Category Archives: 20th Century

Mosteiro Paver

Memorial to Allen Mosteiro

In the early 90′s I served with Allen Mosteiro in the scout platoon from 1/8 CAV, 1st Cavalry Division.  We were roommates and party mates and served together for three years.  Our platoon was called the Ghostriders and as a platoon we worked hard and played hard.  My three years there from 92-95 were some of my best years in the army and I have stayed in contact with many of my brothers in the Ghostriders since, both those who stayed in the Army and those who got out.

Mosteiro Paver

Mosteiro was one of those who stayed in.  We did not serve together again but I did run into him a few times over the coming years.  In 2007 while serving as a Platoon Sergeant in 1/7 Cav he was killed in Taji, Iraq by a sniper.  The word quickly went out to our fellow Ghostriders.  He was buried in the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery just outside of Killeen, Texas.  I happened to be stationed at Forth Hood at the time and could go to the funeral as a representative of his old platoon, the Ghostriders.

Last year, I discovered the National Armor and Cavalry Heritage Museum was conducting a fundraiser to help defray the costs of building their new museum and selling memorial pavers.  I quickly contacted all my old Ghostrider brothers to float the idea of buying one for Allen.  It was not a question and we all came together and purchased one.  Last week, I got the miniature paver in the mail to show what the full-size paver will look like.

Allen is not forgotten by his former comrades and will always remain our brother.

The Evolution of Warfare and the Crimea

“History” is a problematic concept because it is very much tied to a specific culture. History departments derive from the medieval university culture of Europe and we have to accept that most people, at most of the time, have lived without any notion of it.

Perception is a key to understanding this phenomena: in the history of warfare, violent confrontations have in large part been endemic. Two parties confront each other and display a show of brutal force and often the conflict is resolved symbolically by a single dual or one side is hidden behind a fortification, while tribute is discussed.

A perfect example of endemic warfare would be the 18th and 19th century Irish culture of “Shillelagh Law” where various “factions” or gangs would assemble to finish an argument with the most primitive of weapons: a wooden cudgel made of oak or blackthorn.

This phenomena was best described in the works of William Carleton, and can be seen portrayed in the Hollywood film “Gangs of New York.”

Two sides proclaim their beef, off fly the hats and bloodshed commences until at least one of the ring leaders falls, and then the crowds disperse.

The shared perception of both sides is that there was an argument, the argument should be settled with satisfaction. Satisfaction can be satiated often with little to no bloodshed.

Even in duals, we can read that very often men came to an arrangement before lead was discharged. President Andrew Jackson often feuded on behalf of his slandered wife, whereas Lincoln’s dual ended before lead was to fly.

At a single time and a single place, a culture of science arose. Symbolic, shared rituals had become meaningless, and exactness was the only sign of certitude.

This culmination was in Western Europe.  Carl von Clausewitz wrote the tome on scientific warfare. In this warfare, the enemy was to be pressed until absolute triumph was achieved. The commanders were to rationally calculate their chances as would an accountant, tallying up the score after every battle.

The 21st century has witnessed a resurgence in endemic warfare. We now fight, not for a brutal display of pride, but utilize a different method: an invocation of the goddess of “fairness” and “tolerance.”

One of the proclaimed reasons for the last few wars America has fought was for “women’s rights,” and the right to cast a ballot. On the other hand, the metric of capital accumulation is also ever present: we don’t go to war if it hurts business.  Many European countries do not want to damage their business deals with Russia at this time.

Russian history is difficult to understand because it lacks a cohesive understanding of itself without violent displays of aggression.

In Russia, nothing is original or organic.

The Slavic Messianic idea that Russia believes in is an import from 18th century Polish Messianism.

Slavophilia is difficult to believe in for an outside observer because Kievan Rus was founded by Norsemen, and the tribes that settled under it were mostly Finns, and a few Slavs.

Many of the leaders of Russia’s past came from Tatar stock, and there are many “mongolisms” in Russian culture, such as oriental bureaucratic despotism and the belief in a divine, strong leader.

What Russia has maintained is a firm belief in the nation-state, while Western nations only see an endemic worldview of transfers of money. The man with the pot of gold is the “big chief” and others are supposed to bow to their wisdom.

This is an ancient invocation of a superstitious notion, and our belief in endemic (economic) warfare will not suffice to bring down a nation-state which believes it has a destiny to expand unto infinity.

It is true that Russia and Ukraine are ruled by money and by oligarchy, but Russian people believe in the nation-state.

This self-perception in and of itself is the Bear’s main power at this point in time.

Even if the oligarchs compare each others powers by the size of their yacht fleet, as long as Putin achieves deference for aggressive tactics from his people, we will be facing trouble.

Book Review Featured Image

Book Review: Verdun – The Longest Battle of the Great War by Paul Jankowski

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]

Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War is one of the flood of new works coming out about World War I this year in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the world’s first truly mechanized war.  This book explores the ten month (or eleven, depending on how you count it) battle of Verdun between the Germans and French from February to November 1916.

It consists of eleven chapters arranged thematically that examine different aspects of the battle from the operational movements of the forces involved to the way the battle was described in the contemporary press to the role of the battle in modern memory.  There is an extensive appendix on sources, a 29 page list of endnotes and a 20 page bibliography.

Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War is not a battle history in the traditional sense of the word.  here is no bow by blow account of the opening days of the battle and the fall of the french forts at Vaux and Duouamont and the subsequent French recapture of much of the contested ground over the course of the battle.  The book is both more and less than battle history at the same time.  it examines the battle and the role it played in the course of the war from many angles both military and civilian.

I found the chapters discussing the views of the battle by the French and German commands especially revealing.  The standard account is that the Germans intended all along for Verdun to be a battle of attrition and that the French chose to fight so hard there as a matter of honor.  That myth is exploded in these two chapters and the way in which the battle became a matter of prestige and developed a logic of it’s own is explored in detail.  Given the level of casualties on both sides that the battle evolved into one of prestige makes sense.

Even more revealing is the discussion of the various ways in which the battle was portrayed by the media.  A good picture of the way in which the media can sway public opinion and force policy decisions is described in the media portrayals of the Battle at Verdun.  The last part of the book that examines the way the memory of the battle has been shaped and its amazing transformation from a symbol of french determination to a landmark of multiculturalism  and a monument to the futility of war is revealing in the extreme.

Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War is well-written and logically presented and while it is not traditional battle history it is rewarding to read nonetheless.  Verdun was one of the greatest blood-lettings of World War I, though not the greatest as it has been said, that was the opening months of the war.  It is time for an objective re-examination of this supposedly pivotal battle that in the end achieved nothing of strategic significance, unless you think killing off a large cohort of enemy troops is strategic results.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in World War I and even more to people who want to understand how the perceptions of wars and battles are shaped more by those who were not there than than by those who were.

The 9th Company – Film Review

The 9th Company is the Russian Full Metal Jacket.

It starts of in bootcamp and ends in an inhospitable landscape fighting guerillas in unconventional warfare. It is a fictional portrayal of The Battle for Hill 3234.

That being said, the value of this film lies in what can be gleaned not from the similarities with the former film, but with the differences.

First of all, we are introduced to Russian culture in the form of dedovshchina, a term which encapsulates the institutions of the former Soviet Union ( and which continue to this day).

Russian hierarchies have their cultural inheritance in the gulag, and in The Bitch Wars. A brutal, and demoralizing structure is created where only the most ruthless and sociopathic element rise to the top.

Second of all, we have a very clear image of the Majahideen fighting tactics. Majahideen fighters are absolutely unbeholden to death; they are experts at using the mountainous landscape, and are capable of launching attacks where they can disapear into elaborate cave systems without a moment’s warning.

Children are often actual beligerants, at an age where Western children are still playing with legos.

This film is pertinent for an idea of what American troops are facing in Afghanistan (it is so superior to the Robert Redford fiasco, and I refuse to name the latter film).

It is also pertinent to understand the Russian attitude towards non-Russians, whom they deam as being in need of help from their benevolent hand (think Ukraine at this moment).

I recommend this film.

 

 

Makin Burial

The Makin Raid of 1942 and the Recovery of the Marines Lost After the Battle

In August 1942 the 2nd Marine “Raider” Battalion raided what was then called Makin Island in the Gilbert Archipelago of the South Pacific.  The present name of the island is Butaritari in the island nation of Kiribati.

In 1942 the island had a small, roughly 160 man garrison, and was the site of a Japanese Airfield.  The raid was conceived as a way for the Marines to gather intelligence on what and how many Japanese forces were stationed in the Gilbert Islands.  The plan was for 211 men from companies A and B of the 2nd Marine “Raider” Battalion led by LTC Evans Carlson to land on the island under cover of darkness, neutralize the small Japanese garrison and ransack the island for anything of intelligence value before destroying the facilities and leaving the island.  The Marines would land from two submarines the USS Nautilus and USS Argonaut using small rubber boats equipped with outboard motors.

View of Makin Island from the Periscope of the USS Nautilus Before the Raid

View of Makin Island from the Periscope of the USS Nautilus Before the Raid

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