There is an interesting twist to the selection of the subject for today’s column.
When I was selecting a subject for today’s column, I picked up a book titled History’s Worst Decisions and the People Who Made Them by Stephen Weir.
As I was looking through the book, I turned to the back pages and there it was: “To Paw — Happy 88th, Love you — Rob and Peg.”
Just recently I celebrated my 91st birthday.
Ellen’s and my son, Robert, died on robert mcgowanNov. 15, 2012, only a few months ago. The cause of death at age 64? Cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange when he was a U.S. soldier in Vietnam.
That is the subject of one article in History’s Worst Decisions. I never thought that I would have a son who would be the victim of one of history’s worst decisions. I feel certain that nether did Rob in the beginning, but as he gained military experience during the Vietnam years he probably had a change of mind.
I found the book on history’s worst decisions very interesting. The author lists 50 of what he considers history’s worst decisions.
I wish that I could claim a familiarity with most of the author’s selections, but I must admit that I can’t.
We are familiar with Gen. Custer and Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876. The author claims that Custer destroyed his own divisions to the last man and the repercussions destroyed the Lakota people.
The author writes: “Spurred on to commit one of the more famous acts of tactical ineptitude in history, a mixture of pride coupled with the ambition and arrogance prompted Custer to ignore his orders, the advice of his scouts, and believe the rhetoric of his leaders that the Lakota were not capable of putting up much of a fight. Details are hard to come by and much debated, but Custer essentially divided his forces in an attempt to make simultaneous assaults from either side of the encampment. However, in the face of a force at least three times stronger than his and under the able command of Sitting Bull, the coordination of the attacks failed. Every last man of Custer’s command was killed.”
Thus, Custer’s Last Stand became part of history.
And so it is with many of history’s worst decisions. We can remember, however, that answers are always easy after the event.
The author mentions the Maginot Line, which was built by the French after World War I in order to protect them from another invasion by German forces.
I remember walking within the concrete walls of the Maginot Line as a soldier in World War II. I can understand the thinking of Andre Maginot at the time of the construction of the vast concrete walls.
I can recall a sense of being overwhelmed by the vastness of concrete construction. But now it was World War II and it was easy to see the buildings in wrong places and of wrong types when fighting a different war. Incidentally, I remember that day as if it were yesterday.
General George S. Patton said, “Fixed preparations are a monument to the stupidity of man.”
Yes, History’s Worst Decisions is a fascinating book. And isn’t hind-sight wonderful.