We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France


Three Armies on the Somme

The next Military Classics Seminar (18 April 2017) will feature a review of William Philpott’s Three Armies on the Somme: The First Battle of the Twentieth Century, by David Silbey, Professor and Associate Director at Cornell University in Washington. You have 8 days to read it!

If you’ve not attended the seminars before, you’re truly missing out. Each month (minus some summer months and December), either a member or a guest speaker provides and oral review of a military classic or a recent book of note. Discussions both precede and follow the commentary by the speaker. There’s dinner and a bar, so no one goes hungry or thirsty. The opportunity to discuss military history and rub elbows with a variety of historians is worth considerably more than the nominal $35 cost for the dinner. It’s held at the Fort Myer Officer’s Club and we gather at 5:30pm, with dinner served at 6:30pm and the talk starting around 7:30pm. The dinners are always good, but this month is special, as the dessert is pecan pie!

Contact Co-Secretary Eric Joyce via email: militaryclassics -at- gmail.com to make your reservation.


I also wanted to pass along the upcoming speakers and events at the University Club’s Military History Legion. I’ve not yet attended, but will likely circle July 11th, since Kevin Hymel doesn’t talk enough about Patton for me to have my fill….

Dinner is afterward, but there is an $18.00 open bar – Wine, beer, soft drinks and complimentary popcorn to hold you over during the talk.

All events are at the University Club: 1135 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036, Phone: 202 862-8800. You may also join us for dinner with the speaker afterward. Non-members may use credit cards or cash for dinner. Business attire (no jeans). Valet parking available: $12 for 2 hrs, $17 for 2+ hrs; some metered parking nearby but may run until 10 pm!

Questions? Contact Margaret Stoltz: mstoltz -at- universityclubdc.com. or Jeff Gibbs: tigrejj -at- aol.com

May 16, 2017 (Tues) – “China’s Quest for Great Power” by CAPT. Bud Cole USN (ret) will explain China’s naval expansion, and its linkage to the pursuit of secure energy sources and Chinese foreign policy, both globally and in an Asian context; in a presentation that we hope will be in time to anticipate pending developments in the South China Sea.

June 8, 2017 (Thurs) – “Playing War: Wargaming WW II in the Pacific” by John Lillard, will discuss the history and nature of wargaming and how the wargames conducted by the Naval War College allowed the US Navy to foresee the course of the battle for the Pacific during WW II.

June 20, 2017 (Tues) – “Scales on War: The Future of America’s Military at Risk” by MGen. Bob Scales USA(r), who will illustrate how, through the experience of recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, our adaptive enemies learned how to defeat American technology, and why a resurgence of neglected Army and Marine small units is now required.

July 11, 2017 (Tues) – “Patton’s Way: A Radical Theory of War” by Kelly Morningstar, who will describe Gen. George Patton’s radical doctrine of war, developed over decades, that contradicted official Army doctrine but led to brilliant successes such as his breakout from the Normandy pocket that shattered German resistance and liberated Paris.

August 24, 2017 (Thurs) – “The Great Siege – Malta 1565” by Jeff Gibbs, about one of the most celebrated but now neglected events of the period: the dramatic, desperate siege of Malta, where the Knights and the Maltese people heroically crushed the myth of Turkish invincibility.



Veterans Panel: Iwo Jima 70th Anniversary

Touring the National Museum of the Marine Corps with veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima is an amazing privilege. While one can often find Iwo Jima veteran Frank Matthews in the museum working as a docent (feel free to stop for a moment and Google Frank Matthews Iwo Jim Marine Museum), there have never been and will never be so many veterans of the battle in the museum as there were on Friday. As part of the Iwo Jima 70th Reunion and Symposium, there were more than 20 such veterans at the museum. You couldn’t swing a camera without finding another to interview.

Many of the veterans stopped in front of the map of Iwo out in the main hall and, prompted by the docents (generally retired Marines themselves), pointed out where they’d landed and some of what they saw.

PFC Albert Pagoag, with whom I share a Basque ancestry, pointed where he landed with E/2/27 in the first wave. By the time he was wounded 20 days later, there was only one other Marine left in his company. After time in hospitals on Guam and back at Mare Island, he was discharged in February of 1946. He was promoted on his discharge to E-3, Corporal at the time, but in modern terms, a terminal Lance Corporal. Efforts of a Viet Nam era Marine secured funding for Albert from the Boise community and he not only attended this reunion but will attend the Reunion of Honor on Iwo Jima itself in late March.

Looking down from the stairs, I spied Josef Reece speaking to docent Mac Kolar about his time on Iwo. Josef served as an amphibious tractor (Amtrac) driver, making two trips to deliver fellow 5th Division Marines ashore on Blue 1. His LST had enough supplies that he stayed busy with that ship unloading for 4 days, then began unloading other ships while the battle raged.
Many of them spoke of that terrible black sand of Iwo Jima. The short beach lead directly to a tall wall of sand. The black sand was ‘like coffee grounds’ and Marines tell of feeling as though all the were doing when trying to climb up it was slide further down it.

On Saturday, there was a veteran’s panel with 6 veterans of the battle. The participants were General Lawrence Snowden, Don Mates, Charles Frazier, Wilson Horde (Navy), Walter O’Malley and Ron “Rondo” Scharfe (Navy). They offered recollections on the service, poignant reminiscences of battle buddies, and insight into the plight of the average Marine or sailor. It’s 75 minutes you won’t regret.

If you’re curious about Jimmy Trimble, who was Don Mates’ tent mate and a Washington Senators pitcher, you can see Gary Bedingfield’s biography of Trimble on his Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice website or ESPN’s Page 2 article on The Legacy of Jimmy Trimble by James Roberts.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to add the videos from the Museum later. Thanks to the folks over at Load the HEAT for prodding me to publish.



Tora, Tora, Tora in Carlisle!

February shapes up to be an interesting month for those interested in WWII history.

The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) continues the Strategic Art Film Program with a viewing, dinner and discussion of the award-winning film, Tora! Tora! Tora!, depicting the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Tuesday, February 3, 2015 at 6:00pm,  in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

The evening will feature U.S. Army War College Professor Al Lord as film moderator.  He will review the film while guests enjoy a Japanese themed dinner with a complimentary glass of sake. In addition, the event will feature local Pacific theater militaria collections, as well as miniature and model displays highlighting Japanese WWII aircraft. Finally, guests will also have the opportunity to participate in assembling paper models of the famed Japanese Zero fighter plane, which gained its notoriety because of its widespread use during World War II.

Those who wish to participate in the dinner must purchase tickets from Carlisle Barracks MWR and can do so by calling 717-245-3099 or 717-245-4329. Preferred seating is provided for dinner guests, but those who do not wish to purchase dinner are welcome to enjoy the movie for free. Parking is also free, and the USAHEC facility is handicapped accessible. For more information about this and all other events, please visit the website: www.USAHEC.org or call: 717-245-3972.

I was up in Carlisle for the showing of Sergeant York, starring Gary Cooper, which included a revealing talk by Doug Mastriano, whose work Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne places York’s action very specifically, down to having dug up the actual shell casings from the fight (no other action in that area during the war). The dinner was very good, though since the main course arrived while the light were out, I was guessing what I was eating. The staff there is very helpful with the reservation process, as I’d already experienced with the library staff. We drove up for the night and stayed at the nearby Marriott Residence Inn.



Military Classics Seminar Series

Last Tuesday, I attended a seminar session that’s part of the Military Classics Seminar series. The MCS is now in it’s 57th year and, shockingly, this is the first I’ve heard of it. They meet on the 2nd Tuesday of every month from September to June at the Fort Myer Officer’s Club for a dinner, a speech about a book (or a pair of books) and discussion. For my first meeting, the topic was David Ulbrich’s book, Preparing for Victory: Thomas Holcomb and the Making of the Modern Marine Corps, 1936–1943, published by the Naval Institute Press, and the speaker was Dr Charles Neimeyer of the Marine Corps University.

It was a fantastic event. The group contains many retired military officers and historians – so, exactly the people who are interested in what I and the readers of this blog are interested in. They are quite friendly to first timers, so don’t hesitate to attend. They do have a website, but the skinny is, send an email about a week in advance to Eric Joyce at this e-mail address militaryclassics@gmail.com and bring your $35 when you arrive on the second floor for cocktails at 5:30pm, dinner, the book talk and discussion. Expect to finish around 9:00pm and bring a few dollars for the open bar and a few for the book raffle (I won a book on Holcomb’s battalion, 2/6, in WWI).

I’ve been looking for a group of like-minded individuals interested in the broad expanse of military history for quite some time. So, I’ve found a home!

This year’s schedule:

October 21, 2014

Gian Gentile, Wrong Turn: America’s Deadly Embrace of Counterinsurgency. New York: The New Press, 2011.

Speaker: David Ucko, Associate Professor at the College of International Security Affairs, National Defense University

November 18, 2014

Dual selection: Max Hastings, Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War. New York: Knopf, 2013; and Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August (1962).

Speaker: Dr. Thomas Parker, George Washington University

January 20, 2015

Steven L. Rearden, Council of War: A History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1942–1991. Washington, D.C.: Joint History Office, 2012.

Speaker: Walter S. Poole, OSD Historical Office

February 17, 2015

Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944–1945, vol. 3 of The Liberation Trilogy. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2013.

Speaker: David W. Hogan, Jr., US Army Center of Military History

March 17, 2015

Richard Kohn, Eagle and Sword: The Beginnings of the Military Establishment in America (1975) (Free Press, paper, 1985). [reviewed 1980]

Speaker: Eliot Cohen, Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies, The Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

April 21, 2015

Edward N. Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century A.D. to the Third. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976. [reviewed 1978]

Speaker: Arthur M. Eckstein, Professor of History and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher, University of Maryland, College Park

May 19, 2015

Luigi Albertini, The Origins of the War of 1914. London; New York, Oxford University Press, 1952-57.

Speaker: Tom Julian, Independent Historian

June 16, 2015

Tracy Barrett Kittredge, Naval Lessons of the Great War. Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Co. 1921.

Speaker: Mark Mandeles, President, The J. de Bloch Group



10 percent off D-Day Issue
5 February 2014, 18:07
Filed under: Band of Brothers, Magazines, Normandy, Veterans, WWII | Tags: ,

One of my favorite magazines, America in WWII, has offered 10% off their special D-Day issue if you order before February 10th. It’s a hundred pages of articles, photos, maps and other goodies to pique your interest. I’m thinking of buying several so I can give them as presents. You can go straight to the shopping cart, or read the blurb first, then put it in your cart. It will ship around March 6th, so you’ll have it in plenty of time for the 70th anniversary. If anyone is going to the sold out Band of Brothers Actors Reunion (which will also include WWII veterans) in Normandy and is willing to take one copy to get autographed for me personally (no, not for me to sell on Ebay), let me know and I’ll buy you your own as well as the one for autographs.



Closure for grandpa, 70 years later
24 January 2014, 17:32
Filed under: POWs, Veterans, WWII | Tags: , , , ,

Since my wife and I have an abiding love for France, I read a number of blogs about France. Sometimes, it’s just an entry or two in a blog about something else entirely, but mostly, it’s blogs by Americans or Brits who’ve transplanted themselves to France.

Among the blogs I follow is pépère the cat. It’s written by a young English woman with French boyfriend who spent some time living in Paris and also visited Normandy (ding, ding, that’s what brought me to her blog!) It’s mostly slice-of-life things, with some nice photos while she was in France. However, she posted the most interesting thing the other day, about her grandfather, who fought in WWII in the RAF.

On 21 January 1944, during a bombing raid on Berlin, his plane was hit and he was forced to bail out. Not all of the crew did so, and after spending a year in a German prisoner of war camp, not knowing what happened to his friends haunted him. I’d heartily recommend you go read her piece as it is well-written and contains details which we have only sampled here.

You might also check the story of the funeral, with video, on the RAF website or the one from The Daily Mail, which has some outstanding photos. Neither is as well written as his granddaughter’s, but they do help round out the story.



Uncle in the 15th

A few years ago, I’d joined the Society of the 3rd Infantry Division after meeting and helping CPT Monika Stoy and LTC Tim Stoy with the Operation Dragoon and Colmar Pocket reunions/commemorations/seminars. I’d developed an affinity for the 36th Infantry Division when I was assigned that as my research task, enhanced tremendously when my good friend, SGT Russ Littel deployed with the 136th MEB, of the 36th ID, to Afghanistan.

Roy Navarre headstoneI was utterly shocked then, a few days ago when my sister dropped me a note asking if I knew anything about the 15th Infantry Regiment. It turns out that our father’s uncle, Roy Joseph Navarre, served in Headquarters Company of the 15th Infantry Regiment during World War II. My father, Russ Navarre, never met his uncle because he was raised in the St Francis Home for Boys (which unfortunately burned in 2011 and was demolished). So, this comes as news to all of us. Fortunately, Tim is the historian of the 15th Infantry, so I fully expect to be able to learn far more about Uncle Roy.

For those who don’t know the story of the 15th, or it’s parent unit, the 3rd Infantry Division, in World War II, it fought in North Africa, in Sicily, at Anzio, landed in southern France (Operation Dragoon!), fought up the Rhone River valley, then through the Colmar Pocket and into Germany. I’m not sure when Roy Navarre joined the Regiment or if he remained in Europe to the end, but it will be interesting to discover and explore.

Now, I can join the 15th Infantry Regiment Association as well!




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