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Posted on Mar 11, 2009 in Armchair Reading

May 2009 Mailbag

Gerald D. Swick

Puerto Rican Hero 
It is a pleasure to learn about the world’s military history through the Armchair General magazine. I look forward to every single issue to expand my knowledge. In truth, my only complaint is I wish it was a monthly read instead of bi-monthly. But I guess all in due time.

Col. Carlos Betances Ramirez. Official U.S. Army Photo.I’m writing to you for the chance to honor my personal history as a Puerto Rican soldier. I have a wonderful topic for an upcoming issue in the Battlefield Leader section: Colonel Carlos B. Ramirez. Born a poor Spanish farmer, Colonel Ramirez is the only Puerto Rican to command a battalion in the Korean War. On October 28, 1952, he led his men in the victorious battle of Jackson Heights. In the Chorwon Valley of North Korea the Chinese had won the contest for control of the high ground forward of the Eighth Army’s main defensive line. It was here that Colonel Ramirez gathered his men in an unparalleled assault that regained the upper hand. For his actions, this brave commander was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation and the Greek Gold Medal of Bravery.

On October 28, 2001, exactly forty-nine years to the day after the battle of Jackson Heights, Colonel Carlos Betances Ramirez died of heart and liver failure. He was ninety-one. It is my deepest prayer that your fine magazine will honor this hero one way or the other. Some excellent sources for the colonel are The Coldest Winter by David Halberstam and two internet sites. The first site deals with the history of the all–Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment. The second deals with the history of the 65th in the Korean War. I trust you will find both sites eye-opening and their stories compelling. In searching, you will find what Col. Ramirez had to do in order to get his men in fighting spirits after being driven off by Chinese artillery twice. At one time, they were completely surrounded on Hill 391 after the Chinese had penetrated their position. I wish you the best in reading about this brave warrior and the regiment, of which Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, "The Puerto Ricans on the battlefields of Korea are writing a brilliant record of achievement and I am proud indeed to have them in this command. I wish that we might have many more like them."


 Joshua V. Zayas, AZ 

Dear Mr. Zayas,
Thanks very much for your email to
Armchair General magazine, and thanks for being a regular reader. We’re very pleased that you are enjoying Armchair General and glad to hear you look forward to every issue. Thanks also for your information about Col. Ramirez. He is certainly a real hero to all of us.

Best Wishes,
Jerry Morelock
Editor in Chief,
Armchair General magazine

MacArthur vs. Bonus Marchers, Part 1 – Right On Target
I liked your article on MacArthur and the Bonus March [Hard Choices, March 2009]. I think you should have stressed that after the Senate refused to pass the bill, the mood of the marchers was so ugly that President Hoover did not go to Capitol Hill for the adjournment of Congress because the Secret Service could not guarantee his safety.

Many people disliked the idea that the Vets were entitled to special treatment. The Democrat Party’s 1932 platform rejected the idea of special treatment for Vets, and FDR vetoed bonus bills for the Vets.

One reason that people opposed the Bonus bill for WWI Vets, aside from the special treatment issue, was that it was felt that the federal government ought not to go into debt to fund bonuses, for this would, it was felt, have damaged the credit of the federal government, and put the burden of paying the interest on future citizens.

If MacArthur had not personally taken charge, his critics would have said he was shirking his responsibility. Also, 1932 was an era in which people were more in awe of authority than now, and officials in authority were less hesitant about asserting their authority.

Joseph Forbes
Pittsburgh, PA

July 5, 1932. World War I veterans block the steps of the Capital during the Bonus March. National Archives photo.Thank you for sharing your insight about the critical situation confronting President Hoover and his Army Chief of Staff, Douglas MacArthur, during the Bonus March crisis in 1932. Your point about MacArthur’s critics taking him to task if he had not personally intervened seems well taken. The general’s critics – then and today – would likely have criticized his actions regardless of what he did. So many MacArthur bashers simply parrot unfounded claims of casualties among the marchers and their families – most egregious is the assertion that two infants died from tear gas inhalation, a claim unsupported by any solid evidence, including their inability to even name the purported victims. MacArthur’s quick, decisive action undoubtedly saved lives among the marchers and innocent bystanders. It seems ironic that, while MacArthur often is harshly criticized for being overly aggressive in dispersing the marchers, he did so without further deaths or serious injuries; yet, his severest critic at the time, FDR, later as president, was ultimately responsible for the needless deaths of 258 vets.

MacArthur vs. Bonus Marchers, Part 2 – Misses the Mark
I was shocked and disappointed at your boosterism of Douglas MacArthur in your recent issue, in which you described the 1932 attack on the "Bonus Army." For a magazine which purportedly is interested in history, this article was shameful in its accumulation of half-truths, spin, and outright misinformation. The very title is inaccurate, as two infants are known to have died due to the gas bombs used in MacArthur’s attack. Additionally, it’s appalling that you would gloss over the fact that MacArthur disobeyed direct orders given him when Hoover ordered him to stop. When one considers MacArthur’s repeated insubordination in Korea, causing his relief by Truman, this is an illuminating foreshadowing of those later events. Finally, to somehow conflate the results of the attack on the Bonus Army with deaths (due to a hurricane) of over two hundred workers in a government-run camp under FDR is completely inane. If there is a connection between the two events, I don’t see it, and I doubt many others would. As an enthusiastic history buff, I will NEVER recommend such a shoddy publication to anybody interested in a serious recounting of past events.

Bruce Lucier

USAF, Retired

Thanks very much for your email to Armchair General magazine and for your comments regarding our Hard Choices article on MacArthur’s Bloodless Victory. We always appreciate our readers taking the time to provide us their feedback on our articles, so thank you very much for taking the time to share your opinions and comments on the article. Our mail and emails regarding this article currently are running two-to-one in favor of MacArthur’s actions and praising the article, but we always want to hear from all sides, so your critique is very welcome.

For an exceptionally well-documented and unbiased account of the Bonus March confrontation, I recommend the book chapter by Laurie & Cole cited at the end of the article.

Thanks for reading Armchair General magazine and for sharing your thoughts.

Best Wishes,
Jerry Morelock, PhD
Editor in Chief, Armchair General magazine

Remembering the Winter War
Re: your article on Finnish troops vs. Red Army soldiers [“Winter War,” Combat! March 2009]. I remember this war. Prior to the conflict and to reinforce their government’s pacifism, they quit producing artillery, and more was the pity. I also recollect Stalin admitting to one million casualties, including 200,000 – 250,000 deaths whilst being friendly to us during WWII.

Dr. Rodney Hurl
Marysville, OH

Thanks very much for sharing your recollections of the 1939-40 Winter War between Finland the USSR. You weren’t the only one paying attention to the Red Army’s performance in this war. Adolph Hitler perceived serious weaknesses in Red Army leadership, training, equipment, and operational art, convincing him that Soviet Russia would be a pushover if Germany invaded.

Jerry Morelock
Editor in Chief, Armchair General magazine


  1. Did the Japanese in WW II ever have any invasion plans for Australia. Especially,before or just after Pearl Harbor. Thanks

  2. Dear Armchair: Very good read! May 2009 page 64

    Assuming the role of “IKE”, supreme commander of the allied
    forces in western Europe, I would go with the course of action 2.
    pincers. Gaining west Germany to the Oder, Berlin & Czechoslovakia before the Red Army moves over the Oder river! Monty can stay at Antwerp & there by reduce heavy losses to his army.

    Best regards


  3. I just recieved the May 2009 issue of ACG and as usual I am really enjoying the articles. I have one question and a comment.

    On page 19 you show a picture of Stonewall Jackson being cheered by members of the Stonewall Brigade and the caption says its from the summer of 1862. I noticed the picture shows the regiment carrying the Confederate battle flag. When did this flag come into general use? I always thought it was not approved until Spring of 1863 but I often see artwork showing this flag in 1862.

    I also wanted to comment on the article about peter the Great. It was a great article but my understanding the battle of Poltava would have been enhanced by a map of the battle.
    Thanks for a great magazine. keep up the good work!

  4. I just received my July, 2009 copy yesterday. Great cover shot of Audie Murphy. Can anybody answer one question though? Why does Audie Murphys’ Bronze Star Medal have a Silver Star Medal pendant? The Bronze Star does not have the wreath surrounding the center star, and both medals plainly have them!

  5. The May Issue “You Command” Marines at Tarawa 1943. I read on 62 last paragraph beginning with “Thank you…..etc…it states
    “Winners will be announced in the September 2009 issue, but those eager toread the historical outcome and analysis can log on to after April 25, 2009″….. This i did
    but nothing was posted (or nothing that I could find on the site), so
    I waited a few days and tried again without success. Also tried a
    couple other times and again today – but still no link/access. Has
    a solution been posted ? and if so what am I missing on locating the
    access to it ?? Please advise.
    Like other comments I’ve seen FOUR MONTHS FOR THE SOLUTIONS IS FRUSTRATING….ie…May issue I received March
    16th and with the solution published in the September issue
    estimated delivery date of mid July is too long. This is not a new
    concern, it has always been this way. Thanks.

  6. My son and I are regular readers here in Australia of your informative magazine and in our most recent May 2009 issue I have to concur how important it was to insist that the Zulus be included in any assessment of ‘History’s Greatest Warriors’.
    I have spent some time ‘crawling all over’ the great Zulu battlefields of Isandlwana, Rorkes Drift and Kambula in Kwazulu and their brilliant battle tactics made them invincible against other African tribes for over 60 years. It was only firepower that enabled British greed to bring about about their downfall at Ulundi in 1879.
    You may like to look in depth at another African leader who successfully battled the Boers and the British, including Cecil Rhodes, for many years. Mzilikazi broke away from the Zulus in Shaka’s time and developed his own tribe, the Matabele, into a great fighting force using similar battle tactics to the Zulus. Based further north in Rhodesia he ‘incorporated’ many tribes into his own and the Matabele earned a fierce reputation over many years among the black and white populations alike.
    If you have not done an article on Mzilikazi to date, I believe it would be opportune.
    Peter J. Stephenson
    Sydney, NSW, Australia

  7. I respectfully take exception to your solution to CDG 32, Marines at Tarawa. In the excellent book “Utmost Savagery”by COL. J. Alexander USMC (Ret), He cites many examples of what Maj. Ryan did and did not do during the first 2 days at Tarawa. On Page 153 he shows how Maj Ryan informed Col Shoup that by evening he was “pulling back and consolidating his thin lines”. He was critically low an ammo, lacked key infantry wpns. i.e. flamethrowers and demo, and his troops were disorganized all the way down to squad level. Page 182 further shows that his initial attack south down Green Beach did not begin until 1120 HRS. He finally had a plan, and a competent F.O. who could direct Naval gunfire. I place my confidence in Maj Ryan, an ultimate awardee of the Navy Cross for his actions. Thank you.