He who hesitates is indeed lost

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

The second of Jeff Cooper’s Principles Of Personal Defense is decisiveness:

It is difficult for a domesticated man to change in an instant into one who can take quick, decisive action to meet a violent emergency. Most of us are unused to violent emergencies — especially those which can only be solved by the use of force and violence on our part — and these emergencies require a parturient effort of will to transform ourselves from chickens into hawks. Decisiveness, like alertness, is to some extent a built-in characteristic, but, also like alertness, it can be accentuated. In formalized combat it is supplied — or it should be — by appropriate orders from above. In cases of personal defense, it must be self-generated, and this is the problem.

When “the ball is opened” — when it becomes evident that you are faced with violent physical assault — your life depends upon your selecting a correct course of action and carrying it through without hesitation or deviation. There can be no shilly-shallying. There is not time. To ponder is quite possibly to perish. And it is important to remember that the specific course you decide upon is, within certain parameters, less important than the vigor with which you execute it. The difficulty is that the proper course of action, when under attack, is usually to counterattack. This runs contrary to our normally civilized behavior, and such a decision is rather hard for even an ordinarily decisive person to reach.

Short of extensive personal experience, which most of us would rather not amass, the best way to cultivate such tactical decisiveness is through hypothesis: “What would I do if…?” By thinking tactically, we can more easily arrive at correct tactical solutions, and practice — even theoretical practice — tends to produce confidence in our solutions which, in turn, makes it easier for us, and thus quicker, to reach a decision.

English common law, the fountainhead of our juridical system, holds that you may use sufficient force and violence to prevent an assailant from inflicting death or serious injury upon you — or your wife, or your child, or any other innocent party. You may not pursue your attacker with deadly intent, and you may not strike an unnecessary blow, but if someone is trying to kill you, you are justified in killing him to stop him, if there is no other way. This is putting it about as simply as possible, and since the law here is eminently reasonable, the legal aspects of personal defense need not detain us in formulating a proper defensive decision. We must be sure that our assailant is trying to kill or maim us, that he is physically capable of doing so, and that we cannot stop him without downing him. These conditions can usually be ascertained in the blink of an eye. Then we may proceed. (Incidentally, rape is generally considered “serious injury” in this connection. A man who clearly intends rape may thus be injured or killed to prevent the accomplishment of his purpose, if no lesser means will suffice.)

So, when under attack, it is necessary to evaluate the situation and to decide instantly upon a proper course of action, to be carried out immediately with all the force you can bring to bear. He who hesitates is indeed lost. Do not soliloquize. Do not delay. Be decisive.

A commander may be forgiven for being defeated, but never for being surprised

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

The first of Jeff Cooper’s Principles Of Personal Defense is alertness:

“A commander may be forgiven for being defeated, but never for being surprised.” This maxim is among the first to be impressed upon new lieutenants. It is equally applicable to individuals who aspire to a degree of physical security in today’s embattled society. Alertness is, to some extent, an inherent personality trait, but it can nonetheless be learned and improved. Once we accept that our familiar and prosaic environment is in fact perilous, we automatically sharpen our senses.

Two rules are immediately evident: Know what is behind you, and pay particular attention to anything out of place.

It is axiomatic that the most likely direction of attack is from behind. Be aware of that. Develop “eyes in the back of your head.” Eric Hartmann, the World War II German flying ace who is unquestionably the greatest fighter pilot of all time (1,405 combat missions, 352 confirmed victories), feels that he survived because of an “extremely sensitive back to his neck”; and, conversely, claims that 80 percent of his victims never knew he was in the same sky with them. Combat flying is not the same as personal defense, but the principle applies. The great majority of the victims of violent crime are taken by surprise. The one who anticipates the action wins. The one who does not, loses. Learn from the experience of others and don’t let yourself be surprised.

Make it a game. Keep a chart. Every time anyone is able to approach you from behind without your knowledge, mark down an X. Every time you see anyone you know before he sees you, mark down an O. Keep the Os ahead of the Xs. A month with no Xs establishes the formation of correct habits.

Observe your cat. It is difficult to surprise him. Why? Naturally his superior hearing is part of the answer, but not all of it. He moves well, using his senses fully. He is not preoccupied with irrelevancies. He’s not thinking about his job or his image or his income tax. He is putting first things first, principally his physical security. Do likewise.

There are those who will object to the mood this instruction generates. They will complain that they do not wish to “live like that.” They are under no obligation to do so. They can give up. But it is a feral world, and if one wishes to be at ease in it he must accommodate to it.

Anything out of place can be a danger signal. Certainly anyone you don’t know approaching your dwelling must be regarded askance. It’s ninety-nine to one that he is perfectly harmless, but will you be ready if he turns out to be that other one who is not?

Certain things are obvious: an unfamiliar car parked across the street for long periods with people in it who do not get out; a car that maintains a constant distance behind you while you vary your speed; young men in groups, without women, staying in one place and not talking. These things should set off a first-stage alarm in anyone, but there are many other signals to be read by the wary. Anyone who appears to be triggered out of watchfulness and into action by your appearance must be explained. Anyone observing you carefully must be explained. Anyone whose behavior seems to be geared to yours must be explained. If the explanation does not satisfy you, be ready to take appropriate defensive action.

A common ruse of the sociopath is the penetration of a dwelling under false pretenses. Anyone can claim to be a repairman or an inspector of one sort or another. It is often impractical to verify credentials, but merely being aware that credentials may easily be falsified is protection against surprise. The strong need only remain watchful. The weak should take further precautions.

On the street, let no stranger take your hand. To allow a potential assailant a firm grip on your right hand is to give him a possibly fatal advantage. Use your eyes. Do not enter unfamiliar areas that you cannot observe first. Make it a practice to swing wide around corners, use window glass for rearward visibility, and get something solid behind you when you pause.

All this may sound excessively furtive and melodramatic, but those who have cultivated what might be called a tactical approach to life find it neither troublesome nor conspicuous. And, like a fastened seat belt, a life jacket, or a fire extinguisher, it is comforting even when unnecessary.

Needless to say, no sensible person ever opens the door of his house without knowing who is knocking. If your entrance way does not permit visual evaluation of your caller, change it. The statistics may be against a threat waiting outside, but statistics are cold comfort after you discover that your case is the rare exception.

The foregoing suggestions are merely random examples of ways in which the principle of alertness is manifested. Situations are numberless, and specific recommendations cannot be made to cover them all. The essential thing is to bear always in mind that trouble can appear at any time. Be aware. Be ready. Be alert.

Any man who is a man may not, in honor, submit to threats or violence

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Jeff Cooper’s Principles Of Personal Defense appears to be out of print and unavailable on Kindle, but the full text can be found online. Here is the introduction:

Some people prey upon other people. Whether we like it or not, this is one of the facts of life. It has always been so and it is not going to change. The number of sociopaths in a stipulated population varies widely, but we can take a figure of one in one hundred, for simplicity’s sake, and not be far off. About one person in one hundred will, under some circumstances, initiate a violent attack upon another, in defiance of the law, for reasons that seem sufficient to him at the time. Take the able-bodied male population of your community, divide it by one hundred, and you have a fair approximation of the number of possible contacts who just might take it upon themselves to beat your head in. It is not pertinent to dispute the mathematics of this calculation. It may be wrong for your place and time. But anyone who is aware of his environment knows that the peril of physical assault does exist, and that it exists everywhere and at all times. The police, furthermore, can protect you from it only occasionally.

The author assumes that the right of self-defense exists. Some people do not. This booklet is not for them. This is for those who feel that anyone who chooses physically to attack another human being does so at his peril. In some jurisdictions it is held that the victim of an attacker must, above all, attempt to escape. This is a nice legalistic concept, but it is very often tactically unsound. By the time one has exhausted every means of avoiding conflict it may be too late to save his life. Laws vary, and cannot be memorized encyclopedically; in any case, we are not concerned here about jurisprudence, but about survival. If one lives through a fight, we will assume that he is better off than if he does not, even though he may be thereafter confronted with legal action.

Violent crime is feasible only if its victims are cowards. A victim who fights back makes the whole business impractical. It is true that a victim who fights back may suffer for it, but one who does not almost certainly will suffer for it. And, suffer or not, the one who fights back retains his dignity and his self-respect Any study of the atrocity list of recent years — Starkweather, Speck, Manson, Richard Hickok and Cary Smith, et al. — shows immediately that the victims, by their appalling ineptitude and timidity, virtually assisted in their own murders. (“Don’t make them mad, Martha, so they won’t hurt us.”)

Any man who is a man may not, in honor, submit to threats or violence. But many men who are not cowards are simply unprepared for the fact of human savagery. They have not thought about it (incredible as this may appear to anyone who reads the paper or listens to the news) and they just don’t know what to do. When they look right into the face of depravity or violence, they are astonished and confounded. This can be corrected.

The techniques of personal combat are not covered in this work. The so-called “martial arts” (boxing, karate, the stick, the pistol, etc.) are complete studies in themselves and must be acquired through suitable programs of instruction, training, and practice. It behooves all able-bodied men and women to consider them. But the subject of this work is more basic than technique, being a study of the guiding principles of survival in the face of unprovoked violence on the part of extralegal human assailants. Strategy and tactics are subordinate to the principles of war, just as individual defensive combat is subordinate to the following principles of personal defense.

The U.S. Army has very little initiative on the lower levels

Monday, June 3rd, 2019

Dunlap shares this quotation from a captured German field order:

The U.S. Army has very little initiative on the lower levels; gains and advances are almost never exploited immediately, and our forces may counter-attack with good effect in a majority of cases. The enemy (us) is very unimaginative, depends upon weight of equipment for advance and seldom makes any move except as a result of higher order.

Dunlap notes that this is because “men with stripes spent much of their time keeping their noses clean, if they wanted to keep the stripes.” He would prefer a system of advancement through merit and intelligence:

Intelligence tests should carry more importance than anything else, for from here on in, wars are going to depend a lot more on brain than on brawn.

What was the big deal about Viipuri?

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

The first nation in crisis that Jared Diamond examines in Upheaval is Finland, which found itself invaded by the Soviet Union. Finnish graveyards record many, many deaths that took place in or near Viipuri:

That will make you wonder: what was the big deal about Viipuri, and why did so many Finns get killed there within such short time spans?


The explanation is that Viipuri used to be the second-largest city of Finland until it was ceded to the Soviet Union, along with one-tenth of the total area of Finland, after a ferocious war in the winter of 1939–1940, plus a second war from 1941 to 1944.


Finland’s death toll in its war against the Soviet Union was nearly 100,000, mostly men.


But it represented 2½% of Finland’s then-total population of 3,700,000, and 5% of its males. That proportion is the same as if 9,000,000 Americans were to be killed in a war today: almost 10 times the total number of American deaths in all the wars of our 240-year history.


Even though the last death commemorated in Hietaniemi’s military section had occurred more than 70 years previously (in 1944), I saw fresh flowers on many graves, and families walking among the graves.


But after Nicholas II became tsar in 1894 and appointed as governor a nasty man called Bobrikov (assassinated by a Finn in 1904), Russian rule became oppressive. Hence towards the end of World War One, when the Bolshevik Revolution broke out in Russia in late 1917, Finland declared its independence.


When the Whites consolidated their victory in May 1918, they shot about 8,000 Reds, and a further 20,000 Reds died of starvation and disease while rounded up in concentration camps. As measured by percentage of a national population killed per month, the Finnish Civil War remained the world’s most deadly civil conflict until the Rwandan genocide of 1994.


The Finns were willing to make some concessions, but not nearly as many as the Soviets wanted, even though Finland’s General Mannerheim urged the Finnish government to make more concessions because he knew the weakness of the Finnish army and (as a former lieutenant general in tsarist Russia’s army) understood the geographic reasons for the Soviet demands from the Soviet point of view.


One reason for Finns’ unanimity was their fear that Stalin’s real goal was to take over all of Finland. They were afraid that giving in to supposedly modest Soviet demands today would make it impossible for Finland to resist bigger Soviet demands in the future. Finland’s giving up its land defenses on the Karelian Isthmus would make it easy for the Soviet Union to invade Finland overland, while a Soviet naval base near Helsinki would allow the Soviet Union to bombard Finland’s capital by land and by sea.


The Finns had drawn a lesson from the fate of Czechoslovakia, which had been pressured in 1938 into ceding to Germany its Sudeten borderland with its strongest defense line, leaving Czechoslovakia defenseless against total occupation by Germany in March 1939.


Stalin could not imagine that a tiny country would be so crazy as to fight against a country with a population almost 50 times larger. Soviet war plans expected to capture Helsinki within less than two weeks.


The Finnish civilian casualties in that first night of bombing accounted for 10% of Finland’s total civilian war casualties during the entire five years of World War Two.


The Soviet Union had a population of 170 million, compared to Finland’s population of 3,700,000. The Soviet Union attacked Finland with “only” four of its armies, totaling 500,000 men, and keeping many other armies in reserve or for other military purposes. Finland defended itself with its entire army, consisting of nine divisions totaling only 120,000 men.


The world had already seen how quickly Poland, with a population 10 times that of Finland and far more modern military equipment, had been defeated within a few weeks by German armies half the size of the Soviet Union’s armies.


Against Soviet tanks attacking the Mannerheim Line, the Finns compensated for their deficiencies in anti-tank guns by inventing so-called “Molotov cocktails,” which were bottles filled with an explosive mixture of gasoline and other chemicals, sufficient to cripple a Soviet tank.


Other Finnish soldiers waited in a foxhole for a tank to come by, then jammed a log into the tank’s tracks to bring it to a stop.


Daredevil individual Finnish soldiers then ran up to the crippled tanks, pointed their rifles into the cannon barrels and observation slits, and shot Soviet soldiers inside the tanks.


Naturally, the casualty rate among Finland’s anti-tank crews was up to 70%.


Small groups of Finnish soldiers mounted on skis, wearing white uniforms for camouflage against the snow, moved through the roadless forest, cut the Soviet columns into segments, and then annihilated one segment after another (Plate 2.5).

Finnish Soldiers on Skis

They then climbed nearby trees while carrying their rifles, waited until they could identify the Soviet officers in the light of the bonfire, shot and killed the officers, and then skied off, leaving the Soviets frightened, demoralized, and leaderless.


Rather than remain in their homes under Soviet occupation, the entire population of Karelia, amounting to 10% of Finland’s population, chose to evacuate Karelia and withdrew into the rest of Finland.


There, they were squeezed into rooms in apartments and houses of other Finns, until almost all of them could be provided with their own homes by 1945. Uniquely among the many European countries with large internally displaced populations, Finland never housed its displaced citizens in refugee camps.


The poor performance of the huge Soviet army against the tiny Finnish army had been a big embarrassment to the Soviet Union: about eight Soviet soldiers killed for every Finn killed.


The longer a war with Finland went on, the higher was the risk of British and French intervention, which would drag the Soviet Union into war with those countries and invite a British/French attack on Soviet oil fields in the Caucasus.


But Russian archives opened in the 1990’s confirmed Finns’ wartime suspicion: the Soviet Union would have taken advantage of those milder territorial gains and the resulting breaching of the Finnish defense line in October 1939 in order to achieve its intent of taking over all of Finland, just as it did to the three Baltic Republics in 1940.


The poor performance of the Soviet army in the Winter War had convinced all observers—not only in Finland but also in Germany, Britain, and the U.S.—that a war between Germany and the Soviet Union would end with a German victory.


This second war against the Soviet Union, following the first Winter War, is called the Continuation War. This time, Finland mobilized one-sixth of its entire population to serve in or work directly for the army: the largest percentage of any country during World War Two.


But Finland’s war aims remained strictly limited, and the Finns described themselves not as “allies” but just as “co-belligerents” with Nazi Germany.


In particular, Finland adamantly refused German pleas to do two things: to round up Finland’s Jews (although Finland did turn over a small group of non-Finnish Jews to the Gestapo); and to attack Leningrad from the north while Germans were attacking it from the south. That latter refusal of the Finns saved Leningrad, enabled it to survive the long German siege, and contributed to Stalin’s later decision that it was unnecessary to invade Finland beyond Karelia (see below).


As a result, Finland became the sole continental European country fighting in World War Two to avoid enemy occupation.


Finland did have to agree to drive out the 200,000 German troops stationed in northern Finland, in order to avoid having to admit Soviet troops into Finland to do that. It took Finland many months, in the course of which the retreating Germans destroyed virtually everything of value in the whole Finnish province of Lapland.


The Soviet Union’s much heavier combat losses against Finland were estimated at about half-a-million dead and a quarter-of-a-million wounded. That Soviet death toll includes the 5,000 Soviet soldiers taken prisoner by the Finns and repatriated after the armistice to the Soviet Union, where they were immediately shot for having surrendered.

He has such a beautiful chance to bother other people

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

Dunlap has no desire to be tagged as one of the ex-soldiers griping over grievances real or imagined:

What complaints I make are based more against the system than against the men. When practically the entire young and able-bodied male population is slapped into uniform, the heels go along with the regular people. Many a man personally a louse is an able character otherwise and naturally gets advancement and authority, whether as an enlisted man or officer. The catch is, when he becomes an officer he has such a beautiful chance to bother other people. If a bully or dictator type earns a few stripes and begins to abuse them and the men under him, there are enough decent NCO’s of equal or superior rank around to notice and beat his head off if he does not smarten up fast. At the very least they tell him off pointedly, personally and profanely, not being required to act dignified in their relations with each other.

But no officer ever criticized another officer in any way—that was against the fraternity rules—so the poor guys under bad officers just suffered until they could transfer or possibly help the objectionables die for their country.

Which was worse, the European or Pacific theater?

Saturday, June 1st, 2019

Men were always asking Dunlap which was worse, the European or Pacific theater:

I usually gave a diplomatic answer to the tune that the Germans were better soldiers than Japs but that the country in the Pacific was harder to fight and live in. Which was about the truth. No part of the war was pleasant, but while you stood a better chance of getting killed on the German side, you were sure to suffer some sickness or disease in the South and Southwest Pacific.

Americans readily accepted the no-quarter idea of the Japanese

Friday, May 31st, 2019

Americans readily accepted the no-quarter idea of the Japanese, Dunlap reminds us:

No one ever defended a Jap, the only thing I remember a cavalryman saying in that vein was that we should not squawk about how the Japs treated prisoners, since nothing they did was as bad as the things we did to them. I think he was one of a crew which overran and wiped out a Jap hospital and then used it as an ambush to catch wounded Nips, for a day or so. Americans readily accepted the no-quarter idea of the Japanese, with improved variations, much to the pained surprise of the enemy.

Democracy was just a word

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

American soldiers didn’t fight for especially noble reasons, Dunlap reminds us:

Most soldiers paid little attention to the “moral values” of the war, losing themselves in the anonymity of the uniform so far as political views were concerned. Democracy was just a word, and the enlisted man was either oversold on how noble we were or was double-crossed enough one way or another until he believed nothing in the way of official instruction or information. He came to live only for the day he would be free and in the meantime hated the Army about as much as the enemy.

Courage is strange

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

Courage is strange, Dunlap reminds us:

A guy can be brave one day and a coward the next, and no soldier ever blamed another man for being afraid. Fear itself cannot be cataloged. I knew one man who was afraid of heights — could not climb a ladder in a training camp tower — but he held a Silver Star for bravery. There are some men to whom fear becomes exhilarating excitement, sharpening their wits and speeding their reflexes. I define courage as mental strength, applicable to either mental or physical danger, strain or injury. If a man did not know he was in danger he could not be afraid. Even when the same man was threatened at different times, he might react differently. It probably depended upon how he felt at the moment, whether or not he had enough sleep and food and what his philosophy was that day. A platoon sergeant I knew went through three campaigns in the Pacific with the cavalry and about a month before the end of the Luzon fight turned in his stripes and transferred to a service outfit as a private. His record was fine, but he claimed he was now afraid to go into the jungle any more.

Even I, who was seldom under pressure, acted screwy at times. A Nip artillery shell passed me once and I lost no time at all leaving the locality for a safer one, plenty worried. The very next night another special delivery came in and while intelligent people ran for cover, my first and only thought was to raid the supplies for a box of prunes to eat while on guard later. Safety was secondary. I have no business talking about psychology.

There is nothing very boyish about a war soldier

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

Dunlap didn’t like most of the civilians’ names for soldiers:

I do not like the use of that word “boy” in all places, either, for there is nothing very boyish about a war soldier regardless of his age. It used to gripe us to read blurbs about “our boys.” A soldier can call other soldiers boys, the same way a man refers to his lodge poker gang that way, even though there is not a lad under 60 in the bunch, but it irritated us to be called that in print and by civilians, the way it irritated us to be called “Joe” or “Buddy” by outsiders. I always wanted to hit civilians who called me that. No real soldier ever called another “Buddy” anyway. Besides, in the Pacific, only the Filipinos used “Joe” as a name. Privates were sometimes referred to objectively and collectively as “joes” but only replacements thought it a name. Soldiers called other strange ones “Mac” (or in our outfit, “Mate” was popular — the guys had been on ships so often they used sailor lingo). “Doughfoot” and “Doughboy” are more civilian terms. In the army if a soldier belonged to the cavalry he was a trooper, and if to the infantry, an infantryman. He was called foot soldier, or line man, if belonging to a combat unit.

Everything which is incomprehensible to the Indians, they call big medicine

Monday, May 27th, 2019

According to Lewis and Clark: Linguistic Pioneers, a 1940 study by Elijah Criswell, more than one thousand words appeared in print for the first time in Lewis and Clark’s journals:

Alan H. Hartley, author of the 2004 book Lewis and Clark Lexicon of Discovery, notes that without word creation skills, “it would have been difficult for them to discuss their discoveries amongst themselves, and even more difficult to convey and explain the discoveries to their sponsors — who had, in many cases, not been far inland from the eastern seaboard.” Carefully worded descriptions were essential.

One of Lewis and Clark’s primary methods for creating new terms was naming animals or plants according to some salient feature, whether physical, behavioral, or otherwise. The explorers noticed “a curious kind of deer,” in Clark’s words, “its ears large and long,” that was obviously different from eastern deer. Lewis explains in his journal how they chose a name for it: “The ear and tail of this animal … so well comported with those of the mule … that we have … adapted the appellation of the mule deer.” Lewis called a small swan that he spotted along the Pacific coast the whistling swan because it made “a kind of whistling sound.” A mountain ram with unusually large, twisted horns was named bighorn. Other animals they noticed include tumble-bug (dung beetle), tiger cat (lynx), and leather-wing bat. Plants that received similar treatment include the red elm and the snowberry (“a globular berry … as white as wax”).

Occasionally, Lewis and Clark picked up a name from the French trappers who crisscrossed the region. Few of the terms stuck, but one that did is Yellowstone. Although they started by using the French, they eventually switched to an English translation. Clark uses both the French and the English versions in this line from his journal: “Capt. Lewis concluded to go by land as far as the Rochejhone [roche jaune, ‘yellow rock’] or yellow stone river.”

Lewis and Clark based some terms on where they found a plant or an animal—sand-hill crane, Osage apple, and various denizens of the prairie, such as prairie lark, prairie hen, prairie wolf (coyote), and prairie dog. They also noted when items were found in buffalo territory. Since the 18th century, Americans had been calling bison buffalo (a word that originally referred to oxen), and Lewis and Clark used that term for the bison they saw on the plains. They created or recorded several words connected with that animal—for example, buffalo grass (where buffalo graze), buffalo berry (found on the upper Missouri in buffalo territory), and buffalo robe (made from buffalo skins).

The explorers often went to great lengths to study a creature closely before deciding what to name it. “Though not self-proclaimed naturalists,” says Hartley, “they were keen observers and de facto naturalists.” They also knew that Jefferson wanted meticulous details. For instance, while the Corps overwintered in Oregon from 1805 to 1806, Lewis spotted what he suspected was a different kind of deer from the mule deer found on the plains, although it looked similar. He writes, “The Black-tailed fallow deer are peculiar to this coast.” The ears, he notes, are “rather larger… than the common deer,” and the horns resemble those of the mule deer. The tail is white, but the hair of the sides and top is “quite black.” Concluding that these deer were a distinct type, he labeled them black-tailed deer. Lewis’s instincts were right. Zoologists later classified the Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) as a subspecies of the mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus).

Before deciding what to call the grizzly bear, Lewis and Clark studied several pelts and consulted with indigenous people. The men first mention grizzlies in their journals while in present-day Montana. Lewis initially calls them brown or yellow bears, saying their color is “yellowish brown.” Others in the party describe the bear as “whiteish,” and Clark sometimes refers to the creatures as “white bears.” After the men had shot several and taken a close-up look, they realized that the fur was variegated, often featuring silvery tips. Clark started calling the bear grizzly, a word for gray, and Lewis eventually followed suit. Lewis recounts a discussion with a band of Nez Perce in Idaho, who studied “several skins of the bear which we had killed” and concurred that they were members of the species the explorers named grizzly. Lewis concludes in his notes that the bears they had been calling brown or yellow, whiteish, and grizzly are all “the same species or family of bears, which assumes all those colors at different ages and seasons of the year.”


Lewis and Clark also gave English names to several Native American cultural items. They called a tribe’s meeting house a council house, and the place for taking steam baths a sweat lodge or sweat house. “I saw near an old Indian encampment a sweat house covered with earth,” writes Clark in his journal. They also adopted a specific meaning for medicine—something with magical powers—which was probably a translation of the Ojibwe word mashkiki. Lewis writes, “Everything which is incomprehensible to the Indians, they call big medicine.” The word appears in the journals in several combinations, including medicine man, medicine bag, medicine dance, and war medicine. Clark records that some of the party went to see a ceremonial “war medicine” dance while the Corps was camped among the Mandan tribe.

My favorite bit of “big medicine” is Lewis and Clark’s air rifle.

Two battle stars later he was a sergeant

Monday, May 27th, 2019

In our army some units were better than others, Dunlap says, and the reason was not always leadership or training:

Morale meant a lot. I do not mean the condition of the men’s minds regarding the home front or the political aspects of victory, but the mental attitude of the unit concerning combat. If an outfit got through its first engagement successfully, defeating the enemy and not suffering many casualties, that outfit was pretty good from then on. When the boys have been shot at and missed, they begin to realize what the score can be if they do not watch their signals in the next period of the game, and the brain cells start working. So help me, I have known dopes who came out of a campaign with higher I.Q.’s than they started with! Above all, combat soldiers get quiet and thoughtful. They get considerate and understanding, sharing whatever they get with each other and helping each other out all they can as a rule. You can never tell who will turn out to be good and who will not. I remember one of the replacements I took on the beach at Leyte — a little Jewish boy, strictly the bookworm type, who went directly into the cavalry. Two battle stars later he was a sergeant, recognized as an able field leader and decorated. Somehow he had been able to adapt himself rapidly and do the right thing at the right time. A more unlikely trooper was never shipped overseas.

The first man to comprehend and use tanks for full effectiveness was a Scot

Sunday, May 26th, 2019

In spite of our propagandists, Dunlap says, the Germans were the best tank engineers:

We had better armor steel, and our turret mechanism on the later models was very good. The stabilizer was ahead of enemy equipment, but the tanks were heavy, high, noisy and did not last long.


You could hear a Sherman two miles on a clear night, but a Mark IV could sneak up on you, making less noise than a GMC truck. The Germans had a little the edge in the main tank gun and armor piercing ammunition, but not enough in 75mm to make much difference. Of course in heavy tanks they were ahead of us, although we copied their model and got it out a little late for real use. It is a good thing we had airplanes. It only took us three years to wake up.

There was no excuse for the U.S. and England not being up on panzer stuff. Both countries were rather unsmart about the whole thing. Early in 1943 I read an English news article about their forces, bitterly condemning some of their army practices and bringing out one point worth remembering: The first time in the world that armored vehicles were used in numbers strategically and as a new weapon of war was in Spain, at the battle of the Ebro, during their Civil War. All the nations should have been watching and maybe were, but only the Germans saw anything. The Spanish Republican chief of armor at that battle, who was the first man to comprehend and use tanks for full effectiveness was a Scottish independent soldier name Malcolm Dunbar. His were the tank tactics which made Guderian and Rommel world famous in later years.

In 1943 Malcolm Dunbar was in the British tank troops, in England. He was a corporal.

As commenters Bruce and Kirk pointed out a while back, Ronald Malcolm Lorraine Dunbar was not a stereotypical soldier:

A middle-class, Cambridge-educated, homosexual aesthete, he could hardly have been a less typical volunteer. Yet, like a number of other intellectuals, in Spain he discovered a hitherto undiscovered talent for military life. Ranking only soldado (private) at the Battle of Jarama in February 1937, he rose quickly through the ranks, becoming Chief of Staff of the entire 15th International Brigade at the Battle of the Ebro in July 1938. Unfortunately, the shy, taciturn Dunbar never gave any interviews on his time in Spain and information on him has always been fairly scarce, despite his high rank and illustrious record.

Not much is known about his life after Spain, either. During the Second World War Dunbar served in the British Army, but never rose above the rank of Sergeant, adding fuel to claims that veterans of the Spanish war were being discriminated against. He later worked in the Labour Research Department until, in July 1963, having apparently removed all identification from his clothing, he walked into the sea at Milford-on-Sea, near Bournemouth. A clear case of suicide on the face of it, yet intriguingly, as Vincent Brome pointed out in Legions of Babel, his (now out of print) history of the International Brigades, the coroner declared an open verdict at the inquest, rather than declaring his death to have been suicide. This, and Dunbar’s alleged relationship with the Cambridge spy, Kim Philby, have led to persistent rumours of official cover-ups and Secret Service skulduggery.

Fooling the men is the first principle of life

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

In the army in the United States, Dunlap says, “fooling the men” is the first principle of life:

The official stand is that all enlisted men are morons and must be treated at that level of intelligence, therefore all officers and a lot of non-coms will tell any soldier anything at all, regardless of truth. Consciences are parked with the intelligence. Training for the past war was as a rule conducted on the basis of peacetime training in past decades. A man could not be a good truck driver if he could not march well. He could not hold a rating as a tank mechanic if he did not know his military courtesy. He could not be a platoon sergeant in the line if he was not a whiz on the drill field. The old officers training the armies still believed there was “Nothing like drill to make a soldier.” The snappy, salute-happy lads, commissioned or enlisted, were not much good either in the line or in the shop, until they learned their job on non-union hours, which was often quite late in their lives. In war, only the results pay off, but they were of the tradition which dictated that not the result, but the way it was obtained was of greatest importance.

Toward the end of the war the infantry troops were given more sensible training which gave them a better shake for their money, but did not bring back the guys who died in Tunisia and Sicily and Italy, and the Islands. Even service troops got some realistic night training, mostly useless. I went through a few infiltration courses, crawling under machine gun fire, etc. when I came back from Africa. What irritated me was that our brass-hats were determined not to learn except the hard way — the British made every error we did, two years before, but after Dunkirk they realized it and reorganized.

They had written a lot of books and manuals about modern warfare, but none of our brass read them. Africa was a fine example; what Rommel’s boys did to Patton and his Fort Knox tank tactics was pitiful. For exact details, find a member of the original 1st Armored Division, if any are still alive. General Patton made a great name in Europe, with the Air Corps to knock out German armor ahead of him, but he was sure a chump in Tunisia. The colonels who led his his columns learned how through their own experience, and a lot of guys died before they got experience.