Tuesday, August 22, 2023

More Crossfire min-games

We played 3 Crossfire games last Sunday. The intent was to introduce Carl to the rules. He would play veteran Germans attacking Jay’s regular Soviets  in Steven Thomas’ Crossfire mini-game 1. Carl decided he would learn more watching me against Jay. The game ends when the first side loses 4 squads or heavy weapons sections. The defenders win if this hasn’t happened after 1 hour.


After lunch, I took regular Germans against Jay’s out-numbered regular Soviets. My engineer squad probed forward, discovered the main Soviet defense and was duly wiped out. I advanced on my left with the first platoon and attached heavy machine gun section (HMG), trading fire with Soviets. My second platoon advanced on my right and met a storm of fire and hot dice, losing two of its three squads. The first platoon and HMG redeployed and took the Soviet left under fire, aided by mortars and off-table 75mm guns. The first platoon nailed the flank Soviet squad and then moved to flank the whole position under cover of a smoke screen. When the smoke lifted, the first platoon started suppressing the defending Soviets, killing one squad after another. 34 minutes sufficed to win a 4-3 German victory. Carl was now ready to try his hand at a game. He got veteran Germans against Jay’s regular Soviets.


Having misplaced my copy of the rules, I umpired rather ineffectually. Jay had his recently purchased set. I don’t recall the details of the game but in about 30 minutes or so Carl rolled up a 4 – 2 win. The Soviet defenders are not only outnumbered, but the small mini-game playing area, 2 foot square, gives them no real option aside from static defense. But it does make a short game that teaches the basics of play.


We had decided if a third game was played, to add a MK IV F tank to the veteran Germans and a 45mm/L66 anti-tank gun to the Soviets. Jay wrote his hidden deployment down and then realized he had to leave. I took over and gave his deployment a cursory once over. Too cursory, since later in the game I was surprised almost as much as Carl by the deployment. Carl advanced cautiously, reconnoitering by fire. He discovered my right was barren. My AT gun was hidden on my left rear, while the enemy tank was diagonally across the table with plenty of woods in between. The AT gun crew heard rumors of enemy armor, but would not see any during the game. My forward position of 2 squads, HMG and Forward Observer for the mortar engaged the enemy and was duly wiped out after a firefight and a charge by German infantry. The AT gun opened up on the charge and revealed just how ineffective it was against infantry. Most of the Germans were pinned. The one mobile squad charged the mortar. I revealed they were inside a minefield. But the mines were defective. 4 dice were rolled and not one managed to get a hit (5+). The infantry demolished the mortar section. The engineers sidled up to the minefield, when we realized the game was over, 4 – 1. 

Carl likes the rules. Along with Jay, Bill and me, that makes a solid majority of the Fencibles who like the rules, so I have begun painting up Soviet reinforcements, seen below. And that’s it until September, since we are off to the North Carolina shore for a bit.

Edit 8/23: After slapping some paint on the guys:

8/25: varnished and based:

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Mary Chestnut on Slavery

Recently there has been speculation about slavery by people without first-hand experience. It seems appropriate to post a description by a primary source, one that had experience from the owner’s point of view.

Mary Chestnut lived near the apex of Confederate society. Her lawyer husband, a colonel in the army, was Jefferson Davis’s personal inspector and fixer, tasked with keeping the Confederate president informed about goings on beyond Richmond. The Chestnuts often hosted Davis and his wife Varina for dinner. Dinner guests also included fire-eating Texas Senator Louis Wigfall, who broke with Davis over the latter’s drive to strengthen the central government at the cost of states’ rights, even as the whole Confederacy reeled under Union conquest. Mary wrote her own account of the Civil War. Never quite finished, it was published some 19 years after her death. She never reconciled herself to the southern defeat. She did write the following diatribe about the south’s ”peculiar institution”.  


“I wonder if it be a sin to think slavery a curse to any land. Sumner [1] said not one word of this hated institution which is not true. Men and women are punished when their masters and mistresses are brutes and not when they do wrong-and then we live surrounded by prostitutes. An abandoned woman is sent out of any decent house elsewhere. Who thinks any worse of a negro or mulatto woman for being a thing we can’t name? God forgive us, but ours is a monstrous system and wrong and iniquity. Perhaps the rest of the world is as bad-this only I see. Like the patriarchs of old our men live all in one house with their wives and their concubines, and the mulattoes one sees in every family exactly resemble their white children-and every lady tells you who is the father of all the mulatto children in everybody’s household, but those in her own she seems to think drop from the clouds, or pretends so to think.”


[1] Charles Sumner, Massachusetts Senator and strident abolitionist, despised by pro-slavery folks. While sitting at a desk bolted to the floor in the Senate chamber in 1856, Sumner was beaten savagely with a heavy walking cane  by pro-slavery Representative Preston Brooks. Beaten until the cane broke, Sumner collapsed, suffering serious neurological damage. Pro-slavery admirers sent Brooks new canes.  


I note that Mary Chestnut lays blame at the feet of enslaved women, the ultimate victims of this institution. No doubt it was humiliating being married to men who routinely sexually abused their female chattels. I would think the men who did this would be the primary villains, the powerless the least. I don’t have documentation but skin pigment alone indicates that a number of my ancestors must have dropped from the clouds.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Court Martials in Korea and Fort Dix

More of my Father-in-law's stories of his time in the Korean War, and stateside. All in his own words.

Serving on Court Martials gives you a strange feeling of responsibility over a stranger’s life.

In one of my cases in Korea, I was called off the front line during heavy shelling to serve in a Regimental Court Martial. No question the guy was guilty of going AWOL in time of war. The only question was how much time in federal prison he got before Dishonorable Discharge.


My ears were ringing from recent very loud combat noise and I could hardly hear the choices of sentence.  The trial moderator spoke in near whisper voice level. As the lowest ranking officer there, I didn't feel it was my place to ask him to speak louder.  He mumbled,  "two months”,  no hands went up, “three, four",  etc.  When he got to over a year or so I realized what he was saying and raised my hand. The other two officers followed, ending the trial.


The poor dumb bastard probably had to serve a few extra months thanks to my hearing loss.


In another case I was a key witness at a Regimental Court Martial while assigned to Ft. Dix, NJ.

I was the 47th Infantry Regiment Heavy Weapons Instructor, but in my spare time I built a training range for .45 automatic pistols. Regiment was pleased with the training aid and let me be the first to instruct a trainee class on it even though .45 pistol was small arms,  not one of my assigned heavy weapons.


The course was eight hours, four hours of familiarization on my new training range and four hours of target practice on  a live round range several miles away. 


I signed out for 40 pistols from supply, locked them in the trunk of my car and drove to the range.   My cadre [3 noncoms]  placed one pistol on each of the stands that I had built, 20 on each side of the instructor who stood at either end The range was in a mowed field with a line of trees at one end that served as a latrine during break.


The company was marched in by a single cadre  and placed on each stand, three trainees to each.  It was a 4-hour class with a 10-minute break after the first two hours.  The first two hours went smoothly,  disassembly, care and cleaning and reassembly.


After the break I got into my second two hours of instruction, pistol grip, sight picture,  dry firing target marking, safety habits. While I was talking, I noticed one stand was empty, and recruits crowded around the other stands.  It suddenly occurred to me that a pistol was missing!


I stopped the class and put the company back in ranks. All were searched along with field around the range, the trees. The pistol was not found. The company was marched back to their barracks and put on restriction with no weekend passes allowed. The investigation was turned over to Regimental Military Police.


Next day I was told that night the culprit must have slipped on a bar of soap, fallen down a flight of stairs and gone through the screen door at the bottom, without bothering to open it. He was well cut up and bleeding. He then told the MP's that he had buried the pistol in the field. The MP's made the Company prod the field with bayonets and the pistol was recovered.


In my trial testimony I established the crime: How many pistols I had drawn from supply and how many I returned. I also explained that I missed the gun immediately because I had built the range and knew exactly how many stands were there.

After the investigation, I was relieved of any negligence in the matter.  (So, I would not have had to pay for the lost pistol or get a blot on my military record).


The training Co. CO, a Captain, was removed from his CO job and disciplined for negligence by sending his company out with only a corporal in charge, instead of the usual several non-coms to watch over his flock.


The private was given a dishonorable discharge for theft of Gov. Property and sent to a Federal Penitentiary, I don't remember for how long.


I was relieved to know that this .45 Cal Automatic pistol did not end up on the streets of nearby NYC, and possibly used to kill someone.


For training disassembly, the arm has a cloth mat about the size of a large table napkin used to teach nomenclature. It has  a picture of  each part of the 1911 .45 pistol   painted in black. The student  puts each piece on the picture and learns its name. The mats also keep the parts clean.


I had drawn 40 of these mats,  and one mat was also missing. I suspected that the pistol was buried in the missing mat, and it was. When the gun was recovered, I kept that mat as a souvenir for many years.


I was involved in two other cases of stolen pistols, and handled them differently.

While in a reserve position during the Korean war, we lived in tents about a  mile behind the MLR. (Main Line Of Resistance). In off times there was visiting between troops from a rifle company and my platoon, a heavy weapons platoon. My men were all armed with the  M1911A1 .45 cal.  pistol which left their hands free to use their crew served weapons. The pistols were  the envy of the riflemen, who were armed with the eight pound M-1 Garand.

One morning I was told that a pistol was missing. I got the names of all the visitors and walked over to their company HQ. to question them.  All were out in the field on exercises  except one "on sick call". I found him on his cot and soon recovered the pistol from the lump under his sheets. 

Rather than have him arrested and go through the long court martial procedure in time of war I decided to let his Company Commander handle punishment. 

The second stolen pistol  case, also while in a reserve position, I was approached by a Korean civilian who wanted to sell a .45 pistol. I decided  to set up a sting. Told him to bring all he had so I could look them over.  

When he returned I had the MP's there to arrest him. Turned out that his  pistols were all given to the local Korean police force by the U S Government and I was being asked to buy our own pistols  back!

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