Al Nofi's CIC
|| Issue #9, August 3, 2000
- Infinite Wisdom
- la Triviata
- Short Rounds
- General Confusion: Honorary Rank in the Spanish Army during the Nineteenth Century .
- Materiel Losses: The 1973 Arab-Israeli War
- Misplaced Priorities
- "I didn't Raise My Boy to be a Soldier"
- Societal Motorization, 1939
- BioFile: Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (1794-1876)
When they get in trouble, they send for the sons of bitches.
Admiral Ernest J. King, upon being appointed Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet,shortly after Pearl Harbor.
- During World War I, German Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg wrote to his wife daily, for a final total of 1,561 letters.
- The Topographic Atlas of New York, without which no skyscraper or subway tunnel could ever be constructed in the Big Apple, was complied by Egbert L. Viele, who graduated from USMA in 1847, and rose to a brigadier generally during the Civil War.
- Among all the other equipment with which they were encumbered, the troops who landed on the Normandy Beaches on D-Day carried syringes with an anti-toxin for botulism, since the Germans were known to be experimenting with its potential uses as a biological weapon.
- Although the practice was strictly illegal, during the reign of Louis XIII of France (1610-1643) an average of 121 army officers died in duels each year, and no one apparently was ever punished for taking part.
- The only occasion on which the U.S. Army is know to have taken a "dive" occurred in 1953, when the Arizona National Guard's 45th Infantry Division went down for the count during the filming of The War of the Worlds.
- Because the old French inch was about 8-percent (“12-lines”) longer than the English inch, Napoleon, at 5’2” French style has traditionally been thought of as quite short, when in fact he was actually about 5’6” English measure, more or less average for his time.
- The homburg hat worn so widely just a few generations ago was popularized by Edward VII of England, who had adopted the style from the headgear of the militia in the tiny German duchy of Hesse-Homburg.
- During World War II the noted film star Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., served in the navy, rising to lieutenant commander, with a specialty in deception operations, among other achievements conducting a diversionary major attack during the landings in Southern France.
- During the reign of Charles II of Sweden (1697-1718), the daily army ration amounted to nearly two pounds of meat and two pounds of bread, plus small amounts of peas, butter, and salt, all of which could be washed down with two-and-a-half quarts of beer.
General Confusion: Honorary Rank in the Spanish Army during the Nineteenth Century.
The practice of awarding honorary rank to distinguished personnel is an old but now long-discarded custom. Such promotions, termed "brevets" in American and British service, gave a man a higher titular rank than his official one. Normally there were a few other benefits to such promotions aside from the privilege of being called by a higher title, but not many. Thus, a brevet officer was considered superior in grade to one with the same substantive rank who lacked a brevet, and thus was in command when both were present without an officer of higher rank. At times this could lead to some confusion, notably when a mere lieutenant held a considerably more exalted grade by brevet, such as a generalship
Perhaps in no army did this practice create more problems than in the Spanish Army during the nineteenth century.
In the Spanish Army an officer's regular grade was his empleo. His first honorary rank was termed his grado and a subsequent brevet rank was a sobregrado. In addition to purely honorary benefits, a brevetted officer in the Spanish Army was entitled to the courtesies due his higher rank, certain per diem financial bonuses, boosts in seniority for promotion in his substantive rank, and, of course, command over unbrevetted officers of equal rank. Due largely to the confusion of the long guerrilla war against Napoleon and the subsequent series of civil wars that wracked Spain from the 1820s through the 1870s there were an enormous number of brevet officers. In the 1860s about 60 percent of all infantry majors were lieutenant-colonels by brevet, while about 55 percent of all infantry lieutenant-colonels were brevet colonels! As an officer was always addressed by his highest rank, it was not unusual to find a substantive major without brevets to be addressing a substantive captain who had a brevet for colonel as "colonel" when giving him orders. Further confusing matters was the fact that an officer was entitled to wear the collar and sleeve badges of his grado and sobregrado in addition to those of his empleo, so that the easiest way one could determine a officer's substantive rank was by his cap-badge, which displayed only his empleo. A major casualty of all of this was military courtesy, for it was so difficult to determine an officer's rank at even a short distance that the practice of saluting fell into disuse among officers despite some 40 royal and ministerial directives remind everyone of their obligations to salute officers of higher rank But the most pernicious effect of this practice was on the battlefield.
In the Spanish Army, a brevet officer not only outranked non-brevet officers of equal substantive grade, but also was considered to be acting in his brevet rank when serving as part of a detachment containing forces of more than one arm. Thus if two infantry companies under a major were operating with an artillery battery also commanded by a major, neither officer might necessarily command the combined force. An infantry captain with a brevet lieutenant colonelcy would be superior to both non-brevet majors and could direct the operations of both forces, though remaining subordinate to the infantry major in matters relating to his own company. Such a complex arrangement led to several notable reverses in the field, and to a generally undistinguished performance on the part of the Spanish Army in most of the conflicts in which it was engaged during the nineteenth century.
Efforts to reform the Spanish Army and abolish the system of brevets ran up against the entrenched interests of the innumerable officers holding such ranks. Officially abolished in 1866 after a lengthy administrative and parliamentary battle, the practice of granting honorary ranks revived during the civil war of 1868-1875, necessitating a renewed effort. Honorary rank was definitively eliminated only in 1889.