Basically, there were two ways to reduce abuses of power in the service

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

After World War 2 ended, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), the Doolittle Board tried to prevent future abuses of power in the service:

In making an Army of eight million men, the United States had commissioned many thousands of men who should never have risen above PFC. Some lousy things happened, particularly in the Service Forces. Officers and noncommissioned officers, in some cases, did abuse their powers.

Basically, there were two ways to reduce abuses of power in the service. One was to overhaul the officer procurement system, make damned certain that no merely average man could ever be commissioned, and have fewer officers, but better ones. The other way was to reduce the power to abuse anybody.

The Doolittle Board, probably thinking of a long period of pleasant peacetime coming up, in early 1946 chose to recommend the second.

It was a good idea, but it wouldn’t work. The company commanders in Korea watched the girls run in and out of the barracks, had men talk back to them, and didn’t know what to do about it. In fact, they weren’t sure but what the American thing to do was to ignore it, and get a girl of their own. Which many did.

What the hell, the war was over. Anybody who said a new one was brewing was definitely a goddam Fascist, or something.

Besides, contracting a venereal disease was no longer a court-martial offense. That kind of thinking had gone out with the horse, with saluting except on duty, with the idea that you should respect a sergeant.

Compliance does make you less likely to endure a beat-down

Monday, July 6th, 2020

Roland G. Fryer Jr. summarizes what the data say about police:

There are large racial differences in police use of nonlethal force. My research team analyzed nearly five million police encounters from New York City. We found that when police reported the incidents, they were 53% more likely to use physical force on a black civilian than a white one. In a separate, nationally representative dataset asking civilians about their experiences with police, we found the use of physical force on blacks to be 350% as likely. This is true of every level of nonlethal force, from officers putting their hands on civilians to striking them with batons. We controlled for every variable available in myriad ways. That reduced the racial disparities by 66%, but blacks were still significantly more likely to endure police force.

Compliance by civilians doesn’t eliminate racial differences in police use of force. Black civilians who were recorded as compliant by police were 21% more likely to suffer police aggression than compliant whites. We also found that the benefits of compliance differed significantly by race. This was perhaps our most upsetting result, for two reasons: The inequity in spite of compliance clashed with the notion that the difference in police treatment of blacks and whites was a rational response to danger. And it complicates what we tell our kids: Compliance does make you less likely to endure a beat-down — but the benefit is larger if you are white.

[...]

We didn’t find racial differences in officer-involved shootings. Our data come from localities in California, Colorado, Florida, Texas and Washington state and contain accounts of 1,399 police shootings at civilians between 2000 and 2015. In addition, from Houston only in those same years, we had reports describing situations in which gunfire might have been justified by department guidelines but the cops didn’t shoot. This is a key piece of data that popular online databases don’t include.

[...]

Investigating police departments can have unintended consequences. Following the brutal beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers in 1991, the U.S. attorney general was given the power to investigate and litigate cases involving a “pattern or practice” of conduct by law-enforcement officers that violates the Constitution or federal rights. Many argue that the answer to police reform in America must include more of these types of investigations.

We conducted the first empirical examination of pattern-or-practice investigations. We found that investigations not preceded by viral incidents of deadly force, on average, reduced homicides and total felony crime. But for the five investigations that were preceded by a viral incident of deadly force, there was a stark increase in crime — 893 more homicides and 33,472 more felonies than would have been expected with no investigation. The increases in crime coincide with an abrupt change in the quantity of policing activity. In Chicago alone after the killing of Laquan McDonald, the number of police-civilian interactions decreased by 90% in the month the investigation was announced.

Importantly, in the eight cities that had a viral incident but no investigation, there was no subsequent increase in crime. Investigations are crucial, but we need to find ways of holding police accountable without sacrificing more black lives.

Outside, the fresh air was worse

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

After VJ-Day, American soldiers wanted to go home, and Americans wanted them to come home. This left Colonel Jones in Korea in an awkward situation, as T. R. Fehrenbach explains, in This Kind of War:

Colonel Jones received replacements, of course. He got officers from the Quartermaster Corps and the Infantry, and plenty of basic riflemen from the eighteen-year-olds just drafted, who didn’t have Skill One, even for basic riflemen. Engineers he didn’t get. Engineers, like most professional men, serve in the military only when the draft moves them.

With a Group HQ that didn’t know a crowbar from a wrecking iron, and who thought a balk was part of baseball, Colonel Jones, as part of “Blacklist Forty” (code name for Korea), reported to General Hodge in Korea.

[...]

These were days and weeks to break a career officer’s heart. The United States Army, which had been the most powerful in the world, did not melt away in an orderly fashion. It disintegrated into a disorganized mob, clamoring to go home.

[...]

Fortunately for Jones, the Jap soldiers in Korea waiting to be sent home were willing workers.

[...]

The Japs, now that the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was gone, were affable, smiling, professional, and entirely helpful. Jones put them to work.

[...]

Eventually, though, all the Japs had to be repatriated. They took with them, when they left, every military officer, every professional man, every engineer, bank teller, and executive in the Pusan area. They left behind a hell of a mess.

Like most Americans, Colonel Jones was not prepared to take Chosun. The appalling poverty, the dust, dirt, filth, and eternal clamor of Pusan repelled any man accustomed to the West. Orphan children, with running sores, lay in the streets. Society, with the iron Japanese hand gone, was in dissolution. Money was worthless, since the Japanese had printed billions of yen prior to the surrender and passed it out to all who wanted it. Almost all responsible Koreans, particularly the educated were — rightly — tarred with the collaborationist brush.

[...]

He never got used to the stink. Inside the city, the odors were of decaying fish, woodsmoke, garbage, and unwashed humanity. Outside, the fresh air was worse. Koreans, like most Orientals, use human fertilizer. Their fields and paddies, their whole country smells somewhat like the bathroom of a fraternity house on Sunday morning.

[...]

Clothing washed in their rivers turns a sickly brown.

[...]

In Korea, there were no trained administrators for either government or business, regardless of their politics.

[...]

As an engineer, he became responsible for fire fighting in Pusan, and he noticed a great number of fires were breaking out. He asked a Korean fireman about this.

“Oh, it is the different factions, setting each other’s houses afire,” the Korean answered cheerfully.

He soon learned to use Korean guards for U.S. military stores. The Koreans were desperately poor, and would steal anything, even if nailed down — nails had commercial value — but American sentries would not willingly shoot down women and boys carrying off gas cans and water buckets. Not after they had killed two or three, anyway — they lost all heart for it. But Korean guards would shoot or beat hell out of the thieves, if they caught them.

[...]

The summers were hot and dusty, or hot and rainy, with hundred-degree temperatures. The winters were Siberian. The country literally stank, except for the few months during which the ground stayed frozen.

Happy Secession Day!

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

I almost forgot to wish everyone a happy Secession Day:

Koreans had learned the hard way that imperialism comes in many forms

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

More than a million Koreans fled their homeland when the Japanese took over, T. R. Fehrenbach explains, in This Kind of War:

One refugee in the States, a Dr. Syngman Rhee, embarrassed the government. He had entered on an old Korean passport at the time of the takeover, and now in 1919 he requested a visa to visit the League of Nations, to make a protest over the treatment of his countrymen. Washington emphatically told him no, since he had no valid Japanese passport, and Washington did not want to offend its late ally, Japan. Generously, however, since Dr. Rhee had influential friends, he was allowed to remain in the United States.

In 1919, and later, the Japanese rulers of Chosun never quite dared expel the Western missionaries, probably not realizing in how little repute these emissaries were held in the Western capitals. For years the only contact the Korean people had with outside was through these missionaries. In Chosun, no anti-Western bias ever developed.

Koreans had learned the hard way that imperialism comes in many forms, and it can be black or brown or yellow, as well as white. Koreans would never afterward feel any sentimental racial cohesiveness with the rest of Asia. The Japanese occupation and policy of extirpation took care of that.

Army halts SERE course after 90 soldiers test positive for coronavirus

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

Out of the 110 students participating in the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, 82 — along with eight instructors — tested positive for COVID-19:

The course was terminated and all 110 soldiers are being quarantined for 14 days, Burton said.

It is the nature of peoples to see the ancient foes, and to ignore those newly arising

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

T. R. Fehrenbach explains, in This Kind of War, why there were multiple Korean wars before the Korean War:

Korea, or Chosun, is a peninsula, 575 miles in length, averaging 150 miles across. It resembles in outline the state of Florida, though bigger. Along its eastern coast a giant chain of mountains thrusts violently upward; the west coast is flat and muddy, marked by estuaries and indentations. Inland the country is a series of hills, broad valleys, lowlands, and terraced rice paddies. Its rivers run south and west, and they are broad and deep.

It is a country of hills and valleys, and few roads. Most of Korea is, and always has been, remote from the world.

Chosun is a poor country, exporting only a little rice. But its population density is exceeded in Asia only by parts of India.

[...]

Neither China, nor Russia, nor whatever power is dominant in the Islands of the Rising Sun, dares ignore Korea. It is, has been, and will always be either a bridge to the Asian continent, or a stepping-stone to the islands, depending on where power is ascendant.

[...]

Manchuria is the richest area in all East Asia, with iron ores, coal, water power, food, and timber, and whoever owns Manchuria, to be secure, must also own Chosun.

[...]

It is the nature of peoples to see the ancient foes, and to ignore those newly arising. Japan defeated Russia with the moral and material aid of Great Britain and America, who had watched the Russian advance to the Pacific with unconcealed dread. Japan, with far greater ambitions than the rotting Empire of the Bear had ever entertained, now was the dominant power in East Asia, and America and Britain applauded.

They did not sense that, in time, Japan would overthrow the old order completely.

The best damn army outside the United States had no tanks

Monday, June 29th, 2020

Time had said the Republic of Korea Army was the best outside the States, and what Time printed was not only true, but official. Only it wasn’t true, as T. R. Fehrenbach explains in This Kind of War:

The ROK’s had eight divisions. Except those fighting guerrillas in the South, they were armed with American M-1 rifles. The guerrilla fighters had to make do with old Jap Model 99’s. The ROK’s had machine guns, of course, and some mortars, mostly small. They had five battalions of field artillery to back up the infantry divisions, all with the old, short-range Model M-3 105mm howitzer, which the United States had junked.

[...]

The best damn army outside the United States had no tanks, no medium artillery, no 4.2-inch mortars, no recoilless rifles. They had no spare parts for their transport. They had not even one combat aircraft.

They didn’t have any of those things because the American Embassy didn’t want them to have them.

[...]

Ambassador John J. Muccio had been instructed to take no chances of the South Koreans attacking the Communists to the north.

[...]

Lynn Roberts had told Time that while the troops were excellent, the Korean officers’ corps was not so hot. After all, in only eleven months staffs and commanders could not be made and trained, starting from scratch. Lynn Roberts, a professional soldier, also knew that soldiers are only as good as their officers make them. But that kind of attitude sounded un-American and was not popular in Washington, and there was no point in playing it up.

Having no tanks is one thing. Having no anti-tank weapons is another.

What Time printed was not only true, but official

Saturday, June 27th, 2020

Seventy years ago, the Americans reassured their South Korean allies that the North was settling down, as T. R. Fehrenbach explains in This Kind of War:

As Saturday waned, Major General Chae Byong Duk, Deputy Commander — under Syngman Rhee — of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces, was not content. For “Fat” Chae, five foot five, two hundred and fifty pounds, darling of the Seoul cocktail set, was not completely a fool.

For years the Communists north of the parallel had been making trouble in the South. They made rice raids across the border; they fomented disorder and subversion in the cities. They incited and supplied the rebel guerrillas in the southern mountains, doing everything in their power to destroy the Republic of Korea. They kept a third of Fat Chae’s Army tied down on constabulary work.

March, particularly, had been a bad month. But then, unaccountably, all activity had ceased. Fat Chae was worried.

Chae had talked to the Americans about it, but the Korean Military Advisory Group was not concerned. One officer told Chae that the Communists were becoming more sophisticated, settling down at last. The Americans seemed to feel that when Communists left you alone, it was all to the good. But Chae worried. He might be handier with a whiskey and soda than with command of the Army, but he was not completely a fool.

Chae had read Time, which three weeks before had printed a splendid article on the Korean Military Advisory Group and its work with the Korean Armed Forces. Like most people outside the United States, Chae Byong Duk knew that what Time printed was not only true, but official.

More than anything else, the Korean War was not a test of power

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

The Korean War kicked off 70 years ago today — and ended four years later with an armistice, not a “real” treaty.

While reading There Will Be War, Volume 2, I came across an essay — the book is a collection of science fiction stories and nonfiction essays — by T. R. Fehrenbach, called “Proud Legions,” that was borrowed from the introductory chapter of his book This Kind of War: The Classic Military History of the Korean War, and it impressed me enough to buy the book. Here is a taste:

It was a minor collision, a skirmish — but the fact that such a skirmish between the earth’s two power blocs cost more than two million human lives showed clearly the extent of the chasm beside which men walked.

More than anything else, the Korean War was not a test of power — because neither antagonist used full powers — but of wills. The war showed that the West had misjudged the ambition and intent of the Communist leadership, and clearly revealed that leadership’s intense hostility to the West; it also proved that Communism erred badly in assessing the response its aggression would call forth.

The men who sent their divisions crashing across the 38th parallel on 25 June 1950 hardly dreamed that the world would rally against them, or that the United States — which had repeatedly professed its reluctance to do — would commit ground forces onto the mainland of Asia.

From the fighting, however inconclusive the end, each side could take home valuable lessons. The Communists would understand that the free world — in particular the United States — had the will to react quickly and practically and without panic in a new situation. The American public, and that of Europe, learned that the postwar world was not the pleasant place they hoped it would be, that it could not be neatly policed by bombers and carrier aircraft and nuclear warheads, and that the Communist menace could be disregarded only at extreme peril.

[...]

The great test placed upon the United States was not whether it had the power to devastate the Soviet Union — this it had — but whether the American leadership had the will to continue to fight for an orderly world rather than to succumb to hysteric violence. Twice in the century uncontrolled violence had swept the world, and after untold bloodshed and destruction nothing was accomplished. Americans had come to hate war, but in 1950 were no nearer to abolishing it than they had been a century before.

But two great bloodlettings, and the advent of the Atomic Age with its capability of fantastic destruction, taught Americans that their traditional attitudes toward war — to regard war as an unholy thing, but once involved, however reluctantly, to strike those who unleashed it with holy wrath — must be altered. In the Korean War, Americans adopted a course not new to the world, but new to them. They accepted limitations on warfare, and accepted controlled violence as the means to an end. Their policy — for the first time in the century — succeeded. The Korean War was not followed by the tragic disillusionment of World War I, or the unbelieving bitterness of 1946 toward the fact that nothing had been settled. But because Americans for the first time lived in a world in which they could not truly win, whatever the effort, and from which they could not withdraw, without disaster, for millions the result was trauma.

During the Korean War, the United States found that it could not enforce international morality and that its people had to live and continue to fight in a basically amoral world. They could oppose that which they regarded as evil, but they could not destroy it without risking their own destruction.

[...]

Perhaps the values that comprise a decent civilization and those needed to defend it abroad will always be at odds. A complete triumph for either faction would probably result in disaster.

[...]

“Discipline,” like the terms “work” and “fatherland” — among the greatest of human values — has been given an almost repugnant connotation from its use by Fascist ideologies. But the term “discipline” as used in these pages does not refer to the mindless, robot-like obedience and self-abasement of a Prussian grenadier. Both American sociologists and soldiers agree that it means, basically, self-restraint — the self-restraint required not to break the sensible laws whether they be imposed against speeding or against removing an uncomfortably heavy steel helmet, the fear not to spend more money than one earns, not to drink from a canteen in combat before it is absolutely necessary, and to obey both parent and teacher and officer in certain situations, even when the orders are acutely unpleasant.

Only those who have never learned self-restraint fear reasonable discipline.

Americans fully understand the requirements of the football field or the baseball diamond. They discipline themselves and suffer by the thousands to prepare for these rigors. A coach or manager who is too permissive soon seeks a new job; his teams fail against those who are tougher and harder. Yet undoubtedly any American officer, in peacetime, who worked his men as hard, or ruled them as severely as a college football coach does, would be removed.

Seven reasons why police are disliked

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

Randall Collins casts his sociological eye at why police are disliked and finds seven reasons:

  1. Police are used for collecting fines for municipal budgets.
  2. Police are used for enforcing unpopular regulations.
  3. Police dislike defiance.
  4. Police dislike property destruction.
  5. Adrenaline overload and forward-panic attacks on unresisting targets.
  6. Police training for extreme situations.
  7. Racism among police.

The Order’s Satanism has occasionally proven distasteful to its fellow neo-Nazis

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

In what sounds like a bad 1980s direct-to-video movie plot, a U.S. Army soldier allegedly planned a jihadist attack on his own unit with the help of a Satanic Neo-Nazi group:

According to an indictment released Monday, Private Ethan Phelan Melzer provided “confidential U.S. Army information” to an infamous organization known as the Order of the Nine Angles (O9A), a British occult Nazi group whose works have been promoted by white-supremacist militia Atomwaffen and which has expressed support for al Qaeda. Melzer’s contacts within O9A described their plans as “literally organizing a jihadi attack.”

[...]

The indictment alleges that Melzer messaged members of O9A in mid-May through the “RapeWaffen” channel on the encrypted Telegram messaging app and sent them sensitive information about his unit’s upcoming deployment to Turkey, where they were preparing to guard U.S. military facilities. According to the indictment, one of Melzer’s interlocutors has been an FBI informant since last month.

[...]

The Order of the Nine Angles or O9A was founded in the U.K. by former neo-Nazi David Myatt in the ’70s. Myatt authored a guide for like-minded racist terrorists, “A Practical Guide to The Strategy and Tactics of Revolution,” which told followers that they are engaged “in a real war for freedom and for the very future of our race” and listed anti-Nazi activists, “Zionists,” judges, police officers, and government officials as appropriate targets for assassination. British police found a copy of the manual in the home of David Copeland in 1999, after he was arrested for a bombing spree across London intended to spark a race war.

While the group denies the Holocaust and believes, per court papers, that “Adolf Hitler was sent by our gods to guide us to greatness,” the Order’s Satanism has occasionally proven distasteful to its fellow neo-Nazis.

Myatt converted to Islam in 1998 and became a supporter of al Qaeda, but has since publicly claimed to have renounced extremism and Islam.

You can’t violate anybody’s civil rights while eating

Sunday, June 21st, 2020

What happens to America’s big blue cities, Steve Sailer asks, when The Establishment switches sides from the cops to the blacks?

Our elites appear intent on trying that experiment once again, although we have been through a couple of highly relevant historical examples that they ought to recall first.

Because blacks, despite making up only about one-eighth of the population, have accounted for the majority of homicide offenders in recent decades, overall long-term murder rates tend to be driven by the authorities’ attitudes toward African-Americans: indulgent or hardheaded?

Thus, the first Black Lives Matter era (2014–2016) saw the total number of homicides in the U.S. grow a record-setting 23 percent in two years. Moreover, the most spectacular exacerbations of homicide rates happened precisely where BLM won its most famous political victories over the police, such as St. Louis, Baltimore, Chicago, and Milwaukee. By this point, Black Lives Matter has gotten more incremental blacks murdered than all the lynchings in American history.

This “Ferguson Effect,” named after the celebrated August 2014 riots, was repeatedly denied by the media, until the evidence became overwhelming, at which point they stopped talking about it.

Voters at the national level didn’t allow the White House to continue to worsen homicide. Murders fell 7 percent from 2016 to 2018 under Trump.

And the earlier period in which the influential sided with blacks over cops, from the end of the Kennedy Era to the end of the Carter Era, saw the murder rate double nationally, destroying many American cities.

Most notoriously, in New York City murders grew sharply in the early 1960s, from 390 in 1959 to 634 in 1965, before exploding under the new liberal Republican mayor John Lindsay, reaching 1,691 in 1972.

Lindsay, a handsome WASP, had sided with blacks against the city’s Irish policemen and Jewish school administrators.

As usual, the cops responded by slowing down on the job: the retreat to the doughnut shop. By one estimate, NYPD cops got down to doing about two hours of policing per eight-hour shift. After all, you can’t violate anybody’s civil rights while eating.

White residents fled many neighborhoods, such as the once-tranquil Bronx (where Ogden Nash had complained in 1930 about the lack of excitement with the couplet “The Bronx?/No, thonks!”), which saw reported burglaries increase by 1,559 percent from 1960 to 1969. In turn, the white population of the Bronx fell nearly 50 percent between the 1970 and 1980 Censuses.

Today, the media portrays those whites who fled as the Bad Guys, far worse than the criminals who preyed on them: The whites were guilty of the racial felony of abandoning blacks and Puerto Ricans to the ravages of segregation. In the past, however, media coverage was less hateful and bigoted in part because journalists were often related to former outer-borough whites. But today fewer and fewer dare speak up about what really happened to white residents of the cities after the Civil Rights Era unleashed liberalism on them.

Restraining the suspect on his abdomen is a common tactic in excited delirium syndrome situations

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

There are six crucial pieces of information that have been largely omitted from discussion on the Chauvin’s conduct:

George Floyd was experiencing cardiopulmonary and psychological distress minutes before he was placed on the ground, let alone had a knee to his neck.

The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) allows the use of neck restraint on suspects who actively resist arrest, and George Floyd actively resisted arrest on two occasions, including immediately prior to neck restraint being used.

The officers were recorded on their body cams assessing George Floyd as suffering from “excited delirium syndrome” (ExDS), a condition which the MPD considers an extreme threat to both the officers and the suspect. A white paper used by the MPD acknowledges that ExDS suspects may die irrespective of force involved. The officers’ response to this situation was in line with MPD guidelines for ExDS.

Restraining the suspect on his or her abdomen (prone restraint) is a common tactic in ExDS situations, and the white paper used by the MPD instructs the officers to control the suspect until paramedics arrive.

Floyd’s autopsy revealed a potentially lethal concoction of drugs — not just a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, but also methamphetamine. Together with his history of drug abuse and two serious heart conditions, Floyd’s condition was exceptionally and unusually fragile.

Chauvin’s neck restraint is unlikely to have exerted a dangerous amount of force to Floyd’s neck. Floyd is shown on video able to lift his head and neck, and a robust study on double-knee restraints showed a median force exertion of approximately approximately 105lbs.

Let’s be clear: the actions of Chauvin and the other officers were absolutely wrong. But they were also in line with MPD rules and procedures for the condition which they determined was George Floyd was suffering from. An act that would normally be considered a clear and heinous abuse of force, such as a knee-to-neck restraint on a suspect suffering from pulmonary distress, can be legitimatized if there are overriding concerns not known to bystanders but known to the officers. In the case of George Floyd, the overriding concern was that he was suffering from ExDS, given a number of relevant facts known to the officers. This was not known to the bystanders, who only saw a man with pulmonary distress pinned down with a knee on his neck. While the officers may still be found guilty of manslaughter, the probability of a guilty verdict for the murder charge is low, and the public should be aware of this well in advance of the verdict.

The flash of a circular mirror is visible to the naked eye for 10 miles for each inch of mirror diameter

Monday, June 15th, 2020

In a recent Jocko Podcast on the Boer War, he and Echo wondered aloud about how big a signal mirror would have to be to be seen at 40 miles. Not that big, it turns out:

Most heliographs were variants of the British Army Mance Mark V version (Fig.1). It used a mirror with a small unsilvered spot in the centre. The sender aligned the heliograph to the target by looking at the reflected target in the mirror and moving their head until the target was hidden by the unsilvered spot. Keeping their head still, they then adjusted the aiming rod so its cross wires bisected the target. They then turned up the sighting vane, which covered the cross wires with a diagram of a cross, and aligned the mirror with the tangent and elevation screws so the small shadow that was the reflection of the unsilvered spot hole was on the cross target. This indicated that the sunbeam was pointing at the target. The flashes were produced by a keying mechanism that tilted the mirror up a few degrees at the push of a lever at the back of the instrument. If the sun was in front of the sender, its rays were reflected directly from this mirror to the receiving station. If the sun was behind the sender, the sighting rod was replaced by a second mirror, to capture the sunlight from the main mirror and reflect it to the receiving station. The U. S. Signal Corps heliograph mirror did not tilt. This type produced flashes by a shutter mounted on a second tripod (Fig 4).

Heliograph

The heliograph had some great advantages. It allowed long distance communication without a fixed infrastructure, though it could also be linked to make a fixed network extending for hundreds of miles, as in the fort-to-fort network used for the Geronimo campaign. It was very portable, did not require any power source, and was relatively secure since it was invisible to those not near the axis of operation, and the beam was very narrow, spreading only 50 feet per mile of range. However, anyone in the beam with the correct knowledge could intercept signals without being detected. In the Boer War, where both sides used heliographs, tubes were sometimes used to decrease the dispersion of the beam. In some other circumstances, though, a narrow beam made it difficult to stay aligned with a moving target, as when communicating from shore to a moving ship, so the British issued a dispersing lens to broaden the heliograph beam from its natural diameter of 0.5 degrees to 15 degrees.

The range of a heliograph depends on the opacity of the air and the effective collecting area of the mirrors. Heliograph mirrors ranged from 1.5 inches to 12 inches or more. Stations at higher altitudes benefit from thinner, clearer air, and are required in any event for great ranges, to clear the curvature of the earth. A good approximation for ranges of 20–50 miles is that the flash of a circular mirror is visible to the naked eye for 10 miles for each inch of mirror diameter, and farther with a telescope. The world record distance was established by a detachment of U.S. signal sergeants by the inter-operation of stations on Mount Ellen, Utah, and Mount Uncompahgre, Colorado, 183 miles (295 km) apart on September 17, 1894, with Signal Corps heliographs carrying mirrors only 8 inches square.