Thursday, October 3, 2013


I am reading about war, again. I am drawn to military history.  I want to know how war is planned and prosecuted.  I don't want to know, but learn inevitably about the human failings that prolong war.  Generals, ours and the enemy's, are not the inspired and wise leaders that we want them to be.  The soldiers are always young and mostly brave.  They are butchered unnecessarily when battle planning is compromised by bad intelligence, stubborn leadership, inadequate supplies or  bad weather.  Its the same in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I and World War II.  Probably in Vietnam, Iraq and all other conflicts.  I am reading "The Guns at Last Light" by Rick Atkinson.  It is the last book in his trilogy about World War II.  It covers the Allied invasion of Europe through victory in the war with Germany. It will chill you to the bone.  Atkinson offers detail.  We learn that as the Allies liberated the low lands they feared that Germans would use carrier pigeons to call in support for their retreat.  Based on "Pigeon Reports" issued to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces Atkinson tells us that trained falcons stood ready in England to be sent to the front if pigeons were deployed.  Military censors kept much of the bad news about the Allied assault from reaching families at home.  Atkinson spares nothing.  As the campaign stretched into winter, and progress was measured in yards gained per day, he quotes a chaplain speaking about the psychological toll: "..sound mental health requires a satisfactory life-purpose and faith in a friendly universe".  Atkinson's observation: "On the battlefields of Europe in 1944, no such cosmology seemed likely. "  Good book.  Be prepared to mourn.

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