Historian Chris Anderson joins Mark to discuss leadership and the company that became known as the Band of Brothers, Easy Company of the 101st Airborne in WWII. As an expert and interviewer of that close-knit group of veterans, Chris highlights Major Dick Winters, their commander.
Mark reviews some significant events that occurred at during winter in history. We go from the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century to Europe’s worst winter in history in 1940. The Civil War was brewing as the states of the Deep South seceded to form the Confederacy in 1861 and the last battle of the War of 1812 that took place right downriver from the city of New Orleans. We see Finland stand up to the Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution and we even share a few notes about collaboration and treachery.
Joel Bius’s new book, Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em: The Rise and Fall of the Military Cigarette Ration, is a treatise on the relationship between the American Military-Industrial complex and the cigarette. Mark and Joel discuss the story of how the cigarette and the soldier relationship evolved, developed and devolved during the twentieth century—and the consequences.
About Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em
The American military-industrial complex and accompanying culture are most often associated with massive weapons procurement programs and advanced technologies. Images of supersonic bombers, strategic missiles, armor-plated tanks, nuclear submarines, and complex space systems clog our imagination. However, one aspect of the complex is not a weapon or even a machine, but one of the world’s most highly engineered consumer products: the manufactured cigarette.
Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em describes the origins of the often comfortable, yet increasingly controversial relationship among the military, the cigarette industry, and tobaccoland politicians during the twentieth century. After fostering the relationship between soldier and cigarette for more than five decades, the Department of Defense and fiscally minded legislators faced formidable political, cultural, economic, and internal challenges as they fought to unhinge the soldier-cigarette bond they had forged.
Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em is also a study in modern American political economy. Bureaucrats, soldiers, lobbyists, government executives, legislators, litigators, or anti-smoking activists all struggled over far-reaching policy issues involving the cigarette. The soldier-cigarette relationship established by the Army in World War I and broken apart in the mid-1980s underpinned one of the most prolific social, cultural, economic, and healthcare related developments in the twentieth century: the rise and proliferation of the American manufactured cigarette smoker and the powerful cigarette enterprise supporting them.
From 1918 to 1986, the military established a powerful subculture of cigarette-smoking soldiers. The relationship was so rooted that, after the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report warned Americans that cigarettes were hazardous to health, a further 22 years were needed to advance military smoking cessation as official policy, and an additional 16 years to sever government subsidies providing soldiers low-cost cigarettes. The role of wars and the military in establishing and entrenching the American cigarette-smoking culture has often gone unrecognized. Using the manufactured cigarette as a vehicle to explore political economy and interactions between the military and American society, Joel R. Bius helps the reader understand this important, yet overlooked aspect of 20th century America.
We review some significant November events in history from WWI to the American Revolution as well as the American Civil War and WWII. We include the First Battle of Ypres in 1914 and the 1918 Armistice that ended the bloodshed of WWI as well as the last action of the Civil War with the surrender of the CSS Shenandoah and a brief glimpse at one of the Confederate government’s most interesting characters. For WWII we have the scuttling of the French fleet in 1942 while the Germans watched their potential prize of warships sink to the bottom of the sea.
Photo: Marshall Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Allied Commander during World War One.
On this week’s podcast, I take a look at some events that happened in autumn during WWII and the Civil War, as well as WWI and the American Revolution. I discuss the 1918 Meuse-Argonne offensive by the America Expeditionary Forces and the French army. Launched against the Germans on the Western Front, this final campaign led to the Armistice. I also look at the momentous events that took place at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781. Again, with the aid of the French, this battle proved to be the final military blow for the British in the American war for independence.
Photo: By John Singleton Copley – First Foot Guards, Public Domain
Mark revisits his episode from last October with historian Kevin Hymel, who returns for the second of a two-part discussion of General George S. Patton. They cover his post-war governance in Germany and the actual story of his fatal accident and death. This is Part II of a two-part episode.
Mark speaks with best-selling author, Lynn Vincent, and National Geographic Historian, Sara Vladic, about their new book, Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man.
Just after midnight on July 30, 1945, days after delivering the components of the atomic bomb from California to the Pacific Islands in the most highly classified naval mission of the war, USS Indianapolis was sailing alone in the center of the Philippine Sea when she was struck by two Japanese torpedoes. The ship instantly transformed into a fiery cauldron and sunk within minutes. Some 300 men went down with the ship. Nearly 900 made it into the water alive. For the next five nights and four days, almost three hundred miles from the nearest land, the men battled injuries, sharks, dehydration, insanity, and eventually each other. Only 316 survived.
For the better part of a century, the story of USS Indianapolis has been understood as a sinking tale. The reality, however, is far more complicated—and compelling. Now, for the first time, thanks to a decade of original research and interviews with 107 survivors and eyewitnesses, Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic tell the complete story of the ship, her crew, and their final mission to save one of their own.
Published by Simon & Schuster, Indianapolis relates individual stories of the sailors, their ordeal in shark-infested Pacific waters awaiting rescue, the aftermath and media coverage, as well as the families of the lost and efforts to exonerate the captain after his court martial.
Listen to veterans of the USS Indianapolis talk about their experiences in this trailer for Indianapolis.
Mark’s guest is Steve Bourque, whose new book: Beyond the Beach: The Allied War Against France takes on a subject often ignored in historical accounts.
Bourque explores the effects of Allied air attacks on French towns and infrastructure in 1944 as part of the D-Day Invasion and war with Nazi Germany. In discussing the book, they examine the different operations, the destruction of military and civilian targets and casualties as well as the results and aftermath of the bombings.
About Steve Bourque
Stephen A. Bourque is Professor Emeritus of military history at the School of Advanced Military Studies, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He left the US Army in 1992 after twenty years enlisted and commissioned service, with duty stations in the U.S., Germany, and the Middle East. Dr. Bourque has taught at several colleges and universities including Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, California State University-Northridge, the University of Kansas, and the Command and General Staff College.
His publications including Jayhawk! The VII Corps in the 1991 Persian Gulf War (2002), The Road to Safwan (2007), and Soldiers’ Lives: The Post-Cold War Era (2008) and, most recently book Beyond the Beach, the Allied War Against France (2018). Currently, he is writing a history of the Northwest Europe Campaign as experienced by a senior officer who began the war as a corps chief of staff and ended it as an infantry regimental commander.
This week Mark takes a look at some events that happening during the month of August in WWII and the Civil War, including the Siege of Leningrad, the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, the infamous Quantrill’s Raiders and Nathan Bedford Forrest’s raid on Memphis. He also previews upcoming fall episodes that cover Antietam, the Allied Bombing of France in 1944, and a new WWI book by one of Britain’s foremost WWI experts.
History with Mark Bielski Tentative Fall Schedule
This fall, Mark will be interviewing some fascinating guests for his History with Mark Bielski Podcast. From legendary football coach Vince Dooley to an onsite visit with the curator of the Dr. Samuel Mudd House and Museum, you won’t want to miss these episodes.
Sept. 6 – General Jack Mountcastle – Touring Civil War Battlefields in the East
General Jack Mountcastle joins Mark to discuss the Battle of Second Manassas, a major Confederate victory in 1862 that gave General Lee the momentum to invade Maryland in September. They will also talk about the Civil War: Hallowed Ground Tour that Jack leads for Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours. The tour covers Manassas as well as the other key events in the Eastern theatre. They will explore the strategies, leaders on both sides of the war, and specific actions taken during the battle and leading up to the fight. It’s the closest thing to going to the battlefield itself.
Sept. 13 – Professor Steve Bourque – Beyond the Beach: The Allied War Against France
Mark and Professor Steve Bourque will discuss his new book, Beyond the Beach: The Allied War Against France, a subject rarely studied. The book is a survey of events, destruction and civilian casualties caused by Allied bombing.
Sept. 20 – General Jack Mountcastle – 150th Anniversary of Antietam
In September, the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, Mark and General Jack Mountcastle will cover the battle, the bloodiest day of combat on U.S. soil. More than 23,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were reported killed, wounded or missing during 12 hours of fighting with no clear winner.
Sept. 27 – History Happenings for September
Mark will talk about some of the interesting historical events that occurred during WWII and the Civil War in the month of September.
Oct. 4 – Dorothea Barstow – Curator of the Dr. Samuel Mudd House and Museum
Mark visits the Dr. Samuel Mudd House and Museum, where he interviews the curator, Dorothea Barstow, at the Mudd home where the Doctor who set John Wilkes Booth’s leg lived. They discuss the doctor’s life, career, trial and possibly unfair imprisonment and release.
Oct. TBD – Vince Dooley – The Legion’s Fighting Bulldogs
Mark is excited to chat with legendary football coach Vince Dooley. They will be discussing Dooley’s book, The Legion’s Fighting Bulldogs and football history. During the 25 years he was the University of Georgia football coach, his teams won six SEC titles and the 1980 national championship. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees for the American Battlefield Trust/Civil War Trust.
Oct. TBD – Gary Sheffield – World War I
Mark and Professor Gary Sheffield, a noted British military historian, discuss Sheffield’s comprehensive new book, Forgotten Victory: The First World War: Myths and Realities. Prof. Sheffield is a frequent contributor to the BBC.
Oct. TBD – History Happenings for October
Mark will talk about some of the interesting historical events that occurred during WWII and the Civil War in the month of October.
This week on History with Mark Bielski, historian Kevin Hymel, the author of Patton’s Photographs: War As He Saw It, joins me to discuss one of America’s greatest generals. We delve into George S. Patton’s early years as well as his leadership during WWII. This is podcast is a repeat of an episode from October 11, 2017.