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  #4156  
Old 01 May 18, 17:22
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Stephen Ambrose's outstanding book on the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Found out that Lincoln gave such a terrific deal to the railroad robber barons because he was a railroad lawyer prior to running for office.
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  #4157  
Old 10 May 18, 18:06
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Berndan Phibbs, “The Other Side of Time: A Combat Surgeon in World War II”. He served in the 12th US Armored Division in eastern France and into southern Germany.

I was drawn to this extraordinary memoir, published in 1987, by a reviewing quoting the author about “history’s quiet corners”—I had to read more from such a perceptive sense of history. I was not disappointed; the memoirs are incredibly good on insights and a quiet corner of the fighting in 12th Armor Div. In his preface, he notes, “Everything in this book happened as it’s set down: the conversations, while not verbatim, are reproduced accurately enough for the needs of reason and history.

“Ho, ho, cries cynic, and of course you had a tape recorder in the tank column.

“Of course I didn’t: nobody did. …

“What I had, and what I used, was some advice I I’d picked up, at a long remove, from a couple of heroes. Two hundred years ago, Stendhal came down from the mountain with the first and second commandments for all writers: never describe a face you haven’t seen, never write a line of dialogue you haven’t heard. The obvious corollary states that the writer must record faces and speeches before they’re forgotten.

“Scott Fitzgerald’s (sober) life was a sustained frenetic attempt to find words to catch the present before it plunged away into the past: he was a compulsive recorder of images and phrases, scribbling notes like “the yolks of their eyes” on the back of envelopes….”


To be cont'd
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  #4158  
Old 10 May 18, 18:07
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Phibbs, as a regimental task force surgeon, relates a briefing from Creighton Abrams who handing off the sector to the relieving force.

Abrams draws a finger across a map.

“Krauts have eighty-eights here, here, here. Lost four of our tanks yesterday. Damned careless, we were, but at least we made the Krauts give themselves away. We know where they are, so they’re dead. They have Panthers, Mark Fives with eighty-eights and long-barreled seventy-sixes and they’ve got them down behind the old Maginot line forts with twenty feet of concrete in front of them. Plus all that armor.”

Taking his helmet off, running his hand through steel-pale hair, he shakes his head a little with the effort of emphasis.

“Charge head on into something like that, it’s committing suicide. Some dumb bastard orders it, he commits murder. I can’t tell you that loud enough or often enough.”

…. Abrams lights a cigar. …. Around the smoke, he talks more quietly. “It’s about people learning. Two plus two, sure. War, usually no, or so slow whole countries can disappear in the process. Nineteen fourteen to nineteen eighteen. Four years. Everybody finally learned you can’t run men against machine guns and barbed wire because most of them die. Western civilization almost got wrecked because that’s how dumb commanders were.

“Okay, we now have tanks ….

“An American tank battalion is a lot of concentrated violence, but to use it you have to go back to Indian fighting. Sneak, stalk, flank: pull the bastards out in the open and hit them before they know you’re there. Sucker them, fool them. Modern fighting is backwoods fighting: nobody charges anything in lines anymore. Our tanks have thin armor and weak guns, Christ knows why, but that’s how they are. On our side we have speed and a fast power traverse to get our sights on the other guy first. They have to crank those big guns around by hand and it takes time. We are committed to two things, speed and brains. Sneak, stalk, bang, you win. This business tomorrow. Do not—repeat, do not—attack those positions head on. You know where they are and that makes them helpless. Shake them up with heavy artillery, drop smoke on them, flank them. You’ll have them out and running in an hour.”

“Brains and speed, that’s how you survive.” Creighton faces Beaky (incoming regiment commander) and exhales a sigh full of smoke. “Speed and, “ he pauses and almost shakes his head, “brains.” The word echoes tragically: the hero seems to shrug as he turns and walks quickly through the blackout curtain.

What do you think Beaky ordered the next day?
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Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 11 May 18 at 07:46..
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  #4159  
Old 10 May 18, 18:18
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Volume II Army of the Potomac, by Beatie. I have had all three for a while. Maybe it is age but I don't like to just sit and read through a book as I used to.

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  #4160  
Old 11 May 18, 07:46
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What do you think Beaky ordered the next day?

“Cooper was our liaison to CCA. He told us what happened in the attack. The very day after the briefing by Abrams Beaky ordered Mike’s tank battalion to attack head on across a thousand years of bare plain, against German tanks sheltered behind Maginot line pillboxes. It was, said Copper, like standing in a bad dream. Everything Abrams had warned against, everything we had heard from British liaison officers about disasters against Rommel, a maneuver that would have guaranteed a flunk at the armored force school, they were hearing it ordered.”

“Some of the tanks burned and the others fell back.”
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  #4161  
Old 11 May 18, 08:34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
What do you think Beaky ordered the next day?

“Cooper was our liaison to CCA. He told us what happened in the attack. The very day after the briefing by Abrams Beaky ordered Mike’s tank battalion to attack head on across a thousand years of bare plain, against German tanks sheltered behind Maginot line pillboxes. It was, said Copper, like standing in a bad dream. Everything Abrams had warned against, everything we had heard from British liaison officers about disasters against Rommel, a maneuver that would have guaranteed a flunk at the armored force school, they were hearing it ordered.”

“Some of the tanks burned and the others fell back.”
O sweet Jezus. I was already afraid this was going to happen. Unbelievable

Rick, any information if Beaky himself participated in this frontal attack? If I read it right, he wasn't, as it was a battalion attack. I wonder if Beaky had been so eager then.

Seems like a wonderful book.
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  #4162  
Old 11 May 18, 13:24
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Rick, any information if Beaky himself participated in this frontal attack? If I read it right, he wasn't, as it was a battalion attack.

Beaky did not accompany the tank battalion. The battalion commander “argued with great force for a flanking movement. The enemy positions were thin, vulnerable, easy to get at, but Beaky’s cerebral functions were blocked by a line on a map. The flanking movement would take our tanks through the zone of the 42nd Infantry Division on our right.”

“Beaky lifted his nose in the air, the way he did when he tried to look intelligent and superior, and told Mike (Bn cdr) that corps had ordered that we stay within division zone, young man, and that is where we stay. Orders.” [The classic dodge, blame it on higher.]

“Mike broke out of West Point and argued to the edge of disrespect. The 42nd Inf Div line at that precise point, he explained, consisted of a few lonely riflemen, pathetically happy to see our tanks. No question of using their roads, getting in their way; all we have to do is run some of our tanks around through an empty meadow and catch the Krauts on the flank.”



“Finally Mike heard the direct order.”

“We heard the next day how the line of tanks went slithering through mud against the pillboxes, the young commander standing in the turret waving a map case because the radios weren’t working. Orange light winked from behind concrete across the wide field and Mike’s head was torn from his body; his trunk slid kicking into the turret, spouting incredible volumes of blood. The carotid arteries and the jugulars were hosepipes … the scarlet geysers that filled the air where the colonel’s head had been.”
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  #4163  
Old 14 May 18, 01:42
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The Revenge of Geography

https://books.google.com/books/about...Geography.html

I'm back in geopolitics/history mode.
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  #4164  
Old 14 May 18, 07:53
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https://books.google.com/books/about...Geography.html

I'm back in geopolitics/history mode.
I always read Kaplan; he reads the classics and old books combined with his extensive and insightful globetrotting. In Revenge, I took notes on Rimland Thesis and Spykman--engaging thoughts and considerations.
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  #4165  
Old 15 May 18, 19:46
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Not a military history book but very insightful, Arthur Herman's 1917: Lenin, Wilson, and the Birth of the New World Order.

I didn't realize there were so many missed opportunities to turn Russia into a more stable democracy with support from Wilson. Kerensky also underestimated his political opponents like Lenin on his left, focusing his energy on neutralizing the others on his right.

The book made me feel like we're repeating the history with America deeply divided and the tactics used here can be recognized from Lenin's time. A hundred years later, we haven't really learned our lessons well.
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