I found the article regarding IEDs [“Faceless Enemy,” by Paul X. Rutz] in your March 2018 issue very interesting and pretty thorough, given such an expansive topic.
I retired from the Army in 2015 after 23 years of service. My time in the Army saw me in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Before my first deployment to Iraq I attended C-IED (counter-IED) training and became the primary trainer for my platoon. I’m not sure what I can tell you about the training in particular—because I don’t want to unintentionally disclose classified information—but your article did touch on some of the topics we covered.
Before my tour to Afghanistan I was once again selected to attend specialized training. Though the approach had similarities to that used in Iraq, this training was different, because it concentrated on the IED cell your article mentions.
Although my last tour was more than five years ago, I’m fairly certain C-IED training is still very relevant, and the TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) have adapted to the enemy’s changing tactics. The training, combined with the equipment, saves lives.
1st Sgt. Scott Cortese
U.S. Army (Ret.)
Harrison Township, Mich.
In reviewing the May 2018 edition, I found an error on P. 25 [“Guernica,” by Stephen Roberts]. The article refers to Winston Churchill as prime minister of Britain during the Spanish Civil War and supporting neutrality. Churchill became prime minister in 1940. Stanley Baldwin was prime minister, succeeded by Neville Chamberlain, who came to power in 1937.
Editor responds: In his manuscript Stephen Roberts did correctly refer to the future prime minister in the context of 1936 world affairs simply as “Winston Churchill,” only later referring to him as prime minister in the context of the Blitz. The quote about Churchill pressing for “an absolutely rigid neutrality” in Spain is correct. However, in editing the piece, we hastily moved up the title “prime minister” but neglected to insert the word “future” in the context of 1936. We especially regret the error for Roberts’ sake and assure readers we take great pains to fact check all we publish. We have since corrected Roberts’ article and posted it on our website.
I read with interest the article about the American Indian code talkers during World War I [“Speaking in Tongues,” by Richard Selcer, March 2018]. His article is the first I have read that explains how the use of Indians began.
Choctaw, being an unknown language, was unbreakable. After the war the Germans didn’t want to be caught short again. They, and later the Japanese, sent college language professors to America to study the many different Indian languages. That’s why World War II Navajo code talkers couldn’t just talk in their native language. The Japanese were ready for that. Navajos had to develop a code on top of their Navajo. It was in part a word substitute code and part a more complex cipher. The Japanese never broke it.
Coal in Our Stocking
In “What Lies Beneath” (War Games, P. 78) in the March 2018 issue item No. 4 is identified as a Confederate coal torpedo. In fact, it is a Civil War barrel torpedo—what we would now call a moored naval mine.
A coal torpedo (actually a disguised sabotage device) was cast from iron in a mold made from a lump of coal and was filled with gunpowder. The device was coated in coal dust, then secreted in the coal bunker of an enemy ship. The unsuspecting crew would shovel the torpedo into the firebox of the ship’s boilers, which would cause it to detonate. In 1888 a former Confederate agent named Robert Louden claimed to have placed a coal torpedo aboard the steamboat Sultana, which exploded on April 27, 1865, while returning nearly 2,000 Union POWs to the North, killing 1,192 people. Most scholars and historians have discredited Louden’s claim, however.