Lots of ironies and happenstance surrounded the delivery of the first atomic bomb. FDR backed the beginning of the Manhattan Project without the knowlLots of ironies and happenstance surrounded the delivery of the first atomic bomb. FDR backed the beginning of the Manhattan Project without the knowledge of Congress using money off the books. Max Tibbetts, a pilot with an impeccable record who had been the first to fly a B-17 on a bombing raid across the English Channel and was in charge of flight testing the B-29, a plane that had killed its first test pilot and was thought by some to be too dangerous to fly, almost didn’t get the job to drop the bomb. In an interview he admitted he had gotten into trouble in high school for a backseat “dalliance” with a girl. Had he forgotten about it or lied about it he would not have been chosen. They were looking for someone who could be totally honest. Because of that his name would be forever enshrined with the bomb and Hiroshima, a city he had never heard of.
Use of the bomb was never a certainty. Neils Bohr, one of the scientists working on the project, thought science belonged to the world and wanted to open up the research to everyone. A laudable thought but in 1944? To the Germans and Japanese?
Thomas focuses mainly on two participants to get differing POV: Colonel Tibbetts as he prepared the 393 Bombing Group for the mission over Japan; and Officer Yokoyama in charge of the anti-aircraft guns on the hills surrounding Hiroshima. I had always been under the assumption that Hiroshima was primarily a civilian target targeted simply because after General LeMay’s firebombing of Japan there were few cities left to bomb. But, apparently Hiroshima was home to several military industrial sites producing many weapons, although by this stage of the war raw materials were in such short supply they were barely operating. Hiroshima, was highly vulnerable to air attack. All a bomber need do was drop its load within the bowl to be almost certain of causing damage. Apart from a single kidney-shaped hill in the eastern sector of the city, about half a mile long and two hundred feet high, Hiroshima was uniformly exposed to the spreading energy that big bombs generate. Structurally—like San Francisco in the earthquake and fire of 1906—Hiroshima was built to burn. Ninety percent of its houses were made of wood. Large groups of dwellings were clustered together. The Japanese had rationalized the fall of the Marianas and other Pacific Japanese bases by saying it was a strategic withdrawal to lure the Americans closer to the Homeland where they could be more easily destroyed.
In the U.S. secrecy surrounded all preparations for the atomic bomb development and attack. "Many thousands of man-hours and dollars had been spent on tapping telephones, secretly opening letters, collecting details of extramarital affairs, homosexual tendencies, and political affiliations. The dossiers represented the most thorough secret investigation until then carried out in the name of the U.S. government.
I still remain a bit astonished at the naive faith everyone had in the bomb. They really had no idea whether it would work and if it did, what the results might be. How far from the center would radioactivity extend, what would be the effects of the blinding flash, were just a couple of the many questions they had. The extraordinary secrecy probably had as much to do with their fear the bomb might not work as it did that it would work.
The United States, to this date, remains the only country ever to have used nuclear weapons in war....more
Gerald Astor has done a masterful job of weaving together personal recollections from the different sides in the Battle of the Bulge. I really enjoy hGerald Astor has done a masterful job of weaving together personal recollections from the different sides in the Battle of the Bulge. I really enjoy history that mixes context with oral history of the participants. Stories of the rank-and-file are always interesting. In one such example, Lt. General Bradley came up to the line and was miffed when the soldier didn't accord the proper respect with a salute and told him so. The soldier replied that with all the German snipers around, any saluting made the recipient of the salute instant dog food. That, the general understood, and thanked him. I wonder if Patton would have reacted the same. Probably would have been another slapping incident. Of course, no sniper would have failed to see the pearl-handled revolvers. That positive aside, with all the different characters and such a close-up of individual events, it’s sometimes difficult to get the broader picture.
Few of the German commanders were optimistic about the success of Hitler's command for the breakout to take Antwerp through the Ardennes. Training had been poor and the units thrown together collected the rejects of other units. Hitler had ordered that each unit send their best troops, but most commanders, not being daft, sent their rejects and kept the best for themselves. Field Marshal Model was quoted as believing that the attack had barely a ten percent chance of success. Ironically, Skorzeny's idea of dressing Germans as American soldiers paid off occasionally. In one instance a bridge that was to be blown to hinder German tanks, failed to go up because some of the “Americans” involved in laying the charges sabotaged the effort.
Things weren't much better on the American side. The brass were wildly over optimistic in their assessment of German strength and generally bought the air corps reports that the German war machine had been decimated, something we now know to be a fairy tale. German war production was actually up, although they were having some fuel issues. The army did not trust civilians so they disregarded OSS information gleaned from the populace. In addition the troops on the line, as the Germans intelligence had reported, had become a 9-5 army, keeping watch only until about an hour after sunset, then hitting the sack, returning to their observation points an hour before dawn. This lead some German commanders to want to cancel the proposed artillery barrage that was to proceed the attack arguing it would simply alert the American troops. They were overruled. Often, troops that had hardly been in any fighting were ordered to destroy their weapons and surrender. Given the incident at Malmedy, they might have done better to keep fighting. At least then they might have sown a bit more confusion among the German ranks. (I was shocked at how many soldiers were injured when they tried to destroy their rifles by smashing them on rocks only to shoot themselves because they had failed to unload them.) Sometimes paperwork and bureaucracy hindered soldiers in the field. One airdrop of food and ammunition was ultimately canceled because the C-47s, flying out of the UK (another mistake) was canceled when fighter protection hadn’t been notified and the appropriate maps remained undelivered.
It’s a wonder things went as well as they did for the Germans, given the poor training of the “volunteers,” and their own lack of faith in the attempt. Certainly the overly optimistic allies helped. Montgomery was convinced, “the enemy was in a bad way,” and had neither the transport nor fuel to mount an attack. The American front line was know as a 9-5 army, staying on guard until only one hour past dark, then heading back to their huts for sleep, returning to their posts an hour before daybreak.
But after the salient attacks on Bastogne, the push back from the Third Army was tortuous for the infantry. The Germans had specifically infiltrated English-speaking troops in American uniforms into their front lines and they had captured a lot of American equipment so sometimes telling who was the enemy could be problematic. The ground was frozen making foxholes almost impossible to dig, dysentery was rampant, and outfits shifted from place to place making the soldiers wonder just where they were and having no understanding for the total picture. “With all of our constant confusion, I couldn’t see how we were winning and the Germans were retreating. I wasn’t killing anybody. I didn’t see any Germans and their only manifestation was in their shells and machine guns.” Many were frustrated and the inevitable atrocities occurred. “They had nothing to look forward to—except a wound that would evacuate them or a coffin . . . . fighting mad after wading through waist-high snowdrifts for twelve hours to get to Herresbach. Some of our boys ran wild, shooting everything that moved in the town. The Krauts used up all their ammo shooting at our guys, then came out yelling, ‘Kamerad!’ Our troopers would reply with ‘Kamerad, hell!’ and a burst from a tommy gun.” Patton even remarked in his diary that he hoped no one would find out.
In the end, it’s no spoiler that the attempted German breakout was doomed to failure as the Allies’ overwhelming air superiority and materiel determined the outcome as did Hitler’s failure to provide support for the effort once underway. Probably not the best book to read for an overall strategic view of the battle, but excellent for detailed personal accounts.
Marvelous book. I challenge anyone to read the page 14 without rolling in the aisles. It was written in 1966, so some of his amusing comments regardinMarvelous book. I challenge anyone to read the page 14 without rolling in the aisles. It was written in 1966, so some of his amusing comments regarding women and the right to vote in Switzerland don’t apply, but they amuse, nevertheless.
Carry Nation, or Mrs. Nation as he calls her, is “sharply remembered as the apostle of reform violence, prime dragoness on a field strewn with the bones of sinners.” She opposed just about everything including “alcohol, tobacco, sex, politics, government (national, state, and local), the Masonic Lodge, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Jennings Bryan.” Some of her methods were regarded as extreme even by her friends; it was one thing to threaten a man with a hatchet, it was something else to hit him with it. She regarded the distinction as overly subtle.
Insanity ran in her family. Her aunt, during certain lunar phases, made repeated attempts to clamber up on the roof and convert herself into a weather vane. A cousin, at the age of 40, unexpectedly returned to all fours, and was only restored to the vertical after heroic struggles by his minister. Mrs. Nation's mother suffered from the illusion that she was Queen Victoria. Carry often suffered visions involving snakes but those are no more suspect than those of Joan of Arc , both of whom showed an extraordinary interest in edged tools. She wanted desperately to be shot so as to become a martyr to the cause and it's only probably due to the extraordinary western hospitality that she wasn't. Like Amelia Jenks Bloomer, who believe that all women should be stuffed into pants whether they like that or not, Carrie Nation believed that she alone knew what was best for everyone else.
Her father liked to move around a lot and following one move Carry came down quite ill. Assuming that the illness related to some petty thievery (the author doesn’t go into this much.) “It was thought necessary by the authorities that she get to a church as soon as possible, and after a few weeks more dead than alive, she was conveyed in a carriage to a nearby Sunday School, where the minister gave her a book was explaining that petty thieves are as monstrous as bank robbers in the eyes of the Lord. It did not explain the full cycle of larceny where in effect called tycoons work up to the level of stealing whole corporations, railroads, windows savings, gold reserves and even nations at which point the behavior became honorable, &, in fact, widely admired.” :)
“History is replete with incidents to prove that a Baptist at full gallop is a fearsome engine of piety. It seems likely that no other religion extracts such a full measure of self-abasement from its practitioners. At various times and places, a Baptist could be arrested by a deacon, then find himself in prison for riding a horse on Sunday; minor blasphemers could be administered 40 lashes; dancing and card playing where breaches of conduct were on a virtual par with murder.”
She had little luck with men. On the whole, Carry’s contacts with the male sex were enough to send the mildest of women smashing through the center of their recreation. “Many of the people with whom Carry tilted were as reliable as a grizzly with a toothache; she began to brace men on the streets - snatching pipes, cigars and Mexican cigarettes from the males that would have shot of fellow male for a careless slip of the tongue.”
Alcohol was a serious problem. Hard liquor was very prevalent and everyone drank enormous quantities. There were also imitation alcoholic beverages. One was called “Blue Ruin” and it was regularly fed to slaves and servants; those who survived consuming it over the years appeared to have a somewhat altered complexion, reminiscent of “a drowned corpse long in the water.”
“Crying babies were not a serious problem in colonial times; they were probably dosed with enough alcohol to shift them into a state of glassy eyed stupefaction, upon which the caterwauling dried up, to be replaced by pleasurable cooling or song, the intoxicated infants version of quote sweet Adeline.”
Interestingly Carrey's first foray into saloon destruction was in Kiowa, Kansas where she literally destroyed three different saloons. Ironically she couldn’t be charged with a crime since the sale of alcohol in saloons was prohibited by law so technically she was destroying something that was illegal. The novel solution of the town leaders was to simply ignore the damage as if nothing had happened. From there she moved on to Wichita where she and her growing acolytes of the WCTU adopted the famous icon forever attached to her name.
Was she crazy? I’ll leave it up to you to decide. A fascinating tale, drolly told....more
I stumbled across this book while doing some research on Colditz, the supposedly escape-proof castle/prison where incorrigible escapees were housed byI stumbled across this book while doing some research on Colditz, the supposedly escape-proof castle/prison where incorrigible escapees were housed by the Nazis. I had never heard of Neave but reading just a couple of pages hooked me completely. It’s fascinating.
As a child Neave had been sent to Germany in 1933 to learn the language. This gave him an opportunity to witness fascism in practice and he formed a lifelong hatred of authoritarianism that became an obsession.
Unlike his fellow students who wanted nothing to do with war, Neave joined the Territorials. When the war began, he was shipped off to France as part of a Searchlight unit which was unfortunate enough to be assigned to defend Calais against Guderian’s panzers. He was shot by a sniper and captured. (He described these events in his bookFlames of Calais: A Soldier's Battle 1940.**) He was captured and imprisoned in several different POW camps from which he tried to escape each time. Eventually, he wound up in Colditz, the supposedly escape-proof camp (that’s a laugh). He escaped to Switzerland in 1942 where he came to the attention of MI9, one of those shadowy numbered agencies of British Intelligence which, in this case, was “a wholly owned subsidiary of MI6.”
During the war, following his escape, he worked for MI9 in establishing and maintaining the escape routes for downed airmen. Anxious to get France following the Normandy invasions, he pushed through on the heels of the American Third Army in order to personally liberate one of the rather spectacular camps they had established right under the noses of the Germans. It held over 100 men and was supplied by air. One interesting and confirmed story has him preventing the destruction of Chartres Cathedral by American troops with orders to blow it up for fear snipers might be hiding in the towers. If so he personally saved one of the great Gothic cathedrals.
There is a relatively short chapter on Neave’s role in the Nuremberg trials. I was disappointed in its brevity for Neave’s -- he was one of the junior prosecutors -- comments on the reactions of each of the major defendants as the indictments were being read to them I thought were fascinating and would have enjoyed learning more. I realize in a biography one has to be selective, but I would have traded some of the escape detail for more depth about Nuremberg. Especially since the author questions whether Neave took its lessons to heart: “...soldiers should also understand politics, and Nuremberg was the greatest example of civil society seeking to make soldiers understand the nature of their actions and their responsibility to recognise political right and wrong. In his own life, the soldier – politician Neave was not always so scrupulous. He vigorously propounded the virtues of liberty and democracy but flirted dangerously with quasi-military groups in Britain determined to halt what they saw as a drift towards Communism. For the most part, the politician was in charge, but sometimes the soldier took over, as in his attitude to Northern Ireland much later."
He then morphed into politics, but his heart always lay with the secret service and he intertwined the two. Following a heart attack in 1959 (most likely caused by his excessive drinking and smoking, he resigned his ministerial offices and relegated to the back benches where he began to nurse a resentment against what he considered ill treatment from his conservative brethren taking a job as a lucrative parliamentary consultant for an atomic energy company. Back as an MP, his efforts were unspectacular except in the area of compensation for British POWS who had been held by the Germans in concentration camps. He was active in debates on the ‘brain drain’, care of the elderly, nuclear energy, toll bridges and the foot and mouth epidemic among English cattle. Making a long story shorter, Naeve offered his services to Margaret Thatcher as her campaign manager and using the psychological skills of the secret service, performed brilliantly. His intelligence network was “unsurpassed.”
By the early seventies, IRA violence was dominating the news. Following Thatcher’s election, Naeve could have virtually any position in her cabinet. Perhaps because of his MI6 experience he chose Northern Ireland. “Despite his reputation as a vaguely progressive Conservative, Neave was now moving in very deep shadows on the hard right of British – and Irish – politics.” No doubt he thought he could use force to quell the Republican movement. "Roger Bolton, a television producer who knew him and put together a documentary on his assassination, argues the paradox that Neave was a moral man willing to do things that immoral people were not: ‘If necessary, he took the gun out and there were difficult things to be done but for the most honourable of reasons.’ Thatcher perhaps owed him a great deal as Neave was the mastermind behind the coup that “dethroned” Edward Heath. using the “psy-ops” techniques he had acquired during his years in the intelligence services.
Neave was killed by a bomb in his car in 1979. Routledge managed to interview the team (another one of the hopelessly confusing quasi-independent groups with its own acronym (INLA) they were black-hooded and still very secretive, but hoped that by revealing the truth of Neave’s killing, they might persuade the British government to reveal information about some of the government’s own killings.
"He was a public servant who never really stopped being a secret agent.”
A riveting book. One caveat: some knowledge of 20th century British parliamentary history would be invaluable, something I did not have, and without it the central section seemed often ungrounded, but the recounting of his time during the war, his shadowy operations to get Thatcher elected and Northern Ireland make up for that. Highly recommended.
** In his book, Neave makes the case that holding Calais “at all costs” made the evacuation at Dunkirk possible. Liddell-Hart thought that was rubbish noting that the panzer division assigned to Calais was only one of seven and had been deployed because “it had nothing else to do,” and that the brave stand against overwhelming odds was a useless sacrifice that Churchill later glorified to salve his conscience. ...more
Audiobook: By age 28, Capone was virtually “King” of Chicago. He had orchestrated the reelection of Big Bill Thompson, a lunatic so weird that he woulAudiobook: By age 28, Capone was virtually “King” of Chicago. He had orchestrated the reelection of Big Bill Thompson, a lunatic so weird that he would debate animals in cages, in 1927. Thompson is considered the most unethical Mayor in Chicago history and was the last Republican to win election to that office. He ran on a platform of shutting down police raids on the ordinary citizen and had full support of the criminal element. “When I’m elected we will not only reopen places these people have closed,but we’ll open ten thousand new ones…. No copper will invade your home and fan your mattress for a hip flask.” By that time the police had become much more hated than the gangsters. Rather than go after the big guys (who were paying them graft) the cops made arrests by invading people’s homes and arresting anyone with a minute amount of alcohol. Corruption was endemic. (I suspect there is similar if less obvious corruption from the war on drugs.) There was just too much money to be made. The Volstead Act was celebrated, especially by the crooks.
No one was ever quite sure just how much Capone’s empire took in, but reasonable estimates place it close to $1.5 billion a year in today’s money. The intricate web of speakeasies, prostitution, gambling, and every other imaginable criminal enterprise all paid Capone. He was smart, however, in that he was lavish with payoffs to cops and politicians and never was envious of others in his organization being ostentatious with their wealth. For himself, he was not. His sole extravagances were gambling, fine suits, and a seven-ton Cadillac, heavily reinforced so has to make it impervious to bullets. Other than that he lived a modest lifestyle.
It was the passage of the 16th amendment that probably got Capone. Aside from the fact that constant gang warfare and street shootings were having an impact on the rich by driving up insurance premiums and reducing their income of the wealthy; now gangsters were required to report their income. Manny Sullivan had argued in court that reporting income on illegal activities was tantamount to self-incrimination (United States v Sullivan, 1927) and thus a violation of the 5th amendment. He lost unanimously and tax fraud investigations were conducted by postal inspectors, famous for their honesty and integrity. No one dared violate the postal regulations because they were sure to be caught and convicted. President Hoover had declared that the rule of law would prevail and it was reported that every day he would ask his associates if Capone was in jail yet. Hoover, in his inimitable way suggested that everyone just stop drinking and that would ruin the crooks. Well, we know how well abstinence theory works.
The stock market crash (It’s just a depression, not a panic, said Hoover) affected Capone little. He had refused to participate in the stock market, arguing he was a piker compared to the crooks on Wall Street and given the activities of the media and brokers to hype stocks (“hey, they will only go up, be sure to hang on to them, and what a great time to buy” while they were selling,) he had a point.
One hindrance to any Capone prosecution was that he didn’t keep any books. So the details necessary to get him had to come from the inside. That insider was Eddy O’Hare. Eddy had managed to get the rights to the electric rabbit that revolutionized dog racing. Recognizing he was better off colluding with Capone than competing with him in dog racing, they formed a partnership. Frank had a son, Butch, who desperately wanted to fly airplanes. Apparently he was a loveable kid and the apple of his father’s eye so Eddy made a deal with Frank Wilson, the most active of the prosecutors (Eliot Ness and the “untouchables” should have been called “the inactives” according to Eig) to help Butch get into the Naval Academy. As everyone knows who flies through O’Hare airport in Chicago, Butch was killed during the war in 1943 after becoming the Navy’s first ace. He was also awarded the Medal of Honor.
Lots of detail about shootings and the role of the “Tommy” gun, the staccato sound of which apparently became familiar background noise for Chicagoans. Not to mention how the new science of ballistics was used in the investigation of the St. Valentine's Day massacre. I found the early parts of the book to be quite superficial, but it definitely became more interesting as the decade progressed..
Anyone complaining about corruption today needs to do some reading about the early 20th century. Prohibition, much like our current drug laws, created multiple scenarios for graft, murder, and political decadence. We obviously learned nothing from prohibition, but then we don’t have machine guns going off in the streets constantly, either. Oh, wait....more
If you are looking for information about Alan Turing, look elsewhere. The title is a metaphor.
The Nazis did the U.S. a huge favor with their boorish aIf you are looking for information about Alan Turing, look elsewhere. The title is a metaphor.
The Nazis did the U.S. a huge favor with their boorish and stupid racial policies. Many prominent Jews were brilliant mathematicians and physicists, and when the “cleansing” of universities began by the Nazis, people like Van Neumann, Einstein, and many others fled to the United States where they were of immense assistance in the development of the atomic bomb.
This book is about the origins and development of the digital age and Dyson spends considerable space on the people and institutions key to that development. The Princeton Institute for Advanced Research, for example, under Abraham Flexner and Oswald Veblen, recruited many of these refugees who helped build the Institute into one of the premier research institutions. I suppose it all has special interest for me as my life span parallels the development of the computer. I was born in 1947. In the 7th grade I became fascinated by ham radio and electrons and studied the intricate workings of the vacuum tube, a device for which I still have some reverence. I’m still dismantling and messing with the insides of computers.
Ironically, given the book’s title, John Van Neumann takes center stage with Turing playing only a peripheral role. Van Neumann’s interest in digital computation was apparently sparked by reading Turing’s seminal article. “On Computational Numbers” that led him to the realization of the importance of stored program processing.
What Turing did that was so crucial was to take Gödel’s proof of the incompleteness theorem that permitted numbers to carry two meanings. Turing took that and thought up the paper tape computer that produced both data and code simultaneously. That realization alone was fundamental in providing the basic building block for the computer.
The builders had conflicting views of the incredible computational power they had unleashed that was to be used for both ill and good. Van Neumann recognized this: “ A tidal wave of computational power was about to break and inundate everything in science and much elsewhere, and things would never be the same.”
It would have been impossible to develop the atomic bomb without the computational abilities of the new “computers.” So naturally, the Manhattan Project is covered along with the influence of the evil Dr. Teller (I must remember to get his biography,) who was the character (Dr. Strangelove) brilliantly played by Peter Sellers. After the war, Teller pushed very hard for the development of the “super-bomb” even though he knew, or must have known, that his initial calculations were flawed because he didn’t have the computational power to do them completely. One number that I questioned was the Dyson’s reporting that when the Russians exploded a three-stage hydrogen bomb in 1961, the force released was equivalent to 1% of the sun’s power. That sounds wildly improbable. Anyone able to contradict number?
Some interesting little tidbits. One computational scientist refused to use the new VDTs, preferring to stick with punched cards (he obviously never dropped a box of them) which seemed far more tangible to him than dots on a screen. I guess fear of new technology is not reserved for non-scientists.
One of the major and very interesting questions addressed by Turing and reported on in the book is what we now call artificial intelligence. When we use a search engine are we learning from the search engine? or is the search engine learning from us? It would appear currently the latter may be true. Clearly, the search engines have been designed to store information and use that information to learn things about us both as a group and individually. I suspect that programs now make decisions based on that accumulation of knowledge. Is that not one definition of intelligence? (I will again highly recommend a book written and read quite a while ago that foresaw many of these issues: The Adolescence of P-1 by Thomas Ryan (1977)** . Note that Turing talked about the adolescence of computers and likening them to children.)
Some reviewers have taken Dyson to task for emphasizing abstract reasoning that went into the development of the computer while downplaying the role of electrical engineers (Eckert and Mauchly) in actually building the things. I’ll leave that argument to others, not caring a whit for who should get the credit and being in awe of both parties. On the other hand, the book does dwell more on the personalities than the intricacies of computing. There are some fascinating digressions, however, such as the examination of digital vs analog and how the future of computing might have been altered had Vann Neumann not tragically died so young as he had a great interest in biological computing and the relationship of the brain to the computer.
This is the book the HBO series used for its basis. Contrary to popular myth, Atlantic City was not a summer playground for the rich but rather a workThis is the book the HBO series used for its basis. Contrary to popular myth, Atlantic City was not a summer playground for the rich but rather a working class getaway that catered to every illicit whim. Brothels and gambling flourished, but Prohibition really made Atlantic City famous and rich. Under “Nucky” Johnson, the “Commodore’s successor, anything nominally illegal elsewhere could be had in Atlantic City. “A naughty time at an affordable price.”
The short history of Atlantic City presented at the beginning of the book is really quite interesting. The land was bought up originally to develop a health spa, but then, in order to make it accessible a railroad was required to get people from New York and Philadelphia. But in order to compete with Cape May, summer playground of the rich, they tried to appeal to the working man so prices had to remain low. Soon there were four railroads delivering customers (in spite of swarms of green flies and mosquitoes that sometimes drove horses crazy - not to mention people.) To serve customers cheaply, labor costs had to be kept low, and poor southern blacks who had suffered as slaves and were then abused after Reconstruction was destroyed politically, migrated to Atlantic City to fill the jobs. Whites wanted nothing to do with them socially and soon the city was segregated into white and black ghettos. "[The] irony of it all was cruel to Blacks. They earned a respectable wage, could vote, and own property. They performed the most personal of services and were entrusted with important responsibilities, but they were barred from restaurants, amusement piers, and booths; were denied shopping privileges by most stores; were admitted to hotels only as workers; were segregated in clinics and hospitals; and could only bathe in one section of the beach, but even then had to wait until after dark."
Louis Kuehnle, otherwise known as the “Commodore,” was soon running the town, but in a wise, if corrupt, manner. He focused on infrastructure, building water and transportation systems that functioned well, and paving the streets. “Commodore understood that Atlantic City’s business owners would gladly sacrifice honest government for a profitable summer and he gave them what they wanted. Kuehnle protected the rackets from prosecution and worked with the tourist industry to ensure its success. In exchange, the community let him call the shots.”
Unfortunately, following the election of Woodrow Wilson, the Presbyterian antithesis to anything fun and later president, to the NJ governorship cramped things. “Wilson was a crusader who saw things in black and white. Impersonal in his relations, he attracted supporters in much the same way people latch on to an abstract principle.” His attorney general went after election fraud and that resulted in Kuehnle’s imprisonment, opening the way for “Nucky” Johnson who was far more corrupt and even more controlling. Johnson got himself appointed City Treasurer, a non-elective office, which he held for decades and which held the key to all graft. The 18th amendment played right into the hands of Nucky and all during Prohibition booze flowed freely and openly as Atlantic City became a huge transit port for liquor.
Johnson had a gift for understanding people, their desires, and needs. He managed to control the city to such an extent that virtually everyone owed their jobs to him. “Crucial to his power and the control of the Republican organization, he learned how to manipulate Atlantic City’s Black population. He continued the Commodore’s private welfare system, but the assistance he gave Johnson went beyond what Kuehnle had done for blacks; come the winter he was their savior. Long stretches of unemployment in the off-season could be devastating. Johnson saw to it that the Northside had food, clothing, coal, and medical care. “If your kid needed a winter coat, all you had to do was ask—maybe it wouldn’t fit but it was warm. If the grocer cut off your credit, the ward leader told you where to shop on the party’s tab. The same was true if someone needed a doctor or a prescription filled.” Corruption as good government....more
There have been more than 55,000 books and pamphlets written about the Civil War since 1861. Why another? The author, in his introduction suggests it’There have been more than 55,000 books and pamphlets written about the Civil War since 1861. Why another? The author, in his introduction suggests it’s because he has a reinterpretation, proposing that the Civil War was inevitable given the illiberal reactions of the south based on their justified fear of slave insurrection, rebellion, sabotage, and impact of the growing differences between between free and slave labor..
Ironically, racism was enhanced by the American Revolution as class differences disappeared and racial differences became necessarily more pronounced in order to make slavery palatable. “Blacks” were genetically “inferior” and well suited for being mastered was the claim. The social history of slaves and slavery really only got started in the sixties, and historians discovered that slavery was resisted, often quite violently. Ashworth proposes that slave rebellion played itself out politically and was a major contributor to the war.
It was the fear of slave rebellion and slave violence that moved whites to take actions that violated white liberties which helped fuel anti-slavery feeling in the north. Constant vigilance against slaves running away and then efforts to get them back (slaves often represented a considerable investment, perhaps the equivalent cost as a nice car in today’s dollars) resulted in pressure for the federal government to enforce the Fugitive Slave Clause of the Constitution and then later the stricter Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. As the number and membership of abolition societies grew in the north, actions by the south, including censoring the mails to (prohibit distribution of pamphlets, and the gag rule in the Senate intended to prevent petitions to eliminate slavery, began to identify antislavery with freedom of speech. (See also William Miller’s Arguing about Slavery: John Quincy Adams and the Great Battle in the United States Congress.) The murder of abolitionist Lovejoy in 1837 made things worse.
No slave society in history has managed to urbanize or industrialize and the distinction in that regard between the north and the south became ever more manifest. By the time of the civil war 90% of manufactured goods came from the north and barely 10% of the southern population was urbanized. The contrast between free labor and that of slaves also became more obvious. It wasn't that industrial slaves weren’t profitable. They were, but the potential for sabotage was much greater and the economic effects much more damaging while the implements required for an agricultural economy didn’t require nearly the economic investment. Not to mention that white labor deeply resented competing with slave labor and that “agitators” could much more easily organize slaves to revolt in an urban setting. According to James Henry Hammond, one of South Carolina’s most prominent statesmen, “whenever a slave is made a mechanic, he is more than half freed”. “The field”, another southerner concluded, “is the proper sphere of the negro”.
A further reason for the lack of urbanisation and industrialization was the self-sufficiency of the plantation. Since the need for labor on a farm was seasonal at best, but the slaves were property, and it was important to keep them busy, it became an economic necessity for owners to encourage slaves to raise their own food which in turn reduced the need for labor-saving equipment further reducing the impetus for industrialization while in the north wage-labor could be laid off when times warranted.
Support of non-slaveholding whites was important since they were needed to patrol areas and to provide assistance in case of slave revolt. In most southern states, whites were outnumbered, often by considerable numbers, so creating an image of the savage black man became essential, but at the same time the myth of Christian protection was created to salve their own consciences, i.e. that the black man needed saving and protection because he was “childlike.” In other words, slavery was “good for them.” An extension of this was that by having slaves do menial jobs, the free white man didn’t have to. And, of course, they could point to the founders of the republic, many of whom had owned slaves, so how could it be a bad thing? The slaves themselves were quite happy, they insisted, all suggestion to the contrary coming from northern agitators.
This review is getting a bit long, so I’ll end with this quote: In the following decades these attitudes began to change dramatically. It would be a pardonable exaggeration to claim that in the nineteenth century, the United States went from a belief that democracy was incompatible with wage labour (on a large scale) to an assumption that a successful free society and democratic government depend on wage labour and are scarcely possible without it. From the 1830s onwards the abolitionists were in the vanguard of this movement. The adjustment to the arrival of wage labour on a large scale would bring with it a new hostility to slavery. . . In the United States, the writer continued, “the wheels of fortune revolve too rapidly, and the rich and poor change places too frequently, to allow a foundation for such an agitation as this”. The driving force of the entire system was, of course, self-interest: the prospect of upward mobility gave the worker a huge incentive to labour. At this point the antislavery implications became apparent. The slave simply lacked these incentives. In the vast majority of cases he could never cease to be a slave. Moreover because his labour was given under duress, it could not, abolitionists were confident, energise an economy and foster its development. Nor was it properly respected. As a result “indolence” and “dissipation” ruled in the South. According to abolitionist Charles Beecher, “slavery degrades labor, discourages education, science, art; enfeebles commerce, blights agriculture, and continually works society towards barbarism”. As northerners re-examined the basis of their labour system and stressed the incentives available to wage workers (as to other northerners), in increasing numbers they found it difficult to ignore the antislavery implications....more
I remember when, years ago, long before I retired, a guy came into the library and wanted some really obscure information on Ferris Wheels. I got to tI remember when, years ago, long before I retired, a guy came into the library and wanted some really obscure information on Ferris Wheels. I got to talking with him and over the years we became friends. He had some kind of menial job, working at KFC or something, but he was absolutely obsessed with Ferris Wheels and knew just about everything you can imagine about their history and how they work. He was thrilled when we managed to dig up the arcane material he sought.
I've always secretly admired people like that. They have a singular, driven purpose and interest that I lack. I’m interested in many, many things, but rarely obsessed with one item alone at that depth, so I've had a bazillion hobbies.
I like John McPhee who so engagingly writes about these personalities. We have William Miller, a theology maven, who has sunk all his money and time into the development of a bizarre little craft, neither airship nor airplane; John Kukon, model builder extraodinaire who had won a ridiculous number of model plane speed records, one using a fuel of his own design that was so powerful it broke the world speed record and couldn't be shut off, the plane flew for six miles; and how Aereon, the company they built, fell apart.
For whatever reason, the obsession with airships resurfaces every few years. Just read Popular Mechanics for a periodic revival of interest as a way to haul huge loads cheaply over undeveloped wilderness. For Drew and Miller, the interest was tinged with religious fervor, but they sacrificed a great deal for their dream.
Wonderful story, laced with history, (the story of Andrew Solomons parallels that in John Toland’s The Great Dirigibles.) McPhee always manages to take something apparently mundane and turn it into a fascinating essay about people and their relationship to the world around them. ...more
Anyone who has followed publishing and the current battles between publishers and retailers, first Borders and Barnes and Noble, and now Amazon, willAnyone who has followed publishing and the current battles between publishers and retailers, first Borders and Barnes and Noble, and now Amazon, will realize there is a fundamental shift going on in the publishing world, each side claiming the high ground and righteousness in the unending quest for more profits. If you dig a little deeper into the quagmire, the name Shatzkin will pop up. I’ve been following Mike Shatzkin’s blog for several years and it’s become obvious, as a consultant for the publishing industry, he looks at the world through their eyes. When a comment I made on the blog regarding changes I thought needed to be made in the publishing industry to maintain profitability, he simply dismissed most of it by saying I didn’t know what I was talking about and recommended this book, by his father, Leonard, who had worked in the industry for many years, and whom Mike had a tendency to quote perhaps a bit too often given the radical changes now occurring more than a decade after Leonard’s death.
“In Cold Type” is very good. Written for the layman (I’m a primarily a reader although as a librarian and micro-micro-micro publisher whose uncle was president of Silver Burdett, I have been fascinated by the economics of publishing all my life,) it’s a wealth of contrarian information about the industry as it existed in 1982, just before the cataclysm began to occur. Indeed, it comes with its own publisher’s disclaimer, not so unusual now, but then, before everyone became afraid to even remotely associate himself with any kind of idea, rare, indeed.
First, my biases. I’m a reader, and therefore have an interest in a vigorous and competitive market for books. I’m also not wedded to any particular format, being primarily interested in content. It’s what’s written that makes the book, not whether it’s used, hardcover, paperback, clay tablet, or ebook. My preference currently is solidly in the ebook camp since I can carry around my whole library on any number of electronic devices. (Did I mention I love electronics, too?) I think ebooks have many, many advantages for authors and their incomes.
So I remain astonished at the continued inefficiency of the publishing world and its resistance to change. The remainder system is stupid. Even in 1982, Leonard saw that: “For every copy of a hardcover book sold at its normal retail price, one book is sold as a remainder-- a book that goes from the publisher to the remainder dealer for less than the cost of producing it and with zero income to the author. No other industry can make this claim. And it's truly insane.” That particular inefficiency raises costs for everyone, but it has an even more insidious effect as it removes accountability from the buyer for trying to estimate how many copies of a title s/he might be able to sell. If there is no penalty for over-ordering, what the heck, order tons.
Another of my biases is warehousing, particularly after the IRS decision that products warehoused would be taxed (the infamous Thor decision.) That makes storing stuff expensive. POD, i.e. printing on demand, and ebooks have the potential to eliminate warehousing; IF, publishers move away from printed copies, or change to POD. Why not have a POD machine in the bookstore. At the Frankfurt Book Fair, I saw one of these deliver a bound, trade paperback with color cover in just a few minutes. Those machines are now going for less than $100,000 last time I looked. The downside to that is the cost per book remains flat, whereas, for example, the last book we had printed in a 2,000 copy run (I did say micro-micro…) provided us with a declining cost per copy over 500 copies and would have been much less per copy for 10,000. One type-setting, etc. have been costed out, the printing is really cheap. That was 15 years ago. Today, I wouldn’t bother. I don’t want inventory so POD and ebook would be the way to go and the initial investment is much less, even after accounting for copy-editing and design. That “should” permit higher royalties for the author.
Shatzkin’s first chapter is devoted to a review of problems in the industry in 1982: 1.)Remainders, which distort the market by providing for expensive distribution, a devaluation of the book when people wait for the price to drop soon after release, and competition from remainder stores that compete with full price independent bookstores; 2.) Books are too expensive, resulting from “antiquated book production methods and “poor distribution and poor production,” and he believes with more efficiency retail prices could be “half their present level.” Consumers deal with this by waiting for the book in a cheaper edition or buying remainders.; 3.) Consumers leave stores disappointed, not finding what they went in to get, from the “skimpily stocked stores that make up the majority of retail shops.” He cites surveys showing this number of disappointed people may be as high as thirty percent. 4.) Competition from chains. In those days he cited B. Dalton and Walden, both of which are now gone. Publishers like chains because distribution is more efficient and “dealing with the chains seems so much simpler and less expensive.” 5.) General lack of profitability in book publishing, where most of the profits come from selling subsidiary rights providing a stronger push toward the “blockbuster.” 6.) Not being able to provide support for excellent writers, the horrifying example of Confederacy of Dunces being an example; 7.) The short life of the trade book caused, he says, by an inefficient distribution system that means “as many as 90 to 95 percent ...are stone cold by the end of their first year.” Thirty percent of books are returned unsold and 25% never make it to bookstores, going directly from warehouse to remaindered. (Another thirty percent go to libraries, a problem he worries about but I won’t deal with here except to say that a New Yorker article years ago reported that the trade book market would collapse without libraries.) 8.) How all these factors enter in to making lousy editorial decisions, “Tens of thousands of titles published into an unstructured distribution system, millions of unpredictable negotiations between sales reps and booksellers, the happenstance of a book getting into a particular store, together with unforeseeable outside influences—reviews, attention by celebrities, quirks of public taste—lead to results in which chance is the dominant factor. The remaining chapters go into detail about each aspect of the industry and the problems he has identified.
Now what’s interesting is that the ebook revolution solves every one of those problems but one: libraries. Distribution is cheaper, no returns, online stores can stock literally everything, prices are less, and theoretically dealing with a store like Amazon solves their “simplicity” problem. The long tail and a book never going out of print means a book can technically sell forever removing the incentive to seek the blockbuster and books need never go out-of-print. With ebooks one could literally publish just about everything (that’s what’s happening with the rise of digital self-oublishing.) One can only surmise how profitable and better the industry would be today had they fully embraced the ebook revolution instead of fighting it.
There are some independent publishers opting out of the traditional morass so well described by Shatzkin. I know of one small publishing company devoted to high quality young adult and middle grade reader books, namelos.com, run by the famous editor Stephen Roxburgh of Farrar, Strauss and Giroux (he was Roald Dahl’s editor) and Cricket Books who is doing just that. His new company is publishing in POD and ebook formats only. That means he has difficulty in getting his books into bookstores, but they are widely available online. Whether he’ll be successful or not remains to be seen.
Be forewarned. My view of the industry is biased. I’m a reader. On the other hand the symbiosis between readers and authors is essential. The mediation of a publisher/’gatekeeper perhaps less so. Leonard’s warnings might have helped stave off catastrophe for a while. Whether they will be heard today with a vastly different environment remains to be seen. I hope so.
P.S. I read this book on my Kindle. In one of life’s lovely ironies, the ebook comes with a big, gold QED Approved sticker promising the highest quality assurance. So not a few pages later I laughed when I saw the following: “...the methods of pofit [sic] and loss…” On the other hand, the new technology such as Amazon’s Createspace and digital delivery would permit virtually instant revision, even so far as to make changes to the purchaser’s copy in his device.
Can't wait to dig into this, although I fear it may result in another of my mammoth reviews. Fascinating interview of Kinzer by Brian Lamb at http://wCan't wait to dig into this, although I fear it may result in another of my mammoth reviews. Fascinating interview of Kinzer by Brian Lamb at http://www.c-span.org/video/?315393-1.... Even if you never read the book, you must watch the interview. For the only time in our history two brothers controlled both overt and covert foreign policy, and their Calvinist good v. evil view of everything, coupled with their fear of neutralism, led them to embark on a host of nation building (and ultimately anti-democratic) experiments that left us with several messes, the largest of which was Vietnam followed by Iran.
Annie Jacobsen is obsessed with secrecy. Her other book, Operation Paperclip, deals with the hidden machinations of the US government after WW II to fAnnie Jacobsen is obsessed with secrecy. Her other book, Operation Paperclip, deals with the hidden machinations of the US government after WW II to find and import Nazi scientists who had special expertise in rocketry and chemical weapons.
This book details the hidden history of Area 51, an ultra-secret location (officially it doesn’t exist) in the Nevada desert just next to the atomic weapons testing area. Supposedly created by the CIA in 1955 for U-2 flights, Jacobsen discovered it had been set up by the Atomic Energy Commission to conduct tests some might consider to be unethical on animal subjects. The secrecy of the Manhattan Project, an effort unknown to Congress and even the Vice-President --Truman was briefed on it only after he assumed the presidency, -- was adopted as SOP by the CIA, NSA, and AEC to the point where one might argue the United States had a shadow government run by the military.
Jacobsen’s entry into this world came by chance when she met Edward Lovick, an 88-year-old physicist, who suggested he might have an interesting story for her and connected her with other elderly pilots, engineers and scientists regarding the plane known as Oxcart (the A-12) which had been created half a century earlier.
Some of the secrecy was arguably quite necessary since it related to aerial surveillance that ostensibly helped keep the world from nuclear holocaust. Whether even in hindsight this kind of secrecy justified keeping the president (President Clinton was not privy to Area 51 affairs) out of the loop is problematic and certainly undemocratic.
The UFO conspiracy theories emanating from Area 51 she attributes to some seriously awful human research being done there during the early cold war and the whole UFO nonsense became useful for the Air Force as a cover for its own nefarious activities. Who needs nasty aliens when we have the Air Force?
Area 51 was where the U-2 was developed. Richard Bissell (of later Bay of Pigs fame) was put in charge and everything was so secret and control of the money providing so much power that Curtis LeMay, the Air Force general and SAC commander, was royally pissed off and he was not someone to mess with. Eisenhower insisted that the pilot be CIA so as to avoid charges of military complicity should one of the pilots ever be captured. The last thing he wanted was to risk charges of hostile action. Yet hundreds of Air Force personnel were assigned to the program (by Bissell) since they had all the expertise. Eisenhower, when pushed by LeMay, insisted it remain under CIA control so he could have plausible deniability.
Secrecy could cause problems. Since they wanted no one to drive to Area 51 or live in Las Vegas, the closest town, a shuttle between Burbank and the area was initiated and workers lived in Burbank. No flight plan was listed nor any record of the flights kept. So when, inevitably, the C-54 became lost in a snowstorm, and asks for help finding their position, controllers were completely flummoxed; they had no record of any plane being in that area. The plane crashed on the top of Mount Charleston north of Las Vegas killing some all on board. Several interesting side-effects resulted from the crash. It was the first time the U-2 was used on a mission (to help pinpoint the exact location so they could retrieve briefcases and classified documents), and the CIA learned how easy it was to use the public’s preconceptions and the media’s desire for a story - any story -- to manipulate publicity. The press, denied access to the site, made up a story that those killed on board were working on a secret nuclear weapons program, hence all the security.
It’s no wonder UFO sightings proliferated. The U-2 was originally silver in color, had an extraordinary wing span, and flew at 70,000 feet during a time when commercial aircraft flew between 10,000 and 20,000 feet. The sun glinting off the plane made it look like some kind of fiery cross. You have to remember this was a time of great paranoia. Americans were terrified of nuclear holocaust and a Russian induced Armageddon. I remember being on my uncle’s farm in Wisconsin in the late fifties scanning the sky every time we heard a plane, jotting down the characteristics and its direction of flight, so the information (my uncle volunteered with the Civil Air Patrol) could be phoned in and checked to make sure it wasn’t some Russian bomber. (Even then we thought it odd that a Russian bomber would make it all the way to Wisconsin without dropping any bombs, but logic never plays much of a role in paranoia.)
Politics. money and the media all symbiotically created the perfect storm of paranoia in the fifties. Time Magazine was terrifying readers with stories of Soviet ICBMs crashing down on American cities; Curtis LeMay was locked in a battle with the Defense Department over whether manned bombers were better than ICBMs (they could be recalled, missiles could not while he called for a pre-emptive strike on Russia and even ordered massive test launches of B-47s** from Alaska and Greenland taking them just to Russian airspace risking a Russian missile launch.) He disdained the overflight research being done at Area 51 but continued to lose officers to both that program and the missile initiative promoted by the Paperclip scientists imported from Germany.
Those wanting a specific focus on Area 51 will be disappointed as Jacobsen uses it more for a springboard to discuss the history and background of such things as the U-2 flights, etc. Personally, I loved those details and once again was amazed that we survived the twenty years after WW II without descending into WW III. Our arrogance and self-righteous behavior was on display over and over. Can you imagine the Congressional reaction had the Soviets flown a U-2-like plane over the U.S.?
One interesting, if scary, tidbit is that the physical experiments for the U-2 pilots were designed by Paperclip doctors, i.e., German doctors who had conducted experiments on concentration camp victims. Many of those tests buggered the imagination.
Project 57 involved another kind of test. Assuming that someday an Air Force plane would crash in the United States carrying a nuclear bomb, the scientists wanted to see what would happen. (Today we would call that a dirty bomb.) The only area that could guarantee secrecy, was outside the area normally allocated for open air nuclear testing, and wouldn’t be used for 25,000 years (the half-life of plutonium) was in Area 51.
The book abounds with scientists, who, had they conducted the experiments they did for the other side, would have been labeled evil. James Killian, for example. Former president of MIT, Kennedy asked him to be head of a super-secret internal agency that was hidden even from Congress. Killian authorized two extremely dangerous atmospheric 3.2 megaton hydrogen bomb tests, one at a height of 140,000 feet, over the Pacific, i.e. in the midst of the ozone layer. In order to see what the effects would be on eyesight, hundreds of monkeys were flown, their heads locked into a position where they would have to look at the explosion. Their retinas were burned, blinding them painfully. The effect on the ozone layer wasn’t recorded (although I suspect it was far more deleterious than aerosol chloroflourocarbons) and damage was observed 250 miles away.
I could go on. Let’s just say Jacobsen uses Area 51 discuss a wide range of topics and people related to work done at Area 51. to I won’t spoil anything by discussing the flying disc that crashed in 1947, but will whet your curiosity only by suggesting you research the Horton Brothers and Operation Paperclip. Or, you could read the book. It’s a depressing page-turner. I won’t ever believe again anything coming out of Washington or the media. I’ve always said that if you really want to find out what happened, forget the daily news and wait a decade for the book, or, in this case wait fifty years for some things to be declassified..
**LeMay sent some flights over Russia to test their radar defense. Some of these were shot down and those pilots who survived spent the rest of their lives in the Gulag. When asked about the provocative nature of the flights, he replied, “With a little more luck we could have started WW III.” The CIA was not happy and reported his clandestine activities to Eisenhower in 1956. LeMay’s actions, ironically, provided an extra boost to the push for the U-2 as the CIA argued it could provide necessary intelligence about Russian capabilities at far less risk. Still Eisenhower worried that one might be shot down triggering a nuclear holocaust. Bissell assured the president that could not happen. Well, we all remember Gary Powers. The CIA, as I note from recent headlines, has a long history of continuing to lie to the president (and probably itself.) ...more
Gary Solis(author of Son Thang: An American War Crime) begins his book with a short review of the history of military justice (a misnomer, perhaps) siGary Solis(author of Son Thang: An American War Crime) begins his book with a short review of the history of military justice (a misnomer, perhaps) since the founding of this country. I had no idea the Code of Military Justice was of such recent vintage: 1950. The last Marine executed was in 1817 (in the Navy it was 1849.)
One astonishing number Solis cites is that there were 1,700,000 courts martial during WW II (pg 4). That's incredible. The changes made to the military justice system were a direct result of the feeling that many of those courts martial were much too subjective and the charges and outcomes at the whims of officers. The system was often extra-legal and officers with legal training played no part until the revision of 1950. "The reforms of 1950 reflected the continuing question of the purpose of military law: is it to enforce discipline or to insure justice? Or both? Can both ends be simultaneously served?"
The soldiers in Vietnam were in a bizarre position. Because of a treaty signed while the French were still there and long before Americans arrived in significant numbers, “The agreement provided that all American forces entering Indochina were to be considered members of the U.S. diplomatic mission with the same legal status as actual members of the U.S. mission of corresponding grade. American military personnel were divided into three categories: senior military members of the U.S. mission with full diplomatic Status; a lesser, undefined category which, significantly, excluded its membership from the civil and criminal jurisdic- tion of Vietnam; and the third category, whose membership was again undefined, but with the legal status of clerical personnel of the diplomatic mission. In 1958. the United States advised the Vietnamese government that it would consider top U.S. military commanders to be in the first category. officers and warrant officers to be in the second, and enlisted men to be in the third category. So, in diplomatic terms, Marine riflemen were considered diplomatic mission clerks.”
Legal officers labored under difficult conditions (not as bad as the troops obviously.) Electricity was unreliable making the required verbatim transcripts taken from recording devices problematic. Language barriers were significant. Vietnam had numerous dialects and translators not easy to find. One Colonel’s first interpreter, a very good one, was a thirteen-year-old boy. But often the lawyers wondered if the interpreters and witnesses were having side conversations while they were being cross-examined in court. Getting witnesses to trials was more than difficult. It often required assigning special patrols to accompany the lawyers into enemy held territory to bring back those willing to testify.
Locating American witnesses was difficult. Infantrymen were often in the field and his company not easily found.Sometimes a witness might have been killed or even rotated back to the United States or even gone AWOL. Communications were spotty.
The definition of war crime was not what one would expect. Killing a South Vietnamese citizen or a non-combatant was not a war crime. It was considered murder since their were from an allied nation and not an enemy who would have been covered under the Geneva Convention. Despite the effects of higher command, there were numerous courts martials of Marines charged with violations of the Geneva Convention in their treatment of prisoners.
The Marines had a shortage of lawyers, but since lawyers were required only for *general* court-martials, non-lawyers were given the responsibility of handling *special* court-martials. These were in-unit disciplinary actions.
Solis (channeling Westmoreland and others) blames rising rates of crimes against the Vietnamese and against American officers on McNamara’s decision to expand the pool of men eligible for the draft. Now men who scored lower on the intelligence tests were available for draft and Solis’s strong suggestion is that the lower standards brought along with them lower morality and higher crime rates. Westmoreland himself said: “Category IV is a dummy. . Give him menial jobs and he is not a troublemaker. But it is awfully difficult to utilize that many category IVs . . . that is important when you start reflecting on the drug syndrome, the fragging.That introduced a weak.minded criminal, untrained element . . When those people came to Vietnam that's when disciplinary problems began on the battlefield.” That sounds a bit too 17th century for my taste.
I was surprised at how the sentences of many convicted Marines were vacated or reduced on appeal for some truly heinous crimes. The case of John D. Potter, Jr. for example who had supplanted the regular patrol leader: the other Marines followed Potter rather than Vogel, whom they viewed as ineffective. The patrol's Navy corpsman, Hospitalman Jon R. Bretag, later testified: He [Potter] said that this would be a raid instead of an ambush - . . . We are to beat up the people, tear up the hooches and kill, if necessary. . . . He told us to roll down our sleeves, take our insignias off, make sure our covers are on [and] assigned us numbers. He said if you want to get somebody, don't mention his name, call him by number . . . The entire squad moved out. They entered the hamlet of Xuan Ngoc . They seized Dao Quart, whom they accused of being a Viet Cong. and dragged him from his hut. While they beat him, other patrol members forced his wife, Bui Thi Huong, from their hut. They pulled her three year-old child from her arms. Then four of them raped her. A few minutes later three other patrol members shot her husband, her child, her sister-in-law, and her sister-in-law's child, with automatic and semi-automatic rifle fire. Hearing the sister-in-law moan, Potter exclaimed, "Damn, she's still alive!" He fired another burst of automatic fire into her at point blank range. Potter then tossed a hand grenade near the bodies in an attempt to cover the patrols' atrocities and "to make it look good." Next, they shot the rape victim, Bui Thi Huong, and left her for dead. She lived to testify at their courts-martial.
Upon returning to the battalion command post, the company commander sought details of the reported enemy contact:' Suspicious, he ordered their new platoon leader, Second Lieutenant Stephen J. Talty, to go back to the scene of the "contact" with the patrol. Once there, Talty realized what had happened and directed efforts to disguise (my emphasis) what had occurred. As they were doing so, one of the previously wounded chil- dren was discovered still alive. Potter raised his rifle over the child, saying, "someone count for me." Vogel counted to three as Potter repeatedly slammed his rifle butt into the child's head, killing him.”
Talty later admitted all. Potter was given a life sentence, later reduced to twelve years (he was released in 1978 having served the longest sentence of anyone charged during the Vietnam War) and several others were given long sentences for murder and rape, all of which were later reduced considerably. Talty’s was found guilty of filing a false report. He was fined $500 and dismissed from the Marines, a dismissal that was later revoked.
This book is not for everyone, but if you have any interest in the law during times of armed conflict and the special problems faced by those charged with military justice, you will find it fascinating as did I.
N.B. The Potter case gets its own mention in the The Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice ( https://books.google.com/books?id=bHV...) The horrific nature of the case is cited as a reason why the military insisted on “trying its own for grave breaches” of the law during armed conflict.
Good grief. At the time of this posting there are almost 70,000 ratings and baskets of reviews. So why another one? Good question.
Predictably, if youGood grief. At the time of this posting there are almost 70,000 ratings and baskets of reviews. So why another one? Good question.
Predictably, if you are a Mormon you won’t like this book, although it does seem to be well-researched and relatively even-handed. What appears to us skeptics as just silly nonsense is, for some people, inspired holy writ. Go figure. The Mormons themselves can't figure out what's revelation or not and who is or is not a prophet as Joseph Smith discovered to his dismay. His original revelation suggested that any Mormon could receive a revelation but quickly got another message from God that revelations would only go through Joseph Smith or his appointee. Very convenient way of maintaining control. God said so, so do it. What a great line.
It's interesting, but reading about some of the misdeeds of the early Mormon settlers and comments about this book on other sites, I was reminded of similar remarks made on Civil War book reviews by adherents of the "Lost Cause" myth. The same kind of myopic view .
I had no idea that those "other" Mormons, the FLDS, the polygamists, thrive(d) in assorted little places like Colorado City/Hildale, AZ/Utah twin cities that straddle the border. ** The whole town is controlled despotically by the local leader/prophet (it sure is tempting to declare myself a prophet and start pronouncing, what a kick.) The police, the school board, the mayor, everyone in authority is FLDS. The United Effort Plan owns almost all the town property. Many men there have many wives and it has become (or should anyway,) a scandal in the way they manipulate the system. Since the wives are legally single mothers and are unemployed they draw millions in benefits which becomes a major source of income for the hubby in charge. Ironically, if the marriages were declared legal, they would lose millions. The FLDS folks are positive they represent the true adherence to the "principle", celestial marriage without which one cannot go to heaven; the mainstream is equally positive their prophet got a message from God indicating that being admitted tot he union was more important than celestial marriage. So, there you are. I say put it to trial by ordeal. Dump both prophets in a vat of boiling oil. Of course, in the end, it's all about money and power.
The issue of what constitutes valid revelation from God (somebody explain to me why God finds it necessary to speak in 15th century English.) Since all male Mormons become priests (blacks excepted until God changed his mind about their essential evilness in the early sixties) many of them feel God is speaking unto them. Most of us would consider them delusional and in the case of Dan and Ron Lafferty who insisted God had told them to strike down the infidels who happened to be their wives. Raised in an atmosphere of religious fanaticism and paranoia, not to mention hatred of the federal government (I’ve never understood why federal and not state and township,) they saw themselves as the true righteous and holy. Ron’s descent began when his wife refused to go along with his desire to take a polygamous wife. In 1984 he received a “removal revelation” from God which he recorded on a yellow legal tablet. He and Dan then murdered Brenda and Erica. Last I checked, Ron was awaiting execution in Utah. He is now 61 and his brother is serving two life sentences.
The Lafferty’s had been fans of Robert Crossfield, otherwise known as Onias, who claimed to have received several revelations of God making hm the one and true prophet. They helped to distribute the Onias revelations, which, conveniently, also said the Lafferty’s had been the chosen ones even before they were born.
Krakauer interweaves the history of the Mormon church i n this bloodthirsty account of the Lafferty brothers. He finds the seeds of their crimes in the church.
Tidbits: Brigham Young wanted the state to be called the Beehive state rather than Utah (after the Ute Indians) because of its emphasis on the collective doing what's best for the group rather than emphasizing the individual. Today, given the association of collective with communism, the beehive on the state flag is considered to represent "industry."
If you are interested in the whole revelation business, I recommend the LDS website’s transcript of the revelation regarding blacks and the priesthood. It’s available here: http://www.lds-mormon.com/legrand_ric... Hard to believe there are people who take this stuff seriously.
For a recent example, I quote this from the June 3 Washington Post: "
The leaders have come under intense scrutiny. Barely 36 hours after the caustic New Year’s Day vote, Boehner faced a coup attempt from a clutch of renegade conservatives. The cabal quickly fell apart when several Republicans, after a night of prayer, said God told them to spare the speaker…..
Southerland woke up convinced that Boehner should be spared. Others, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they, too, prayed before siding with Boehner.“ He’s not a God of chaos, he’s a God of order,” Southerland said."
Amazing that God might give a shit about the Speaker of the House.
Oh, and by the way, I have just received a startling revelation. Everyone reading this must get together and purchase for me an around-the-world cruise on the QM2, a suite of course. Chop, chop, if you want to avoid everlasting damnation. Now explain to me how that might be different from a revelation to kill my wife or to add wives. Or start a new religion.
Does anyone really care about James Garfield? You will after reading this book. Were it not for the Emperor of Brazil would Alexander Bell have been rDoes anyone really care about James Garfield? You will after reading this book. Were it not for the Emperor of Brazil would Alexander Bell have been relinquished to the backwater of history? And how ironic that a British Dr. Lister proclaimed knowledge that had it been followed would have saved Garfield's life?
Our reading club decided to read this book for several reasons, perhaps the most important being that Charles Guiteau hailed from Freeport where most of us live. We used to joke it was Freeport's only claim to fame, home of a presidential assassin. I mean why not? I can see it now, assassination fairs, Guiteau banners, restoration of his house (it's still there,) and some nifty slogans. They could even rename the Freeport Pretzels to the Freeport Assassins.
The author narrates dual tracks, following Guiteau and Garfield. They were so different: Guiteau the religious fanatic and loser, and Garfield the rather brilliant orator (albeit verbose), successful Civil War general, and abolitionist who really didn't want to be president. Guiteau bounced from one scheme to another, convinced, especially after his survival from a ship-wreck, that God had special plans for him. He tried evangelical preaching, lawyering ( in the worst sense of the word), and even joined the Oneida Community where he was shunned by most of the members. They believed in non-monogamous relationships, but the women refused to have anything to do with him, calling him by the nickname, Charles Get-Out.
The recounting of the Republican Convention in 1880 is fascinating. Garfield was not even in the running; he was there to support the nomination of a fellow Ohioan. But things got out of hand after the first ballot failed to nominate a candidate and by the 35th ballot the delegates were looking for an alternative. Despite his best efforts, the convention nominated him to run with Chester Arthur as his running mate. How the assassination changed Arthur (another presidential non-entity) and his rejection of Conklin is also quite fascinating. It wasn't until the assassination of McKinley barely two decades later that focused everyone's attention on presidential security.
Presidential openness and availability has changed drastically. The president remained open to the public, walking around the streets with little thought given to security, and Guiteau was able to just walk up to him and Blaine, the Secretary of State, in a train station and shoot him. Guiteau felt slighted because he was sure, in his mind, that he had been responsible for Garfield's election and was therefore deserving of a place in the administration, specifically the representative to France. When it was not forthcoming, God called him to eliminate the president.
Garfield would have survived easily had he been some bum on the street who received no medical care. The bullet had missed all vital organs, but the initial doctor, ignoring all Lister's medical knowledge to the contrary, poked around in the wound with septic bare fingers and the cause of death was out of control septicemia. There was also an unseemly battle for who was to be the "doctor in charge" of the president's care. The winner, Bliss, really screwed up his care. Many soldiers more severely injured in the Civil War had survived just fine. In fact, the policeman who hauled Guiteau off to jail had a bullet still lodged in his skull. The book could have been titled, The Doctor who Killed the President.
For some, the book will be a disappointment as it focuses on Alexander Graham Bell perhaps more than some would wish. Personally, I like this kind of cultural history/biography mix very much. ...more
A fascinating, if often hyperbolic and disjointed, look at the Mississippi River and especially the communities surrounding it, not to mention the cusA fascinating, if often hyperbolic and disjointed, look at the Mississippi River and especially the communities surrounding it, not to mention the customs and eccentric characters that thrived on the river frontier. It might also be called, the Book of Lists.
I was surprised by the importance of prostitution to communities in the 19th century frontier society. Their importance was so crucial as to be almost "structural." Women were a rarity, often outnumbered by men 20-1, and it was common for some women who wanted to secure their financial future to marry several at once, visiting them on a rotational basis and being provided for. It was a system that suited all parties, apparently. The institution was so crucial to the army, they were imported to all forts, respected and called seamstresses. Brothels in St. Louis could be lavish places and held in high esteem by the community despite ostensible moral antagonism.
Religious camp meetings were immensely popular. One such event pulled a gathering of 20,000 people at a time when the population of New Orleans was about half that. The events became occasions of ecstatic behavior with "jerkings," falling", other kinds of physical religious behavior we would now label pejoratively as "holy rollers." It also included orgies, the sexual component of ecstatic behavior being quite strong, and until the vigilantes moved in to put a lid on it, it was quite common for groups to move off into the woods to consummate their religious fervor resulting in a high birth rate about nine months after the camp meeting.
Corruption was endemic. It was assumed and understood that everyone along the river would cheat, shorting the steamboats on piles of wood, counterfeiting (although very much frowned on it was helped by the number of different banks issuing money, species being quite rare and always in demand.) Con men thrived.
The story of Stewart's pamphlet and John Murrell was fascinating. Stewart had written and published a pamphlet that purported to report on his infiltration into the infamous Murrell gang. Murrell supposedly had revealed to him that Murrell was orchestrating a vast conspiracy that would result in an enormous slave rebellion on July 4th, 1835. The names of many so-called conspirators who belonged to this "Mystic Klan" were fomenting the rebellion were included. The ultimate purpose was so they could rob and pillage virtually the entire south. Always fearful of slaves revolts, the end result of publicity surrounding the pamphlet was the formation of vigilante committees and extensive use of "Lynch Law." Fear of slaves spilled over into antagonism toward river-town gamblers in Vicksburg and soon bodies were hanging from trees on virtually every road. Some people, after interrogation by the "committees," were lucky to get off with 1,000 lashes. Neighbors would inform on neighbors they didn't like and it must have been like scenes out of mob actions of the French Revolution. (Tom Sawyer and Huck talk about looking for "Murel's treasure.")