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Posted on Nov 14, 2007 in Armchair Reading

January 2008 Mailbag

Armchair General

Presenting a roundup of letters to accompany the January 2008 issue of ACG!

“Introducing” Bill Slim

Your recent cover story "The Greatest General You Never Heard Of" [“Slim of Burma,” Sept. 2007] belies Ralph Peters’ comment that ACG readers are more knowledgeable than most Washington politicians. Slim, for military history or World War II readers over 40, is rather well known.

Vince Murray
Belleview, Fla.

[Note: the magazine version of this Mailbag item did not include this editor’s response, so we publish it here] ACG’s appeal is very broad-based. Readers range from pre-teens to World War II vets, with a “mean age” of around 30; yet, many younger readers’ knowledge of World War II leaders is focused on the war’s icons – the Pattons and Rommels). "Introducing" Bill Slim is a great way to broaden their appreciation of outstanding leaders who never received the "iconic" commanders’ wartime publicity.


“Kelly’s Heroes” vs. Realism

Your  latest issue had an article on the most realistic war films [DVD Library, July 2007]. The end of the article noted some films that you thought were examples of the most unrealistic movies, and to my chagrin you listed one of my favorite war films, “Kelly’s Heroes.” While the basic premise of a heist was a bit preposterous, the film actually had much realism in it.

Stuart Kohn

Although any film with Clint Eastwood and the marvelous Harry Dean Stanton is certainly worth watching, Donald Sutherland’s ridiculous tank commander characterization alone earns the film “two thumbs down” in the realism department. Sorry, Clint … As you noted, however, the mock-up Tiger tanks look cool (smallish, but better than most film’s egregious use of post-WWII US tanks as substitutes for German panzers). Kelly’s Heroes should rightfully get credit for making that effort.

Quantity Has a “Quality” of Its Own

Dear ACG,

I just wanted to mention that on page 10 in the Dispatches section of the January 2007 issue, the 1st of the “10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Indian War.” I’d like to make a comment on #1.  It talks about Firepower Discrepancy and that the Indians were armed with state of the art firepower and repeating rifles. Well, it says that the "Indians’ firepower-not the sheer numbers defeated Custer." Well, my comment to the writer is "DAH, the fire power killed Custer and his some 210 men or so. If you were up against the Indians and had 2000 or so Indians against 210 some soldiers who do you think would win?” Of course the Indian fire power was a main factor in defeating Custer and his men. Come on, the great number of rifles against just over 200, dahhh, that’s a lot of bullets and it did help that the Indians had 5 times plus more than Custer had in manpower so the numbers were of great impact, not the fire power. Think about it, even if the Indians didn’t have the fire power and only bows and arrows, hatchets, knifes, that alone probably would have defeated Custer because of the numbers against Custer!!!

CW3 Rick Gomez
Camp Victory, Iraq

As Crisis Watch columnist, Ralph Peters noted in his Quantitative Incompetence article (January 2007 ACG), “quantity has a quality of its own.” Historian will likely continue to argue about just how many Indian warriors Custer faced on June 25 1876, and whether or not Custer’s flawed battle plan contributed most to his battalion’s defeat that day; but, it seems hardly arguable that the combination of numbers – and firepower – doomed his unit.

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