The Best Defense

What Warren Buffett did in 1942: Doubled down on the future of the United States

During the summer, the Best Defense is in re-runs. Here are some favorites that ran in late 2012 and in 2013. This item originally ran on March 7, 2013.

Early 1942 was the low point of World War II, at least for the American newcomers. Britain was running out of men and arms. The United States had not really gotten in the game. Germany and Japan were triumphantly expanding, and it was thought possible they might link up in Iran or that region after Egypt and India fell.

Warren Buffett mentions in his new annual report that it was then that he began buying American stocks. He was 11 years old. "I made my first stock purchase in the spring of 1942 when the U.S. was suffering major losses throughout the Pacific war zone," he writes. "Each day's headlines told of more setbacks. Even so, there was no talk about uncertainty; every American I knew believed we would prevail."

Management tip: Buffett also gives his subordinates plenty of autonomy. In an aside, he notes that he voted for President Obama, but that 10 of the 12 daily newspapers his company owns that endorsed a candidate instead chose Governor Romney.

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The Best Defense

Soldier poets of the Great War (VII): The enduring power of Wilfred Owen's words

During the summer, the Best Defense is in re-runs. Here are some favorites that ran in late 2012 and in 2013. This item originally ran on March 5, 2013.

Of all the World War I poets, Wilfred Owen stands up best, I think (and yes, I do know I am far from alone). His words feel much more modern to me, almost contemporary. "And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds." Great word control.

Here are two other passages from him:

The burying-party, picks and shovels in their shaking grasp,

Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice . . . .

And then there is this:

Happy are those who lose imagination:

They have enough to carry with ammunition.

And of course if you haven't read his great poem about a gas attack, you should do that right now.

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