The Web site PortRevolt, which is dedicated to displaying art related to the American Revolution, has a brief history of the origins of the Declaration of Independence. It is readable and accurate, well worth the time for a Web visit that will combine history with the chance to view some of the most significant art associated with the Founding Period or portraying that period. As I wrote in an earlier post, PortRevolt is a valuable resource on the Web because of its emphasis on iconography, the systematic study and interpretation of paintings, drawings, and other portrayals of people and events to understand the past.
“Russia will invade Ukraine, probably within the next few weeks. They will annex the Crimea. From there, if they meet no resistance from the West, they will take more of the country,”
― Tom Clancy, Command Authority (2013)
Call him clairvoyant. In the last novel he published before his death, Tom Clancy predicted that Russia would move against its former satellite states. As far as Clancy was concerned, that plot element was a no-brainer. Russia, whether under the rule of Ivan the Terrible or Vladimir Putin, wants its buffer states.
However, Clancy has a key qualifier in the line from Command Authority: “… no resistance from the West … .” So far, the sternest measures the U.S. and E.U. have hurled at Putin and his regime are halfhearted sanctions that will probably disappear once winter comes and Western Europe needs Russian oil and natural gas to stay warm. There is stern language from NATO, but there is also open war with Russian paratroopers found on Ukrainian soil and a massive military force just kilometers from the border.
But most of the Russian military moves are incremental. A little here and a little there, and soon Ivan has sliced up the whole sausage. This kind of “secret war” is part of a tactic called maskirovka. My article in today’s edition of War is Boring looks at the Russian’s recent use of maskirovka tactics and how it works to produce at least very little resistance from a distracted West.
My article this week in “War is Boring” profiles the M-2 Browning .50-caliber machine gun. It’s more commonly called the “Ma Deuce” or simply “50-Cal” by G.I.s, Marines and other U.S. service personnel that use it. The Ma Deuce is a beast of a weapon according to people who have fired it either on the range or in combat. I have never witnessed one in use, but perhaps a kindly reader currently in the service will invite me watch one on a live-fire range. This video from the Military Channel can give you an idea of what it is like to see the mother of all machine guns in action. Sorry about the obnoxious commercial at the beginning of the video.
The issue of mental illness arising from the trauma of combat is nothing new. Homer described the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the Illiad. When Achilles’ close friend Patroclus dies in combat, Achilles cries out, “My comrade is dead, / Lying in my hut mangled with bronze, / His feet turned toward the door, and around him, / Our friends grieve. Nothing matters to me now” and then embarks on a killing spree that is more like an attempt at suicide than warfare. Call it what you will: “shell shock,” combat fatigue, survivor’s guilt. PTSD is as old as history.
The U.S. Civil War was no different. While researching another topic, I stumbled across an article from The New York Times by University of Georgia graduate student Dillon Carroll on PTSD and the Civil War.
A key quote:
Historians are beginning to uncover what was a virtual epidemic of emotional, psychological and neurological trauma that afflicted soldiers after the war. Veterans labored under emotional and psychological stress in ways that are disturbingly similar to the present. Alcoholism was rampant, as was unemployment. Suicide was endemic. Civil War veterans dotted the wards of insane asylums across the country.
Despite all the valor shown during the Civil War, despite all the worthiness of the cause, soldiers both North and South were often damaged men long after the war was finished. I see a need for historians to take a close look at what might be an untouched area of study regarding the real toll of America’s worst war. What they find will not only expand our understanding of that period of history but hopefully reinforce the current argument that the United States needs to provide better services and better outreach to a generation of combat veterans who have fought in America’s wars since 9-11.
That’s the way I like to describe the M-3 .45-caliber submachine gun, known more commonly as the Grease Gun by the soldiers who used it from World War II to Desert Storm. The M-3 is an ugly hunk of metal – words like “crafted” or “elegant” simply are not applied when discussing the looks or pedigree of the weapon. Made of stamped metal parts like a General Motors car (not surprising when you remember it was developed by GM in 1942 and produced by the same division that made metal automobile headlights) the M-3 is not a submachine gun noted for its fine tolerances and sleek design. Frankly, it looks like crap. But it is a compact, powerful gun that soldiers and Marines grew to appreciate, however grudgingly.
My article in War is Boring examines the development and use of the weapon — and it gave me an excellent excuse to provide the editor with a picture of Lee Marvin in The Dirty Dozen wielding an M-3 in one of the movie’s most famous scenes.
This wasn’t a hard story to report and write. The M-1 Carbine is one of my favorite weapons, iconic in its own way not only because of its use during World War II but also because of its service during the Korean War (correctly nicknamed “the forgotten war”) and Vietnam. One of my favorite uses of the carbine was in its M-2 variant, a select-fire weapon that pumped out 900 rounds a minute in full auto. In Korea, GIs and Marines carried the M-2 on night patrols, sometimes pairing it with the Sniperscope, the first night-vision optic ever put in the hands of American servicemen. To use the language of the age, there are a lot of dead commies because of that weapon system.
So, if you are interested in cool guns and military history I hope you give the article a read.
Today in War is Boring, my article on some disturbing evidence that a Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine could occur soon allowed me to write on a subject near and dear to my journalist’s heart: Russia’s military power and its influence on the world.
It’s a break from the usual examination of U.S. history that occurs here at my blog, but as I mentioned in a recent entry I am enjoying a chance to report and write stories associated with my interest in the military and military affairs.
I hope you will visit War is Boring and read today’s article, as well as all of the day’s entries.