Historical Malpractice







By military historians I assume that he means grade B war movies made during World War II.  Actually, since the development of stosstruppen tactics in 1916-1917,  German soldiers of all ranks were taught to take the initiative on the battlefield and to be flexible in their tactics.  During World War II Allied generals noted this time and again and envied the ability, as a result, of the Germans to take apparently shattered units, weld them together and put useful ad hoc combat forces back into play in remarkably short time.

All of this is very well known and repeated time and again in standard military histories of World War II.  To see a historian recycle the stale propaganda of German soldiers being mindless automatons is to despair of basic literacy among too many current scholars who are ever eager to sacrifice historical truth to make a contemporary political point.

Well, if the German infantry was that good how did we win?  Numbers partially if we include the Soviet hordes who killed, with the help of American trucks and American food, three out of four of every member of the Wehrmacht who was killed in World War II.  More importantly, the Americans and, to a lesser extent the British, had huge advantages in air supremacy, naval supremacy and mechanization of ground units.  The average American leg infantry division had more tanks, trucks, halftracks, tank destroyers, etc than the average German panzer division.  The Germans relied heavily on horses to move supplies and ammo which struck American GIs as a throwback to our Civil War, if not the Middle Ages.  American divisions deployed immense fire power, in addition to on call air power and centralized corps artillery, which meant that unless some special factor was involved, lousy weather in the Ardennes or the dense forests of the Hurtgen, German offensives against American and British units were often an invitation for mass suicide by the landsers.  German propaganda sometimes hailed their troops as the Supermen of tomorrow.  Actually it was their American and British opponents who were the vanguard of warfare of the future.  A fed up GI put it profanely in the concluding episode of Band of Brothers:



Published in: on April 25, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Llewellyn M. Chilson: One Man Army

Many brave men served in our armed services during World War II, but certainly one of the bravest was Llewellyn M. Chilson.  Born on April 1, 1920 in Dayton, Ohio, his father Frank was a veteran of World War I.  He was drafted into the Army on March 28, 1942.  He served with the 45th “Thunderbird” Infantry Division in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany.  By the end of the War he had risen in rank from Private to Technical Sergeant and earned the following decorations:  3 Distinguished Service Crosses (the second highest decoration for valor in the United States Army), 3 Silver Stars, 2 Bronze Stars, 1 Legion of Merit and two purple hearts.  Go here to read his citations for the decorations that he earned. (more…)

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February 3,1943: The Four Chaplains



John Washington first saw the light of day on July 18, 1908 in Newark, New Jersey.

One of seven kids in a poor immigrant family, John as a boy had a newspaper route to help bring in money for the family. Singing in the choir at mass, John decided by the seventh grade that his goal in life was to be a priest.

Graduating from Seton Hall with an A.B. degree in 1931, John entered Immaculate Conception Seminary in 1931 and was ordained a priest on June 15, 1935. Father Washington ‘s first assignment was at Saint Genevieve’s in Elizabeth, New Jersey, followed by service at Saint Stephen’s in Arlington, New Jersey. Father Washington, having grown up on the wrong side of the tracks in Newark, knew how important proper guidance was for kids. He would play baseball with them on the streets and organized youth baseball teams at the parishes to which he was assigned.

Immediately after Pearl Harbor Father Washington joined the Army as a chaplain. On May 9, 1942 he was named Chief of the Chaplain Reserve Pool at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana. In June he was assigned to the 76th Infantry Division and in November 1942 attended the chaplain course at Harvard. There he first met three other chaplains: George L. Fox, a Methodist minister, Clark V. Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister and Alexander D. Goode, a Jewish rabbi.

Fox was the oldest of the chaplains having been born in 1900. This was his second World War, having served in World War I where his courage was acknowledged by being awarded the Silver Star, Purple Heart and the French Croix de Guerre. On August 8, 1942 he went on active duty as a chaplain, the same day his son joined the Marine Corps.

Poling was born in 1910. His father had served as a chaplain in World War I. When he went off to the Army Poling told his father: “Dad, don’t pray for my safe return, just pray that I shall do my duty and something more, pray that I shall never be a coward. Pray that I shall have the strength, courage, and understanding of men, and especially pray that I shall be patient. Oh, Dad, just pray that I shall be adequate.”

Goode was the youngest of the four chaplains having been born in 1911. The son of a rabbi, he also became a rabbi.   He attempted to become a chaplain with the Navy in January 1941. Not accepted at that time he entered the Army as a chaplain on July 21, 1942. (more…)

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January 4, 1945: Isadore S. Jachman Dies Fighting


For some American soldiers in World War II, the War was not simply a matter of foreign affairs, but intensely personal.  That was certainly the case with Staff Sergeant Isadore S. Jachman  of the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 17th Airborne Division.  His family had come from Germany to America when he was two.  The Nazis murdered several of his relatives, including six uncles and aunts.  Maybe that was part of his motivation when the chips were down for his unit seventy-seven years ago.  His Medal of Honor citation tells us what happened:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at Flamierge, Belgium, on 4 January 1945, when his company was pinned down by enemy artillery, mortar, and small arms fire, 2 hostile tanks attacked the unit, inflicting heavy casualties. S/Sgt. Jachman, seeing the desperate plight of his comrades, left his place of cover and with total disregard for his own safety dashed across open ground through a hail of fire and seizing a bazooka from a fallen comrade advanced on the tanks, which concentrated their fire on him. Firing the weapon alone, he damaged one and forced both to retire. S/Sgt. Jachman’s heroic action, in which he suffered fatal wounds, disrupted the entire enemy attack, reflecting the highest credit upon himself and the parachute infantry. (more…)

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Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges


In times of war the laws fall silent.  That is from the Latin maxim Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges.  A  study of history reveals just how true that is, and Justice Scalia reminds us of that fact:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told law students at the University of Hawaii law school Monday that the nation’s highest court was wrong to uphold the internment of Japa­nese-Americans during World War II but that he wouldn’t be surprised if the court issued a similar ruling during a future conflict.

Scalia was responding to a question about the court’s 1944 decision in Kore­ma­tsu v. United States, which upheld the convictions of Gordon Hira­ba­ya­shi and Fred Kore­ma­tsu for violating an order to report to an internment camp.

“Well, of course, Kore­ma­tsu was wrong. And I think we have repudiated in a later case. But you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again,” Scalia told students and faculty during a lunchtime question-and-answer session.

Scalia cited a Latin expression meaning “In times of war, the laws fall silent.”

“That’s what was going on — the panic about the war and the invasion of the Pacific and whatnot. That’s what happens. It was wrong, but I would not be surprised to see it happen again, in time of war. It’s no justification but it is the reality,” he said.

Avi Soifer, the law school’s dean, said he believed Scalia was suggesting people always have to be vigilant and that the law alone can’t be trusted to provide protection.

Go here to read the rest.

Internment camps were set up after Pearl Harbor during the invasion scare.  Several thousand Italian-Americans and eleven thousand German Americans were interned during the war, but these were individuals who were picked up because investigations indicated that they could be a domestic threat.  The west coast  Japanese were simply scooped up with no individual investigations.  J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, opposed the internment of the Japanese, regarding it as completely unnecessary, but his views sadly were ignored.  About 120,000 Japanese -Americans were interned during the war, the vast majority loyal Americans.

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the internment in the case of Korematsu v. United States.  The vote was 6-3.  Six out of the eight Supreme Court Justices appointed by FDR voted to affirm the constitutionality of the internment.  The lone Republican on the court, Justice Owen Roberts, wrote a dissent which deserves to be remembered.  It begins simply and directly:

I dissent, because I think the indisputable facts exhibit a clear violation of Constitutional rights.

This is not a case of keeping people off the streets at night as was Kiyoshi Hirabayashi v. United States,  320  U.S. 81, 63 S.Ct. 1375,  [323  U.S. 214, 226] nor a case of temporary exclusion of a citizen from an area for his own safety or that of the community, nor a case of offering him an opportunity to go temporarily out of an area where his presence might cause danger to himself or to his fellows. On the contrary, it is the case of convicting a citizen as a punishment for not submitting to imprisonment in a concentration camp, based on his ancestry, and solely because of his ancestry, without evidence or inquiry concerning his loyalty and good disposition towards the United States. If this be a correct statement of the facts disclosed by this record, and facts of which we take judicial notice, I need hardly labor the conclusion that Constitutional rights have been violated.


On the same day as the ruling in Korematsu was handed down, the Supreme Court ruled the internment of loyal Americans unconstitutional in December of 1944 in the case of Ex Parte Endo.  After the decision Japanese-Americans were free to leave the internment camps, although about a quarter of the internees had already left to live and work in areas of the country other than the west coast zones excluded to them, or by volunteering for military service.  This decision was unanimous and Justice Roberts correctly pointed out that the two decisions contradicted each other.  (The Supreme Court in 2018 in Trump v Hawaii, via the majority decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts noted that Korematsu was no longer good law:

Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided, has been overruled in the court of history, and—to be clear—‘has no place in law under the Constitution.’”)

What happened in World War II was not an aberration.  Whenever this country has gone to war some infringement on civil liberties has occurred.  Sometimes these infringements have been massive as occurred during the Revolution and the Civil War. (more…)

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Christmas 1944: Battle of the Bulge

In 1944 at Christmas the American and German armies were fighting it out in the Battle of the Bulge, the last German offensive of the War.

Patton’s Third Army fought its way through to relieve the Americans desperately fighting to defeat the attacking German forces.  The weather was atrocious and Allied air power was useless.  Patton had a prayer written for good weather.  Patton prayed the prayer, along with an extemporaneous one he prayed for good weather on December 23, 1944.  The skies cleared after Patton prayed, and Allied air power was unleashed on the attacking Germans.

During the Battle of the Bulge, the 101rst Airborne Division made a heroic stand at Bastogne from December 20-27 which helped turn the tide of the battle.  On December 25, a packed midnight mass was held in Bastogne, with Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, who commanded the 101rst troops at Bastogne, in attendance.  Afterwards the General listened to German POWS singing Silent Night, and wished them a Merry Christmas.

General McAuliffe issued a memorable Christmas message to his troops: (more…)

Published in: on December 24, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Christmas 1944: Battle of the Bulge  
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December 17, 1941: Admiral Chester Nimitz Appointed to Command the Pacific Fleet

God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless.

Chester W. Nimitz

Few American commanders have taken over a more desperate situation than Admiral Chester W. Nimitz did when he was appointed to be commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet seventy years ago on December 17, 1941.  Reeling from Pearl Harbor and ill-prepared for the Japanese onslaught, it was probably thought by some observers at the time that Nimitz was fated to be a footnote in history:  a man destined to do the best he could in a bad situation, and be a scapegoat for the disasters surely to be experienced by the United States in the Pacific prior to US industries producing the fleets necessary to turn the tide of the war. (more…)

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December 7, 1941: The Lessons of Pearl Harbor

The attack on Pearl Harbor, the date which will live in infamy in F.D.R.’s ringing phrase, happened 80 years ago today.  Less than one hundred of the 42,000 sailors, soldiers, marines and airmen stationed there that fateful day are still with us.  Time has done what the forces of Imperial Japan could not, and soon the memories of that attack will be only a page in history.  The lessons of Pearl Harbor are however as timely today as they were on December 7, 1941:

1.  It Takes Two to Avoid a War-Today, too many people speak the most dreadful rubbish that boils down to the contention that the US can avoid war if it simply adopts a peaceful policy to all other nations.  Nations, like people, have their own goals, and they will pursue those goals as they will, whether the US adopts a “smiley-face” foreign policy or not.

2.  Peace Time Mentality-Pearl Harbor was such a disaster largely due to a mindset that gripped too many in the military that it was sufficient to simply go through the motions.  This is a common enough attitude in the world, and in peace time it becomes all too common in the military.  Pearl Harbor teaches us how disastrous this mentality is in war-time.

3.  Peace or War can be a Matter of Seconds- Throughout its history the US has often had wars start quite quickly:  The Revolution, The Civil War, Korea, World War II and 9-11.  George Washington warned us that: To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.   Too often in our history we have forgotten that sage advice and paid for it at our peril as we learn the old lesson that war can come upon us with the speed of summer lightning, especially in our modern age.

4. Assumptions-Behind every great disaster there are usually a string of bad assumptions.  We assumed that the Japanese if they attacked would likely not attack Pearl Harbor.  We assumed that a Japanese fleet could not sail from Japan to Hawaii unnoticed.  We assumed that our air power, especially with the new-fangled technology called Radar, would be on alert, and that in any case our fleet could defeat anything that Japan could send against it.  Pile enough bad assumptions on top of each other and a debacle is in the making.

5.  Killing More People Won’t Help Matters-That quote comes from Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, the lone dissenting vote in the House against declaring war on Japan after Pearl Harbor.  A Republican from Montana, Rankin is an interesting figure.  The first woman elected to Congress, she served two terms.  In her first term she voted against declaring war on Germany in World War I and in her second term she voted against declaring war on Japan.  Both votes stemmed from her deep-seated pacificism, both votes were immensely unpopular and both votes effectively ended her political career at two different points in her life.  I give her the courage of her convictions.  However, her stance after Pearl Harbor illustrates the folly of pacifism as a national policy.  The sad truth is that in this vale of tears it is sometimes necessary to take up arms to avoid greater evils than war, and those peoples who forget that truth of the human condition will experience such evils sooner or later. (more…)

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December 1, 1941: Hirohito Gives Approval for War Against US and Great Britain


In the wake of World War II a useful fiction was promulgated by the Japanese government, with the active connivance of the US Occupation under General Douglas MacArthur, that Hirohito had been anti-war and helpless to stop the militarists who controlled Japan.  It is astounding how many people, against all historical evidence, bought into this rubbish, and still buy into it.  Seventy-six years ago Hirohito gave his approval for war against the US and the British Empire, not grudgingly, but as part of a very long term plan to make Japan the undisputed dominant power in East Asia.

MacArthur had little doubt of Hirohito’s war guilt, but he also had little doubt that Hirohito’s cooperation was necessary for a peaceful occupation of Japan.  Hirohito thus served as a figure head while MacArthur, the Yankee Shogun, remade Japan.  This picture tells us all we need to know about the relationship between the two men:


MacArthur encountered considerable resistance to his decision not to prosecute Hirohito.  Belief in Hirohito’s war guilt was an article of faith in America and in the other nations that had fought Japan.  MacArthur played along with the fable promoted by the Japanese government that Hirohito had always been a man of peace, who was powerless in the face of the militarists who ran Japan.  This myth, well bald-faced lie would be a more accurate description, was surprisingly successful.  The first major scholarly attack on it was by David Bergamini’s 1200 page Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy, published in 1971.  Read a review of it here. (more…)

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September 27, 1941: First Liberty Ship Launches


One of the more important innovations of World War II was the Liberty Ship.  Based on a British design the Liberty Ships were mass produced on an epic scale during World War II, eighteen ship yards turning out an astonishing 2710 of the cargo haulers.  The ships were made up of sections that were welded together.  They could be built in as little as five days.  President Roosevelt launched the first one, the SS Patrick Henry, on September 27, 1941.  The Henry made 12 wartime voyages and had a postwar career that ended in 1958 with it being sold for scrap.  The ships were slow and ugly, but no they played an immense part in bringing about Allied victory.

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