Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Walt Disney Drove an Ambulance in the Great War and Timothy Leary was a West Point Cadet...

Really. It happened. Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, and Somerset Maugham were also ambulance drivers. The godfather of American Gothic horror, Edgar Allen Poe also walked the long, grey line at West Point. Thomas Ayres' collection of military trivia entitled "Military Miscellany" is a look at war-making through a different lense, one that runs from the heady days of the American Revolution to the dusty allyways of Falluja. Rarely too serious and just plain fascinating, the anecdotes are true insight.

Near the beginning of the American Civil War, Union and Confederate units shared a hospital at Chatanooga. Because the space was behind Union lines, all of the medicine - low in supply - went to the Yankees. For bad wounds, this usually consisted of chloroform and lint, the latter used to keep maggots out of cuts.

On the other hand, the Rebels, were left with nothing. Maggots were left to feed on wounds. Eureka. Curiously enough, Confederate wounds were healing faster than those of the Union. Although far from experts on bacterial infection, the Rebel doctors knew that the maggots were making a considerable difference.

When Union physicians were informed of the find, they remained steadfast, staying with traditional medicines.

Then there's the ghost fleet of July 26, 1942. A fleet of U.S. warships were operated near the Aleutians when their radar picked up large imagery, the inference being that this was a force of Japanese warships heading for the Japanese outpost on Kiska Island. For the next thirty minutes, the U.S. ships fired at the wouldbe enemy. When scout ships were sent out, they found nothing. There was no resolution. Radar officers speculated that it may have been the U.S. radar impulses reflecting off of Alaskan mountain peaks. If this is true, the fleet was actually firing on a reflected image of itself.

Oh, in the class of 1861 at West Point, finishing last in a class of 34 was George A. Custer. Not such a surprise when we look at the history of the Western U.S.

A young Walt Disney as a Red Cross volunteer in France, 1918.

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