It’s All Hallow’s Eve

Saturday, October 31st, 2020

I’m still surprised by how much I’ve written about Halloween and horror over the years:

I don’t know what the first two were, but the third was for death

Friday, October 30th, 2020

I finally got around to reading the horror classic The Monkey’s Paw, arguably the trope codifier of the admonition to be careful what you wish for. (Some of us learned this lesson the hard way after receiving a magical wish while playing Dungeons and Dragons.)

In the story, old Mr. and Mrs. White and their adult son Herbert receive a visit from Sergeant-Major Morris, back from India after 21 years in the army:

“I’d like to go to India myself,” said the old man, just to look around a bit, you know.”

“Better where you are,” said the Sergeant-Major, shaking his head. He put down the empty glass and sighning softly, shook it again.

“I should like to see those old temples and fakirs and jugglers,” said the old man. “what was that that you started telling me the other day about a monkey’s paw or something, Morris?”

“Nothing.” said the soldier hastily. “Leastways, nothing worth hearing.”

“Monkey’s paw?” said Mrs. White curiously.

“Well, it’s just a bit of what you might call magic, perhaps.” said the Sergeant-Major off-handedly.

His three listeners leaned forward eagerly. The visitor absent-mindedly put his empty glass to his lips and then set it down again. His host filled it for him again.

“To look at,” said the Sergeant-Major, fumbling in his pocket, “it’s just an ordinary little paw, dried to a mummy.”

He took something out of his pocket and proffered it. Mrs. White drew back with a grimace, but her son, taking it, examined it curiously.

“And what is there special about it?” inquired Mr. White as he took it from his son, and having examined it, placed it upon the table.

“It had a spell put on it by an old Fakir,” said the Sergeant-Major, “a very holy man. He wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it.”

His manners were so impressive that his hearers were conscious that their light laughter had jarred somewhat.

“Well, why don’t you have three, sir?” said Herbert White cleverly.

The soldier regarded him the way that middle age is wont to regard presumptuous youth.”I have,” he said quietly, and his blotchy face whitened.

“And did you really have the three wishes granted?” asked Mrs. White.

“I did,” said the sergeant-major, and his glass tapped against his strong teeth.

“And has anybody else wished?” persisted the old lady.

“The first man had his three wishes. Yes,” was the reply, “I don’t know what the first two were, but the third was for death. That’s how I got the paw.”

Read the whole thing. It’s short.

In Private Smalley’s case the propaganda backfired

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachCaptured up on a hill near the Ch’ongch’on, Private Smalley was ordered into his sleeping bag, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

At dawn, a slender Chinese officer shook him awake. Speaking perfect English, the officer began to question Smalley and the two ROK soldiers who had been taken with him.

Smalley refused to open his mouth. Seeing his example, the two KATUSA’s were silent, also. At last the Chinese officer snapped his fingers. While Smalley watched, horrified, the Koreans were marched a few paces away and shot down.

Then the officer said to Smalley, “We know all about you.” And he did — down to Smalley’s unit, and who commanded it. “Now go back and tell your commander not to use fire bombs — napalm — against us. Your outfit is over there” — he pointed to the river — “take off!”

Fully expecting a bullet in the back, Smalley ran for the river. Though he was forced to hide twice to avoid Chinese patrols, he reached the Ch’ongch’on and splashed across.

During this time the Chinese released many such prisoners as Smalley, undoubtedly for propaganda reasons. In Private Smalley’s case the propaganda backfired. Finding Captain Muñoz, he said bitterly: “I saw what they did to those ROK’s. Gimme a machine gun!”

All of the studies on face masks and social distancing are based on preventing flu transmission

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

In the Southern Hemisphere, where the flu season happens during our summer months, the WHO data suggests it never took off at all:

In Australia, just 14 positive flu cases were recorded in April, compared with 367 during the same month in 2019 — a 96 per cent drop.

By June, usually the peak of its flu season, there were none. In fact, Australia has not reported a positive case to the WHO since July.

In Chile, just 12 cases of flu were detected between April and October. There were nearly 7,000 during the same period in 2019.

And in South Africa, surveillance tests picked up just two cases at the beginning of the season, which quickly dropped to zero over the following month — overall, a 99 per cent drop compared with the previous year.

In the UK, our flu season is only just beginning. But since Covid-19 began spreading in March, just 767 cases have been reported to the WHO compared with nearly 7,000 from March to October last year.

And while lab-confirmed flu cases last year jumped by ten per cent between September and October, as a new season gets under way this year they’ve risen by just 0.7 per cent so far.


‘All of the studies on face masks and social distancing are based on preventing flu transmission and have shown huge reductions,’ he adds. ‘So it’s no surprise it worked.’

This was no country for a modern, mechanized army

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachT. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War) what happened near the forlorn village of Kunu-ri:

The battalions and companies were scattered along the river in weird array, for this was no country for a modern, mechanized army. The hills were not high here, but they were endless. There were no side roads, and no flat spaces anywhere, where command posts, medical aid stations, or anything else could be set up. The hills ran into each other; they overlapped; they blocked vision and hearing in every direction.

Because the terrain was compartmented by the hills, some units stood too close to others; others were out of sight and hearing of those supporting them. Wire often did not reach; the ancient radios did not work. The units of the 2nd Division were not far from each other in yards and miles—but each moved, fought, and worried in almost complete isolation, in a tormented vacuum of its own.

Men who have never walked these hills will never adequately understand what happened to the 2nd Division. Because among these endless ridges the 2nd Division was brought to battle the day after Thanksgiving, 1950, and it was, in detail, defeated.

During the next five days every unit of the division, combat and support alike, would know its moments of danger, of fear and death and destruction. All would suffer, some more than others. What each company, each platoon suffered, is a story in itself.

Enough of the whole, perhaps, can be glimpsed from the ordeal of a few.


Because the fighting had lessened in recent weeks, because all believed the war was ending, the hard-won discipline in the ranks had lessened, too. Men had discarded their steel helmets, because they were heavy and awkward over their pile caps. Disdaining their use, most men of the 9th Infantry had tossed aside their bayonets. Few carried grenades, or much ammunition. There were few entrenching tools, and not much food, because in these goddam hills, man, you had to go light.

Because most men equated discipline with the infrequent nonsense of digging six-by-six trenches to bury cigarettes, or scrubbing coal bins white, practices the Army had wisely discarded, many men had discarded discipline, too. They — those who lived — would have to learn again that discipline means keeping a full bandoleer of ammunition and a full canteen, despite their weight, and all the equipment men wiser than they had issued to them.


But George Company had good clothing: OD trousers, with field cotton pants to go over them, field jackets, parkas, combat boots with overshoes, and arctic sleeping bags. They were eating good food as yet, and they had no real trouble with the bitter weather.


Chinese were pouring into the 2nd Division along the natural corridors by night, seeking the American rear. Where they met no opposition in the dark, they flowed through; where they hit, sometimes by accident, an American unit, they flailed it from all directions. Some, decimated and shaken, held; some broke.


In the first, shadowy winter’s light, Master Sergeant William Long, leading George’s 3rd Platoon, saw a body of men walking openly along a creek from the area where K and L of the 3rd Battalion should be. Because the troops moved in the open, with no attempt at concealment, the men with Long decided they must be Americans, and ignored them.

Warned by the sixth sense old hands develop in battle, Long kept his eye on the approaching men. They closed to within three hundred yards, and suddenly Long yelled, “Chinks! They’re Chinks!”

Quickly, men holding rifles and BAR’s swiveled toward the visitors. Long let them come within two hundred yards; then he leveled his own carbine, and let fly.

The first burst of fire knocked down nearly half the Chinese. The remaining jumped behind rocks of the creek bed or plunged into the half-frozen rice paddies. There was a small village nearby, and a few Chinese raced for cover among the huts.


Frank Muñoz and Long looked over the dead Chinese carefully; they were the first they had seen. The corpses were clean-looking, solid, muscular. Each soldier had carried a pack complete with entrenching tool, blankets, and extra ammunition; they had had a miscellany of weapons — American, Japanese, Russian — and plenty of stick grenades. Some of them had carried a pot and a great quantity of rice — their rations.

Because they had thought all the American line companies had been wiped out during the night, the Chinese had walked blithely into a trap.


Three big waves of Chinese boiled up out of the dark, hammering at George’s men with rifles and submachine guns, hurling dozens of grenades. Muñoz’s men needed grenades now, badly, but they didn’t have them. As the Chinese poured up the fingers and fell into their holes, they needed bayonets — but they didn’t have these, either.


Behind Fox and George the river was fordable by vehicles only. Ice-rimed and swift, it was four feet deep, with enough current to sweep a wading man from his feet. Muñoz ordered all the wounded who had been salvaged, some thirty to forty, to be put on the tank decks. Then, the tiny column started to move back to the Ch’ongch’on. As they moved out, mortar shells began to whistle down on them.


Under scattered fire, seeing Chinese crawling over the small ridges like ants in the gun flashes, the column ground slowly toward the river. Suddenly, a rocket launcher flared in the night, and the lead tank stopped, started to smoke. The men riding it leaped off; the crew bailed out, and both groups dashed wildly toward another vehicle.

The stopped tank caught fire, its engine flaming up with a loud whoosh. In this light, and behind the cover the steel hull afforded, Muñoz gathered five or six of his men. “Stay here! Fire on the Chinks! We’ll cover the others; then they’ll cover us—”

There were two more tanks, and most of Fox company, still behind. Now, under the covering fire Muñoz’s small party threw against the hills, the others streamed through. But they did not stop to cover Muñoz’s withdrawal — they kept on going.

Bullets whined off the damaged tank as the Chinese in the ridges kept up a steady fire, and the gasoline in the tank engine blazed up so high Muñoz began to worry that the tank might explode.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said to the men around him. “Stay close to me — there’s safety in numbers.”

But one of the men, First Sergeant Lester Heath, had been shot in the foot, and crippled. He could barely walk; he could only hobble along, leaning on Muñoz’s shoulder.

The little party could not run for the river; hampered by Heath, it moved along at a snail’s pace.

The Chinese rushed. Firing coolly with his .45, Muñoz knocked five of them down, while the other men used carbines and M-1’s. There was no hope of bringing out the dead, Muñoz knew — but he was not leaving any wounded behind. They brought Heath out.

For this action Frank Muñoz would be decorated.

By the time Muñoz and his party reached the river, the Quad .50s had burned up all their ammunition, and could be used only to ferry men across. The tanks, also, took the wounded across the icy river, then returned to carry more.


Muñoz and his men were brought across — but many men, despairing of crossing on a tank, waded into the Ch’ongch’on and splashed to safety. In the ten-degree weather, most of them became weather casualties.

On the east bank, trying to reorganize his company, Frank Muñoz could at first find only twenty men. And it was here he first discovered that his own trousers had been cut by bullets in two places. He had neither heard nor felt the bullets’ passage.

Oxophilicity of the surface plays a very important role in electrolysis

Monday, October 26th, 2020

Chemist Ian McCrum used a special platinum crystal to bring sustainable hydrogen one step closer:

To understand what is so special about this crystal, we need to zoom in on the surface of the platinum. This is not flat and smooth, but irregular with tiny steps and kinks. And it is precisely at these irregularities that chemical reactions take place. McCrum designed the special crystal in such a way that the surface has the same number of these irregularities throughout the crystal. He then decorated the edges with different metals, such as ruthenium and molybdenum. In this way, he ensured that all the electrodes had exactly the same atomic structure, but each time with a different metal in the edges. This enabled him to vary the interaction of the electrode with the oxygen atom of water in a systematic and well-defined way.

Measurements then began, with a surprising outcome. Marc Koper says, “Our breakthrough is that there appears to be a clear link between the activity of the electrode for making hydrogen and the degree to which the metal in the edge binds to the oxygen atom of water.” The latter is also known as oxophilicity, with oxophilic literally meaning oxygen-loving. “We have even found an optimum for this oxophilicity,” says Koper. “We have now definitively established that the oxophilicity of the surface plays a very important role in electrolysis.”

They would fight, in their own way, in their own mountains

Sunday, October 25th, 2020

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachLin Piao knew almost everything there was to know about American fighting men, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), including strengths and weaknesses:

“The coordinated action of mortars and tanks is an important factor…. Their firing instruments are highly powerful…. Their artillery is very active…. Aircraft strafing and bombing of our transportation have become a great hazard to us…. Their transport system is magnificent. Their rate of infantry fire is great, and the long range of that fire is even greater.”


“Cut off from the rear, they abandon all their heavy weapons…. Their infantrymen are weak, afraid to die, and have no courage to attack or defend. They depend always on their planes, tanks, artillery…. They specialize in day fighting. They are not familiar with night fighting or hand-to-hand combat. If defeated, they have no orderly formation. Without the use of their mortars, they become completely lost…. They become dazed and completely demoralized. They are afraid when the rear is cut off. When transportation comes to a standstill, the infantry loses the will to fight.”


They would plan attacks to get in the enemy rear, to cut escape and supply roads, and then to flail the enemy with pressure from both front and rear. They would use what they called the Hachi-Shiki — a V-formation, which moved open and against the enemy, then closed about him, while other forces slashed through to his rear, engaging any unit that tried to relieve the trapped enemy. Simple tactics, they were suited to the violently broken Korean terrain — and they could be coordinated with flares and bugle calls, the only means of communication the Chinese possessed.

“As a main objective, one of our units must fight its way quickly around the enemy and cut off his rear…. Route of attack must avoid highways and flat terrain in order to keep tanks and artillery from hindering the attack operations. Night warfare in the mountains must have a definite plan and liaison between platoon groups. Small, leading patrols attack and then sound the bugle. A large number will at that time follow in column.”

The Chinese soldiers to whom the instructions were read were well fed, well clothed, and sturdy. They wore warm quilted jackets of white, mustard-brown, or blue; many had fur-lined boots. They were tough. They did not fear to leave their own lines; they carried their supply and food, even mortar rounds, with them, over hills, through valleys. Their minds were conditioned by the vast, flowing landscapes of China itself; they would move over the land as if it were the sea, caring little whether they were before the enemy or behind him, for on the sea all position is relative.


In open battle, openly arrived at, an American army might have slaughtered them. On the fields of Europe, or in the deserts of North Africa, they would have died under the machines and superior firepower of a mechanized host. But now, Lin Piao’s hosts were not going to engage in open battle, openly arrived at, with the West.

They would fight, in their own way, in their own mountains, and they would inflict upon American arms the most decisive defeat they had suffered in the century.

Managers come from the same stultified society as the managed

Saturday, October 24th, 2020

Americans were once accustomed to solving problems themselves, T. Greer notes — less as rugged individuals than as rugged communitarians:

When a novel problem occurred, they would gather together with others affected, and would together take action to resolve the problem before them. This lived experience of jointly solving novel problems has largely disappeared from American life. Americans have spent several generations the subject of bureaucratic management, and are rarely given real responsibility for their own affairs. The “Karen” like impulse of contemporary life is to defer to experts; when a vexing problem disturbs, the default solution is an appeal to management. The problem with all this: managers come from the same stultified society as the managed. Once they attain power they realize they have no more experience building problem-solving institutions than the rest of us.

It was a typically American viewpoint

Friday, October 23rd, 2020

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachMacArthur felt he could not sit still, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), and let his troops be tied up for the winter:

The CCF plan might be to make Korea a permanent running sore, and to tie up more than a hundred thousand U.S. ground troops indefinitely. With winter already howling down out of one of the coldest spots on earth, he had to retreat or attack. He attacked.


“I believe that with my air power, now unrestricted so far as Korea is concerned…I can deny reinforcements coming across the Yalu in sufficient strength to prevent the destruction of those forces now arrayed against me in North Korea.”


“The giant U.N. pincer moves according to schedule today. The air forces, in full strength, completely interdicted the rear areas, and an air reconnaissance behind the enemy line, and along the entire length of the Yalu River border, showed little sign of hostile military activity.”


Whatever the weaknesses of his ground forces, whatever their difficult and exposed positions, U.N. mastery of the skies was complete, and air would be the decisive arm. It was a typically American viewpoint.

These are conditional virtues

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

Bryan Caplan doesn’t expect policies to get too much worse:

The same psychological force that thwarted the masses’ wishes before 2012 continues to shield us. What is that force? For want of a better term, ADHD — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Populist policy preferences go hand-in-hand with intellectual laziness and intellectual impatience. As a result, populist voters fail to hold their leaders’ feet to the proverbial fire — allowing wiser, elitist heads to prevail.

Take protectionism. Keeping imports out of our country is perennially popular. Never mind centuries of economics classes on the wonders of comparative advantage; the masses are convinced that cheap foreign products make us poorer. Given public opinion, then, it’s amazing that trade barriers are as low as they are. What’s particularly striking is that presidential candidates routinely make protectionist noises to curry favor with the masses. Once elected, however, they get convenient amnesia.

Why would vote-seeking politicians show so little follow-through? Because talking about foreign trade, titillating at first, gets old fast. And actually measuring the change in trade barriers bores the masses instantly. As a result, protectionist promises are cheap to break. The masses delight to hear politicians vow to get “tough on China,” but they don’t want to have to think about Chinese imports months after the election, much less monitor their leaders’ concrete efforts to cut China down to size.


Emotionally, I look down on the public’s ADHD. When I get an idea into my head, it stays there until someone (possibly myself) argues me out of it. I’m a puritan. Once convinced something is true, I tenaciously act on it. But I’m the first to admit that these are conditional virtues. If you’ve genuinely figured out the right thing to do, determination and follow-through are wonderful. Otherwise, though, they’re a menace.

Mankind can and should shape up across the board, but it won’t. I’ll bet on it. And since mankind won’t discover a passion for rationality anytime soon, we should be thankful its ADHD isn’t going away either.

Air patrolling over the mountains revealed what it had always revealed

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachIn late October, 1950, the South Koreans started capturing enemy soldiers who didn’t speak Korean, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), and assumed these were Chinese volunteers:

Chinese troops were deliberately misschooled on their own order of battle, so that, captured, they might tell weird tales. There were clashes between Americans and Chinese “volunteers” in odd places — obviously to draw American attention from where the Chinese planned to strike.


Air patrolling over the mountains revealed what it had always revealed — nothing. Only heavy, aggressive ground patrolling into the hills could have revealed that the main bodies of two massive Chinese army groups lurked in those deep valleys and forlorn villages, and this action the U.N. never attempted.

In the frightful terrain such patrolling was dangerous. It could not be supported by wheels, and where wheels could not go, neither could sizable units of Americans. And in such horrendous terrain a vast army could be — and was — hidden in a very small area, observing perfect camouflage discipline, waiting.


As the month progressed, however, FECOM came more and more to the conclusion that there were Chinese troops in Korea. Their numbers were placed at between 40,000 and 70,000. Whether “volunteers,” as the Chinese Government claimed, or otherwise, the big question remained as to what they were doing in Korea.

There seemed to be three possibilities, all of which were suggested:

  1. The Chinese had come over in limited fashion to help the NKPA hold a base south of the Yalu;
  2. They had entered as a show of force to bluff the U.N. into halting south of the river;
  3. At the worst, they were a screening force to cover the advance of the main Chinese armies.

No one, either in FECOM or the two commands in Korea, suggested that the CCF were already in Korea in massive force.

Not every maverick is a new Galileo

Tuesday, October 20th, 2020

One of the hardest questions a science commentator faces, Matt Ridley says, is when to take a heretic seriously:

It’s tempting for established scientists to use arguments from authority to dismiss reasonable challenges, but not every maverick is a new Galileo. As the astronomer Carl Sagan once put it, “Too much openness and you accept every notion, idea and hypothesis—which is tantamount to knowing nothing. Too much skepticism—especially rejection of new ideas before they are adequately tested—and you’re not only unpleasantly grumpy, but also closed to the advance of science.” In other words, as some wit once put it, don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.

Peer review is supposed to be the device that guides us away from unreliable heretics. A scientific result is only reliable when reputable scholars have given it their approval. Dr. Yan’s report has not been peer reviewed. But in recent years, peer review’s reputation has been tarnished by a series of scandals. The Surgisphere study was peer reviewed, as was the study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, hero of the anti-vaccine movement, claiming that the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps and rubella) caused autism. Investigations show that peer review is often perfunctory rather than thorough; often exploited by chums to help each other; and frequently used by gatekeepers to exclude and extinguish legitimate minority scientific opinions in a field.

Herbert Ayres, an expert in operations research, summarized the problem well several decades ago: “As a referee of a paper that threatens to disrupt his life, [a professor] is in a conflict-of-interest position, pure and simple. Unless we’re convinced that he, we, and all our friends who referee have integrity in the upper fifth percentile of those who have so far qualified for sainthood, it is beyond naive to believe that censorship does not occur.” Rosalyn Yalow, winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, was fond of displaying the letter she received in 1955 from the Journal of Clinical Investigation noting that the reviewers were “particularly emphatic in rejecting” her paper.

The health of science depends on tolerating, even encouraging, at least some disagreement. In practice, science is prevented from turning into religion not by asking scientists to challenge their own theories but by getting them to challenge each other, sometimes with gusto. Where science becomes political, as in climate change and Covid-19, this diversity of opinion is sometimes extinguished in the pursuit of a consensus to present to a politician or a press conference, and to deny the oxygen of publicity to cranks. This year has driven home as never before the message that there is no such thing as “the science”; there are different scientific views on how to suppress the virus.

No ambitious second-year ROTC cadet would have dared quote him seriously

Monday, October 19th, 2020

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachHalf contemptuously, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), American military men spoke of the “elusive” Lin Piao and the “poet” Mao Tse-Tung:

Mao Tse-tung, Premier of China, had already revealed to the world how his Communist armies operated — how they flowed from place to place, fighting when fighting was profitable, biding their time when it was not. What Mao Tse-tung had written was instructive, and intensely practical for a war in Asia — but because the Chinese wrote in poetic language, not in the military terminology popular in the West, no ambitious second-year ROTC cadet would have dared quote him seriously.

After November 1950, many men would grudgingly learn that the thought behind words is more important than the phrases in which the thought is couched. The time would come when every leader in the world would read the writings of the Chinese Communists — for it was barely possible that the war they waged was not so anachronistic as Americans believed. Quite possibly, it was the pattern of all future land wars.

In November 1950, then, one army, in open array, loudly proclaiming its every move to the world, marched against a phantom foe. For the CCF, all that month, was a ghost; now you saw it, now you didn’t. It marched by night, under a foggy moon; it sideslipped into the mountains in front of the advancing U.N., and lurked, biding its time.

When he was ready, the “elusive” Lin Piao would let the Americans find him.

Prepare for the worst, enjoy the present

Sunday, October 18th, 2020

Fortitude Ranch — “prepare for the worst, enjoy the present” — describes itself as “a survival community equipped to survive any type of disaster and long-term loss of law and order, managed by full time staff,” and plans to activate for the first time over fears of violence following the presidential election on Nov. 3:

“This will be the first time we have opened for a collapse disaster, though it may end up not being so,” said Miller in an emailed statement. “We consider the risk of violence that could escalate in irrational, unpredictable ways into widespread loss of law and order is real.”

Fortitude Ranch set up its first camp in West Virginia in 2015 and has two more in Colorado. For an annual fee of around $1,000, members can vacation at camps in good times, and use them as a refuge in the event of a societal collapse. Members are required to own either a rifle or shotgun to defend the communities. The company does not disclose membership numbers.

If they did not act upon the field of battle as Western generals did, it was because they did not command a Western army

Saturday, October 17th, 2020

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachBy the middle of November, 1950, approximately 180,000 Chinese waited in front of the Eighth Army, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), while 120,000 lurked in the mountains surrounding Changjin Reservoir on X Corps’ flank:

While China broadcast to the world that Chinese “volunteers” would enter the Korean fighting, under Kim Il Sung, the leaders of the CCF never relinquished control of their forces.

And it would have been considerable news to the 300,000 Chinese soldiers massed in the cold valleys of Korea to learn that they had volunteered. Many of them did not even know in what part of the world they waited.

Lin Piao, and the major leaders of the Chinese Communist Forces, were not simple peasant leaders. The vast majority of the CCF generals were graduates of Whampoa Military Academy or of Russian schools. They had studied Clausewitz and Jomini and the battles of Cannae and Tannenberg as thoroughly as any West Pointer, and they had been engaged in war for all their adult lives. But if they did not act upon the field of battle as Western generals did, it was because they did not command a Western army.

The hordes of the Red Army were tough and battle-hardened, but they could not read or write. They had no radios, nor did they have much telephone equipment. They had no air force, or any massive artillery. They were weak in motor transport. Their arms were a miscellany of United States, Japanese, and Russian equipment. They had very few of the things a European or Western army required for war.


They had three immense advantages: their own minds, trained to war in the vast reaches of the Middle Kingdom, which instinctively thought in terms of fluid maneuver, without regard to battle lines: the hardihood and sturdy legs of their peasant troops, who could travel long miles on very little; and the enemy’s complete lack of belief in their own existence.


Americans believed it incredible that any army of significant size could cross the Yalu and deploy in Korea without observation by their air forces. Daily American aircraft flew over all North Korea; and no armies were ever sighted.

Each night, between nine and three, the Chinese troops covered eighteen miles:

When light came, every man, every gun, every animal, was hidden from sight. In the deep valleys, in the thick forests, in the miserable villages huddled on the forlorn plateaus, the Chinese rested by day.


It was not only cunning and hardihood, but this perfect march and bivouac discipline that caused U.N. aircraft to fly over the CCF hundreds of times without ever once seeing anything suspicious. Even aerial photography revealed nothing.

It was a feat that Xenophon’s hoplites, marching back from Persia to the sea, could have performed. Julius Caesar’s hard legions could have done it, and more — the Roman manuals stated that the usual day’s march for a legion was twenty miles, to be covered in five hours.

It is extremely doubtful if any modern Western army, bred to wheels, could have matched it. It was almost impossible for Western generals, even those who knew of Xenophon and Caesar, to credit it.