In late 1934 the U.S. Navy announced plans to hold its annual fleet maneuvers in the North Pacific triangle, the area from the West Coast to Hawaii to the Aleutians. The announcement was widely criticized by some politicians, peace groups, religious leaders, and journalists, in both the U.S. and Japan, on the grounds that holding maneuvers “west” of Hawaii and “so near” Japan was "provocative." There was even speculation that the theater been chosen to deliver a not-so-subtle “threat” to Japan. And, since Japan had announced its own maneuvers were to be held in the Kurile Islands and North Pacific, some pundits prattled on about the possibility of an “accidental” encounter between American and Japanese ships that might initiate an international incident.
Responding to the claim that the choice of the Aleutians put the U.S. Navy in a position to “threaten” Japan, Secretary of the Navy Claude A. Swanson pointed out that no American ships were to operate west of the 180th Meridian, and that the Aleutians were actually further from Japan than the Marshall Islands, where the Japanese had held their 1933 maneuvers, were from Hawaii. He also noted that not only did the defined boundaries of the maneuvering area put some 900 miles between the U.S. Fleet and Japanese territory, but that the Imperial Navy’s maneuvers were not to begin until some months after the U.S. Navy’s were over.
This may have helped calm the rhetoric somewhat, but probably the deciding factor was that, concerned about the shrillness of some of the critics, Japanese Navy Minister Mineo Osumi issued a statement that concluded “I do not believe naval leaders in Japan and the United States are worried over each other’s maneuvers. We realize the necessity of such training and also that the increasing range of modern warships is narrowing the oceans which separate us.”
Starting Out on the Right Foot
In 1944, Jean Joseph Marie Gabriel de Lattre de Tassigny commanded a French army during the Anvil-Dragon landings in Southern France, and then led it into the heart of Germany. Later commanding French troops in Indochina, upon his death in 1952, de Lattre de Tassigny was posthumously promoted to Marshal of France. Now this was certainly a military career of some distinction. But then, one could expect no less from de Lattre de Tassigny, considering how he had opened his career.
The scion of an aristocratic family from French Flanders, de Lattre de Tassigny (1889-1952), graduated from the French Military Academy at St. Cyr in 1911 and entered the cavalry, for which purpose he attended the Cavalry School at Saumur. Graduating in 1912, the young sous lieutenant was assigned to the 12th Dragoons.
The 12th Dragoons was stationed at Pont-à-Mousson, in northeastern France, practically on the German border. Naturally, when war came in August of 1914, de Lattre de Tassigny was with his regiment. A unit of the 2nd Cavalry Division of the French Second Army, the regiment was assigned to screening and reconaissance. On August 11th, during a patrol, he was lightly wounded by a howitzer round. He shortly returned to active duty.
On September 14, 1914, while on a reconaissance near Pont- à-Mousson, de Lattre de Tassigny’s platoon became embroiled in a skirmish with elements of a German Uhlan regiment. The young officer was wounded by a lance thrust, though he personally accounted for three of the enemy with a saber that his grandfather had wielded as a Royal Dragoon under King Charles X over 70 years earlier. Although seriously wounded, he was saved from capture by a fellow officer, both men barely getting away as the Germans overran Pont-à-Mousson.
Recovering from his injuries, de Lattre de Tassigny was awarded the Légion d'honneur and promoted to captain. He accepted a transfer to the 93rd Infantry Regiment, in which he fought at Verdun in 1916, on the Chemin de Dames in 1917, and in many another battle, while rising to major and battalion commander before being assigned a staff job. By the end of the war he had accumulated three more wounds and seven more decorations.
Equipping Charlemagne’s Cavalry
In the 790s, King Charlemagne of the Franks revised the military laws of his nation. Since the army was still essentially a Germanic tribal host, Charlemagne wanted to regularize its equipment as much as possible, so that he would have a more reliable force with which to implement his rather ambitious plans for conquest.
As traditional in tribal levies, a man’s role, and thus the equipment he required, was based on the amount of land he held. Men holding four mansi, about 135 acres, were required to come equipped for mounted combat. This entailed a pretty elaborate outfit, that cost a considerable sum.
|Sword & scabbard
|Spear & shield
Some idea of the investment involved in equipping a man as a “knight” can be gained by noting that a sound ox with horns normally cost 2 solidi, while a good cow could cost as much as 3, the same as a sound mare. So the price of a heavy cavalryman's equipment was about the same as the cost of 15 good mares or 23 oxen, an enormous sum. So great was the cost, in fact, that in 805 the regulations were modified, so that men who held less than twelve mansi, were permitted to dispense with the helmet.
Of course no self-respecting “knight” would have managed with just one horse. He’d probably have on war horse, plus a riding horse or two, plus, of course, a pack horse, not to mention a servant or two, who would also be mounted, and perhaps armed as well.
By the way, if you held less than four mansi you weren’t off the hook. As the king’s regulations noted, “He who has only one mansus of his own shall be joined to . . . three men who have the same and shall aid him, and the latter shall go alone; the three who have aided him shall remain at home.”