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First things . . . Richard Falknor on 25 May 2014 06:32 pm

Memorial Day: Time To Reacquaint Ourselves With Our History

“We must abandon the naive faith that with enough money, education, or good intentions we can change the nature of mankind so that conflict, as if by fiat, becomes a thing of the past. In the end, the study of war reminds us that we will never be gods. We will always just be men, it tells us. Some men will always prefer war to peace; and other men, we who have learned from the past, have a moral obligation to stop them.” —Victor Davis Hanson

Barbary Wars 1804: Navy Lieutenant Stephen Decatur Boarding Tripolitan Gunboat by DM Carter. (Click on image.)

Barbary Wars 1804: Navy Lieutenant & Eastern Shore Native Stephen Decatur Boarding Tripolitan Gunboat by DM Carter. (Click on image.)

Conservative thinker Victor Davis Hanson wrote in his “Why Study War”  (click here)–

“Military history teaches us about honor, sacrifice, and the inevitability of conflict.”

Classicist and historian Hanson explains –

     “democratic citizenship requires knowledge of war—and now, in the age of weapons of mass annihilation, more than ever.”

But, says professor Hanson here, about today’s widespread absence of college courses in military history–

“Those who want to study war in the traditional way face intense academic suspicion, as Margaret Atwood’s poem ‘The Loneliness of the Military Historian’ suggests:
‘Confess: it’s my profession
T
hat alarms you.
This is why few people ask me to dinner,
though Lord knows I don’t go out of my
way to be scary.’”
Chosin Reservior:Chinese Prisoners

Chosin Reservoir: Chinese Soldiers Taken Prisoner by the U.S. 7th Marine Regiment, December 9, 1950, Photo by Sgt. Frank C. Kerr/USMC/National Archives and Records Administration via Encyclopaedia Britannica Online

Much of this we posted last Memorial Day. Today the pillars of our culture are under even greater siege. As time passes, our military and constitutional traditions seem more frail, in large part because too few Main Street Americans have been taught them in any serious way. 

Perhaps this 2014 Memorial Day can be a time for conservatives to contrive ways to restore the study of our military history, our Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers to taxpayer-supported curricula.  Surely no one should leave high school today without the grounding that Americans of 1914 had in these basics of self-government.

Too great a task to fight the Education Cartel and local school boards?  Vastly easier than the one these brave Americans faced in Korea at the Chosin Reservoir in December 1950.

Where To Continue, Or To Begin Our Study?

For citizens and teachers in universities, in high schools, among home-schoolers, and in all walks of life– scroll to the bottom of Hanson’s City Journal article here to read his helpful guide –

  “Studying War: Where to Start”
“While Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War, a chronicle of the three-decade war between Athens and Sparta, establishes the genre of military history, the best place to begin studying war is with the soldiers’ stories themselves. E. B. Sledge’s memoir of Okinawa, With the Old Breed, is nightmarish, but it reminds us that war, while it often translates to rot, filth, and carnage, can also be in the service of a noble cause. Elmer Bendiner’s tragic retelling of the annihilation of B-17s over Germany, The Fall of Fortresses: A Personal Account of the Most Daring, and Deadly, American Air Battles of World War II, is an unrecognized classic.”

To understand how the American constitutional system – the commander-in-chieftaincy of the U.S. president – can work effectively in wartime, the narratives on Abraham Lincoln in Eliot A. Cohen’s Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime (another Hanson recommendation) are eye-openers even for those otherwise knowledgeable about American history.

In addition to Hanson’s magisterial list, we would recommend two challenging books–

Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully;
The Blitzkrieg Myth: How Hitler and the Allies Misread the Strategic Realities of World War II by John Mosier.

 In our view, the study of war, together with our Constitution, is a lifelong march for citizens, but one essential to the freedom of our Republic.

 * * * * * * * * * *

Readers may wish to visit these earlier Memorial Day posts –

Memorial Day 2011: Honoring A Fading History?
To Keep Faith, We Must Teach Our History
Telling the WWII stories of so many valorous Americans | Scroll down to update!
Bataan Airfield 1942. 24th Pursuit Group. P-40E Warhawk.

Philippines. Bataan Airfield 1942. 24th Pursuit Group. P-40E Warhawk.(Click on image.)

“We’re 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 give a damn
Nobody gives a damn.”
–Frank Hewlett 1942

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