Saving lives obviously had preference

Monday, September 7th, 2020

The American way of street and town fighting, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), did not resemble that of other armies:

To Americans, flesh and blood and lives have always been more precious than sticks and stones, however assembled. An American commander, faced with taking the Louvre from a defending enemy, unquestionably would blow it apart or burn it down without hesitation if such would save the life of one of his men. And he would be acting in complete accord with American ideals and ethics in doing so. Already, in the Korean War, American units were proceeding to destroy utterly enemy-held towns and villages rather than engage in the costly business of reducing them block by block with men and bayonets, as did European armies. If bombing and artillery would save lives, even though they destroyed sites of beauty and history, saving lives obviously had preference. And already foreign observers with the United States Army — not ROK’s — were beginning to criticize such tactics.

Observers from France and Britain, realizing that war was also highly possible in their own part of the world, were disturbed at the thought of a ground defense of their homelands. For the United States Army, according to its history and doctrine, would choose the lives of its men over the continued existence of storied cathedrals. These observers wrote news releases — and soon Frank Muñoz could get no artillery on the enemy assembling in plain sight in the villages below him. When he asked Battalion to fire on the village, and burn it down, Battalion replied it could not. Fortunately, such orders in Korea were soon changed.

Comments

  1. Harry Jones says:

    This illustrates why we must be choosy in choosing allies. If there’s a weak link in your chain, shorten the chain by a link.

  2. Gavin Longmuir says:

    https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/fair-use-rule-copyright-material-30100.html

    “Rule 4: The More You Take, the Less Fair Your Use Is Likely to Be

    The more material you lift from the original, the less likely it is that your use will be considered a fair use. As a broad standard, never quote more than a few successive paragraphs from a book or article, take more than one chart or diagram, include an illustration or other artwork in a book or newsletter without the artist’s permission, or quote more than one or two lines from a poem.”

  3. Lucklucky says:

    The US had to be very careful in Italy. Still, they destroyed the Monte Cassino abbey, but everywhere else the bombing was made with pincers in historical location.

  4. Isegoria says:

    Walter Miller, the author of A Canticle for Leibowitz, served in a bomber crew that helped destroy the monastery at Monte Cassino during World War II, and converted to Catholicism after the war.

  5. lucklucky says:

    Thanks did not know him.
    It is interesting that even the Nazis saw it useful to fight a propaganda war about Cassino showing themselves as art protectors.

    “As General Mark Clark declared with frustration, fighting in Italy amounted to conducting war “in a goddamn museum.”

    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-monuments-men-saved-italys-treasures-180948005/

    In December 1943, after repeated reports of Allied soldiers’ vandalism reached Supreme Headquarters, General Eisenhower addressed a letter to all Allied commanders. He warned his men not to use “the term ‘military necessity’…where it would be more truthful to speak of military convenience or even personal convenience.” Military necessity, Eisenhower insisted, should not “cloak slackness or indifference.”

    ” Capt. Roderick Enthoven, a bespectacled British architect, valiantly resisted the army engineers who wanted to pull down the damaged Torre degli Amidei. The medieval tower was shored up, restored and stands to this day in Por Santa Maria Street, one of the few extant vestiges of medieval Florence.”

  6. bruce purcell says:

    Huh. From Miller’s strongly negative view of P-47 collateral damage, I thought he’d been infantry.

  7. Kirk says:

    The European mentality is very confusing to Americans. They think that the little signs they put up designating “cultural monuments” mean something, and that you are supposed to die in order to prevent damaging the buildings or whatever it is they adorn.

    As I explained to the German commander and the idiot preservationist of the church we were making plans to turn into easily defended rubble, the fact that it was the sole 12th Century building left over which had survived the various other wars in Germany, I really didn’t give a rip–It served as a target marker, and the Soviets were going to use it as a reference point to drop artillery rounds throughout the valley. As well, the building reduced to rubble would be more easily defended, and if the Germans really cared about it, why was the church empty on Sunday, anyway…? If they’re not going to use it, then who cares, really?

    They didn’t like the answers they got when they went to my bosses, either.

    Frankly, the Germans were a bunch of pussies when it came to things like this. They had no problems with doing the necessary during WWII, when it wasn’t German soil and German monuments, but once they found out that the price for losing WWII was to be the battleground for WWIII, they got all hot and bothered about it.

    At the time, I was a rather low-ranking NCO with a strong desire to see things blow up, so as far as I was concerned, Central Germany was a playground for what we termed “Large scale vandalism and the wholesale destruction of public property…”. Your best bet for post-WWIII investment would have been concrete plants and heavy equipment, because once we got done with our fighting retreat to the Rhine, everything from Fulda back to Frankfurt was going to be rubble.

    I still remember the look of outrage on that German’s face, when I told him what we were doing, and why. Probably didn’t help when I said something to the effect of “Well, next time, win the fucking war… Then you get to make the rules…”.

    Actually, I kinda understand why they’re so pissy, these days. It can’t be fun to have assholes like me playing war games and training in your back yards for 45 years, all the while ignoring your petty little rules about things.

    Strongest feeling I have about the Germans, after all these years? In general terms, screw ‘em. They’re shitty losers, and generally very aggravating people to try to work with. If WWIII had ever lit off, I think there would have been a lot of Americans who took immoderate glee in blowing their shit up. I know I would have–You only had to spend a few guard cycles dealing with the “peace protesters” before you soured on Germans in general.

  8. David Foster says:

    Antoine de St-Exupery observed the bombardment of Madrid by Franco’s forces:

    “I crept out of the trench, lay flat on my stomach on the parapet, and stared. A new image has wiped out the old. Madrid with its chimney-pots, its towers, its portholes, now looks like a ship on the high seas. Madrid all white on the black waters of the night. A city outlives its inhabitants. Madrid, loaded with emigrants, is ferrying them from one shore to the other of life. It has a generation on board. Slowly it navigates through the centuries.”

    An image that would be unlikely to come to an American, with our more-recently-built cities.

  9. Szopen says:

    Barbarians.

  10. Anonymous Preservationist says:

    If the Europeans want to preserve their historical churches, they had better stop importing Muslim fanatics.

  11. Lucklucky says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQ8F_yPwqzA

    The European mentality is very confusing to Americans. They think that the little signs they put up designating “cultural monuments” mean something, and that you are supposed to die in order to prevent damaging the buildings or whatever it is they adorn.

    If the twin towers attack would not have killed anyone USA would have went to war? Of course it would. Important buildings and art is part of what you are what is you identity.
    Cars can be an work of art and are part of culture. Ferrari is an essential part of Italy even if was born as independent factory only after WW2.

  12. Szopen says:

    I recall a story from Kosovo, when western EU soldiers came to save a Serb nun living alone in a monastery. She didn’t want to leave it. They were baffled. She was in a grave danger didn’t she understand Albanians would come and they would kill her? What’s the point of giving her life to protect ruins of some medieval monastery? Finally they “saved her”, forced her to leave the ruins.

    My reaction was exactly the same. Barbarians, who cannot fathom something might be more valuable than life.

  13. McChuck says:

    “My reaction was exactly the same. Barbarians, who cannot fathom something might be more valuable than life.”

    My reaction was exactly the opposite. The rest of the world are barbarians, who cannot fathom that life might be more valuable than things. Especially when they are our lives and somebody else’s things.

  14. Harry Jones says:

    To treasure relics of a glorious past is to admit that your best days are behind you.

    To build for the centuries is to assume that architectural technique will never improve and that architectural taste will never change.

    The world is full of buildings everyone wishes would go away. Why were they built in the first place? Each of them must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Such a good idea that they were built to last for decades.

  15. Szopen says:

    “To treasure relics of a glorious past is to admit that your best days are behind you.”

    Nope. Is to admit that you have a connection to a history and that you think you and your life is part of something greater. It’s remembering you have a heritage, and therefore, also duties to preserve this heritage for future generations.

  16. Harry Jones says:

    Europe doesn’t have a heritage, it has hand-me-downs.

    Aging infrastructure is not culture. Culture is what you do and how you do it, and the culture of Europe’s better days is deader than Beethoven. If they had a heritage, they’d still be making art like the Renaissance masters did. But they’re not. QED.

    Every heroic monument is a reminder that those who came before were better than you.

  17. Kirk says:

    “Nope. Is to admit that you have a connection to a history and that you think you and your life is part of something greater. It’s remembering you have a heritage, and therefore, also duties to preserve this heritage for future generations.”

    Ah, the vaunted Euro “civilized” attitude rears its head–The one that says things are worth more than people. Which is, in the end, why European civilization isn’t very “civilized”, at all. They would rather “conserve” a thousand ancient artifacts than save a few hundred thousand lives of their people. They call it “respect”, but the reality is that it derives from a complete lack of concern for the common men and women that the aristos drive off to war and value less than their physical possessions.

    It’s one reason among many why I won’t go back to defend their so-called “civilization”. Any country where you get more time in prison for adulterating wine than you will for a horrific rape/torture/murder of a young woman you kidnap off the street? Fuck that country, and the people who live there. There is nothing worth defending in a nation that calls that “justice”.

  18. Szopen says:

    “Every heroic monument is a reminder that those who came before were better than you.”

    This attitude of yours is why you westerners (both Americans and west euros) allow your monuments, your flags and your heroes to be destroyed, defiled and forgotten. If those who came before were better, then they serve as an inspiration to be better. And to help you survive in dark times. My nation survived 125 years of foreign occupation only because we never stopped to remember the past and never stopped to care about our heritage.

    “things are worth more than people”

    It’s not any “things”. It’s some kind of things — the symbols. Churches. Monuments. National heritage. Sometimes you must allow even greater things to be destroyed, when there is no other choice. If you don’t get it, then you reduce the nation to a random collection of individuals who share nothing.

  19. Kirk says:

    It’s a laughable proposition, yours. What is the point to monuments when the people who built them are dead and forgotten in some hastily-dug mass grave their social “betters” drug them into.

    The military philosophy in the ranks here in the US is a bit more concerned about the people than things. The officer class wants to emulate their Euro aristos, with their supercilious attitudes towards the value of human life, but they oftentimes get overruled by the men they want to die for someone else’s “valuable cultural artifacts”. Occasionally, they get shot for their troubles.

    Europe would be a lot better off if they valued people over things, but we all know that ain’t going to happen. Which is why European commoners won’t breed, and their aristo class has to bring in third-world “supplements” to top off the welfare state. It won’t end the way they think that it will. A tipping point is going to be reached, and then there won’t be any more “ethnic Germans” to preserve history for. I can’t wait to see which major cathedral becomes the first one converted over to a mosque…

  20. Szopen says:

    Kirk, I won’t even try to convince you. I only know that you do not value things and you have BLM riots and throwing off monuments, while we have this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ejd2rsXoQSI

  21. Kirk says:

    Szopen,

    It is truly laughable how you make my own point, and yet utterly fail to realize it.

    Warsaw and Poland would not exist at all were it not for the people. So long as they remain, so too will Poland. The monuments and other bullshit are entirely ephemeral, and evaporate in the sun like water, once you eliminate the people who build and maintain them.

    You’ll probably get to witness this, in Western Europe. Once the critical mass of immigrants is reached, then the monuments to their precedents will begin to vanish or be converted like the Hagia Sofia. It’s inevitable, and a direct consequence of the elimination/replacement of the indigenous population.

    So, you may not be a believer as of yet, but you will be. People are way more important than things, because so long as you have a people, then you can rebuild anything that was lost, and build anew. Without the people to do that, you’ve got shit. Which is why I would blow up every single “cultural monument” there is, to save the life of one of my men. As a corollary? Anyone trying to stop me from doing that is as much an enemy as those I fight in the first place, and I’ll put them in the ground with equal disinterest.

  22. Szopen says:

    “Warsaw and Poland would not exist at all were it not for the people. So long as they remain, so too will Poland.”

    If we would care only about people, there would be no Poland – Poland exists only when there people consider themselves Polish and have a will to defend themselves. Otherwise, we would all be Russians, Germans or Austrians.

  23. Szopen says:

    Besides, Kirk, I’ve written above already, “Sometimes you must allow even greater things to be destroyed, when there is no other choice.” But this is not a decision to be taken lightly.

  24. Kirk says:

    I know precisely how to rebuild a building, or recreate a piece of artwork.

    I do not know how to return the dead to life.

    That being the case, I will continue to prioritize as I do, and retain contempt for those who do otherwise. Had the Nazis won WWII, there would be no Poland, no matter how you look at what Poland consists of. They would have erased the monuments and the artwork you think are so important right after they exterminated the final Pole. After that, the only place Poland would have existed would have been in the hearts and minds of the expatriates that they hadn’t gotten around to eliminating, yet.

    What then for your monuments, your art, your history?

    You might want to consider the case of the Carthaginians. All we know of them today comes through the Romans. What, do you suppose, would be remembered of Poland in a thousand years, without the people to transmit the memories?

  25. Harry Jones says:

    szopen, I may doubt the motives of the iconoclasts, but I support iconoclasm for my own reason: either the past is obsolete or the present is unworthy of it.

    If those old statues did anything to elevate people, those people wouldn’t be lowering the statues.

    To the credit of the Germans, they did a fine job rebuilding Dresden. What is easily remedied is not to be mourned. What is not easily remedied was not really ours to mourn.

  26. Szopen says:

    I will repeat for the third time: “Sometimes you must allow even greater things to be destroyed, when there is no other choice.”

  27. Kirk says:

    Well, until you show me a way to resurrect the dead, I will continue to operate as though human life is more important than some ancient relic. It’s a tragedy when something historic is ruined, but it’s more of a tragedy when someone prioritizes something from the past over a living human being.

    Hell, TBH, I’d happily blow up the Louvre to save the life of a military working dog… More value there than any cultural relic.

    And, if that makes me a monster? Tough shit.

  28. RLVC says:

    Your forefathers invented and reinvented classical and neoclassical architectures, sculptures, paintings, musics, clothings, dance.

    You hunch over your rickety particleboard desk, peer into a glowing white rectangle, and complain that people are soft, weak, broken, uncreative, and individually worth more than the great works that their forefathers produced or that their children might produce, given the opportunity.

    YOU ARE GAY!

  29. Harry Jones says:

    I refuse to own any particleboard furniture. As for clothing, I don’t much care for polyester.

    I listen to Renaissance music on MP3s. One of these days they will perfect digital synth to the point that orchestras can be dispensed with. Just do for the string sections what Kurzweil did for the piano and we’re halfway there. Violins are finicky. MIDI keyboards just work.

    I also listen to neo-prog synth music on MP3s.

    If they can’t salvage the Notre Dame cathedral, rebuild it. This time with electric light, central climate control and indoor plumbing. And a decent sound system. Don’t change the look. Make it look exactly like the old one, and change everything else about it. Aesthetics are shallow. Engineering is deep.

  30. Lucklucky says:

    “Aesthetics are shallow. Engineering is deep.”

    Talked like a Marxist. In fact listening to Kirk and you here in this topic seems i am listening to a Communist. American buildings should have been Soviet blocks then. Basically no beauty, no culture so no tradition to be build. Valid for nomads but it is not civilization. Even more ridiculous is then after this argument finding a justification that you should fight for Iwo Jima or some mountain somewhere…if you don’t fight for what you build why fight for anything at all.

    Btw don’t came talk to me about importance of military moral after this.

    Tell me why the Ford Mustang model of Bullit film is an iconic US car? Should it have been another US crap box?

  31. Harry Jones says:

    I wasn’t aware Marx had said what I said. I’d love to see the quote.

    Civilization is as civilization does. If you’re not building, you’re a slacker. Tradition is a sorry excuse for underachievement. Resting on your own laurels is bad enough, but resting on dead peoples’ laurels is inexcusable.

    Old stuff tends to get in the way even in peacetime. That’s why the Northeast Corridor can’t have a proper bullet train.

    I won’t waste one damn bullet on what some people who died centuries ago built. Either you can rebuild it when you have to, or you don’t deserve to have it.

  32. Dave says:

    If the “historic buildings” are Brutalist abominations from the 1960s, I’ll be very happy to see them reduced to rubble. What were the builders thinking? Who ever gazed upon a brick or cinder block and said, “I want a whole building that looks like this!”

  33. Kurt says:

    Most architecture is built to be functional and when it isn’t no one cares if it’s torn down. But occasionally there’s an architect or artist who creates something that can inspire future generations. Who can create a new standard or benchmark for the future to surpass. It would be a pretty sad society that created nothing for it’s succeeding citizens to value.

  34. Kirk says:

    If you mean the people who constructed the buildings vs. the ones who chose the designs and listened to the oh-so-correct architects, I think you might want to re-examine your premises. The construction guys just execute the plans laid out by the theorists and chosen by the executives, and I’ll guarantee you that the actual builders and worker/craftsmen who laid the bricks and did the work would have rather built something beautiful that they could look at with some sense of pride.

    I’m pretty sure that most of the folks who actually worked on that Brutalist architecture shared your opinion on its merit, but since they weren’t the ones writing the checks? It got built to specification.

  35. Sam J. says:

    “…Brutalist… What were the builders thinking? Who ever gazed upon a brick or cinder block and said, “I want a whole building that looks like this!…”

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Brutalism if the building is following the function of the lowest cost for it’s function. Some Brutalist buildings have great beauty if you understand they are a machine and that the buildings form is a manifestation of that machine.

    Brutalism for Brutalism’s sake, I don’t agree with that.

    Here’s an example in motorcycle form.

    http://retrowriteup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/IMG_7551.jpg

    as opposed to

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9e/Rattle_the_Runway_Ride_2009-1.jpg

    Of course there is a bit of Brutalism that can look very nice like this.Probably the best compromise.

    http://tuscantraveler.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Italian-Scooters_large.jpg

  36. Sam J. says:

    “…American buildings should have been Soviet blocks…”

    There’s nothing wrong with these buildings at all. Well more accurately they are not perfect but were functional. They should have had more design cycles but people were living in wooden huts and tents. The buildings were a vast step up from that.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khrushchyovka

    People degrade cheap housing but it beats “no housing” every time. Ornate buildings no one can afford are useless. You might as well talk about putting everyone up in yachts and how it so horrible everyone doesn’t have a nice yacht.

  37. Harry Jones says:

    Exposed concrete and cinderblock don’t stand up well to the elements. Knock them down after a few decades and it won’t matter.

    Sandstone also fares poorly outdoors. All those nice statues and frilly bits turning to formless blobs. Oh, well.

    If all things must pass, even a pyramid won’t last. But that’s not a problem if you can just make a new one.

    The core of culture is technology: knowing how to put things together. You can’t have nice things if you can’t make nice things.

    Holding on to old, worn out things is the mentality of poverty and the spirit of declinism.

    Build everything to last at least five years and at most fifty years.

  38. Dave says:

    “Some Brutalist buildings have great beauty if you understand they are a machine and that the buildings form is a manifestation of that machine.”

    That’s a good way to think when designing a cement factory or sewage-treatment plant, but when building something for the public to interact with, beauty is more than mere functionality. Roger Scruton explains better than I can:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHw4MMEnmpc

  39. Sam J. says:

    “…Exposed concrete and cinderblock don’t stand up well to the elements…”

    It’s my understanding that concrete last just fine it’s the steel rebar reinforcement that rust then cracks it up that’s the problem.

    They have rebar made of glass and even better Basalt.

Leave a Reply