The Greater America


Japanese wartime postcard
Here's a nice bit of memorabilia from the Second World War -- a Japanese propaganda postcard that was mailed from a training command on the northern island of Hokkaido. It depicts a moment in the Japanese conquest of Southeast Asia, in which a soldier makes himself comfortable while sitting on the British flag, in front of a disabled Brewster Buffalo. Indeed, it's so realistic that it must have been drawn from life or at least from a photograph. I especially like the spinner at lower right, which does look just like the Buffalo's. Jim Maas tells me that the plane looks very like AN194 of RAF 21 Squadron, abandoned in Malaya in December 1941. (He sends a photo: the Buff has no bullet holes in the canopy but is indeed missing its spinner.) The postcard was listed on eBay for $30. A tip of the virtual hat to Edward Rogers, who sent me the link.

Of the three Flying Tigers killing in training accidents in Burma in the fall of 1941, the last will be returned to his home town for burial this month, 76 years after he left it to join the American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force. See the Annals of the Flying Tigers for a great Memorial Day story about him, his two neices, and their 13-year quest to find John Dean Armstrong's remains and bring him home to Hutchinson, Kansas. The US Navy was especially reluctant to recognize Armstrong as one of their own, but who can stand against two determined women with Kansan genes? Armstrong will be buried with his Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon, and the US Air Force 75th Fighter Squadron has promised a Missing Man flight over the gravesite.

Reviewers of Hitler: Ascent complained that it offered little that we didn't already know about the man who led Germany and the world into the most horrific event it has ever experienced, the Second World War. I don't agree. What academics know, and what the rest of us know, are very different things. I was continually fascinated by Mr Ullrich's account. He is German, which is both good (easy and unrivaled access to sources) and bad, at least for me, since I have to read it in translation. Throughout the book, we are told that Hitler was a private in the First World War, when he was promoted to corporal very early on. There is a difference! I'll wager that Mr Ullrich didn't make that mistake, but used a term (landser?) without an English equivalent. There are other howlers like this, but they don't detract from what is a sound and always fascinating account of the events up to September 1, 1939. Also reviewed this month: The Islamic Enlightenment and The War Machine, the latter being an astounding performance by Brad Pitt in a fictionalization of the events that got Stanley McChyrstal bounced from command in Afghanistan. For more about these, see the The Warbird's Book Club. Blue skies! — Dan Ford

Welcome to the forum!

Here are a thousand or so files on airplanes, pilots, and the wars of the past hundred years, grouped under these headings:

Annals of the Flying Tigers
Annals of the Brewster Buffalo
Annals of Poland: war and exile, 1939-1948
Japan at War, 1931-1945
Annals of the Chinese Air Force
Glen Edwards and the Flying Wing
Remembering Bluie West One
The Spadguys Speak (carrying a nuke to Sevastopol)
Annals of Vietnam
War in the Modern World

Plus these excellent places to look for more: