From: firstname.lastname@example.org (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Flying Tigers /P40
Date: 14 Apr 1998
>Good history lives in the details of an event, and reconstruction and
>verification, to be accurate, require the historian to place himself in
>the time and place being written about.
Very well put!
And, of course, the reason to get as many of the details right is that the
general is constructed from the particular. So, although it may seem pointless
quibbling, it is, indeed, very important to know whether self-sealing material
was on the inside or the outside of the fuel tanks on the AVG's airplanes, what
color the box was that contained a DFC, the type of small burn scar that would
instantly tell an ex-pilot when he shook hands with a stranger years after the
war that here was a man who had survived a bad crash; to know that in order to
release the belly tanks on a P-38 the pilot had to turn a switch, flip two
toggles and press two buttons, and to understand that he would only be doing
this in a high-stress situation in which he could very well lose his life; to
know what the approach of two dozen Allison engines sounds like to someone on
the ground--or two dozen Sakae engines--, what color the dust was at Seven Mile
Strip, the type of pattern that appears when two propellers are turning at the
same rate, what the propwash of an enemy fighter feels like as you slam through
it, the pattern of dried sweat salt crystals on a flying suit that show the
wearer has just taken off his parachute, the brief glints of light high in the
sky that enemy fighters make as they wing over and come downstairs to say
howdy, the smell of moldy blankets and old sweat in a damp tent, the circle of
dead bushes around an alert shack, killed by the urine of dozens of nervous
pilots dodging off to pee one more time....
Of course, the most important things of all have been lost forever: The
voices, the exchanged looks, the way your buddy--bundled in helmet, oxygen
mask, Mae West-- would look over at you from his cockpit and flash the "OK"
sign just when you needed a little reassurance; the last you saw of him as he
swam away from the twin tails of his silver P-38 sinking into a deep blue sea a
hundred miles from land, his life jacket a dirty orange blot....
All that's left are yellowing, incomplete, often inaccurate reports slowly
decomposing in old file cabinents and boxes, a handful of antique airplanes
restored to a point well past perfection, some old uniforms and flying gear.
Even at the scene of action nothing remains but some overgrown runways, bits of
corroding metal and trash--and that's it. It ain't much from which to try to
reconstruct a world. It's a wonder anyone even tries.
From: email@example.com (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: avg flying tigers
Date: 09 Apr 1998
> Who or what defines History[?]
>is the field open to all who wish to study and understand the events that
>shape our lives to day?
Anyone notice that nowadays bigtime academic historians simply ignore military
history? Certainly wasn't true in the past. Just think of Parkman's "France
and England in North America" or Prescott's "History of the Conquest of
Mexico." Or Mahan's naval histories.
Got to thinking about that reading this thread and McPherson's introduction to
"Battle Cry of Freedom." He apologizes for spending so much of the book (about
half, I'd guess) examining military campaigns--and this is a book on the Civil
War! He seems embarrassed to be "dirtying" himself with military matters, and
worried that academic historians will disdain him for stooping to discuss
warfare. It struck me that military history has been relegated to a few
professors at provincial institutions and the military academies, to
nonacademics, and to amateurs. There is virtually no serious academic interest
in military history. Frederick Merk, for example, in his book, "History of
the Westward Movement," hardly mentions warfare with the Indians, concerning
himself instead with land allocation, economic development and politics. What
a contrast with Parkman; reading him you can smell the gunpowder and feel the
gust of air as a tomahawk whizzes past. Merk was an academic historian (Gurney
Professor of History at Harvard). Parkman, of course, was an academic
historian, too. But he had also spent time in the saddle out west, shooting
buff and dodging Injuns. May have had an influence on his interests. But I
think there's more to it than that.
In the 19th century, war stories, novels and poems rejoiced in the adventure,
heroism and glory of war (Kipling, Scott, Tennyson, Hugo, for example). After
World War I, that changed. War was depicted as an epic tragedy, that, if
lacking any pretense to glory, nevertheless provided the stage for stoic
heroism and comradely self-sacrifice (Graves, Owen, Remarque and Hemingway).
After World War II, the literature treats war as a brutal bedlam in which
humans merely struggle to survive and stay sane. There is absolutely nothing
worthwhile about it at all. It's merely a joke played by a malicious god on
mankind (Mailer, Heller, Vonnegut, Vidal). So war has gone from being an
uplifting melodrama to an elegiac tragedy to a pointless black comedy.
The academics seem to think that anyone who actually has an interest in war and
wants to tease out the details of what exactly happened when, where and why, is
a simple eccentric with an unseemly adolescent interest in blood and gore.
Best ease away from him when he walks into the room.
Bottom line is that it would be wonderful if the best historians with the
greatest resources would devote themselves to, say, the history of air warfare
in the Pacific theater in 1942, and produce something of the quality, stature
and lasting value of what Prescott, Parkman and Mahan did.
But it ain't gonna happen. Not this century, anyway.
Can't help but wonder what John Lundstrom could do if he were a tenured
professor of history at Harvard and his colleagues encouraged him to "Go for
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Defending the Mosquito (was B-24 with B-17 nose.)
Date: 07 Apr 1998
> A few years
>bad (well, I guess it's about a decade now) there was a rather famous flap
>up here were a local university professor claimed to have found "proof"
>that whites were smarter than blacks
You may be thinking of Arthur Jensen, ed. prof. at Berkeley who published an
article in the Harvard Educational Review in 1969 that claimed that the average
IQ of US blacks was lower than that of whites, and since IQ has a high
heritability factor, the "take home" message of the article was that social
programs (this was an era still in the shadow of LBJ's "Great Society" with its
federal social engineering programs) would be ineffective in closing this gap.
Naturally, the welkin gonged with the howls of outraged pro-nurture types.
After the educational establishment had almost literally drawn and quartered
Jenson, along came E.O. Wilson with his "Sociobiology" that postulated that all
human behavior was genetic in basis, including such things as love and hate.
The fury he incited led to actual physical attacks and death threats he had to
take seriously. But evolutionists now accept Wilson's views as routine.
It's been interesting over the years to watch the relentless retreat forced on
the nurture side of the argument--the social engineers, the Rousseauans, the
humanists, the educational establishment--by the irresistable attack of science
and the revelations of the biological basis of human nature.
Re IQ, as R.J. Herrnstein has pointed out in great detail, whatever it
measures, it is a very clear marker of success in life.
Re postulated changes in IQ over time, Charles Murray's "Cognitive Class and
Education, 1900-1990" is useful.
Elsewhere, Murray has argued (pissing off the educational establishment in the
process) that the general increase in IQ of the population at large has not
been the result of any better educational techniques--if anything, general
education has declined over the century--but of the increasing complexity of
society in general and the increasing monetary rewards paid for even minor
increases in efficiency. So, someone who is slightly smarter than someone else
will, when considered as part of a statistical database, do slightly better in
life finacially, move into a world of other slightly smarter people, marry one,
have children slightly smarter and so on.
Slightly lower IQ people will do, statistically, slightly worse, be less likely
to marry someone of high IQ (the brain surgeon doesn't marry a waitress, he
marries the judge's daughter, or, these days, another brain surgeon; the
waitress marries a truck driver). Slightly lower IQ people, statistically,
have higher death rates than higher IQ people (more likely to smoke, drive
while drunk, eat junk food, be overweight, hold dangerous jobs, etc.)
So, over time, the surviving population grows smarter. Merely evolution in
action. Of course, Murray has been viciously attacked by those who believe the
human being is infinitely malleable; he has been hammered by both the Christian
Right and the Marxist Left. But E.O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins (he of The
Selfish Gene) and many other biologists believe his conclusions are perfectly
sensible, and, indeed, obvious.
Human intelligence is a fascinating subject, but this is the wrong newsgroup to
post about it, so won't post more about it here.