Military History

Happy Birthday, Louis Barthas!

Louis Barthas; Translated by Edward M. Strauss— Poilu author Louis Barthas was born on Bastille Day, July 14, 1879. In honor of his 137th birthday, here are two letters that Barthas wrote in 1916 to Pierre Brizon, a Socialist member of the French legislature. One asks for the deputy’s help

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The Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Modern Middle East

Neil Faulkner— A hundred years on from Sykes-Picot, the Middle East is in turmoil. These two things are intimately related. Mark Sykes was a British diplomat, François Georges-Picot his French opposite number. They gave their names to a secret agreement to carve up the decaying Ottoman Empire between Britain, France,

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A Volcano in Constant Eruption: Surviving the Hell of Verdun

One hundred years ago, in May 1916, the costliest, bloodiest battle of World War I’s Western Front – Verdun – had raged for three months without slackening. French and German troops marched resignedly into what they cursed as “The Furnace.”  300,000 lives would be lost in the 300-day ordeal. One

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Presidential Politics and the Symbolic Soldier

Jonathan H. Ebel—   “I felt that I was in the military in the true sense because I dealt with those people.” —Donald J. Trump   Every four years, presidential election cycles give Americans an opportunity to witness and to participate in sustained, often spectacular displays of civil religion. Campaign

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Americans Fight and Die in France in World War I

Edward Strauss— One hundred years ago, young Americans were fighting alongside the Allies in the trenches and No Man’s Land of northern France. America would not enter World War I until April 1917, and American forces would not fully engage in combat until more than a year later, in 1918.

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Who Were the Highland Soldiers of the British Army?

Matthew P. Dziennik— Close your eyes and try to conjure an image of an eighteenth-century Highlander. What comes to mind? Barren glens populated by windswept warriors, clad from head to toe in tartan plaids, highly skilled and heavily armed—and equally heavily bearded. Or maybe a diet of Hollywood movies and

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The Life of Louis Barthas

Louis Barthas kept vivid journals of his service as a French corporal in World War I. In honor of his birthday today, July 14th (which is also Bastille Day!), the following is an excerpt from the 1978 introduction to Poilu, his collected notebooks. Rémy Cazals— Louis Barthas was born on

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Winston Churchill’s Beach Reading: His Top Ten Books

Jonathan Rose— More than most politicians, Winston Churchill was an insatiable reader. He loved to schmooze with authors, and what he read profoundly shaped his political worldview. He never actually published a “Top Ten” list of his favorite books—but if he had, it might have been something like this: The

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Browned Off and Bloody Minded: The British Soldier in WWII

More than three-and-a-half million men served in the British Army during the Second World War, the vast majority of them civilians who had never expected to become soldiers and had little idea what military life, with all its strange rituals, discomforts and dangers, might entail. Alan Allport, author of Browned Off and

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Lessons Not Learned: Covert Operations since the Cold War

Karen M. Paget— While writing Patriotic Betrayal, which chronicles a major Cold War covert operation with the U.S. National Student Association, I began a file in which I collected evidence of renewed covert activities in the late 1990s. The newspaper clips came from different parts of the globe in little

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