Category Archives: The Past is Another Country

What Did a Luger Cost?

This Commercial Mauser Luger was made very close to these cost figures -- in 1939. From the Sturgess collection, now for sale by Jackson Armory.

This Commercial Mauser Luger was made very close to these cost figures — in 1939. From the Sturgess collection, now for sale by Jackson Armory. ($3,450!)

Well, that depends. There’s a lot of different ways to look at this question. But what we’re going to do, is look at what it cost to manufacture a Luger. As it happens, the great book Mauser Pistolen has a table of Luger production costs in 19401. From there we can calculate would it cost in 1940 dollars, and from there it’s possible to make an estimate of its production cost in 2016, in today’s dollars. Let’s start by transcribing the original document, from the collection of Mauser Pistolen co-author Jon Speed. We’ll apply our MBA-fu and a little search online to translate the quaint old German accounting terms.

Table 1: P.08 with Haenel Magazine — Full Cost Accounting

Item Item (English) Cost, 1940 RM
Werkstoff Material 1.82
2 Haenel – Mag. 2 Haenel Magazines 5.32
Summe SubTotal 7.14
Fertigungslohn Direct Labor 10.21
Werkstoffgemeinkosten @6.8% Material Overhead @6.8% 0.49
Betriebsgemeinkosten @182.7% Factory (Business) Overhead @182.7% 18.65
SubTotal SubTotal 36.49
Kostenabweichung @7.6% Cost Variance @7.6% 0.78
Summe SubTotal 37.27
Zuschlag für Ausschuss @2.2% Surcharge for Spoilage (waste/scrap) @2.2% 0.82
Herstellkosten Manufacturing Costs 38.09
Verwaltungs- u. Vertriebsgemeinkosten @3.8% Administration & Sales Costs @3.8% 1.45
Umsatzsteueuer aus RM47.10 beziehungsweise RM 47.50 @2.0% Sales tax on basis of RM 47.10 or 47.50 @2.0% 0.94
Selbstkosten per Stück Our costs per unit 40.48
Private sale cost 47.50

OK, now  convert to period dollars. UCSB Historian Harold Marcuse has posted a useful table of exchange rates here. (He also, to digress for a moment, spent a portion of last year embroiled (with some allies, like Prof. Atina Grossman of Cooper Union) in a battle of wits with the relatively unarmed Erich Lichtblau of the New York Times over fabrications and exaggerations in Lichtblau’s America-bashing “history” of the postwar area as published in a book and the Times — something that will not surprise anyone who’s read Lichtblau in any form). So what did it cost Mauser to make a Luger in 1940, converted to 1940 dollars? Marcuse’s set of tables includes two tables that cover 1940, but they agree: RM2.5 = US $1 for that year. So let’s add a  column, and see what that adds up to.

Table 2: Full Cost Accounting, RM and $US, 1940.

Item Item (English) Cost, 1940 RM Cost, 1940, USD
Werkstoff Material 1.82 0.73
2 Haenel – Mag. 2 Haenel Magazines 5.32 2.13
Summe SubTotal 7.14 2.86
Fertigungslohn Direct Labor 10.21 4.08
Werkstoffgemeinkosten @6.8% Material Overhead @6.8% 0.49 0.2
Betriebsgemeinkosten @182.7% Factory (Business) Overhead @182.7% 18.65 7.46
Summe SubTotal 36.49 14.6
Kostenabweichung @7.6% Cost Variance @7.6% 0.78 0.31
Summe SubTotal 37.27 14.91
Zuschlag für Ausschuss @2.2% Surcharge for Spoilage (waste/scrap) @2.2% 0.82 0.33
Herstellkosten Manufacturing Costs 38.09 15.24
Verwaltungs- u. Vertriebsgemeinkosten @3.8% Administration & Sales Costs @3.8% 1.45 0.58
Umsatzsteueuer aus RM47.10 beziehungsweise RM 47.50 @2.0% Sales tax on basis of RM 47.10 or 47.50 @2.0% 0.94 0.38
Selbstkosten per Stück Our costs per unit 40.48 16.19
Private sale cost 47.50 19.00

While what Mauser got from the HeeresWaffenAmt (Army Ordnance Office) for each Luger is not immediately apparent (it’s probably somewhere else in that excellent book), we know what they charged a German military or police officer seeking to privately purchase a Luger: RM 47.50 (that’s in another of Speed’s period documents on that same page): $19.

Well, there’s the outrageously-expensive Luger for you — compare that to the US cost for the 1911A1, about $14-15 in 1940.

Another image of that same Luger at Jackson Armory.

Another image of that same Luger at Jackson County Armory.

There are several different ways to calculate what a 1940 dollar is worth today (which was news to us, MBA and history degree and all). Marcuse also recommends the site measuringworth.com, which has this interesting discussion of which value comparison indicator is “right”. (The answer, it turns out, is “it depends.” Isn’t it always?)

Using Measuring Worth’s seven-index calculator, we get values for a 1940 dollar varying wildly from $13.40 (using the GDP deflator methodology) to $169 (using relative share of GDP).

one_1940_dollarAs it turns out, GDP deflator is a good measure of “how much it cost compared to the present cost of materials or labor”, but so are worker wages, which as you can see (for an unskilled worker) is double the CPI (reflecting a rising standard of living in the last 3/4 of a century); and relative share of GDP is a good measure of the national weight assigned to such a project.

The common Consumer Price Index which we’ve used for previous longitudinal price comparisons is close to the low end, at $16.90. A perfect methodology does not exist, but it might require us to use different metrics for different components of the Luger’s cost structure. Instead, we’ll just use the GDP Deflator and the Relative Share of GDP to get the min-max:

Table 3: Full Cost Accounting, RM and $US, 1940 and 2014

Item Item (English) Cost, 1940 RM Cost, 1940, USD Value, 2016 by GDP Deflator Value, 2016, Relative Share of GDP
Werkstoff Material 1.82 0.73 9.78 123.37
2 Haenel – Mag. 2 Haenel Magazines 5.32 2.13 28.54 359.97
Summe SubTotal 7.14 2.86 38.32 483.34
Fertigungslohn Direct Labor 10.21 4.08 54.67 689.52
Werkstoffgemeinkosten @6.8% Material Overhead @6.8% 0.49 0.2 2.68 33.80
Betriebsgemeinkosten @182.7% Factory (Business) Overhead @182.7% 18.65 7.46 99.96 1260.74
Summe SubTotal 36.49 14.6 195.64 2467.4
Kostenabweichung @7.6% Cost Variance @7.6% 0.78 0.31 4.15 52.39
Summe SubTotal 37.27 14.91 199.79 2519.79
Zuschlag für Ausschuss @2.2% Surcharge for Spoilage (waste/scrap) @2.2% 0.82 0.33 4.42 55.77
Herstellkosten Manufacturing Costs 38.09 15.24 204.22 2575.56
Verwaltungs- u. Vertriebsgemeinkosten @3.8% Administration & Sales Costs @3.8% 1.45 0.58 7.77 98.02
Umsatzsteueuer aus RM47.10 beziehungsweise RM 47.50 @2.0% Sales tax on basis of RM 47.10 or 47.50 @2.0% 0.94 0.38 5.09 64.22
Selbstkosten per Stück Our costs per unit 40.48 16.19 216.95 2736.11
Private sale cost 47.50 19.00 254.60 3211.00

We’d be very pleased to be pointed to any such cost accounting details from other nations/periods/firearms.

Sources

Weaver, W. Darrin, Speed, Jon, and Schmid, Walter. Mauser Pistolen. Cobourg, Ontario: Collector Grade, 2008.

Williamson, Samuel H.  Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present. Measuring Worth, n.d. Retrieved from: https://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/

Williamson, Samuel H. Choosing the Best Indicator to Measure Relative Worth. Measuring Worth, n.d.. Retrieved from: https://www.measuringworth.com/indicator.php

Rifles: 2nd Half of the 19th Century

We have commented before on how interesting it is that no firearms advance gives any nation a lasting advantage. This takes place both because everybody who is not experiencing success copies others’ successes with alacrity, and because technology tends to advance at about the same rate everywhere, as equally bright people work to develop new ideas on the shoulders of the same body of prior work.

Reasons notwithstanding, you can pick just about any period in history and watch the armies of the nations of the world advance together, as if they were in step. Let’s pick the second half of the 19th Century, which began with everyone more or less on the same sheet of music — call it Movement I, maestoso, with Minié or other displacing balls fired from muzzle-loading rifle-muskets — and at the end of a rapid flurry of advances was playing a livelier gavotte on repeating bolt-action rifles firing fixed centerfire ammunition.

Experimental 45-70 Springfield

In the middle of the 19th Century, the question was: how do we get from rifle-musket to breechloader? Conversions were the answer almost everywhere.

We’ve made rather a dog’s breakfast of too many metaphors there. We promise to stop; we’ll stick to declarative sentences, here on out.  In military service, service long-arms passed through four stages between 1850 and 1900, almost regardless of nation. Here’s a little graphic illustrating what we mean.

rifle_history_1850-1900Germany is an outlier here, in part because we selected Prussia as our representative German state (the German Empire wasn’t unified under the Prussian crown yet at the start of this period. Had we chosen Bavaria it might have looked more like the other nations).

At the end, we just didn’t have room for the definitive bolt-action repeater, the Mauser 98!

If Germany was a leader, looking at the dates, the United States was a bit of a laggard; the 1888 Springfield was fundamentally unimproved from the 1865 Allin conversion. Imperial Russia, often thought of as backward, doesn’t look nearly as bad. (Of course, adopting a rifle is one thing; producing enough of them to arm the Russian Army is a whole other challenge). It would be interesting to add other powers, such as Spain and Sweden, and perhaps some of the more advanced South American lands, to the chart.

Although we like our bright colors, the next step ought to be to make a proper Gantt chart of it, in which you’d see how much variation there was in years of adoption, visually.

By the way, the individual steps are not nearly as neat and clear as the graphic implies. This comprehensive and illustrated analysis of the Enfield P.53s progress to the Snider is representative. Like the Allin conversion in the USA, the Snider won out over many possible alternatives in testing. (And here’s a great page on the Martini-Henry, the Snider’s follow-on). For every repeater, breech-loader, and conversion that was adopted, there were many also-rans.

More Retro/Vintage ARs, This Time from Troy

A routine email from TFB reminded us that Colt’s Retro ARs are not unique after all, but that since this year’s SHOT Show, Troy has been promoting retro ARs. At SHOT they introduced a retro GAU-5A/A, and at the NRA show, an XM177E2.

They are promoting these rifles at the cleverly selected URL, myservicerifle.com. And they’re sensibly priced ($1,200-1,300 MSRP).

Here’s the GAU. A great deal of attention to detail has been applied here. It’s the right color grey.

GAU_5AA_rightThe lower receiver is contoured correctly for the A1-era CAR-15, and has almost exact rollmarks, until you look closely. It even has the “pin” for the auto sear — actually, just an engraved marking. GAU_5AA_right_rearThe pistol grip is an original surplus part — the only one. The barrel is about an inch longer than an original, and the profile of the false “moderator” — which is pinned and welded to make the barrel an ATF-legal 16″ — is a little bit off, but this is the closest any manufactured gun has gotten. Note that the bayonet lug has been milled off (this is correct to the originals).GAU_5AA_left

Care has been taken with the 2-position (period correct) stock. It is made of aluminum and then coated (probably not with the original vinyl acetate dip… that would be asking for OSHA to come a-viking to one’s factory). GAU_5AA_left_extTroy has not forgotten people who dwell within the Moonbat Curtain. You can also get one with the stock pinned in place and with the magazines gelded, and you can even go Full Harem Guard with a California-Legal (at the moment) Bullet Button. And each GAU (and the XM177s as well) comes with a package of accessories.

GAU_Included_accessories

And let’s have a look at the XM177E2.

As you can see, it comes with all the same features and accessories as its Air Force / Son Tay brother, down to the “strap, utility” sling improvised with 550 cord loops….

XM-177E2_leftBut looking at the other side, we see the difference between the GAU and the XM, the yin of the Air Force and the yang of the Army — the forward assist, an Army-peculiar feature, originally. XM-177E2_rightHere’s the forward assist in close-up. Note how accurately they got the part colors, the lower receiver contour, and the dead-on look-and-feel of the stock.

XM-177E2 forward assistIt can’t turn you into Dick Meadows, but it can damn well give you his sight picture:

XM-177E2 sights

Here’s sthe stock with the field improvised sling.XM-177E2 stock

And here’s the other end of the sling showing how it’s attached., as well as the period-correct .625″ barrel OD. XM-177E2 FSB and slingThe moderator looks almost perfectly right.XM-177E2 false moderatorThis selector switch photo shows the false selector markings and the little fake-auto-sear “pin”. XM177E2_SCAR-XM11-14YT-00-autoMarkings-1-1024x512They’re also available with limited-custom, tasteful, laser personalization.

XM-177E2 custom laser engraved

They also include such things as copies of inspectors’ paint marks.

The Charity Angle

But wait! there’s more. For every one of these retro blasters Troy sells, they’re going to make a contribution to an appropriate charity. For instance, the GAU supports the National Leage of Families; the XM177E2 supports — what else? — the Special Forces Association and the Special Operations Association. The SFA is the regimental association of the SF Regiment, and the SOA restricts full membership to veterans of behind-the-lines or cross-border units and

We’re life members of both SOA and SFA, and yet we never heard of these things before so we’re extremely glad we picked up Nathaniel F’s report thanks to the TFB email.

Prague 1938: The Doomed and the Saved

jan_syrovy_may_1938

As you can see from the cut-off margin and wavy horizontal line, we’ve got to go back to the drawing board on this scan.

We have been working to scan a story from the 30 May 1938 LIFE magazine for the site. The cover of that magazine shows “Commander of the Czech Army,” whose actual title was General Inspector (or Inspector General), Jan Syrový. A tough-looking guy, he had fought on both sides in World War I, like many Czechs and Slovaks, abandoning the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s weak claims on his loyalty, and going over to the Russians. The Russians had their own problems, but allowed their Czechoslovak POWs to form the Czechoslovak Legion, which started small but would ultimately be a brigade-sized unit of three infantry regiments. Syrový lost his right eye fighting alongside the Russian Army during the ill-fated Kerensky Offensive. (The Czech Legion took their objectives, but few of the Russian units did). Around the time this photograph was taken, Czechoslovak defense leaders had mobilized their reserves — 70,000 men — under threat from Germany.

At the time, Munich was still in the future (by then, Syrový would have bene elevated to Prime Minister, over his own objections), but in May, the Czechoslovaks were still hoping for support from former allies Britain, France and the USSR; in the end they would be betrayed by all three nations, Britain and France cutting the Munich deal for the death of Czechoslovakia (with Czechoslovakia conspicuously unrepresented), and the USSR writing the rump of the state off in the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact of 1939.

In the LIFE issue, we saw the photo immediately below. The LIFE caption was:

German Refugees. In this hand-decorated Prague cellar of an abandoned factory Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany find the safe haven Prague has long offered their race.

german_jewish_refugees_in_prague_2

That struck us pretty hard. Note the tied-down swastika on the map of Germany, and the weird cartoon figures… not sure who they’re supposed to be. LIFE had more to say about the refugees, including some fairly deep background. As we read it, the realization sank in that these people were almost certainly murdered in the next few years. Seeing the picture, we know what the happy musicians could not: the Nazi menace was coming their way.

Generations before Romulus and Remus found their Roman wolf, Prague on the Vltáva River was an old established village that had been inhabited continuously since Paleolithic men scrabbled caves in its riverbanks some 15,000 years ago. Modern industrial Czechoslovakia thus has not only one of the oldest capitals in Europe, but one of the most beautiful. The curving Vltáva (pronounced Vultava) splits the city in two as the Seine splits Paris.

Prague has an ancient and honorable reputation for liberalism. Its university is the oldest in Central Europe. The martyrdom of John Huss not only foretold the Protestant Reformation, but started a wave of Czech nationalism among the nobles of the Bohemian court. Like other medieval cities. Prague kept its Jews in a ghetto, the Josefstadt, but they were not molested. They had a separate Jewish town hall, with a Jewish clock that still ticks on its steeple. The 14th Century synagogue where the Golem was made is still in use. Prague’s Jewish cemetery is the oldest in Europe.

Currently Prague is an asylum for thousands of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. At the left LIFE’s photographers show several of these in an abandoned factory in Prague’s Strašnice district. Their faces are purposely turned from the camera for the protection of relatives still in Germany. They manage to exist on an average of 11¢ a day donated by Czech workers’ unions, but because of Czech unemployment they are not allowed to accept jobs. All of them are ready to enlist in an anti-Nazi brigade should Czechoslovakia be invaded by Germany.

It was depressing, reading this, reading the cautious optimism on the crumbling pages, and knowing what became of the Jews of Prague and other Czechoslovak cities (herded into ghettos, relocated to KZ Theresienstadt (Terezín, Czech), relocated to KZ Auschwitz-Birkenau, murdered like rats. Especially the kids. When a transport came in, the old, the sick, and the children went straight to extermination.

We looked on that picture, and the accompanying legend, and despaired. They never got the chance to “enlist in an anti-Nazi brigade.” The list of European nations and statesmen who sold them out is a long and bleak catalog of shame. To that must be added the shame of the United States in not accepting these refugees — for unlike the ISIL advance parties currently roiling Europe, these people were actually refugees in the classic sense of the word.

The day after hitting an emotional rock bottom over this long-forgotten little tragedy, in one corner of The Greatest Tragedy Show on Earth that was the Second World War, we stumbled on this report by Kemberlee Kaye at the great law blog, Legal Insurrection. It’s all about this guy, a master of English pluck… and English understatement.

Sir-Nicholas-Winton-memorial-service-holocaust-hero-saved-children-world-war-ii-2-e1463766689273-620x435

Nick Winton was a young stockbroker who found himself in Prague on holiday about a year after that Life Magazine, and he decided to do something. Something was getting permission to bring unaccompanied refugee children from Prague to London from the Nazis (which turned out to be easy, as they were looking to get rid of Jews), from the Foreign Office (which turned out to take one visit and compliance with a list of conditions) and the rest of midcentury British bureaucracy (which was a little more complicated).

At one point, he resorted to forging a letterhead to convince authorities he wasn’t just one guy, but head of a large and potent organization. He did all that he could.

He saved 669 children; the parents who put them on the train, and most of the rest of their families in Europe, vanished forever into the Nacht u. Nebel of the Final Solution.

And what did he do then? Like most men his age, he served in the war, and afterward, moved on with his life. What is different about his rescue is what he didn’t do — he didn’t tell anybody. Apart from a brief mention in a flyer for a 1950s campaign for local office — he lost, by the way — he never brought it up. He did it, and that was enough. It was in 1988, almost fifty years later, that his wife found an old scrapbook — and discovered Nick Winton’s secret.

After that, he was showered with honors, none of which he sought. Last week, there was a memorial service for Sir Nicholas Winton, who passed away last year, leaving alongside his own progeny perhaps as many as 15,000 “descendants” among his foster children.

Winton didn’t do this alone, of course, and that is one reason he never blew his own horn. He actually ran the operation from London, and had a team of helpers — all long since passed away — on the ground in Prague. So do bear in mind that it was a team effort, if you go (as we are about to recommend!) to Kemberlee’s story and Read The Whole Thing™, and watch the two embedded videos there (one from the Beeb and one from CBS’s 60 Minutes, but they’re not like all the others…).

 

The Marker is All that Remains, Until We Look Further

Queens Westminster Rifles grave markerThis small, but beautifully worked, marker was nailed, Christlike, to a cross that marked the end of a man’s world and the beginning of the Commonwealth War Graves Commisison’s responsibility for caring for his last remains. When his daughter, who somehow received the temporary cross, presumably when Richard de Rupe Roche’s grave was marked with a permanent stone by the Commission after the war, passed away, the marker which had been on the cross came into the white-gloved hands of the curators of the Imperial War Museum in London, who handle and preserve the century-old marker with care, perhaps even reverence.

Name plate from temporary grave marker of (409) Corporal Richard de Rupe Roche who served during the First World War on the Western Front with the Queen’s Westminster Rifles (16th Battalion, The London Regiment). Corporal de Rupe Roche died on active service on 8 January 1915 (aged 34). He was the elder son of Captain Richard Roche RN and Maria Jane Roche, and husband of Ethel Roche of Culver Cottage, Fletcher Road, Horsell, Woking. He is buried in Houplines Communal Cemetery Extension. (Information derived from the Commonwealth War Graves ‘Debt of Honour’ database). The cross belonged to his daughter Miss Barbara Roche who died in 1981; Miss Roche’s only memory of her father was waving goodbye to him as he left by train when she was only five years old.

Multiply that by several million, translate it into all the languages of the European continent, and behold the human picture of First World War.

The IWM does not say it, but Barbara, born 1913, was Richard’s and his wife Ethel’s only child. When Richard died, he left a substantial estate (for the time) of £2,365 15s 6d. (For those not old enough to recall pre-decimalization English money, those figures denote two thousand, three hundred sixty-five pounds, fifteen shillings and sixpence… people would usually say two thousand, three hundred sixty-five pounds, fifteen and six. Don’t get us started on guineas.

Says the IWM of this little artifact:

Name plate from a temporary grave marker of (409) Corporal Richard de Rupe Roche who served during the First World War on the Western Front with the Queen’s Westminster Rifles (16th Battalion, The London Regiment). Corporal de Rupe Roche died on active service on 8 January 1915 (aged 34). He was the elder son of Captain Richard Roche RN and Maria Jane Roche, and husband of Ethel Roche of Culver Cottage, Fletcher Road, Horsell, Woking. He is buried in Houplines Communal Cemetery Extension. (Information derived from the Commonwealth War Graves ‘Debt of Honour’ database). The cross belonged to his daughter Miss Barbara Roche who died in 1981 and was a close friend of the donor’s sister, to whom she left all her personal property. Miss Roche’s only memory of her father was waving goodbye to him as he left by train when she was only five years old. Several photographs and two letters of condolence were acquired with the marker (see correspondence file). One photograph shows a simple wood cross with the grave marker fixed to it at Houplines Military Cemetery and the others show Miss Barbara Roche as a young girl with her mother Ethel and a separate photograph of Corporal Roche.

For all their effort, the IWM has missed some details of Richard Roche the father and Richard de Rupe Roche. Fortunately, amateur historians memorializing Isle of Wight notables have unearthed them, and historians far away in western America have found more. These details reflect well on the men and their family. Captain Roche served in a ship in support of the British force that occupied the north end of San Juan Island in Washington (while American Marines occupied the south end, and diplomats wrangled over the border). Roche père did considerable exploration there; some terrain features are named after him to this day. He passed on in 1888 in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, so at least he did not live to see his son go to war — either time.

In World War I, Corporal Roche received a Mention in Dispatches, a significant valor award. It turns out he was already a veteran who fought and was wounded in the Boer War.

Private 4766 Richard de Rupe Roche served with 50 Company (2nd Hampshire) 17 Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry in the South African War. He was ‘Wounded Dangerously on 28 Mar 1901 at Rondal’, and awarded the Queen’s South Africa (QSA) Medal with Clasps: Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, Rhodesia, South Africa 1901.

He would have been just 20 in that war. He was well enough on his return to England for sport:

Richard de Rupe Roche is believed to have played for Wakefield Rugby Football Club in the inaugural season of 1901/2.

Back to his temporary marker at the IWM:

Physical description

Silver metal grave marker (148mm x 105mm) bearing portcullis emblem and impressed inscription: ‘QUEEN’S WESTMINSTER RIFLES. / CPL R DE R ROCHE. / 8, JAN 1915 / DULCE ET DECORUM EST PRO PATRIA MORI. / R.I.P.’ The plate has four rounded corners with a hole in each of them for fixing to cross.

via grave marker (EPH 7584).

The marker is a beautiful thing, is it not? Almost jewelry. The Queen’s Westminster Rifles were a territorial unit, which is to say, a reserve formation. Someone spent money from the regimental fund to make these fine markers, because the average poor bastard had to be content to have his grave marked with hand-painted or stencilled letters, or letters quickly stamped in a pot-metal marker strip that the British Army’s logistic troops used at the time.

A dozen years ago, when Roche’s medals were sold at auction, more of his military history was told, including the sad circumstances of his demise (he was slain going for water for his Vickers or Maxim gun); we have bolded some points of interest in the auctioneers’ narrative:

Medals & Decorations ] Six: Corporal R. de R. Roche, 16th London Regiment (The Queen’s Westminster Rifles), late Imperial Yeomanry, who was killed in action near Houplines on 8 January 1915 Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902, 5 clasps, Cape Colony, Rhodesia, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901 (4766 Tpr., 50th Coy. 17th Impl. Yeo. ); 1914 Star (409 L. Cpl., 1/16 Lond. R.); British War and Victory Medals (409 Cpl., 16 Lond. R.); Territorial Force Efficiency Medal, G.V.R. (409 Pte., 16/Lond. Regt.); another Territorial Force Efficiency Medal, G.V.R. (409 Pte., 16/Lond. Regt.), this being an entirely official but erroneous ‘double issue’, with related Memorial Plaques (Richard de Rupe Roche) and (Philip Henry Tibbs) [see footnote], the first very fine and the last polished, the remainder nearly extremely fine (8) E600-800

Richard de Rupe Roche, who was born at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, the son of Captain R. Roche, R.N., enlisted in the Imperial Yeomanry in February 1900, aged 20 years. Subsequently posted to the 17th Battalion, he served out in South Africa from April 1900 until July 1901, and was dangerously wounded at Rondal on 28 March. He was discharged in the same year.

Roche, however maintained his links with the military establishment, by joining the Queen’s Westminster Rifles, and was awarded his T.F.E.M. in Army Order 282 of October 1911. Clearly a keen Territorial soldier, he was a noted marksman, four times making the final hundred to qualify for the King’s prize at Bisley in the years leading up to the Great War. He also represented Ireland in shooting competitions in 1913 and 1914. Called up in August 1914, he went with his Battalion to France on 1 November 1914, and was mentioned in despatches for his bravery at the end of the month: ‘On the 30th November, Lieutenant J. B. Baber and Corporal R. de R. Roche captured the first prisoners for the Battalion They had gone out at night to patrol along a ditch some way in front of the line, when they suddenly found themselves surrounded by three different parties of the enemy who had apparently arranged to meet at a certain spot. Two of the enemy patrols passed by without having their suspicions aroused, but the third consisting of three men was making its way towards the place where Lieutenant Baber and Corporal Roche were crouching. The latter immediately opened fire, and after killing one man rushed the remaining two, who threw down their rifles and surrendered.’

The circumstances of Roche’s death during the Houplines operations are also described in The War History of the 1st Battalion, Queen’s Westminster Rifles 1914-18, by J. Q. Henriques: 8th January, just as it was beginning to get light, Corporal R. de R. Roche was shot as he was crossing the open to get some water for his gun. He was not missed until daylight, when he was seen lying in the open in rear of the trench and in full view of the enemy, who was not more than a hundred and twenty yards away. It was practically certain death to attempt to reach him; but two very gallant men, Rifleman P. H A. Tibbs, a stretcher-bearer, and Rifleman Pouchot (both of No. 2 Company), crawled out to him to see if anything could be done. As soon as they were seen, the enemy opened fire on them, but both men went on and succeeded in reaching Corporal Roche, who was found to be dead. Rifleman Tibbs was killed as he was kneeling over his body; but Rifleman Pouchot, who saw that both men were beyond help, managed to get back to our lines untouched. He was awarded the D.C.M. for his bravery on this occasion, and thus won the first decoration gained by the Battalion. Rifleman P. H. A. Tibbs was mentioned in despatches. Corporal Roche was a noted rifle and revolver shot, and a very keen member of the Regiment. At home he had always been ready to give to others the benefit of his experience; he had served in the South African War, and in France had already done some splendid work for which he was mentioned in despatches. In him the Battalion lost a good soldier and a true comrade.’

A less comfortable but probably more accurate account of Roche’s final moments appears in The Daily Graphic a witness describing how he was actually found ‘gasping for breath, with a terrible wound in his face’, and how Tibbs was shot down as he tried to bandage him with a field dressing; similarly, further mention of the incident is to be found in the diary of Sergeant B. J. Brookes, also of the Queen’s Westminster Rifles, who stated that their bodies lay out in the water – for the area was flooded – for a long time, ‘the stretcher bearer lying with his arm round the neck of the other man’, since the Germans kept a close eye on them in the hope of catching further victims. Roche, whose posthumous ‘mention’ by Sir John French appeared in The London Gazette on 22 June 1915, was eventually interred in the Houplines Communal Cemetery Extension, where he lies in a grave adjoining that of the heroic Rifleman Tibbs; photographs of his headstone are included. Sold with original M.I.D. certificate, dated 31 May 1915, and related War Office letter regarding the announcement of the award and offering the King’s condolences on Roche’s subsequent death in action; together with Record Office forwarding letter for his B.W.M. and Victory Medals, dated 12 August 1922.

He seems to have been a remarkable man, and his death a pity, for his family and for his country. The number of such distinguished families brought to an end by the Great War must be staggering (although Roche did have, apparently, a surviving brother). And this story could be repeated with examples from every combatant nation. In war, the best fall; it has to have a dysgenic effect on a nation.

Belated Recognition for Great War Private John Edward Gravenor

GravenorA century-old error has been put right. A soldier was labeled a “deserter” for not forming up with his unit after a 1916 battle. But recently he was found in other records to have failed to show for a very good reason: he was killed by enemy rifle fire while trying to patrol across a defended river, and his body was never recovered.

Thanks to the persistence of a great-niece who never knew him, Private John Edward Gravenor, who as a “deserter” was never listed on any war memorial with the honorable dead, is now going to be so engraved.

A British soldier who was branded a ‘coward’ and a ‘deserter’ after fighting during the First World War has finally been exonerated as a hero thanks to his great-niece’s persistence to clear his name.

Private John Edward Gravenor, from Edgbaston, Birmingham, died, aged 26, while wading across a river – ahead of his unit – during fierce fighting in Salonika, Greece, in July 1916.

His body has never been found and rumours persisted that he fled after making it to the far bank on July 29. Even the Army branded him a ‘deserter’ and ‘coward’ in official military documents.

It also emerged that the British Army accepted, back in the 1920s, that Private Gravenor had not turned his back on the enemy. But a lack of paperwork meant that his exoneration remained buried.

Gravenors awards

However, he can now be remembered alongside his fallen colleagues after his great-niece, Nikki Medlicott, finally managed to clear his name and exonerate him as a hero 100 years on.

No death certificate was ever issued for Private Gravenor and she has spent the last seven years trying to prove that Britain should pay tribute to the soldier who gave his life fighting for his country.

And her persistence has finally paid off – after the Commonwealth War Graves Commission admitted ‘something went wrong’ in documenting her Great Uncle’s military career.

The organisation has pledged that the soldier scrubbed from history will be included on the Dorian memorial in Greece after confirming he was killed in action when he was shot as he crossed a river.

Ms Medlicot is now pushing for Birmingham City Council to include his name in the city Book of Remembrance, something that could not be done until the Commission recognised his sacrifice.

via First World War soldier John Edward Gravenor branded a coward has been exonerated | Daily Mail Online.

Character, whether of the doomed combat variety of Gravenor and so many Great War Britons, or of the stubborn, persistent kind displayed by his young relative, suggests that, while “always” represents a very long time, England is here for the long haul, and one would be ill advised to listen to premature obituaries of that scepter’d isle.

Jeff Cooper on Small Caliber Guns

Jeff Cooper and 45Col. Jeff Cooper was known as someone who believed that there was no point in a handgun whose caliber did not begin with .4. (Had he lived to see it, he’d probably warm up to the .500 S&W). He was very influential in the late-century police adoption of 10mm and .40 caliber pistols, and had nothing good to say about smaller rounds.

Of course, Cooper is an interesting cat. He was an entertaining gunwriter, an excellent shot and competitor, and an instructor with a massive and sometimes slavish following. He insisted on the title Colonel, and made broad hints about being some kind of secret squirrel, but as far as we know he was a reserve ordnance officer without combat service, let alone command. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; somebody had better be running the depots and making sure the gunplumbers stay organized and get paid.

While working up the book on Czech and Czechoslovak guns, it seemed like an amusing idea, given the European penchant for .25 (6.35 mm) or .32 (7.65 x 17SR) pistols as military and police sidearms, to contrast European, particularly Czechoslovakian, midcentury practice with Cooper’s preferences. We hit several varieties of pay dirt, in an excerpt below from an early draft of the book. And then, in this post, we move on to another famous fictional secret squirrel! But first, Cooper:

American pistolero and writer Jeff Cooper, Col., USMC (Ret.), once had occasion to meet Hans-Ulrich Rudel, a famous German Stuka pilot, best known for destroying over 500 Soviet tanks with a version of the  dive-bomber armed with two Rheinmettal-Borsig . Naturally, Cooper, a strong proponent of .45 and 10mm pistols, wanted to know what sort of pistol Rudel, a man facing a high risk of capture by what would certainly have been a furious enemy, carried on his combat flights. Cooper remembers:

I asked Rudel about this and he told me personally that he packed one of those miniature 25 caliber automatics on his antitank missions. When asked why, he replied, “Because I have never been a pessimist.”[1]

What Cooper said to Rudel on this occasion, he did not bother to record; but he’s on record at other times as referring to, the “25 ACP, which everyone knows is not sufficient to clear sinuses,”[2] and this aphorism in-the-round:

[C]arry a 25 if it makes you feel good, but do not ever load it. If you load it you may shoot it. If you shoot it you may hit somebody, and if you hit somebody – and he finds out about it – he may be very angry with you.[3]

Bear in mind that the “anemic” .38 special of Cooper’s day was once the “hot” round, replacing even lighter loads such as the .32 Colt and .32 S&W (interchangeable cartridges, the different names were marketing eyewash) and the .38 S&W, a round the Brits happily issued to soldiers as the .38/200 in World War II! He lived in a period of great firepower expansion, even before he gave it a push, but the old, small-caliber guns died hard, both in police agencies — NYPD stuck to the .38 special until they finally went to automatics, far behind other departments — and in the popular culture.

Ian Fleming wrote without irony, in Dr. No in 1956, and after consulting with a Scots expert in firearms, that the .32 ACP PPK with which Major Boothroyd — named after the expert — replaced James Bond’s preferred .25 Beretta, had “a delivery like a brick through a plate glass window.” Geoffrey Boothroyd had written to Ian Fleming:

I dislike a man who comes into contact with all sorts of formidable people using a .25 Beretta. This sort of gun is really a lady’s gun, and not a really nice lady at that.[4]

Boothroyd (as has been recorded elsewhere in these pages) suggested several upgrades for Bond, including a Smith & Wesson Chief’s Special, but the book, Dr. No, and the film, set him up with the .32 PPK instead. Boothroyd’s lines:

Walther PPK. 7.65mm, with a delivery like a brick through a plate glass window. Takes a Brausch silencer with very little reduction in muzzle velocity. The American CIA swears by them.[5]

Bond and BoothroydIn the movie, Dr. No, Hollywood quotes the scene verbatim, but the producers and property master/armorer botch it by using a .380 Beretta 1934 — a more powerful pistol than the .32 PPK — as a stand-in for the .25 Beretta of the novel.

In both versions of Dr. No, at the end of the discussion, Bond attempts to leave with both pistols. But as Jeff Cooper might have told him, .32 + .25 does not equal .45.

Notes

[1] Cooper, John Dean “Jeff”. Cooper’s Commentaries, Vol. 14, No. 5, June-September 2006. Retrieved from: http://www.molonlabe.net/Commentaries/jeff14_5.html

[2] Cooper, John Dean “Jeff”. Cooper’s Commentaries, Vol. 2, No. 2, 31 January 1994. Retrieved from: https://www.molonlabe.net/Commentaries/jeff2_2.html The whole comment is brief and is worth reproducing here:

We hear of an unfortunate woman who, during an nighttime asthma attack, confused the small handgun she kept under her pillow with an asthma inhaler and proceeded to relieve her symptoms. It was not a fatal mistake, partly because she used a 25 ACP, which everyone knows is not sufficient to clear sinuses.

[3] Cooper, John Dean “Jeff”. Cooper’s Commentaries, Vol. 4, No. 14, December 1996. Retrieved from: https://www.molonlabe.net/Commentaries/jeff4_14.html Again, the whole exchange is worth reproducing, although a bit longer than the last:

Our old buddy Gene Harshbarger from Guatemala reports a recent episode with the 25 ACP pistol cartridge. It seems that Gene’s cousin was set upon by a trio of car thieves who shot him once almost dead center with that dinky little pistol. The bullet entered at a very flat angle, however, proceeded laterally just inside the pectoral muscle, and exited after about 5 inches of traverse, continuing on into the target’s left arm.

The cousin hit the deck and started shooting back, whereupon the assailants split. When he stood up the bullet slid out of his left sleeve and bounced on the pavement. It penetrated the jacket, but not the skin of his left arm.

As we used to teach in the spook business, carry a 25 if it makes you feel good, but do not ever load it. If you load it you may shoot it. If you shoot it you may hit somebody, and if you hit somebody – and he finds out about it – he may be very angry with you.

[4] Packard, Scott. Inside Bond’s Weapon of Choice, the Walther PPK. Gear Patrol, 9 November 2012. Retrieved from: http://gearpatrol.com/2012/11/09/defense-journal-bonds-gun/

[5] ibid.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: NylonRifles.com

nylonrifles_dot_com_websiteWe have a brief one tonight, and it’s off our usual topic of service weapons. And thereby hangs a tale. If you were fortunate enough to grow up in the 1960s, you not only experienced a golden age of pop music and auto design, you also grew up in era of the Space Age, atomic energy, and the incredible wonder material, Plastic. These things together were going to revolutionize everything. We saw this at the 1964 worlds fair in New York. By the turn-of-the-century, people would be working or vacationing in orbit or on other planets, keeping their personal helicopters with plastic bubble canopies their garages, and commuting by jet pack.

While the future is not what it used to be, we can look into the past and see that Remington offered a Space Age rifle to its customers: the Nylon 66. We always thought them name came from the year of introduction — 1966, when even the Beatles had a Rubber Soul — but 1966 just when we first saw one. It actually was introduced in 1959, and was named after the material used for the rifles unitary stock/receiver, DuPont’s Nylon 6/6.

It seemed like a brilliant idea. After all, the boys in the field had a “plastic” gun, isn’t it time the casual plinker had one, too?

Lots of Nylon 66s

The Nylon 66 also had Buck Rogers styling with swoopy, “artistic” (traditionalists said “cartoonish”) lines. Indeed, your opinion of the Nylon 66 was unlikely to be neutral: early adopters loved ’em, and traditionalists — and most gun buyers are traditionalists — were aghast. When Uncle Jim showed up with one of these new rifles, our Winchester suddenly seemed frumpy, dowdy and cobwebbed next to this new ray gun. (What can we say? At that age, we actually did read comic books).

The story of the Nylon 66 and its plastic stablemates is told at NylonRifles.com

nylon_66_maintenance_manual

One thing the site offers is a collection of old manuals, including maintenance information.

While there was a great deal of engineering in the Nylon 66 — worked out by both DuPont and Remington working together — it gave a strong impression of being fashion forward, and in 15 or 20 years they looked as dated as the 1966 Plymouth Barracuda, unlike the “classic” Winchester. One fashion decision was for the gun to load its tubular magazine through the butt, which prevented the N66 from having the clunky underbarrel magazine tube of most semi .22s, but at the cost of lower ammo capacity. Did that matter, in a plinking and small-game gun? The squirrels weren’t shooting back; suppressive fire wouldn’t fill the pot.

DuPont was in it to win it, “it” being a share of the plastic rifle market, and was behind Remington as the New York gunmaker expanded the line. In time, or at various times, it included guns with green and black stocks, chromed (not nickeled!) rifles, magazine-fed Nylons (the Nylon 77), special models for high-volume retailers, and .22 short Nylons for shooting galleries (remember them?) Most of these models were short-lived. The shortest lifespans were for the bolt-action versions — gaudy Space Age styling applied to the traditionalist’s choice of action was a pretty good way to count down sales to zero.

Anyway you look at these guns: as marketing lessons learned, as examples of engineering problem-solving, or as cultural and historical artifacts, they’re fascinating. Which brings us to our Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: NylonRifles.com. NylonRifles.com is a bit haphazard, but it’s more information on these guns than you’re going to find anywhere else. Here’s the site’s own overview:

There were about 1,050,000 Nylon 66s made. The standard model had a brown stock (called Mohawk Brown) with blue metal. It was a tube fed through the stock semi auto. Variations included a green stocked version (Seneca Green), a black stock and chrome receiver version called “Apache black” and a black stock rifle with a blued receiver cover called the “Black Diamond”.

via NylonRifles.com » Introduction to the Remington Nylon Rifles.

Naturally, the images in the post come from the site.

The last gasp of the Nylon 66 came in 1989, with the costly injection-molding molds on their last legs. It would have cost Remington a fortune to keep producing what was, by that point, a retro-60s-nostalgia piece. And the Chinese were making a decent knockoff that was already underselling the genuine Remington with its aging but fully-amortized and -depreciated production tooling.

Original and Reproduction Liberator Pistols

A few years ago — well, maybe a quarter century ago — Liberator pistols were extremely rare. Originals are still uncommon. While many thousands of the disposable firearms were made, with the intention of dropping them onto occupied territory there is little evidence any were so used.

FP-45 Liberator for Sale 2

Two things could be gained by dropping arms like this behind enemy lines: the first is that they might be used against the enemy as intended. But the second, more subtle, intent was psychological: certainly some, probably most, of the dropped weapons would fall into the hands of the enemy, inducing a great worry about partisans, perhaps even a debilitating paranoia. (There are several historical examples of faux guerrilla operations used either to bedevil enemies or to get loyal enemy leaders shot as traitors).

In the end, the US and UK conducted massive airdrops to partisans in France and Norway, but the drops were of more militarily useful American and British arms and ammunition. (There were also airdrops to “partisans” in Holland, but these turned out to be pseudo networks run by Abwehr counterintelligence. Most of the agents dropped by SOE were interrogated and shot on arrival. It’s that kind of business).

FP-45 Liberator for Sale 1

The Soviets dropped supplies to the partisans they supported in the East, but we have seen no evidence they dropped any lend-lease weapons, or were privy to the classified Liberator project — at least officially. The Liberators were sent, in small quantities, forward, to OSS elements in the China-Burma-India theater and the Mediterranean at least. None of these seem to have done anything but tinker with them, and those samples seem to have been the source of all existing free market Liberators.

Business end. Original Liberators were unrifled, unmarked, and intended to be used at contact range.

Business end. Original Liberators were unrifled, unmarked, and intended to be used at contact range.

This example is offered on GunBroker. The auction text (from the reputable collector-gun dealer, Jackson Armory) asserts that these guns were dropped to resistance elements. While we agree that they were made for that purpose, we’d need to see evidence that any were so dropped — and we haven’t seen any such evidence.

Calling the sights "rudimentary" is an insult to rudiments.

Calling the sights “rudimentary” is an insult to rudiments. (Actually, they’re more prominent than on many contemporary pistols, but any alignment they may have with the path of the unstabilized bullet is a matter of coincidence).

The sellers say this of the gun:

RARE WWII FP-45 “Liberator” .45 Pistol. Stock # MMH282805RT. No Serial #. This is a genuine (NOT a post-War reproduction) FP-45, .45acp “Liberator” pistol, a crude pistol made by the Guide Lamp Division of General Motors. These guns were air-dropped to Resistance Fighters in Europe during WWII. The all-metal pistol has lots of patina and tarnishing, the bore is dark, the action functions correctly

via Genuine WWII FP-45 “Liberator” Pistol .45acp. 45 : Curios & Relics at GunBroker.com.

The question arises is, is it genuine? Now, in 1990 the answer would have been “definitely.” It  was considered, at that time, too hard to copy, having been made by an industrial stamping process that would require very expensive dies.

Then, there were a small handful of Liberators circulating among collectors and museums — no more than a couple dozen, maybe at a stretch 100. (Some say a couple thousand, with about 300 still new in the box, but that seems astronomically high to us). These had all passed through some grey area between manufacture under US Government contract and present modern ownership without any sign of an official, legal sale; they were never sold through the NRA or DCM, unlike .45s and M1917 revolvers, but they may have been given away by officers with authority to dispose of surplus property while winding up operations. We are not lawyers here and are not about to teach a class in property law, but we’d just like to point out that many firearms passed through such a valley of shadow in their history; it doesn’t so much weaken the claim of the current owner — in our distinctly non-legal opinion — as it simply introduces a break in provenance.

Trying to prove provenance of a firearm like this, that was conceived in darkness, stockpiled by two clandestine agencies with an interregnum in between, and proceeded to the civilian market by unknown paths and in unknown hands, is a challenge like proving one’s descent from classical antiquity: the conventional wisdom is that it can’t be done. Somebody may be running around with Julius Caesar’s blood in his veins, but you can’t prove it’s you.

The risk of fakes finally arose with the production of new Liberators.

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Vintage Ordnance Liberator reproductions

The makers of the reproduction, Vintage Ordnance, who actually reproduce three versions of the Liberator, including the final production version (like the original one for sale by Jackson Armory) and two engineering prototypes (!), are keenly aware of the utility of their product to fakers, and so have taken measures to make their reproduction harder to transmogrify into a fake.

Our reproduction has a rifled barrel and discrete markings to comply with Federal law and hopefully prevent it from being unscrupulously sold as an original antique. We mark the serial number on the front of the grip frame and our company information, model and caliber designation on the underside of the barrel behind the trigger guard. All characters are the minimum 1/16” high.

Some of these, like marking and rifling, are required by law; the OSS didn’t need no stankin’ laws (and the marking law didn’t come about until 1968). Other changes in the materials and manufacture of the reproduction make it, while good enough for a Hollywood close-up, different in physical properties from an original.

Liberator for Sale in the Linked Auction.

The Vintage Ordnance repro in Hollywood close-up. This one is cocked.

These measures complicate the life of any low-life intending to convert a Vintage Ordnance reproduction to a phony “authentic” Liberator (indeed, they compound his fraud with the felony of defacing a serial number), and give the inspector something to look for; but even with a seller we trust (Like Jackson Armory), we’d want a hands-on inspection before laying out $2,400 for this firearm.

Shooting a Liberator was once one of the perks of going through SF weapons school, but a funny thing happened: over the years, they all broke, and no replacements were forthcoming. (After sitting for years in a warehouse, most of the Liberators had been scrapped). The zinc alloy (Zamak-3?) cocking piece is subject to both fracture and corrosion.

Zamak cocking piece is the firearm's weak point.

Zamak cocking piece is the firearm’s weak point.

The Liberator was designed to be, literally, disposable; the intent was to fire one shot and then throw it away, in favor of whatever the fellow you shot had been carrying. If you needed to reload it, you’d better have brought your friends with their Liberators to cover you.

Breech open. Seen here on the reproduction (note telltale rifling).

Breech open. Seen here on the reproduction (note telltale rifling).

It is all at once unpleasant to fire, with tremendous muzzle blast and recoil; slow to load; inaccurate beyond contact range; and, not remotely safe. It’s not only not drop safe (indeed, it’s likely to fire if dropped in a loaded state!), but it’s also liable to fire if the cocking piece slips out of your fingers. There’s no real “safety,” you can just rotate the cocking piece to the side… it makes the “safety” of the Mosin-Nagant rifle look like something from the pages of the Journal of Contemporary Advances in Human Factors.

The way to get through a whole box of ammo with a Liberator? Bring enough friends! Or go to a busy range. Everybody wants to shoot it once.

The availability of both originals, occasionally, and reproductions make a Liberator collection something to consider. For under $5k you could have new models of each engineering version, plus an original for the authenticity cachet, and with some placards you’d have a show-winning display (if there are any shows that welcome educational displays any more).

In the end, it’s a novelty gun, a footnote to history, for the price of a nicer 1911 variant that will provide much more durability and comfort to the shooter.

Will the Military Obey Unlawful Orders?

An officer's commission (here, a Continental Commission signed by President of the Con. Congress John Hancock). Enduring question: are you commissioned to obey orders, or sustain principles?

An officer’s commission (here, a Continental Commission signed by President of the Con. Congress John Hancock). Enduring question: are you commissioned to obey orders, or sustain principles?

The answer to that is, unquestionably, yes. You probably shouldn’t delude yourself on that score. Back in March, Commander Salamander noted this exchange between Brett Baier and Presidential candidate Donald Trump (exchange edited for brevity):

BAIER: [W]hat would you do, as commander-in-chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?

TRUMP: They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.

BAIER: But they’re illegal.

TRUMP: …They then came to me, what do you think of waterboarding? I said it’s fine. And if we want to go stronger, I’d go stronger, too, because, frankly…

(APPLAUSE)

… that’s the way I feel. ….We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding. That’s my opinion.

BAIER: But targeting terrorists’ families?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.

This, Sal analyzes as follows:

There has been a lot of huff’n and puff’n from many who presently or once wore the uniform, including your humble blogg’r, roughly of, “We will not. No one will follow those illegal orders. We will just refuse.” The more I’ve thought about it, the more I think my initial instinct is wrong.

That might be an internal dialog, but once a senior officer looks you in the eye, and even if you make a protest says, “The JAG stated …” or “The Justice Department ruled that … “, there are very few who will resist. Anyone below 4-stars that does refuse will simply be fired and someone will step forward to execute the order in their place within minutes. That one person will have a clear conscience, but will also have a dead-end career, professional exile, and nothing will actually have changed.

In the main, orders will be followed.

This is a retired officer talking, who has held the nation’s Commission and done the nation’s duty at sea and ashore, and everything he says is 100% in line with what we observed in three decades of combined Active, Reserve and Guard service, most of it in SF with very good and very ethical officers.

He also cites an analysis by Rosa Brooks (again, edited brutally for brevity) that goes like this:

Military resistance is no safeguard against a future president — Trump or anyone else — who’s determined to have his way.

Laws can be manipulated, and they can be changed, especially when a president wants them manipulated or changed. The U.S. military has a strong rule-of-law culture, but it also has a strong commitment to civilian control of the armed forces.

If history and social psychology have taught us anything, it’s that most people, civilian and military alike, will go along with the instructions of those they perceive as authority figures…

….numerous lawyers in the armed forces have expressed private concerns about ….[it really doesn’t matter what, although she has concrete examples –Ed.]. But here again, don’t expect a mutiny or a coup.

Sal returns to the more general problem, and says (edited, for a third time, to the high points):

[T]here is nothing that our GOFO community have done in peace that would lead me to think that there would be any concerted effort to stand up and say, “No.” in times of crisis.

Amen. He does cite some rare examples, such as then-General Rick Shinseki’s resistance to the Iraq war (which was based, if you know Shinseki, on partisan politics, not integrity, but let’s roll with it and give the General the benefit of the doubt), and after that, Vice-Admiral Thomas Connolly’s falling on the proverbial sword over MacNamara’s insane TFX and its F-111B Naval offshoot. Connolly’s response to a Senatorial question about the thrust needed to get the porky jet off a carrier deck is legendary:

[Gerald E.] Miller [then a Connolly aide and later an Admiral himself] remembers vividly that Admiral Connolly swallowed hard, then declared, “There isn’t enough thrust in Christendom to fix this plane.”

Sal admitted he was out of examples, at that point; in the spirit of purple-suited late pop stars jointness, we’d like to vector him to two famous examples from Army service.

  1. Chief of Staff Matthew B. Ridgeway. A World War II hero and Korean War leader, Ridgeway resisted the Presidential and civilian national security establishment’s attempt to all but eliminate the Army and go to an all-nuclear defense posture to enable massive defense cuts. Ridgeway was prepared to fall on his sword rather than withdraw the Army from Europe . Here’s a somewhat partisan view of the thing[.pdf] by officer turned political analyst Andrew J. Bacevich (he wrote it to demean military criticism of his beloved Clinton Administration). Eisenhower pushed Ridgeway into retirement and replaced him with the model of the modern political GO/FO, Kennedy Family Made Guy Maxwell D. Taylor.  (Taylor, too, would leave angry with Ike, but would receive new high offices from his Kennedy pals).
  2. Major General John K. “Jack” Singlaub’s 1977 resistance to Carter Administration policies which favored a US withdrawal from South Korea and Korean reunification under Kim Il Sung, which led to Singlaub being fired, forced to retire, and, in an act of the pettiness for which Carter and his defense suits from Harold K. Brown on down were known, denied disability benefits. We’ve covered that previously (and linked to this paper [.pdf] on the situation).
Ancient History? (Carthage, proof that war doesn't solve anything... oh, wait).

Ancient History? (Carthage, proof that war doesn’t solve anything… oh, wait).

What brings this ancient history to the surface? And it is ancient history: Shinseki’s resistance to his lords and betters took place 13 years ago, Singlaub’s 39, Connolly’s 54 or so, and Ridgeway’s over sixty years in the past. The lesson, then, is not that officers do stand up to orders that they thought unlawful and immoral (Ridgeway’s opposition to policies that targeted enemy civilian population centers; Connolly’s to an aircraft that threw naval aviators’ lives away; Singlaub’s to Carter’s encouragement of a second Korean war and the enslavement of South Koreans) or simply unwise (Shinseki’s turned-out-correct insistence that higher force structure would be needed for a contested occupation).

One word: Martland. Martland was not persecuted directly by soldier-hating suits like Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy (a career politician) or Secretary Designee Eric “Fabulous” Fanning. Martland’s NCOER was deliberately crafted to harm him. It was prepared and signed by officers and NCOs who knew they were uttering a false instrument, knew they were rejecting the Army Way of criticizing subordinates face to face and in private, knew they were taking up arms in a political battle, and doing it on the side of falsehood, and injuring a good man who had done a good thing, because the Army had drifted off into a foamy pink froth of values that were politically constructed and inconstant. What would those people do with an unlawful order?

People who saw in their commissions, their documents of appointment of rank, their assignment to positions, not as a place to bring their own morals and character to bear, but a place where they would stake all on unthinking obedience? And rationalize it afterward?

That way? Go that way if you will. Be ready to board the boxcars. Your turn will come.