SGT Waldrop’s Camera

Sgt. Waldrop‘ s Camera

Brandon Bledsoe

2/12/2019

On the 29th of January, I went to look at a lot of vintage cameras for sale on facebook market place. I had been watching it for a bit, and the seller had been bringing the price down over several weeks until I finally went to have a look. I was interested in one in particular, a Rollei Magic missing it’s name plate. I wanted to know which model it was, maybe I could give it to my son who also enjoys using film. The rest of the lot looked like it was mostly junk, but still interesting enough for me to go and see.

The Rollei Magic turned out to be the wrong model, and I almost told the man that I was not interested. The cameras were in two big plastic tubs, mixed in with tons of loose AC adapters, lens hoods, speaker wire, cheap computer speakers. It was basically the detritus that gets passed from junk dealer to junk dealer, with some cameras mixed in. However, I decided it would be courteous to have a look at the entire lot. I began sorting them, telling him what was broken, thinking that if nothing else, I could buy the working cameras for less. I found some things, put them aside, and then I pulled out an unassuming and slightly battered little box. I recognized it as a folding camera from the 1930s. I was intrigued, figuring that it was probably some kind of Kodak model, but the writing on the back said that it was a Zeiss Ikon Nettar, Bob 510/2. I was not familiar with that particular model, but the name Zeiss Ikon I did know, and I decided to pop it open and see if it worked. I first checked the front, the camera came out, the shutter mostly worked after being stuck for a bit. Next I decided to check the inside. I opened it and noticed first the wooden film spool inside on the film side.

For those not familiar, this type of camera uses 120 type film. 120 is a medium format film, still in use and commonly available today. I had some sitting in the freezer at home and had a couple of rolls waiting to be developed. When you load 120 film into a camera, there must be an empty roll in the camera for take up. 35m film winds into the camera, and when the roll is finished, it is released and the user winds it back onto the cartridge it came on. 120 film only goes one way, and is protected from light by a black paper backer rather than a cartridge. The film is placed in the bottom, and the end is loaded onto an empty roll on the top, and as you shoot, it winds onto the old roll. When finished, the roll that the film came on is moved from bottom to top, and awaits the next roll. Many photographers move it when they take the film out, a good habit for being ready.

The empty wooden spool was on the bottom, where it would have been with film coming off of it. There was no take up spool in the camera. The Second thing that I noticed was on the inside of the door. Etched in rather neatly in my opinion, were the words, “SGT Curtis E. Waldrop Tendon, France October 8, 1944.”

That alone convinced me to buy the lot, as the man wasn’t breaking it up, I needed to take that camera home. Once I came home I began my research into this G.I., and a simple google search found a Kerrville Mountain Sun article from 1990. In it, I learned that Curtis Waldrop had been a part of the 143rd Infantry, a Texas National Guar unit, that his battalion was the first one on the beach in Salerno, and that they had entered federal service in 1940. (1)

Using that information, I looked up the 143rd infantry, and found a brief history of their very extensive service in World War II, courtesy of the Texas Military Forces Museum. (2). You may read the full story if you wish, but in short, in that region of France, the 143rd had already been in three major battles, and were still made to push on. They were fighting a determined and prepared enemy, and in October, it took them three weeks to move seven and a half miles.(2)

According to the Museum, all they wanted was some rest, but rest was not to be had.(2)

Turning my attention back to the camera, I decided to track down a manual for it, as I have learned the hard way that small things can completely ruin a photo. Fortunately, cameramanuals.org is a very nice place and they happened to have just what I needed. It was then that I noticed an anomaly. The manual, being for the exported version of the camera, kept talking about the focusing ring being in feet.(3) This would make sense, except that the camera I bought, is in meters. Meters, not feet.

Starting here, I must do a bit of hypothesizing based on the evidence. I make it clear that I have only what is before us to go on. The cameras were made in Germany starting in 1936.(4)

If what I have learned about them is correct, then meters would indicate a German camera, not one of the exports to English speaking countries. There are plenty of ways that SGT. Waldrop could have gotten that camera, but the inscription in the back is indicative of when and where. If he did not get the camera on October 8, 1944 in that particular region of France, then why scratch that specifically into the back? I know personally that men brought things home, trophy’s from the enemy. I had two great grandfathers in that war, one who fought and one who fixed tanks, specifically he was glad he did not fight. However, both men brought home enemy Lugers, amongst other things. Without fighting my great grandfather Bledsoe was able to bring home an enemy weapon, trophies were plentiful.

I do not know what SGT Waldrop’s job was specifically, so I can only work from the default idea that he was infantry and did fight, but I make no assumptions about what he did or did not do in the war, but I do speculate that this camera belonged to a Nazi soldier and that it was collected by SGT Waldrop. I imagine that he carved his name and the other information into the inside with a knife on the day that he got it. Even murkier is the question of, who was the last person to use it. The empty film spool was in the position of feeding out film, not take up. The film that was last in it could have gone anywhere. If it had been the film of a Nazi soldier, which is feasible, the camera was an entry level model, easily available to even a soldier of the time, then I would say the film was disposed of any number of ways, having been anywhere from pocketed, left in the mud, or given to someone as collected intelligence.

However, the film could have even been last used by an American, as the films metal ends say “ANSCO film.” ANSCO was an American company, which had been acquired by the German firm of AGFA in 1928.(5). This tells me that film could have been used by an American or a German as I have been unable to determine which brand was sold in which country, it could have been both in all markets. What does need to be noted is that upon America’s entry into the war, with Hitler having declared war on the United States, ANSCO was seized by the U.S. government as an enemy property.(5). If ANSCO was still sold in Germany in 1944, then it probably would have been older stock. I do not know how long companies kept film on shelves back then. I believe it would have been black and white film, due to the camera it was in, and who would have been paying for it. Black and White is fairly shelf stable, most of what I have expires in 2022, giving it a best by of four years, as it is mostly from 2018. The film is a dead end. I originally thought that if it had been American film, it would have been on a metal spool, but I later learned that America was using wood again, with metal going to the war effort.

What I do know is that the engraving done by SGT Waldrop is in a place that would not normally be open to be scratched on. In that place should be a metal plate. The purpose of that plate is that it keeps the film in place. Film, even when pulled taught, needs something to hold it in place for the purposes of focusing. When a camera is focused, it is not enough that the lens is focused, but also the film must be the correct distance from the lens for that focus to produce a correct image. The film plate is not present, and could not have been in place when the carving occurred. I do not know where it is, or when it came out, but it had to be out when he carved his inscription. It could have been put back after that, the metal tabs to hold it are still there. I cannot say what happened to the plate, but I think perhaps, he took it out to make his inscription and could not get it back into place, or simply did not mind, that he did not intend to use the camera, film would probably have been hard to come by, as military supplies were difficult for that region at the time. Really, for all that I know, he could have put it back, used the camera quite a bit at home, and it was lost later, but I do not believe so. I think that the last user, was the original owner, but I have little evidence in that way, and all that I do have is put before you.

Either way, I talked to a friend of mine, and he had the idea that if the camera had belonged to a Nazi soldier, and if that person was the last to use it, that I should make the first photo I took on it ( the fact that I was going to use it was never in question) something significant. I did some more digging and was able to determine that SGT Waldrop, having passed in 1991, the year after the article about his unit and their reunion was written, and had been laid to rest in Kerrville, Texas, barely an hour from San Antonio, where I lived at the time. I cleaned the camera up as best as I could. The lens is dirty on the inside, and after minor attempts to get to it, I gave up for fear of making it worse. I made a new plate from a cut up capri sun box, and I drove the camera to Kerrville, so that the first photo could be of the grave of the man who brought it home.

His grave, (and that of his wife) is at the bottom of the photo, partially cut off on the left, and with my Subaru Outback ruining the shot. As you can see, I forgot about the parallax, and so what I thought to be a shot dominated by the grave and foreground is really a large shot with the grave barely in the foreground. Also, my plate was a bit thick, so the film was scratched on the way through (the black lines running the length.). The camera only has four shutter settings, 1/25th of a second, 1/75th, Bulb (open as long as your hold the button) and T, which I figured is like bulb but it opens with one depression and closes with a second. To today’s film, these are all pretty slow. The fastest is 1/4 of a second and for reference with 400 ISO film, my go to film especially for a cloudy day, it would be much too slow, only 1/60th of a second is needed to avoid camera shake, and really the light meter was saying 1/250th. 1/4th was just too slow, and the shutter was prone to sticking on that one, so I went the other way, I loaded Ilford Pan F, a 50 ISO film, and decided to work in whole seconds. Turns out, even on a day that is rainy, this region of Texas has a lot of light, and I did not have whole seconds to work with, so I did my best. Two out of the eight shots were usable, the rest were very overexposed, but I only needed one to accomplish my mission.

That is my story of SGT Waldrop’s camera. I have not contacted the family, as I do not feel the need to. Firstly, I have made no claims on SGT Curtis Waldrop other than the fact that he was a soldier who was in a particular region of France at a certain time, which has been proven. My speculations about the camera are my own, and make no assertions on him whatsoever. As for the idea that they could help the story, I am not sure they could, I got the camera from a picker, who got it from another picker. I think that as they things normally go, that it was cleared out as part of the estate in 2016, and has worked it’s way around to me. I feel that had they known, or if it was significant, then it would not have been there. I do not feel the need to bother these people. I will continue to use the camera, mostly near dusk or on very overcast days. I put some camera seal foam on the metal, hoping to alleviate the scratches without causing a new problem. My wife thinks the more things I introduce into the camera that were not supposed to be there, then the more that will go wrong, and she is most likely right. I hope you have enjoyed this little story, and if you have some evidence to contribute, please do.

I thank SGT Curtis E. Waldrop for his service and time spent fighting against the Nazi menace. As a veteran myself, he is my brother, but I am not able to stand in the shadow of those who fought in that war.

For me, this whole thing was what it is all about. I found a real thing, that belonged to a real person and went hunting for the story, and in the end, added to it myself. The camera did not find it’s way to a dump for an ignominious end, but instead it lives on. I’m rather certain that Sgt. Waldrop’s family remembers him, but now so will I, he has taken a step towards immortality.

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage

1.https://www.newspapers.com/image/?spot=3611596&fcfToken=754c746a666c474c4f4a4a6631593551333148366463333566456d70506543337a4a66336e5050726a6f6659745a7a7939524656786277754c67723243747478

2.http://www.texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org/36division/archives/france/hyman4

3.http://www.cameramanuals.org/zeiss_ikon/zeiss_ikon_nettar_02.pdf

4.http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Zeiss_Ikon_Nettar

5. http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Ansco

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Transport and Telecommunications: Stamps of the Soviet Union, 1983

This stamp is most likely titled “Transport and Telecommunication.”  It was issued May 20th 1983.  There is not any text to translate, remembering that почта means is the word for “post” or “mail” and can be found on every stamp.  

    It is a part of the 12th definitive issue, which ran from 1976-1992.  Definitive issues are kind of an odd thing that should be addressed now.  They were supposed to be the pride of the Soviet Post, representing the proud symbols of the Soviet Union.  The part that makes them odd is that the stamps stretch across multiple years.   This stamp certainly fits the theme of globalization with these symbols, the passenger jet liner, the ship, and the bolt for electricity being over the globe.  

    It has a face value of 5 kopeks, and is part of the 1983 series despite the 1982 in the top corner, which I cannot explain.  It may be listed wrong on colnect.com, or it could have been delayed in being issued due to being part of a definitive issue.  

    The other notable feature is that the stamp is tiny.  I put it next to several objects, not having any coins handy, to give a scale.  

12th Definitive issue of The Soviet Union

What is in your pencil’s history? (National Pencil Day)

Today is National Pencil Day, and the pencil is by far the analog center of the savage’s world.  It is the thing in my pocket, that makes me use my notebook, that contains my entire world.

There will be a lot about national pencil day, but it seems the reason for the day (or at least being observed today) is because March 30, 1858 is when the United States first granted a patent for a wood cased pencil with an eraser on top.  I have seen various explanations for why pencils are usually yellow, and the one we will be going with is that it was to copy the Koh-I-Noor Hardmuth, but that is for another day.

My National Pencil Day bit will be about the pencils made by Mitsubishi.  Can you believe that these pencils are linked to the cause of the Korean War?

Now that you have read that outrageous and unnuanced claim let us get to the meat of it.  This will be a historical post.  In the interest of it not being forever long, it will be written in broad historical swaths.  If you would like to know the rest, I can provide it.  This is not meant to be a scholarly article, it is a blog post, but the history is good.

When people see my Mitsubishi pencils they say something like, ” Wow…Mitsubishi makes everything…”  That statement is not that far from being true, they do make an uncommonly large variety of products.  Off the top of my head I can think of they produce cars, television sets, pencils, microwaves, etc.  People do not seem to notice this until they see a pencil with the Mitsubishi brand.  When I hear this I show them the date (1887) on a pencil and embark on my little story.

In the late 19th century (1860s) Japan made the transfer from isolationist pre-industrial nation to effective imperial and industrialized nation.  Japan had seen the success and power of industrialized colonial powers and it was decided this was the way forward for Japan, constitution and all.  The Japanese had a large goal, to industrialize and catch up enough to be competitive within around twenty years.

This was a lofty goal indeed, but the Japanese pulled it off, remeber the Mitsubishi name is marked as established 1887.  Part of their method was to allow (again I am being broad here) wealthy families to invest massive capital into the hopeful national industries, in return, these families would hold pseudo-monopolies over the industries.  These families were the Zaibatsu or financial clique.  Similar to the early LLC of the United States if an example is needed.

Japan succeeded and by the late 1904 were able to defeat Russia in a war.  Later the industrialized and conquering Empire would take control of Korea.  With the Empire’s defeat in World War II, a power vacuum was opened in Korea, and like Germany, was essentially divided between the United States and The Soviet Union to sort out what should be done to fill the vacuum.  The Soviets set up the communist north, and the U.S. the anti-communist south.  The rest is history.

Now who could have known that all that history was contained in these tiny wooden pencils.

I hope you have a very good National Pencil Day, and that perhaps this is your chance to rediscover what is in my opinon, the best analog tool, the wooden pencil.

Ganger-Bjorn, The Analog Savage

Postage Stamps of the Soviet Union: 1983 Part 1

It is time to start the next thing I want to do in this blog.  I once read a blog about blogging, that said your blog should aim to help the reader, to teach them something.   Well declare, that at this point, I often as not, have very little to share about pencils as far as information goes.  Only my non-graphite groupie readers (love you guys as you are usually my IRL friends) so that stuff will still happen, just not in the same way.  Also I will be depending on all of you to help me launch the super secret second phase of all this that I have cleverly named, “Phase 2.”

However, I do have something to offer that is new and fresh for many readers and might even gain me a few new ones.  I give to you…

The Stamps of the Soviet Union

que The Best of the Red Army Choir

 

     As always, the first entry will offer a word of explanation.  I have always enjoyed postage stamps and most things to do with the post office as far as I can remember.  My Grandparents, and in small bursts, my Mother all worked at our local post office.  The post office of Soddy Daisy was such a second home that you used to be able to bring kids while you sorted mail, and people helped you out.

I was one of those kids.  As far as I know I really may have been the only/last one.  This is my favorite photo of this place.  It opened in 1983 and my Grandmother started there in 1985, two years later, I was born.  My Grandmother retired in 2011, My grandfather retired from here as well, but my information on his dates is sketchier and I am not going to text him all day for it right now.  Let us just say this place is as tied to the Ganger’s family as the name Bledsoe.  In 1998 the postal service was preparing for the year 2000 and celebrating the 20th century and the stamps that were in it, aptly titled, Celebrate the Century.  They held an essay contest and I won for my region, writing about either classic movie monsters, or comic strips.  I forget which.

The results are the same either way.  I was encouraged to collect stamps, and encouraged by the influences of my Great Aunt and Uncle, I studied the Soviet Union.  One night I was sitting there looking at Stamps when I had a “Eureka!” moment.  I had long operated under the assumption that commies would not be stamp collectors.  It seemed like something they would not be into…Until I asked myself what are stamps?  Stamps are state produced memorabilia that often feature symbols of national pride.  I texted my friend Carl, and my wife “WHAT IF THERE ARE SOVIET STAMPS!?!?!?”  Their reactions were similar to each other “…oh god…”  A little investigation and I not only found them, but I found out how to collect them.  Now I will share them with you, a few at a time, in series of a particular year.  I may skip dull ones, or lump them all together.

It turns out the Soviet Union produced on average 120 stamps a year, and they are amazing.  They are art.  I have been researching them bit by bit, and have helped to correct the one website that I have found useful.

We will be starting with the year 1983.

1983:

  • ARPANET becomes TCP/IP and the Internet begins
  • Fraggle Rock came out
  • Seatbelts became mandatory in the United States
  • Salem Nuclear Plant experienced a failure of the automatic shut down
  • Kursk Nuclear Plant shuts down due to fuel rod failure
  • A young Samantha Smith is invited to the USSR by Yuri Andropov
  • Return of the Jedi debuts
  • Margaret Thatcher and her government are reelected
  • Ronald Reagan is President
  • Yuri Andropov leads the USSR
  • Sally Ride is the first American woman in space
  • Embalse Nuclear Power Station experiences a coolant loss (seeing a pattern?)
  • The Famicom (Nintendo Entertainment System) goes on sale in Japan
  • The Sri Lankan Civil War begins
  • A Korean Airlines flight is shot down by the USSR killing 269 including a U.S. Senator
  • GPS is made available for civilian use
  • Guion Bluford becomes the first African American in space
  • Stanislav Petrov averts a crisis by recognizing that a radar alert is not a U.S. nuclear attack
  • The Beirut Barracks bombing occurs
  • Invasion of Grenada
  • Martin Luther King Day is signed existence by Reagan
  • Able Archer 83, NATO exercises interpreted by the USSR as an attack, *The Last Cold War scare
  • South Africa approves a new constitution
  • Chrysler creats the minivan with the introduction of the Caravan
  • The IRA bombs Harrod’s in London
  • The McNugget is introduced

I wish I had all day to talk about the 1980s, but I do not.  I am fascinated with this decade.  I have picked this selection of events to give a taste of what was going on.  The 1980s were a time of flux.  The Cold War was still tense, but it was dwindling.  A word of warning: I subscribe to the John Lewis Gaddis school of thought, The Cold War was won by the West, and that is a good thing.  Anyhow, racial, gender, social issues of all kinds were changing.  Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher would thoroughly end détente, and see the beginning of the end of The Cold War.  While the Soviet Union was stagnating, the United States was arguably doing well.  Video games were not only common but 1983 saw a video game crash.  If you want the full general article of the year, check out 1983.

For our purposes 1983 is the first full year of Soviet stamps I purchased.  I did this because it was the year my wonderful wife was born.  Let us get right down to some stamps.  From henceforth the posts will only be this long (hopefully) when it is time for a new year, and not even then, because you don’t always need to hear about how I came to love stamps.

Cosmonautics Day 1983

Cosmonautics day, to the rest of the world International Day of Human Soace Flight (which the stamp essentially says) was instituted in 1962 the year after Yuri Gagarin went up.  It is celebrated, somewhat quietly it seems, to this day.  This stamp features an image of Soyuz-T
The text inside the emblems essentially says, “International Manned (space) Flights,” with the emblem saying “Interkosmos.”  Some things to notice for the future.  Notice the obvious monetary denomination in the upper left of the actual stamp, the large 50.  Most stamps are in Kopeks, but the word почта means mail or post, and will be on every stamp.  So the denomination will be accompanied by the words “USSR Post.”  Below the capsule are the words “12 April- Space Day.”


A note on translations, I am doing them myself armed with a need to learn Russian, starting with the alphabet, which I learned, but am using this to exercise it, and a Russian dictionary to translate words.

If the ring of emblems is observed it can be surmised that Interkosmos gets one every year, and that the middle one is the latest.  Some of the others have the flags of other nations, some have years.

These stamps are incredibly detailed, showing even the cosmonauts inside the Soyuz.
This is one of my favorite parts of this stamp.  It means exactly what it looks like, these are the words “Soyuz” and “Apollo,” and they are symbolic of the cooperation between the Cold War enemies working together to advance space research.  There will be more about that at a later time.

This piece, despite the work that went into it, is much more straight forward.  This is the International Philatelic Exhibition 1983, called “Socphilex-83.”  This stamp is a mini souvenir sheet.  The words at the top are the name I gave you, the bottom is the title, and the symbol at the bottom says Moscow.

The exhibition was in Moscow, October 1983, and had the aims of exhibiting and fostering international cooperation and friendship in efforts to continue peace and ease the threat of nuclear war.  I feel like that symbol at the bottom is in line with that.  I am not going to cite that explanation as I do not feel the need to type in Russian, but I will link you a Russian page on the matter, here.

Summary: As I said, everything was in flux, and despite Western leaders snuffing détente, The Soviet Union was beginning to see that it would have to play nice, so to speak, and that if it was to survive it would need the international community.  Both of tonight’s examples, I believe, are evidence of this.

The Cold War: A New History,By John Lewis Gaddis

**REVIEW AFTER THIS LONG INTRO AND PICTURES**

This blog entry will be my first post in quite a while as I let all extra things drop off during a school semester.  As you can tell from my earlier posts, I enjoy book reviews, and since I had to do one for school this semester, I will post that here.  The book was The Cold War: A New History, By John Lewis Gaddis.  Gaddis is, in my opinion, the historian of the Cold War currently and this book should be required reading for anyone entering the modern American history or Cold War history fields.


My copy, as you will see has seen a little time in service.  I bought it for an assignment, we were told to pick a book dealing with the topics at hand; the class was U.S. history 1945 to present, and themes were plentiful, but the professor also had a list available for us.  I am a Cold War junkie, and at the top of the Cold War pile sat this gem.  Our second son was born during this semester, and the professors were all very understanding and accommodating, thank you Framingham State University.  However, you cannot stop all work for two weeks and still come out on top, so this book was my reading material while in the hospital.  Whether it is due to being an excellent work on my favorite topic, or because it is now sentimental, it will be found on my shelf.

 

Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin Press, 2005.

 

In The Cold War: A New History, John Lewis Gaddis has created a concise history of the Cold War for a new generation of readers, synthesizing the already available work on the Cold War into a cohesive volume, incorporating updated and newly available information, arguing the need for the Cold War and the outcome of it, becoming an introduction to the subject, and expertly organized thematically to best cover the major events and themes of the Cold War.

John Lewis Gaddis intended for the title of this monograph to serve as the statement of purpose, in that it was a to be literal new work on the subject. He did not intend to reargue the entire history of the Cold War; he has already argued more than once over the course of his career; rather he was motivated to create a concise and updated account of the Cold War. His hope would be that this work could serve as an introduction to some, an overview of the subject of the Cold War at a basic level to new readers. This edition is what it should be, weighing in at 266 pages not including notes it is a detailed, but brief introduction to the cold war that will not intimidate the new reader. With many college students being people who have no memory of the Cold War an edition written with the new generation in mind was appropriate, even necessary. Gaddis is well informed as to the needs of students studying the Cold War as he is one of the professors who specialize in teaching it.

Gaddis does not intend for this work to replace any of the existing work on the Cold War, or to disagree even with any of these works. The author believes this monograph has a place at the front of the reading line about the Cold War, and could serve as the gateway to more challenging and in-depth texts once the reader has a grasp or interest in the topic. Gaddis himself being the author of several of the books that retain relevance in the academic classroom allows him to see the need for a brief and cohesive narrative. He openly informs the reader, and other historians, he has no intention of arguing against their works, in fact, he cites the established works of other historians often, as well as his own work.[1] This drives home the point that new readers should not look for this work to occupy a particular niche, and should feel open to using it as a basis for their Cold War knowledge at the beginning of their academic career, and can appeal to the casual reader for the same purpose of creating a firm foundation of knowledge on the general subject of the Cold War. Gaddis himself believes that the topic covers such a long timeline and took place in enough varied locations, with their own political arenas and motivations that a book could be written from any angle that you can imagine, even from the viewpoint of the smallest third world participant, and it would be relevant and occupy a prominent place within the narrative. This work represents the extraordinary challenge of creating a meaningful summary longer than an encyclopedia entry under the heading “Cold War.”

One of the reasons the author gives for having written this is the simple and justifiable release of new information from the archives of the former Soviet Union and the Chinese during the Cold War period. New data must be taken into account, to ignore such resources would be academically negligent. However, the sheer amount of new information available can be compared to money flooding a market and causing inflation. The volume made available is Akin to that which has been previously written in that it can be intimidating to attempt to digest. Gaddis has applied the seasoned judgment of an expert when selectively incorporating this information into his current and concise volume. This is clearly seen when he deftly includes official Soviet Missile counts during the Eisenhower years; not overwhelming the reader, but transforming the speculative argument that Khrushchev boasted about their power into a quantifiable piece of fact.[2]

This new evidence held in context with the work previously accomplished by historians, Gaddis included makes for a subtle, but compelling argument. Gaddis combines primary sources that are placed well within context. Rather than Reagan or Khrushchev being quoted on events that are similar to the instance being described, Gaddis has provided—when possible—the thoughts of the figure on events specifically. It is very convincing to have evidence pulled from a radio address Ronald Reagan gave, or even better Khrushchev’s thoughts on the bluster shown in regards to Soviet missile capabilities. Memoirs looking back—like those of Khrushchev and George Keenan—combined with evidence recorded at the time show the professional historian at work, giving insight into the minds of leaders during the Cold War, and where we are fortunate enough to have it, a look at what they thought of those same events looking back. It is wise to remember however that Gaddis wishes you to celebrate the United States victory in this conflict and will be using the words of Soviet memoirs to cast a light that makes it appear they accepted this outcome in the end.[3] Gaddis is fair when he quotes, as he balances his optimism with evidence against United States actions, such as pointing out (despite the argument) George Keenan’s regret in hindsight of the CIA black operations conducted during the Cold War.[4]

The reader should exercise a note of caution when reading this review. The idea of Gaddis not replacing or rearguing his work or the work of others may give the false impression that this work contains no argument at all. This is untrue, and if the reader is not careful, they may miss it entirely and absorb it as presupposed fact. The argument being made is the idea that the Cold War was inevitable and having occurred the world was made a better place. The world being better for the Cold War is contingent upon whom the author believes to have won it: the United States and her allies. Part of what makes this book such an easy read is that it is celebratory of the Cold War’s outcome, the argued victory of the United States. For many the idea of American victory is not an arguable point, the dissolution of the Soviet Union is a matter of historical fact. However, academics even beginning students understand the idea of objectivity, and Gaddis’s boldly un-objective argument may be perceived as biased by some studied readers, reducing the credibility of the entire work. It should not be the case that the work is impugned by this argument, but it is not unthinkable, and one could not blame anyone who described it as biased.[5]

Gaddis believes there is no way to create a single, simple chronological narrative of the Cold War, and has chosen to organize this work thematically. However, the work flows smoothly enough that the reader almost believes there is a chronological order at work. The author believes in attempting to only be thematic or chronological would fail to encompass the magnitude of the Cold War properly. With this in mind chapters are thematic, moving chronologically, but with some overlap between them. While this sounds like it is more complicated than needed, the idea came off well and made for a surprisingly easy read. Chapter one will set the stage for the Cold War, immediately following World War II, not merely the events, but why each side had fought the Second World War as well and how this contributed to their Cold War stance. Moving forward Gaddis will address conflicts between the first and second worlds while showing the factor everyone knows about the Cold War—the threat of atomic and nuclear war—and will explain not just how close we came, but why nuclear war never came. Having established the Soviet Union as a credible enemy, the reader must be shown when we feared them enough to be concerned, particularly in the context of such an optimistic outlook on America by the author. Superpowers having been explained Gaddis chooses chapter four to explain why these great powers had difficulties controlling their “allies” in the third world, which created some of the messiest conflicts of the age. This moves rather logically and quickly as each theme is explicitly addressed within the proper context and time frame.

Whether you are someone with mild curiosity, a seasoned Cold Warrior, or a student breaking ground on the subject for the first class, this book is a must have. Allow yourself to read it once easily and caught up in the celebratory tone it sets, and then look back a second time for a critical review. Whether you agree with Gaddis’s argument or not, this books should prove invaluable for the information it contains. The concise nature, updated information, and hindsight took in the fourteen years between the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the publication of this work, as well as it’s ability to be an entrance to weightier volumes on the Cold War make it indispensable.

[1] Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin Press, 2005, XI

[2] Gaddis, Cold War, 69.

[3] Gaddis, Cold War, 69.

[4] Gaddis, Cold War, 164.

[5] Greenstein, Fred I. “The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis.” Political Science Quarterly 121, no. 2 (2006): 321-322.

Brandon Bledsoe, “Hrolf The Ganger”

There are two kinds of people in history…

I have been away for a while.  I believe at is or a similar phrase are the beginnings of most of my posts.  It is true though, I was taken away by my School.  Ah yes I have completed my first year of college.  For a high school dropout who has actually realized the dream of using my military benefits to better myself (in my opinion), it is fairly amazing to be attending college and by some miracle coming out on the Dean’s list for both semesters so far.  I know that it is a very long road to be sure, but when you say a year is down, then the next three do not seem all that long.  We have had a good year here.  I am behind in posting the journal posts, but the idea is that I am not going to go back and type them all out.  What counts is that they are in the journal for my family to read, not that they end up in here, all further ones will be posted.  The idea is not to spend all my time in life rerecording, just the once will do.

I will give a brief recap.  There was a second post about camping.  There is a rather good entry espousing to my son(s) the dedication that you have show if you wish to succeed at anything.  That little gym was written at about 0300 one night when I stayed up to do homework rather than working on it while Liam was awake.

I want the boys to see that you must be prepared to sacrifice if you want to succeed.  You have to be ready to skip movies, concerts, sleep.  I managed my goals this semester, I kept my grades up and I still managed to spend time with my family.  Liam has been in daycare the few days that I am class and it has done him a world of good.  He has learned at a faster rate than he would have cooped up with me.  The baby is due in February and I had intended to take the semester off.  However my advisor has asked me to take at least one online history course and Katie believes that I should keep moving as well.  Our family has come through in fine fashion to help us get through the coming semester as I have been offered (and hopefully will get) the chance to be a student instructor in history.  That is the kind of thing that grad school applications are made of as my grades and high school drop out will only walk me so far.

Our family had a nice Christmas.  Our pajama theme was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The day before Christmas Liam became sick.  We have all had a cold, but Liam’s got worse.  I hoped he would kick it but he didn’t and two days later it was apparent that he had pneumonia.  We were going to make him an appointment Monday morning, but during the night he kept getting worse.  At 0430 I finally took him to the hospital.  It was there that they confirmed that he had pneumonia.

The raging fever, accelerated hear rate, trouble breathing, the infection…this could have been a death sentence a relatively short time in history ago.  That is what leads me to my main point.  In some parts of the world today, pneumonia, especially in children, is still a death sentence.  We were at the hospital for maybe an hour and a half. Basic medicine (which we had at home, and were already using) to bring the fever down, couple of chest x-rays to confirm the diagnoses, and a dose of and prescription for antibiotics, and we were on our way, with the certainty that my son would survive the night.  It is only my studies of medicine and history, I feel, that make me sensitive to what a modern miracle that is.  I walked out thinking “everyone should have that.”  That is where the point of this post begins.

Firstly I have always had a bent towards history, and realized my passion in an epiphany when trying to pick my major.  However our long educations make us insensitive to certain things.  I have the theory that in history there are two kinds of people: Historical Figures and just Figures.  Your historical figures are someone remembered.  We will work with examples like Jamestown colony.  We know names like Captain John Smith, he is a historical figure.  However your “figures”are just that, they are numbers.  From elementary school onward we learn things like “over half the colonists died of…” the figures were worse than that, but you get the idea.  The death figures we read over, to us they are facts and figures.  We get accustom to them, and our currently low mortality rates do not help us to think of the ones in the past as being something that borders on fiction.  It is true that a certain normalcy forms when something happens often enough.  A situation in Brazil proved that maternal instinct is more cultural construct than it is total instinct, in that it can be overridden by prolonged and truly desperate circumstances. They were people though, starving, freezing, dying of disease.  They were husbands, wives, CHILDREN.  They were peoples children.  Children died too.  We forget to think about when we read “children that survived to adulthood.”  Let that sink in.  You may have seen my graveyard posts.  The end of all anti vaccine arguments is “I am sorry that you enjoy being able to name your children before they are six.”  We are not so far into a time when children don’t just die.  At least to the people reading this.  That is the second half.

My studies have made me aware of problems in the world.  I knew about them, more than the common man anyhow, due to service in Iraq, seeing the people so poor they didn’t eat enough.  I won’t go into all the details, but with my school I’ve realized it isn’t just war zones.  There are places where people just do not have anything.  If their children had gotten the same sickness that my son had and I consider it minor, their child would be dead.  I am grateful that my son has that, but I am aware of the imbalance in the world.  My son lives, countless die.  I avoid things like commercials of the kids starving because I know I cannot do enough, like I could not do enough in Iraq.  The weight of millions bares down on me.  Past and present.  I ignore the fact that I enjoy the products of this situation.  I sit here on my fancy made in China computer, wearing my Singapore and Vietnam clothes not knowing if they get a decent wage or if they are modern slaves.  The more I study the more the weight heaves on thinking about how there are children forced to be soldiers.  Someone posted an article saying minority children in America do not get to be children.  Fine that may be true in some cases (race put aside) but I wonder if the ones saying we must broaden our thoughts want to broaden far enough to the places where nine year olds carry AK-47’s.  I am thankful my son had a hospital and care and insurance, and I wish everyone had that, but I have this fight club moment when I sit on my Ikea couch and wonder if the guilt will win, or if I just accept that is the way it is?  We journey on, but we wonder, will we always have it so good?

Hrolf the Ganger

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