16 June 2007

Publishing the Falklands

For a brief time in 1986, I worked on a partwork that at the time was notorious in the UK, The Elite. However, I had been working in the publisher's offices for about two years before that, including the time of its launch in 1985. At this stage, the first wave of books about the Falkands War had already been released. The non-official "official" history, by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins, had been out for about two years. Martin Middlebrook's book had been released after The Elite. A number of other volumes had also come out.

The mastermind of The Elite was Ashley Brown, who still runs his own publishing company; together with Adrian Gilbert, who did a lot of the commissioning of the initial issues; and a nervous wreck named Jonathan Reed, who was in direct control of the project, and threw himself into it with tremendous enthusiasm. They assembled between them an excellent set of authors for all the articles, among them Nick Vaux, a Royal Marine colonel who was writing his own account of the campaign.

At the time, we had a picture researcher working for us who had some claim to being the most attractive woman in the whole company. So, having read in the Hastings and Jenkins work that in his younger days Nick Vaux had "enthusiasm for high living and female company", I can report that in the prime of his life he still did - he always brought her a rose and treated her in a charming way that she noticed and appreciated. It was also generally agreed that he had written the best account of all the battalion commanders who wrote for The Elite.

12 June 2007

Terrorism Database

The Global Terrorism Database, funded by the American government, is kept by the University of Maryland. I'm adding it to my resources links on the right. Something like this would have been handy when I was in charge of an encyclopedia of terrorism, although maybe not as much as one might expect. Terrorism is a loaded word, and one must always bear in mind that terrorists believe they are combatants fighting a war. How, for example, should one treat the Colombian FARC, which conducts a guerrilla war? Were Native Americans fighting against settlers on the frontier during the American Revolution terrorists avant la lettre? A straightforward list of events isn't necessarily helpful, especially if it excludes things that could be characterized as terrorism. Is dropping bombs that miss a military target and hit civilians terrorism, especially if those civilians are supporters of the military effort of the regime they live under?

07 June 2007

Gulf Attack!

If the Iranians had to attack American warships in the Gulf, they seem likely to go about it by swarming attacks using 20 or 30 small motor boats. The article references the damaging of the USS Samuel Roberts in 1987, which is also mentioned in this analysis from 1999, although not much detail is added. The damage to the Samuel Roberts reflected the neglect of such unglamorous work as mine clearance by the US Navy at a time when operations were largely directed toward the submarine threat posed by the Soviet navy. The incident resulted in Operation Praying Mantis, of which there are some photos and a chronology here. Interestingly to me, the USS Samuel Roberts turned up in an operation mounted in 2002 against Ecuadorian shipping travelling in Ecuadorian waters. The objective seems to have been to interdict arms shipments to Colombian guerrillas, and the matter is discussed in this article in Spanish.

06 June 2007

World War II Victory Museum

Occasionally one hears about a museum one hadn't heard of before. This one is in Indiana. It appears to have a collection of vehicles, in addition to some general exhibits, and big expansion plans.

Silence is Activity

I've been busy writing an article for a magazine these past couple of weeks, linked to my theme on "Wilson's War", which is why it mysteriously ceased appearing on this site in mid flow. Normal service is now resuming.