The Art of Tetman Callis

Some of the stories and poems may be inappropriate for persons under 16

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Look behind you

January 16th, 2017 · No Comments

“I’m always more intrigued with the story no one is telling than the story everyone is telling.” – Liz Ann Sonders, Senior Vice President, Chief Investment Strategist, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.

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No trespassing

January 15th, 2017 · No Comments

“In the premodern world, control reached to points and the lines connecting them; there simply was not enough prevention of motion to go around to cover an entire plane and bring it all under control. In the modern world, this changed, and the topology was inverted: control reached everywhere, and only isolated points were left for motion, that is, not controlled from a center.” – Reviel Netz, Barbed Wire

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No pasaran

January 14th, 2017 · No Comments

“Define, on the two-dimensional surface of the earth, lines across which motion is to be prevented, and you have one of the key themes of history.” – Reviel Netz, Barbed Wire

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The one right thing

January 13th, 2017 · No Comments

“Inchon was to be Douglas MacArthur’s last great success, and his alone. It was a brilliant, daring gamble. It surely saved thousands of America lives just as he predicted. He had fought for it almost alone against the doubts of the principal Navy planners and very much against the wishes of the Joint Chiefs. Inchon was Douglas MacArthur at his best: audacious, original, unpredictable, thinking outside the conventional mode, and of course, it would turn out, very lucky as well. It was why two presidents, who had grave personal and professional reservations about him, had held on to him nonetheless. ‘There was one day in MacArthur’s life when he was a military genius: September 15, 1950,’ wrote his biographer Geoffrey Perret. ‘In the life of every great Commander there is one battle that stands out above all the rest, the supreme test of generalship that places him among the other military immortals. For MacArthur that battle was Inchon.’ ” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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The power of persuasion

January 12th, 2017 · No Comments

“The battle had been hard on his platoon, and [Sergeant] Piazza had fought in a rage . . . . There had been a young man named Ronnie Taylor, barely eighteen, an enlistee from Oakland, Mississippi, whom Piazza felt it was his sacred duty to protect because he was so young, and here he was with a gaping wound in his chest, pleading with Piazza, ‘Don’t let me die! Don’t let me die! You’ve got to get me out of here!’ Piazza had assured him they were trying, but he knew that no one was going to make it off the hill during that fight, and so Piazza had fired and fired while cradling Taylor in his arms, listening to his last gasps of life. In his own words, he snapped at that point, grabbed his M-1 and charged down at some advancing North Koreans, screaming out the name of one of the men in his squad who had died with each burst of fire. How men—himself included—reacted to combat like this, how some were overwhelmed by it and some could handle it, fascinated him. One of his men had received what to Piazza’s eye seemed like a rather minor wound, only a flesh wound really, but he had unraveled and kept insisting, ‘I’m going to die’—and he did. Such was the strange psychology of war, Piazza thought. The soldier had talked himself into dying.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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Small and determined to stay that way

January 11th, 2017 · No Comments

“Theirs was the America of the turn of the century, an America of sound business practices and old-fashioned virtues, of which they were exemplars. They did not owe money and did not depend on the government to employ them. They were the town leaders in an era when that leadership was almost exclusively white, male, and Protestant, and they were largely professional men, in an age when the middle class was still narrow. They belonged to civic clubs where almost everyone they knew felt much as they did about the drift of the country away from what they considered Americanism. The New Deal—and the forces that it had opened the door to—was the enemy. Or, as Senator Hugh Butler of Nebraska had said before the 1946 election: ‘If the New Deal is still in control of the Congress after the election, it will owe that control to the Communist Party in this country.’ These men were instinctively nativist, believing it a strength, not a weakness. They neither liked nor trusted the America that had elected Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, the big-city America of Catholics, Jews, Negroes, and unions. They distrusted anything or anyone that was different.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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Same as it ever is

January 10th, 2017 · No Comments

“Probably as good a date as any for the beginning of World War II is July 1937, when Chinese troops clashed with Japanese invaders near Beijing, close to the Chinese-Manchurian border. If nothing else, it surely ended any hope of the rise of a modern, semi-democratic China under Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist or Guomindang Party, the kind of China many Americans had hoped for, and dreamed of long after it became the most hopeless of causes. What then took place in China, under the dual force of the Japanese invasion and the constant undercurrent of the civil war, was as powerful and complete a transformation of a social, economic, and political order as the modern world had witnessed. It was a cataclysmic event, driven at first by forces from without, but in no way purely an external challenge. It was, at the same time, a challenge of one China, as yet unborn and potentially lethal in its norms and residual hatreds, to another China, at once weak, cruel, and barbaric in its own way: a challenge by one set of violent, autocratic men to another set of autocratic and ruthless men who had ruled so poorly and with such elemental brutality for too long. It was a system of oppression rather than authority that had been imposed with unparalleled harshness and greed upon ordinary Chinese. The few who benefitted were rich, powerful, and lived above the laws, which, in any case, were set by force of arms. The many who were poor existed that way in what seemed like hopeless perpetuity. Every unbearable aspect of their daily lives was marked by some kind on injustice, and the absence of elemental dignity. This China was probably dying even before the first Japanese troops marched into Manchuria.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

→ No CommentsTags: David Halberstam · Economics · Politics & Law · The Korean War · The Second World War

Circling the wagon, hoisting the petard

January 9th, 2017 · No Comments

“It is an undeniable privilege of every man to prove himself right in the thesis that the world is his enemy; for if he reiterates it frequently enough and makes it the background of his conduct he is bound eventually to be right.” – George F. Kennan, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct”

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Pissing with the big dogs now

January 8th, 2017 · No Comments

“Truman and his administration had spanned a critical moment in American history. America was changing, like it or not, from the America that had been, that is, the America that was powerful but did not yet know it and was hesitant to use its industrial muscularity internationally, to the America that would be America the superpower. . . . Truman was the first president who had to deal with the consequences and contradictions of the great victory in World War II, and the power (and responsibility) it bequeathed to his country. He not only had to marshal the government behind a new kind of internationalism but had to deal with a volatile, sometimes hostile, domestic political reaction as the nation slowly began to accept its new responsibilities. The choice was a basic one, between greater internationalism or continued isolation—and, perhaps equally important, how much the country was willing to pay.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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Blind being led by the blinded

January 7th, 2017 · No Comments

“Dwell on the past an you’ll lose an eye. Forget the past and you’ll lose both eyes.” – Russian proverb (quoted by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago)

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January 6th, 2017 · No Comments

“Two points about rationalism stand out: It becomes our privileged way of accessing the world and making sense of the things around us, to the exclusion of other ways of appreciating meaning: moods, our use of tools and other instruments, and our communal traditions captured in language. But the chief defect of this narrowed, receptive mode of rationalism is that it disguises from us our own essential practice of creating meaning in the world through our involvement and engagement with it. As a further result of this, our inclination to rationalism has led us throughout history to build the world, so to speak, in accordance with dimmed-down ‘reason.’ But since reason doesn’t agree with our most fundamental essence as finite, engaged beings, the world we’ve built—starting with the ancient Greeks—is particularly hostile and unwelcoming: hence the destructive phenomena of nihilism as well as our own inherent anxiety about reason. Reason alienates us from our own essence as human beings, and it teases us into thinking, falsely, that the world is separate from our own acting and being within it.” – Alexander S. Duff, “Heidegger’s Ghosts”

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Garret troopers

January 5th, 2017 · No Comments

“The United States would go to war [in Korea] totally unprepared. The first American units thrown into battle were poorly armed, in terrible shape physically, and, more often than not, poorly led. The mighty army that had stood victorious in two great theaters of war, Europe and Asia, just five years earlier was a mere shell of itself. Militarily, America was a country trying to get by on the cheap, and in Korea it showed immediately. The blame for the poor condition of the Army belonged to everyone—the president, who wanted to keep taxes down, pay off the debt from the last war, and keep the defense budget down to a bare-bones level; the Congress, which if anything wanted to cut the budget even more; and the theater commander, MacArthur, under whose aegis the troops had been so poorly trained, and who had only five years earlier said that he did not really need all the troops Washington had assigned him. But mostly it was Truman—the president has to take full responsibility in a matter like this: the Army of this immensely prosperous country, rich now in a world that was still poor and war-ravaged, was threadbare. It had been on such short rations, so desperately underfinanced, that artillery units had not been able to practice adequately because there was no ammo; armored groups had done a kind of faux training because they lacked gas for real maneuvers; and troops at famed bases like Fort Lewis were being told to use only two sheets of toilet paper each time they visited the latrine.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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Viceroy of the Eastern Marches

January 4th, 2017 · No Comments

“In 1950 [General Douglas] MacArthur was so grand a figure that everyone had to play by his rules. In effect he had created not only his own little army within a larger army, which he alone was allowed to command, but his own little world where he alone could govern. Any instructions or orders or even suggestions from Washington were more often than not ignored, even if they came from the general’s nominal superiors, men who, is his own view of the hierarchy, were not superior to him, and therefore had no right to question him or give him orders. He had created a dangerously self-isolating little world, one of total social, political, and military separation from everyone and everything else, where no one dared dissent. The men around him were all in awe of him; those who were not in awe of him tended not to last very long in his headquarters. Visitors who arrived at his headquarters and were deemed worthy of a meeting with him always got The Performance. In the performance—he often practiced that morning in front of a mirror, clad in his bathrobe—he spoke with great confidence and certainty about future events that most men, no matter how knowledgeable, approached with a degree of caution, aware of the tricks that history played. The performances were often quite dazzling, well rehearsed but delivered as if they were impromptu. He was the most gifted of monolinguists. . . . Harry Truman was the accidental president, but Douglas MacArthur was in no way the accidental general.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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Adding up to an unexpected sum

January 3rd, 2017 · No Comments

“Of the many miscalculations made by both sides during the Korean War, perhaps the most egregious on the Communist side was the misunderstanding of how Western democracies, principally the United States, would respond to a North Korean invasion of the South, that it would be viewed through the prism of Munich. [President] Truman’s thoughts were, as he recalled, of how the democracies had failed the last time to stop Mussolini in Ethiopia and the Japanese in Manchuria, and of how easily the French and British might have blocked Hitler’s moves in Austria and Czechoslovakia. In his mind, the Soviets had pushed—perhaps even ordered—the North Koreans to cross the [38th] parallel, and he believed that the only language the Russians understood was force. ‘We had to meet them on that basis,’ he later wrote.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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Men of steel

January 2nd, 2017 · No Comments

“Stalin was a new kind of tsar, a people’s tsar, driven as much by an age-old paranoia—in his case both national and personal—in dealing with the West, a man with little interest or belief in the possibilities of a postwar alliance. By 1950, the Harry Truman who had made the first rather sympathetic run at Stalin was long gone. He had been replaced by a blunt, considerably more suspicious president who felt that the earlier Truman, the one who had ventured to Potsdam, had been ‘an innocent idealist.’ Stalin for his part had gotten Truman as wrong as Truman had gotten him. After they met at Potsdam, Stalin, like various conservative American politicians, had significantly, perhaps dangerously, underestimated the new American president, telling Nikita Khrushchev, then a rising star in the Soviet bureaucracy, that Truman was worthless. A great power chess game had followed the end of the war, inevitably so, given the power vacuum in the world with the collapse of Britain, France, Germany, and Japan, and the disintegration of their empires. By the time of the North Korean invasion [of South Korea], the Cold War had reached its most intense level save for the nuclear abyss the two powers faced during the Cuban Missile Crisis a dozen years later.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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Would you like another cup of tea, dear

January 1st, 2017 · No Comments

“The Japanese, sure of their imperial mission and their superiority as a race, had set out to destroy almost all vestiges of Korean independence. What they wanted was nothing less than to obliterate Korean culture, starting with the language. The official language of Korea was proclaimed to be Japanese; in school, lessons were to be taught in Japanese. The Japanese language text book was called The Mother-Tongue Reader. Koreans were to take Japanese names. The Korean language was to become a regional dialect, nothing more. What the Japanese, like so many would-be colonialists, were to learn, of course, was that if you want to make something valuable to a conquered people, you need but suppress it. Only then did such ordinary things—history, language, local religions, things so easy to take for granted—gain real meaning.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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One damn thing after another

December 31st, 2016 · No Comments

“To the Koreans the end of World War II and Japanese colonialism had not brought, as so many had hoped, a great new breath of freedom and a chance to reconstruct their country to their own political contours. That where there had been only one Korea there were now two was a grievous injustice by itself in their eyes; rather than being able to shape their own destiny on their own terms, they had fallen once again under the control of others. The first thing that the people in the South realized was that their country, or more accurately their half country, was controlled by people who lived thousands of miles away across a vast ocean, and had almost no interest or knowledge of the country whose future they would now determine. It was in the beginning a relationship filled with tensions and misunderstandings. Only as the Cold War intensified did the relationship become one of genuine mutual value and interest. Without the threat of global Communism, America cared nothing about Korea; with that threat Americans were willing to fight and die for it.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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The unforgiven

December 30th, 2016 · No Comments

“For [Sergeant First Class] Bill Richardson, the decisions they made after he returned to the perimeter proved the most painful he ever experienced. Nothing that happened in the next few days, or far that matter in the rest of his life, measured up to it. There were perhaps 150 wounded men there by then, and there was no way any of them could take the dangerous trip out at night under enemy fire in mountainous terrain, at least not without compromising the able-bodied men. All of the wounded in the perimeter knew what was up. None of them wanted to be left behind for the Chinese. Soon after his return, some of them who were still partially ambulatory started coming up to Richardson, crying, telling him not to leave them, please, dear God, not to leave them, not for the Chinese, please dear God take them, don’t leave them there to die. Was it possible, he wondered, to do your duty, to follow the orders of your superiors, orders you agreed with in the end, and get as many men out as best you could, and yet feel worse about yourself as a human being? Do you ever forgive yourself for some of the things you do in life? It was a question he would still be asking himself a half century later.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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No parades upon return

December 29th, 2016 · No Comments

“The Americans who fought in Korea often felt cut off from their countrymen, their sacrifices unappreciated, their faraway war of little importance in the eyes of contemporaries. It had none of the glory and legitimacy of World War II, so recently concluded, in which the entire country had seemed to share in one great purpose and every serviceman was seen to be an extension of the country’s democratic spirit and the best of its values, and was so honored. Korea was a grinding, limited war. Nothing very good, the nation quickly decided, was going to come out of it. When servicemen returned from their tours, they found their neighbors generally not very interested in what they had seen and done. The subject of the war was quickly dispensed with in conversation. Events on the home front, promotions at the office, the purchase of a new house or a new car were more compelling subjects. In part this was because the news from Korea was almost always so grim. Even when the war went well, it did not really go very well; the possibility of a larger breakthrough seldom seemed near, much less anything approaching victory, especially once the Chinese entered the war in force in late November 1950. Soon after, the sardonic phrase for a stalemate, ‘die for a tie,’ became a favorite among the troops. This vast disconnect between those who fought and the people at home, the sense that no matter the bravery they showed, or the validity of their cause, the soldier of Korea had been granted a kind of second-class status compared to that of the men who had fought in previous wars, led to a great deal of quiet—and enduring—bitterness.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter (emphasis in original)

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But you can be president

December 28th, 2016 · No Comments

“If you do not know where you come from, you will always be a child.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

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You can’t see there from here

December 27th, 2016 · No Comments

“No description of how things are from a God’s-eye point of view, no skyhook provided by some contemporary or yet-to-be-developed science, is going to free us from the contingency of having been acculturated as we were. Our acculturation is what makes certain options live, or momentous, or forced, while leaving others dead, or trivial, or optional.” – Richard Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth

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The incineration of the vanities

December 26th, 2016 · No Comments

“In the wake of Japan’s surrender, Hirohito’s soldiers, sailors and airmen were shocked to find themselves objects of obloquy among their own people. Public animosity embraced the humblest as well as the loftiest warriors. After years of suffering, all the pent-up frustration and misery of the Japanese people was made manifest in the wake of defeat. Servicemen who had mindlessly accepted the code of bushido, and sometimes suffered terribly to fulfill its demands, now faced the contempt of their own nation. . . . This was an experience unknown among German veterans who had served in Hitler’s legions. Japan’s early post-war years were characterized by a collapse of hierarchies, a ruthless pursuit of self-interest reflected in looting, crime and wholesale prostitution, unknown at any other period of the nation’s history. Decadence, even depravity, flourished, as the defeated people astonished their conquerors by that fashion in which they abased themselves before all things American. Self-loathing seemed for a time to overtake Japan.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

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A new white man’s burden

December 24th, 2016 · No Comments

“Nowhere was relief at the dropping of the bomb more intense and heartfelt than in prison camps throughout the Japanese empire. Yet even among those for whom Hiroshima promised deliverance, a few displayed more complex emotions. Lt. Stephen Abbott’s closest friend, Paul, a devout Christian, entered their bleak barrack room in Japan and said: ‘Stephen—a ghastly thing has happened.’ He described the destruction of Hiroshima, as reported on the radio, then knelt in prayer. Eighteen months later, Abbott wrote a letter for publication in The Times, citing his own status as a former POW, and arguing that a demonstration of the bomb would have sufficed: ‘The way it has been used has not only provided a significant chapter for future Japanese history books but has also convinced the people of Japan that the white man’s claim to the ethical and spiritual leadership of the world is without substance.’ ” – Max Hastings, Retribution

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We can all have one of these

December 23rd, 2016 · No Comments

“ ‘Little Boy,’ ‘an elongated trash can with fins’ . . . exploded 1,900 feet above Hiroshima’s Shima Hospital, 550 feet from its aiming point. . . . The 8,900-pound device created temperatures at ground level which reached 5,400 degrees and generated the explosive power of 12,500 tons of TNT. All but 6,000 of the city’s 76,000 buildings were destroyed by fire or blast. . . . The detonation of ‘Little Boy,’ the mushroom cloud which changed the world, created injuries never before seen on mortal creatures, and recorded with disbelief by survivors: the cavalry horse standing pink, stripped of its hide; people with clothing patterns imprinted upon their flesh; the line of schoolgirls with ribbons of skin dangling from their faces; doomed survivors, hideously burned, without hope of effective medical relief; the host of charred and shrivelled corpses. Hiroshima and its people had been almost obliterated, and even many of those who clung to life would not long do so.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

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You have to have people killed

December 22nd, 2016 · No Comments

“Many people of later generations and all nationalities have viewed the dropping of atomic weapons on Japan as events which, in their unique horror, towered over the war as a dark mountain bestrides the plain. In one sense this perception is correct, because the initiation of the nuclear age provided mankind with unprecedented power to destroy itself. . . . To grasp the context in which the commitment to bomb Hiroshima was made, it seems necessary to acknowledge the cacophony amidst which all those involved, the political and military leaders of the U.S., were obliged to do their business. These were men in their fifties and sixties, weary after years of perpetual crisis such as world war imposes, bombarded daily with huge dilemmas. Europe was in ruins and chaos, the Western Allies striving to contend with Stalin’s ruthlessness and greed, Britain’s bankruptcy, the starvation of millions. . . . The U.S. found itself obliged to arbitrate upon the future of half the world, while being implored to save as much as possible of the other half from the Soviets, even as war with Japan continued and mankind recoiled in horror from newsreel films of Hitler’s death camps. . . . The bomb was only the foremost of many huge issues with which these mortal men, movingly conscious of their own limitations, strove to grapple. In the course of directing a struggle for national survival, all had been obliged to make decisions which had cost lives, millions of lives, of both Allied servicemen and enemy soldiers and civilians. Most would have said wryly that this is what they were paid for. The direction of war is never a task for the squeamish.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

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The motivator

December 21st, 2016 · No Comments

“On 24 April [1945] Truman received from [Secretary of War] Stimson a letter requesting a meeting to discuss ‘a highly secret matter.’ . . . The Manhattan Project represented the most stupendous scientific effort in history. In three years, at a cost of $2 billion [$26-and-a-third billion in 2015 dollars], the U.S.—with some perfunctorily acknowledged British aid—had advanced close to fulfilling a programme which much of the scientific world had thought unattainable, certainly within a time frame relative to this conflict. . . . Technological determinism is an outstanding feature of great wars. At a moment when armadas of Allied bombers had been destroying the cities of Germany and Japan for three years, killing civilians in hundreds of thousands, the notion of withholding a vastly more impressive means of fulfilling the same purpose scarcely occurred to those directing the Allied war effort. . . . As long as Hitler survived, the Manhattan team had striven unstintingly to build a bomb, haunted by fear that the Nazis might get there first.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

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Divorced from reality, married to perdition

December 20th, 2016 · No Comments

“From the winter of 1944 onwards, a significant party in Tokyo was seeking a route by which to end the war, and to overcome the army’s resolve to fight to the last. Even the most dovish, however, wanted terms that were not remotely negotiable, including the preservation of Japanese hegemony in Korea and Manchuria, freedom from Allied military occupation, and the right for Japan to conduct any war crimes trials of its citizens. . . . The ‘peace party’ thought and spoke as if Japan could expect to be treated as an honourable member of the international community. There was no acknowledgement of the fact that, in Western eyes, the behaviour of the Japanese since Pearl Harbor, indeed since 1931, had placed their nation beyond the pale. Japan’s leaders wasted months asserting diplomatic positions founded upon the demands of their own self-esteem, together with supposed political justice. In reality, their only chance of modified terms derived from Allied fears that a host of men would have to die if an invasion of the homeland proved necessary. As blockade and bombardment, together with the prospects of atomic bombs and Russian entry into the Pacific theatre, progressively diminished the perceived American need to risk invasion, Japan held no cards at all.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

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Once was enough

December 19th, 2016 · No Comments

“Some historians, armed with knowledge of subsequent events, argue that the capture of Okinawa was unnecessary. It did not bring Japan’s surrender a day closer. Yet to those directing the operation at the time, it was perceived as an indispensable preliminary to invasion of the Japanese home islands. [The Battle of] Okinawa exercised an important influence on the development of events thereafter, through its impact upon the civilian, military and naval leadership of the United States. To capture an outpost, American forces had been obliged to fight the most bitter campaign of the Pacific war. The prospect of invading Kyushu and Honshu in the face of Japanese forces many times greater than those on Okinawa, and presumably imbued with the same fighting spirit, filled those responsible with dismay. . . . [A]ny alternative which averted such necessity would be deemed welcome.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

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Cool Hand Luke draws the ace

December 18th, 2016 · No Comments

“At 1005 on 11 May [1945], the first of two Zeroes plowed into the flight deck of [Admiral Marc] Mitscher’s flagship, Bunker Hill, starting devastating fires which raged through the ship. . . . In a succession of skillful manoeuvres, Captain George Seitz saved Bunker Hill from absolute destruction by swinging her broadside to the wind, to prevent smoke and flame from engulfing the hull. . . .  In engine and boiler rooms, miraculously undamaged, crews laboured to maintain power in temperatures of 130 degrees. The Bunker Hill attacks cost 396 men killed and 264 injured. One of them might have been the post-war movie star Paul Newman. He was ordered to the ship as radioman/gunner in an Avenger with a draft of replacements shortly before the attack, but by a fluke of war was held back because his pilot had an ear infection. The rest of his detail died.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

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You don’t miss what you never had

December 17th, 2016 · No Comments

“What enabled some men to survive the unspeakable experiences of captivity, while others perished? [Captain] Mel Rosen attributed 5 percent to self-discipline, 5 percent to optimism—‘If you didn’t think you were going to make it, you didn’t’—and 90 percent to ‘pure luck.’ Milton Young, a carpenter’s son from Rhode Island who spent an orphan childhood working on a chicken farm, believed that an uncommonly harsh upbringing helped him to survive Japanese captivity. He was even grateful not to have a home to think about: ‘I didn’t have much of a family, and that helped.’ ” – Max Hastings, Retribution

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