Welcome to the first ever Military History Carnival, starting an eclectic monthly round-up of the best and most interesting posts on everything related to wars and armed forces from the ancient world to the end of the 20th century. To get things started I’ve put together a huge selection of posts which demonstrates just how broad and inclusive military history can be, and how big the impact of war on history has been. It should be obvious that the military history blogosphere is in a very healthy state, and that many bloggers who wouldn’t consider themselves to belong to military history are writing on relevant topics.
War and Remembrance
90 years ago this week, Canadian forces captured Vimy Ridge from the Germans. The Torch and awake to dream commemorate this costly assault which succeeded where the British and French had failed, and played a crucial role in Canada’s transition from colony into nation. Thousands more Canadians were killed in the Ypres salient. Barista comments on the rediscovery of Vampire Dugout, a huge complex of tunnels near Ypres, and notes the lack of dignity in TV archaeology.
Another big anniversary in the news is the Falklands War, which broke out 25 years ago. Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns and Money rounds up some Falklands posts and criticises some of the more eccentric interpretations of the war. The Falklands war is not the only conflict whose memory is controversial. The image of Soviet soldiers raising the red flag above the Reichstag is one of the most famous images of the Second World War. At Sean’s Russia Blog Sean Guillory reports on attempts to erase Russia’s communist past by removing the hammer and sickle from the banner. Meanwhile, John David Hoptak looks at the memorial to the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry at Petersburg, Virginia, which marks the regiment’s last battle in the American Civil War. Also in America, Tim Abbott at Walking The Berkshires experiences commemorations of the Boston Massacre and finds an account of the massacre from the very fictional Flashman family being taken as fact!
Writing and Representations
Brooks Simpson at Civil Warriors tackles a big question by asking whether readers of military history books really care about originality. Chris Wehner at Blog 4 History interviews American Civil War historian Mark H. Dunkelman, who has unearthed a wealth of new sources by tracking down descendants of the soldiers he’s researching. At Behind Antietam on the Web Brian Downey traces the career of military engineer George Washington Cullum, a task made easier by Cullum’s meticulous work in compiling biographies of West Point graduates. Back in the early middle ages, Carla Nayland tries to work out the date of the Battle of Chester and finds that sticking to the facts is hard when nobody knows what the facts are!
Turning to fiction, everyone has been blogging about the film 300. Alun Salt’s post at Archaeoastronomy is my pick of the historical perspectives on the film, but Alex Sarll also deserves a quick mention for actually knowing about comics and mentioning Frank Miller. Back in World War II even Walt Disney was making propaganda films. Didier Ghez at Disney History and David at Toons at War tell us about Donald Duck’s crusade against fascism in Der Fuehrer’s Face. George Simmers at Great War Fiction examines the lull in the publication of war books in Britain the 1920s. While the British had had enough of war stories in the 1920s, the Soviet Union was mobilising poets to glorify Soviet air power. Most of their output has been deservedly forgotten, but Scott Palmer digs some of it up at Dictatorship of the Air. Steve Muhlberger criticises Terry Jones’s criticism of Chaucer’s knight.
Planning and Intelligence
Valuable information can come from the unlikeliest of sources. At Boston 1775 J. L. Bell reveals how the interception of a letter from George Washington to his dentist concerning his false teeth gave the British a clue about Washington’s plans in 1781. Maggie MacLean at Civil War Women highlights Anna Ella Carroll’s role in planning the successful Union campaign on the Tennessee River in early 1862. Charles Swift at The City Record publishes a map of Boston at the time of the American Revolution, and at Strange Maps you can see an unusual birds eye view of Ethiopa just before Mussolini’s invasion.
Weapons and Wounds
In his Commonplace Book Will McLean uses his re-enactment experience to assess the risk of medieval knights getting stabbed in the face through their visors. Simi Linton at Disability Culture Watch looks at paintings of disabled First World War veterans in Germany, and Penny Richards at Disability Studies, Temple U. turns her thoughts to wounded and disabled veterans of the American Civil War.
Brett Holman at Airminded and Dan Todman at Trench Fever recently pushed the boundaries of history blogging with their innovative joint review of Joerg Friedrich’s controversial new book on the bombing of Germany in the Second World War. Ross Mahoney at Thoughts On Military History asks whether there was an alternative to using the atomic bomb on Japan. At Is That Legal? Eric Muller makes a poignant discovery when he looks for traces of his great-uncle Leo, who was killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust: Leo had won medals fighting for Germany in the First World War. Even this wasn’t enough to save him, which emphasises the absurdity of Nazi anti-semitism. Sergey Romanov takes a quick break from his tireless work debunking Holocaust deniers and finds that the Holocaust isn’t the only thing being denied by political extremists as he investigates the Soviet massacre of Polish prisoners of war at Katyn in 1940. Otto Pohl remembers the suffering of Russian-Finns 65 years ago.
Unintended Consequences and Unexpected Connections
Gary Smailes at Victoria’s Cross? tells the story of the British soldier who could have killed Adolf Hitler in 1918 but held his fire. At American Presidents Blog elementaryhistoryteacher takes a fresh look at the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware and finds another future president, James Monroe, in it. Ned Jilton at Hardtack and Hard Times finds connections between Dwight Eisenhower and the American Civil War. Dave Tabler at Hillbilly Savants discovers the legacy of the Civil War in long-running feuds between Appalachian families. Eric Wittenberg recovers forgotten cavalryman Robert Minty, who was born in Ireland and served in the British Army before becoming Colonel of the Fourth Michigan Cavalry in July, 1862.
One of the consequences of war is the destruction or removal of cultural artefacts. K. M. Lawson at Frog In A Well points out that many valuable documents on Korean history are available to historians at the US National Archives because they were captured by the US Army during the Korean War. David Packwood at Art History Today traces the history of a painting of Venus which was stolen by the Nazis and is now in the UK National Gallery. During the post-war occupation of Germany, the British aimed to rebuild German culture and society. Chris Knowles at How It Really Was points out the role of two British Army officers, John Seymour Chaloner and Harry Bohrer, in founding what became Der Spiegel. And Joel at Far Outliers reminds us that being in the army during a major war doesn’t always involve being at the sharp end as he reminisces about his time with the 95th Civil Affairs Group in 1969.
Clashes of Cultures
Grant Jones at The Dougout offers a very thorough investigation of whether there is a difference between eastern and western approaches to war. Lionel at Misc-Reports looks forward to DNA tests which promise to prove or disprove the legend that Roman legionaries settled in China. Airavat at Military History and Fiction looks beyond the well-known British Raj to examine the role of the French in 18th century India. At The Victorian Peeper Kristan Tetens sees the collection of shrunken heads at the Pitt Rivers museum as an interesting window on British colonial culture, as well as the cultures of the colonised people who collected the heads of their enemies. Dmitri Minaev at De Rebus Antiquis Et Novis surveys the events of 5th April in Russian history, from the victory over the Teutonic Knights in 1242 to the rebellion of Georgian soldiers against the Germans on the Dutch island of Texel in 1945.
The Cruel Sea
Rick Beyer at Astonish, Bewilder and Stupefy tells the story of Don Zubrod, who survived 42 days in a lifeboat after his ship was sunk by a U-Boat in 1943. Al Nye reviews Sea of Thunder, a book about the Second World War in the Pacific. Daniel at Navy Town U.S.A. looks at the naval base and coastal defences at Point Loma, San Diego. And Jack at Phonographically Yours reveals how the Royal Navy indirectly contributed to the sinking of the Titanic.
I’m guilty of habitually referring to the war that started in England in 1642 as the “First Civil War” but of course it wasn’t the first civil war which had happened in England, let alone the world. Susan Higginbotham at Reading, Raving and Ranting, and Alianore at Edward II rescue a couple of civil wars in medieval England from undeserved obscurity. George Goodall at Facetation chronicles Agostino Ramelli’s involvment in the French Wars of Religion. TJ at Battlefield Biker reminds us that the War of 1812 was not just a war between Britain and the US, as it combined with the Creek War and saw Indians fighting on both sides. Also in the War of 1812, Caleb Crain at Steamboats Are Ruining Everything investigates the possibility of a gay relationship between two soldiers. Kevin Levin at Civil War Memory looks at Chandra Manning’s work on what soldiers on both sides thought about slavery, and relates it to his own work on the Crater. And of course the Vietnam War can also be seen as a civil war between the Vietnamese. Matt Dattilo at Matt’s Today In History marks the anniversary of Operation Baby Lift, an attempt by the Americans to rescue mixed-race orphans from the communist forces which resulted in a tragic plane crash.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Mark A. Rayner at The Skwib presents the lost powerpoint slides of Vimy Ridge. Richard Scott Nokes at Unlocked Wordhoard links to a spectacular animated version of the Bayeux Tapestry. You’ll be pleased to know that it skips all the boring stuff about succession and oaths, and just cuts straight to the invasion. Dave at Shorpy gives us a colour photo of B-25s on the assembly line in 1942. And at Damn Interesting Alan Bellows reveals the US Military’s now not-so-secret project to build flying saucers in the 1950s.
That’s all for this month. Thanks to everyone who submitted posts, or helped to spread the word. The next Military History Carnival will be held at Victoria’s Cross? on 13th May. Send submissions to $gary$@$breathinghistory$.$com$ (but remove the dollar signs!) or use the submission form.
I also have hosts lined up for June and July, but if you’d like to host the carnival after then please leave a comment or e-mail me. Your blog doesn’t have to be primarily about military history. As long as you’re interested and enthusiastic I’d love to hear from you.