The Best Defense

Don’t tell the Japanese!

There are a bunch of carriers and amphibs (small carriers, truth be told) gathered in Norfolk. I've never seen so many in one place before. The Navy says, "The aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), USS Enterprise (CVN 65), USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) are in port at Naval Station Norfolk, Va."

Ernest R. Scott, U.S. Navy

The Best Defense

The last of Atkinson’s marvelous World War II series: ‘The Guns at Last Light’

As a holiday gift for myself, I read an advance copy of the last of Rick Atkinson's trilogy on World War II in Europe. The book is out in May, but you can pre-order on Amazon right now. 

It was like slipping into a warm bath: Good writing ("Sherman pyres on the Caen plain") and fine narrative.

But most of all, fascinating facts:

  • Prostitutes in blacked-out wartime London would feel for the rank insignia of prospects before naming their price. (And a quickie done standing up inside a overcoat was called "Marble Arch style.")
  • Nearly half the American troops arriving in Europe in 1944 were still teenagers. By contrast, by the end of that year, 2 million of Hitler's 3.6 million soldiers were older than thirty. 
  • Germans accustomed to the Eastern Front were stunned when moved to the West to battle Americans who enjoyed overwhelming air superiority -- it was, Rommel warned, like "being nailed to the ground."
  • Speaking of the Soviets, Stalin comes off a bit like Edward G. Robinson, speaking a few phrases of English, such as "You said it!" and "What the hell goes on around here?"
  • About 10 percent of all American combat casualties during the war came during the Battle of the Bulge.
  • The Red Army lost more soldiers at Stalingrad that the entire U.S. military did in the entire war.
  • The heaviest bombing month of the war was March 1945, with 130,000 tons dropped on Germany. 
  • After the war, 21 ships laden with dead American soldiers brought them home. The first carried 5,060 bodies. What a Homeric image.