Children at War? Not Surpsing

In “Children at War” [September], P.W. Singer described the military training of youngsters like the Hitler Jugend by governments. When I was stationed in the North-West Frontier province of Pakistan with the Pakistan army Special Service Group, I learned that each Pathan youth was given a weapon by his father when he reached the age of 12. He then became a soldier in the eyes of the tribal elders and was available to participate in the squabbles between tribes common to the area. The Pathans are also a significant part of the population of Afghanistan. Therefore, I am not surprised to hear of juniors attacking coalition troops in Afghanistan.

Wells B. Lange
Lafayette, Colo.

Cocktails at 9

I can sympathize with [a mother’s] concern in your September Letters about publishing instructions on making Molotov cocktails [Hand Tool, by Jon Guttman, July/August], but I’m afraid the cat is long out of the bag.

In the months after Pearl Harbor, I—a 9-year-old Southern Californian—and my younger brother and playmates took the threat of Japanese invasion quite seriously (as did many adults who should have known better) and resolved to sell our lives dearly. While my father was trooping through the Hollywood Hills with his state militia company, we amassed a couple of dozen bottles of suitable size and shape, carefully taped two (in case one failed) wooden kitchen matches to each bottle, glued on a bit of sandpaper on which to strike the matches, and stuffed the necks with rag fuses. Mother drew the line at filling the bottles with gasoline, so we packed them in cartons, ready for filling at the first sign of “Jap” tanks clanking down Laurel Canyon Boulevard.

How did we know about Molotov cocktails? Perhaps from newsreels of the Spanish Civil War, during which I believe they were first used, or from newspapers. I agree with the editor that the weapon is so simple, description equals instruction; all my friends not only could make them but also had thought of “improvements.”

Ronald A. Gilliam
Thonotosassa, Fla.

Photo ID

It was a real surprise to turn to P. 55 of your October issue [“An Army from Scratch”]. There was a full-page view of Company D, 139th Regiment Infantry, at Camp Doniphan, Fort Sill, Okla., shortly after their induction in November 1917. This company was recruited here in Caney, Kan., from men from the surrounding communities. The corporal, third from the right, is Keith Herring of Carey. We obtained a copy of the photo from one of his relatives several years ago for the Caney Valley Historical Society.

Company D saw front-line service with the 139th in the Meuse-Argonne. The campaign sustained many casualties. [See “One Man’s Ambush,” by Edward G. Lengel, P. 52.]

Ivan Pflaser
Caney, Kan.

Benedict Redeemed?

I really enjoyed “Big Win at Saratoga” [by Geoffrey Norman, October]. Because of his treason, Benedict Arnold has been historically maligned, and the great things he did have been mainly ignored.

A great example of his tenacity was at the 1776 Battle of Valcour Bay. Arnold built a small American fleet that engaged the much stronger British navy and prevented two British armies from merging.

To quote naval historian Alfred Mahan, “Save for Arnold’s flotilla, the British would have settled the business [won the war].” The little American fleet was wiped out, but never had any force big or small lived to better purpose.

It would be good to see the rest of the positive story of Benedict Arnold and what was done to him to cause his treason.

Morton L. Wood
Marathon, Fla.

Pershing’s Warning

In “Black Jack Pershing” [October], Kevin Baker quotes the general as follows: “What I dread is that Germany doesn’t know that she was licked.” [Pershing] was lamenting the fact that other members of the Allied War Council had elected to sign an armistice rather than unconditional surrender. His words came true at the outset of World War II when the Germans stated that their army had never been defeated. By the end there was no question in anybody’s mind that this was no longer true. Today his words of warning prevail even more: Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq…?

Ivan L. Pfalser
Caney, Kan.

The Last Word

In “What We Learned from the Battle of Trafalgar” [by James Lacey, September], Lord Nelson is purported to have asked, “Did any of our ships strike?” Assured that none had, writes Lacey, Nelson died peacefully.

Actually, the statement for which Nelson is remembered is, “Thank God, I have done my duty.” This he repeated a number of times. Then, as reported by those at this side, his words were, “Rub, rub…fan, fan…drink, drink,” as he sought what comfort he could in the hours of pain he suffered as he lay dying. He did not die peacefully.

Jo Ashley
Framingham, Mass.

Editor responds: We agree—getting shot at close range is no picnic, and Nelson was certainly in a great deal of pain, likely with a collapsed lung. What James Lacey meant is that Nelson died at peace over the decisions he made that brought the British victory at Trafalgar.


On P. 41 of the November feature “The Coldest Winter,” an F-80C Shooting Star was incorrectly identified as an F-86 Sabre. Other captions in the article suggest that U.N. forces reached the Yalu River. In fact, Chinese troops intervened as they approached it.

On P. 17 of the October department “What We Learned from Isandlwana,” we incorrectly refer to the British 24th Regiment of Foot as the 24th Infantry. The editors regret the errors.

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