Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 104

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 104

Comments
/
/
/
213 Views

This is the grave of Omar Bradley.

I don’t have indifference to military history, I have open hostility to it and to the people who find interest in utterly pointless details of military operations. I suppose military history could be theoretically interesting, but it’s purveyors are so hidebound that it’s become a complete backwater of the historical profession, filled with people who are hostile to the historiographical and theoretical innovations that have transformed the writing of history in the last half-century. So let me see how quickly I can get through this.

Born in 1893 in rural Missouri, Omar Bradley was an important general. He led some big battles in World War II as the commander of ground forces in Europe. He became head of the Veterans Administration in 1945 and did a lot of quality work on health care for returning veterans. Then he became Joint Chief of Staff under Harry Truman in 1949 where he was the chief policy maker for the military during the Korean War. He openly rebuked Douglas MacArthur’s craziness during that war, perhaps the most important he ever did given the bloodlust MacArthur and other lunatics had to take the war into China. He retired in 1953 but remained active in military policy until his death in 1981. He was a strong hawk on Vietnam and advised Lyndon Johnson to pursue the war with vigor. That worked out great.

That seems like enough on Bradley to me. Those of you who care about World War II battles can tell me why I’m not only wrong, but a jerk too.

Omar Bradley is buried on the confiscated lands of the traitor Lee, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Downpup E

    You forgot where he tried to use his branding as The Soldiers General to take Sicily away from George C Scott & his nose grew.

  • BadBob

    Yes, you are a jerk.

    Love,

    Bob, Sgt 1st Class, US Army (Retired)

  • AstroBio

    I look forward to this thread. I feel the same way as Erik, but had always chalked it up to a visceral distaste for war.

    • Erik Loomis

      One of these days, I will have to write a post on how stupid genealogy is, just for the thread to follow.

      • Murc

        Yeah, learning about our antecedents and the cultural and genetic legacy they’ve bequeathed to us, that’s a giant fuckin’ waste of time.

        • Erik Loomis

          Pretty much, yes.

          • Murc

            … aren’t you the guy who has written tens of thousands of words about how we should grapple with our cultural legacies?

        • PohranicniStraze

          Yeah, when you get right down to it, anything that isn’t either STEM or focused on making money (or both!) is a waste of time.

          • Erik Loomis

            Totally

        • Dalai_Rasta

          Particularly when your family has an inherited health issue that needs tracking.

          • cpinva

            “Particularly when your family has an inherited health issue that needs tracking.”

            it’s amazing the things you find out about this, when that “inherited health issue” pops up in you. that’s when your parents start telling you about all the other family members who suffered from/died from the same or very similar thing. gee, thanks for letting me know about this mom & dad!

        • weirdnoise

          Cultural legacy isn’t genetic legacy. Knowing the first is crucial for understanding the world. The latter might have personal medical significance, but is otherwise just a hobby.

        • cat butler

          Meh. Didn’t like the ones I met. Why would I care about the rest of them?

      • LeeEsq

        But how will people prove that they are really English gentry and entitled to country estates in England’s green and pleasant land without genealogy.

        • Erik Loomis

          I know! Or that they are 1/1000th Swedish and that explains the blonde hair on the one kid!

          • I could see being 1/8192nd Swedish or 1/16384th Swedish, but I’m having trouble with the in-between stuff.

            • Just a Rube

              You have multiple lines of Swedish ancestry, and they sum up to some combination?

              • N__B

                I hate fourier transformations with the heat of a thousand suns.

                • Warren Terra

                  Not, say, the heat of 1024 suns?

                • N__B
                • What if you’re using Fourier transforms to calculate the heat dissipation of a thousand suns?

                • N__B

                  Then you deserve your fate as much as if you had chanted “Bloody Mary” at a mirror.

              • But the denominator still has to be a power of two.

                • Mike Schilling

                  With n being restricted to be a power of two, it’s possible to find m/n arbitrarily close to 1/1000.

                • But you can only go back so many generations.

            • BiloSagdiyev

              (Comment removed for mathematical wrongth.)

        • pseudalicious

          How will they prove their genetic disposition for loving ketchup, you mean.

        • cpinva

          supposedly, my family owns property in Northern Ireland. I have never once given any consideration to going and staking a claim to it. had I done so, i’m fairly sure it would have been immediately bombed.

          “I don’t think I’d have to dig too deep before I found a postcard-photo showing one of them in a lynch mob.”

          I feel pretty certain one of my ancestors would have been the main attraction of that lynching, for horse theft or something. I have zero illusions of British (or any) nobility in my family’s background.

      • N__B

        I am descended from a long line of dead people. I will defend that statement against all comers.

        • brettvk

          I’m the sort of person who likes old stuff found in odd corners, and I read a lot of mass-market history for fun, and to comfort myself in the face of present events. But I’m not tempted by genealogy because I remember my immediate (now deceased) relatives. I’m pretty sure that while some of my progenitors had some redeeming qualities, I don’t think I’d have to dig too deep before I found a postcard-photo showing one of them in a lynch mob.

          • N__B

            All four of my grandparents emigrated from the Russian Empire ending up, after some odd side trips, in NYC. What I know of my great-grandparents’ and earlier generations ranges from scatalogical to embarrassing. If I had any interest in researching them, which I don’t, the fact that they all lived in what turned out in the 1940s to be excellent tank runs (sorry, Erik) means that their towns were pretty well destroyed and the records are gone.

        • LeeEsq

          I’m hoping for a lemur way back. They are cute.

        • Warren Terra

          Every one of your ancestors was alive. Every last one.

          Eventually they died, and eventually you came along.

          … wait, you didn’t kill off your ancestors, did you?

          • N__B

            Starting when my father turned 60, there were a lot of “abandoned on an ice floe” jokes going around.

            • Warren Terra

              “abandoned on an ice floe” jokes lose their sting when you insist you’re a polar bear.

              • N__B

                Pop was more of a grizzly.

      • Karen

        Oh, come on. It’s comforting to learn that us minimally competent idiots are the products of centuries of breeding between complete and absolute fuck-ups who make us look magnificent!

      • Stag Party Palin

        I have a Mayflower ancestor. Goodie. 10 Blue points. Problem – he was kicked out of the colony for embezzlement. Still get to keep the Blue Points though.

        • firefall

          are you kidding, that’s an extra 10 Red Points as well

      • Steve Barton

        Well,since cutbacks in public spending for humanities and history mean that we don’t yet have all of America’s newspapers on the web in searchable form for free, the genealogy web sites stepped in the make a lot of them available for profit. So while it annoys me that they are not a free public resource, at least the money people lay out for genealogy also creates a useful historical resource.

        And, I have found that the people on genealogy web sites are very willing to share materials, which turned out to be very helpful to my biography (still underway) of Berkeley Mayor J. Stitt Wilson, who was a leader in the Socialist Party and the Single Tax movement in the early 1900s. Thanks to various descendants I was able to obtain copies of photographs, a few letters and autobiographical material on his early life that the family had preserved.

        And, genealogy gave my great-aunt many hours of enjoyment corresponding with other genealogists and that’s a good thing in my opinion. Personally, I treasure her ceramic figurines much more highly, but it worked for her.

      • IS

        But the obsession with genealogy among the public in general and LDS in particular has been a huge benefit for economic historians.

    • DN Nation
  • Karen

    I assume Esther Dora Bradley is his daughter? She lived a long time and apparently never married — a woman born in 1922 who did marry would have a different last name and be buried with her husband. I wonder if she was developmentally delayed? Her life would be an interesting story, and probably tell us a lot of things we would rather not know.

    • ploeg

      Nope, Esther Dora Bradley is his second wife. One might ask how you conduct two-wife burials in military cemeteries.

      Edit: The linked article starts thus: “Kitty Bradley, a twice divorced Hollywood screen writer, was an unlikely candidate for the wife of a five-star general. She was 29 years her husband’s junior, wore a Mia Farrow haircut, sported a large, five-star diamond pin on her bathing suit and managed to alienate Bradley family members and military wives who resented her overbearing manner and taste for the limelight.”

      • Erik Loomis

        I did like how she got the “beloved wife” bit on the gravestone. I’m sure that really thrilled the rest of the family.

        • Joe Paulson

          “loving wife”

        • brettvk

          She just got to be the one ordering the final engraving on the stone. Judging from the WaPo article linked above, she returned any shade she got from Bradley’s family and old friends, with interest.

    • Karen

      And I am apparently very wrong. Esther Dora was his second wife, with whom he had a “relationship” for 16 years while they waited for his first wife to die. She still tells a story, but a much different one.

      • N__B

        while they waited for his first wife to die

        There are dozens of novels buried in that phrase.

        • Hogan

          And that’s just James M. Cain.

  • Thomas W

    Omar Bradley has been portrayed by Karl Malden and Glenn Ford (among others) in film.

  • Joe Paulson

    I gather there are ways to do military history that is not a matter of pointless details of military operations as much as history isn’t just a matter of remembering dates. Particularly in modern wars, there are so many moving parts there, including relations with civilians etc. OTOH, focusing on something that involves our barbarity in such raw form does get a tad depressing after a while.

    ETA: Anyway, even this brief thumbnail suggests the guy was important, so histories of such people and the events they were involved in warrant careful detail. Much the pity then if you are right about the general documentarians of it.

  • Murc

    I don’t have indifference to military history, I have open hostility to

    it and to the people who find interest in utterly pointless details of
    military operations.

    Isn’t the guy who owns and operates this blog (my understanding is that the platform is a Robert Farley Joint and everyone else on the masthead is technically a guest) a military historian?

    Seems gauche to slag on his profession in that way.

    I suppose military history could be theoretically interesting, but it’s
    purveyors are so hidebound that it’s become a complete backwater of the
    historical profession, filled with people who are hostile to the
    historiographical and theoretical innovations that have transformed the
    writing of history in the last half-century.

    James McPherson by himself would seem to utterly and completely rebuff this statement.

    He openly rebuked Douglas MacArthur’s craziness during that war, perhaps
    the most important he ever did given the bloodlust MacArthur and other
    lunatics had to take the war into China.

    This is actually too generous to Bradly on your part, Erik. You should read Halberstam.

    Basically, Bradley did do this… once it was safe to do so. He spent a long, long, long period of time basically ignoring all of MacArthur’s bullshit in the hopes that he would somehow stop or go away or something, and was complicit in enabling him. Bradley was one of the guys signing off on things like “well, we’re issuing this as an ORDER to everyone else, but if we do that to MacArthur he might just ignore it, and then we’d need to deal with that, and we’re too chickenshit to do that. So we’ll issue it specifically to him as a recommendation, so that when he ignores it he’s technically within the letter of the law.”

    The JCS ran scared until Truman basically took it on himself to start to reel in MacArthur. They were followers, not leaders, and they should be ashamed.

    Those of you who care about World War II battles can tell me why I’m not only wrong, but a jerk too.

    Well, you can’t be wrong when you say that you don’t find military history interesting. That’s a subjective opinion.

    You can be wrong when you call it as a field un-interesting, which is a normative statement that is demonstrably untrue just on the basis of the hordes of people who do find it interesting.

    It’s like calling soccer uninteresting. That seems self-evidently true to me, but it’s also self-evidently true that evaluated against the actual existing interest in soccer, I am massively wrong.

    • Nathan Goldwag

      I wrote my thesis on military history in college. Literally about 2/3rds of every class I took was devoted to the cultural background and effects of war rather than the actual conduct of it, and my professors talked a lot about how the entire basis of the discipline has become less and less about military tactics and strategy. Which is actually a bit of shame I thought because I found that stuff more interesting in a lot of ways.

      Of course I’m very used to people like Erik assuming we’re all bloody-minded monsters. Someone in college once asked me how I could justify studying military history to myself. I had to explain to him that I just studied the wars, I didn’t cause ’em. ;)

    • Erik Loomis

      I have been telling this to Farley’s face for 25 years now. He’s aware of how I feel.

      • Murc

        That’s fair enough, but I feel like my other points still stand.

        I don’t necessarily have a problem with your opinion here, except inasmuch as I think you’re wrong, but you kinda come out of nowhere, take a sideswipe against an entire historical profession without actually backing up any of your contentions (something you spend a shit-ton of time slagging on other people for doing) and then going “come at me, bro.”

        • Joe Paulson

          Some of these graves segments seem to bring out such unsubstantiated asides. ETA: As the reply shows, this doesn’t mean they can’t be substantiated necessarily. But, they are there.

        • Erik Loomis

          90% of historians basically agree with me about military history. And the points about the backwardness of the historiography is pretty well documented. There are some exceptions to this. But there’s a reason no department hires in military history anymore. There are literally maybe 1-2 hires a year in the entirety of military history throughout history departments in the nation. That doesn’t mean one can’t get hired in another position doing military history. But, at least in the field of U.S. history, I have never worked with a colleague at any of the three institutions where I have had a job that did military history.

          • Murc

            But there’s a reason no department hires in military history anymore.
            There are literally maybe 1-2 hires a year in the entirety of military
            history throughout history departments in the nation.

            This is something I didn’t actually know. That number seems shockingly low. I might even go so far as to say irresponsibly low; it seems like military history is real goddamn important and that it should have a deep historical bench. Understanding just how badly we fucked up Iraq War II and Afghanistan, as well as the underlying pathologies and operational excesses of modern counterinsurgency doctrine, that seems, you know… important.

            Also, who the hell is writing all those popular military histories I see on the bookshelves, then? I’d just assumed they were being written by academics, or at least scholars, with formal background and training in military history. Are they just being written by dudes who are completely unqualified?

            • Erik Loomis

              Yeah, pretty much they are mostly written by non-professionals. There are a few exceptions–James McPherson of course, Paul Hutton for western military history, etc. But by and large, they are non-professionals.

              • Murc

                That depresses me. You don’t necessarily have to be a trained professional to be a good historian, and some trained professionals are absolutely horrible historians, but it’s always seemed to me that formal academic training is a big, big plus when it comes to anything where you have to do a shit-ton of research if you want to make quality product.

                • Erik Loomis

                  Indeed, which is why so much popular military history is terrible and why I have no real interest in ever reading anything by David McCullough or Doris Kearns Goodwin either. Even Rick Perlstein, who has at least a BA in history, mistakes the endless accumulation of detail for a tight historical argument.

                • Murc

                  To be fair, and this might just be me, I’ve slogged my way through a few actual history dissertations, and while that’s a small sample size it seems like “endless accumulation of detail” is not just recommended, but a requirement, for them to hand over that credential. :)

                  I have read McCullough and Goodwin, and while I’m not formally qualified to comment on their hisotiography or the historical accuracy of their arguments, although I find problematic elements of each, my main complaint about them is that they just aren’t very good writers.

                  I mean… say what you will about someone like, say, Robert Leckie, who was kinda racist and who violated a number of best practices (including inserting his own firsthand recollections of WWII into some of his books while deliberately obscuring from his readers that he was doing this, which I found dubious) but he was an actual engaging writer who wove a compelling narrative together. McCullough is just a slog.

                  On the other hand, McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom is both academically rigorous and a real joy to read, and very recently… shit, I forget the name and author. It was a translation of a Finnish book about the Finns role as part of the Axis, and then their war against the remnants of the Nazi occupying armies in the extreme north of their country (the Lapland War) at the end of WWII.

                  It was riveting stuff, because their isn’t a lot of work on what the Finns were doing during WWII here in the west. Every history of WWII discusses the Winter War, and then just kinda… stops there. Finland has always kind of gotten a “pass” on being an Axis power because of their particular history with Russia. The politics involved there are murky and not well-examined, so the book was really interesting. Goddamit, I wish I could remember the name.

                • phalamir

                  “To be fair, and this might just be me, I’ve slogged my way through a few actual history dissertations, and while that’s a small sample size it seems like “endless accumulation of detail” is not just recommended, but a requirement, for them to hand over that credential. :)”

                  Remember that those are deliberately technical exercises meant to prove you understand how to do history. They are like the technical figures that used to be a part of Olympic ice skating – prove you know the way to do X, Y, and Z. Historical writing ought to be like the televised routines, where you go out and wow the crowd with how you can riff off of the technicals without having to stop and mechanistically do each one.

                • Lurker

                  Hannu Rautkallio discusses the role of Finland in holocaust in his “Finland and the holocaust: the rescue of Finland’s Jews” (Holocaust Library, New York 1987), but that book is pretty old. Henrik Lunde’s “Finland’s War of Choice: The Troubled German-Finnish Coalition in World War” is based mainly on German primary sources. I think you read Lunde’s book, which has a pretty interesting take on the issue

                  This is a semi-official account of the endgame of WWII from Finnish perspective.

                • Mike Schilling

                  That is, its Finnish finish?

                • Murc

                  I think you read Lunde’s book, which has a pretty interesting take on the issue

                  Yes! That’s the one. Thank you.

                • I don’t think this is the book you’re seeking, but Henrik Lunde’s Finland’s War of Choice: The Troubled German-Finnish Coalition in World War II might help.

                • gepap

                  Since when are McCullough or Goodwin examples of people writing popular military history?

                  Could one assume you have read nothing by Anthony Beevor, whom seems to be the most popular military historian writing currently.

                • Erik Loomis

                  Sorry if the transition to other forms of popular history was too big of a transition for you to realize I was moving away from discussing military history.

                • Gepap

                  You should apologize for the terrible sentence structure, but you did admit to being a jerk in the OP, so I guess that explains the reply.

                • Erik Loomis

                  Anyone who has a problem with the sentence structure can go fuck themselves.

                • Hogan

                  Grammar and syntax are bourgeois affectations.

                • Erik Loomis

                  When people publish as many books as I do, they can start lording this over me. Until then, I think I’m doing fine.

                • Hogan

                  Fair enough.

                • Gepap

                  I can only hope your books have had better copy editing than your Internet comments.

                  You, beyond continuing the jerk routine, failed to address Beevor, who has certainly engaged in some of the ‘narratives from below’ innovations you accuse military history of lacking. .

                • “Hey, I’m the President, not her! WINNING!!”

                • nemdam

                  So I’m not the only one who gets frustrated by Rick Perlstein in that it seems like half his books are just dumping his research notes even when he’s already made his point? Please note that I still like his works. It can just be a slog if you aren’t really into the topic.

                • Erik Loomis

                  I couldn’t finish Nixonland. I just got too frustrated with the lack of editing.

                • Drew

                  I completely agree. Do you know of a good Nixonland equivalent that is better edited?

                • TheBrett

                  You’re not the only one. That’s why I ended up putting down Invisible Bridge.

            • phalamir

              Military historians tend to be ridiculously minutiae-driven and believe jargon is a valid form of general communication. History departments presume you can teach a variety of classes in at least a few different areas. “Those Three Guys That Walked Five Miles to the West In Lead-up To The Battle of Crotchy Rot”, “The Rifles of Four Guys That Shot a Dead Mule During The Third Hour Of The Battle of Crotchy Rot”, and “Dirt Piles of the Trenches at The Battle of Crotchy Rot” are not a valid spread of courses in most universities. Often, if you hire a political historian that covers the general geography and time period of the wars, they can do the whys and repercussions of the fighting without droning on over every single shot fired – they can also teach courses on other things. For instance, hiring someone who does Restoration England, Early Modern Continental Europe, and Post-Mughal India is infinitely preferable to someone who does English Civil War in Yorkshire, English Civil War in Warwickshire, and Jacobite Uniform Buttons.

              Also, just because they aren’t earning hateful reviews on Rate My Professor doesn’t mean they are unqualified – just that universities aren’t hiring niche scholars. Positions Available are massively outstripped by Trained Research Monkeys – doesn’t negate the fact that nontenured TRMs are qualified.

              • TheoLib

                “<Insert arbitrary academic field or specialty>s tend to be ridiculously minutiae-driven and believe jargon is a valid form of general communication. <Insert arbitrary academic field> departments presume you can teach a variety of classes in at least a few different areas.”

                (I liked your comment, but I don’t think these issues are unique to history and military history. Nor to many non-academic professions.)

          • applecor

            How many hires are there in history, total?

          • JonH

            I would guess the military historians work at military educational institutions, or perhaps think tanks or other organizations. Or, I dunno, the Smithsonian.

            And that it isn’t so much a matter of dwelling on the details of battles as a form of war porn, but rather as looking at how problems were solved in the past, with those problems being things like “a shitload of Nazis in fortified positions at Monte Cassino”. (Or, how attempts to solve such problems failed.)

        • nemdam

          I will just say Hot Take Erik is the best Erik. I mean, who really reads his posts with all the NERDY NERD academic rigor?

    • wjts

      Farley, I believe, is a political scientist whose area of expertise is the military rather than a military historian. And the blog, as I recall, started as a joint venture between him, Scott, and djw when they were grad students at Washington (hence the old “lefarkins.blogspot.com” address).

      • Murc

        Much of what he writes for the Diplomat falls under the rubric of military history, tho, and his battleship book is basically pure military history. If that doesn’t make you a military historian, what does?

        And the blog, as I recall, started as a joint venture between him,
        Scott, and djw when they were grad students at Washington (hence the old
        “lefarkins.blogspot.com” address).

        Yes. But my understanding, which may in fact be totally wrong, is that Farley set up, owns, and maintains the site. That is, if he decided tomorrow “fuck this whole LGM thing” and nuked everything from orbit, nobody else would have legal recourse, because the place belongs to him.

        • Hogan

          I think the battleship book etc. are more history of military technology than military history.

          • LosGatosCA

            I though it was more about maritime propulsion of machines that propel explosive ordnance than military technology or military history.

  • keta

    I suppose military history could (be) theoretically interesting,…

    Gee, why would armed conflict between different nations or states, or different groups within a nation or state, be interesting to historians?

    The mind boggles at all the bunk.

    • yet_another_lawyer

      Bear with me here. Obviously, I’ve avoided military history but from what I gather armed conflict between different nations/states or different groups within a nation/state has happened several times.

      Like, maybe we should have some folks who are familiar with those previous conflicts (I believe there’s at least five of them) and can apply those lessons to new situations? Like, just in case such a thing should ever happen again.

      • When Clausewitz wrote On War in 1830, he did not include the American Revolution as he thought it was not recent enough. And what lessons can we learn from previous conflicts?

        ETA and perhaps we would learn the wrong things and keep refighting the previous war.

  • wjts

    It’s eluding me on the Google, but I remember Bill Mauldin’s cartoon depicting Willie and Joe at Bradley’s grave being a nice summary of the enormous regard most WWII (particularly ETO) vets held him in.

    (Note to Erik: “Bill Mauldin”, “Willie and Joe”, and “ETO” are all utterly pointless details of military operations and I apologize for subjecting you to them. Perhaps you’d find it soothing to sit down and think of something more important, like a letter to the editor discussing a potential change in the date for a shop steward election in a 1956 IBEW local newsletter?)

  • LeeEsq

    Here, here on thevtediusness of military history. It’s like reading about chess matches.

    • thevtediusness of military history

      Worse even than the covfefe of diplomatic history!

  • Thirtyish

    Has anyone actually told you that you’re “wrong” for not caring for military details? I could see someone telling you you’re wrong if you thought, for example, that the Battle of Normandy took place in 1943. But for you to dislike military history kind of can’t be wrong, because you’re not actually being “wrong” about anything. Kind of makes me glad I’m no longer in academia.

    • Nathan Goldwag

      I had at least one person tell me I was morally wrong for studying military history back in college.

      • Christ everyone gets some criticism from someone about their choice of graduate career at some point.

        • Linnaeus

          Pretty much. I’ve been told – and even when it was in jest, it was only partially so – that I didn’t do “real” history.

      • Thirtyish

        I’ve had people tell me I’m “wrong” for sleeping in on the weekends, but I just laugh in their faces.

        • Origami Isopod

          Evangelical early birds are tiresome. We’re not all farmers anymore; deal.

          • Mike Schilling

            Which is why change from business to formal attire before dining.

          • BiloSagdiyev

            Plus, electric lights, you dimbulbs.

      • Origami Isopod

        I’ve met at least one woman who’s gotten flak from other women for studying military history, because war is so male and violent etc. etc. One of my least favorite types of feminism.

        • Murc

          Gender essentialism is a hell of a drug.

        • The “Paper Chase” Guy

          If memory serves, this was a (very) minor plot point in Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride; one of the female protagonists studied a fairly nuts-and-bolts variety of military history and there are a couple of passages dealing with how weird she sometimes found it due to societal assumptions.

  • N__B

    You didn’t address the most important question: how did a kid in rural Missouri born in an apparently anglo family get named “Omar”?

    • Joe Paulson

      “Bradley was named after Omar D. Gray, a local newspaper editor admired by his father, and a local doctor called Nelson.” (Wikipedia/citing source)

      • N__B

        Thanks, but doesn’t that just push my question back a generation?

        • wjts

          Genesis 36:11: “And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, and Gatam, and Kenaz.”

          Though I suppose this just raises the question of why you never hear about anyone named Teman, Zepho, Gatam, or Kenaz (in Missouri or anywhere else).

          • why you never hear about anyone named Teman, Zepho, Gatam, or Kenaz (in Missouri or anywhere else)

            Well, there was that one Marx brother.

            • wjts

              If there’s a film comedian less funny than Gatam goddamn Marx, I haven’t seen him.

              • N__B

                Is Rob Schneider no longer in the league?

                Also, thanks to everybody for proving my point that this is the critical detail in Erik’s discussion of Bradley.

                • Also, thanks to everybody for proving my point that this is the critical detail in Erik’s discussion of Bradley.

                  LGM: making military history ashamed of itself since 2017.

                • wjts

                  Rob Schneider? I don’t think you understand just how bad Gatam Marx was. I’d refer you to the infamous soup bowl scene in All at Sea!, but the last known copy was burned by an angry mob of third-tier prop comics in 1987 for being, in the words of one of the defendants, “an affront to the laws of God, man, and comedy.” (They were all acquitted, and the ringleaders were later given the George Cross.)

                • I assume that a similar fate befell the filmic version of Omar the Tentmaker, an early Karloff vehicle in the fleeting caravanserie of nights and days.

          • PohranicniStraze

            Just from personal observations, it seems that it was common in the 19th century for one family to use an obscure (often Biblical) name, and then several neighboring families to start using it. Then it becomes a local tradition, and you end up with, say, a bunch of women named Zilpha in a small region of North Carolina.

            The same dynamic still seems to happen, except now the names are less likely to be Biblical and more likely to be oddly-spelled variants of whatever name was popular the previous year.

            • N__B

              I look forward to meeting, in ten year’s time, Mini__B’s prom date Maddysen.

            • petesh

              This process may have included the naming of Vernon E. Presley; wikipedia notes another contemporary Elvis (born 1916). But then Vernon gave his son his own middle name and ever since you can only use the name self-consciously.

          • Hogan

            They all changed their names as soon as they turned 18?

        • Well, a quick Google sent me to the Missouri Digital Heritage site (Secretary of State John R. Ashcroft), where Omar D. Gray’s own letterhead reveals him to have been a sturgeon. So the backstory undoubtedly involves a piscine tip’o’the hat to some kind fisherman.

        • Joe Paulson

          I’m not familiar with the editor’s family background.

          There’s a 19th Century member of Congress from NY named “Omar D. Conger.” The name has a biblical connection though maybe there is some Spanish or otherwise foreign connection in the background somehow.

          ETA: There looks to be a few “Omar” place names in the U.S. too. See a reference to an “Omar” from “[Samuel] Johnson’s allegories.” And, there is a Mormon figure that might be spelled “Omer.” Lee Rudolph tosses another reference. So, got a few possibilities for the name to pop up in various contexts.

          • Fitzgerald’s rendering of Omar Khayyam was fantastically popular in the mid-to-late 1800s; the first American edition appeared in 1878.

            • petesh

              Data!

              • Data!

                Will you settle for apparently authoritative, confidently expressed, and thoroughly footnoted academic opinion?

                “No literary event since the birth of classic letters and art in the sixteenth century is at all comparable to the discovery and reincarnation of Omar by Fitzgerald,” declared a journal in Portland, Oregon.[1] According to a report current in the 1890s, even a frontiersman striking a remote camp on the Great Divide was heard murmuring a quatrain from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.[2] An American was the first to review the poem and start it on its road to fame, and, in the nineteenth century, FitzGerald probably had more admirers in America than in his own country. By the turn of the century, Americans quoted the Rubaiyat from memory, called for a number of editions of British translations, brought out their own versions, publicly debated the philosophy of Omar, and copied the Persian’s manner and method either in admiration or to heap satire upon the events and personalities of their time. Some of the “Omarism” of the 1890s was a fad, but evidence of a serious and lasting American interest is now spread impressively over the span of a century.

                (First paragraph of “The Vogue of Omar Khayyam in America”, by Mukhtar Ali Isani, Comparative Literature Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Sep., 1977), pp. 256–27; here’s the stable URL if you want to pursue footnotes [1] and [2], etc.)

          • Origami Isopod

            There’s a 19th Century member of Congress from NY named “Omar D. Conger.” The name has a biblical connection though maybe there is some Spanish or otherwise foreign connection in the background somehow.

            You’d have to look through the entire Conger line. /ba-dum-tssh

    • In the 1920s, there was a whole spate of women in Appalachia named Juanita. It turns out that there was a popular song by that name in the region at that time.

      • N__B

        That’s the most interesting bit of history I’ll think about today.

        [An aside to the general community: we need a way of indicating non-snark.]

        • petesh

          How about: [/code]?

          • N__B

            Hmmmm. Maybe.

      • MikeJake

        You just explained my Aunt Juanita. I always wondered about her name.

        • Hell, there’s a nice Irish nona-or-late-octogenerian here in the Old Fogies Home named Juanita for just that song.

  • Taylor

    He was military advisor on the film Patton, where as noted below he was depicted by Karl Malden.

    Francis Ford Coppola said he would never have been allowed to make The Godfather if not for the success of Patton (for which he wrote the screenplay).

    So there’s that.

  • Harry Rumbold

    It’s a good thing the Flashman series isn’t Military History.

  • Bri2k

    I could tell you could care less about military history when you said that Bradley was Joint Chief of Staff. There is no such animal, Erik, but there is a Chairman of the JCS and there is also a Chief of Staff of the Army, both positions which the illustrious Gen. Bradley held.

    One neat factoid about Bradley is that he liked to work on trigonometry problems to relax. I can’t help but respect that kind of intellect.

    • Mike Schilling

      “There’s Bradley, going off on a tangent again.”

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    this all seems really self-defeating but whatever

  • (((advocatethis)))

    I’m hoping you have many more of these for people buried in Arlington; it makes me almost giddy when I read that final paragraph.

    • Bruce Vail

      Slight problem here is that Erik doesn’t have his facts straight. Arlington House was owned by Mrs. Mary Anna Custis Lee’s father up until 1857, when he died and left it to his daughter.

      Mrs. Lee was quite a Confederate herself, though, so I suppose it doesn’t make any difference.

      • TopsyJane

        Under a “life inheritance” only, however. Custis intended that eventually the estate should go to his grandson, Custis Lee, who of course fought for the Confederacy. So the post is technically correct, just not in the way Loomis appears to think it is and many of his readers will take it the wrong way. But then this post is poorly written, even by his standards. Form matches content.

        • Erik Loomis

          “Area man complains about free internet content”

  • Tracy Lightcap

    In general, military history is behind methodologically. It is also the branch of history that has the most direct relevance to national policy.

    It is too bad that we keep fighting wars, but we do. Further, it isn’t called the “art of war” by mistake. A lot of what the people who fight wars know is and has to be a series of case studies; the data is simply too diverse and time dependent to be much else. (This is why military academies all over the world are a lot like business schools with some engineering classes, btw.) Further, the relevance of the structural trends that occupy most other historians is attenuated on battlefields.

    Problem = we seldom learn as much as we could from military history. But that isn’t the field’s fault; it’s more that the officer corps and their political bosses don’t want to incorporate the necessary lessons.

    • But that isn’t the field’s fault; it’s more that the officer corps and
      their political bosses don’t want to incorporate the necessary lessons.

      So, the actually-existing cadre of employed military historians mostly soldier along without academic freedom?

      • Tracy Lightcap

        No, they have as much freedom to make their conclusions as most anybody else in the field. Nobody at the DoD or the academies do much to stop them; there’s an institutional interest in “lessons learned”.

        Oth, they are usually ignored if they have something to say that runs against official narratives and institutional interests. Best example = Oregon Trail. This is a massive study of asymmetric war done by a collective of ~20 historians back in the late 60s. It was never released and is still top secret. Why? Because it showed pretty conclusively that countries with greater power usually lost when they emphasized the use of force instead of trying to address the underlying political and economic grievances that underlaid the conflicts. By that you could easily see that the way the US was fighting the Vietnam War was bound to be a failure. Another study, Rebellion and Authority, written by two economists at about the same time looked at asymmetric war as a utility calculation; i.e. apply enough force and the other side would break. It was published at once because it agreed with present tactics.

        See what I mean? Good military history is more often ignored then used. Too bad, that.

  • AMK

    “I have open hostility to it”

    This is gonna sound pretty stupid when the GOP cancels the the 2020 elections and Blue America’s leaders tell its half of the Pentagon that Twitter snark is war by other means.

  • Thlayli

    Bradley, as you all know, is the only general/admiral to be promoted to five-star rank after 1945. Someone decided it was unseemly to have a CJCS who was outranked by a subordinate (MacArthur).

  • Deborah Bender

    Dr. Loomis, for the education of those of us who read history, would it be possible for you to summarize “the historiographical and theoretical innovations that have transformed the
    writing of history in the last half-century”?

    I have general and particular reasons for asking. I’ve always been interested in all sorts of history. There’s a professor of history in my family. I’ve done a few totally amateur oral history interviews. I’m sufficiently interested in a topic in European history, one that overlaps with folklore, to have read a couple of dozen books about it. I’ve seen multiple major shifts in interpretation and data gathering in books on this topic written over the course of a century. I’ve had to put together my own intellectual framework for evaluating what I’m reading, and what’s basic knowledge to you might be news to me.

    Also, the comments on this entry are first rate.

    • Erik Loomis

      The very short version of this would be the integration of “history from below,” i.e., African-American, Latino, gay, gender history, etc, as well as the newer insights of environmental history, the influence of postmodernism (for better or worse), and the seeming return to a new narrative history that seeks to privilege subjects not previously seen as worth study. Combine all of that with an emphasis on oral history and other forms of public projection of history.

      Others may add more.

      • Deborah Bender

        Thanks. I knew about some of what you list.

      • Lev

        Sort of feel like John Keegan opened the door to that with The Face Of War, and then nobody else (himself included) walked through it. That’s a good book that tries to reconstruct what war was like in various time periods to ordinary participants in it. Other than that, it is pretty amazing just how difficult it seems to be for historians to make one of the most inherently dramatic and exciting things humans do at all interesting.

        • Thomas W

          That was the first thing that came to mind, Keegan’s book. For the most part, however, it is memoirs that give the best accounts from “below.”

          • Lurker

            Not really. War memoirs are a genre with rather fixed set of expectations, and the author is likely to follow a number of tropes just for the sake of conveniency. This is especially notable in the description of combat, where the author is quite likely to explain his experiences using mental models offered by training and previous literature. These features greatly decrease the objectivity of the writing. Most importantly, the implicitness and pervasive nature of these tropes is not a guarantee of their truth.

        • Erik Loomis

          I was forced to read a Keegan book once. I hated it with the passion of 20 suns. It was everything I hated about military history.

          • MarekKulak

            Face of War is good. Mask of Command is tolerable. Everything else I’ve ready by him is bad.

            • wjts

              I don’t remember Six Armies in Normandy being particularly bad. But it’s certainly not the best book I’ve ever read.

              • MarekKulak

                I may not have read that one. Honestly don’t remember.

      • mozzerb

        OK … but in what way are these things incompatible with military history?

        • Erik Loomis

          They aren’t incompatible at all.

          • mozzerb

            Great, so military history is as valid a branch of history as any other then. Not to mention being, you know, highly relevant.

            • Erik Loomis

              Of course it can be incredibly relevant. However, the sophistication of the written production of it simply lags behind the rest of the field.

              • mozzerb

                Sounds like a career opportunity for any ambitious young historian then.

                • Well, except for the part where no one is hiring military historians (and almost nobody is hiring historians either).

      • Lurker

        I think that part of the problem lies in the intellectual position of military history. It is not really a scholarly subject but a professional one. It is a part of the professional education of a military officer, not a liberal art. Therefore, it is rather resistant to advances in actual historical research.

        Of course, many generations of officers have questioned the usefulness of the subject. What use is it to the future platoon leader or company commander to study army corps level operations from commander’s persective? From this viewpoint, microhistorical military historiography might find a willing buyer. Scholarship that could give intellectual tools and role models for a junior officer is likely to find professional use.

        BTW, this scholarly book about the sociology of a WWII infantry company might find interested readers here.

        • It is a part of the professional education of a military officer, not a liberal art.

          But doesn’t that risk leaving war to the generals? h/t to Clemenceau.

          • Lurker

            No, I mean that this is actually the major drawback of the field. Even when the writing of military history is not meant for actually educating officers, it is usually written for the self-actualisation and self-identification of people with military background or their wannabees.

            This is not solely a problem of military history. In Finland, the same can be seen in the history of foreign policy. There, some of the biggest names of the field are also diplomatic staff, and their writing is similarly part of construction of the profession’s self-understanding.

  • Kolya

    “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”

    Seriously, unless you think that human nature is going to radically change in the near future, war is important, and will keep on being important. It just seems like obscurantism to take actual *pride* in being uninterested in something so crucial.

    • Erik Loomis

      I don’t know; how many people are interested in the history of climate change? That’s going to impact all of us at least as much as war, yet I don’t see the masses flocking to buy environmental histories.

      • Kolya

        the history of sex and gender outsells paleoclimatology too, for that matter

  • Bitter Scribe

    I have always been interested in Bradley because he dealt adroitly with some of the most insufferable egomaniacs ever to wear uniforms–Patton, Montgomery, MacArthur–and always kept his cool. I read his memoirs to try to gain some insight into how he did that.

    Boy howdy, did he ever unload in those memoirs. He just trashed all those assholes.

    I can’t wait to read Obama’s memoirs.

  • DN Nation

    My “drink beer and read by the pool” book for the next week is God’s Chinese Son, which for a book that’s about one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history, deals strikingly little with the military-makes-things-go-kaboom stuff.

  • Bruce Vail

    I’ve been reading some Civil War military history recently and I find it really quite interesting. It’s part of my own personal genealogy project to research my family’s Civil War history (some of the ancestors were in the armed forces 1861-1865).

    The project has really been very rewarding as I try to place my own family members in the continuum of US history,

  • Victor_Matheson

    As an economist, I find it refreshing to see Loomis hating on academics besides economists for once.

    If only I were an economist specializing in the economics of historical wars…

  • Timurid

    I’m a military historian, so I’m really getting a kick out of these replies…

  • Origami Isopod

    Mary Quayle Bradley – any relation to Dan?

  • I’ll tell you this much: Just finished Hell to Pay Operation DOWNFALL and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947, from The Naval Institute Press. Author D.M. Giangreco (“served for more than twenty years as an editor for Military Review, published by the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College”) does not write well at all. And besides his syntax, someone confused “heels” for “heals” & “hoards” for “hordes”. (I think there was another one, but I forgot it.) Maybe not Giangreco’s fault, & I understand he’s an editor, not a copy editor, but sheesh!

    I think Mr. Giangreco’s 20 yrs. at the C&GS College tells us where most of today’s military historians are employed: By the military.

  • Yosemite Semite

    Great paean to ignorance, Erik.

  • Honey B

    Oh man. “Ninety percent of historians don’t like military history?”

    Historian here. I think Erik’s completely wrong unless if we allow him to define what military history is, that is, boring books that old vets/wannabe vets like to read. Sure sure there’s a lot of boring stuff about pincher movements but everything Erik claims hasn’t been done with military history HAS been done with great aplomb in the last couple decades, at least in my field (U.S. History). Just to be fair, it’s true, we don’t classify a lot of this work as “military history” and people who style themselves as “military historians” first and foremost don’t always read this work. But nonetheless, the study of military conflicts is absolutely at the forefront of what many leading historians are doing right now, and the committees that decide the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes, as well as the other professional prizes, sure have noticed.

    Just off the top of my head, I can immediately think of a list of fantastic and mostly recent prize-winning books in American history that have chapters on military history or wholly engage in military history–sure there’s not a lot of discussion of formations and flanks, but these are all leading scholars doing exactly what Erik proposes historians should do when writing about war and the military: discussing race, class, gender, sexuality, memory, the environment, etc.

    Look I get it, Erik was just venting about *ANTIQUARIAN* military history, and I totally share his dislike for that. But c’mon. It just seems like a massive distortion to claim that mainstream historians aren’t interested in military history and haven’t said interesting things about it recently.

    Some great reading in military history that lots of historians love:

    Drew Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (esp. fighting and dying chapters).
    Fred Anderson, The Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in North America
    Jill Lepore, The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity
    Pekka Hamalainen, The Comanche Empire
    Brian DeLay, The War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War
    Michael McDonnell, The Politics of War: Race, Class, and Conflict in Revolutionary Virginia
    Holger Hoock, Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth (brand new, highly recommend)
    Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832
    Amy Greenberg, A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the 1846 Invasion of Mexico
    Karl Jacoby, Shadows at Dawn: An Apache Massacre and the Violence of History
    Ari Kelman, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek
    James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom
    Stephanie McCurry, Confederate Reckoning: Politics and Power in the Civil War South
    Andrew Graybill, Policing the Great Plains: Rangers, Mounties, and the North American Frontier, 1875-1910
    Douglas Egerton, Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments that Redeemed America
    Margot Canaday, The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in 20th Century America (ch. 2 and 5 both on the military)
    Fredrik Logevall, Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam
    Kate Brown, Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters

    • The “Paper Chase” Guy

      I’m in the middle of Shadows at Dawn right now; the crowning glory of a spate of Western histories (many of them more of the pop variety, like Hampton Sides’ Blood and Thunder; read Hamalainen years before Empire of the Summer Moon and holy hell was that the right choice). I should check out that Egerton book too; I read Noah Andre Trudeau’s Like Men of War (which itself served as an interesting alternative history of the Civil War as so many black regiments fought on the fringes; fun to read a treatment of the conflict that assigns Spanish Fort and Palmito Ranch equal space with, say, Cold Harbor) but should diversify. Interest in the latter has grown on finding so many USCT graves in my area.

      Thanks for the list!

      • elm

        Just want to chime in to second Anderson’s The Crucible of War and Greenberg’s Wicked War. I’m not an historian, but I read them both, enjoyed them greatly, and learned a lot. Greenberg’s, in particular, consciously did a lot of what Erik was talking about above and barely talked of the actual combat (I like discussions of logistics, strategies, and tactics, so I was actually dissapointed by this at first until I realized that Greenberg was writing a different, but excellent, book from what I was expecting.)

        • Honey B

          A Wicked War is just such a delight. It really brings the late 1840s to life in the freshest way, and while it slightly overplays the existence of an “anti-war movement,” it’s filled with so many big and subtle insights.

  • Mike Schilling

    Religious history, too. Religion is false! Done!

  • Ryan Denniston

    He was wonderfully cast by Karl Malden?

  • Mutaman

    You omit the fact that Bradley was a big time horse player. He had such influence over the sport that when a dq goes the wrong way, us old timers still blame Omar Bradley.

  • Latverian Diplomat

    So, how big a deal was his decision to keep the Venona Project secret from President Truman? On the surface it seems a pretty serious violation of civilian control over the military, and a real black mark on Bradley’s service. Maybe that’s naive of me?

    Wikipedia says the secrecy was not without consequences; Truman got (some?) contents of the intelligence filtered through the FBI and CIA, but distrusted it, not knowing the real source.

  • totalitat

    “I have open hostility to it and to the people who find interest in utterly pointless details of military operations. I suppose military history could be theoretically interesting, but it’s purveyors are so hidebound that it’s become a complete backwater of the historical profession, filled with people who are hostile to the historiographical and theoretical innovations that have transformed the writing of history in the last half-century”

    This is a solid summary of military history in about 1955. It isn’t now.

    And to Dr. Loomis’ point in the threads that no one hires military historians, AHA figures show that the percentage of military historians in history departments has gone *up* since the 1970s.

  • totalitat

    “Scholar understands other subfield in his discipline only vaguely, doesn’t like it, writes grumpy post dismissing it.”

    I’d be interested to know if you can name 10 works by academic military historians (Ph.d in military history) without looking them up.

    • totalitat

      Heck, I’d settle for 10 academic military historians (have a Ph.D in military history) rather than works.

It is main inner container footer text