Hogs 5

Now up . . . .

Target Saddam, Book 5 in the Hogs First Gulf War series, is now available for Kindle here.

Sorry for the delay - we've had some technical problems with the formatting and cover; hopefully those glitches are fixed. (If anyone experiences problems, I'd appreciate it greatly if you could drop me a note via the author site email, author(at)jimdefelice.com. We'll try and make it up to you.)

And a note for Nook readers - Book 3 should be up very soon.

On-line stores as gatekeepers

Joseph Espisito on Amazon, et al . . .

Today’s gatekeepers are no longer the big media companies (defined as organizations that invest in and distribute content:  books, magazines, television, journals, movies) but the huge technology companies that have learned how to profit from others’ content:  Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook.  Unlike the gatekeepers of old, however, who were characterized by editorial decision-making, the new gatekeepers control access through an abstract network of relationships, some of which qualify as what economists call “network effects”: instead of a product or service increases as more people use it.   A rose by any other name . . .  is still a gatekeeper.

Article. Found through Linked-in.

Sicily, 1943 (4)

What role did the journalist play?

Having raised the subject of Bradley and Sicily, I’m reminded of two personnel conflicts that took place there that are still studied and debated by historians to this day. The first is Patton and the slapping incident, which Bradley tried to suppress, a fact rarely reported though Bradley himself talked about it, admittedly briefly, in his memoir.

The second was Bradley’s firing of Terry Allen, at the time the commander of the 1st Division.

Allen has a legion of fierce defenders on that score, and it doesn’t make sense to go back over the issues. (They are laid out in Omar Bradley, General at War, if you’re interested.) To what extent, if any, Allen’s drinking may have played in the decision is probably impossible to determine.

What really interests me is what role, if any, the journalist Quentin Reynolds played in both the Patton affair and in Allen’s sacking.

Reynolds – who by the way wrote an interesting first-hand account of the battle of Dieppe – reported the slapping incident to Eisenhower and was probably instrumental in convincing Eisenhower that he had to be punished. That’s been pretty well documented. What’s less well known is that Reynolds was in Allen’s camp, and witnessed at least one briefing where Allen acted, well, not in the way we would expect a general to act before an important battle. His report hints, but doesn’t say, that he was drinking.

Did Reynolds talk to Eisenhower about Allen? Did he talk to Bradley?

There’s no record that he talked to Bradley, and given Bradley’s attitude toward reporters, it’s at least debatable that he would have had much influence with him. Eisenhower’s a different story. And while Bradley denied it, many historians believe that he only fired Allen because Eisenhower wanted him to. (My view is that it had more to do with Bradley, but admittedly the case can be made that it went the other way.)

As far as I know, there’s no real evidence that Reynolds was involved. But I’d love to see someone dig into the issue. Reynolds himself is an interesting figure – worth a biography by someone someday, I’d say.

Bradley links

Speaking of Omar . . .

You can find more on Bradley, along with links to purchase my book, at my website. Start here.

Sicily, 1943 (3)

Bradley & the invasion

Omar Bradley was one of the key American generals on Sicily, Patton’s corps commander and occasional sounding board. Sicily was a critical battle for him in many ways; it set the stage for him to command in northern Europe.

Having written a biography of Omar Bradley*, I think I’ll defer to the book for a fuller account of his time there, even though I wish I had been able to devote more space and time in the book to the campaign. However, I have two observations about Bradley and Sicily that are pretty subjective, and are probably passed over because of everything else that happened in his career.

I think Bradley learned a great deal on Sicily. He was always regarded as a great tactician in the army before the invasion, but I think the geography and the Americans’ subordinate role prevented him from really strutting his stuff as a corps commander. Most people don’t realize that he was very much in Patton’s mold when it came to bold attacks with plenty of movement – something that, if you think about who he’d been working with in Africa (Patton) makes a lot of sense. Patton’s dash around the backside of the island notwithstanding, Sicily wasn’t particularly conducive to that kind of warfare.

But in commanding his divisions under fire and in a much more intensive atmosphere even than Africa, I think Bradley realized that he was actually a pretty good general. He was able to spot several tactical errors that Patton made, and pointed them out to them. The results weren’t particularly encouraging – Patton on Sicily wasn’t given to listening to anyone, not even Bradley – but I think that Bradley realized he needn’t be in the older man’s shadow. And the same could said, in spades, about his relationship with Montgomery. Without those realizations, he never could have commanded in northern Europe.

I also think – and this admittedly is even more speculative – that the combat he saw on Sicily made him much more compassionate toward his rank and file soldiers. After Africa, his critique was that Americans didn’t want to kill enough – he wanted, rightly, for them to be vicious in closing with the enemy. In contrast, we see a much more compassionate side of him after Sicily. It’s after Sicily that most of the stories about his kindness toward the troops – giving men coats, etc. – come from. Admittedly, this may just be a coincidence. But I think the accumulation of the war had its effect – not that he was softened exactly, but to the extent that there was a philosophical side of the general, it dates after this campaign.

Very, very subjective, I know.

* Actually, the only one so far. Bradley deserves more.

Sicily, 1943 (2)

What did they learn?

A lot.

The World War II allies’ Sicily campaign, which took place seventy years ago this month, had its share of snafus and fubars. Among other things, the allies missed a chance at destroying a significant portion of the German army protecting southern Italy, a failure that quickly came to haunt them in the following months.

On the other hand, a lot of good things did come from that battle. For one, it probably convinced Eisenhower that Bradley was the man he needed to run the D-Day invasion. It also featured the largest beach landings under fire to that point in the war; by some measures, it was even larger than Normandy.
Logistics never get much attention in the history books, but dealing with the sheer size of the American force was a critical learning experience. Sicily was also the place where a significant number of junior NCOs and officers learned how to lead.

Friendly fire incidents directed the allies’ attention to the problem, though there was never a wholly satisfying solution.

Another lesson learned but only partly implemented was the difficulty of using paratroopers to seize significant tactical points early in the battle. On Sicily, paratroopers were blown significantly off course, which kept them from achieving their targets in the initial stages of the battle. Ironically, their unplanned dispersion, along with their courage and ferocity, helped them play a key role as the battle progressed. They would end up having somewhat similar problems in Normandy, though there they were successful in holding key beach exits necessary for the invaders to escape the noose at the sands. (Bradley did adjust their objectives before the battle, scaling them back a bit in response to intelligence reports, but to the end he was an extreme advocate and supporter of paratroop attacks, probably beyond what was practical.)

The conquest of Sicily gave the allies a place to base their planes for the Italian campaign. Close-air support was not yet a perfected science – aside from some early experiments, it wasn’t until France that fighter-bombers started teaming up closely with advancing ground units – but Sicily’s bases extended the range and time that could be covered on the mainland.

How you view Sicily probably depends on whether you think Italy was worth attacking in the first place. I think it was, and while I think the allies could have achieved better results with a more daring plan (and better execution of the plan they stuck themselves with), on the whole, it was a necessary campaign.

And one they won.

Here's a link to the U.S. Army's official history of the campaign:


Twist & shout

Some of what the Su-35 can do . . .

Sicily, 1943

The Bungled Campaign

Some seventy years ago this month, the allies landed on Sicily in one of World War II's largest amphibious assaults. Over the course of the next four or five weeks, they fought a confused and in some cases haphazard campaign against German troops, Italian troops, severe geography, and themselves.

World War II’s Sicily campaign tends to get overlooked, especially by Americans. While it was arguably a necessary stepping stone for an Italian campaign, the very decision to invade Sicily was controversial among the allied leaders at the time. While the allies eventually won the island, it can’t be said that they did so because of any brilliant maneuvering or military leadership. They let a major portion of the German army escape, and functioned with a lack of coordination that could easily have been fatal, had they faced a more determined and better led enemy in the Italians.

Bernard Montgomery, and to some extent his boss Harold Alexander, generally get the bulk of the criticism. Though Alexander in theory was running the show*, Montgomery ended up drawing the invasion plan and calling most of the shots. His slow plodding attack -–I know, easy for me to say – was pretty much typical Montgomery, and anyone who studies it can’t be very surprised by his performance in northern Europe the following year.

Interestingly, George Patton often escapes criticism for his Sicilian campaign. Instead, critics tend to focus on the so-calling slapping incidents, where he attempted to rouse men from hospital beds by humiliating them in front of others.

In the context of the times, Patton’s actions in the hospitals may have been harsh, but they’re certainly understandable. What isn’t understandable was his decision to flaunt Alexander’s orders and Montgomery’s plans, and have half the American force take an end run around the island. While his troops didn’t entirely abandon the British – Bradley’s corps held Montgomery’s mountainous western flank, Patton's end run meant the Americans were in no position to pressure the retreating Germans at Messina.

That could have been done, and presumably would have yielded some results. But for some reason, Patton often gets a pass from most historians. It’s not surprising, really – making the case that Patton was a superb general is a heck of a lot easier if you don’t have to puzzle out what he had in mind there.

On the other hand, Patton's dash was merely the icing on the cake of a tepid plan; even if he'd been available it's possible he would have simply sped the German retreat.

So what might the allies have done?

Invade from the north as well as the south, striking Messina early, cutting off the German retreat.

Admittedly, this would have been a risky move - among other things, the north was probably outside of fighter cover and amphibious landings were still iffy. But it was also a high-stakes plan that would have isolated a significant portion of the German army. (The Italians, one presumes, would have quit in even larger numbers.) If those men didn't live to fight another day in Italy, maybe the entire Italian campaign would have started a lot more smoothly . . .

* Technically Alexander was under Eisenhower, but Alexander was really the one who was supposed to be in charge of the actual invasion force.

How to start

Stephen King on opening lines:

Stephen King: There are all sorts of theories and ideas about what constitutes a good opening line. It's tricky thing, and tough to talk about because I don't think conceptually while I work on a first draft -- I just write. To get scientific about it is a little like trying to catch moonbeams in a jar.
But there's one thing I'm sure about. An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.

From the Atlantic.
Coming soon . . .

. . . installment five in the Hogs series. Kindle first; other ebook versions to follow.


How middlemen big banks get rich 

Call it a bank tax.


Only a tenth of a cent or so of an aluminum can’s purchase price can be traced back to the strategy. But multiply that amount by the 90 billion aluminum cans consumed in the United States each year — and add the tons of aluminum used in things like cars, electronics and house siding — and the efforts by Goldman and other financial players has cost American consumers more than $5 billion over the last three years, say former industry executives, analysts and consultants.
The inflated aluminum pricing is just one way that Wall Street is flexing its financial muscle and capitalizing on loosened federal regulations to sway a variety of commodities markets, according to financial records, regulatory documents and interviews with people involved in the activities.

And it's not just aluminum or metals:

 . . .speculation added about $10 per fill-up for the average American driver. Other experts have put the total, combined cost at $200 billion a year.

Putting the long in "long gun" . . .

What if you had a rifle that could hit its target at two miles?


TrackingPoint Technology, creators of Xact precision-guided firearm technology, wants to push the limit of long-range shooting. The company announced Wednesday that they are developing a “super gun” that will be able to shoot accurately over 3,100 yards, “farther than the longest confirmed long-range small arms shot of all time,” according to the release.
Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/07/17/gunmaker-building-super-gun-capable-of-shooting-over-3100-yards-with-pinpoint-accuracy/#ixzz2Zc9G3TbF

Consider: with the aiming technology, there's no need for the "shooter" to actually be with the gun.

Many possibilities...


Sugar babies


The Panamanian authorities impounded a rusting North Korean freighter on a voyage from Cuba toward the Panama Canal and back to its home country, and said the ship was carrying missile system components cloaked in a cargo of sugar. The arms would appear to represent a significant violation of United Nations sanctions imposed on North Korea.

I'm shocked, shocked to discover this is going on . . .

NY Times story.

A 'quiet mystery' no more

A book, a name & fame


JK Rowling has secretly written a crime novel under the guise of male debut writer Robert Galbraith.
The Harry Potter author was acclaimed for The Cuckoo's Calling, about a war veteran turned private investigator called Cormoran Strike.
The book had sold 1,500 copies before the secret emerged . . .

Any question about how it will sell now?


July 11, 2013

What I'm reading now . . .

. . .  reading and living, I should say.

Day of the drone . . .

The UAV has landed.

The suit hath ended . . .

. . .  And Apple is found guilty

Based on the trial record, and for the reasons stated
herein, this Court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that
Apple conspired to restrain trade in violation of Section 1 of
the Sherman Act and relevant state statutes to the extent those
laws are congruent with Section 1. A scheduling order will
follow regarding the Plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief
and damages.

And when the dust clears, Amazon has its monopoly, free and clear.

Dreamland ebooks

More covers . . .


D'Este strikes again

Political columnists aren't the only ones who use Bradley as a punching bag (see the 7/5 post). Even renowned historians occasionally do the same thing - witness Carlos D'Estes' essay in the recent magazine "Great American Fighters."

D'Este's mention of Bradley is mostly aimed at making George Patton seem even greater than he was* - the same sort of rhetorical device that the columnist used, though D'Este has much less of an excuse. I picked on the "eminent" historian quite a bit in General at War, so I won't retread that ground here. I will note that the article, though seemingly based on D'Estes' book on Patton, makes distortions that aren't in that book.

I've never made an argument that Bradley was a better general than Patton. Others have. Comparing generals is extremely difficult, as you have to put them into context before you can even understand what they're about, and it's rare that the circumstances will match up to the degree necessary. I don't think there's any doubt that Patton was better at some things than Bradley. Patton was clearly the more colorful and larger personality, and left a diary that reveals much of inner thinking and turmoil - gold mine for historians.

Bradley learned a lot from Patton, and in fact the two men thought about war in very similar terms. I do believe that not only could Patton have not done Bradley's job in Europe, but that Patton was fortunate to have Bradley as his commander there.

Now you can interpret that idea in many ways. My own feeling is that Patton respected Bradley just enough to be kept from his own worst impulses - usually. Many historians have talked about Patton maturing in battle during the war, and point to the slapping incident as the key. While I can't dismiss either contention, I think there is also plenty of evidence that Patton was the same Patton in Africa, Sicily, and Europe. The one difference was Bradley - you don't see any idiotic left-turns in France like you did in Sicily.

This isn't the place to list Bradley's accomplishments, which were many. You'd need a book - here's another plug for General at War. You'll find a few of his shortcomings listed there, too. But in any event, I don't think it's necessary to make Bradley a straw man to illustrate Patton's greatness, real or imagined.

* It makes some unsupportable assertions about Patton foreseeing the Battle of the Bulge, among other weak points. None of this is to imply that Patton's performance in the Bulge was anything less than spectacular. And in fact one can only imagine what might have happened if Bradley's plan to use a northern pincer as well as a southern one early in the battle had been implemented - American troops might have been in Berlin even earlier than they were.

Note the word "might" there.


New ebook project

Dale Brown and I are in the process of re-issuing some of the early Dreamlands as ebooks. Here's one of the covers:

Nerve Center was actually Book 2 in the series. I especially liked it because I got to play with mind control technology that Dale had used in one of his stand-alone books.

We'll give out more details as the project progresses.


Omar Bradley as punching bag

A reader, now friend*, recently sent me an email referring to a column listing Omar Bradley's alleged sins on D-Day. These ranged from the old chestnut of his "failure" to use water-breathing tanks on the beaches to his choice of a "head-on" assault rather than a mysterious "flank" attack.

The author of the column was a nationally known pundit who clearly doesn't know much about World War II, so while I'm intrigued by the notion of an attack that surely used the fifth dimension, I'm not going to bother spending time with the criticisms. None stand up to actual examination.

What was interesting about the column was the way the criticisms were used: the author wanted to write about how D-Day was won by the "common" man, the soldiers who were there. He wanted to extol their bravery and courage under fire. Which, certainly, is not only a noble theme, but accurate as well. The guys who took the bullets on the beaches - and in the water, and on the bluffs, and in the terrain behind the beaches, etc. - were extremely heroic, and it's to them that the lion's share of the credit for winning the battle should go.

As it always should.

But that's not a reason to invent criticisms of their leaders. Nor do any warranted criticisms of their leaders (and there certainly are warranted criticisms, of Bradley and the other leaders, as no one is perfect) make their deeds any more noble.

What was going on in the column was a common rhetorical device. Consciously or unconsciously, the author felt that he needed to elevate heroism by denigrating something else. He couldn't or wouldn't call Bradley a coward, but he could claim that he was incompetent, or at least less than very competent. While the rhetorical device probably dates back to the time when scribes were chiseling words in stone, it's been especially popular in pop writing about military matters since Vietnam. Writers who want to extol the virtues of the guys and gals actually fighting the war but not seem to approve of the war itself can do so easily by criticizing the generals and politicians at the top. And what's good for Vietnam, is good for war in general. And life in general, for that matter. No pun intended in either case.

For the columnist, Bradley was just a device. Any of the D-Day leaders really could have been used, but he's especially convenient because the general public really knows little about either him or his role in the war, let alone D-Day. Nor, for that matter, do they know much about the actual battle, beyond maybe what they saw in Saving Private Ryan.

Needless to say, Bradley wasn't perfect at D-Day. But he was far from incompetent. And whatever criticisms we might have of him are at best close to nitpicking - the American forces took their objectives in the face of stiff and murderous opposition.

Thanks largely to their courage, bravery and sacrifice.

* I welcome correspondence through my website; email me at: author(at)jimdefelice.com
Put @ in place of (at) and you're good to go.

A whole new meaning . . .

. . . to "You've Got Mail"


U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement

“It’s a treasure trove of information,” said James J. Wedick, a former F.B.I. agent who spent 34 years at the agency and who said he used mail covers in a number of investigations, including one that led to the prosecution of several elected officials in California on corruption charges. “Looking at just the outside of letters and other mail, I can see who you bank with, who you communicate with — all kinds of useful information that gives investigators leads that they can then follow up on with a subpoena.”
But, he said: “It can be easily abused because it’s so easy to use and you don’t have to go through a judge to get the information. You just fill out a form.”


North by Northwest

It's complicated . . .


E tu, MFer? . . .

Hogarth Press recently announced that it's going to publish novelizations of Shakespeare in 2016. Setting aside the question of why a novelization of the original might be interesting, let alone necessary, the idea of mucking around with Macbeth or Julius Cesar intrigues me.

Especially if you get to use modern weapons as well as language. UAVs over the Roman Forum, Macbeth hounded by a Gatling-wielding Apache - the possibilities are endless. Drag Will into the modern era kicking, screaming, and gushing blood.

Of course, England will no doubt bar entry for any author involved in the project. But it's a small enough price to pay  for sacrilege.

Jazzin' it up . . .


We were in Saratoga over the weekend for the Jazz Festival at SPAC and caught some great acts. Bob James and David Sanborn were transcendental.


And I have to mention Big Sam's Funky Nation - up from Louisiana just for the show - who had things hopping on the center stage Saturday afternoon.