Prewar Germany went in for shooting

March 22nd, 2019

Prewar Germany went in for shooting, Dunlap notes:

Prewar Germany went in for shooting, everything from smallbore prone work to the schuetzen game, with emphasis on the military training angle of course. One of the training aids was a conversion unit for the Mauser military rifle and consisted of a complete .22 caliber long rifle bolt action and barrel which could be inserted into any 1898 Mauser.

[...]

Mauser and Walther were the principal suppliers of such “Wehrsportgewehren,” though Germany had literally dozens of small arms plants that turned out all sorts of weapons.

[...]

Air rifles came in all prices and classes, most if not all being far above the American “BB gun” and capable of fair accuracy at short range. However, I doubt if the Germans equalled the British in precision pneumatic guns, either rifle or pistol type.

[...]

I believe these arms were furnished in both 4mm and 6mm, known in this country as .17 or .177 caliber and .22 caliber, the projectiles being either round lead balls, darts, or spool-shaped pellets, generally known as pells, or skirted pellets, made of chilled lead.

[...]

However, the old-time European indoor favorite was the 4mm rim fire cartridge, which we would probably call a .17 caliber. There were several different cartridges in this class and innumerable rifles.

[...]

These rifles were always singleshot falling or drop-block actions, with set-triggers, fancy adjustable target sights, heavy barrels and schuetzen buttplates, deeply curved for holding on the upper arm rather than resting against the shoulder. Palm rests, for the left hand, were almost universal. The rifles were of the type familiar to us as “Swiss” although the German guns were usually not of as high quality as the true Swiss weapons. The receivers or frames were not required to stand high pressures and often they were of plain cast-iron. Most of them had some engraving of sorts for decoration.

[...]

Stocks were normal allround types, rather than the special-purpose schuetzen style, and some of the later ones were of plastic, made of fine and coarse woven cloths impregnated with phenolic resin and pressure-moulded to size and shape at an angle, which gave them an appearance of grained walnut.

[...]

The 4mm ammunition was available in many types—rim fire, center fire rimless (bottlenecked case) light loads, full loads, short, long, et cetera. German gun cranks could purchase cases and bullets separately and assemble their own. Most of the cartridges used no propelling powder, utilizing only the primer to expel the bullet, as done in our original .22 Bullet Breech Caps.

[...]

The 4mm class of arm was principally a sporting item and the .22 was the military training caliber. In the U. S. from 1840 to 1890 indoor rifles for very light percussion loads and .22 rim fire “caps” enjoyed a limited popularity as “parlor” or “salon” rifles, but such equipment never reached the use here that the “Kleinkaliberbuchsen” did in Europe.

I was not familiar with the schuetzen game. This Shooting USA piece explains the sport:

There were 33 at which an armed citizen was present

March 21st, 2019

How often are armed citizens successful at active shooter events in stopping or reducing the harm done?

Looking at the 283 total Active Shooter events in our data pool, an Armed Citizen was Present and Engaged the Active Shooter in 33 total incidents (11.7%). This is all inclusive regardless of who the armed citizen was or their direct potential for stopping the shooter.

In a few examples, the armed citizen was at their home near the event when they heard shots fired and rushed to the scene to intervene and thus despite not being present when the incident began those Active Shooter events are included in the 11.7% below.

In one other example, the victims of the attack were hunters that were effectively ambushed by their killer. We are assuming the hunters possessed firearms and thus that incident is included in the 11.7% below even though the armed citizen wasn’t attempting to intervene to save others but was, in fact, the targeted victim.

That strikes me as a shockingly high percentage.

Of all the active shooter events there were 33 at which an armed citizen was present. Of those, Armed Citizens were successful at stopping the Active shooter 75.8% of the time (25 incidents) and were successful in reducing the loss of life in an additional 18.2% (6) of incidents. In only 2 of the 33 incidents (6.1%) was the Armed Citizen(s) not helpful in any way in stopping the active shooter or reducing the loss of life.

Thus the headline of our report that Armed Citizens Are Successful 94% Of The Time At Active Shooter Events.

In the 2 incidents at which the armed citizen “failed” to stop or slow the active shooter, one is the previously mentioned incident with hunters. The other is an incident in which the CCWer was shot in the back in a Las Vegas Walmart when he failed to identify that there were 2 Active Shooters involved in the attack. He neglected to identify the one that shot him in the back while he was trying to ambush the other perpetrator.

[...]

[A]t the 33 incidents at which Armed Citizens were present, there were zero situations at which the Armed Citizen injured or killed an innocent person. It never happened.

They were utilizing captured equipment

March 21st, 2019

The Germans had variety in their weapons also, but for a different reason than Italy, Dunlap notes — they were utilizing captured equipment:

Having Europe pretty well pocketed in 1941, the Nazis could afford to be choosy. After 1942 they could not be quite so hard to please. However, the Afrika Korps did have quite a collection of small arms, which we persuaded them to turn over to us, bit by bit, in the course of time. Being wise in matters of ordnance, Jerry did not devote much of his time to second-rate stuff, or items which were hard to supply. No French or Russian rifles ever came in, for instance. If such equipment was kept at all, it probably went to the German home guard, along with their own obsolete rifles and machine guns.

[...]

The eagle-and-swastika Nazi stamp will be al’ over everything.

[...]

The 98K’s started out with stocks of good European walnut but ended up with anything handy to the sawmill. I have a new rifle, dated 1942, which has a stock of beech. One of my friends sent home a later rifle with a laminated, or plywood stock.

[...]

The German rifle is practically a twin in dimensions to its cousin, the 1903 Springfield.

[...]

For some reason the Germans were addicted to installing a metal fitting in the buttstock, with a small hole passing completely through the stock. This aperture was originally invented for the purpose of providing a perfect fitting for passing a rod through to lock in rifle racks at night. It can and has been used for many things, including that purpose, but also to receive organizational insignia; spring catches to hold the weapon tight in vehicle racks; to hold the point of the firing pin when taking apart the bolt mechanism; and to hang the damned gun on a nail when you have a wall with a nail in it. This aperture fitting does not weigh much or take much of a cut in the stock, but it cannot help but tend to weaken it a certain amount.

[...]

Later on they may have gone to web slings. We did. They are better, in my opinion, for military use than leather, though the best of all materials was the Japanese rubberized canvas. It won’t rot, mold, mildew, get slippery or stretch.

SAT coaching and test prep isn’t important

March 20th, 2019

I don’t know that I’m “seriously stunned” by these five facts about higher education in America, but I can imagine most people who haven’t read Caplan would be:

1. 4 out of 10 college students fail to complete their degrees. According to research from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, only 58-percent of students manage to complete their degree programs within six years. Bill Gates has called this figure “tragic.” He has written, “Based on the latest college completion trends, only about half of all those students will leave college with a diploma. The rest — most of them low-income, first-generation, and minority students — will not finish a degree. They’ll drop out.” Sadly, community college figures are even more dismal. A recent study in California found that 70-percent of community college students fail out.

2. Attending an elite university doesn’t boost income. What matters is the ability to get in. Economists Stacy Dale and Alan B. Krueger looked at two groups, totaling about 19,000 students. One group gained admission into elite universities, attended, and graduated. Another group also gained admission into elite universities. But this group, rather than attending the elite schools, chose to attend less selective schools instead. More than 20 years after they graduated, Dale and Krueger measured their incomes. They found no difference. A student who got into Princeton but attended Penn State made as much as a student who got into, and attended, Princeton.

3. Graduating from a non-selective college doesn’t boost income. In a book about social class in America, researchers looked at how differently ranked colleges affected earnings. They found that students who attended the country’s most elite institutions earned about 84-percent more on average compared to those who had not graduated college. Graduates of “somewhat selective” private colleges and “leading state universities” earned about 52-percent more than non-graduates. However, they found “no income advantage” for those who graduated from a “nonselective” college compared to those who did not attend college.

4. A person with average academic ability has a higher than 50-percent chance of dropping out of college. For the general population, the average IQ score is 100. Research has found that, among white American college students, those with a 105 IQ score have a 50-percent chance of dropping out of college. They also report that the average IQ of a college graduate is about 114. But they also show that having a high IQ is no guarantee of graduating. Those who score 130 (very rare; about 2-percent of the population) still have a 10-percent dropout rate.

5. SAT coaching and test prep isn’t important. Many people have heard that private SAT prep courses and private tutoring produce substantial gains. Test prep companies tout that their users receive boosts of 100 points or more after only a few weeks of study. Research doesn’t support this. A meta-analysis from researchers at Harvard found that, on average, SAT coaching produces a 10-point gain. They conclude that this gain is “too small to be practically important.” More recent research from Stanford supports this. They found that students receive an 11-15 point gain from SAT coaching, which roughly corresponds to getting 1 or 2 additional questions correct. Perhaps even more surprising, a study from 2015 found that private tutoring has no effect on SAT gains. As the put it, “our hypothesis that more elite forms of test prep (private tutor) would predict higher SAT scores was not confirmed. The only form of that prep actually associated with higher SAT scores was participation in a private test prep course, which translated into an 11-point gain on the SAT when compared to students with no preparation.”

Saved by a dead-head pilot

March 20th, 2019

The day before that Lion Air Boeing 737 Max crashed, it almost crashed:

As the Lion Air crew fought to control their diving Boeing Co. 737 Max 8, they got help from an unexpected source: an off-duty pilot who happened to be riding in the cockpit.

That extra pilot, who was seated in the cockpit jumpseat, correctly diagnosed the problem and told the crew how to disable a malfunctioning flight-control system and save the plane, according to two people familiar with Indonesia’s investigation.

The next day, under command of a different crew facing what investigators said was an identical malfunction, the jetliner crashed into the Java Sea killing all 189 aboard.

The Italians went off the deep end on ordnance

March 20th, 2019

Once he gets going on guns and ammo, Dunlap really gets going:

If you are interested, barrel life with steeljacketed projectiles, copper or gilding-metal plated, runs approximately 60% of that when softer alloy jackets are used. Unplated steeljacketed bullets cut barrel life 50%. This when fired in standard barrels with Mauser or Enfield type sharp-land and sharp-groove rifling; with segmental rifling or with radius-groove type, barrel life can be prolonged perhaps 15% to 20%.

On tracers:

Color of the trace may be green, yellow, white, red, or a combination, green changing to red as the composition burns in flight.

[...]

German tracers were the best put out by any country; ballistics were excellent and the white and yellow colors were perfectly visible in the bright desert sunshine against buff-colored sand dunes as a background.

[...]

One explanation for the variety of tracer colors was that for night use it was possible to identify particular guns, and to signal with them and otherwise improvise special communications in the field according to locally prearranged plans. This was done quite a bit in Italy, German scouts pinpointing Allied points with long-range tracer crossfire from either rifle or machine gun.

On the 9-mm cartridge:

The standard loading for the regular cartridge called for a 124-grain bullet at approximately 1,050 FPS out of the short-barreled M’08 pistol. It is known throughout the world as the Parabellum cartridge.

[...]

The German ‘08 alternate cartridge appeared in the field in 1941 in small quantities, but within two years was the only type in production. This is the “black” cartridge, officially the “M’08 mit Eisenkern,” or “with iron core.” The case is steel; bullet is steel-jacketed, with mild steel core; the jacket is plated with copper inside and out, and the entire bullet and case are blackened for identification and rustproofing. The bullet weighs only 98-grains and has a heavier propelling charge than the standard load, but contrary to previous reports, this cartridge is perfectly safe to use in any 9mm caliber ‘08 pistol in good condition. I have shot hundreds of them through Lugers and Walthers. Velocity is quite high—I do not know the exact figures, but breech pressures are no higher than in the standard loading, due to the light bullet. The cartridge was intended primarily for the machine pistols, or submachine guns and does not give particularly good results in handguns, but is not dangerous.

[...]

Winchester loaded some 9mm Luger ammunition during the war, using 115-grain bullets. This was the finest ammunition we could locate in early 1943, and the only kind equal to the older (prewar) German stuff.

On the Italians:

The Italians went off the deep end on ordnance. Apparently anybody’s brother-in-law could sell his pet caliber or model or modification. And as previously stated, they never got rid of anything. It might die a natural death, but as long as it was not actually broken, it stayed in service even if it was the only one of its kind. Anything collected in a war was kept for use in that and all future wars, regardless of whether or not it was worth keeping, using or supplying.

[...]

Undoubtedly some of the confusion in velocity figures on Italian ammunition is due to their nonchalant use of any propellant handy at the time they were loading a batch. I broke down many cartridges, and sometimes found different components in the same rifle clip.

[...]

Ballistically it was OK; the long bullet had good range, was accurate enough, gave great penetration, but had failed to stop angry Africans.

[...]

Two different 8mm rimmed cartridges were loaded by Italy. One was the old 8mm Mannlicher, formerly the Austrian service cartridge, called by the Germans the 8mm Austrian M93 cartridge, Ogival; Italy collected quite a few Austrian rifles and machine guns as her part of the loot in the World War I settlement, and decided to use them till they fell apart.

[...]

From Italian ammunition we can go to Italian weapons. Rifles: Lots of them, all different in some respect or other; to cover their endless modifications would take a bigger book than this can be and there are only about a dozen true models.

It comes back like a dog with a stick

March 19th, 2019

James Thompson explains the cognitive task of flying a plane like the Boeing 737 Max:

Using James Reason’s explanatory framework (Human Error, 1989), pilots flying the Boeing 737 Max 8 and encountering the opaque workings of MCAS (manoeuvering characteristics augmentation system) are carrying out intentional but mistaken actions: they are trying to pull a plane out of a dive. The plane is in fact climbing away from an airport after takeoff, but a failure in an angle of attack indicator has convinced MCAS that it is in a stall condition. (For extra money, you can buy a second angle of attack indicator, and apparently these two airlines did not do so. For safety, two should be standard at no extra cost). Accordingly, MCAS puts the nose of the plane down to avoid the stall. The pilot reacts by pulling back the yoke so as to resume upward flight, cognizant of the plain fact that unless he can gain height he is going to die, together with his passengers. His action satisfies MCAS for a short while, and then it comes in again, helpfully trying to prevent a stall (because pulling on the yoke is not enough: the whole tail plane has to be “trimmed” into the proper angle). Pilots are doing what comes naturally to them.

MCAS is diligently doing as instructed, but is badly designed, relying as it does in this case on a single indicator, rather than two which could identify and resolve discrepancies, and has no common sense about the overall circumstances of the plane. The pilots know that they have just taken off. MCAS, as far as I know, does not “know” that. Again, as far as I know, MCAS does not know even what height the plane is at. (I know that this is not real Artificial Intelligence, but I used it as an illustration of some of the problems which may arise from AI in transport uses). The pilots respond with “strong-but-wrong” actions (which would be perfectly correct in most circumstances) and MCAS persists with “right-but-wrong” actions because of a severely restricted range of inputs and contextual understanding. Chillingly, it augments a sensor error into a fatal failure. A second sensor and much more training could reduce the impact of this problem, but the inherent instability of the engine/wing configuration remains.

Using Reason’s GEMS system, the pilots made no level 1 slips or lapses in piloting. They had followed the correct procedures and got the plane off the ground properly (once or twice a pilot forgets to put the flaps down at take-off or the wheels down at landing). I think they made no level 2 rule-based errors, because their rule-based reactions were reasonable: they considered the local state information and tried to follow a reasonable rule: avoid crashing into the ground by trying to gain height. They could be accused of a level 3 error: a knowledge-based mistake, but the relevant knowledge was not made available to them. They may have tried to problem-solve by finding a higher level analogy (hard to guess at this, but something like “we have unreliable indicators” or “we have triggered something bad in the autopilot function”) but then they must revert to a mental model of the problem, and think about abstract relations between structure and function, inferring a diagnosis, formulating corrective actions and testing them out. What would that knowledge-based approach entail? Either remembering exactly what should be done in this rare circumstance, or finding the correct page in the manuals to deal with it. Very hard to do when the plane keeps wanting to crash down for unknown reasons shortly after take-off. Somewhat easier when it happens at high altitudes in level flight.

At this point it needs to be pointed out that there is some confusion about how easy it was to switch off CMAS. All the natural actions with the yoke and other controls turn if off, but not permanently. It comes back like a dog with a stick. Worse, it will run to collect a stick you didn’t throw. The correct answer from the stab trim runaway checklist, is to flick two small switches down into the cut out position. Finding them may be a problem (one does not casually switch things off in a cockpit) and for those not warned about the issue, the time taken to find out the required arcane procedure may be insufficient at low altitudes, such as after take-off. Understandably, pilots did not understand the complexity of this system. They had a secret co-pilot on board, and hadn’t been told.

It slaps men down quite satisfactorily

March 19th, 2019

Roughly one-tenth of the way into Ordnance Went Up Front, Dunlap gets to the supposed topic:

The old .303 British Mark VII is still about the best man-stopper in a service rifle cartridge. Why? Well, I’ll tell you, but you’ll probably have to cut one open to convince yourself. That 174-grain flat based bullet is very scientifically balanced, or perhaps, unbalanced. The lead core does not fill the jacket completely; the first 3/8” inside the tip is aluminum (some wartime loadings have tenite or other light plastics). Result, the bullet spins on its axis and is accurate enough, but when it hits something it flips over on its side and causes a little more trouble than it ordinarily would; not always, but usually. The Germans haven’t squawked too much about it being a dumdum so it must not have been too vicious. It slaps men down quite satisfactorily, and is considered usable on game of the deer class as a fairly effective hunting bullet. Not recommended, but then not bad.

When it can withstand the barrage of punishment from Dick Dale, then it is fit for the human consumption

March 18th, 2019

The King of Surf Guitar just passed away. I saw him play back in the mid-90s, and it was literally painfully loud in the small club. I had been to plenty of loud concerts, and I couldn’t take it:

Dale was born Richard Anthony Monsour in Boston, Massachusetts, on May 4, 1937. He was of Lebanese descent from his father and Polish-Belarusian descent from his mother. His family subsequently moved to Quincy, Massachusetts. He learned the piano when he was nine after listening to his aunt playing it. He was given a trumpet in seventh grade, and later acquired a ukulele (for $6 part exchange) after becoming influenced by Hank Williams. The first song he played on the ukulele was “Tennessee Waltz”. He was also influenced musically by his uncle, who taught him how to play the tarabaki and could play the oud.

Dale then bought a guitar from a friend for $8, paying him back on installments. He then learned to play the instrument, using a combination of styles incorporating both lead and rhythm styles, so that the guitar filled the place of drums. His early tarabaki drumming later influenced his guitar playing, particularly his rapid alternate picking technique. Dale referred to this as “the pulsation”, noting all instruments he played derived from the tarabaki. He was raised in Quincy until he completed the eleventh grade at Quincy High School in 1954, when his father, a machinist, took a job working for Hughes Aircraft Company in the Southern California aerospace industry. The family moved to El Segundo, California. Dale spent his senior year at and graduated from Washington Senior High School. He learned to surf at the age of 17. He retained a strong interest in Arabic music, which later played a major role in his development of surf rock music.

Dale began playing in local country bars where he met Texas Tiny, who gave him the name “Dick Dale” because he thought it was a good name for a country singer.

Dale is credited as one of the first electric guitarists to employ non-Western scales in his playing. He regularly used reverb which became a trademark of surf guitar. Being left-handed, Dale tried to play a a right-handed guitar, but then changed to a left handed model. However, he did so without restringing the guitar, leading him to effectively play the guitar upside-down, often playing by reaching over the fretboard rather than wrapping his fingers up from underneath. He partnered with Leo Fender to test new equipment, later saying “When it can withstand the barrage of punishment from Dick Dale, then it is fit for the human consumption.” His combination of loud amplifiers and heavy gauge strings led him to be called the “Father of Heavy Metal”. After blowing up several Fender amplifiers, Leo Fender and Freddie Tavares saw Dale play at the Rendezvous Ballroom, Balboa, California and identified the problem with creating a sound louder than the audience screaming. The pair visited the James B. Lansing loudspeaker company and ask for a custom 15-inch loudspeaker, which became the JBL D130F model, and was known as the Single Showman Amp. Dale’s combination of a Fender Stratocaster and Fender Showman Amp allowed him to attain significantly louder volume levels unobtainable by then-conventional equipment.

I do not know about the use this privilege gets

March 18th, 2019

I didn’t realize that the British Army maintained the old Christmas tradition of inverting the hierarchy:

Christmas is the only day in the year the British private gets a break. Theoretically he can have his say about anything. If he does not like the way the army is run, he can go tell the general about it, or anyone else, without fear of getting kicked around for opening his mouth. I do not know about the use this privilege gets.

Also, it is the day the officers and sergeants are supposed to pay for their privileges by working for the ranks. In this little camp it took the form of serving the dinner.

For New Year’s Eve, a case or two of fancy twelve-year-old Scotch was produced, as the boys did not consider the Johnny Walker used as bar whisky very good! Beer was harder to get than hard liquor, being rationed from headquartermaster. All this at a time when American soldiers in a lot of places were stealing dried apricots and raisins from the cooks to make their own.

Herodotus right about river boats

March 17th, 2019

Herodotus visited Egypt and wrote about the unusual river boats on the Nile:

Twenty-three lines of his Historia, the ancient world’s first great narrative history, are devoted to the intricate description of the construction of a “baris”.

For centuries, scholars have argued over his account because there was no archaeological evidence that such ships ever existed. Now there is. A “fabulously preserved” wreck in the waters around the sunken port city of Thonis-Heracleion has revealed just how accurate the historian was.

“It wasn’t until we discovered this wreck that we realised Herodotus was right,” said Dr Damian Robinson, director of Oxford University’s centre for maritime archaeology, which is publishing the excavation’s findings. “What Herodotus described was what we were looking at.”

In 450 BC Herodotus witnessed the construction of a baris. He noted how the builders “cut planks two cubits long [around 100cm] and arrange them like bricks”. He added: “On the strong and long tenons [pieces of wood] they insert two-cubit planks. When they have built their ship in this way, they stretch beams over them… They obturate the seams from within with papyrus. There is one rudder, passing through a hole in the keel. The mast is of acacia and the sails of papyrus…”

[...]

Alexander Belov, whose book on the wreck, Ship 17: a Baris from Thonis-Heracleion, is published this month, suggests that the wreck’s nautical architecture is so close to Herodotus’s description, it could have been made in the very shipyard that he visited. Word-by-word analysis of his text demonstrates that almost every detail corresponds “exactly to the evidence”.

In Egypt it takes two men to drive any motor vehicle

March 17th, 2019

Dunlap talks about going into Alexandria:

Going in was simple — all British drivers had orders to pick up any man in uniform going their way and plenty of trucks moved in both directions up until about 10 P.M. After that, it was usually a taxi trip back. First you found a taxi which under inspection appeared able to last out the journey, then you persuaded the driver to go. He was usually reluctant, not liking driving out of the city with a load of soldiers who might pay him and might not. After a good bit of mangled English and Arabic he would decide to take a chance and collect his assistant; in Egypt it takes two men to drive any motor vehicle — one to operate and one to act as helper in repairing the inevitable breakdown, messenger if necessary, squeeze the rubber-bulb horn and of course, company, for the trip back. In case the driver had not been working long enough to pick up a smattering of the various languages spoken, the pal had to act as interpreter. Often the “assistant” would be just a boy.

[...]

The better restaurants printed their menus in four languages— English, French, Greek and Arabic.

[...]

However, when Mussolini decided England had lost the war and jumped in, all the Italians in Egypt disappeared and an equal number of “Frenchmen” instantly appeared. They fooled no one, but the British did not care to make an issue of it and contented themselves with taking over official Italian offices and property.

British soldiers swore they could see at night

March 16th, 2019

Dunlap ended up at the captured equipment depot outside Alexandria:

The 6 A.O.D. (Sixth Army Ordnance Depot), at Dekheila, (pronounced as in tequila, if you know that) about 12 or 14 miles west of the city of Alexandria was the British Captured Equipment Depot for the Middle East. [...] Artillery and vehicles were handled at a different location a few miles away, though there was a stray 88mm sitting beside the small arms shop, with 16 of the nicest, newest Continental truck tires on it — tires the black market would pay $200.00 apiece for in Cairo. And me with no tractor (how did I ever get off on this tangent?).

[...]

Guards were all over the place, either Indians who spent all their spare time polishing their Enfields and leather bandoliers, or various breeds of “colonials” who to me looked like jungle blacks who had the spears in their hands replaced with fixed-bayoneted rifles.

Most of them knew no English except the words “Inglis Solja.” Their challenge was like something you hear in the zoo at feeding time, but you had better freeze when you heard it, even if you had both feet in the air jumping off a truck. They loved those bayonets.

White British soldiers swore they could see at night and I am inclined to agree. I know I have been called at a distance in pitch darkness and had to identify myself, while the familiar Britishers with me went unchallenged.

[...]

There was one very large warehouse used solely for storing unwanted Italian swords, sabers, bayonets and knives. Thousands of each were neatly piled or stored in chests piled high on one another, and the variety was countless. Italy never declared anything obsolete. Bayonets and sabers 80 years old had been taken—swords of our Civil War period. Models of every type existed. Few had good steel and since there was not much call for extra bayonets, these stayed here and collected dust.

[...]

Although I was a “T-corporal” (Technician 5th Grade) I was considered a guest and allowed to live with the sergeants, eat in their mess, etc. This was extremely important. The Sergeant’s Mess had their own dining hall, with adjoining bar. With a full stock of liquid refreshments they used the best Scotch for bar whisky. The corporals and privates were allowed only beer in their messes.

[...]

When any British Non-Commissioned Officer works, it’s news; when Sergeants and W.O.’s stand at benches, it’s unbelievable. Something like seeing American Majors and Lt. Colonels greasing trucks.

[...]

Under the British system, a would-be armorer puts in four years learning how. He is taught not only all weapons up to 75mm guns but also blacksmithing, tinsmithing, bicycle repair and a general mechanics course. Under the armorers’ training he learns some pretty fancy gunsmithing, working with all sorts of civilian pistols and shotguns as well as machine guns and rifles and making broken and missing parts by hand. One year of the training period is spent in an arsenal or armory as a regular workman, although of course not in a single production job.

Practically all of this time was devoted to the Lee-Enfield rifle and emphasis was placed on speed of work. I have seen some of these armorers spin screwdrivers in each hand disassembling weapons, working very fast, but never interrupting their conversation which usually was thousands of miles away in subject.

The officer in charge, a Lieutenant (First) was called by all “Mister.” And I never saw anybody salute anybody around the place.

[...]

This was extremely shocking to us three Americans, since in the American forces, under the same set-up, the commanding officer would have been a Lt. Col.

[...]

The above sentences are not meant to be funny.

They were so bad even the Egyptians hated to take them

March 15th, 2019

Dunlap’s American unit was stationed Egypt with the British Eighth Army:

And if we went out in the blue we wore British battle-dress and their helmet. The melting-pot troops and colored colonials used for guard duties were not yet educated to the American helmet. If it wasn’t British they shot and then investigated. Fatigues were out; our fatigue coverall and cap happened to be almost identical with the German service work clothing.

[...]

The British were issuing to all troops who put in for them 50 “Victory V” cigarettes per week. These were made in India and would burn the throat out of a 37mm gun. They were so bad even the Egyptians hated to take them.

[...]

The British would have issued us their shoes, but theirs are black, not brown, hence not allowed by our own command. For dress, that is, off-duty wear, we could get hand-made footwear of any kind at prices not too steep. From $10.00 to $20.00 would purchase anything you could think up from a native cobbler, of fair quality leather and good workmanship.

[...]

The only catch to this seemingly luxurious sleeping accommodation was that we and it were promptly covered with fleas and bedbugs which we never did defeat in even a skirmish.

[...]

The British had a good insect repellant powder, but we had nothing, and the commercial preparations we bought did not work. I was assured by the Tommies that after a year or so they would quit biting me; after a white man’s blood thinned out they didn’t like it.

[...]

Units were moving up and back, as the British system is to relieve and replace units rather than individuals. During this past war the American way was to keep any committed unit up in the line and maintain strength through the individual replacement system. Most of us who saw both systems from the bottom shelf think the British the best. Men stay healthier and stronger if a rest period can come up once in awhile.

According to a G.I. movie on trench foot, one American division in Italy had 4,000 cases; the British division alongside it, under identical conditions, had 300; (according to the movie it was because the British soldier did as he was told about taking care of himself, while the childish American did not). Me, I think it was because the whole English outfit pulled back of the lines for dry socks, hot food and sleep every week or two while a relief crew held the line for them.

Their overriding goal is not enlightenment

March 14th, 2019

The admissions scandal is an opportunity to separate the lofty mythology of college from the sordid reality:

Despite the grand aspirations that students avow on their admission essays, their overriding goal is not enlightenment, but status.

Consider why these parents would even desire to fake their kids’ SAT scores. We can imagine them thinking, I desperately want my child to master mathematics, writing and history — and no one teaches math, writing and history like Yale does! But we all know this is fanciful. People don’t cheat because they want to learn more. They cheat to get a diploma from Yale or Stanford — modernity’s preferred passport to great careers and high society.

What, then, is the point of sneaking into an elite school, if you lack the ability to master the material? If the cheaters planned to major in one of the rare subjects with clear standards and well-defined career paths — like computer science, electrical engineering or chemistry — this would be a show-stopping question. Most majors, however, ask little of their students — and get less. Standards were higher in the 1960s, when typical college students toiled about 40 hours a week. Today, however, students work only two-thirds as hard. Full-time college has become a part-time job.

If computer-science students slacked off like this, employers would soon notice. Most of their peers, however, have little reason to dread a day of reckoning — because, to be blunt, most of what college students study is irrelevant in the real world. Think of all the math, history, science, poetry and foreign language you had to study in school — if you can. Indeed, you’ve probably long since forgotten most of what you learned about these subjects. Few of us use it, so almost all of us lose it. The average high school student studies a foreign language for a full two years, but, according to my own research, less than 1% of American adults even claim they gained fluency in a classroom.

Why do employers put up with such a dysfunctional educational system? Part of the answer is that government and donors lavish funding on the status quo with direct subsidies, student loans and alumni donations. As a result, any unsubsidized alternative, starved of resources, must be twice as good to do half as well. The deeper answer, though, is that American higher education tolerably performs one useful service for American business: certification. Most students at places like Yale and Stanford aren’t learning much, but they’re still awesome to behold if you’re looking to fill a position. Ivy Leaguers are more than just smart; when tangible rewards are on the line, they’re hardworking conformists. They hunger for conventional success. From employers’ point of view, it doesn’t matter if college fosters these traits or merely flags them. As long as elite students usually make excellent employees, the mechanism doesn’t matter.

So why cheat your kid into the Ivy League or a similarly elite school? For the lifelong benefits of corrupt certification. When I was in high school, my crusty health teacher loved to single out a random teen and scoff, “You’re wanted … for impersonating a student.” If you can get your less-than-brilliant, less-than-driven child admitted, he’ll probably get to impersonate a standardly awesome Ivy League graduate for the rest of his life. Of course, the superrich parents the FBI is accusing could have just let their kids skip college and live off their trust funds, but it’s not merely a matter of money. It’s also about youthful self-esteem — and parental bragging rights.