Tag Archives: Military

Another Bad Day

If this is how your flight ended up, well you have had a bad day. This transport plane was shot down by a surface to air missile as it made its approach to the airfield.  Another ghost of the war in Vietnam.

According to the story told by US Navy Corpsman William Hatfield, who took this picture, this was the third plane shot down that week.  Unfortunately Hatfield was not able to document where the airfield was before passing. He did recall that when ever planes were coming in there was always a feeling of mixed emotions.  Often they would be bringing reinforcements and even supplies, two things that there was never enough of, but there was also a feeling of dread.

No matter how often they patrolled the perimeter or how well the area was “secured” every flight in and out was in danger. “Sometimes we would just watch as the missiles flew up towards the planes, wondering if they would make it or not,” he relayed in a 2012 interview.

“As soon as the missiles were in the air artillery would fire on the position and Marines would be sent. By the time anyone got there was never any sign of the VC (Viet Cong). They sure did have a system figured out.” Hatfield went on. In this case, to the best of his recollections the flight crew did not survive the attack. “It was always tough when is happened like that, as a corpsman I usually had to help with the casualties and recovery. Gunshots, shrapnel, grenades were all things you learned to deal with, but messes like this were just something else.”

Of course being determined to document what he could of his time “in country” once the debris was cleared he took the picture above.

A Bad Day at the Office (Tank)


Don’t you hate when this happens?

This photo was taken by William Hatfield during one of his three tours in Vietnam. Serving a US Naval Hospital Corpsman he spent most of his time in country serving as a medic attached to various Marine units.

The story behind this photo is one that is both amazing and a little scary. This is how is was related to me:

US forces would use mines to block off certain approaches to villages that were considered “non-pacified”. On occasion once the mines were deployed. The Vietcong  would use the villages children at night to go out and move the mines, making it very hard for the US troops coming in the next day. The children became particularly adept at this sort of maneuver.

The next morning as the Marines approached the village they would be meet by the children and in exchange for candy, would show them where the mines had been moved to. This sort of arrangement usually worked out very well.

On the morning that the picture above was taken the same scenario played out, except one of the children did not make it out in time to conduct their business. When you aren’t sure if all the mines are out of the way you tend to be cautions. When you are in a tank, that caution slackens a bit. As expected, the tank found the mine and had a tread blown off, leading to the picture you see where the tank is being towed.

What you don’t see in the picture is that sitting on top of the tank at the time was a young Mr. Hatfield who, along with some squad-mates, decided to take the ride instead of the long walk into the village. When the mine exploded Hatfield and his squad were blown off the tank suffering shrapnel wounds all around.

Being the Corpsman, Hatfield treated the other wounded men before himself and as a result, everyone survived. By the time the other Corpsman had shown up Hatfield was weak from loss of blood, but still had the presence of mind to take the photo above. He was awarded the Purple Heart for this adventure.


Book Review: The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare


The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare by Edward Hagerman is unlike almost any book written about the Civil War. This is a book about supply and tactics above all else and lays out the path to which the warfare of the Napoleonic era evolved during this conflict into a shadow of the wars to come. Three area are focused on: entrenchment, supply and signals.

The groundwork for the discussion of entrenchment is laid in the halls of West Point as the lessons of Jomini and Mahan and set in the minds of the future leaders of the coming conflict. Entrenchment is preached over frontal assaults as a method of defeating the enemy. The lessons are learned and held to differently by each of the leaders, some better than others. The devolution of maneuver to the eventual trench warfare is fascinating and well documented.

Supply is another major focus in this book. The depth that the author goes into to try to give a full picture of the supply issues faced in both armies is eye-opening and is provided in a detail that is rarely seen. This part of book explains many of the questions of why the armies didn’t move faster or farther. They couldn’t. At the same time the evolution of the supply system is shown from the development of the “Flying Column” to the focus of using mules for supply purposes instead of horses. These kind of details can easily overwhelm, but the author handles the facts and figures deftly, answering more questions than are asked.

In the title of the book the phrase “The Origins of Modern Warfare” is used. The one aspect of this title that is addressed in the book is the development of the Signal Corps on both sides. The telegraph is just coming into use as well as balloons, each have an effect of battlefield communication and give the commanders more options for controlling the battle. In other books these developments are normally simply footnotes, given short shrift. In this book they are treated as the integral components they are and seeing these new advancements come into their own in this book is refreshing.

The author takes each of these three aspects and walks the reader through the war, taking turns on both sides of the conflict. From start to finish he shows how each of the three aspects plays out and evolves. How each of these start at the beginning is a far cry from how the turn out at the end of the war. Never has this level of detail been seen in anything that I have read about the war and the perspective from which it is written can change the way the war is viewed.

At the time the book was published, Edward Hagerman was an Associate Professor of History at York University in Toronto Canada and the recipient of the Moncado Prize of the American Military Institute.

Book Review: Doughboys, the Great War, and the Remaking of America

Doughboys, the Great War, and the Remaking of America


Doughboys, the Great War, and the Remaking of America, written by Jennifer Keene can best be described as a social history of the American citizen soldiers that fought in the Great War. The focus is mainly on the men drafted and how the military had to deal with the influx of hundreds of thousands of these citizens and convert them into soldiers. Several aspects of the issues were addressed in the book: training, discipline, race relations, and demobilizing the new soldiers.

With war looming on the horizon the American military was faced with the specter of having to increase their standing army and navy a dozen times over. A mobilization that reached deep into the various levels of American society. The author goes into the great detail of the methods used to raise and train this army, issues that were complicated by the uniquely American idea of the “citizen soldier”. Who would be in the army, who would lead the army and what role would the National Guard play.

Once the new soldiers were in the military they were difficult to discipline, many did not understand the new military life they had entered and many more were foreigners. Many of the traditional punishments for military crimes did not seem to faze the new soldiers and this caused many changes in the way that discipline was handed out.

The author deals with the issue of race in the military in a frank and honest manner. This issue is one that would haunt the military all the way from the stateside training camps to the frontlines of the war. An interesting aspect that is dealt with is how the colored soldiers found some kind of equality among the French countryside, something they could never find at home.

Desperate to avoid the mistakes of the Civil War, the issue of how best to demobilize the troops back into civilian lives came to the forefront. At this point politics and Spanish Flu complicate the issues, all well sorted in the end.

The author takes all these issues and rolls them together under the premise that the Military treaded carefully with all of these issues in the hopes that after the war the soldiers would become a powerful lobbying group, designed to support military appropriations bills. As a method of achieving this goal the Military constantly tried to stay informed of what their soldiers were thinking by clandestine operations against their own troops. The information gathered from the troops shaped and molded policy in a way that individual soldiers had never done before.

Where I feel the author wanders from their point was towards the end when the formation of the various Veteran societies became intertwined with the various labor interests. It is here that the authors own politics seep into the writing and ruin what is an otherwise solid social history of that generation.

At the time this book was written Jennifer Keene was an assistant professor of history at the University of Redlands in Redlands, California.

An Opening Salvo – Historia Militaris

Historia Militaris - The Old Museum


Welcome to Historia Militaris!


So with the first post, I give you a view of my personal Museum. Here I collect artifacts, items of interest and knowledge. You are seeing three sections here. On the left is the American Revolution, the center is the American Civil War, the right is Napoleon and the French Revolution. There are more sections, by why give up the good stuff on the first date?

As the weeks progress we will look at some pieces of this collection as well as pieces from other museums and historic sites I have visited.

Besides artifacts we will also meet some lesser-known people in history. Sort of the B level that you may heave heard about, but could always stand to know a little bit more of.

And Maps, I love maps, especially of battles. You will see a fair share of those.

Don’t worry, my posts will be kept reasonable, no more than 250-500 words. Soon I hope to open this up for other contributors, but for today and the near future, welcome to the museum section of Historia Militaris.