Category Archives: Military History

The Jews Who Fought Back

Bielski_partisansMore than 30,000 Jews joined armed resistance movements throughout occupied Europe during World War II. Not only did they face death from the Germans and their European allies, they often endured dangerous anti-Semitism within their own partisan groups, fought with scant support from the Allies, and lived under the most atrocious conditions.

This is a story that contradicts an all-too-familiar (and extremely inaccurate) narrative that European Jews went to the death camps like lambs to the slaughter. My story at War Is Boring is an attempt to remind readers that many Jews were among the most effective and deadly resistance fighters of the war.

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Concerning the M1911 and the FN FAL

M1911_2MAY10_02One was John Browning’s masterpiece firearm, the other was nicknamed “the right arm of the Free World” because of its nearly global presence as an answer to the Kalashnikov. Both weapons are among the most successful military firearms ever developed.

My articles at War Is Boring explore the history of the M1911 .45-caliber pistol and the Fabrique Nationale FAL 7.62x51mm battle rifle.  It’s been said that the M1911 is the best military handgun in the world not only because of its rugged reliability in the field but because of the power of its .45 ACP cartridge. (There is no denying these implements are designed to kill people efficiently.) The FAL could have been the U.S. main battle rifle of the 1950s and 1960s had not the politics of procurement and shortsightedness of military brass obstructed its adoption. Would it have been better than the M14, which fired the same NATO cartridge?  In my opinion, yes. The M14 has enjoyed a renaissance as a designated sniper’s weapon and it is great rifle. But the FAL was adopted by almost every NATO country, which means both parts and ammo would have been more readily available.

You can make up your own mind about these weapons and I hope my articles provide grist for the mill.

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I Continue to Write About Things That Go “Bang!”

vietnam-war-01My gig with War is Boring is now steady: Three stories a month, and the editor clearly likes my articles on military history and military weapons. As a writer, I have found a small but stable niche, and I enjoy writing for the publication.

Here are a couple of recent stories. One is about the Smith & Wesson M-76 9mm submachine gun, a weapon that was both a replacement for another sub-gun favored by U.S. clandestine operators and a prominent movie gun. The other story is about the iconic Browning Hi-Power 9mm pistol, arguably the most widely used military sidearm in the world and the first high-capacity pistol.

Some of the headlines on the stories are, well, lurid. But I learned a long time ago to never argue with the copy desk.

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the U.S. Civil War

A battlefield memorial at Gettysburg National Military Park. Photo by Paul Huard

A battlefield memorial at Gettysburg National Military Park. Photo by Paul Huard

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.

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Costs Less, Kills Nazis: The M-3 Grease Gun

Marvin Dirty DozenIf this weapon was your sibling, it would be the rude, crude, and socially unacceptable little brother who helped you curb-stomp the neighborhood bullies.

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.

 

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All Hail The M-1 Carbine

Donald Huard, the author's father and a veteran of both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, examines an M-1 Carbine from his son's collection. Photo: Paul Huard

Donald Huard, the author’s father and a veteran of both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, examines an M-1 Carbine from his son’s collection. Photo: Paul Huard

Today in War Is Boring, my article examines the gun that nobody wanted to give up: The M-1 Carbine.

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.

 

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From Russia With Peace and Love?

vietnam-war-01Today in War is Boringmy 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.

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