Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018 in Military History


Happy New Year 2018!  This year will prove remarkable in its commemoration of major historic military events.

2018 marks the centennial of the end of World War I.  The Great War that claimed the lives of over 17 million men ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month -- 11/11/18.  We Americans know it as Veteran's Day while the British call it Remembrance Day.  The veterans we remember on that day served in a war that shattered four empires (Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman).  This war led directly to the creation of nation states such as Syria and Iraq.  This war also was the midwife of the twin scourges of the 20th century -- Fascism and Communism.  In An Adventure in 1914 (www.anadventurein1914.comI referred to the war as being "the original sin of the 20th Century".

Thomas Tileston Wells, my great-grandfather, was traveling through Europe via train with his family in the summer of 1914 when the Great war broke out.  Wells, a New York lawyer, was briefly arrested by Austrian authorities, accused of being a Russian spy and threatened with execution.  Fortunately, he managed to talk his way out of it and escape from Austrian territory into Italy.  On his eventual return to America, he wrote an account of his experiences and titled it An Adventure in 1914 but it was never published.

His manuscript sat on a shelf and gathered dust for a hundred years until my Aunt Catherine kindly gave it to me.  In 2015 I retraced the steps of my great-grandfather researching the mystery of his arrest and taking photography along the way.  Wells had been an eyewitness to the greatest traffic accident in history -- the start of World War I.  In 2016 I edited and published An Adventure in 1914.  Kirkus called it "historical scholarship at its best: rigorous, testimonial, and dramatic."

In the Epilogue to An Adventure in 1914 I noted that "the bitter peace of Versailles would lay the groundwork for World War II. France’s Marshal Ferdinand Foch proved to be a modern Cassandra when he declared, “This is not peace. It is an armistice for twenty years."  World War I, in many ways, proved to the cause of World War II -- the most devastating war in human history.

2018 also marks the 75th anniversary of 1943, a key year in World War II.  In the summer of 1943 Allied forces invaded Italy.  Americans, of course, participated in that year's invasion of Italy which we mentioned in the Italy chapter of America Invades (

"It all started on July 10, 1943, with Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. The  first day of the campaign was also one of the worst when the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of Matthew Ridgway’s 82nd Airborne was decimated by friendly fire. About fourteen hundred Americans were tragically killed by  re from anti-aircraft batteries on allied naval vessels. From this painful experience, the Allies learned a valuable lesson. All Allied aircraft participating in the D-Day invasion were painted with black and white stripes prior to the Normandy invasion.
Once ashore, General Patton and British General Montgomery competed in the famous “Race to Messina” on the other side of the island. To Montgomery’s irritation, the indefatigable Patton won, but he didn’t have it all his way ending up being very nearly court-martialled for slapping a soldier suffering from battle fatigue.

West Point, NY
With Sicily under Allied control, it was on to mainland Italy. The Second World War in Italy was a long grueling affair in which Americans fought with great tenacity and bravery. For instance, The 442nd Regimental Combat Unit, composed mainly of Japanese-Americans, became the most decorated American military unit in our history winning a staggering 9,486 Purple Hearts. There were times when the possibility of a rapid advance north towards the heart of Europe seemed possible, for instance, after the Germans were initially surprised by the Allied landings at Anzio, but somehow the enemy collapse never came, at least not until right at the end of the war itself."

The Italian campaign (1943-1945) produced more Allied casualties than the campaign in Northern that was launched with D-Day in 1944 but it gets far less media attention.  Italy famously switched sides in 1943 though Mussolini was rescued by Hitler's special forces.  The Italian Co-Belligerent Forces fought alongside the Allies until the war's end.  Many Italian partisans (partigiani) came to aid of Allied airmen.

Stuart Laycock and I wrote Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World largely because of the stereotypes attributed to un-military Italians as a direct consequence of World War II (  In this work we pointed out that "one in twelve American soldiers in World War II was of Italian heritage including medal of Honor winner John Basilone of New Jersey."  Last year our work was translated and published in Italian (

In 2018 we are planning a paperback release of America Invaded: A State by State Guide to Fighting on American Soil (  We also hope to publish The Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur later this year.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year in 2018!

You can find signed copies of our books at 
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