Letters to the Editor

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Unlikely Friendship

I truly enjoyed reading Timothy C. Ruse’s “An Unlikely Friendship” in the Summer/Fall issue. It’s nothing short of amazing how men like his grandfather survived the horrors as American POWs. Having just finished reading Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, which is the story of another hero, Olympic runner Louie Zamperini, as well as his own account of what he went through in Devil at My Heels, I think these books—and your article—should be required reading for every high school student. It’s a sad reality that many young people know little or nothing of WWII and how the men and women of that “greatest generation” made it through some terrible times with guts and fortitude.

Carole Weigel

Glen Head, NY

 

Women at War

Mark Wolverton’s excellent article, “Top Secret Rosies,” together with LeAnn Erickson’s video documentary, assures that the Rosies’ contribution to America’s success in World War II and their participation in the ENIAC project will survive in the nation’s collective memory. Their efforts were already well ensconced in the individual memories of some of us computing geezers, but those comprise only temporary storage. It may be of interest that the term “differential analyzer,” used in the article to describe Vannevar Bush’s computing device, is a synonym for “analog computer,” a device for simulation of physical systems that competed well with digital computers, such as the ENIAC, until circa 1960. While Bush’s analog computer was mechanical, the electronic analog computer was invented during World War II by German engineer Helmut Hoelzer.

After the war Hoelzer was director of the Computation Laboratory at Wernher von Braun’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, where both analog computers and digital computers were used in support of NASA’s Project Apollo. The Rosies thus may be said to have been early participants in a chain of events that led to men (and perhaps yet women) setting foot on the moon.

Ben B. Barnes

Florence, AL 

As a mortarman, I really enjoyed Mark Wolverton’s article on the female computers of World War II and the history behind the modern ballistics tables. It took me back to my unit’s mobilization preparation prior to deploying to Afghanistan. As a new fire controller unfamiliar with the plotting board, I tried to shore up my skills by reading all the field manuals I could get my hands on. To my confusion, each manual kept referencing “the computer.” It took a while but it finally clicked that “the computer” was me! We Gen Xers who are currently fighting the war on terror have those intelligent women from World War II to thank for so much.

SFC Martin Crawford

Warrenton, VA

 

Ethan Allen

Willard Sterne Randall’s “Ethan Allen’s Big Misadventure” in the Summer/Fall 2011 issue was an informative pleasure to read, as are all of Mr. Randall’s works.

He must have gotten a laugh, however, when the caption writer labeled Benedict Arnold as Allen’s “good friend”! Far from it, of course, as Randall so deftly points out in his 1990 work, Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor.

Colonel (not yet “Major General,” as stated in the article) Arnold decried the behavior of Allen’s men after the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, characterizing it as “greatest confusion and anarchy, destroying and plundering private property, committing every enormity and paying no attention to public service.”

Arnold wrote further to Dr. Joseph Warren that “Colonel Allen . . . positively insisted I should have no command, as I had forbid the soldiers plundering and destroying private property.” Allen then proceeded to strip Arnold of his joint command (by gunpoint)! Friends? I think not. Brilliant, blustering, hard-headed rivals? Agreed.

Forrest L. Burgener

Company of Military Historians (West Point Chapter)