November 30, 2005

Defending the Long Gray Line

Blogger John in Carolina has been pressing NY Times public editor Byron Calame for a retraction for false claims made by Lucian Truscott IV attacking the United States Military Academy at West Point and the Cadet Corpsin an Op-Ed, "The Not-So-Long Gray Line.''

In the Op-Ed (now hidden behind the Wall of Irrelevance known as Times Select) Truscott IV claims:

There was a time when the Army did not have a problem retaining young leaders - men like Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, George Marshall, Omar Bradley and my grandfather, Lucian K. Truscott Jr. Having endured the horrors of World War I trenches, these men did not run headlong out of the Army in the 1920's and 30's when nobody wanted to think of the military, much less pay for it. They had made a pact with each other and with their country, and all sides were going to keep it.

There was only one problem with Truscott IV's claim as noted by John in Carolina:

Eisenhower, Bradley and Truscott never served overseas during WWI; Marshall was in France as a staff officer; and only Patton saw combat. I don't know of any historian who's ever claimed the five future generals made any sort of pact with each other.

Faced with this easily verifiable falsehood, you would think that the Public Editor would print a retraction.

You would be wrong. John is now asking for your advice.

I'd start by first reading both posts linked above, and then drop Byron Calame a note.

Lying should not be called "figurative language," even in the New York Times.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at November 30, 2005 08:17 PM | TrackBack

Wow. That's a shame. Truscott was commander over my Guard unit when attached to 7th Army.

Posted by: RTO Trainer at November 30, 2005 09:19 PM

I'm not going to contact Calame. However, military people rarely speak figuratively about military matters. Everything to us is pretty much real. I've read the WWI trenches comment several times and each time it comes across that those mentioned actually experienced combat "in the trenches," not just in the WWI era (as would be a figurative implication.)

Secondly, what the hell is a figurative "pact?" Either these guys swore an oath (a pact) or they didn't. There's no such thing as a figurative pact. Because these officers may have shared experiences from which they drew a bond does mean they entered into a pact. That's literary hogwash intended to lead the reader to a predrawn conclusion. It's also something we in the military refer to as BS.

These "reporters" and "journalists" are suppose to be writing about facts. Fictionalists have license to speak figuratively. It's one or the other - either fiction or non-fiction. Pick a category and stick with it. If a confused journalist feels he/she must write in figurative language and metaphors, perhaps he/she should find a new calling. The job calls for writing the facts, not an interpretation. Leave that up to the readers.

Within those few sentences, Truscott rewrote history.

Posted by: Old Soldier at November 30, 2005 09:29 PM

The best book I ever read about the US Army (WWI and WWII) is "At Ease, Stories I Tell to Friends" by Dwight D. Eisenhower. It should be required reading at all high schools.

Posted by: Tom T at December 1, 2005 06:31 AM

"There was a time when the Army did not have a problem retaining young leaders"

This is also wrong. Between the wars you were thought to be a sucker to stay in the tiny peacetime army. Plenty of officers left because of the limited pay and opportunity for advancement. The world does not know the names of those who quit. The four named are justly honored for sticking it out.

Posted by: Locomotive Breath at December 1, 2005 12:59 PM

my grandfather actually fought in the trenches during ww-1, but as a lowly corporal. unlike these figurative generals with their figurative pacts he left the army after we won that war. he said something about not having to worry anymore about shaving close enough. mustard gas can be a bitch if your mask doesn't seal tight. gotta love those nco's and enlisted men.

Posted by: meangreeneinsc at December 2, 2005 03:25 AM