ASK THE SMART GUY: Monthly column by Dennis Latham.
Young Hero. The photo shows young Dennis Latham as a U.S.Marine during combat in Vietnam.
This month the Smart Guy ponders military history. We always read about heroic
battles and the glory of war. Daily existence during any war can be full of
oddities, most of which are never reported. The sample chapters below contain two examples of military
history you will never find in the books.
The first is Chapter 14 of the novel Sissy Creek: The U.S. Civil War Battle No One Mentions
The second is Chapter 9 of the novel A Crappy War: Hannibal Crossing the Alps.
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he gave valuable info and counsel from his expert researches to thousands of U.S. military veterans. Any now-defunct links are of historical value only; contact info deleted in website renovation. [JTC 2021]
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Short Excerpts from Books You’ll Never Get To Read
Or: War and Plumbing
Ed. Note: Literary buffs will recognize a literary technique used by the great Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986). Rather than write long works amid failing eyesight and other problems, Borges often wrote fictional short stories supposedly about encyclopedias that never existed, and other important gates of Virtual Reality. Mr. Latham here used a similar technique to good effect (humor). [JTC 2021]
From the novel Sissy Creek: The U.S. Civil War Battle No One Mentions
Captain Thornwhistle checked his troops behind the
barricade. Satisfied his men had stowed their weapons, he glanced over the wall
as Rebel troops, also without weapons, came in perfect file toward his Union
"Okay, men, get ready," Thornwhistle said. "We'll show these Rebs we can beat them even without firing a shot."
His men tensed, awaiting the
assault. Thornwhistle raised his telescope and checked the rows of enemy
troops. He saw his counterpart, Captain Wienerhauser. They had shared quarters
at West Point and were Regular Army, not mere inductees. Wienerhauser had
defected to the Confederate side. They would now have to face each other to see
who was the best. Thornwhistle lowered his telescope, saluted Wienerhauser, and
motioned his men up over the wall.
"Can I go pee, sir?" a
"Stow it, private. I won't have
any slackers. Up and over that wall, now."
Yelling and screaming,
Thornwhistle's troops rushed toward the Rebels. Both Rebel and Union lines
stopped mere inches from each other.
Then, the Rebels began the exchange.
"Yankees is big blue
dummies," one Reb said, amid cheers from his regiment.
"Rebs got cotton balls," a
Yankee sergeant cried, and the Union troops cheered.
Thornwhistle shook hands with
Wienerhauser; a thrill rushed through his groin as their hands touched.
"Great way to fight a war, huh,
"You know it, Thorny."
"It's been a long time."
And they strolled off to be alone as
their troops continued exchanging verbal blows.
"Rebel girls got southern bells
in their heads."
"Is that your nose or a bayonet
and luckily, nothing further of note happened at Sissy Creek, which is why the event (more of a meeting than a battle) is not usually related in popular, non-technical or non-academic history books. Somewhat similar note for the story that follows. [JTC 2021]
From the novel A Crappy War: Hannibal Crossing the Alps
The army had reached the snow line north of the Alpine Mountain
range, on the way southward from Gaul into Italy, when suddenly the column stopped. Word of trouble was passed back and the General came forward. He yelled and swore and pushed his troops aside as he
moved forward toward the source of the delay.
"Get that damn animal moving, soldier," the General yelled to the man perched on top of his mount.
"I can't, General. It won't budge."
Swearing, the General stepped behind
the stalled pack animal and shoved. Suddenly, there came a loud, gushing, splat
noise, and the General was covered with what could be described as a ton of
runny, stinking feces.
The troops began laughing and the
column had to make camp on the spot so the General could take a bath. He could
be heard yelling as he moved back toward the rear of the column.
"I told that idiot back in Carthage that I
wanted horses, not elephants."
For Hannibal, an elephant with a gastric problem
created a logistical nightmare.