Shot Heard Round the World
I was surprised to see history being revised in the September 2021 issue [“A Turn for the Worse,” by Douglas L. Gifford] when I saw, not once but twice, that the “shot heard round the world” had been moved from Lexington Green to the North Bridge at Concord, Mass. Hopefully there are enough people in Massachusetts, especially the Lexington area, who fired off memos protesting this infringement on their heritage. The reason the minuteman statue is at Lexington Green is because the first shots were fired there, the first casualties occurred there, and it was clear New Englanders meant to fight.
Editor responds: The minutemen at Lexington Green did fire first on the British on April 19, 1775, eight Americans paying for that resistance with their lives. But the first organized battle followed at Concord’s North Bridge, and the phrase “shot heard round the world” derives from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn.” Here’s the first stanza: “By the rude bridge that arched the flood / Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled / Here once the embattled farmers stood / And fired the shot heard round the world.” Emerson wrote the poem for the dedication of a monument to the Battle of Concord, the location of his “rude bridge.”
‘None of us expected the Afghan National Army or Afghan National Police to put up much of a fight, but the way the citizens were abandoned and the resurgent Taliban handed billions of dollars in first-rate military equipment is truly sad’
I always read my history magazines in the order I receive them. I opened up the September 2021 issue on Aug. 17, 2021, not more than 48 hours after Kabul fell to the Taliban. The timeliness of this issue was no doubt planned by your editors, but the reality of reading the issue while watching thousands of Afghans try to flee their country really hit home. I have been to Afghanistan on a few occasions throughout Operation Enduring Freedom. I am sickened by the way our troop withdrawal turned out. None of us expected the Afghan National Army or Afghan National Police to put up much of a fight, but the way the citizens were abandoned and the resurgent Taliban handed billions of dollars in first-rate military equipment is truly sad. Too many American, NATO and Afghan military and police lives were given for it to end this way.
Paul X. Rutz’s article [“Honor Before Glory,” September 2021] on the tragic death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan brings up an interesting dilemma—brothers serving together in combat zones. Back in November 1942 the five Sullivan brothers, all serving aboard USS Juneau, died together when the light cruiser was sunk. Since then the military has frowned on brothers serving together.
Amid the Vietnam War I returned to the States from a tour in South Korea. Because Korea is considered a hardship tour, when my artillery unit at Fort Bliss, Texas, was scheduled to deploy to South Vietnam, I didn’t have to go. However, wanting to stay with my unit, I signed waivers at my new station and went with them. My older brother, Joe (19 years my senior), also volunteered to go to Vietnam, and I got to see him there. Joe was a Korean War veteran, wounded in that war while serving as a combat engineer. I had not seen him for a few years, so it was a nice surprise to see him in Vietnam.
In regard to Pat Tillman, unfortunately in wartime friendly fire does occur, more often than we would like. All wartime deaths are tragic, of course, but there is something very unsettling about friendly fire. I am sad to say my artillery unit accidently hit our own troops in a couple of instances. Some faulted unreliable maps or miscommunication from our fire-direction section to our 8-inch guns. As several articles in Military History have pointed out, when these horrible incidents happen, they often involve green troops. When my artillery unit tried to get jungle training, we went out on patrols we were not familiar with, and on one such patrol a young officer was killed by his own men who mistook him for a Viet Cong. After that our patrols ceased. We left it to the infantry units who were more qualified.
Tom R. Kovach
Send letters via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Editor, Military History, 901 N. Glebe Road, Fifth Floor, Arlington, VA 22203. Please include name, address and phone number. This article was published in the January 2022 issue of Military History.