I spent most of last week working at
the Army's Military
History Institute in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. For me it was like going to Disneyland,
going through handwritten notes from the field about meetings with Patton and
such. On top of that, the institute's staff was both informed and friendly. If
the entire federal government were this helpful, we'd all be better off.
I found a letter by Lt. Gen. Ridgway
about Gen. MacArthur that I have never seen quoted before. I think it really
illuminates the relationship. I also read a very cranky letter from Ridgway to
Lt. Gen. Gavin. Some bad blood there.
I read Maj. Gen. Terry de la Mesa
Allen's bewildered letters to his wife, scrawled in pencil on lined paper,
during the week after he was fired as commander of the 1st Infantry
Division in Sicily in the summer of '43.
I pored through Marine message logs
from the Chosin Reservoir campaign, got a deeper understanding of the Korean
War overall, and sampled the institute's wonderful collection of obscure
military history books. Did you know that the expression "going blooey"
(that is, falling apart) comes from the chateau at Blois, France, where the U.S.
Army shipped its fired officers during World War I?
As a bonus, the people you run into
there are terrific. One of the high points for me was having lunch with Henry
Gole, author of my
favorite book about the Vietnam War. His book is what many people think A
Bright Shining Lie was -- that is, the classic tale of the Vietnam tragedy.
Several hallway conversations there gave me a bunch of ideas for the book I'm
working on. The week shot by and I was sorry to have to leave.
U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center/Matthew B. Ridgway Collection