Monthly Archives: February 2012

Caustic newsman Pegler vanished, couldn’t stop stepping on big toes

Who’s who In 1941 Time magazine polled its readers for candidates for its Man of the Year award. Readers responded: 1. President Franklin Roosevelt, 2. Josef Stalin, 3. columnist Westbrook Pegler.

Westbrook who? Although Pegler had dominated the newspaper columnist business for more than a decade, won a Pulitzer Prize, was the talk of journalism, and became the star of both the Scripps-Howard and Hearst chains, he is today largely unknown.  He was converted into non-celebritywestbrook-pegler status because the affronted nabobs of newsdom and academia have ignored him for decades except for a few disparaging remarks whenever his name came up in print.  He had tread upon too many aching progressive toes to be forgiven. Truth be told, Pegler clomped on nearly everyone’s toes. His hard-bitten philosophy divided humanity into two classes, those in authority and the little people. The big shots were his natural prey. Among the hugest of the VIPs was the family of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the nation’s labor unions, rapidly burgeoning under the New Deal administration and many riddled with corruption.  Both Pegler targets were the most revered icons of American liberals whose wounded response was, “How can he do this to us?”

They well may ask, because Westbrook was a registered Democrat and one of Roosevelt’s most enthusiastic early supporters.  Unfortunately for the president, Pegler was one of those absolutely honest people who could not abide flaws in persons or institutions he admired.  Regardless of the person’s contributions to the nation, any hint that he had feet of clay, itchy palms, corruption, or a lack of basic humanity brought down the Pegler wrath.

Antics of the Roosevelt tribe soon disenchanted the columnist. Mother Eleanor seemed to be striving for public acclaim and glory while the kids appeared to be trading on the family name for earthly riches. As for papa Roosevelt, Pegler accused him of overruling his military experts to award $40 million in contracts to industrialist Howard Hughes for two aircraft, the F-11 and the HK-1 (popularly named the Spruce Goose, which flew only once). Continue reading


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Modern armies study wars of Sun Tsu, wisdom from mists of time

Lately I have been immersed in a book called Sun Tsu on the “Art of War,” an ancient Chinese military manual which has become a classic in the 21stcentury.  It is more than two millennia old and has been the source of inspiration for generations of Chinese generals, but contains

Sun Tsu tough teacher

strategies and tactics applicable to the world of space exploration and atomic energy. But the question arises: just how well have the book’s rules panned out since Sun Tsu wrote them down?

For instance, Sun Tsu cautions a general against wasting his men and material in besieging cities and fortified points.  “Go around them,” he advised.  The Chinese strategist pointed out that an army could capture six or more cities in the time it took to overrun one stronghold.

The German Wehrmacht made this Sun Tsu precept a guide in developing their blitzkrieg warfare at the start of World War II. At the heart of Nazi strategy was avoidance of strongly held points in favor of weaker areas and keeping the attack going until the enemy surrendered. It paid off handsomely, winning them all of Europe plus land all the way to the Volga River in Russia. There  they tossed the Chinese sage’s rule overboard, and laid a monumentally expensive siege to the city of Stalingrad, a move opposed by practically every German general.

The Nazis wielded a powerful mechanized force which could move swiftly over open terrain, yet they tied their tanks down in street fighting amid the rubble of Stalingrad.  In the process they forfeited one of the bloodiest battles of attrition fought during the war.  Casualties were heavy on both sides, but especially on the German; they lost their Sixth Army, and the armies of two allies—Italian and Romanian.

Sun Tsu also advised against running a war from the ruler’s palace instead of the general’s tent, which applied strikingly on the German side during Stalingrad.  Here both strategy and tactics were dictated by the ruler, German dictator Adolf Hitler.  He wanted to capture the city for Continue reading

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