"A Copse. Evening"

"A Copse. Evening"
A. Y. Jackson, 1918
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Thursday, September 27, 2007

And what's with the hair?

Battling Bastards of Bataan

"The Battling Bastards of Bataan, No Mama, No Papa, No Uncle Sam, No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces, No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces, And nobody gives a damn!"



Ken Burns has pissed me off...again. And no, it's not the hair although that ought to be plenty, if only because he's got so much more of that I do. My beard's better though. No, Ken stumbled onto his ideal hair style in the 4th grade and has seen no reason to change it.
Don't get me wrong. Ken is a brilliant filmmaker and is possibly the best in the world at what he does. It's not a matter of 'craft' that's got me upset. Let me back up. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and Ken's documentary on the "War of Northern Aggression" was on the tube, I watched the whole thing and found myself moved by the emotional tone of the whole thing. Nothing wrong with that. Shows Ken knows what he's doing. However, a few years later, when his baseball series came out, I found myself getting misty about baseball...which I hate. So, I think Kenny has a tendency to tug at the old heart strings a bit much.
Anyway, why I'm pissed is a quote from his new epic "The War". Covering the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and the subsequent abandonment (by that ego maniacal shithead, MacArthur) and surrender of the US forces on the Bataan peninsula, the statement was made that the "Battlin' Bastards" were pathetically equipped with "tin hats" and rifles designed in 1903, "single-shot" rifles, I might add. Maybe he's thinking of the "trapdoor" Springfield - or not thinking at all. Anyway, we'll just pass over the left-handed reference to the "Brodie" style helmet, the "tin hat" the one that served British troops through the entire war without significantly ruining their lives, and go straight to that rifle with the supposed "antiquated" design.
The 1903 Springfield was and is one of the best bolt action rifles in the world. Even so, 1903 to 1941 is a long time. Let's see how everyone else was fitted out.
The average Bataan groundpounders' opposite number in the Japanese army carried an Arisaka Meiji 30, adopted in...wait for it. 1897. Pictured below.
Okay, why stop there. The allies of the Japanese on the other side of the globe were carrying the Gew98 Mauser. Anyone want to guess what the '98' stands for?

Also, those folks from Italy, for their marginal and largely ineffectual part of the war, were making due with a rifle earlier than the Springfield, the Modello 1891 TS. Many of these found their way to the states after the war and was was famously used to kill JFK.
This is fun. let's look at the other side shall we?
The Russians, the battlin' bastards of Lenigrad, Stalingrad, the Crimea and more, were issued the venerable Mosin-Nagant M1891. These went through a few modifications in 1938 and 1944 but remained essentially unchanged and were still used by the Soviets as a sniper rifle into the '60's.Okay, saving the best for last. Well maybe not the best - these things have a Chevy/Ford, Husquevarna/Stihl, Nissan/Toyota loyalty thing going on - but my favorite of the stone-age rifles fielded in the "The Big One", is the Short, Magazine Lee-Enfield (SMLE The comma is added in the description because it's not the magazine that's short but the rifle itself.
These things are the shit. It was descended from the Lee-Metford of 1888 which was chambered for the brand-new British 303 cartridge in black-powder. It incorporated an improved anti-fouling rifling which proved to be unable to withstand the heat and pressure generated by smokeless powder. The design was then redone in standard Enfield rifling and it served in both world wars (see "masthead" photo) and up until 1956. To be fair, it was modified in 1939 and became the "number 4, Mk 1".The rifle pictured above is actually a number 3. The number 4 had the bolt modified slightly, the forestock shortened and the rear sight mounted on the reciever rather than the barrel.
I first was enamoured of these things when I'd heard about the "Mad Minute" Britan's standard of "musketry" in the first war. Fifteen aimed rounds into a man-sized target at 300 yards in less than 60 seconds. The record was 38 rounds which necessitated three complete reloads of two five-round "chargers" each - and still, done in a minute. At the top of the page, if you've got a minute - ten to spare, you can see the mad minute as performed by...a guy in a red ball cap.
So, love Ken or hate him, he probably doesn't deserve to be hated, be careful of his facts. He tends to prefer "symbolic truth".

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