Saturday, November 28, 2020


 The “only man who could have made things work was Ike,” Churchill’s chief of staff, Lieutenant General Hastings Ismay, said after the war. “No one else.”

Victory in North Africa had enhanced his stature and his self-confidence. Perhaps the lucky coins helped, but so too did hard work and a gift for square dealing. General Bernard L. Montgomery, who would command British forces in HUSKY, considered Eisenhower “the very incarnation of sincerity,” with “the power of drawing the hearts of men towards him as a magnet attracts bits of metal.” Another senior British general said, “He was utterly fair in his dealings, and I envied the clarity of his mind, and his power of accepting responsibility.” He listened well, and spoke well. “I am bound to say,” Churchill confided to a British colleague, “I have noticed that good generals do not usually have such good powers of expression as he has.” Few could resist that infectious smile, and his physical vigor proved a tonic to others. “Always on the move,” the reporter Drew Middleton noted. “Walking up and down, pacing patterns on the rug, his flat, harsh voice ejecting idea after idea like sparks flung from an emery wheel.”

“I’m a born optimist,” Eisenhower once said, “and I can’t change that.” He told his son, John, a cadet at West Point, that effective leadership could be learned by “studious reflection and practice….You must be devoted to duty, sincere, fair, and cheerful.” At times he could nitpick, grousing that “not one officer in fifty knows how to use the English language,” and supposedly cashiering an aide for failing to master the distinction between “shall” and “will.” Still, he remained humble and balanced despite having served seven years under a paragon of pretension, General Douglas MacArthur, whose refusal to ever acknowledge error and whose persistent references to himself in the third person baffled Eisenhower. Told that George Marshall proposed to nominate him for the Congressional Medal of Honor after TORCH, Eisenhower warned, “I would refuse to accept it.”

Rick Atkinson, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (The Liberation Trilogy Book 2). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, November 19, 2020


Sir Arthur Bryant, The Great Duke (Wellington)
New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1972, 28-29

If success in his chosen profession seemed elusive, during the eight months’ voyage to the Cape and India, which restored his health and spirits, Arthur Wesley [late Wellesley] did his best to deserve it. Like the young Winston Churchill on a similar voyage a century later, he used the time to increase his knowledge of his profession and of the distant world to which he was traveling. To make himself a fuller man by study, he took with him a carefully chosen library of two hundred volumes, half of them bought from a Bond Street bookseller at a cost of £58—a considerable sum at that time for a financially embarrassed man with little to live on but his pay. A large portion were books on India and Indian campaigns, laws and customs, including Persian, Arabic and Bengali grammars and dictionaries from which to gain a working knowledge of the peninsula’s principal languages. Others were Caesar’s Commentaries, military works by Marshal Saxe, Frederick the Great and General Domouriez, the French Revolutionary general, Plutrarch’s Lives, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Blackstone’s legal ˆ, and Hume’s, Smollett’s and Robertson’s histories. Locke, Paley, Voltaire, Rousseau and Swift, too, were represented....

Many years later when his friend Lady Shelley, consulted him about a young kinsman embarking on his career, the Duke of Wellington replied, “There is nothing like never having an idle moment. If he has only one quarter of an hour to employ, it is better to employ it in some fixed pursuit of improvement of mind than to pass it in idleness or listlessness....There is nothing learnt but by study and application. I study and apply more, probably, than any man in England.” It was true of this long voyage in wind and sunshine when he was laying the foundations of the military and administrative knowledge and lore which he was to apply with such far-reaching results in the years ahead.

Monday, November 16, 2020



In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together in a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.

Thursday, November 12, 2020


 September 1, 1939, was the first day of a war that would last for 2,174 days, and it brought the first dead in a war that would claim an average of 27,600 lives every day, or 1,150 an hour, or 19 a minute, or one death every 3 seconds. Within four weeks of the blitzkrieg attack on Poland by sixty German divisions, the lightning war had killed more than 100,000 Polish soldiers, and 25,000 civilians had perished in bombing attacks. Another 10,000 civilians—mostly middle-class professionals—had been rounded up and murdered, and 22 million Poles now belonged to the Third Reich. “Take a good look around Warsaw,” Adolf Hitler told journalists during a visit to the shattered Polish capital. “That is how I can deal with any European city.”

…Two monumental events in 1941 changed the calculus of the war. On June 22, nearly 200 German divisions invaded the Soviet Union in abrogation of the nonaggression pact that Hitler and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had signed in 1939, which had allowed a division of spoils in eastern Europe. Within a day, German attacks had demolished one-quarter of the Soviet air force. Within four months, the Germans had occupied 600,000 square miles of Russian soil, captured 3 million Red Army troops, butchered countless Jews and other civilians, and closed to within sixty-five miles of Moscow. But four months after that, more than 200,000 Wehrmacht troops had been killed, 726,000 wounded, 400,000 captured, and another 113,000 had been incapacitated by frostbite.

The second event occurred on the other side of the world. On December 7, Japanese aircraft carriers launched 366 aircraft in a sneak attack on the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, sinking or damaging eight battleships at their moorings, destroying or crippling eleven other warships, and killing 2,400 Americans. Simultaneous attacks were launched on Malaya, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. In solidarity with their Japanese ally, Hitler and Mussolini quickly declared war on the United States. It was perhaps the Führer’s gravest miscalculation and, as the British historian Martin Gilbert later wrote, “the single most decisive act of the Second World War.” America would now certainly return to Europe as a belligerent, just as it had in 1917, during the Great War. “I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death,” Churchill later wrote. “I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.”

Rick Atkinson, An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume One of The Liberation Trilogy. Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

Monday, November 9, 2020


I submit to you, my fellow-citizens, these considerations, in full confidence that the good sense which has so often marked your decisions will allow them their due weight and effect; and that you will never suffer difficulties, however formidable in appearance, or however fashionable the error on which they may be founded, to drive you into the gloomy and perilous scene into which the advocates for disunion would conduct you. Hearken not to the unnatural voice which tells you that the people of America, knit together as they are by so many cords of affection, can no longer live together as members of the same family; can no longer continue the mutual guardians of their mutual happiness; can no longer be fellow citizens of one great, respectable, and flourishing empire. Hearken not to the voice which petulantly tells you that the form of government recommended for your adoption is a novelty in the political world; that it has never yet had a place in the theories of the wildest projectors; that it rashly attempts what it is impossible to accomplish. No, my countrymen, shut your ears against this unhallowed language. Shut your hearts against the poison which it conveys; the kindred blood which flows in the veins of American citizens, the mingled blood which they have shed in defense of their sacred rights, consecrate their Union, and excite horror at the idea of their becoming aliens, rivals, enemies. And if novelties are to be shunned, believe me, the most alarming of all novelties, the most wild of all projects, the most rash of all attempts, is that of rendering us in pieces, in order to preserve our liberties and promote our happiness. But why is the experiment of an extended republic to be rejected, merely because it may comprise what is new? Is it not the glory of the people of America, that, whilst they have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of their own experience? To this manly spirit, posterity will be indebted for the possession, and the world for the example, of the numerous innovations displayed on the American theatre, in favor of private rights and public happiness. Had no important step been taken by the leaders of the Revolution for which a precedent could not be discovered, no government established of which an exact model did not present itself, the people of the United States might, at this moment have been numbered among the melancholy victims of misguided councils, must at best have been laboring under the weight of some of those forms which have crushed the liberties of the rest of mankind. Happily for America, happily, we trust, for the whole human race, they pursued a new and more noble course. They accomplished a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of human society. They reared the fabrics of governments which have no model on the face of the globe. They formed the design of a great Confederacy, which it is incumbent on their successors to improve and perpetuate. If their works betray imperfections, we wonder at the fewness of them. If they erred most in the structure of the Union, this was the work most difficult to be executed; this is the work which has been new modelled by the act of your convention, and it is that act on which you are now to deliberate and to decide.


From Federalist 14, James Madison, The Federalist Papers (p. 72). Kindle Edition. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020


Straw and rags muffled gun wheels and horses’ hooves as twenty German divisions lumbered into their final assembly areas on Friday night, December 15. Breakdown crews with tow trucks stood ready along roads that now carried only one-way traffic, and military policemen were authorized to shoot out the tires of any vehicle violating march discipline. For the last kilometer leading to the line of departure, soldiers portaged ammunition by hand or on their backs. Quartermasters issued ration packets of “special vitalizing and strengthening foods,” including fifty grams of genuine coffee, grape-sugar tablets, chocolate, fruit bars, and milk powder. “Some believe in living but life is not everything!” a soldier from the 12th SS Panzer Division wrote his sister. “It is enough to know that we attack and will throw the enemy from our homeland. It is a holy task.” Two hundred thousand assault troops packed into an assembly area three miles deep. The initial blow by seven panzer divisions and thirteen of infantry, bolstered by almost two thousand artillery tubes and a thousand tanks and assault guns, would fall on a front sixty-one miles wide. Five more divisions and two heavy brigades waited in the second wave, giving the Germans roughly a five-to-one advantage over the opposing U.S. forces in artillery and a three-to-one edge in armor. The best of Rundstedt’s divisions had 80 percent of their full complement of equipment, others but half. Panzer columns carried enough fuel to travel one hundred miles under normal cruising conditions, which existed nowhere in the steep, icy Ardennes. Few spare parts or antitank guns were to be had, but for a holy task perhaps none were needed. Hitler had indeed staked the future of his Reich on one card. The final OB West war diary entry on Friday night declared, “Tomorrow brings the beginning of a new chapter in the campaign in the West.”

In the red-roofed Belgian army barracks that served as the VIII Corps command post in Bastogne, champagne corks popped on Friday night to commemorate the anniversary of the corps’s arrival in Britain a year earlier. The commander, Major General Troy H. Middleton, had reason to be proud of his men’s combat record in Normandy and in the reduction of Brest. A Mississippian who had enlisted as a private in 1910, Middleton by November 1918 was the youngest American colonel in World War I and, in George Marshall’s judgment, “the outstanding infantry regimental commander on the battlefield in France.” Leaving the Army in 1937 to become dean and then vice president of Louisiana State University, Middleton returned to uniform in 1942, commanding the 45th Division through the Sicily and Salerno campaigns before taking corps command as an Eisenhower favorite. Now he drank a final toast to battles past and future before retiring to his sleeping van. A few miles to the east, the faint clop of horses and a growl of engines in low gear drifted to American pickets along the Our River, demarcating Luxembourg from Germany. Their report of disturbing noises in the night ascended the chain of command from one headquarters to the next, with no more heed paid than had been paid to earlier portents. Middleton’s command post in Bastogne issued a weather forecast for Saturday—“ Cloudy, snow beginning around 1300. Visibility 2 miles”—and a three-word battle summary for the Ardennes: “Nothing to report.”

Rick Atkinson, (2013-10-22). The Liberation Trilogy (Kindle Locations 42751-42757).