It’s Showtime for Dry Climes

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The visual interpretation of the lyrics via the official video is enlightening, although I prefer the concert version of this song from the 30 Years Live album. To help out, an enterprising commenter transcribed all the headlines from the video.

  • Study finds crime is linked to poverty, experts say be afraid of poor people.
  • A city built on sand falls with a great crash.
  • Panic and fear widespread; retail up 25%.
  • Flames consume more buildings.
  • Production for TV movie Last Days of Los Angeles will begin as soon as dust settles.
  • Beware the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame.
  • Four horsemen back in saddle.
  • Opinion poll: Is the media’s coverage of LA’s destruction too negative?
  • You are not being brainwashed.

I also appreciate the “Exclusive 5-day Deathcast” graphic:

Mon: Knife Storms
Tue: Severe Plague
Wed: Fiery Mix
Thur: Blood Shwrs
Fri: ?

Photo by Sippakorn Yamkasikorn on Pexels.com

The 17-year-old song sounds more relevant than it ever has although, even today, it’s not about the wildfires.

Save Your Future for Me

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I found myself repeated going to an Amazon critique (a one-star review, at that) of the book Moment of Battle: The Twenty Clashes That Changed the World, because it included the list of the 20 battles that are featured in that book. I’ve not found that list anywhere else.

Although I’ve still yet to finish the book, I thought I’d make that list public for whatever useful purpose that you, the public, might find for it.

Marathon
Gaugamela (also here, here, and here, as well an off-hand reference)
Zama
Teutoburger Wald (September, 9)
Adrianople (August 9th, 378)
Yarmuk (15th-20th August, 636)
Hastings (October 14th, 1066)
The Spanish Armada
Breitenfeld
Annus Mirabilis (1759)
Saratoga (September 19th, October 7, 1777)
Trafalgar
Vicksburg (May 18th – July 4th, 1863)
The Marne (6th-12th September, 1914)
The Battle of Britain (July 10th – October 31st, 1940)
Midway
Kursk (July 5th – August 23rd, 1943. See also)
Normandy (June 6th, 1944)
Dien Bien Phu
Objective Peach (2nd-4th April, 2003)

Enjoy.

All In

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When I was a kid, my father’s favorite show was “Archie Bunker.” That’s what he called it, “Archie Bunker.” It would take some time before I learned the show was actually called All in the Family. He watched it because Archie was a voice, albeit an occasionally unbalanced voice, of reason, railing against the unstoppable cultural wave of the early 1970s. He also watched it because it was funny.

Norman Lear was* no conservative, pining along with Archie for the good ole’ days. Archie is obviously intended to be the antagonist – the butt of the jokes. The show is intended to criticize and contradict the “moral majority” as uniformed, simplistic, or just plain stupid. Archie was all these things and, yet, he was also more.

It is a tell of the genius of this show that it was so popular with, not just the sophisticated urbanites who tuned in to laugh at Archie’s neanderthal ways, but also with the rural working-class, who enjoyed Archie’s crass stabs at “truth to power.” In other words, folks who actually saw themselves as Archie Bunker -like. It was the quality of the writing (along with, I have to imagine, a less-contentious political environment) that made it funny rather than cruel – something that applied equally to Archie’s verbal assaults as well as the shows lampoons of its main character.

Of course, Norman Lear knew who it was that was watching his show. Having based Archie Bunker, in some part, on his own father, his feelings may have always been mixed. However, as the show’s popularity swelled, he (and the team behind the show) knew who it was that was watching and was paying the tab. Archie Bunker may have been a bit slow-witted and unsophisticated, as well as an obvious bigot, but he also had a good heart. The show allowed the complexity of his character to shine forth. For all his anti-black racism, he proved to be a loyal friend and neighbor to the Jeffersons. For all his outright misogyny, nobody would doubt he loved his wife. If there was a two-dimensional character on the show, it was Rob Reiner’s “Meathead.” For all his self-righteousness (and even rightness, at least as far as Lear and the media of the time was concerned), son-in-law Michael was often shown up by Archie.

Even politically speaking, this is a measure of the shows genius. As it became an American cultural icon, it was obviously intended to preach. Instead of preaching solely to the choir, it could also preach to those “Archie Bunker” fans by using their loyalty to their man. While Archie would rarely admit he was wrong, he would generally “come around” on the specifics, even if he stuck to his big-picture guns. Perhaps unwittingly, Lear was also showing his liberal audience the gap between the caricature of conservatism that they likely assumed was true and a humanity and goodness within those people who might hold opposing views.

Do we, today, remember the impact this show had in its time? It’s first season did take hold until the summer reruns**, after which it became the number one show on TV for five years in a row. It was the first major TV production to be “taped before a live studio audience.” It’s success made that style, rather than canned laugh tracks, something of a standard through the 70s. It spun-off successful series such as The Jeffersons, Maude, Good Times, and not-so-successful Gloria, plus a few outright flops. In 2016, TIME magazine put it at spot #19 in the top TV shows of all-time.

I ponder all this now because of the similarities between Archie Bunker and Ron Swanson. Before I go there, though, let me first back up a bit.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, Ron Swanson is a featured character in the now-defunct TV series Parks and Recreation. Parks and Recreation was created to be a spinoff of the successful comedy The Office, itself a rework of the British series of the same name (itself, available on Amazon Prime).

It was eleven years ago when the series debuted but I am reminded now of that Office connection. This was the reason I never watched Parks and Recreation; I couldn’t support yet another Office. I had watched The Office a few times and it made me feel cheap. I laughed, yes, but I couldn’t feel good about it. A pale imitation of that experience was not for me.

As the years went by, I began seeing something of a phenomenon relative to this show and a certain, shall we say, libertarian audience. Meat-loving, government-hating Ron Swanson has become the Archie Bunker of the day. At some point, the proliferation of pictures and video clips inspired me to add Parks to my to-watch list but, as usual, it was Netflix’s removal of the show that streaming that actually got me to watch.

Like Archie Bunker, Swanson was obviously intended to be the foible of jokes, not the hero. He’s a government employee who is anti-government (ha ha, those anti-government conservatives don’t even know their own self interest). We know the writers are mocking him and the actor who portrays him, Nick Offerman, has subtly distanced himself from Offerman’s libertarianism (Offerman supports progressive politics, himself). For all of this, Ron Swanson has made an even more effective hero to those he was created to mock than he has been as an object of mockery.

The show premiered as a short, six-episode season in the Spring of 2009. Although the pilot received the most viewers of any of the show’s airings, the initial season has had the lowest reception from critics. Viewership steadily declined starting with the 3rd season although praise for the show seemed to be at its strongest in the 3rd and 4th seasons. One wonders whether flipping the show back and forth between different air times actually hurt its popularity. It may be another example of the industry seeming to kill its product in an effort to optimize some back-office earnings algorithm.

Having started with less than 30 days to make it through the show’s entire run, I’ve little chance of getting all the way through. Still, I’ll give it a try. With less than half of September remaining to me, I’ve still not made it through Season 2. Nevertheless, I’ll share with you my thoughts on the show, as I’ve experienced it so far.

Season 1 featured the dopey, physical comedy that, I am ashamed to say, I enjoy. Apparently, test audiences found it all to be too similar to The Office and, between seasons, the show was reworked to give star Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope a more favorable treatment. For me, the show also became less laugh-out-loud funny and more uneven.

Like All in the Family, Parks tries to go after a combination of culturally-important issues and boundary-pushing sexual humor. Unlike the mid-1970s, however, this is no longer groundbreaking territory for a television sit-com. Even the basic premise is an obvious miss, albeit one I more than willing to overlook when the material is funny. The concept is the ridicule of small town government and the self-important, self-contradicting figures are found there. The problem is, of course, that Hollywood writers may never have spent time in a small town, much less had any experience with small town government.

Instead, the writers based the episodes (at least in part) by observing City of Los Angeles proceedings. This definitely shows through; the small town in Indiana has a government that would be right at home in a major city, but for its obvious (relative) insignificance – something we are encouraged to laugh at. Now, as it happens, the fictional Pawnee, Indiana, isn’t really supposed to be a small town. Suggestions of a population in the 60-80,000 range would put in the top 10 largest cities in Indiana. It’s probably a mistake to read much of anything into it all, but the show seems to be making fun, not of the urban governmental bureaucracies that the show uses as its models, but the silly Nowheresvilles that like to pretend they are one of the big players. Is there a low-level supervisor somewhere in the Midwest that sees her job as a stepping stone to the U.S. Presidency? I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if there were, but I feel like the show tries to convince me that this is the norm rather than an exception.

Let’s just hope I don’t dedicate a whole month to watching this only to discover that I’d already seen the good stuff via memes. Might my time be better spent watching The Office in its original British? The originator of this whole line I’ve also always meant to see, but never have.

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*I suppose it should be “is.” Norman Lear is still alive and, one hopes, well at age 98. In the end, I left it in the past tense because I am trying to write about his mindset while creating and shepherding the show. The Norman Lear of the 60s and 70s.

**How old do you have to be to remember that shows were run on TV twice. Once on release and then repeated again during the off-season.

More Blocks, More Crows

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While I’m on a roll with admitting my mistakes, I thought I ought to revisit my experience with the Block Editor.

Posted a pair of rants about how I really, really didn’t like the new Block Editor. Since that time, I decided to give it an honest chance. I’ve been writing many of my newest posts in the updated editor and, so far, it’s not been as bad as I had anticipated.

Among my most pleasant finds, and I mentioned this earlier, is that one can seamlessly switch back and forth between the Block Editor and the “classic” editor. Granted this is the lesser classic editor (the one in my screenshot) but the WordPress people really seemed to have accomplished backward-compatibility. That is, you can load up a Block Editor post, work on it in classic*, and then save it retaining all the work you did in the Block Editor.

I’ve also found a few features that I really appreciate; things I didn’t know how to easily do in the old system. As you might see (looking below) I’ve been making my pictures into ovals; something I’m sure everyone appreciates. More usefully, the new editor allows linking within a post, something I’m using to allow easy navigation back and forth for footnotes.

More importantly, as evidenced by the newly-broken feature, there seems to be someone hard at work on the features of this new system. Even as I’m using it, I see problems being fixed. This might even justify having pushed us all into the Block Editor against our will (although I still don’t appreciate that one bit). We hold outs, now forced to work within the new system, will now report those things that we find unworkable within the new stuff. That allows them to fix it, which really will result in a new system that’s better than what it has replaced.

In yesterday’s post, I managed to do one of the other tasks I had identify as a major issue for me. I created a block built from my own, hand-made HTML. It was my home-grown version of the “pull-quote” block, although I didn’t actually want something that looks exactly like that “pull-quote.” It all came together without too much difficulty. There are still a couple of things** that bother me. I am also still terrified that I’ll accidentally click the wrong “edit” on an old post and wreck it. On the whole, though, I’m now using the Block Editor as a matter of course and the Classic Editor only as a backup.

If I’m going to gripe, and post it publicly, then I also need to be able to publicly admit when I was wrong.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

**Number one on my list is that I don’t see how to word-count a highlighted selection. There are several reasons I like to keep track of how many words I’ve written in a session. While sometimes clicking on the new button and getting the post stats gives me what I need, I often made use of the feature, still in the classic editor, where, when you highlight a block of words, it tells you how many are highlighted. I also don’t know how to delete a block with nothing in it.

Beached

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As I continue with Six Days in June: How Israel Won the 1967 Israeli-Arab War, I realized the foolishness in one of my earlier rants. I complained about the large percentage of armor I lose in “soft sand” while playing Six-Day War scenarios in Steel Panthers: Main Battle Tank.

This my eleventh in a series of posts on the Six-Day War. See here for the previous post, also about maps, or here to go back to the master post.

I’m now to the section in Six Days in June covering the retaking of the Jordanian portion of Jerusalem. During the attack on the Government House, a delay resulted in the majority of tanks, plus a few halftracks, getting stuck in mud near the jump-off point. This left them unable to participate in the assault. Meanwhile, on the northern side of Jerusalem, every single one of Israel’s Centurions were disabled while moving toward their objective. The culprit, in this case, was the use of a trail (as described by Eric Hammel) the width of but one of the tracks on the Israeli tanks. Attempting to navigate this too-narrow trail resulted in the tanks getting “beached” (again, Hammel’s term) on rocks and rough terrain. One tank is described as balancing on its belly while the tracks spun helplessly, unable to reach the ground.

This certainly puts a new perspective on my complaints. If I had a Steel Panthers scenario to game the retaking of Jerusalem, I guarantee that my digital tanks would always do better for me than the real tanks did. For the fighting at Rafah, where losses to “sand” were not quite so catastrophic, it remained a key aspect of the strategy. Throughout the Sinai, off-road travel was sometimes possible, sometimes difficult, and sometimes impossible. When Israel managed to develop an attack over intraversable terrain, they could achieve stunning victories. Where they guessed wrong, they managed to take their own armored columns out of the fight for a day or more.

I still think that Steel Panthers fails to capture the importance of this factor in a way that reproduces historical outcomes, but I’m also not sure I could come up with any better.

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Remembering

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This may be the first occasion in 19 years I went through at least half the day without thinking about what date it is. Looking at Facebook was my mistake.

See, I was in Manhattan the day of the World Trade Center attacks and, at the time, it seemed like it might be the beginning of something much bigger rather than an isolated incident. We now know differently but, for all these years, anniversaries of the 11th of September unnerve me, seemingly a prime opportunity for a follow-up terrorist attack.

Since I’ve been thinking about the way the mind gets fast and loose with reality in a crisis, I’ll share one memory from that day.

When the planes hit the towers, we lost all television access in the building where I was working. The mind goes to the worst-case scenario. Did someone target our communications? How big is this attack? Folks who were able to contact home outside of the immediate area helped us quickly realize it was just us, not the whole country. We also found that we could get the local PBS station which, in accordance with the situation, broadcast CNN’s feed.

The reason was obvious, after a little calm thought. When the World Trade Center went up, every channel put their broadcast antennas on top of it. It was the highest point in New York! Well, not everyone. PBS had left their antennas on the Empire State Building and, thus, remained the only one left standing when the towers were hit.

I remain thankful that no friends and family were killed that day. Despite living so close, I was able to continue life in something resembling normalcy. Today, we think about the thousands who did not.

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Come, Armageddon, Come

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I cannot, for the life of me, remember what it was that got me fixated on the ancient Egyptian battle at Megiddo. I was sure it was related to a computer game, but after digging through files and manuals, I’ve decided it probably wasn’t. My best guess now is that it all surrounded a pair of old board games that I don’t own.

This is another tale from the early-aughts of a failure from the games industry to deliver that which I wanted. Games have long tried, seemingly without success, to get right the classical era and the formations/tactics of the Greeks and Romans. Perhaps one way to both reduce complexity and differentiate was to turn the clocks back even farther. Could games venture back into pre-Homeric times and thus present a historically realistic interpretation of Bronze Age combat?

That pair of games in my opening paragraph starts with King of Kings, a 1990 indie board game of grand strategy covering 1700 BC to 1200 BC. The publisher, Good Industries, had earlier released a pre-gunpowder, tactical game, Ancients, and it was now intended to be employed as a tactical engine for the King of Kings. With the state-of-the-art still being the likes of Civilization and Age of Empires, I wondered if there wasn’t a more serious game to be had via conversion to the PC.

Part of my confusion is that, around this same time, Slitherine Studios was making its debut*. Their first product, in 2002, was Legion, which I bought hoping it would be a fix to my Roman tactical problem. While first glance suggested one was looking at a Roman tactical game, the more apt comparison might be to something like Empire Delux, but with a more period-specific flavor. While the battles, with their real-time resolution of combat depicted on screen, were what drew one’s eye, this was no RTS. When playing these battles, the player is restricted to an initial “planning” phase where units are placed and given orders. Upon hitting “run,” the battle plays out with no further** interaction. Among other problems in the game, this possibly-sensible design decision lacked the historical fidelity to make it work.

The sequel to Legion contained much-anticipated improvements. Chariots of War expanded upon Legion, technically speaking, in a number of ways. It also moved the historical context back to some 2,500 years BC. This helps justify its idea that a commander’s sole input to a battle was limited to his alignment of his forces on the field. It is something that makes more and more sense as you go back in time.

I wanted Chariots of War to do it for me, but it never really did. It was definitely cool to have a game which focused on this era. Details in the art depicting, for example, historical equipment on the units was nice. Still, all the parts never really came together. The tactical layer was too shallow, relying as it did on animations and weak AI to produce the results. The strategic layer, despite some of the trappings of a 4X game, was really just a battle generator. While my mind insists the historical battles of Megiddo and Kadesh were part of this game, that was almost certainly wishful thinking. It’s hard to see this game featuring historical battles worthy of that description, except in the most abstract of terms.

That ancient battle piqued my interest so acutely because it is the earliest battle for which there exists an accurate, written record. Hieroglyphs in the Temple of Amun-Ra at Karnak describe the weapons, tactics, and casualties. Much like Caesar, the Pharaoh Thutmose III recorded his military exploits while campaigning so that many years later they might be permanently recorded on the temple walls. Although the descriptions are remarkable for the plausible (and presumed accurate) detail, they also describe the belief that deities actively intervened in and shaped the outcome of warfare. In addition to its notoriety by virtue of it being recorded, the battle was an important step in Egypt’s dominance of the ancient world.

Another interesting facet to this is the etymology. The town of Megiddo is generally considered to be the root of the word Armageddon, the location where armies will gather for the last battle at the end of times. Or maybe not. The “Ar” in Armageddon is from the Hebrew harar, typically meaning “mountain.” Ancient Megiddo, on modern maps, is shown as a Tel. That term refers to the hill or mound that has resulted from millennia of settlements and fortifications being built in the same place. For Tel Meggido, the preserved site has sat, for thousands of years, at a critical location astride the trade routes through the Levant. So is “Mount Megiddo” the location of this Megiddo? Or should we rather look to the roots of the name Megiddo and take it figuratively? That is, something like “the mountain where they will gather.” Harar, itself, might be taken literally or figuratively. That is, maybe it is meant to mean a hill rather than a mountain. Arguments aside, the idea that Armageddon refers to a fortified position at Megiddo, constructed circa 860 BC, is fairly well accepted.

This allusion goes some way to explaining why Eric Hammel, in Six Days in June: How Israel Won the 1967 Israeli-Arab War, writes that the attack on Jenin launches from Megiddo, rather than one of the more obvious population centers of the region. The literary attraction of readers conjuring imagery of armies massing for a decisive battle is too much to pass up.

The Six Day War reference aside, there are three major Battles of Megiddo in the historical record. The most recent (legitimate) reference is General Edmund Allenby’s final offensive in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign against the Ottoman Empire, which took place in September, 1918. Like Hammel, Allenby referred to his Battle of Megiddo as such to invoke the Bible. Much like our own Kabatiya situation, the “battlefield” is the rough vicinity north of Jerusalem encompassing the Plain of Sharon and the Samarian Hills.

In between the ancient and the modern lies the biblical (Second Book of Kings) battle between the army of Pharaoh Necho II and King Josiah of Judea, in the early summer of 609 BC. This might place it roughly contemporaneous with the Armageddon prophecy itself.

Egyptian columns are ambushed. 1000 years and we are still riding chariots.

The Megiddo of 1457 BC is included in one of the official scenario packs for Field of Glory. As far as I can tell, this battle has not been redone for Field of Glory II. Perhaps that is something to look forward to. However, the 609 BC Battle of Megiddo is one of the official scenarios in the Rise of Persia DLC. The primary historical source for this battle is, indeed, the Bible. The supporting verse reads more like a personal conflict between Necho and Josiah rather than an actual description of battle. In fact, it is only modern translations where the world “battle” is even included.

While speculative, the construction of the scenario uses a reasonable imagination of the clash, having the army of Judea ambushing the larger Egyptian force while it is in column. Egypt was moving northwards against the Babylonians but was refused passage by the Judean king. At Megiddo, Egypt was successful in defeating the Judeans and King Josiah was killed. In their campaign against the Babylonians, however, Egypt failed. Returning through Judea a year after the battle, Necho deposed Jehoahaz, son of Josiah and subjugated Judea. Ultimately, Judea found itself crushed between the warring empires of Egypt and Babylon and in with a few decades, Jerusalem was besieged, plundered, and depopulated and the Kingdom of Judea destroyed.

The fate of Judea hangs in the balance.

Fittingly, I also lost my Battle of Megiddo in my first play through. The moment of my loss was rather dramatic. The general which was holding together the center of my force fell during intense fighting and the collapsing morale instantly scattered my remaining forces. I would have certainly lost anyway, but the decisiveness of the moment made it all the more interesting. The general was not labeled as King Josiah himself. Rather it was the death a minor subordinate that did me in. A little imagination, though, can align my game with Bible verse.

Some 17 years after my King of Kings and Chariots of War fantasies all happened, however it actually happened, the combined efforts of Byzantine Games, AgeOD, and Slitherine have come close to creating what I was seeking. Field of Glory: Empires does not quite (but only just) stretch back to 600 BC and this battle, and that’s assuming you’ve gone with the Persia DLC for that game (as of yet, I have not). It likely will never reach back to 2500 BC, nor should it. Attempting to engage, historically, the events which preceded written history is probably left to abstract treatments like your typical 4X.

Not Chariots of War, though.

*My how things have changed. If memory serves, Slitherine was the programing shop working under the auspices of Paradox, themselves having just started branching out from their Europa Universalis starting point into other games (Hearts of Iron). This was the development work. Publishing was through Strategy First. These days, Paradox and Slitherine are primarily publishers (and largely competitors) while Strategy First has drifted off into obscurity.

**Again, assuming memory serves, this was true initially. Later versions added in player-controlled triggers. This enhanced the feeling of participation as well as modeling historical tactics like the commitment of one’s reserves.

Thank You for Your Service

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The film The Outpost came out in 2019 with a private screening for the soldiers, and survivors of the soldiers, depicted in the film. At that time, the project was still in post-production. The finished product was scheduled to debut at the South by Southwest film festival, an annual Spring event in Austin, TX. The CCP Virus put paid to that plan.

After that setback, the screening rights were sold to another company and a theatrical release was scheduled for July, 2020. This also was stymied by shutdowns and scant enthusiasm from audiences to gather together inside theaters. Today, the industry’s loss is my gain. I am watching the film, via rental, not even two months after the theatrical release.

This is a film based on the successful non-fiction book, The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor by CNN journalist Jake Tapper. While Tapper has often aligned himself with solidly-progressive causes, his book earned praise for unbiased reporting. He, and thus the film, depicts the events which took place in October, 2009. Well, sort of.

Before I start to criticize, I’ll give credit to this work. This is, in total, a solid military drama. Obvious care was taken to make it a tribute to those who were killed during the battle, a goal in which the production succeeded. The Outpost was enjoyable to watch, even if the basic story, itself, has been told before. As with any film of this type, it must struggle with how to represent a full company of U.S. soldiers without overwhelming the audience with a sea of nearly-identical faces. Using a few tricks, this does it as well as I could hope.

My only real point of criticism is the confusion with the timeline. The film starts in 2006, almost three full years before the battle itself. The purpose is to show the death of Captain Benjamin Keating, played* by headliner Orlando Bloom, after whom the camp was named. Intentionally, I went into the film without any background on the real-life Battle of Kamdesh. In my willful ignorance, I had nothing to let me know that the opening scene takes place well before the main story. It didn’t help that the other main characters (Scott Eastwood also headlines as Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha and lesser-known Caleb Landy Jones portrays Medal of Honor recipient Ty Carter) are shown arriving – destined to spend three full years in an isolated valley of Afghanistan?!? I have to wonder if there wasn’t a better way to set up the main event.

Oddly enough, the most memorable pieces of the film were the humorous bits. One has Sgt. Romesha reacting to the long-awaited arrival of close air support. He stares at his rifle, wondering how it could be doing so much damage. I can’t tell you if this is a first-hand account (although I assume that it is, given the film’s origin) but, either way, it is a nice way of illustrating the confusion that confronts the mind trying to make sense of combat. The other running gag, which I’ve never seen outside of this film, is the continuous “thank you for your service” banter. I’ve not hear this from friends** who’ve “been there” but, if accurate, that would be one joke that, for me, would never get old.

Oh, and if you’re reading this Orlando, this is how you do a Maine accent.

Photo by Somchai Kongkamsri on Pexels.com

*Bloom does a fairly good job with his role – definitely more than his resume-so-far would lead me to expect. Still, I’m not sure he was the right choice. When he first started speaking, he seemed to be trying to pull off a antebellum South Carolina gentry accent – think Val Kilmer’s (perfect, btw) Doc Holliday. Problem is, Keating grew up in Maine and New Hampshire. I don’t blame Bloom. Hollywood has a long and storied history of slaughtering the Maine accent.

**I would say the majority of “War on Terror” veterans who’ve expressed an opinion are annoyed at the triteness of being thanked-for-their-service at odd times throughout their civilian lives. I would think it would bug me as well, which is why I find this aspect of the film so funny.

Every Battle is Won Before it is Ever Fought

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Hoping for a more detailed take on the fighting around Jenin and Kabatiya, I picked up* the book Six Days in June: How Israel Won the 1967 Israeli-Arab War. I’m currently in the middle of a multi-volume fictional series and, when Six Days arrived, I wasn’t in the mood to take on a 480 page, non-fiction project. I went straight into the chapter on Jenin and Kabatiya, itself almost at the end of the book.

What I found was very readable and, in fact, enjoyable prose. The writing style is non-fiction (as opposed to, say, historical novelization along the lines of Gates of Fire or Killer Angels) but it is also a tad informal. Intrigued, I set aside my fantasy fiction and went back to the beginning of the book and began reading straight through.

Six Days in June covers very much the same territory as The Arab-Israeli Wars: War and Peace in the Middle East. After some chapters on the political events leading up to the Six-Day War, particularly focusing on its inevitability, Six Days returns to Israel’s war for independence. Unlike Herzog, who is chronicling events as they took place, Six Days in June author Eric Hammel reviews the two decades preceding June 1967 with an eye on how it all prepared Israel for their forthcoming and massive victory. Yes, we look at maneuvers and tactics during the 1956 Suez Crisis but it is only so we can understand how that lightning action in the Sinai reshaped the Israeli military the decade that followed.

Northern West Bank, from the Green Line to the Jordan

Along the way, I’m seeing a lot of information that is useful towards the building of order of battles for the Israeli army. The book doesn’t include, directly, the information that would generate a high-fidelity order of battle. However, the details of how (particularly armored) units were formed and equipped are aids one in speculating about the makeup of the 1967 combat units. It’s also worth remembering that this book is not definitive. As clear and specific as the book can be – for example, that the armored recon elements used AMX-13s – there are other sources that conflict (maybe they were French-made armored cars mounting a high-velocity 90mm gun).

The descriptions of the fighting in 1967 is colorfully entertaining and reasonable detailed. In contrast to other books, though, it lacks the extensive footnotes and uses no military maps. I don’t miss the former but, given my interest in games, I would appreciate the latter. Once again, as a military history, this book is probably best used augment other sources rather than as a sole source.

This is also a book that would have a hard time getting published today. It is written entirely from the standpoint of Israel. While it treats the the Arab forces and figures respectfully, anything not anti-Israel probably wouldn’t be politically correct.

Hammel points out that, to this day (meaning 1992, but I suspect it’s still true), both Egypt and Israel keep the details of the 1967 as state secrets. Some of the details, particularly about units that were not engaged, remain unknown to us, the casual readers. Hammel’s thesis is that, by the first half of ’67, Israel’s victory was completely and total assured**. The rest of the world may have marveled at the defeat of a many-headed Goliath in just six days but Israel knew not only that they must do so, but that they would. The victory came not from brilliance and bravery on the battlefield, although there was this, but by planning and design going back to Independence itself. In this, Hammel credits a few visionary individuals with putting the wheels in motion so that Israel would have the perfect hammer with which to utterly crush their enemies.

This one-sided view is worthwhile but also is a good reason to read this book as a source and not the source. Even Herzog makes more of an effort to balance what is obviously, in his case, a view from inside Israel. While I wouldn’t mind the equivalent book written from the Egyptian perspective, the realities of Egyptian government and its secrecy likely make that an impossibility.

I should probably be getting back to honing those orders of battles. As you can see from my latest screenshot (above), I’m pretty close to having all the desired map features included. I know I missed a village here, a road there, and misplaced a few orchards, but anticipate many more significant mistakes once I try to model the battle.

One aside, unrelated to the topic of this post. I decided to write this post using the new Block Editor. I started clean and tried to do everything as the WordPress gurus intended. As you can see, it appears to have turned out OK. I am not entirely happy with how the image turned out, but with some effort I could probably get it more to my liking. My one great remaining fear is that, if I come to use the new editor as a matter of course, I may find myself wiping out old posts, particularly ones where I have hand-built HTML to format the post the way I wanted it. I very nearly did so to an old post where I wanted to update the tags. Fortunately***, the new Block Editor can be weirdly slow at some things, and I managed to back out of the edit before it wrecked my old post.

Return to the master post for the Six Day War or continue on to the next article.

*When I ordered it, not too long ago, it was very scarce on Amazon. There now seems to be a reasonably-priced paperback version available new. I wound up buying a used hardcover, which came in excellent condition.

**While I’m comfortable stating this as a thesis, he is not entirely consistent. For example, in describing the battle at Rafah, he comments that aggressive outside-of-the-box thinking on the part of lower-level tank commanders may have won the war, allowing Israel to stay on schedule despite finding the Egyptian defensive far more effective than pre-war intelligence had led them to expect. One might argue that, per said thesis, the placement of such men in the commands that they held was part of a systematic effort by the Israeli military.

***Not only that, but when working on this post, I noticed that it does seem backward compatible. I still worry that accidentally loading up some hand-built HTML into the new editor might cause a mess, but for more traditional posts, it seems like shifting between the old and new editors is easy and transparent. As I said, my bad experiences have been accumulating over the entire development process and so I don’t know when things were fixed. My impression now is that the WordPress development team may be making an effort to accommodate all us complainers and give us the editor that we want.