MHM 134 Letters – May

Your thoughts on issues raised by the magazine.


Graham Goodlad’s analysis of the Guadalcanal campaign in World War II (MHM February/March 2023) is excellent, but as a former Vietnam-era US Marine officer and later civilian historian for the Marines, I must take exception with one sentence.

Goodlad is correct in saying there was no time for carrying out ‘proper training in amphibious operations’ for the 1st Marine Division. However, his statement that amphibious operations were ‘an area in which US Marines lacked experience’ is only partly correct. Driven by the requirements of War Plan Orange (for a war against Japan), the students at the Marine Corps’ Field Officers School at Quantico, Virginia, had been studying amphibious warfare since the late 1920s, and by 1934 the school had published a Tentative Manual for Landing Operations.

In 1938 this came out as the US Navy’s Fleet Training Publication 167. Around the same time, the Navy and the newly formed (but tiny) Fleet Marine Force were conducting a series of landing exercises on the Caribbean island of Culebra. This was to work out solutions to the problems of an amphibious assault and develop necessary equipment.

These studies and exercises gave commanders the knowledge that affected the planning of Guadalcanal. But, as Goodlad points out, the landing was a hurried, shoestring operation by Navy and Marine units new to conflict. That gradually changed as the campaign progressed, and lessons were learned continuously in subsequent amphibious operations in the Pacific War.

Keith Fleming, Jr
via email


I am enjoying your magazine and share it with my son-in-law Mike Larkin, Lt Col USAF (ret’d). We were so proud to see on the cover of the issue featuring the article on Guadalcanal (MHM February/March 2023) a picture of American servicemen disembarking from a Higgins boat, which were built near my home in New Orleans.

Regrettably the article seems to have been written without reference to Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, one of the 18 volumes of which is devoted to the battle for Guadalcanal. The volume contains much useful information on the activities of admirals Nimitz, Halsey, and Ghormley leading up to and during the battle.

In 1952, when I was Regimental Surgeon for the 9th Marines, Colonel Ghormley, regimental commander, was Admiral Ghormley’s son.

G James Fruthaler, MD Emeritus Professor of Clinical Pediatrics,
Tulane School of Medicine, via email


In the latest instalment of ‘War Classics’ (MHM April/May 2023), Jonathan Eaton recalls Barbara Tuchman’s classic book The Guns of August. I was 18 when I read it and have never forgotten her skills in combining good narration and the facts.

I particularly agree with Eaton’s echoing of Tuchman’s conclusion that ‘politicians and generals can initiate a cycle of escalation with potentially global consequences’, something which ‘remains as important today as it was in 1962 and 1914’.

Indeed, public policy today is still not learning from history – or military history. MHM should be sent to all heads of state.

Barrie Reader Carshalton, Surrey


Taylor Downing’s outstanding review of Casablanca (MHM February/March 2023) captures much of the American sentiment in World War II. At 85, I still remember my aunt and uncle’s exclamatory praise for the film when it was released in 1943.

Child or not, I felt the impact the film had on the adult world at a time when America was struggling to win a ‘fight to the finish’.

John Brady Manassas, VA


Please give my regards to Patrick Mercer for his terrific article marking the centenary of the war for Irish independence (MHM December 2022/January 2023). It was very informative, concise, and to the point.

John McIntyre
via email