inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #51 of 94: cyndigo (cynthiabarnes) Mon 28 Jul 08 11:20
    
My impression is that the bomber pilots got the tickertape and the
welcome home beers and the adoring lipsticked hordes. Digging roads in 
a place no one had heard of, not so much.

Brendan, how did you decide what factoids to put in notes and what to
include in the body of the text?
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #52 of 94: Brendan I. Koerner (brendankoerner) Mon 28 Jul 08 13:41
    
Yeah, I think there was a sense among the Ledo Road's builders that
they never got their due. That's largely because the China-Burma-India
Theater as a whole was largely off the public's radar on the
homefront--the media fixated on the drives toward Berlin and Tokyo, not
obscure construction projects in the Burmese sticks. It was difficult
for even the GIs themselves to grok why they'd been assigned to the
Road; imagine the shoulder-shrugging reaction from folks back home.

I wish I could say there was a science to my footnoting, but it was
really a gut-instinct deal. If I felt like adding an explanatory clause
broke up the flow of the writing, I'd just stick it at the bottom. The
first draft probably had about 50 percent more footnotes, mostly of
the random-trivia variety. My editor wisely pressed me to ditch the
most frivolous of these; several of them ended up as addendums to
endnotes in the back.

I wanted to add that I really meant for the endnotes to be read--not
only by professional historians, but also casual readers. I tried to
pepper them with lots of interesting facts--perhaps with mixed success,
but hopefully the effort shines through.
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #53 of 94: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Mon 28 Jul 08 15:35
    
I think you're right that the anti-lynching bill was more symbolic
than substantive, but it was exactly the sort of symbolism southern
Democrats did not want.  They believed in white supremacy first, last
and always and wanted absolutely not even the vaguest symbolic gesture
that questioned the validity of the system.  When you look at it
logically, it doesn't make any sense, but...

Reading about the battles between Stilwell and Chennault I get this
funny sense (which I think is basically correct) that one way to look
at the war is as office politics with mass slaughter.
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #54 of 94: Brendan I. Koerner (brendankoerner) Mon 28 Jul 08 17:05
    
The southern politicians of that era wielded disproportionate
influence, at least in the Senate. The body's longest-serving senators
were mostly southern Democrats (the majority party), so they headed all
of the most important committees. With that in mind, I can understand
the bind that FDR was in--the southerners (Mississippi's Sen. Bilbo in
particular) were steadfast against the anti-lynching bills as
infringements on "states rights." FDR had to pick and choose his
battles, I guess. But I still think it's valid to question whether he
caved on the lynching issue.

Love your line about office politics--how true, how true. Chennault
didn't strike me as much of a strategic genius, but he had the good
fortune to have dedicated his life to an emerging technology
(aviation). Stilwell didn't understand air power--he viewed it as
almost effete. He was wedded to this notion that planes were best used
as support for ground troops, and that airlifts could never replace
highways. Wrong on both counts, I'd say.

Speaking of effeteness, Stilwell's contempt for air power was matched
by his contempt for the British. He particularly disdained Mountbatten,
who he dismissed as a pretty boy with "nice eyelashes." As I note in
the book, Stilwell generally considered the British commanders to be
"treacherous pantywaists who'd rather look spiffy in their dinner
jackets than actually kill anyone." I bet part of that hostility
stemmed from the fact that the British recognized early on that the
Ledo Road was a gross miscalculation. Churchill himself put it best
when he termed the Road "an immense, laborious task, unlikely to be
finished before the need for it has passed." A tragically true
prognostication, as it turned out.
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #55 of 94: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 29 Jul 08 03:37
    
Brendan, the chronicles of WWII still gathering dust in obscure
libraries and fading memories must be stuffed with tales like Perry's
-- perhaps not as dramatic (there can be only one "greatest manhunt,"
after all), but nevertheless compelling and in some ways revealing of
still-contemporary issues. (Eastern Europe comes to mind.) Have you
thought about following "Now the Hell Will Start" with another book on
the war? 
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #56 of 94: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 29 Jul 08 05:27
    
Meanwhile, interesting and relevant news story in today's NY Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/29/us/29execute.html?th&emc=th
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #57 of 94: Brendan I. Koerner (brendankoerner) Tue 29 Jul 08 08:10
    
Steve, you read my mind. Book Number Two will, indeed, be largely set
during World War II. I can't reveal too much, as I've barely started
cracking on the research, but suffice to say that I got the idea while
working on "Now the Hell Will Start." I came across it while looking at
microfilm at the Library of Congress, and (as in Perry's case) I
couldn't believe that no one had ever written about it before.

My initial plan was to start working on the project in the late
spring, but fatherhood prevented that. To my great amazement, alas,
babies require a shocking amount of personal attention. Hopefully I'll
be able to carve out some research time this fall.

I noticed that piece about Pvt. Gray, too. The kicker to the story
really struck me:

"Among the issues, Mr. Fidell said, was the fact that Congress has
since required capital cases to be considered by a 12-member jury, not
the smaller ones that previously decided cases."

I discuss this in "Now the Hell Will Start"--the fact that current
military law requires that 12 jurors consider capital cases, rather
than the six who decided Herman Perry's fate. But I find it curious
that this is an issue in Pvt. Gray's case--from what I understood, the
12-juror requirement kicked in during the Korean War. I'd like to learn
more about the procedures used in Pvt. Gray's court-martial--is it
possible that the Army bent the rules, given that he'd already been
convicted in a civilian court?
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #58 of 94: David Wilson (dlwilson) Tue 29 Jul 08 11:40
    
re: <56> I read the article and was struck immediately by the photo of
a black man.  Is it the demographics of the military or a penchent for
executing blacks?  

Look at who is pushing the button.  Less than 6 months to go and he
wants to be known as the president who went the distance.
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #59 of 94: Brendan I. Koerner (brendankoerner) Tue 29 Jul 08 12:43
    
Excellent observation, David. 

During World War II, there was a clear and enormous racial disparity
in terms of how the death penalty was applied. Check out the following
passage from "Now the Hell Will Start":

"The Army would eventually execute seventy of its own soldiers in
Europe, primarily for murder, rape, or a combination of the two. Of
those seventy, fifty-five were black, despite the fact that African
American troops made up less than 9 percent of the Army. And of the
twenty-one executions ordered by General Douglas MacArthur in the
Pacific, eighteen involved black soldiers."

The most celebrated examination of this troubling phenomenon was
published in a 1996 issue of a journal called "Crime & Delinquency."
(The exact citation is in my book's notes section.) The author, a
criminologist named J. Robert Lilly, convincingly argues that if a
black and white GI committed the same violent offense, the former
soldier was far more likely to receive to be executed.

Today's NYT article mentions that there are six soldiers on Fort
Leavenworth's death row. I'd be curious to know how many of them (not
including Pvt. Gray) are black. 

As a side note, it seems that the number of black Army recruits has
fallen quite a bit in recent years--from c. 24 percent of raw recruits
in 2000 to around 15 percent today. Perhaps there is some correlation
between those tumbling numbers and a sense that African-Americans have
a harder time ascending the Army's hierarchy--see here:

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/07/23/america/Blacks-in-the-Military.php
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #60 of 94: cyndigo (cynthiabarnes) Wed 30 Jul 08 09:49
    
From the obits topic in the news conference:

Samuel Snow, 83.

seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/372373_snow28.html

During World War II, the black soldiers at Fort Lawton were housed in
segregated barracks near the Italian prisoners of war. After a scuffle
between a black American soldier and one of the POWs on the night of
August 14, 1944, a riot broke out, injuring dozens. The next morning,
one of the Italians was found hanged at the bottom of a bluff.

Forty-three black soldiers were charged with rioting, three of whom
also were charged with the murder. Only two attorneys were assigned to
the case and given two weeks to prepare. They were never shown an Army
investigation criticizing its own handling of the riot.

[Yesterday,] The wrongly accused men were publicly exonerated at a
tribute held in a meadow of Discovery Park Saturday near the former
Fort Lawton chapel and parade grounds. They were given honorable
discharges, their convictions set aside and their families awarded back
pay for the time they served in jail.

On Saturday, the U.S. Army awarded Snow an honorable discharge and
apology. He and other black soldiers were falsely court-martialed for
rioting and lynching an Italian prisoner of war at Seattle's Fort
Lawton in 1944.

Snow died this morning [Sunday], at 12:43 AM.
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #61 of 94: Gail Williams (gail) Wed 30 Jul 08 10:29
    
wow.
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #62 of 94: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Wed 30 Jul 08 11:46
    
Indeed. 
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #63 of 94: Brendan I. Koerner (brendankoerner) Wed 30 Jul 08 15:41
    
I've been following the Fort Lawton story for quite some time, and
this is a heartbreaking coda.

It's worth noting that Mr. McDermott would never have received an
apology without the efforts of Jack Hamann, the author of "On American
Soil." Much respect to Mr. Hamann for his efforts on behalf of these
wronged soldiers. It's all-too-rare that a journalist's efforts lead to
real change, especially when the events in question happened so very
long ago. I am in awe.
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #64 of 94: Brendan I. Koerner (brendankoerner) Wed 30 Jul 08 15:43
    
Pardon me, typo in my response--I meant Mr. Snow, not Mr. McDermott.
Apologies for the error. (It's been one of those days...)

On a related, totally self-promotional note, I'll be on The Colbert
Report tomorrow night. Alas, they're not bringing me on to discuss "Now
the Hell Will Start," but rather to talk about environmental science.
(Until just a few weeks ago, I wrote the "Green Lantern" column for
Slate.) I'll do my best to mention Herman Perry's tale, however.
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #65 of 94: Gail Williams (gail) Wed 30 Jul 08 15:54
    

>  on The Colbert Report tomorrow night

I want to know how or if he and his team coach guests about playing with his
in-character point of view!  A full report afterwards, please?
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #66 of 94: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 30 Jul 08 17:07
    

Yes!  In the meantime, we will be watching!  We also want a full report on 
the Green Room and swag.

And about Jimmy.
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #67 of 94: Brendan I. Koerner (brendankoerner) Wed 30 Jul 08 19:38
    
Will offer a full report--promise! The taping is at 7 EDT, and I'll
hurry home afterwards to offer my first-hand account--though, granted,
I may stop for a post-show pint or two before.
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #68 of 94: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 30 Jul 08 22:11
    

The pre-post post-show pint!

Looking forward to seeing the show.
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #69 of 94: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 31 Jul 08 16:25
    
I finally finished the book. I ended up staying up much of the night
reading it.  And congrats -- a few times a year I end up awake all
night reading, but 98% of the time it's because I'm reading a suspense
novel of some sort. Historical non-fiction, much as I love it, does not
generally find me reading until the sky is turning gray in the east.  

I recycle a lot of my books via the local library's donation bin, but
I'm holding on to this one, partly because I may want to read it again
and partly in case I ever decide to write general non-fiction myself. 
I've pretty much confined myself to technical/science writing up to
this point, but if I ever decide to branch out, I want to read this
again and see if I can figure out how you managed it.  You really did
an amazing job.

For what it's worth, I ended up feeling fairly sympathetic to Perry. 
Clearly, what he did was wrong, but just as clearly, he was caught in a
very unfortunate situation and I can see how he felt backed into a
corner.  It takes quite a leap of imagination to think of myself as a
Black soldier in WW II, but I could see myself doing what Perry did. 
I'm not saying I definitely would have done it, but let's just say I
can relate.

I also thought it was fascinating (in a grim way) that the vast
majority of soldiers executed during WW II were Black.  One of my
favorite musicians of all time is the jazz saxophonist Lester Young,
who served in the Army during WW II and came back a broken man who died
quite prematurely.  Reading "Now the Hell Will Start" gave me some
insight into what he might have faced during his service.

And I have to say that I love the story of the wealthy Englishwoman
who lived with the Nagas and described their way of life as being
superior to that of Europeans.  God bless people like that, and I
suspect I'd really enjoy reading her book.

I also enjoyed finding out that much of the country of the Nagas is
still fairly wild and beyond the firm grasp of nation states.  I have
always taken an interest in India (partly because I love cooking Indian
food), and as I read the last chapter of the book, I realized that
I've read a bunch of brief news stories over the years about the area
-- about how there are wild hill-country tribal areas above Assam and
that, as the expression goes, the natives are restless.

And finally, I'll make a random recommendation.  If you're interested
in the early/mid 20th century history and culture of India, you should
definitely try one of the books of Jim Corbett (now out in nice
affordable paperback editions by Oxford).  Corbett was a Anglo-Indian
who made a fascinating career out of hunting down tigers and leopards
who had discovered that humans are pretty easy prey.  In his later
years, he became a surprise best-selling author, but is now a mostly
forgotten figure.  His books are still incredible adventure stories,
and really give you a sense of what India was like early in the 20th
century.
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #70 of 94: Brendan I. Koerner (brendankoerner) Thu 31 Jul 08 18:14
    
So I just returned from The Colbert Report to find your excellent
post, Mark. Thanks so much for making it, and I promise to respond in
full tomorrow. A lot of points to address, and time's short
tonight--plus, to be honest, I'm completely knackered from the day.

As far as Colbert goes, I was blown away by the kindness and
thoughtfulness of the show's staff. Just an incredible group of folks,
and I hope I did right by them in my appearance. It airs tonight--lemme
know what y'all think. It's about environmental issues, not the book,
but Colbert was kind enough to give "Now the Hell Will Start" a
shout-out at the very end. He didn't have to do that, so I'm really
grateful.

I met Colbert briefly backstage, and gave him a signed copy of the
book. It was a little weird to meet him when he was
out-of-character--he basically just said, "I do the show in character,
my character is an idiot and you're the person who's supposed to set me
right." Beyond that, there was really no guidance.

The swag was pretty nice, and mostly food-oriented--a coffee cake(!),
a huge tin of Cafe Bustelo, Altoids, etc. The real keepsake is the tote
bag.

Mark, I'm only going to address your first point tonight--the one
we've discussed here previously, about whether or not Perry is a
sympathetic character. It sounds as if you and I share a very similar
viewpoint on the matter, as well as a similar approach to arriving at
the conclusion. I also tried to imagine myself in Perry's shoes, but it
was a real challenge--just such different life experiences. But those
mental exercises did help me realize how the disorientation of the Ledo
Road experience must have wreaked havoc on Perry's psyche. I mean,
here's a 20-year-old kid shipped to the far side of the globe, for
reasons he can't fathom. And when he gets there, he's thrust into this
alien, brutal regimen in which he was treated as less than fully human.

Does that excuse Perry's crime? Of course not. But as you point
out--and as Col. Cullum did, too, in his 1994 letter to Perry's
half-brother--any of us might break if cast into similar circumstances.

Anyway, more tomorrow, and thanks for the Jim Corbett rec. Off to have
a well-deserved glass of wine. (The post-show, pre-post pints thing
didn't work out, alas.)
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #71 of 94: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Fri 1 Aug 08 07:44
    
Brendan, in the book you write a comment about Major Cullum that I
thought was very interesting:

"When Cullum passed away at age eighty-nine, he did so believing that
he'd made peace with the Perrys. But [Celestine] Thompson [a niece of
Rev. Henry Johnson, Herman Perry's half-brother] was upset to learn
that Cullum had mistaken her interest in the case for an offer of
forgiveness. Herman's death still stings the Perrys, who feel the Army
has never satisfactorily explained exactly what happened in the
Indo-Burmese wilderness."

I wondered if the forgiveness was Cullum's own deep desire or if his
apparent misunderstanding about it results from a fundamental
difference in perception of certain issues by white and black Americans
(think of the OJ verdict) or a little of both. 
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #72 of 94: Brendan I. Koerner (brendankoerner) Fri 1 Aug 08 09:44
    
Mark, I'll be addressing your thoughtful post later today. But I first
wanted to tackle Steve's question about the passage he cites.

That's one of the paragraphs I wrote over and over and over again,
trying to strike exactly the right tone. It was tricky because Cullum
wasn't around to explain what he'd written regarding the meeting. I
interviewed his daughter, Kaye, who was present, as well as Ms.
Thompson. But when it came to Cullum's innermost thoughts, I could
really only go on the account of the meeting that he'd typed up in
early 2001. In that account he stated clearly that the Perrys harbored
no bitterness about what happened to Herman. (I'd have to dig up the
primary source to get the exact wording, but I know that "bitterness"
was one of the words he used.) I wish I could have followed up with
Cullum and gotten a better sense of why it was important for him to
make peace with the Perrys.

My gut tells me that your latter guess is the correct one. There's a
real Rashomon Effect at work throughout the book--the prime example
being how the Ledo Road's black and white soldiers viewed Perry in very
different lights. I think that effect continues to color the
perceptions of people intimately connected to Perry's tale--though I
should hasten to add that everyone I spoke with was supportive of
moving Perry's remains back to Washington D.C., in order to provide
some measure of healing to his sister.

Given who he was--an FBI agent to the core--I don't think Cullum ever
had any regrets about delivering Perry to the gallows. But I got the
impression--primarily from the letter he wrote to Perry's
half-brother--that Cullum was more deeply affected by the case than he
normally let on. As he said time and again, he felt a real kinship with
Perry, and that was because he recognized that any man might have
broken under similar circumstances. Cullum clearly recognized that
accident of birth played a huge role in shaping his and Perry's
divergent fates. As such, I have to say I really admire Cullum--he may
have exuded a very straitlaced, law-and-order persona, but he was
obviously a very deep thinker who understood the complexities of
morality. I lament the fact that he wasn't around to participate in
"Now the Hell Will Start."
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #73 of 94: cyndigo (cynthiabarnes) Fri 1 Aug 08 11:16
    
Brendan, I just want to say that I'm honored to be able to participate
in this ... it's truly an incredible story and, as you've said, a real
labor of love to see it told.
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #74 of 94: Brendan I. Koerner (brendankoerner) Fri 1 Aug 08 15:58
    
Cyn, thanks a million for having me. Having a ball here.

So, finally on to my reply to the remainder of Mark's post from last
night. Apologies again for the delay--was too exhausted to deal last
night, and it's been one of those crazy days.

I wasn't familiar with Lester Young's experience in the Army, but I'll
look into it. As I've mentioned before, I think disillusionment with
the military helped radicalize many young African-American during the
1940s, and eventually contributed to the rise of the Civil Rights
Movement over a decade later. I'd be interested in learning more about
that connection; for the moment, though, it's clear to me that the
hypocrisy of the Great Cause was apparent to hundreds of thousands of
black draftees during World War II. In a nutshell, how could they
expected to fight for the freedom of others while they were being
treated so disrespectfully back home?

I recommend Ursula Graham Bower's "Naga Path" if you'd like to hear
more about her tale. I remain fascinated by North-East India and would
very much like to visit again--particularly the more southerly regions
that I didn't have a chance to traverse. There is actually quite a bit
of racial tension between the Assamese and the so-called tribals of the
border provinces (such as Arunachal Pradesh). During my trip, for
example, we were unable to cross back from A.P. into Assam due to a
violent bandh, or road blockade, orchestrated to protest the movement
of tribals into Assam. At the same time, the border provinces (as well
as part of northwest Burma) provide shelter to insurgencies such as the
United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), which is basically a criminal
enterprise that conducts bombings and extortion in the Brahmaputra
Plains. 

Crazy stuff, even to most Indians--when I told people in Delhi I was
heading for Assam (never mind A.P.), I was universally urged not to go.
A lot of Indians are strangely prejudiced against their countrymen to
the northeast, and thus believe that the region is much more dangerous
than it really is. Still, I would advise caution to anyone interested
in visiting the area. It's a fascinating place, but be sure to plan
ahead.

Mark, I can't thank you enough for your kind words about my labor of
love. I'm thrilled that "Now the Hell Will Start" has earned a place on
your permanent bookshelf, and I hope you'll help spread the good word.
  
inkwell.vue.332 : Brendan I. Koerner, Now The Hell Will Start
permalink #75 of 94: Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 1 Aug 08 16:56
    

Thank you for the report, Brendan!  I loved seeing you on the show; I 
thought you were great.
  

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