Friday, October 31, 2014

In which I review Fury.

So I saw FURY. And people have been asking me what I think of it. Pretty good actually.  I highly suggest you see it in a good theater with a big screen and audio system as there are moments that just will not feel the same on DVD.  By now everyone has probably read the story so I don’t think anyone cares about spoilers.   There are some amazing scenes which are just magnificent.

I think there are three main elements we'd all be interested in: the story, the props and wardrobe, and the acting..

There are no two ways around it: the story is moronic. There some hints if you pay attention as to why the Germans at the end are the stupidest idiots ever.  But even if you pay attention and add a grain of salt to it, its just plain stupid. And if you pay attention you'll see the SS platoons have what looks like 3 or 4 panzerfausts each. Thus in the final battle when the Germans  open up the (accurate) boxes of panzerfausts and say "be careful these are all we have," they've kind of screwed themselves.

I got the feeling that there were things that the director wrote in the initial scrip that he was too wedded to realize they should be cut.  The advice always given to writer is to "kill your darlings." This means if you have something in a story you really, really love but it's not really working, you have to be able to kill a character off, or write something out. This actually happens to me writing military stuff. I will get something (a phrase, photo, caption, whatever) stuck in my mind as being great. Then when I really get to it, it doesn’t feel right, and I need to give up my great idea for the greater good.


There are amazing moments, but the plot really is unforgivable. And to those that say "it is Hollywood," and "it has to have a story the public would like" I say this: good and clever writing can turn a stupid situation into a believable one.


Case in point. Grenades are tossed into the tank at the end, and the guys sit and talk while the fuses burn. Then Bucky Dent (or whatever his name is) gets out the escape hatch while the grenades are sizzlin' while we are led to believe he has never done this before even in practice.  So, how to fix it? Have them talk their talk, then have him get out the hatch, and just as he wiggles out the Germans toss in the grenades.  Stupidity avoided. Same basic story is told.

Want a last stand of a tank? Cut the time from the mine going off to when the SS show up. Do not give them time to ponder the meaning of life. Yeah, you lose the drama of the guys deciding to die as a team rather than run away and live. So you add some drama to the next interior scene when they realize they left their SPARE ammo on the back of the tank (ahem) and they are all going to die.

Make the SS troops the remnants of a training school (which I think they were supposed to be) and make them all young kids.  They shoot their initial panzerfaust from too far a distance as the grizzled sergeant screams at them they are too far away.  Let them march in threes on a road with the Jabos up there as the commandant is idiotic and wants them to sing and march as in training, which same grizzled sgt keeps watching to the enemy planes.  


Saying, "it's Hollywood' is a cop out. They spend craploads of money to get "the best there is" so unless people demand smarter scripts they will stint on the writing.   So, just ignore the plot. It's stupid.  And we deserve better.

Now as to props and wardrobe it's really good. It is a collector's wet dream of everything under the sun. Some of the details are great, and therein lays the problem. There are so many details and obscure references that a lot of people are going to say things that are correct are wrong, or just not understand what is going on. Just because you have 57 different varieties of uniforms does not mean you have to use them all.  More is not always better. It just tries too hard, as if they were trying to cram as many things as possible into it, and all the time winking to collectors "hey, look what cool stuff we used."  Neat, but I found it distracting.

I would debate the mixed and bedraggled GI's (no two look alike) for April. They really look to me as if they are from Jan-Feb or so.  By April things were different, and the ports were open and working. But yeah, everything is individually correct, but as a whole I think it fails to create a proper picture. Deep mud and overcoats do not a happy GI make.  Extra points for mud and grease, but maybe it was a little too much? 

So top marks for having the right stuff, but it's too much of a good thing.  I guess you can be too authentic.

Acting is OK, I did not detest Brad Pitt as much as I thought I would. Shia Lebouf was OK, but then tears up and he's lost me. I could not look at him anymore without thinking of Iron Eyes Cody (look it up kids).  My pick for outstanding job goes to Jon Berthnal (Shawn from Walking Dead). A lot of people will not like his goofy southern boy, but I know exactly what he was going for and he nailed it.  

As in everything, they will not make films with better scripts until we demand them. Keep on excusing them for having to be "Hollywood" and they will keep doing it.  Yeah, it's a good movie, but if only they had toned it down some and written it so it made some logical sense it would have been a great movie.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Book Review: Great War Fashions. by Lucy Adlington

There is very little written about female clothing during the world wars, and hopefully that will change soon. This is an interesting book about woman's fashions during the great war (pretty much just UK). It has good points, and bad points.

It’s a well laid out book with a lot of really obscure information in it. Sadly, it does not have many full color reconstructions as you might have expected. Really only a handful. For the most part it relies on period illustrations, ads, and photos to illustrate the clothing.

One of the things that detracts from the book is that its coverage is just too wide.  There are so many sections covering just about anything you can think of, but do we really need a short section on weddings, stage costumes, swimming wear, and sports outfits of the time? And sadly, it is woefully short on military uniforms. However, anything you might want to know about suffragettes and the movement finds its way into the pages. So you end up with some interesting material, but very unbalanced. Very detailed in some areas, skimpy in others.

I'm not saying that this is bad, but that it just feels like the author should have stuck with the subjects she knew, and left the ones she did not for after she had the time to do the research. The text is almost more of a social history of women of the time instead of just sticking to clothing, but that's OK if you know it going in.

One concern I had, and this is not from me as I am no female clothing expert of the time, but from someone who is, is that there are a few statements that appear to be dead wrong. Now this could be due to an error in editing, but they are so wrong they stand out like a miniskirt at the grand ballroom in 1917.  I do not think that women in WW1 had to take off their corset to go to the bathroom. Considering the time it took for them to put on a corset, having to remove it once or twice a day for bodily functions makes no sense. Plus my double checking confirmed this was not true.

Everyone makes mistakes in books (myself included) and is always horrified to see what the printing actually says, but when you have a few very incorrect issues, and a few questionable ones, it makes me nervous about accepting it as fact without confirmation. I went to the author's website to see if there as any mention of being shocked at what an editor did, but did not see any mention of that. In fact I actually saw something there that I felt (and confirmed later) was not correct.

It's also clear that the author doesn't have any contacts in the military living history scene, as, for example, she shows a pair of hand knitted socks for a soldier, modern made, instead of an original period made pair which are not all that hard to find. And as I said female military uniforms are not given much coverage.  But to be honest, they could be an entire book by themselves.
So, here is what I think. This is a first generation work on women's clothing, and as such is pretty, and a nice overview of that subject. It looks nice and is interesting to read. It will prove to be of great use to the novice of the time period, and will have some material that will interest the experienced WW1 costume historian. I do think, however, there are a few minor but noticeable flaws. The price is not bad, and if your wife/girlfriend/whatever is interested in the period I would recommend getting it, as there's not much else out there that comes close.

It made me realize that in many ways uniform collectors are light years ahead of historic costume people when it comes to books.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book Review: Bataan and Beyond by John S. Coleman Jr.

One of the under-reported areas of WW2 is the defense of the Philippines in 1940. Records were lost, and those that survived combat had to survive imprisonment. While this is an older book, I just ran across it and thought it worth a mention.

The Author was an Infantry Officer sent to the Philippines just before the war. What's really unusual is that he was not assigned to an Infantry unit, but to the Air Corps' 27th Materiel Squadron. That's right, an Air Corps supply unit. There he was made adjutant, but his real job was to train the men of the unit how to fight as grounds troops. This says something about the Armies thinking about how long the US Air Corps would last once Japan entered the picture.

Japan invades, Cole and his men make their way to the Bataan area, and defend with what few weapons and ammo they have, and what little food they have left. Which is pretty much nothing. You can't help but wonder how long they might heave held out had there only been stores of food and ammo in place. That's roughly the first half of the book. Of course he makes the Death March, is a prisoner there for a while then volunteers to go to Japan under the thinking that they might be better treated on the Japanese homeland. Funny thing- they are. Not great, but still better.

Still the 27th was an interesting unit, and it's too bad they are basically forgotten. And you can find it here under WW2 PTO Books

Friday, August 22, 2014

Book Review: World War I Victory Medals

World War I Victory Medals, by James P. Michels

Large Format, 282 Pages, full color, softcover. This is a great book. It covers pretty much anything you can think about in terms of the U.S. WW1 victory medal: how it was conceived, developed, issued and worn. It has examples of all the paperwork and boxes used. It also goes into all the various clasps that go on the medal and explains what was worn and why, and corrects some misconceptions of them (not just the Army ones, but the Navy clasps as well). The second half of the book goes into examining all the world's victory medals (not just the US, but all of them like Cuba and Japan), and breaking them down by the various known and identifiable differences. Some of these differences are pretty small, but if you collect them they become important. Sadly, it shows some of the fakes that have been and are being made.

Do not let the price fool you. Had this book been published by one of the military collector book publishers it would probably cost twice as much. It is, however, a print on demand book so it has its own benefits. Good because it keeps the cost down and in theory it should be able to be printed in Europe as needed and save expensive shipping. Plus, if some new fact or discovery comes along it could be added to the book instead of selling out the current stock for a new printing.  Not as good because it is not the glorious color on coated paper you normally see in fancy books. For me, and am pretty particular, I think the color is pretty good and have no problem with it.  The only change I would suggest is to maybe make some of the photos of very small details (such as mintmarks) larger. And that is being very picky.  

If you collect WW1 victory medals, or just WW1 medals you probably already have this book (if not you'd better). If you collect US WW1 items I highly recommend it.

World War I - Victory Medals


Saturday, August 09, 2014

The flood

Last night I had a not-fun episode. The upstairs bathroom flooded. Now it just happens to be right over the room I work in, and right over where I sit at my computer.  Right where I have piles of books, photos, documents and all the many things I keep handy for the many projects I am working on.

Yeah, I heard the little pitter-patter of raindrops hitting paper from there, and was... a little upset. Especially as I had just gotten a set of really great WW2 photos showing a lot of cool small details. They came sealed in a zip lock bag (thank you Niles). But the bag opening had been taped over and was impossible to open properly so I ended up just tearing it open.

After looking at them, and being really happy, I 'almost' put them back in the bag, but as it was now torn I figured I'd just wait until I had something more permanent for them. Sigh.

Of course I was very lucky and it looks only a few are slightly wrinkled. So that's good.

But the other thing is that a number of items I had were in plastic boxes, so they had no problems. And some of the paper was in plastic sleeves, again, not problem and they protected things underneath them.

Which makes me happy that over the years I have been buying plastic bins and boxes of all size to store things in. They may not be much protection in a real flood, but they go a hell of a long way to protecting them against all the minor episodes in life.

Oh yeah..

Jerry has been cranking out a ton of new items over at What Price Glory...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pirating Military Books

A few weeks ago I stumbled across one of my books scanned and put up on a "legit" web storage site for anyone to download for free. The company took it down (actually two different copies) within 24 hours, but not after I could see many hundreds of people had accessed it. This is a book in which my royalties from last year were negligible.

Thing is, due to the low sales it almost went out of print. Actually it did, but it should be back soon. I can only assume that ones I found were only a tiny part of what is out there, and if only a few of the people who have downloaded copies had actually bought the book, not only might it have easily stayed in print, but that might have encouraged the publisher to put more similar books into print (from other people).

What really struck me was in looking at the uploader's files, I saw dozens (and dozens of dozens) of obviously pirated books from many different military publishers. Some by people I know, publishers I know, or know of. This led me to the guy's "favorites" and "friends" list, which had even more illegal titles.

I started surfing from one list to another, taking note of URLs and titles, and finding everything from just about every Osprey book ever printed, some textual military history volumes, to some pretty expensive, big, fancy, color military collectibles books.

I started sending the URLs to authors and publishers. Some thanked me, some basically sighed and said "oh it never ends," some seemed to be almost angry at me for telling them. The thing is, this was NOT some illegal pirate website under investigation by the authorities- this was a legit "legal" site where you can upload stuff and share it with friends.

 One publisher said, " Oh those are just the preview you can see at Amazon." So I downloaded a few ENTIRE BOOKS and sent them to him saying "look again."  (note: they were books I already own or don't care about and were deleted afterwards).

I emailed the site and asked how they could allow this as anyone with a brain could see these were current copyrighted books. And if they got a complaint about one book in a guy's collection, didn’t it make sense to look at his others and see if maybe they needed to send him a short note saying "hey, do you really have permission to post all of these?"  They decided not answer.

Thing is, as DVDs tell you, piracy is NOT a victimless crime.  Yeah, you think you're screwing "the man," but what you are really doing is screwing the publishing company who depends upon sales to decide who and what to publish. You're screwing whatever book sales place you buy things from (how many specialty military dealers have gone out of business in the last 10 years?), and you're screwing the author who, in the case of a lot of small press military books doesn’t really get paid enough from his sales to cover the actual cost of doing the research. This ends up leading to books you might really want not getting published, and authors who spend a lot of time and care in their work giving up.   

I asked one guy why he did this. His answer was that it is too expensive to get books in his country so when he buys one he scans it and gives it to all his friends, as he feels that is his right as he paid so much for it. What an asshole,.

Besides, it's just plain wrong.

So the next time you stumble upon a book you know is not public domain in some file sharing site, or someone offers to send you a  pdf of a 'cool new book' they just got. Please, tell them no, and let the publisher or author know. It's not that I expect this to stop, but at least in a small field like ours we can do some damage control.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

the great WW1 Doll Challenge

 The great WW1 doll challenge

So… it happens that my (ever tolerant) wife has a fascination for this old French Doll called Bleuette. She was started in 1905 and ran up through the 60's, but the interesting thing about her is that they had a weekly magazine for girls in which they printed a pattern you could sew for her every week.  My wife's hobby is finding copies of these patterns, translating them, and making the patterns available (for free) on the web at .  It's a whole "history of fashion/teaching kids to sew" thing.  I figure she just likes female action figures… In fact as I put up all her patterns on the web, I made the 1914-1918 era horizon blue in background so as to remember the war.

Anyway… they printed the paper right through WW1. In WW2 they had to stop as before the invasion they were a bit mean to the Germans, so when the Germans came in it was stopped. But there are patterns for 1914-18 and illustrations showing how the girl's fashions changed with the war. In 1916 overseas hats were a big deal, and in 1917 American style campaign hats were worn.

And… it happens that there is a club of people that love Bleuette, and every so often they issue "challenges," which means people have to sew something for the doll based on a  theme; polka dots, flowers, the color red… whatever.  Then they all show their creations off, people get some very small prizes, and a good time is had by all.

So… I was just JOKING when I said, let's have a WW1 challenge!  The wife says "no, people probably would not be interested, and besides, you'd want it to end in November and that's too soon after another challenge going on."

"HA!" says I, "It should run for four years to the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, so everyone will have enough time!"  She laughs and thinks that is funny and as a joke posts it on their web board.

Then… So many people say they want to do a WW1 challenge that  I find I have created a monster, work extra to post some more WW1 patterns, and end up buying some wartime issues that came up for sale.

Now... it has long been a quest for me to find a photo of a French girl in WW1 holding one of the actual Bleuettes. Every so often I find a photo with small children holding a doll, but always it turns out to be a different kind. So if anyone has any WW1 photos of girls with dolls, please send me a scan.  There just has to be one out there.  Jonatgawnedotcom.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Books, work, and and angry art

Last week I discovered a "legit" sharing site had some of my books up for free download. They took them down right away when I asked, but the thing is I noticed that people do not just upload one pirated book: they do a lot. So the same guy had tons on his account, and he 'liked' friends that had tons, and so on... So I spent some time wandering from one group to another noting down books by friends or publishers I know (and some I don't know but saw too much abuse). I sent them off email telling them the addresses. A few thanked me, some didn't, and most said "yeah, it's a never ending struggle getting rid of these."

Which is too bad as most of these people don't make a lot per sale, and often don't even recover the cost of doing the book to begin with. If they lose sales through this,  they just decide why bother doing something if it will cost them time, money and effort, and no one cares. 

But anyway, I was really close to finishing off a WW1 book last week, and then I discovered a bunch of new stuff, and decided I could just keep on track and finish, or I could split the book and rework everything. I WOULD have just made it bigger, which is what I always end up doing, however when working in ebooks this is a problem when you start adding in illustrations: i.e. maps. And I have decided the one thing a military book can never have is too many, or too good, maps. So with these restraints I am considering making it so you can hit a link under the in book map and it will take you to (if connected to the web) to a larger, higher resolution copy of the map on the web. It's still not a great solution, but better than nothing.  I still think the Army got it right when they did the original Green Books- a fold out map you can look at while you read. I wonder if the thing to do is make it so people can print out the maps themselves, thus they can more of less do the same thing?

And I have started to find myself more interest in dug brass WW1 artillery fuzes. I have some I have picked up; they used to be basically worthless and everywhere. Now I am looking at them in a new light, but shipping is so damn expensive. Oddly enough, while minty examples are great, I find I have an interest in ones that are damaged by use, and have become accidental works of art. I have a few damaged grenades like that (like a burst WP one) and it is pretty cool. When I collected ACW bullets I found I also had a thing for ones that had mushroomed upon impact. I guess  it must be something about it being actually used, and turned into a very unique piece of what I call "angry art."

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Part 2 - More on Cover Up at Omaha Beach.

So, in short the main idea of this book is that the entire story of the invasion was altered by ignoring the Maisy Coastal Artillery Battery, and the cover up was that someone screwed up and placed a high target value on Point Du Hoe, while ignoring Maisy.  I think to an extent -  yes, and no.

One of the claims made is that it was Ike himself who selected PdH at target #1. And thus he wanted the mess covered up as it was embarrassing.  I doubt this, as I think Ike had a lot more on his plate that to deal with minutia like this. This is what he had an enormous staff for. His Intel guys would come to him and say "here's our plan based upon our best estimate" and he'd OK it.  So I don’t buy that, but figure any errors were made way down on the food chain and it just floated up to the people who needed to approve it.

As to PdH not being a worthy target, I disagree. One of the author's claims is that the Yanks didn’t know the guns were not there. No, not correct. There is ample evidence that the maps given out to the Rangers and others for D-day clearly marked PDH as having the guns removed. In fact, this is why Major Lytle got bent out of shape on 5 June. He knew there were no guns, and he knew they were going get a lot of guys killed for no real reason.   So Rudder relived him, and went ashore to run things himself. Now I have to admit that my own personal feelings are that Rudder made a major error here. I was not there when Lytle was relived, although some Rangers told me what they had heard. Maybe he needed to be, maybe not. But there is a thing in the Army called chain of command. If Lytle was shot in the first minute, there was someone else ready to take over.  Rudder did not need to go. Although he had made a lot of noise previously about wanting to . So to me, in my opinion with what I know, and understanding full well that there may be evidence that has not come forward, I think Rudder screwed the pooch here.

I think he wanted to go ashore in the invasion, and when Lytle got upset/drunk/loud or whatever, he saw it as his moment of glory and stepped into the fray. What this did, was leave the Rangers without a support system off shore to watch out for them. Thus there were issues with naval gunfire support, and resupply.  In my opinion he should have stayed offshore, and done his job as coordinator, then landed when the situation was clear, which would have allowed him to bring in supplies, evacuate wounded and all those things that the Rangers had issues with.

I think the author is also wrong when he says the PdH landing was useless.  Yes, there were no guns there, but there was a key observation point with nice rangefinders linked into the local batteries via buried land lines. The view from this position is pretty good both ways, and if those observers were able to send targeting information to the German batteries it would have been very beneficial for them. The second value of taking PdH is that it is close to the road connecting the two beaches.  I'm not sure if this was a critical position to take, but the Rangers did cut the road, and it proved to be important that they did. And of course they also denied that ground to any German batteries that might have moved up.  The guns the Rangers destroyed behind PdH could easily have been moved up, and tied in to the observation post.  He's got a very interesting reason they weren't, which I think may well be true. But That one I will let you go buy the book and read for yourselves.

As an odd note on the Rangers at PdH. A short while after Spearheading D-day was publishing, I got an odd phone call. It was from a fellow in the southwest that had been a Ranger in the 70/80's. He told me he had hung out with WW2 rangers a lot at their reunions and had always asked them about their operations. Everything he said that I had any knowledge on made perfect sense to me, so my bullshit detector did not go off.  He said he had to call me and let me know I had gotten closest to the truth of anyone. Especially with the relief of Lytle. And he was really impressed I had picked up on that and figured out who it was.  We had a long talk, and he was going to send me some documents, then vanished into the aether.  Oh well. One thing he said that always made me wonder was that he had more than one eye witness to the Rangers being destroyed at Cisterna, and that they had actually been doing well with their night infiltration, until a jeep from a neighboring unit that had gotten lost can up with their head lights on. That's when the Germans were tipped off. I have no idea if this is true or not, but as I said, the guy really did seem to know what he was talking about.  I always wondered if anyone else had heard that story.  And no, I never heard from him again.

So, when I have a minute I am going to post part 3, in which I talk more about the book than what's in it.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

More D-Day stuff.

Just when you though it was safe to think about Normandy again....
I was going to review the book "Cover up at Omaha Beach" by Gary Sterne, but I found I have a lot to say, so I think I will break this up into segments.
First, what I'll probably end up saying is that if you are interested in Normandy Rangers you need to buy the book. If you are into Omaha Beach stuff you probably should. But I'll get into that eventually, along with the "cover up" and such.
However, there are some interesting things I wanted to talk about first.
I always suspected, but could never prove that the German Artillery guns destroyed inland of PdH by the Rangers were not the ones from the point. It never really made much sense to me, and I figured someone could look at the photos and the PdH gun pits and see if they could be used in them.  Well, case closed- they were NOT the PdH guns just pulled back. So we have that myth busted pretty well.
Something that just jumped off the page at me, which I think I may have seen but never realized, was that he has an Air Force document which indicates that the bombs dropped on the beaches were ordered to use instantaneous fuses, so they would not crater the beach. If they burrowed into the sand a little, they'd make craters, and if they made craters in some of the few exits it would hamper getting vehicles off Utah and Omaha. This makes perfect sense. So I suspect that happened is that the assault units saw in the time table there would bombing just beforehand, and just expected it would crater the area- thus the troops were told that.  
This is not saying that the bombs did not land behind the beach defenses, but that the ol' story of the Air Force was to blame for not cratering the beaches is pretty much busted as well. The only way I think this could be disproven is if someone would pull the air force reports and see if they state exactly what types of fuses were used on the mission. There remains a slight possibility the orders were changed at the last minute, but I doubt it.
In case you did not know, Sterne is that guy that found and bought the Maisey Battery in Normandy to turn into a museum. For some reason this artillery position between Omaha and Utah seems to have been forgotten by pretty much every historian. Probably more of a case of everyone working from someone else's books, and so memory of it disappeared. It's a pretty cool story, and good for him for digging it out (quite literally). 

But guess what? THAT is not the alleged cover up. I'll get to that eventually.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Farb-a-licious !

The word Farb is one of my favorites. Especially as it is so versatile: farb, farby, farbulous, farboishness, farbosity, farbapalooza(I can go on all day with variations I have actually used).

 But here is what irritates me.  All kinds of people talk about the origin of the term as if they were right there at the start.  I wasn’t. I bet you weren’t as well.

What I can say is that I first started hearing the term in the (wonderful) Dark Ages group The Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia. NOT to be confused with the highly farbish SCA. 

This was mid 70s. Long before most of you guys out there had even heard of reenacting (let alone been born).  I asked around about where the hell the word came from, and what it really meant.

It was at the 1,010th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Hastings (take that 125th ACW vets!) when a friend pointed to a guy and told “hey, I think he knows about the word farb.” I went over and asked the guy.  Sadly, I no longer have no idea who it was.

He was an old time ACW reenactor and told me it came from there, and had been started by a friend of his.  Seems they wanted a polite way of pointing out stupid non-period stuff that was out of character when walking around the camp. The example given to me was that there might be a blue cooler sitting outside a tent. They could nod that way and say “Farb.” Meaning Look at the totally wrong colored item. The guys with said item would have no idea they had just been dissed. I just assumed that since this  was so reasonable and probable it was true.

And then, many, MANY years later after most people who would have been around in the early days, some WW2 reenactors from the Midwest started telling people it was short for ‘far be it from me to blah blah blah…’  I remember the first time I heard that. I thought it was so totally stupid and obviously a derivative explanation based upon a best guess by someone that had no real clue. I mean, WHAT are the chances someone would come up with that? Seriously? Unless they had the word farb to being with and were trying to think of what it could be from.

Then, the whole far be it thing gets in print (although to be honest I had printed the German color explanation long beforehand in a unit newsletter and not one person every told me they had heard of another answer).  And as the old reenactment guard drifted away, the new experts decided they had read the "far be" thing in print so it must be true.

Even later it pissed me off reading wikkipediahat they didn’t even consider a different meaning. I added in my explanation with dates and such so that an alternative (and probably correct) version was at least represented.  It was deleted in a week.

So I was really pleased to discover the writings of Jonah Begone, Scourge of American Civil War Reenacting !

He writes a lot of really amusing stuff about ACW and REV war reenacting. Not really my periods, but his comments ring so true to other periods I have been in that I find them a hoot. I also find it even more of a hoot that reenactment humor translates so well between periods. I recommend them highly.

Anyway, The esteemed Jonah (not his real name) happened to write a nice little article about the word Farb that puts everyone else to shame. HE has names, places, units, and dates.  Take that far be it.crowd.  I thnk we can finally say  BUSTED!

I mean think of it.  What makes more sense? Some guys use a simple German word to privately indicate to each other that something is not authentic, or someone takes a strangely worded and highly awkward phrase, and breaks it down to create a word from parts of it. (or that it comes from some old and never referenced letter where someone discovered if you take the first letter of a description it spells farb).

Until someone can come up with better proof that the word does not derive from the German word for color, this is the answer to that question.

You dont like it?  Well, do your research, and show us your evidence.

Oh, and the Hastings event? It was at the University of Baltimore. In Maryland. Where Jonah says the word started. Coincidence?  Maybe, but it does wrap things up nicely.



Monday, June 16, 2014

D-Day Dweebs - The Magnetic Sands of Omaha Beach

There's a news story that is making the rounds again for some reason. It concerns an academic (from Texas) who took one vial (ONE!) of sand from Omaha Beach, analyzed it, and decided that 4% of the entire beach is magnetic metal material from the invasion.  Someone please beat my head until it stops hurting.

First: scientifically taking ONE vial from one place and looking at it tells you essentially nothing. There are any number of reasons why that vial could have more, or less, metal material than elsewhere on the beach.

Historically: What metal was flung into the area on D-day?  Brass and lead from small arms fire don’t count as they are not magnetic (and would still be a pretty small amount). The bombs supposedly dropped inland, so did most of the naval shelling. So you've got the German mortars, bits of exploded boats and tanks and jeeps and other wreckage. Keep in mind the actual fighting there only lasted for a day. That's not a lot of shelling. As there is the low area between the beach and the bluff, little from the high ground would probably make it to the beach.

There is, however, all the junk from the blockships and the big storm. They would give off some particles, but as we've seen a lot of the big metal things are still somewhat intact.  So you have to have that material move in from the deeper water onto the b each. This can happen, but then you expand the size of the area that the metal must be distributed in.

So you have a two mile long beach, and then due to currents you have to extend that out a ways on either side, and then bring that area a ways out into the sea.  That is a massive region that, in theory, to have an evenly distributed 4% component. Now add in how deep does it go into the sand, and you have a staggering volume, of which 4% then has to be metal bits. How many 75mm shells, 81mm mortars, webbing bits, vehicle fenders, helmets, boot grommets, cases of c rations dropped overboard, etc. would it take to fill that volume? Then add in that a great percentage of what was originally there has oxidized to the point of being way too tiny to count.  Is there enough metal there to even begin to make up 4% of the beach?

Now, if this is true, why is this phenomenon not been noticed elsewhere, like at Pacific beaches which were pounded for days, or smaller beaches where a ship broke up offshore? What about places like Verdun or the Somme where ton after ton of steel rained down on it day after day? Shouldn’t the ground be red with rust?

So the next time you are at Omaha, drag a magnet along behind you in the sand. If they are correct, it should soon become covered in rusty particles. Then look at that beach and think about just how much steel it would take to "magnetize" the sand.
The real mystery is how the University of Texas permitted this story to come out.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

and yet more D-day Dweebs.

Actung! Minen.  Unt, Blood on the sands.

Look at every reconstruction of the landing beaches, and (assuming they get the obstacles correct) you will see mines strapped to some of them. Yeah, right.

Here's the thing: sand water corrodes landmines; quickly.  There are notes in the original records that the Germans were VERY short of salt water resistant mines, so they were specifically told to keep them in storage until a landing seemed imminent, and only them put them out. There may have been a handful; of them deployed in the sea area, but consider that when a mine corrodes it can damage the firing system, and make the mine very dangerous to disarm or move.  If you have these unstable mines out there, would you want to go change one out knowing that the fuse could trigger for no reason? Didn’t think so.   The only safe way to deal with one would be to blow it in place, which would also blow the obstacle, and mean you'd have to dig out a new hole and pound in a new one. I can’t say for sure how many mines might have been on the beach obstacles that day, but it was a lot less than people would have you think. I suspect most of those craft that "hit a mine" near the beaches were actually just hit by either a mortar or shell.

If you look at photos that actually show mines on an obstacle, most of them are from German propaganda photos. Of course they would put them up for the photos.

Now let's look at one of the most famous quotes of D-day: "the sea ran red with blood."  How very old testament.  Now of course if a guy is cut up he'll bleed. And it will redden the water around him. But think about how many gallons of water that blood gets dispersed in. If he was on the beaches you could see water trickling down to the sea and it was a small amount so I am sure it turned red. However one D-day veteran family told me their dad" landed on D+1, and the water was still red with blood." A day later? I seriously doubt it. That's the kind of implanted memory you get from hearing too many references to that sort of thing, or in movies.

 I recall one 29th vet (Harold Baumgartener, and MD) once told me the whole red water was hogwash. He never saw anything like that. Of course one of the reasons he gave was that many of the wounds were self cauterized due to the heat of the projectile, which is something that just is not true in many cases, but that was his explanation of why he didn’t see bloody water.

If you wonder how long it would take to disperse the blood, go pour 10 pints of fake blood into an ocean. See how long it takes before you can't see it.  Of course if you know anyone at a blood bank and can get expired blood, that's even better! If you pour it on the beach it'll drain down to the sea, but dump it in the ocean and it'll soon be gone.

The sea red with blood is another one of those "go to phrases," just like "bodies stacked like cordwood."

Friday, June 06, 2014

Thoughts on D-day

You have to wonder why D-day is the one day of WW2 that gets all the attention. For WW1 it's Armistice Day. Which is cool as everyone in the war worked toward that, and it was really something to celebrate. Although today it is more of national day of mourning for many people.

Even though you could make a case that Vicksburg was the pivotal battle of the Civil War, it is Gettysburg that is always the big day in that war.  Do wonder if its geographical location being closer to DC and might have helped nudge it over the edge. But you think the ACW and it's Gettysburg. I don’t think there is a day remembered for the war of 1812, although one might suspect the day the British burned the White House.  In Boston the Revolutionary War day is Evacuation Day- the day the British left the city. However, that is really just an excuse to celebrate ST. Patrick's Day so it doesn't count.

We have no days for Viet Nam, nor for Korea or the French and Indian Wars. Napoleon will forever be linked to Waterloo, but I don’t think the British recognize Boudicca Day, or any Seven Years War Day.

I can’t think of what the future will bring for the Gulf Wars, however if someone makes a movie about the pulling down of Saddam's statue that could well become "the day." Or, if I wanted to be clever it could "Mission Accomplished Day." I doubt we'll ever really have a "final Day for those.

But for WW2 it is not VE or VJ Day.  I doubt most people even know those days. But they will remember December 7th, and June 6th. The sad part of June 6th being "the WW2 Day" is that not everyone took part in it. VE day everyone, even the very first guys to die, were part of the final victory.  Land on June 7th and you take a big step down in awesomeness. Heck, even land at dusk on 6 June and you are not as awesome as a guy who landed at 6:30.  Which is kind of sad. No, it's very sad actually.

I think that while Hollywood and TV documentaries have had a great deal to do with this vast interest in 6 June, it's also easier for most people to understand. On one day a bunch of guys got off boats, battles inland, and won the war. No maneuvering, no difficult maps to read (just memorize the five beach names for a Class one D-day Fan; memorize all the beach sections for a class two D-day Fan).  It's a very limited concept to grasp, and it is a lot easier to write about than a larger battle that covers weeks, moves over staggering amounts of territory, and some bits overlap other bits - making it more confusing to actually understand.   

By now I bet most of you could sketch out a D-day documentary in your sleep. You know all the bits that every show covers, all the proper film clips, and what the animations of arrows leading into the beaches should look like.

I'm not saying that June 6th is a bad day for WW2, but I do have to wonder what in human psychology makes us choose THAT day.  Logic would choose we celebrate VE/VJ day , and maybe December 7th, The Ying and Yang of WW2.  And it extends to collectors as well. If I were to have two 100% sure provenanced helmets : one that I can prove was at D-day, and the other I can prove was worn by someone on VE day- the D-day one would sell for astronomical amounts, which no one would care about the VE day one. Make that one a helmet worn by some lower ranking, no name guys how as there when the surrender was signed, I mean ACTUALLY in the room, and it would be a curiosity but no be very valuable.

D-day is now firmly ensconced in our minds as a legend. I wonder if years from now there will be an athletic event where you sprint up a few hundred yards of sand carrying a backpack? Will it be our Marathon?

But if you have read this far I suppose you deserve some sort of treat. So here: This is the coin given to vets in 1969 in Normandy. Actually, it was my dad's, but he tuned and handed it right to me. Back then they didn’t really care if he landed on 6 June or 4 July. All they cared about was that he came across the ocean and helped kick out the Germans.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

More D Day Dweebs

D-Day Dweebs

Hobart's Funnies

Everyone is an expert; especially tank enthusiasts. One trip to Bovington, or a few games of Panzer Leader and some people will expound on anything related to tanks. This is why I get a wee upset when people, generally the British, make a statement to the effect that "the Americans had such a hard time on D-0Day because they refused the use of Hobart's specialty tanks because they did not invent them."

To which I say, "Bollocks! Can't you read a map?"

So the British developed all manner of oddball vehicles ranging from the useful, to the not so useful. They offered them to the Americans who said, "No thank you, we're fine." 

I wish I could dig out this photo I found of a tank at the assault training center stuck in the sand nose down, buried almost half way, with its rear end up in the air. I don’t mean at an angle, I mean the tank looks like somone dug a hole, stood the tank straight up on its nose and filled in the hole.  (I just looked again and can’t find it, damnit!). That was taken after one of the problems they had testing how to best land tanks off small boats (mainly the LCM). They had a lot of issues and decided that it was not a good idea as especially in rough water the boat could turn over, the tank would fall out, and no one would be happy.  So they were very careful about how and when to land heavy vehicles.

Mind you, the Americans did adopt the DD tank, and while there were issues, there is no doubt the ones that landed played important roles in getting off the beach. Actually, their main role was to lumber up the beach, draw fire from the blockhouses, and see if they could help the assault teams knock them out. However, we all know what happened to many of them on the right flank, and the troops in that area lost a great deal of support when they went down.

One of Hobarts vehicles was a tank with a bulldozer. Check. We had those. We could have used more, but hindsight is 20/20, and more of the dozer kits were just not available at the time. I suppose if the Americans had a bunch of extra tanks they didn’t need, as someone was giving them masses of better, new ones, we could have developed a lot of odd military vehicles as well. Oh wait, we did. There are scores of experimental designs created in the USA during the USA for all manner of things. Problem is, they didn’t all work that well.  This is why so few of them were actually fielded.

But what about the mighty and powerful Flail tank that would wisk units through a minefield? Well, what people generally don’t say is that every time one of the chains hits a mine, it has a bunch of links blown off. It doesn’t take all that many to reduce the chains to where they do not provide decent enough coverage to use, and the vehicle has to move back and more added on. This is not always that handy when you are stuck in the middle of a minefield, under fire, and you realize you now have to back out of the mine field on the same path.

So, this comes to map reading. Look at Omaha Beach. You have a beach, some obstacles, and then a high bluff with only a handful of exits. Knock out a tank in one of those exits and it's blocked. Tanks can’t move inland over the bluffs, so they have to move to the exits to get off the beach. On the other hand, infantrymen can cross inland at any place they can find that is not under fire. Thus the last thing you want to do is land a bunch of LCT's (LCM's can flip as we have seen, and an LCT coming in would draw fire from every major weapon in range until it was knocked out), under fire, and trust that a handful of vehicles will make it though said fire and actually get off the beach. They are pretty much limited to actions on that short stretch. That being said, I am not sure exactly what special vehicles would have made much difference on Omaha. The sand was not an issue. The Sherman main gun was faster and more accurate than the special weapons, and the only real way to knock out the pillboxes was a round through the opening.

Looking at Utah Beach we see there is something familiar. You have a beach, then obstacles, a line of defenses, and then more water: the inundated area. There are only a handful of exits from Utah Beach to the mainland, and there is a second line of defenses along its bank. This second line was taken out by the paratroops, or it might have prevented anyone from getting off the beach. But at least the men could walk across the flooded ground. So again you have a very tight space with little room to maneuver.  So ask, what special armored vehicles are going to be useful here?

I suppose you could have used some of the fascine/bridgelayer vehicles to cross the anti-tank ditch, but then again you are creating a bottle neck for everyone else to pass over. Enemy anti-tank weapons love bottlenecks.  Plus, everyone knows that if you stand out, you are more likely to get shot at. "Hey, that guy loks different. He must be important. Shoot him!"  

Now this is all a great oversimplification, but it boils down to the fact that the people running the invasion were not stupid. In fact, many of them were pretty damn smart. I don’t care who he is, but someone has to have some kind of talent to make General, or even Colonel. Most of the time if you if you assume that these guys made a major blunder, you're probably over looking something they knew and you do not. Or you are overlooking some limitations that they knew about.

So unless you can tell me what special vehicle was not used but should have been, and include how it was going to get to shore, and where and when it was going to be used, and rule out other things that could do the same thing, stop with the idea that the American planners were too stupid to use something that you think is kewl because Tamyia makes a 1/35th scale model of it.

Special purpose vehicles are great for special purpose uses; just not all the time.  And oh yeah, Monty still didn’t get Caen on time.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

D-Day Dweebs: Human Wave tactics

I have seen some really funny postings on the internet, and some TV experts, say that the landings on D-day were little more than getting as many men on the beach as possible and pushing them on until they broke through. As one individual wrote "just like Russian human wave tactics." Imbecile.
The landings, and here I speak of the American landings as I never claim to know much about the Commonwealth beaches, were actually pretty well planned and choreographed with specific fire and maneuver tactics. Yeah, you think we took the beaches by having a mass of materiel?
The Assault Training Center was set up to figure out the best way to take the beaches. That is what they did, and they did a pretty good job of it. They made the conscious decision to not put all their eggs in one basket, and divided the firepower up throughout the boat teams. First you land the DD tanks (before the infantry so they don’t get driven over) and hopefully the Germans go "Vas ist das?" and flip out.  Just behind them come the assault teams, and together they would try to knock out a number of the defending positions using a combination of 75mm gun, bazooka, flamethrower, explosive charges, and plain old hand grenades.  In doing so these groups (and tanks) posed the largest threat to the Germans, which hopefully kept them from firing at the gap assault teams that followed.
Then you take a break and let the gap teams do their thing, then you bring in more assault boat teams to reinforce the first wave. All this time the assault teams are using fire and movement to get to beach defenses, pin down the men firing from the embrasures, and allow others to get into a position where they can take the bunker or MG nest out. This was planned and practiced many times, and the variety of weapons allowed them work in different ways, and be able to continue to function if part of the team was knocked out. Diversification at its best.
Of course if you land in the wrong place you have to toss away all your planning, but by having the mixed teams they could take on anything they ran into. Did it always go as planned? Of course not. There were things that went wrong, and things that went right. Mainly the use of individual initiative that we Americans are supposedly known for.  
But the US army DID NOT push man after man onto the beaches and into the jaws of death as a human wave.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

D-Day Dweebs part 1

D-Day Dweebs part 1
I hate this time of year. TV fills up with moronic D-Day shows, many of which provide inaccurate information. People watch them and assume they are now "D-Day experts." I call these folks, or anyone that thinks you can be an expert without doing extensive reading, especially of period documents, a D-Day Dweeb.

One popular thought in these shows is that The Americans screwed up by not providing more pre-invasion naval gunfire support for the landings. Not only to make holes in the beach, but to knock out the emplacements.

 Hmmm, where did that some from?  Especially because, if you take the time to actually read the records, the US Navy specifically said before the invasion they wanted more time to shell the beaches. Sometimes this is lumped in with the idea that the Americans in the UK refused to listen to invasion experts form the Pacific.

This, to be polite, is Bull Hockey.

Fact: The Americans did have men from the Pacific come to England and talk to them about how they did their invasions. These lessons were taken into consideration, but as is clearly stated in reports that most of the suggestions were only suited to invasions on small islands or where there was not a chance of reinforcement.  Thus an informed decision was made to not adopt those concepts that did not seem like they would work in France.  To suggest that the ETO folks ignored advice that would have made the invasion better planned, or save lives, because "it was not invented here" does them a great dis-service.

 As to the case of pre-invasion naval shelling. The US Navy knew the time allotted was too short. They specifically asked for more time. At the very least another hour. This was refused as it would have upset the time table of the British landings. And who was the guy that refused it?   Why the Overall and commander: Montgomery.  So with a shorter than requested fire period, are they going to shell the beaches to make holes, or try and take out as many enemy emplacements as possible?

Now, no one happens to know everything about everything, although I have met people who seem to think they do. If someone can come up with period records showing my period records are in error I would certainly like to know about it. But until then, evidence in hand trumps evidence from a TV show, movie, or D-day Dweeb.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Review: Born at Reveille, By 'Red' Reeder

Born at Reveille, by Colonel Red Reeder.  Kindle E book $2.99

"Red" Reeder used to be quite famous in the Army.   Not only did he write a pile of books about West Point life for the Young Adult Market, but he was a very well known football coach for West Point. Most people today do not know him, but you should as he was the CO of the 12th Inf Regt at Utah Beach.  It was just after landing there that he got badly wounded and taken out of the war, which led him to not only coaching football, but speaking on leadership.

This is a quite good autobiography of his life up through WW2. Lots of good pre-war Army stuff. I'm not going to say it is the greatest book ever, but I did find it very interesting and enjoyable. While he does talk some of his theories of leadership, the section on D-day is important, short, but important.  Had they landed his Regiment at Omaha instead I think he'd be a major hero to a lot more people.

Anyway, it's a Kindle E book for $2.99. You can’t beat that, and it's money well spent.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Book Review: The Harlen Hellfighters

I hate Max Brooks. He has destroyed something I really liked, and looks to be set on destroying a second thing I really like.

In the first case he ruined zombies. I used to be a big zombie fan, back when it was a really niche thing and was actually cool. Then Brooks writes his survival guide, and zombies become as popular as Brittany Spears.  If I never read another bad zombie novel I will be a happy man.

So having ruined zombies for us all, Brooks is now set on ruining WW1. And in specific the Harlem Hellfighters.  Unable to get a script on them produced, he writes a comic book about them, sorry that's "graphic novel" even thought it isn’t a novel.  I am sure that now everyone and their buddy will start to become "experts in the unit, and the war.  The day after publication he sold the screenplay, and it is now 'soon to be a major motion picture.'

In all truthfulness I did not care for "The Harlem Hellfighters."  On one hand I really didn't like the art. Some of it was awkward, and I'm sorry but a chauchat with cut off butt stock being fired one handed by a Frenchman with one eye was just too much for me.  There's enough visual faux paws in it that I wish he had run t by someone that actually knew something about the period first.

But more so I don’t care for things that are "based on a true story" and then make up characters or create scenes that probably didn’t happen. The truth, especially with these guys, is great enough.

After having read an interview in which he talks about how much research he did, and how this is all accurate. Of course there is accurate, and there is accurate. Of course a lot of folks in the WW1 Army were prejudiced.  Of course some folks wanted the blacks to fail. But there are aspects to the story that are left out. Like the famous jazz band refusing to enlist until a bunch of rich people donated enough money that they could be paid their normal 'musician' salary.  

It's not mentioned that the main reason the division was broken up and spread around the French army is that they were not a full division: they were essentially four infantry regiments with none of the supports unit.  Of course that's because some folks did not think the black man could handle the mental gymnastics of modern artillery fire or engineering, but still – that just makes it a more interesting story.

And of course, in at least one interview, he says that John Pershing wrote the infamous "don’t be nice to black troops" memo. Which to my understanding, correct me if I am wrong, was written without being cleared by above by a staff officer, and Pershing was not very happy about it. Seeing as how he had commanded and respected black troops before.

I'll admit I just got kind of bored and fed up by the end part, so I skimmed it. Maybe I missed something, but there are other items of 'race value' that were not mentioned. I was particularly disappointed by how Henry Johnson's run in with the MP' was handled. So in short, I think real WW1 guys will not care too much for it, but it will suck up a lot of those that were not interested before; for good or bad.

 Now, can someone help me cut back my chauchat so I can show up as a bearded French liaison officer with an eye patch and charge the Huns with it in a blaze of glory?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Review: Sepoys in the Trenches

Why would I ever want to read a book about Indians (not Native American Indians) in WW1? Didn't they just lug stuff about and form labor battalions?   You might think so, but no.

Being one to never turn down a book if it is not about the 506th PIR, I had gotten ahold of a copy of this and had it on my "to read" list. Finally got o it, and am glad I did.  Now I have a passing interest in the WW1 British Military, but in the past few years have tried to stick to US subjects.  That being said I really enjoyed this book and found it quite interesting.

I really did not know much about the British/Indian Army of WW1, and found their dual command system fascinating. I was also struck by how the British managed to take multiple units of varying sizes, all composed of different groups, with different languages, from different castes and religions (many having very different dietary restrictions) and actually form them into a pretty good fighting force.  

Consider that some of the men in some units, could not eat food prepared by anyone other than men from a certain caste. Or that one company might be able to eat beef, but not the one next to it. Then consider that replacements were a million miles away (sort of), and the regular QM stocks did not hold some of the proper uniform items, or sizes.

While a good history of these guys in WW1, its also  a really unusual study in the logistics of bringing groups of various backgrounds together in the same unit. I still find it hard to believe they pulled it off.

So, yeah. Recommended if you are keen on the WW1 Commonwealth Army, Obscure WW1 stuff, or just want to read about how they managed one of the strangest forces I have ever read about.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Review: The School of Hard Knocks: Combat Leadership in the American Expeditionary Forces

The School of Hard Knocks: Combat Leadership in the American Expeditionary Forces

by Richard S. Faulkner, Texas A&M Press, 2012.

The C.A. Brannen Series of books on WW1 published by Texas A&M continues to be one of, if not the, best places to look for quality books on the A.E.F.  This work, The School of Hard Knocks deals with what some might find a boring subject: how the officers and NCO's of the AEF were trained.  If you passed it by because that is what you thought, look again.

The US army performed a miracle by growing its multi-million man army in record time. No one disputes that, especially the Germans who said it could not be done. In doig so, however, one of the corners cut was training. This resulted in an army that had the spirit, but poor preparation for the war. The result? A lot more casualties than might have been.  After reading this book you will see a few areas where the Americans could have improved their schools and classes, but also realize how hard it was to keep the formations together when everything kept expanding and you constantly needed men transferred to form new units. All of the different forms of officer schools are covered: Plattsburgh Camps OTS, COTS, and the rest. Also schools set up in Europe for continued training when the units arrived there. Examples of how the training impacted combat are given.

One of the more interesting concepts is that before the war company level officers spent so long in their low rank that they had a great deal of time to learn their trade, nto just in tactics but in how tom manage men, that the suddenly enlarged army no longer had time for the previous type of extended internship, and the lessons learned by senior officers at Leavenworth no longer had any time to trickle down.  

Great credit is given to the French Army officer's school, and the question why we did not adopt the same principle is raised. However the simple fact is the US Army was growing so fast there was little time to develop the types of instructors needed, the very men needed for these schools were the first ones to do anything to get transferred to the front, and the US was continually afraid its men would be little more than replacement bodies for the Allies. While this may seem silly today, Both England and France were constantly pressuring America to just stick out men into their armies and let them run the war. What I found quite interesting in this regard, was the American units that were trained by the British, and commanded in the British zone did not seem to fare any better than the ones kept under US training and command.

I do feel that, once again, Pershing's desire to stress the rifle and open warfare is misunderstood, and he has been wrongfully criticized for this.  In fact, there are places in this book where the author unknowingly refutes some of the commonly held theories by the anti-Pershing league.  It only makes sense that if you do not have any of the specialty weapons of war handy (grenades, automatic rifles, machine guns, trench mortars, etc.) you spent the time on getting the soldiers able to actually hit what they are aiming at with the rifles. There, however, a disconnect between what Pershing wanted and what was actually done in training, that distorted his plans, and left the soldiers spending ungodly hours doing drill, and digging textbook trenches, instead of becoming marksmen and learning about fire and movement.

In any event, this is a really good book on the AEF and goes a long way to understanding how and why the AEF operated. It's recommended for anyone that has a serious interest in the Americans in WW1, as it is not "just a book on training."  I found it fascinating.