Document created: 21 February 01
Published Aerospace Power Journal - Spring 2001
Words of War: From Antiquity to Modern Times by Gerald Weland. Hellgate Press (http://psi-research.com/hellgate.htm), P.O. Box 3727, Central Point, Oregon 97502, 1999, 168 pages, $13.95 (paperback).
Unfortunately, despite the alluring title, this is not a work to be taken seriously. First, Weland offers no attempt at a thesis and does not even state the purpose of his book. Whatever his intent, what results is a collection of anecdotal historical sketches and chimerical observations, clumsily seamed together in superficial summations. This reviewer was continually puzzled by the authors fondness for unscintillating and commonplace quotations, a feature surpassed only by his storytelling vernacular, obscured by cliché.
As a professed historian, Weland exhibits an inexcusable absence of mind. For instance, he incorrectly asserts that George Pickett "rendered mediocre service in the war against Mexico" (p. 85). The truth is that Pickett was cited for gallantry and was breveted twice in fighting in Mexico. As for quotations, he seems to think that Thomas "Stonewall" Jacksons only worthy citation was his biblical allusion to "crossing over the river." With just a little research, Weland would have found Jacksons most memorable quote, often falsely attributed to George Patton: "Never take counsel of your fears." Alternatively, Weland could have included Jacksons aphorism "War is the sum of all evils." Furthermore, rather than repeating William Tecumseh Shermans inaccurately recorded words "War is hell" (p. 87), Weland could have brought a fresh reiteration of Shermans lesser-known wisdom, such as "War is at best barbarism." Meanwhile, with regard to Robert E. Lees last words, Weland would leave us with a feeble epigram: "Strike the tent." It would have been better to cite Lees reply to some of his soldiers who wanted to continue the war after Appomattox: "Abandon your animosities. . . . Make your sons Americans."
Weland does provide some long-needed discussion of incidents perhaps treated lightly in American history, such as wars of the Middle Ages or Americas war with the Sioux. His praise of Native American warriors is a long-overdue welcome, as is his excoriation of the US government for depredations in the western territories. But, sad to say, whatever good may come from this sketchy book can be more thoroughly gained from any junior-high-school history textbook. Even if describing the contexts for notable quotes is Welands intent, readers would be better served by James Charltons The Military Quotation Book or William J. Bennetts Our Sacred Honor: Words of Advice from the Founders in Stories, Letters, Poems, and Speeches. From a scholastic standpoint, such a cursory treatment is not worthy of any professional readers time.
Maj Jeffrey C. Alfier, USAF
Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.