Shame on Shames
I have a few minor corrections for the interview “One Tough Screaming Eagle,” by Michael Washburn, in the June 2006 issue. On P. 37, Ed Shames stated that as a sergeant he became “operations officer for the battalion.” That couldn’t happen. A battalion operations officer was a captain or a major.
Shames then states that he made the sand table for the airborne jump into Normandy. Not so. Those tables were assembled by professionals for the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions. He also claims that he “had to brief every platoon, every squad and every company.” That again is not a job for sergeants — it should be done at officer level, probably field grade. He says, “[We] had a tracer plane going over us every few minutes, north and south, sending signals to tell us where to go.” In all the literature dealing with paratrooper operations in Normandy, no mention of anything like that can be found.
I’ve read Stephen Ambrose’s book Band of Brothers and saw the television show as well. I don’t doubt that Shames was where he says he has been, but some of his statements and assertions just don’t ring true.
Staff Sgt. Richard D. Groo
U.S. Air Force (ret.)
Michael Washburn responds: This is interesting, but the whole point of the interview is that a lot of the existing popular histories leave out a great deal. The writer here may be confusing “should be done” with “was done on this occasion.”
Shame on Ambrose
Michael Washburn’s interview with Edward Shames in the June issue was fantastic. I am not surprised by Mr. Shames’ comments regarding Stephen Ambrose. I have read a number of Mr. Ambrose’s books, and they always rang a bit false to me. Ambrose has an idealized vision of the U.S. military. For example, in Citizen Soldier he presents the American soldier as by far the best in World War II. That is patently false. The kill rate of the Wehrmacht in WWII makes it quite clear that its troops were superior and had superior leadership. Ambrose has already been accused of mild plagiarism. The idea that he ignored facts as reported by those present at the time to produce a more marketable story is not surprising. The story of the Band of Brothers would have been compelling with or without Mr. Ambrose’s help.
West Columbia, S.C.
Overlooked General, Overlooked Author
I received my June issue and had to write about Mike Oppenheim’s review of Leonard Wood: Rough Rider, Surgeon, Architect of American Imperialism. I can appreciate Jack McCallum’s effort to tell about Wood’s life, especially if there is new evidence or sources that warrant a new study. However, Oppenheim is wrong about this book’s being the “first biography in 75 years.” The last major biography was Armed Progressive: General Leonard Wood, published in 1978 by Presidio Press and written by Jack C. Lane.
David W. Palmer
Clifton Heights, Pa.
Kris vs. Krag vs. Colt
In “Kris vs. Krag” in the June 2006 issue, Miguel Hernández says, “Extreme courage in the face of certain death was the Moro norm, and his deadly skill with his ancient blades…forced the U.S. Army to abandon its .38-caliber revolver in favor of the semiautomatic .45-caliber Colt pistol….” This is a common misconception. Colt introduced its first .45-caliber semiautomatic in 1905, two years after the action Hernández describes.
The first .45-caliber Colt semiautomatic accepted by the U.S. Army was the model of 1911. Privately owned weapons of the 1905 and 1908 models may have seen service in the Philippines, but the .38-caliber revolvers were abandoned in favor of the old reliable .45 Colt single-action revolvers that had been thought more than the Army needed — or cared to pay for. The Moros persuaded the Army that the older guns should be reissued — at least in the Philippines.
Eric C. Sanders
Miguel Hernández responds: Many thanks to Eric Sanders for his constructive criticism regarding my statement in the “Kris vs. Krag” article regarding the rationale for the .45-caliber pistol. The story may be anecdotal.
On further investigation, there is no conclusive evidence that the U.S. Army abandoned the .38 revolver in favor of the .45 automatic pistol in order to stop a charging Moro dead in his tracks. However, in 1904, two years into the Moro rebellions, the Army decided to investigate which caliber should be used in any new service pistol. Subsequently the Army tested several types of handguns, calibers and bullet styles before determining that “a bullet, which will have the shock effect and stopping effect at short ranges necessary for a military pistol or revolver, should have a caliber not less than .45.”
The .45-caliber pistol evolved from a .38-caliber pistol developed by John M. Browning. In 1905 Colt asked Browning to improve his Model 1902 Military, so Browning developed a .45-caliber round firing a 200-grain bullet.
Later that year Colt unveiled the .45-caliber Model 1905, and there were further modifications until the 1911 model emerged. Interestingly, in 1912 the weapon was first distributed as standard issue to American troops stationed in the southern Philippines, where the Moro uprisings continued until 1917. I did not say that the .45 played any role in the 1906 battle at Bud Dajo.
In “Kris vs. Krag,” the caption for H. Charles McBarron’s painting Philippines Battle indicates the U.S. Army troops depicted are armed with Krag-Jörgensen rifles. In fact they are using M1903s and wear World War I–style web gear. Krags are shown in the foreground, but in the hands of the Moro fighters.
Griffin T. Murphey
Fort Worth, Texas
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