Share This Article

Chance Favors the Prepared

While Dennis Showalter’s article “The Making of Mass Warfare” [Spring 2014] focuses on the period between 1789 and 1918, one could easily apply the message to 21st-century war fighting.

Getting material from the factory floor to the front lines is most certainly half the battle, if not more. The supply lines in Desert Storm stretched over 300 miles from the Kuwait border to Baghdad.

Combined-arms teams have evolved to a level of sophistication that would have seemed like something written by H. G. Wells to the commanders of the era. Using unmanned drones for reconnaissance and laser-guided missiles to shape the battlefield is a far cry from the rolling barrage timed using wristwatches.

Over the past decade I’ve been involved in the exhibit design of a number of major military museums and have been struck by the fact that most civilian visitors have little idea of the degree of preparation that takes place before the ground offensive begins. Specifically, the notion of logistics often takes a back seat to the recounting of the battle.

The Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) is a prime example of the notion that “improvised warfare was (is) a thing of the past.”

Bill Ruggieri

Brooklyn, New York

Real and Imagined Borders

Your editorial on “Otherness” and Noah Andre Trudeau’s article “An American Fandango in Monterrey” [Spring 2014] were especially valuable to me.

I am an English teacher in a Bronx juvenile detention center, and “Otherness” captured my students’ attention. Tough these students are often reluctant readers they read your editorial carefully and responded eagerly with a thoughtful discussion of how they see otherness in rival gang members and how the outside world often diminishes them as “other.” Your article formed the basis for a special class that they will long remember.

And even as a former four-year resident of the Rio Grande Valley, through which the American army marched, and a frequent visitor to Mexican border cities, my understanding of American actions was limited by the scant attention our history classes give the American invasion of Mexico.

Trudeau’s careful descriptions of terrain, conditions, and troop movements as well as his description of Mexican and American thinking at the time of the invasion gave me a far better understanding of the actions that took place in an area I once called home.

The invasion is a constant but invisible presence in the Rio Grande Valley. Monterrey has grown to swallow up the battlefield and camps. As of my last visit, the battlefields at Resaca de la Palma and Palmito were not marked. Tough Americans often see the river and the border as a line, Trudeau’s article suggests why it is not. What is often called a border is actually a zone stretching from roughly the Nueces River in the north to an area (including Monterrey) roughly equidistant from the Rio Grande in the south. That is the very area through which Taylor’s army invaded. Longtime residents of the valley are conscious of the fact that they did not cross the border, but that the border moved over them. Even 168 years on, there is a palpable feeling (especially for a white Yankee outsider like me) of the valley as an occupied land.

Frederick Lauf

Salt Point, New York

I recently picked up an issue of MHQ for the very first time. The Letter from MHQ, about “otherness,” struck a chord with me. I was a combat engineer (Essayons!) in the U.S. Army and served in the Arghandab River valley in Kandahar, Afghanistan. I have personally sensed this “otherness”—in combat situations, brought about by fear, and even among the ranks, from the lowest private up to first sergeants. Your letter couldn’t be more spot-on. Thank you for the great publication, and keep up the good work!

Terry Tyler

Pikeville, Kentucky

The Element of Surprise

I majored in history in college and have had a lifelong fascination with the people, their motivation, and the events that make history interesting, worthwhile, and sometimes even understandable. Your magazine succeeds in all these areas. My admiration is only partly driven by my career as a magazine publisher, also trying to deliver interesting and readable content every issue.

Frankly, I’m not interested in every article, although I am often pleasantly surprised when drawn into a subject that is usually of little interest to me. Then I am delighted to have the chance to consider a new point of view. The article on Ariel Sharon [“Honor, Oil, and Blood”] in the Fall 2013 issue was typical of that. After muttering to myself, I found that returning to the article for a second reading was illuminating and worthwhile. And Jeffrey Denman’s article about Washington’s leadership during the winter of 1777 [“Fighting for Forage,” Spring 2014] helps make the army’s willingness to continue following him seem logical.

Sometimes the smallest nuggets make me feel the magazine is written for me. As a child of the ’50s and a voracious reader about both World War II and the presidency, I was struck by Rick Atkinson’s comment that his admiration for Dwight Eisenhower has only increased over time. It made me feel I was reading the words of a kindred spirit. I know that not everyone sees history the same way, and it’s that challenge or element of surprise in MHQ that made me want to write and say “thank you.”

Jim Fishman

Falls Church, Virginia

Kindle Reviews

MHQ is the quintessential academic journal of military history. While my particular interest is World War II, I am always fascinated and intellectually nourished by the excellent articles written about different historical periods. I believe the journal is well worth the price, and I always enjoy the anticipation of the next publication!

Dr. John Taylor

East Lansing, Michigan


Originally published in the July 2014 issue of Military History Quarterly. To subscribe, click here.