Potomac Books, 2008).

 

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