Saturday, March 30, 2013

Territorial Farriers in the Royal Artillery, World War One

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Critical support troops during the First World War, I wonder how many of these farriers occupied this vocation in civilian life as well?

And, I wonder where they were 20 years later, say in 1938?

Related Threads:

Working With Animals.

Working With Animals.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A matter of prospective

Observation by Army officer Thaddeus H. Stanton, about the Powder River Basin, in April 7, 1876, as published in The New York Tribune:
The country lying east of the Bighorn Mountains, along the Rosebud, Tongue and Powder Rivers, is extremely uninviting.  It is generally a badlands country, with high buttes of indurate clay and sandstone, attaining almost the magnitude of mountains.  But in this entire region there are no auriferous strata, and no rock harder than that above described.  I feel compelled to make this statement in opposition to the statements of many maps of that country which are being scattered throughout the land, upon which gold  is represented as among the minerals to be found in the Panther and Wolf Mountains (the highest badlands buttes above described), and where there is not only i no gold, but where the country has not a single gold-bearing strata or feature.  The Bighorn range of mountains, one of the finest on the continent, doubtless is rich in precious metals and this region is large enough to give room for a large mining population.  The Black Hills country does not compare with it in extent, and probably not in the amount of concealed treasure.  But between the Black Hills and the Bighorn Mountains there is no gold, and no gold-bearing country. Neither is there any land that would bear the hardiest grain or vegetable.  There is no timber worthy of the name; and water is scarce and of bad quality usually, and grass is poor and thing.  Altogether, nearly the entire region lying south and east of the Yellowstone River, from the Bighorn range to the Black Hills, is utterly worthless.
Major Stanton's opinion seems a bit harsh.

Sequestration and the courts

From this morning's Denver Post:

U.S. District Court in Denver won't hold hearings and trials in criminal cases on Fridays between April 26 and Sept. 30 this year because of furloughs made necessary by sequestration budget cuts.
My goodness, what an odd development.

Sequestration was supposed to be the hammer that was to keep Congress from ending in a budgetary impasse, but it didn't work.  Lots of pre deadline Executive Branch commentary, which frankly was overdone, failed to move very many people and the public reacted with a big yawn.  So far, much of the commentary has been on nobody really noticing, but here's something that some people will notice to be sure.  It's odd to even think of a weekday closed to criminal proceedings.  I'm a bit skeptical that they'll be actually able to hold to that, given the probably resulting delays, but this is definitely a noticeable item.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wyoming State Capitol, 1910

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Wyoming Stock Growers Association, April 7, 1914

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Excellent photo of stockmen in their dress clothes.

The decline of franternal organizations

Masonic Temple in Casper, Wyoming.  This pre World War One building remains one of the most substantial in downtown Casper.

Recently there was some discussion on a history focused list I'm on, sparked by the Company of Military Historians flyer I recently posted.  The CMH used to be an organization which you had to be invited into, in order to join, and that sort of exclusivity doesn't sit well with everyone.  This is no longer true of the CMH, which now has open enrollment, but the discussion went from that to the topic of fraternal organizations.

I'm not sure if the CMH could properly be considered a fraternal organization, but it was one that not everyone could walk into, which was part of the attraction of it, and I suppose part of the detraction.  In its case, it sought to make sure that people had a recognized interest in history, so it isn't quite the same as a lot of the other fraternal organizations that a person might normally think of.  And there were quite a few of them at that.

Up until perhaps the 1960s, belonging to some sort of fraternal club was a huge deal for men.  Indeed this was so much the case that it was made fun of in some popular media.  The Honeymooners, for example, featured a lodge that the two main male characters belonged to, called the "Raccoons.". The cartoon Flintstones, which was simply a cartoon variant of The Honeymooners, even did.  Lampooning a fraternal organization was a stock joke in those days.

The Masons, the Elks, the Rotary Club, the Lions, the Moose, the Odd Fellows, and the Eagles all had lodges here.  Some of these organizations are very old, some not so old, but they all were popular enough that they all had their own buildings.  Some of them were powers in their own right.

The Elks Club in Casper.  This club appears to still be going strong.  BOPE stands for, I believe Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks.  Just behind it, to the right, is the old building for the Knights of Columbus.  There KofC still exists in Casper, but that building, which was once used by them and which had a club bar within it no longer is used by the Knights.

Many men, I suspect, belonged to more than one such organization at the time, and of course a few still do, but not like they once did.  I couldn't truthfully claim that all established men in a town belonged to at least one club, but it might be a safe bet that most men in business, and many who were not, belonged to at least one.  Some, as noted, were real powers unto themselves.  I've been told, for example, that the Masons were so powerful at one time that not belonging was a hindrance to a man in business. This was particularly a problem for Catholics, which are not allowed by their faith to join secret societies, which the Masons qualify as being.

The Masons, in fact, were so significant of organization that the inclusion of Masons in the dedication of public buildings was the norm prior to World War Two.   People would probably be shocked by that today, but it was routine at the time.  For example, the Federal Courthouse in Casper Wyoming was dedicated in a ceremony in which the Masons were included.  The Colorado Capitol also was.  Masonic Lodges, i.e., buildings themselves, exist in almost every town in Wyoming, and in many cases they are amongst the towns most substantial structures, showing that the lodges had the desire and financial ability to have them constructed. The Masonic Lodge in Casper, for example, is depicted above, and is one of the town's most substantial structures.  Even much smaller towns such as Riverton, however, had pretty substantially constructed Masonic lodges.

The Odd Fellows Building in Casper.  IOOF stands for the International Order of Odd Fellows, I think. The building marks the dates 1894 to 1950, so presumably the Odd Fellows had been in Casper since 1894 at the time this building was built.  I have never met a member of this organization, and I do not believe they meet here any longer.  I don't know if they still exist, for that matter.
In addition to these fraternal organizations, near fraternal organizations existed in the form of blue collar trade associations.  This would probably surprise modern residents of Wyoming today, but even I can recall some of these organizations existing when I was younger.  At least one labor union in  Casper retains a building, although I don't know much about it, but clubs like the Building & Trades Club are gone. The BT Club, by the time I was in high school, had degenerated into a rough bar, but in its earlier form it had been a club for men in the construction industry.  The clubs functioned under a special exemption to the state's liquor laws, after the repeal of Prohibition, which allowed them to stay open after hours, which initially reflected their fraternal nature, but which ultimately came to be a way around closing time.

The decline in fraternal club membership has been so pronounced that there's been real changes in some of these organizations, and others have just disappeared.  Many of the old lodges and clubs hang on to this day, but in much diminished forms and with aging memberships, while others have managed to hang on.  As noted above, the Elks Club seems to be doing fine.  The Rotary Club is one that I'm not terribly familiar with, but I've known a lot of people who have been Rotarians, so presumably it too is doing fine.  Some seem to have changed their focus a bit.  I know quite a few Knights of Columbus, for example, but the organization seems to have lost some of reason d'etre with the local decline of the Masons, and in the process it has refocused itself towards other goals and therefore seems to be doing fine.  It no longer has a club with a bar like it once did, but that wouldn't seem consistent with its present character.

Knights of Columbus relief poster from World War One.

Using the Masons as example again, the lodge buildings themselves (called temples) provide evidence of the change.  The Masonic Lodge in Casper does exist, and it might be quite busy, but the temple itself is quite near my office and there seems to be very little activity that occurs there.  It might be perfectly unfair to attempt to draw a conclusion from that, but it's pretty quiet looking anyhow.  The Masonic temple in Riverton is an older stone building downtown and is now offices.  I've been in it years ago to take a deposition, as a lawyer at that time rented one of the floors.  The Shriners, a branch of the Masons, still keep on keeping on, but I frankly do not know a good deal about them.  Their presence in the annual Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo Parade has not diminished over the years, so presumably they're doing well.

The Knights of Columbus, with a changed focus to some degree, also no longer occupy their building in Casper. That building was located across the street from the old St. Anthony's School and convent, and on the same block as the Elks.  It appeared to be a much newer structure however, so I'm not sure how old it really is.  My guess is that the building dated from the 1950s, however.  At any rate, according to people I know very well, it once hosted some rollicking St. Patrick's Day parties and, I am told, it was once a place where members could go on a Friday evening for fellowship and a few drinks.  The Knights still exist, and still offer fellowship to their members, but the days of a club are over and indeed probably not really consistent with the present nature of the entity.

So why the change?  It's probably not a real mystery, but it is a real change.  When the organizations were all very strong, there was no television, no radio, and certainly no Internet.  In the evenings, when men returned home from work, and we are to a very large degree speaking of men, there were things to do, some of which were in the category of drudgery, but more often than not the evening brought dinner and then that was it.  That left men with free time, but free time that was afforded with fewer distractions than modern life offers, or perhaps even inflicts.  So, basically, a lot of men had the choice of staying in their homes or apartments in the evening or, going somewhere and hanging out with like minded friends.  By the same token, any number of local institutions and activities likewise benefited from this situation, although harnessed to less altruistic purposes. For example, a small club exists outside of Casper that was called The Roundup Club, a sort of agricultural lodge, that was a type of fraternal organization but, in contrast the same social instincts in the remote Natrona County town of Powder River were filled for decades by The Tumble Inn, a bar and restaurant which, for locals, was darned near like a lodge.

It'd be easy to ignore this change and dismiss it as simply a byproduct of the times, but it isn't without its impact.  Almost every fraternal organization has a dedicated public purpose.  Some of the organizations remain fiercely dedicated to their particular charitable focus.  I couldn't begin to list which each may be, but some of the more famous examples are the  Shriner's dedication to burn hospitals.  Locally, the Rotary Club maintains the Casper Mountain Braille Trail, a long existing way of connecting the blind with nature.  Many such other examples exist.  In almost all of them, should membership decline to a critical point, the charitable purpose of the club would likewise almost certainly be impaired. 

The other negative aspect of their decline, however, is that it probably simply isn't a good thing for people to be hanging around the house by themselves too much.  When that occurs, people's contact with the world begins to be limited to themselves or the very like minded.  For that reason, the Internet, frequently cited as a means of broadening knowledge, probably doesn't.  A feature of almost all of the fraternal organizations listed above is that they tended to bring together those of some diversity.  It wouldn't be true that they were absolutely representative of the diversity of their communities.  After all, early very early on some were discriminatory in nature.  Even now, however, it wouldn't be the case that every person could join any one.  A Catholic, for example, would still be self excluded from the Masons and you have to be a Catholic, of course, to be in the Knights of Columbus.  But it is the case that a lawyer is likely to be seated next to a tradesman at the Elks.  With the decline in this sort of activity, the diversity of society is cheated a bit, and people begin to take counsel more and more of their own views and fears.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Post World War One Homesteads

Recently, on our companion site Holscher's Hub, I posted two photo threads about Post World War One homesteads.  Those posts are here and here.


People commonly think of homesteading in the 19th Century context, often having a really romantic concept of it.  What few realize is that the peak year for homesteading in the United States was 1919.

That's right, 1919.

Homesteading itself carried on until the Taylor Grazing Act ended it in 1934 in the lower 48 states.  It carried on in Alaska for longer than that, under the Federal law, and still exists under Alaska's state law, although its really a different type of homesteading than existed in the lower 48.  There were some exceptions, which I'm unclear on, that opened lands back up after World War Two, on sort of a GI Bill for the agriculturally minded type of concept, but the enthusiasm for it was apparently limited.  In Canada I think that homesteading may have continued on into the 1950s.

But it was World War One that caused the last big boom in U.S. homesteading, and it was they year immediately following the war, which was also the last year that farmers had economic parity with urban U.S. populations, that saw the greatest amount of homesteading.  And it was a homesteading boom, in some ways, that was uniquely 20th Century in character.

Truth be known, homesteading was never really viewed the way that we have viewed it in the post homesteading era.  Our modern romantic view of it is unique to the post World War Two industrial era in some ways. There's always been a strain of romanticism attached to it, to be sure, because it fit in with the Frontier character of the country that existed in the 18th and 19th Centuries. And it also tended to define, as we've forgotten in modern times, a real difference between Americans and Europeans.  American farmers, which meant most of the population, could own land and do well by it.  European farmers, which meant most of the population, often did not.  Europe became an urban center earlier than the US in part for that reason, as the landless could have a better chance of owning something of their own off the farms, and getting  a farm of your own was extremely difficult, if not impossible, in most European nations if you were not born with ownership of one.  Indeed, the desire for land fueled immigration to the United States, Canada, Mexico, and various other areas that Europeans colonized, far more than any other source.  We may imagine that immigration was mostly the tired, hungry, and downtrodden, and of course it was. But land hungry made up a big percentage of immigrants as well.

19th Century homesteading, even at the time, was seen as sort of a transitory affair, and you can find a lot of contemporary articles about farmers being the vanguards of civilization. This is particularly true of stock raising homesteaders, i.e., ranchers, who were seen as a pioneering, but temporary, force, except by themselves.  Theodore Roosevelt, himself a rancher, commented in one of his late 19th Century articles about how herds of stock inevitably gave way to the plow, comparing ranchers to Indians, which meant that even he saw his ranching activities as doomed by history.  If so, he misjudged the progress of the plow.  Even as late as the early 20th Century, however, people seriously believed that "rain follows the plow."  It doesn't.

20th Century homesteading was something else, however.  The homesteading boom  of the teens was fueled by the globalization of the grain market, and a unique but temporary boost in the market and a unique, but temporary, increase in the amount of annual rainfall.   All of these combined created the conditions which allowed for a spike in homesteading, followed by an inevitable collapse in the agricultural sector.

The unique and temporary boost in the market was caused by warfare.  The second decade of the 20th Century was one of the most violent of the 20th or the 19th Centuries, and even the horror of World War One did not occur in a vacuum.  European wars started in the teens with a series of Balkan Wars; wars limited to the Balkans and Turkey, but which presaged the international conditions which would expand past that region and into Europe in general. The Mexican Revolution broke out south of the border in 1910, and was really rolling by 1911.  But it was World War One that really strained the global agricultural system to the limit.

In the abstract, how a war could do that is sometimes difficult to understand, in our modern, overabundant, era.  But the reasons are fairly plain.  The war put millions of men into the field, in harsh conditions (the war was accompanied by unusually harsh weather in Europe) where their caloric requirements were high.  Additionally, and now much more difficult to appreciate, the war also put millions of horses into the military service with a high caloric requirement as well.  For the men, their needs were met with meat and grains, and for the horses, grains and fodder.  The requirements were vast.  And this was compounded by the fact that animal production also provided the leather and wool upon which the armies also depended.

Not only, however, were the requirements vast, but the labor to do the work was now serving in various armies. Not only did the war require a lot of agricultural production, but it required the men who were doing it, in large part, to serve in the armies.  This caused a shortage of farmers, just as there was a great need for them. And not only was there a shortage of farmers, but of farm animals as well, as agriculture remained mostly horse driven.

 War time poster encouraging the saving of wheat, based on a famous contemporary photograph of women serving as the power for an implement, in the absence of draft animals, in France.

Farm labor shortages were partially made up by pressing women into service as farmers, everywhere.  There's a very common myth that women entered the workplace during World War Two, but it simply isn't true, or even close to true (we'll address this in an upcoming post).  Women entered the factory and fields in massive numbers during World War One.  Their role in food production became a national campaign in most Allied nations, where there were official efforts to put them into the field.

American Women's Land Army poster.

U.S. poster encouraging men below the age the Army was then seeking to serve on farms.  In short order, the Army would be taking me down to 18 years of age.

The American appeal was more rustic than the Canadian one, which made a martial appeal to young men to serve on the farms, relating that service to military service.

Resources became so tight that, even though rationing was never required on a national level in the United States (at least one state rationed, however) there was also an official campaign to encourage food conservation, and even conservation of some particular foods, so that more was available to feed the troops.

Canadian wartime poster encouraging consumers to switch to other foods to save food for the armies.

The war also had the impact of physically taking millions of acres of land directly out of production.  Not everything can be produced everywhere, which is fairly obvious.  Grains remain the staple of life in modern times just as much as they did in ancient, and this is particularly true in the case of grains. Grain can be grown, and is grown, in many regions, but large scale export grain crops are not. Grain production has greatly increased since World War One, but something that may not be readily apparent is that grain growing regions have expanded as well.

During the First World War era, grains were widely grown in Europe, North America, Argentina and Russia.  Much of the European production, however, was part of a regional market.  Italy, for example, has always been a grain growing region, but we tend not to think of it as a grain exporting region (although it actually is to some extent).  Of these regions, only two remained unspoiled by the war that being Argentina and North America.  Russia, one of the worlds most significant grain producing regions (well, the Ukraine actually) was taken completely out of the picture by the disaster of the war, which was followed immediately by the Russian Civil War.

This is also true of livestock production.  Horses, a critical item for every army, were so much in demand that Europe was basically stripped of them, nearly causing the extinction of one breed, the Irish Draught.  The United Kingdom, a major horse user, had always replied on imports for military horses and had worried about the supply pre-war, and now found itself fighting with an ally that had the same concern.  The large horse producing regions of the planet, North America, Australia and, at that time, Argentina remained relatively unscathed.  This was true for beef cattle production as well.  It was less true of wool production, which was a critical fiber in the war, and the United Kingdom itself was a significant producer.

 Wartime Canadian poster appealing to economic opportunism and patriotism.

While all of this was a human disaster, it was an agricultural opportunity of unprecedented scale.  A vast demand for agricultural products was created, and in certain regions, the means to exploit it existed.  And not only did the means exist, in the United States the government was encouraging it.  The US government encouraged homesteading, particularly for grain production, as if the boom would never end. And, as the Homestead Act remained in effect, and as the weather was unusually wet and therefore farming easier than usual, a land rush was soon on.

And the boom was experienced in other areas of the agricultural sector as well.  Horse ranching went into a massive boom in the West, starting just as soon as British and French remount agents started scouring the US and Canada for horses; a need which could never be fully met, in spite of a global effort.  Soon, with the Columbus, New Mexico, raid of Pancho Villa, the U.S. Army was in that market as well, pushing off French and British agents in the US so that it could acquire the horses and mules it required for a much larger Army that was nearly completely horse powered.
Remount shipping point.

Thousands of Americans who had previously had no direct connection with agriculture entered the rush, so lucrative was the grain trade at first, and so little, it seemed, had to actually be done in it.  In Kansas new towns sprung up full of such entry level farmers, many of whom didn't actually live on their farms, but in the towns, a practice that is common in some regions, but in this instance reflected an urban centric way of thinking.  Soon, these thousands were joined by discharged or soon to be discharged servicemen, many thousands of whom did have practical farming experience and agricultural roots, but who had the surplus cash to start up a farm, or small ranch, for the first time.  In Wyoming, hundreds of tiny homesteads, at most 640 acres in size, were filed, which with the favorable weather and market conditions, were actually viable in spite of their tiny size.

The boom couldn't last.  It trailed into the 1920s, but by then the prices began to fall. Soon after, the rain began to stop falling. An agricultural depression hit the US far earlier than the general Great Depression did.  By the 1930s the situation was desperate, and not only had the economy turned against farmers, but the weather had as well. Finally, in the early 1930s, the government repealed the Homestead acts, and new entries stopped.  Many of the teens homestead had already been abandoned by that time, once prosperous hopeful small units, but out place both economically and, as it turned out, climatically.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Oops! Errata

That post that I put up earlier on "Post World War One" homesteads wasn't complete.

That's the second time I've done that, as I started it about a week ago and just haven't gotten around to publishing it yet. But I've accidentally hit "Publish" twice. 


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wyoming National Guard during World War One

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Note the bucking horse logo.

Contrary to what people commonly believe (and indeed, contrary to the incorrect caption on this photo) the Wyoming National Guard was artillery prior to World War One and only became cavalry after the war.

Painted Bricks: Sidewalk Clock, Casper Wyoming

A landscape feature of days gone by, a sidewalk clock on our of our companion sites.

Painted Bricks: Sidewalk Clock, Casper Wyoming: The March 10 entry on Today In Wyoming's History , which featured a sidewalk clock from outside of Wyoming, reminded me of this o...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Cheyenne Motorcycle club, 1910

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A much earlier example of a motorcycle club, let alone in Wyoming, than I would have guessed.

Motorcycles show up in some fin de cycle movies about the 1890s to the 1910s, but I've always thought that was an exaggeration. Perhaps not.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Brunton Compass

Brunton Pocket Transit, folded for carrying.

This is a Brunton Pocket Transit.  Probably most people who know of them just think of them as the Brunton Compass.  It's an old, old design, having been first made in 1894, although the patent date on the compass references 1896.  I'd be curious to know when  they really started to be common, if we can consider a specialized instrument like this as ever having been common.

I ran across my Brunton compass recently as, for some reason, I'd taken it out of the carrier this fall in order to use it for something.  At this point, I frankly don't know what that something was, as I very rarely use it any more.  I have a nice Garmin GPS with the topographic map software loaded into it, and I use that now, even though its' a model that's now discontinued, and the last software up data makes it a little slow

Brunton Pocket Transit, opened for use in the geologists fashion.

I sure remember getting the compass, however.  It was in 1986, during my last year at the University of Wyoming, when I was a geology student. We had to buy them for our summer field course, which took us all over Albany and Carbon counties, mapping, and all the way down to New Mexico, where we did field work, as well.  At that time, having a compass of this type was an absolute necessity, and they saw 100% employment by geologists who did field work.  I'm told that at one time, graduates of the mining engineering school at the Colorado School of Mines could be identified by the short brim Stetsons they all acquired upon doing their field work (back in the sensible headgear days).  If so, graduates of any geology program anywhere could be identified by the fact that they all owned Brunton compasses.

Brunton compass opened up with mirror facing to catch the sight, in the fashion used by geologists in the field.

The reason for this wasn't fashion, it was necessity.  The compass is a precision instrument, and the official name of "transit" is accurate.  A transit is a surveying instrument, and so is a Brunton compass.  Extremely precise, the location of about anything can be accurately determined by triangulation or even just flat out using it concert with a drawing compass (the plastic device) and a topographic map.  But we made topographic and geologic maps with them, which requires not only the compass, but more work.

Compass opened showing the interior device for measuring angles, for determining elevation.  This one is not set, as the level clearly shows.

The reason that the compass can do this is that it not only features  the typical magnetic compass feature, but it also has the ability to sight elevations with the use of an internal scale.  And when set on a Jacob's staff, a pole of a known size, distance on the ground may be measured over any sort of terrain while using that feature, with the compass attached to it, while the mapper walks over the ground.  A marvelous instrument.

My first exposure to this instrument didn't come in a geology class, however.  It came at Ft. Sill Oklahoma.  The Brunton Pocket Transit, to soldiers, is known as the artillery compass, and that's where I first learned how to use it, in basic training.

Compass set to site in the Army fashion.

I was actually surprised to learn, while a geology student, that my old friend the Brunton Compass, was used as a geologists tool.  I just thought it was a marvelously precise Army compass.  Adapting to geology use was, therefore, very easy, even though the Army uses the sights differently.

Compass set to sight in the Army fashion.

Artillerymen used the compass as it is so much more precise than the conventional infantry compass, and artillery needs to be spotted accurately.  Even so, we never used it to the same degree of precision that geologists did.

Combined geology use and artillery use made me glad to have one, even when it turned out that I was never going to be a field geologist, that occupation having entered one of its cyclical slumps at that point in time at which I graduated from the University of Wyoming.  It's just been a field companion since then, which I used for many years when out in the sticks.

But not so much lately. As noted, I've gone the GPS, although I was a late adapter of that technology.  Indeed, I hadn't looked at the compass for quite some time.

In looking at it, and then determining to post, I thought that it was probably a thing of the past now, but I see that this is one of those many things to which Holscher's Second Law of History apply, they're still being made today. And they're still pretty pricey, although all in all I actually think they aren't as expensive in real terms now as they used to be.  Indeed, my recollection on this may be inaccurate, but I think the Classic model with the Aluminum body is now cheaper than the plastic cased variant shown in these photos.  It pleases me, frankly, so see that such a useful item is still in use.

I don't know if they're still in Army use or not, but I did learn the following, thanks to Gordon Rottman who sent me the text from his book on World War Two equipment:

M1 and M2 compasses with M19 carrying case This sophisticated compass was based on the William Ainsworth & Sons-made D. W. Brunton’s Pocket Transit dating back to 1894, but adopted by the Army in 1918. The M1 designation was assigned in the 1930s. The “artillery compass” combined a highly accurate surveyor’s compass with a clinometer (for measuring vertical angles and slopes), tubular horizontal level, and circular bubble plumb (vertical level). The circular level was for leveling the instrument before the azimuth values were read and the tubular level for measuring horizontal angles. There was an angle-of-site mechanism and an azimuth scale adjuster assembly making this a complex instrument requiring specialized training. It was used by artillery forward observers. It had a dustproof and moisture proof, dark OD-painted brass case (smooth or crinkled finish), squarish in shape with rounded corners, 2-3/4 x 3in and 1-1/8in thick; 5-7/8in long when  opened exclusive of the sights. A mirror was fitted inside the lid with a black sighting wire. The mirror also proved useful for shaving. There was a black folding front sight on the lid’s top edge. On the rear was a black hinged rear sight holder with a folding sight on top. The compass card was black with white markings. The M1 compass was graduated in degrees only and was phased out before the war by the M2 graduated in mils. M1s may have seen limited use. The mil scales was graduated at 20-mil intervals with 10-mil intermediate tick marks divided into 1-mil ticks. The angle of sight scale was graduated in mils in the same manner, 1200-0-1200 mils. On the compass card, north was indicated by a star and the other cardinal directions by W, S, and E. The radium-painted white end of the needle indicated north. The light brown leather M19 case had a rigid rounded pocket with a snap-secured lid and a trousers belt loop on the back. The rigid dark OD  plastic case (10543560) is post-WWII. Today it is known as the “M2 unmounted magnetic compass.” 0.5-b.

Pretty impressive.  Showing that the test of a tool is its usefulness, not its age.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Op-Ed: It's Time To Recognize The Valor Of Cyber Warriors : NPR

Op-Ed: It's Time To Recognize The Valor Of Cyber Warriors : NPR

Hmmmm. . . I"m not convinced.  Seems like the existing awards had it covered to me.

It's amazing to think that, up until World War One, the award that a U.S. serviceman could get was the Congressional Medal of Honor. That was it.  Just that.  They started awarding that during the Civil War, and that was the only award. Even the Purple Heart didn't exist until after World War One.  WWI US troops received wound stripes.

By World War Two awards had expanded, but to a reasonable level basically.  Bronze Stars, Silver Stars, etc., and the Combat Infantry  Badge. The first two awards came in around World War One, and were regarded as such significant awards that the Army went back and took quite a few Congressional Medals of Honor away from soldiers who had received them during the Indian Wars, much to their horror.  The Combat Infantryman's Badge was so restrictive that at first even medics who served with them couldn't receive it.  Cavalrymen, who were mostly deployed as infantrymen during World War Two, couldn't even get it.  All were pretty well thought out awards.  Those basically carried us through Vietnam. But, for some reason, awards have really expanded since then.

 Audie Murphy, who was for many years the highest decorated member of the U.S. Army from World War Two, although at some point in the 70s or 80s, another individual received a late award and surpassed his total.  Murphy went from being a private to a captain during the war, and is pictured here wearing his Congressional Medal of Honor and other medals. Think this is a lot of awards? Take a look below.

Even I have a medal, awarded to me for my six years of service in the Army National Guard.  It's a Reserve Achievement medal of some type (I'm forgetting the correct name), but basically you get that just for having five or six years of service.  It's sort of the Reserve equivalent of the Good Conduct Medal, which in my view is obsolete.  That medal came about in an era when quite a few troops could get through a career as a private without particularly good conduct.  No more.  Now we have an up or out system, and good conduct is part of just staying in. There's really no reason to even have those medals anymore.  Your good conduct is implied by your remaining in the service, or your Honorable Discharge is proof of it when you get out.

My view of this topic includes ribbons as well.  I have an Army Service Ribbon, which is awarded to you simply for getting through basic training.  Does that make sense?  Seems to me getting to wear the uniform implies that you got through basic training.  And I qualify for an Army Reserve Overseas Service Ribbon.  That one is just for serving in an overseas training mission.  I went to South Korea. But, once again, I was ordered to do that. That wouldn't seem to qualify me for a ribbon.  And should I get to wear a ribbon for going to South Korea when Regular Army troops just were allowed to wear overseas service stripes?  That doesn't make very much sense to me.

All this may not mean much to average people, but in my view the endless creation of ribbons and awards cheapens them all.  All the way up through at least the Vietnam War, ribbons and rewards really meant something.  Now, when a medal is created especially for a class of soldier who isn't really in harm's way, that's much less the case, particularly when that new award takes priority over some of the older, combat awards.

General of the Armies John J. Pershing.  Pershing is the second highest ranking U.S. officer of all time, ranking just below, in a technical sense, George Washington but above the various Generals of the Army of World War Two, such as Eisenhower.  Note how he only has a few ribbons even though he was in the Army from 1886 until 1924.  He saw service during the Indian Wars, the Spanish American War, and World War One.

General David Petreaus.  Petreaus retired as a General (the rank, ie., just above Lieutenant General and just below General of the Army, a rank that nobody has been promoted to since the 1950s).  He entered active service in the Army in 1974, and therefore was in during both wars with Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.  Granted, that's real service. . . but doesn't the ribbon volume seem a bit excessive in comparison to Pershing?