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Posted on Jul 14, 2009 in Armchair Reading

September 2009 Mailbag

By Armchair General

Peter the Great at the Battle of Poltava. (Painting by Louis Caravaque)POLTAVA BATTLE MAP?
I want to comment on the article about Peter the Great [May 2009]. It was a great article but my understanding of the Battle of Poltava would have been enhanced by a map of the battle. Thanks for a great magazine. Keep up the good work!

Doug Ault Via email

Thanks very much for your feedback. Since you have brought up the subject, you and our readers may be interested in learning a little about our process for creating maps for each issue’s articles. During the production process for each issue, we examine each article to determine which ones we think should include maps. Of course, our interactive articles (Combat! You Command, YC Solution, and What Next General?) always feature battle maps, so those are a “given” in each issue, and we normally have our cartographer, Jason Petho (You Command, YC Solution, and What Next General?) and our illustrator, Greg Proch (Combat!) create a total of 8 maps (strategic and battle maps) for those interactive articles. The “judgment” part comes next as we decide which of the other Department articles (such as Hard Choices, Spy Wars, etc.) or longer Feature articles we think should have maps. Essentially, we ask ourselves the question: “Will readers be able to ‘follow the action’ in an article text without a map, or is it essential that we include one or more maps in order to make the text as clear as possible?” Typically, each Battlefield Leader article will have one or more maps, and often other Feature articles such as Battlefield Detective, History in Depth, Battle Studies, etc., will also have maps created for them.


On average, each issue of ACG will have about a dozen maps, all specially created by our cartographer or illustrator exclusively for that issue. As a comparison, other military history magazines usually feature far fewer maps than does ACG – normally only a handful, perhaps 2 or 3, in each issue. We hope that our readers find the relatively greater number of maps in each ACG issue helpful and useful. We think the larger number of maps in ACG is one feature that helps set us apart from ‘the pack.’ In the case of Ralph Peters’ “Peter the Great” article in the May 2009 issue, we created a ‘strategic’ map to show Russia during that era, but decided Peters’ text detailing the Battle of Poltava was clear enough without a battle map – however, as Doug Ault has pointed out, not all readers agreed this time and we sincerely appreciate his feedback on this article.

Nick Bacon (Courtesy, The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History)NICK BACON, VIETNAM WAR MEDAL OF HONOR
Thank you for sending me two copies of the latest Armchair General magazine.  I’ll make certain that Nick Bacon gets a copy. It is a really excellent issue.

Thanks again, Daniel Shannon

ACG thanks you for the outstanding “10 Questions” interview with Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient First Sgt. ret. Nick Bacon that we published in our July 2009 issue. Please pass along to him our gratitude for sharing his experiences with our readers and for his courage and sacrifice in the service of our country.

I really enjoy Armchair General. I’m impressed with your accuracy, so it’s in search of enlightment that I wish to know what era your illustration of a Roman Legionary [Great Warriors, May 2009] is representing? The one shown appears to be a cavalry auxiliary, not a front line infantryman. Here’s my reasoning. A 1st Century AD legionaire would not have carried the long sword portrayed. His gladius would be high on his right hip not on the left as shown unless he was a centurion. His pugio is not visible. The shield shown is more of the cavalry type. A 1st Century "miles gregarious" would be carrying the rectangular scutum. He would also be armed with two "pila" that featured an untempered long iron shaft added to a wooden handle. The spear shown appears a cavalry lance or the longer "hasta". The armor shown is chain mail, not the "lorica segmenta" metal armor. The Infantryman might have worn chain mail, but it would have been under a leather style jerkin. The "monteforino" helmet is missing, as is the "singulum" over his kilt that would have protected his groin. This soldier is not wearing the hob-nailed "caligae" boot. The rest of the story was great. Sorry for the nitpicking, but I think you’ll enjoy my comments. If I’m wrong, I’m the first to admit it. Keep up the great work!

Rich Petersen Sparks , NV

In your May 2009 print magazine, there are descriptions of varieties of Great Warriors, that need some clarification and correction, because they changed over time. On p. 20 the description of the Roman legionaire’s weaponry is out of synch with the illustration, which seems of be of a very late Western Roman legionaire or Germanic auxiliary. The (blond) man is wearing trouser-like leggings, which were worn in the colder climate of Europe north of the Alps. The sword is not the gladius described in the text, which would be almost half the length of the sword shown, but more likely (but I’m not an expert) the spatha or similar long sword of Germanic origin. Another giveaway is that the scabbard is on the soldier’s left, whereas the gladius was carried on the right, so that it could be unsheathed without having to pass it across the shield.

Hilary Kinal Via email

Thanks to both readers Petersen and Kinal for sending us their comments regarding the Great Warriors article on Roman Legionaries in our May 2009 issue. We are contractually committed to run the Great Warriors images provided by Osprey Publications, and occasionally the ones they send us (always after the article has been written) don’t always exactly match the text. However, since this article covered Roman Legionaries from 300 BC to 476 AD, this illustration of a late Roman period Legion auxiliary (looks Germanic) fits in that rather wide era.

National Museum of the Pacific War (Courtesy, National Museum of the Pacific War)MORE ON NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE PACIFIC WAR
[Ed. Note: in a reply to our email regarding Maj. Koone’s question – see Mailbag, November 2009 issue of ACG – he provided this update with exciting news concerning the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas that we wanted to pass along to readers.]

Regarding our museum, we are in the middle of a $15 million dollar expansion of the George H.W. Bush Gallery which deals with the war in the Pacific. The gallery will be closed from June 1 through December 7. We are expanding the exhibit area from 20,000 to 37,000 square feet to give us more room for our more than 40,000 artifacts. A second and third floor will house curatorial storage and work spaces, the archives, our library and research center. Please plan to come see us after our re-opening. We also have a new Executive Director for the Admiral Nimitz Foundation, General Mike Hagee USMC (ret.), the previous Commandant of the Marine Corps. General Hagee is, like Chester Nimitz, a local Fredericksburg boy. Richard Koone. Major, U.S. Army, ret. National Museum of the Pacific War Fredericksburg, Texas Thanks for the exciting update on the museum. ACG encourages readers to generously support this outstanding institution. More information, including how to make tax deductible donations, may be found at

I reckon you might want to let ACG readers now about this disturbing rise of neo-Nazis in Russia. The Russian neo-Nazis sure like to project a more paramilitary profile. This next link is some TV-news about the group Slavjansky Sojuz (yep, "SS"), on Swedish national TV-news this Saturday [April 2009], with some English-speaking Nazis and weapons training. 
Of course, the Russian SS is a relatively small group when compared with Russia’s population, but I find it highly interesting how local/regional Russian authorities tolerate these fellows and how they can march and assemble in broad daylight among ordinary Russians, wearing black uniforms and extra large swastikas. In comparison, Sweden’s largest Neo-nazi group, Nationalsocialistisk front, last year dropped the swastika and even "national socialist". Now, they´re just the "Popular Front" (Folkfronten). Black uniforms they have never worn much, even in their most Hitlerite days.

Best regards, Lars Gyllenhaal Sweden

Thanks for alerting ACG readers to this troubling cultural phenomena occurring today in a country that suffered more death and destruction at the hands of Hitler’s Nazi legions than any other in WW2. It seems nearly incomprehensible that a nation that virtually made a cult out of its defeat of Hitler in the Great Patriotic War and for decades idolized its veterans of the East Front struggle would witness the rise of neo-Nazism. Since my mother-in-law, as a young girl in 1943, barely survived the Nazi massacre of her village near Kharkov (over 900 other villagers were massacred), and her father, a Red Army soldier, died in a Nazi POW camp in 1944, this rise of Russian neo-Nazis is especially troubling to my family.


  1. Enjoy your magazine very much. Your interactive section is always interesting and engaging.

    That said, I must take issue with Mr. Peters, The No-Victory Lie. Sadly, I routinely find myself put off by the opinions of Mr. Peters and I must question why current politics of a particular bias have become a part of your magazine. I certainly respect Mr. Peters’ opinion, but the idea that the death toll of our Iraqi “adventure” simply doesn’t add up to a Cold Harbor or an Antietam or let’s say the losses of the Arizona…is just wrong-headed thinking. The death of one of our precious Servicemen and Servicewomen for an “adventure” is simply too many.

    Too many people weigh the cost of war based on faceless numbers…without reflecting that each life lost brings suffering to yet another American Family.

    So maybe it’s best to armchair the past and not the present.

  2. To Whom This May Concern;

    Hello, I was reading your September 2009 Issue of Armchair General about the Secrets of Lord Nelson’s Naval Genius by David T. Zabecki and Carl Otis Schuster.

    I would like to point out that as many documentaries have left out a very important in Lord Horatio Nelson’s command his right hand man so to speak during the battle of Trafalgar which would be my Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Grandfather Robert Hayley Judd. They failed to point out the fact that the HMS Victory was actually Judd’s ship and Nelson’s ship he was supposed to take was not completed so according to documents and family history he took the HMS Victory off my Grandfather. My uncle who lives in another part of the county (Canada) has the documents. Also you will find Judd’s name on the HMS Victory. As far as we knew he was an Admiral but he could have been a commander as well. My Uncle has his bible and his diary. Much stuff was burned by by Great, Great, Great, Great, Grandmother who went insane. What was left my uncle kept. Lots of Biographies on Nelson goes silent after he died not at all siting the fact that my Grandfather of long ago in 1812 was in fact given charge of the Victory after. Only one or two documentaries I have seen did mention his name. He fought in many wars and was one of the few survivors of Bunker Hill.


    Andrew Kelly

  3. Dear General Sept 2009

    Great read!!!
    Acting as Lt.Col. G.C.Marshall in the Battle of Cantigny WW1
    May 28 1918, I would choose course of action #3, infiltration.
    Using artillary fire on the north & south flanks to prevent
    German movement.

    Best Regards

  4. Gentlemen,

    Here’s a few questions you might find of interest to either pose to your readers for a discussion, or for your “What If?” section –
    A) What if President Roosevelt had buckled and named Hugh Drum as Army Chief of Staff in 1939?

    B) What if Jonathan Wainwright had *not* been assigned to the Philippines ?

    C) What if Marshall had decided to have one of his original choices for US Army European Command(Patton, Stillwell, Eichelberger)sent over to England after Eisenhower had ‘cleared the way’ for him?

    D) What if Roosevelt had decided in 1939 to pick a new Army Chief of Staff from a ’secondary list’ of younger Generals, which was provided to him by the outgoing Chief of Staff, Malin Craig(Grunert, Benedict, Ridley, and Chaffee?)

    E) What if Chaffee, who was one time considered to be sent to the Philippines(but Wainwright went instead) had instead been named Army Chief of Staff in 1939; and thus not the Chief of the US Armored Forces?

    F) *If* Chaffee had been named Army C.O.S. in 1939, what might have happened when he died of cancer in November, 1941?


    Charles Ward

    Summerville, SC