Friday, December 31, 2010

A Man for All Seasons

December 31st is the birthday of one of the greatest Americans of the 20th Century.

George C. Marshall was born in 1880 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.  He attended the Virginia Military Institute, graduating in 1901 and then competing for and winning one of the few coveted officer commissions reserved for non-West Point graduates.  In virtually every assignment Marshall stood apart from his fellow officers, exhibiting a keen military mind and outstanding leadership traits even as a junior officer.  One of his peers, observing the young Lieutenant Marshall direct what was essentially a regimental-level exercise in the Philippines commented to his wife "Today I watched the future Chief of Staff of the Army at work".

Few people understand that the US Army didn't just magically appear on the battlefields of WWII and decisively defeat the Germans and the Japanese.  The foundations of the American Army that won WWII were set years before Pearl Harbor by George C. Marshall.  It started in the trenches of WWI, where a dynamic young Marshall was assigned as the G-3 (Operations) of the 1st Division and later the Assistant G-3 of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF).  Marshall saw first hand the devastation and human suffering caused by a stalemated war that had devolved into static trench warfare, and the effect that poor leadership and poor military decision making had on units and individuals.  He learned those lessons well and carried them with him as he moved up in rank and responsibility.

Between 1918 and 1939 Marshall had a number of assignments that, in retrospect, were key to his success as Army Chief of Staff.  The first was his assignment as Aide-de-Camp to General John J. Pershing.  One of Marshall's roles in this assignment was in helping General Pershing compile the Army's official history of its involvement in WWI.  Marshall was able to spend time studying the broader issues that impacted America's involvement in the war, particularly in the areas of training, leadership, military force structure and industrial readiness.  By this time Marshall was already thinking at the strategic level and he understood that the core issues of WWI had not been settled with the armistice.  He concluded that America would probably be at war again on the European continent within the next 30 years.

Marshall's next key role came in 1930 when he was assigned as the Assistant Commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia.  Marshall turned the Infantry School into a laboratory, investigating and testing new tactics and force structures.  Marshall understood that mobility and firepower were the keys to success on future battlefields, and he put sharp young officers like Omar Bradley, Joseph Stillwell, Walter Bedell Smith and Matthew Ridgway to work revamping Army doctrine to reflect this new thinking.  Out of this work came the concept of the smaller, more agile triangular division with more organic firepower, motorization (the horse was about to be left behind), improved communications using the newfangled radio and the integration of armor and air support into a 'combined arms' concept.  What is fascinating is that advanced military thinkers in Germany were working along the exact same lines, developing the concept of 'Blitzkrieg' - the lightning war spearheaded by fast moving armor forces.

After the Infantry School Marshall was assigned as Commander of the 8th Infantry Regiment in Georgia.  During this assignment he was also appointed as the district military commander for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  Most military professionals resented being 'stuck' with the CCC responsibility by President Roosevelt, but Marshall understood that the CCC would provide vital experience to Army junior officers and NCOs.  In future wars involving mass mobilization officers and NCOs would need experience in routine tasks like receiving, housing, training, feeding, moving, caring for, accounting for and employing large groups of young men.  The CCC role provided just this experience, and Marshall embraced it.

Marshall's next assignment (1933 - 1936) seemed to him, and his peers, as banishment to the wilderness.  A petty and vindictive Army Chief of Staff, General Douglas MacArthur, had Marshall assigned as the senior advisor to the the Illinois National Guard.  Apparently MacArthur was upset at Marshall's support of the CCC program (something MacArthur hated and fought endlessly with Roosevelt about).  The politically connected Illinois National Guard wanted a talented Regular Army officer to be assigned as advisor, but National Guard advisor positions were viewed by the Regular Army as something second-tier officers got stuck with.  MacArthur saw this as an opportunity to placate the Illinois politicos and send Marshall a message.  In typical Marshall fashion he made full use of the assignment, evaluating the National Guard from the inside, developing a keen understanding of their training and readiness and mapping out the political sub-structure that supported the National Guard systems in most states.  This understanding would be critical when Congress federalized all National Guard units for integration into the Regular Army after Pearl Harbor.

After the National Guard advisor position Marshall was promoted to Brigadier General and went on to command the 5th Infantry Brigade in Washington State and more CCC involvement.  By 1938 the threat of war in Europe was again looming and Marshall's talents were finally recognized at the national level.  He was pulled to Washington D.C. to head the War Plans Division.  In 1939, on the recommendation of the outgoing Army Chief of Staff General Malin Craig, Marshall was promoted to four star rank and appointed Army Chief of Staff by President Roosevelt.  I consider it one of Roosevelt's most prescient moves that he recognized Marshall's talents and promoted him over dozens of other Army general officers with more seniority.

Finally, George C. Marshall's experience and skills were turned to what he had been anticipating, yet dreading, since 1918 - preparation of the US Army for global conflict.  With the foundations in place and solid support of the President, and Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Marshall set in motion his plan to prepare the Army for modern war.

The new Chief of Staff understood better than anyone that the next war was going to be fought by young Americans who were not just citizen soldiers, but they were the sons and husbands of American citizens and as such deserved to be led by the very best.  Yes men would die, but they should not die needlessly or because of a failure of leadership or training.  It was the Army's responsibility to provide the very best officer and NCO leadership and training possible.  Towards that end, Marshall cut a wide swath through the Army, firing or retiring hundreds of senior officers who were too old, too out of shape or just plain incompetent.  (One politically dangerous move was his firing of virtually all National Guard division commanders soon after their divisions were federalized.  He realized from his National Guard advisory experience that these commanders were little more than political hacks and were not up to commanding divisions on the modern battlefield.)  At the same time Marshall reached down into the Regular Army officer ranks and pulled up dynamic young men he knew could perform.  Virtually overnight talented officers like Omar Bradley, Mathew Ridgway, Mark Clark, Walter Bedell Smith and Dwight Eisenhower found themselves jumping rank and position on the fast track to senior command or staff positions.  As an example, in early 1941 Omar Bradley was promoted directly from Lieutenant Colonel to Brigadier General, bypassing the rank of Colonel.  A year later he wore two stars and was commanding the 82nd Infantry Division (before it was designated an airborne division).  If General Marshall knew you and you measured up to his exacting standards you could expect fast promotions and increased responsibility.

General Marshall also revolutionized the Army machinery that created small unit leaders.  Prior to 1940 you could still become an Army officer by direct political appointment or even election or acclimation by members of the unit (this is how Harry Truman got his commission in WWI).  While this system only existed in the National Guard system at the time, it was still viewed as a viable method of obtaining a commission.  Marshall put an end to all that and standardized policies and procedures for obtaining officer rank in the Army.  He also knew the Army's demand for unit leaders at the platoon and company level would be almost insatiable and the existing commissioning programs, West Point and ROTC, would not meet the demand.  Marshall also knew that the Army already contained a vast pool of potential officers - the enlisted ranks.  Every day thousands of young men were volunteering or were being drafted who had some college experience and would make excellent officers.  Marshall directed the establishment of the Officer Candidate School (OCS) program at Fort Benning.  Following a curriculum developed by General Omar Bradley the OCS program took talented and educated enlisted men and turned them into Second Lieutenants.  This program was so successful that it became the primary commissioning source for the US Army in WWII - far surpassing the numbers of officers generated out of West Point and the college-based ROTC programs.

Even as Army Chief of Staff, General Marshall never lost focus on or sight of the individual soldier.  Immediately after Pearl Harbor his advisors notified him that no more silk would be imported due to the war with Japan (the world's major producer of silk).  Silk was now classified as a strategic material and it was up to Marshall to determine how the Army's share of it would be used.  There was a lot of demand for silk - for use in uniform neckties, socks, flags, pennants, even as powder bags for artillery ammunition - and it was clear the available supply would not last long.  Marshall directed that the available silk be reserved for just two uses - as parachutes and as award ribbons.  The General understood that award ribbons were important to the soldier.  They were (and still are) the Army's visible recognition of service and valor, and those little bars of silk would end up meaning a lot to the millions of soldiers just entering military service.  Award ribbons made of dyed cotton or wool look like junk compared to silk, and Marshall knew that.  The soldier deserved the best, and only silk would do for this important purpose.  With the development of nylon for use as parachute canopy material early in the war virtually the entire Army stock of silk ended up being used for the production of award ribbons.  General Marshall knew it would be important to the common soldier, so it was important to him.

George C. Marshall, like Cincinnatus, wanted nothing more than to retire and live out the rest of his life as a gentleman farmer and historian.  On November 18th 1945 he retired as Chief of Staff of the Army and he and his wife fled to their small estate in Virginia.  The most powerful military figure in the world finally found peace and pleasure in puttering around his house, painting shutters and planting shrubbery.  Less than ten days later he received a personal phone call from President Harry Truman asking him to become his ambassador at large and travel to China to try to untangle that growing mess.  Marshall's sense of duty would not allow him to say no, and he was launched on his second career as diplomat, Secretary of State and father of the Marshall Plan which financed the reconstruction of Europe and ensured that Western Europe remained free of Soviet domination.

George C. Marshall died on October 16th, 1959 at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.  I have been told that at the announcement of his death grown men, many of them with stars on their shoulders, broke down and cried.

In my estimation George C. Marshall is the key figure in the story of America's success in WWII.  General Marshall is the reason we fielded the excellently trained, equipped and led armies we did between 1942 and 1945.  More than any one person he was the architect of America's victory in WWII and shaped the free world that came after.

He was the indispensable man.  The man for all seasons.


Farewell Kodachrome

The last roll of Kodachrome color slide film was processed yesterday.  Kodak abandoned (yes, abandoned) the iconic film format in 2009, and the last Kodachrome film processor, Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kansas processed the last roll yesterday.

I am sure there are thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of exposed yet undeveloped rolls of Kodachrome film laying in camera bags, desk drawers, automobile glove boxes, purses and  odds 'n end boxes around the world.  They are images lost.  Almost.  Apparently Film Rescue International in North Dakota will process exposed Kodachrome film into black and white prints.  Better than nothing, I guess.

Farewell old friend.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Which Way North? (Part II) - The Pocket Transit

In Which Way North? (Part I) we discussed the history of the magnetic compass and talked a bit about magnetic declination.  Now let's start looking at some specific compass designs and discuss why they were important.

To start we'll look at a compass design that is uniquely American and was born of the late 19th Century explosion of mining and mineral exploration in the US.  This compass was originally conceived to fit a very specific need, but it was so well designed and executed that it found use in a wide variety of applications and industries.  It continues to be produced today, over 100 years since its introduction and little changed from its original design.

The Brunton Pocket Transit was patented in 1894 by David Brunton, a Colorado mining engineer.  Brunton was frustrated by the number of survey instruments a mining engineer and geologist had to carry around with him (and I say 'him' because mining engineering and field geology was an exclusively male profession well into the 20th Century).  In the late 1800s it was not unusual for engineers and geologists doing basic exploratory mineral mapping to lug around full sized survey transits, surveying compasses, tripods, clinometers, and plane tables. These instruments offered a high level of accuracy that simply wasn't needed for exploratory surveys.  As an engineer himself Brunton realized that what was needed a portable device that allowed field survey personnel to do fast and accurate exploratory quality surveys without being burdened down by equipment that was heavy, expensive and difficult to set up and use.  These men were in the business of discovering, verifying and mapping mineral deposits that covered vast areas.  Huge sums of money were at stake as mining and mineral companies scrambled to secure valuable leases on the stuff that was fueling America's exploding industrial economy - timber, gold, silver, coal, iron ore, chromium, nickel, bauxite, petroleum and dozens of other minerals that were key to America's growth.  Field engineers and geologists needed to move fast, do rough mapping and get that information back to the office for the development of lease maps and boundary descriptions.  They didn't need to be burdened with heavy, sensitive and fragile survey gear if that level of accuracy wasn't required.  David Brunton recognized the problem and set to work developing a solution.

What Brunton came up with as a pocket-sized device that incorporated an accurate magnetic compass with a sighting vane, a clinometer, a level and a large mirror with a sight line.  Housed in a machined aluminum case (still an expensive material in the late 1800s), it was rugged, reliable and useful.

Brunton named his instrument the 'Pocket Transit', a lofty title for a fairly rudimentary mapping device.  But the name served its intended purpose; in the mind of the engineer and geologist it set the device apart from the common handheld compass.  Here was a professional instrument that offered a level of accuracy and functionality not found elsewhere.

Brunton's 1894 model Pocket Transit

Brunton had more than marketing on his side.  The Pocket Transit actually delivered where it mattered - in the field and in the hands of engineers and geologists across North America.  It delivered all the functionality and accuracy needed to get the job done.  It ended up being the perfect device for the job at hand.

Demand for Brunton's device increased steadily and improvements were introduced.  An additional bubble level and a cover mounted peep sight were added in 1912.  In the same year Brunton introduced modifications to the case that allowed mounting the instrument on a non-magnetic tripod or jacobs staff.  (It's interesting that in his 1894 patent application Brunton derided other compass designs that needed to be tripod mounted, but in the 1912 patent application he discusses tripod mounting like it's the greatest idea since sliced bread.)  Somewhere between 1894 and 1912 the Pocket Transit acquired the ability to pre-set magnetic declination by use of an adjustment screw on the side of the case.  By 1926 Brunton's design had fully matured with the addition of a bullseye level for improved leveling and the addition a percent grade scale to the clinometer.  From this point forward it was minor improvements in materials, manufacturing techniques and the added availability of different compass ring layouts (degrees, quadrants, mils, etc.)

A 1926 patent model of the Brunton  Pocket Transit.
Note the round level and the percent grade indices
at the bottom of the clinometer scale.  This is the basic
design still in production today.

One of the reasons Brunton's pocket transit was
so damned useful is that he made it a complete package.
Early in the production of the pocket transit Brunton started
engraving sine and tangent tables on the lid.  Using these
tables in conjunction with the clinometer an engineer could
quickly and accurately determine heights of objects like trees
or cliff faces.  To this day Brunton includes the sine and
tangent tables on the lids of all pocket transits.
So damned useful!

From the beginning David Brunton licensed the Colorado instrument maker William Ainsworth & Sons to produce the pocket transit.  After Brunton's death in 1927 Ainsworth purchased the manufacturing rights to Brunton's designs and continued manufacturing and improving the Pocket Transit through the late 1960s.  In 1972 the production rights and the Brunton name were purchased by the Brunton Company of Riverton, Wyoming.  The Brunton Company continues to manufacture this basic design.

The Brunton design was so well thought out that engineers and geologists quickly developed field techniques keyed to the Pocket Transit's unique layout and construction.  The best example is the determination of the strike and dip of rock formations.  Most sedimentary and metamorphic rock formations are not horizontal.  They were all deposited in horizontal layers but over geological time (i.e., millions of years) those horizontal layers have been warped and deformed by pressure and other geological forces.  One of the keys to understanding these forces is mapping the strike (the horizontal angle of deformity) and dip (the vertical angle of deformity) of individual rock layers.  Before the Brunton Pocket Transit the measurement of strike and dip was a clumsy process involving two separate devices - a field compass (often a fairly large and somewhat fragile device) and a clinometer.  With the Brunton the process is quick and simple - open the instrument and lay it horizontally against the rock formation.  Keeping the edge of the instrument in contact with the rock face rotate it up and down slightly until the circular level is centered.  Note the magnetic azimuth as indicated by the compass needle.  That is your strike.  Score a line on the rock face horizontal to the pocket transit using a piece of chalk or small piece of rock and remove the pocket transit.  Make another score mark that is perpendicular to the horizontal mark you just made (your mark should look like a 'T').  Place the Pocket Transit along this perpendicular mark and measure the angle of slope using the built in clinometer.  This is your dip.  It takes longer to describe than it does to do it in the field.  This is the standard measurement technique for strike and dip, and every college and university geology department in North America teaches it as part of their field geology curriculum.

From the University of Calgary website.  Measuring the strike
of a rock formation using a Brunton Pocket Transit.

From the University of Calgary website.  Measuring the dip of
a rock formation using the Brunton Pocket Transit.

My introduction to the Brunton Pocket Transit came in the mid-1970s while studying geology in college.  We learned strike and dip measurement techniques early on in the field methods class, and later during our summer field geology course we ranged across the southwestern United States, making thousands of strike and dip measurements in an effort to understand the geologic processes that formed the unique landscape of that region.  I saw the Pocket Transit as a useful but fairly limited device, suited only to the field geologist.  Years later while attending a course at the Defense Mapping School at Fort Belvior, Virginia, our class got an intensive block of instruction on the use of the Pocket Transit not just for strike and dip measurement but for height determination, precise azimuth determination, basic plane table survey work and rough site layout.  I finally saw the full potential of the Pocket Transit and purchased my first one soon after.  That Pocket Transit has seen service in Kuwait, Honduras, Panama, Germany, Bosnia, Korea and across the US.  It has been a constant companion on hundreds of field surveys, assisting with tasks like mapping out refugee camps on the Empire Range area of the Panama Canal Zone, measuring road grades along the Pan-American Highway in Honduras and fixing North Korean observation point locations along the Korean DMZ.

The Brunton Pocket Transit doesn't measure horizontal angles as well as a conventional transit, it doesn't measure vertical angles angles as well as a theodolite, sextant or even an Abney hand level.  If you need to shoot azimuths using handheld techniques the Army lensatic compass is a better tool.  However, the Pocket Transit does all of these tasks well enough, and puts everything needed into a compact, easy to carry package that really does fit into your pocket.  (In his patent application David Brunton noted that the instrument fits nicely into a vest pocket - therefore the name pocket transit).

Let's have a look at some Brunton Pocket Transit variations (click on the pictures for an enlarged view):

This is a modern incarnation of the Pocket Transit - a glass filled composite
body version.  This particular Pocket Transit is almost 20 years old
and has been used around the world, and it still looks new.

This is a particularly nice WWII era Pocket Transit manufactured in 1943.
This model is graduated in mils (6400 mils in a circle).  Designated the
M-2 Compass, it was designed for use by artillery troops who need a more
discreet subdivision of the circle for accurate artillery gun laying and spotting.
A variation of this model is still used by the US Army and USMC today.

An early induction dampened model graduated in degrees

A nice post-war model graduated in quadrants instead of degrees.
Most early Pocket Transits were sold with the quadrant setup rather than
degrees.  The use of quadrants was the accepted method of noting direction
within the engineering and geology community up through the 1970s.  Brunton
still sells a modern version of this layout, but it really is useless for general
navigation purposes.  If you want to do land navigation with a Pocket
Transit get the model laid out in degrees!

As you can tell, I think the Brunton Pocket Transit is a nifty little tool.  But it is not a novelty, not something to be put on a shelf to be admired.  The Pocket Transit is designed and built to be used.  It represents American ingenuity at its best.  From 1894 on the Pocket Transit ended up being used in all corners of the United States, doing useful, often rough duty helping to map American and her natural resources.  Rugged, reliable, useful.  American to the core!


In writing this blog post I relied heavily on several sources that I feel need to be acknowledged.

First is William Hudson's excellent website About Brunton Pocket Transits.  Mr. Hudson's site is the most complete compilation of information about Pocket Transits on the web, and should be the starting point for anyone interested in finding out more about these great little devices.  Thanks you Mr. Hudson.

Next is Dr. Peter H. von Bitter's article The Brunton Pocket Transit, A One Hundred Year Old North American Invention.  Originally written in 1995 for the journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the invention of the Brunton Pocket Transit, von Bitter's article forms an excellent short history of the man David Brunton and his famous invention.  Thank you Dr. von Bitter.

Although not source, there is an scanned copy of a 1913 Ainsworth bulletin available on the the Surveying Antiques website.  This bulletin describes the various ways to hold and use the Pocket Transit and is an interesting overview of the instrument and its uses.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It Was A Dawg Day!

Two Georgia Dawgs!  Aileen Haren, BA, Ed and
Roberta Haren, M, Ed (both 2010 grads)
Aileen graduated yesterday from the University of Georgia with her Bachelor of Arts in Music Education.

Congratulations Beanie!  We're all damned proud of you!

That makes two UGA grads in one year.  I think that entitles us to free UGA football season tickets, doesn't it?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Book Of The Month for December 2010 - 'US Army FM 21-26'

An Army field manual as a book of the month?  Just how interesting or relevant or important can a field manual be?

Well follow along, because for certain groups of people this FM is very interesting, relevant and important.

FM 21-26, Map Reading and Land Navigation is the Army's map reading and land navigation handbook.  This manual has been in continuous publication and upgrade since 1941.  The current edition is dated 2005, with changes posted in 2006.  As part of a sweeping Army field manual re-designation the manual has been renamed FM 3-25.26*.  Regardless, it is still commonly referred to as FM 21-26, and that's how we'll refer to it here.

The Army seems to have adopted standard map reading and land navigation practices back in 1939, and published its first series of map reading and land navigation manuals in early 1941 (FM 21-25, Elementary Map and Aerial Photograph Reading and FM 21-26, Advanced Map and Aerial Photograph Reading).  Prior to 1939 map reading and land navigation was viewed almost as a black art, covered in non-standard texts targeted at officers and emphasizing field sketching and rudimentary survey as much as map reading and navigation.  A large part of the problem was that the Army had no map standards or centralized map production, so providing maps for unit operations was a local commander's headache.  If you were a regimental commander and wanted a map of an area you put your regimental engineers to work either finding suitable maps from local or commercial sources, or you had them drawn up from field sketches or plane table surveys.

Army leaders realized that in the looming global war the old ways of producing and using maps would not do.  The Army needed dedicated map production assets that could produce millions of maps using common symbols, colors and scales.  This led to the creation of the Army Map Service and the standardization of map production on a global scale.  Once you had map standards in-place and maps in production you could develop standardized map reading and land navigation practices using these new maps.  FMs 21-25 and 26 were the result of that effort.  Finally, the Army had standardized map reading and land navigation texts it could use to train the millions of Soldiers about to be drafted into the Army to fight WWII.

After WWII, the establishment of NATO and the US Army's realization that it would still maintain global warfighting responsibility the two field manuals were combined into one - FM 21-26, Map Reading, published in 1956.  The significant change in this manual was the introduction of the Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) based on the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) coordinate system.  The development of UTM and MGRS signified a revolution in mapping and mapping grids.  For the first time an army had an accurate low distortion world-wide grid system suitable for large scale mapping.  With MGRS and using just a paper map and a simple protractor a Soldier could uniquely identify his position anywhere on the face of the earth to within 10 meters.  MGRS is accurate, easy to teach, easy to use and virtually 'soldier-proof'.

Updates to FM 21-26 came out every few years and the major changes seem to have been the simplification of basic principles and techniques, and the dropping of out-of-date or no longer needed procedures (like interpreting hatching to indicate landforms or the use of obsolete equipment).

Today's FM 21-26 is map reading and land navigation distilled down to the basic, easy to learn and easy to execute functions.  It is not just map reading, but it is also the use of map substitutes (mainly aerial and satellite images), dead reckoning, field expedient direction finding, basic orienteering, terrain association and basic field sketching.  One key item of note is the Army's method of teaching how to determine the magnetic to grid declination factors.  The lesser or greater angle method is hands down the easiest way to manage this often confusing issue.

Sure, FM 21-26 has a military focus.  It is, after all, an Army field manual.  The book spends a lot of time discussing the use of the MGRS system, how to orient, plan and navigate using MGRS.  It's MGRS, MGRS, MGRS.  For years civilian students of map reading and land navigation had no use for this portion of the manual.  Topographic maps of the US either had no grids or had grids different than the MGRS grid, and US-based maps were printed at scales different than those used by the military.  This has all changed.  In just the past few years the US has (finally!) adopted what is known as the US National Grid.  The US National Grid is now being implemented for all USGS (US Geological Survey) large scale (1:24,000 and 1:100,000) topographic line maps, and the USGS is rushing the new US Topo series of maps into production.  So what is this new US National Grid?  It is nothing more than MGRS implemented for all USGS topgraphic maps of the US.  Remember, MGRS has always covered the world, but the US military does not produce maps of the US - that's the job of the USGS.  The MGRS grid template always existed for the US, but the USGS never adopted it.  Until 2008, that is.  Driven by homeland security and disaster relief coordination concerns the USGS formally adopted MGRS, known as the US National Grid in the US, and is now producing maps to that standard.

Suddenly the discussion of MGRS in FM 21-26 becomes very relevant.  All the MGRS-based map reading techniques can now be directly applied (and are intended to be applied) to the new USGS topographic maps.  The only remaining issue is that of scale.  The US military produces large scale maps at 1:50,000 while the USGS produces large scale maps at 1:24,000.  While all the MGRS techniques apply to USGS maps, you can not use the standard map protractor (GTA 5-2-10) discussed in FM 21-26 since it does not have a 1:24,000 plotting scale included.  This isn't a real problem because a number of manufacturers offer MGRS/US National Grid plotting scales for use with 1:24,000 scale maps.  One of my favorites is the Super GTA tool produced by

Another great thing about FM 21-26 is that it is one of the few Army field manuals authorized for unlimited release.  This means the Army retains the copyright to the manual, but users are free to copy, reprint and distribute it without penalty.  As a result you can find free downloads of FM 21-26 all over the web and you can purchase inexpensive printed copies from retailers like

So, if you like maps, are interested in map reading and land navigation, or have just a passing interest in these topics go get yourself a copy of FM 21-26!


*The new designation of FM 3-25.26 seems a little unusual in the overall scheme of revised manual numbering.  I'd like to think that someone in TRADOC with a respect for military history recognized the significance of the original series of manuals, FM 21-25 and FM 21-26, and as a nod to tradition decided to redesignate the new manual as FM 3-25.26.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Date That Will Live In Infamy

We didn't ask for it, didn't instigate it and didn't want it.

But three years and eight months later we sure as hell finished it.

My salute to those that served on that fateful day in December, 1941, and to the millions that followed them into battle around the world to give us the liberty and prosperity we enjoy to this day.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lasting Impressions

Roberta and I were having lunch today in our favorite BBQ joint (Cafe Pig in Peachtree City, Georgia - their BBQ beans are a food group unto themselves, and they are one of the few places left that know how to do pan cornbread).  As we were talking I looked up at the bric-a-brac on the wall and noted a copy of a painting of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  It was the painting that was being worked on the day of his death in Warm Springs, Georgia - April 12, 1945.

Unfinished Portrait of FDR by Elizabeth Shoumatoff.
FDR was sitting for this portrait at Warm Springs on April 12, 1945
when he complained of a terrific headache and then collapsed.
He died later that day of a cerebral hemorrhage.
A copy of the painting still sits in an artist's easel in the
living room of the Little White House, as though
waiting for the subject to come back to finish the sitting.

Roosevelt was a blue blooded patrician from the Hudson River Valley, a member of an extensive family that traced its roots back to the earliest Dutch and Huguenot settlers to establish a foothold in the New York region.  One of his cousins, and his personal hero, was Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, commander of the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War and later the 26th President.  Born into privilege and wealth, and blessed from birth with family connections that could have carried him anywhere in the Republican political world, FDR chose instead to run as a Democrat.  In his first political foray in 1910 - a run for New York State Senator - he sensed correctly that Democrats were poised to take control of the New York statehouse. This began his lifelong political career as state senator, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Vice Presidential candidate, Governor of New York and, ultimately, US President.

FDR's life history is probably one of the better known and studied among US presidents, and for good reason - the length of his presidency (12 years), his personal struggles with polio, his efforts to pull the US out of the Great Depression, his struggle to maintain neutrality in the face of mounting world crisis and, ultimately, his leadership in WWII all leave plenty of rich pickings for historians.  FDR also had the good fortune of being in office just as broadcast radio emerged as a reliable and widespread communications medium, and he used it skillfully to take his message directly to the American people.  For many Americans in the 1930s FDR was the first President they ever heard speak live, and through radio they heard him often.  That high, nasal patrician voice gave comfort and reassurance to millions of Americans struggling to just survive.

FDR was an extremely skilled politician, manipulator and chameleon.  He played his audiences like a finely tuned musical instrument, and he was rarely off key.  It has been said that an FDR appearance was like grand theater, and when you met him one-on-one and got the full 'Roosevelt treatment' you came away awed by the experience and the man.  It also left historians with a virtually endless treasure trove of radio broadcasts and newsreel footage with which to balance the often dry recitation of a presidential administration as evidenced by the paperwork it left behind.  Unlike any President that came before, the modern media of radio and film allowed Americans to view the President as a human being, not a figurehead.

Yet I am of two minds when it comes to the FDR as President.  I greatly admire his foresight and leadership in WWII.  His early (and probably illegal) efforts to skirt the US neutrality acts ensured that Britain survived until America's entry into the war.  FDR also brought the full weight of his political and diplomatic skills to bear on pre-1941 efforts to expand and modernize our armed forces in preparation to face what he saw was America's inevitable involvement in WWII.  I don't think any other individual could have done a better job at the time.

On the other hand, his undisciplined tinkering with the US economy and his administration's abandonment of free market principles certainly extended the Great Depression.  Everything his administration did between 1933 and 1941 only served to stifle US economic growth.  Many economists today reluctantly admit that had Roosevelt simply left the economy alone and allowed the free markets to correct themselves the economy would have rebounded much faster than it did.  In the end it took a world war to pull us out.

FDR also kicked off an expansion of the federal government that continues unbridled to this day, although I'm sure he would be appalled at just how big, how far reaching, how intrusive and how liberal the federal government has become.

But all this is neither here nor there in relation to today's posting. Our lunch today reminded me of the the impressions FDR directly made on the State of Georgia.  When you travel through west central Georgia, from just south of Atlanta to Columbus, you travel through FDR territory.  The story of FDR's legacy in Georgia is one of the fascinating back-stories of history.

In 1921 FDR was struck down by polio.  His search for a cure, or even moderate alleviation of his symptoms, led him to the resort of Warm Springs, just outside of Pine Mountain in Georgia.  At the time he discovered Warm Springs in 1926 it was a small resort that had seen better days.  Using his personal fortune and political influence he built Warm Springs into a leading hydrotherapy treatment center (and it remains a leading paralysis treatment center to this day).

But to FDR it became much more than just a place to find a cure.  He fell in love with the Warm Springs/Pine Mountain area.  It was a place he could find relief from the pain and crippling effects of polio, it was a place where he could work his personal magic by encouraging fellow paralytics, it was a place he could be himself without any pretensions.  He wasn't 'Governor Roosevelt' or 'President Roosevelt' to the hundreds of kids who came to Warm Springs for treatment.  He was simply 'Mr. Franklin', a fellow polio victim who encouraged them, cajoled them, played with them in the pools, shared their joy when treatments worked, kept their spirits up when treatments failed.  He helped pay for their treatments, sponsored parties and picnics, took them on drives through the countryside and up into the mountains.  He was one of them, in body and spirit.  Many observers note that at Warm Springs FDR was truly himself.

FDR was so in love with Warm Springs that in 1932 he built a cottage there that became known as the Little White House.  This is where FDR stayed whenever he was in Warm Springs.  Significantly, Eleanor Roosevelt hated the place and only visited once or twice.  This meant that the Little White House became a place of solace and refuge for FDR.  It is where he went to escape the pressures of the Presidency and WWII.

FDR's Little White House, and it is little!  Three small bedrooms, a small
kitchen and a living room, but a wonderful porch with a great view.
It is amazing to think FDR would run the country from this small
cottage for weeks at a time.

But FDR did more than just drop in to Warm Springs and the Little White House for treatment.  He was too much of a politician to just soak in a pool for a few hours.  He needed to get out and get around, see what the people are doing, get their stories.  He had a compulsive need to press the flesh.  And he did it from the drivers seat of his car.

FDR would roam Meriwether County, driving his specially modified Ford.  He would stop and talk to local farmers, sharecroppers, laborers, store keepers, politicians, anyone who wanted to chat.  White or black, it didn't matter.  He would listen to their problems, issues and concerns, and he turned much of what he learned from those conversations into programs through New Deal legislation.  FDR's roamings were so extensive that even today it is easy to find people around Pine Mountain and Warm Springs who remember being held up by their parents as they chatted with the President or climbed on the running boards of his car as he stopped in town.  It seems at one time or another about half the residents of Meriwether County claimed to have spoken with, had lunch with or had a drink with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Recently I went fishing with a group of friends on the Flint River which runs close to Warm Springs.  Our guide told us the story of his grandfather, a county official back in the late 1930s, who was out with a road maintenance crew one day when FDR, driving alone, raced up to the group and came to a sudden stop.  "Jack, is that you?  Jack, I'm looking for some whiskey and I know you can tell me where to find some!"  Jack, our guide's grandfather, had met FDR during some of his previous outings and gave the President quick direction to a local moonshiner's house.  As FDR pulled away he gave a wave and with the characteristic FDR grin shouted, "Boys, I'd like to stay and chat, but my Secret Service detail is right behind me and I don't want them to know what I'm up to!"  And with that the President of the United States sped off down the road in search of corn likker.  Moments later a convertible full of Secret Service agents raced by as the maintenance crew pointed down the road in the direction they sent the President.  A true story?  Who knows, but it reflects the relationship the region had with the 32nd President - a rich and powerful yet friendly and unpretentious character who needed Warm Springs as much as the town and region needed him.  The two came to love each other, and Warm Springs and Pine Mountain claimed FDR as one of their own.

While the Pine Mountain region is rich with stories of FDR, he also left a physical legacy.  First and most important is the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation.  The institute continues to operate today, providing treatment and support for up to 5,000 patients a year.  Next is the Little White House.  When Roberta and I visited it a few years ago I was very surprised to learn that the Little White House and surrounding grounds are not part of the National Park Service.  The property is owned by the Warm Springs Institute and is run by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.  The Warm Springs Institute maintains the house as it looked the day FDR died.  It is easy to see why FDR loved it so much - it is a small and unpretentious structure, comfortable and comforting.

Even more personal for our family is a location called Dowdell's Knob on Pine Mountain.  The knob offers a beautiful view into the King's Gap region of Pine Mountain, and the location was one of FDR's favorites.  It became his favorite picnic spot, and he had a stone picnic grill built there for his personal use.  Dowdell's Knob is also one of the last places FDR visited, stopping there just two days before his death to spend some quiet moments alone before heading back to the Little White House and the war business that awaited.

Dowdell's Knob is so charming and has such an intimate connection with FDR that our daughter Elizabeth chose it as the site of her wedding last December.

The Bride, Groom and Flower Girl at Dowdell's Knob

The State of Georgia commissioned a sculpture of FDR to be placed at Dowdell's Knob, and the artist did a wonderful job of creating an intimate portrait of the man as he was when visiting his favorite spot - comfortable, causal and accessible.

The Mother Of The Bride spending a few moments
with Franklin at Dowdell's Knob.
Watch that hand!
 I like to think that FDR was there in spirit on the day our daughter was married, sitting in his car, cigarette holder in his mouth, his old comfortable Navy cape around his shoulders, grinning the famous FDR grin as the family gathered by his picnic grill to celebrate.  He certainly would have been a welcome presence, since this was his Warm Springs, his Georgia.