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Perspectives in Military History

 

General of the Army Omar Nelson Bradley Memorial Lecture

 

The Custer Conundrum

Exploring Leadership and the Contradictory Life of George Armstrong Custer 

T.J. Stiles

Pulitzer Prize Winner for Autobiography and History

 

George Armstrong Custer proved himself a highly capable commander from the battlefields of the American Civil War, through the hills of Texas, to his final moments on the Great Plains. On Wednesday, October 18, 2017, the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) will host Mr. T.J. Stiles, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, as he presents a lecture entitled, “The Custer Conundrum.” The lecture will examine the complicated nature of leadership principals in the U.S. Army through the lens of the peculiar combination of Custer's skills as a combat leader and failings as a regimental field commander. 

Brevet Major General of U.S. Volunteers during the Civil War and later, a Lieutenant Colonel in the 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, George A. Custer was a highly skilled tactician and inspiring figure in battle, but failed to manage his men well in non-kinetic settings, whether in Texas in 1865–66 or on the Great Plains over the next decade. He also developed a problematic reputation within the Army that complicated his relationship with his superiors, who often assumed the worst about him. Custer’s career sheds light on the U.S. Army itself, and its role in the transitional time during the push west across the continent in the Post-Civil War years. The Army represented the leading edge of modernization in the United States, introducing finely articulated organization, professionalization, and technical expertise into an individualistic country that was transforming into a corporate, organizational economy and society. Custer was both a highly trained professional—a technical expert—and a romantic individualist; his volatile nature emphasizes the broader themes of this transition. His self-destructive tendencies lead to a story, which highlights the peculiar demands the Army faced in conflict with Native peoples on the Great Plains.

Mr. Stiles is an award-winning author and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2010 and for history in 2016. He graduated from Carleton College with distinction in history and received his Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy degrees from Columbia University. He worked alongside top American historians at Oxford University Press, before starting his extensive writing career publishing, Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America.

 

DATE: October 18, 2017

TIME: Doors open at 6:30 PM and the talk begins at 7:15 PM

PLACE: USAHEC, Visitor and Education Center, Multipurpose Rooms

 

For updates and any last minute changes in meeting times/places, please check the USAHEC website: www.USAHEC.org or call the Information Desk: 717-245-3972.

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On October 3 beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the Army Heritage Center Foundation, in conjunction with the U.S. Army War College Memorial Chapel and Stephen Ministry, will present a renowned panel of veterans who will share their war experiences and lessons learned from the Burns and Novick series, The Vietnam War.  The program will provide an opportunity for the audience to share and reflect on their own experience and help facilitate continued dialogue concerning the impact of war on their lives.

After the panel and discussions, COL (Retired) Neal Delasanti, Director, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Cumberland County, PA, will be available for brief consultations.

The distinguished panel will include:

COL (Retired) Dr. Don Snider – Served three combat tours as an infantry officer in Vietnam, decorated for both valor and wounds. He is a distinguished faculty member of the U.S. Army War College and Professor Emeritus from the United States Military Academy. He has authored numerous publications on leadership, ethics, and the moral development of leaders. Dr. Snider retired in October 2016 after 53 years of service within the Department of Defense and continues today in adjunct status.

COL (Retired) Tony Nadal – Served two tours in Vietnam. He was engaged in heavy infantry combat in the Ia Drang Valley, the Bong Son plain, and in Kontum Province. He served as Commanding Officer of A Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry during the battle of the la Drang Valley. Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway documented the Battle of the la Drang Valley in their book We Were Soldiers Once … And Young. Prior to retirement from the military, COL Nadal served on the faculty of the U.S. Army War College.

COL David Benedek – Professor of Psychiatry and Chairman of the Uniformed Services University's Department of Psychiatry. He is also an Associate Director of the University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress.  He has authored or co-authored over 75 scientific publications and has presented on numerous aspects of military, disaster, and forensic psychiatry at regional, national, and international professional conferences. In addition to his operational experience in Bosnia and Croatia, Dr. Benedek has deployed to Cuba, Iraq, and Kuwait in conjunction with the Global War on Terrorism. He is co-editor of the recently published Clinical Manual for Management of PTSD.

LTC (Retired) Dr. Douglas Johnson – Served two combat tours in Vietnam as an artillery officer. He was with the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College from 1985 until 2009. His 30 years of service in the U.S. Army included two combat tours, a variety of troop and staff assignments, and instructor duty at the U.S. Military Academy and the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and holds a diploma from the U.S. Army War College.

The evening’s discussion will be moderated by Chaplain (COL) Jerry Sieg, Carlisle Barracks’ Installation Chaplain.

The evening is meant to be interactive. Reflections and comments by the audience will be encouraged. Members of the panel feel that it is important for combat veterans to “tell their story”. This can provide continued understanding of their war experiences as part of a healing process.

 

 

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Posted by on in News and Events

Millions of Americans answered the call of duty when the United States entered World War I and nineteen year-old Howard Munder of Philadelphia was among them.  Enlisting just ten days after the declaration of war, Munder soon found himself on his way to Camp Hancock, Georgia, to join the newly formed 28th Infantry Division.  When the division deployed to France as part of the American Expeditionary Forces, Bugler Munder went with them.

Munder was a prolific letter writer and typically sent home several letters a week.  His collected and transcribed letters now reside in the archival collections at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, PA.

Starting on September 15, the Army Heritage Center Foundation began publishing Munder’s letters online on the 100th anniversary of the day each letter was written.  This mode of publication was conceived by the Foundation’s Education Director, Jeff Hawks.

“When you pick up a published collection of letters,” Hawks says, “you have the entire story right there, all at once.  That’s not how the families experienced the story.  100 years ago, families did not know when the next letter from their loved ones would arrive.  They had to wait, sometimes patiently, sometimes anxiously, checking the mail every day, not knowing when the next letter would come.  The technology of online publishing gives us the opportunity to re-create, in some respect, that experience.  Our hope is that our readers will start to follow Munder as his story unfolds in real-time, albeit 100 years after the fact.”

Hawks refuses to answer questions about Munder’s ultimate fate.  “His parents didn’t know what was going to happen.  Anyone who wants to know is going to have to read along and find out in the same timeframe they did.”

During World War I, about two million Americans shipped out for France.  53,402 died or went missing in combat, 63,306 died from other causes, and 204,002 were wounded or injured, a casualty rate of about 16%.  Hawks notes that these casualties include 3 Army Nurses wounded by shellfire and 272 Army Nurses who died of various diseases that were rampant in the war zone.

 

To read the letters as they are published, visit the Army Heritage Center Foundation’s website at https://www.armyheritage.org/2-site-content/578-howard-munder-over-there-with-the-28th-infantry-division.

 

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Holocaust survivor Edith Vidos and Army Nurse Deborah Pecora will share their experiences as witnesses to the Holocaust at 12:30 PM on Friday, September 22, 2017, at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC).  Edith, a young Jewish girl living in Hungary, survived years of brutal imprisonment at Ravensbruck and Penig concentration camps.  Deborah, an Army Nurse, participated in the liberation of the Penig and provided medical care to the survivors including Edith Vidos. 

Their presentations are part of a day-long program conducted by facilitators from Echoes and Reflections, a partnership between Yad Vashem, the Shoah Foundation, and the Anti-Defamation League to train teachers how to incorporate Holocaust education in the classroom.  The full program runs from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM.  The Army Heritage Center Foundation, the non-profit friends group for USAHEC, is sponsoring the program as an element of its educational mission.

“The Holocaust is part of the Army story,” says the program organizer and the Army Heritage Center Foundation’s Education Director Jeff Hawks.  “American Soldiers were eyewitnesses to the reality of the camps.  They wrote about what they saw in letters, diaries, and memoirs that are part of the USAHEC collection.  The value of this record grows in importance every day as more and more eyewitnesses pass into history.”

The sessions will focus on the book Night, by Elie Wiesel.  Specific topics will include placing the work in the larger historical context and examining some of the major themes of the memoir.  Ms. Vidos and Ms. Pecora will begin their presentations starting at 3:30 PM.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the day’s program.  Certified teachers who attend will receive Act 48 credit.

For more information, or to RSVP, contact the Jeff Hawks at the Army Heritage Center Foundation at 717-258-1102 or eddirector@armyheritage.org.

 

About the Army Heritage Center Foundation

 

The Military Heritage Foundation, doing business as the Army Heritage Center Foundation, is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) that, through donated support, is funding the construction of the public components of the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) — the Visitor and Education Center (VEC) and the Army Heritage Center.  As the phased construction program is completed, the Foundation transfers these facilities to the Army to operate, staff, and maintain, as part of USAHEC. The Foundation will then focus on “margin of excellence support” to meet the needs of educational programs and other activities at USAHEC where federal funds are inadequate or unavailable. 

 

The Foundation completed Phase One of the Visitor and Education Center in 2010.   This project provided the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center campus its first major gallery and multipurpose rooms to host educational programs and special events. In 2013, the Foundation funded infrastructure improvements to include parking and storm water management systems to support future construction.  The Foundation completed a 7,500 expansion of the Visitor and Education Center in September 2016. Known as the Hall of the American Soldier, this expansion added an additional gallery, a multipurpose room to meet growing demand for program space, and enhanced seating for the cafe.

 

The Foundation will continue to seek grants and donations to complete the Visitor and Education Center, the Army Heritage Center, and to create an endowment to sustain and enhance educational programs. The Foundation’s education program includes management of the National History Day in Pennsylvania competition and workshops and seminars that complement USAHEC’s programs and exhibits. 

 

The Foundation also supports and enhances USAHEC’s public outreach by supporting marketing initiatives and serving as a public advocate of the Center’s mission and programs. 

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Over two-hundred middle-school students will team up with local Veterans while touring the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) in Carlisle on Thursday, September 14 for a “Walk With a Veteran” program.  The students will spend the day at the Center with the Veterans exploring the mile-long Army Heritage Trail, learning about the history of our nation and the men and women who served in the military in times of war and adversity.

“There’s no better way to learn about history than from the people who lived through it,” says Army Heritage Center Foundation Education Director Jeff Hawks. “The exhibits at USAHEC provide the perfect backdrop for Veterans to share their stories of service and sacrifice.”

The Army Heritage Center Foundation is hosting the program with the tremendous support of our sponsors.  Humana is the premier sponsor for the event.  “Humana approached us about doing something for Veterans and local youths,” Hawks says.  “This event grew out of that conversation.”  Ahold is also sponsoring the event, providing lunch for the students and Veterans.

The event will also mark National POW/MIA Day and will feature Mr. Don McClarren who served on the USS Pueblo when the ship was boarded and seized by North Korean forces in January of 1968.  Along with 82 crewmates, he endured months of brutal captivity as a POW while North Korea attempted to extract confessions from the crew and political concessions from the United States. McClarren and his shipmates were freed after 11 months, but the USS Pueblo remains in North Korean hands.  McClarren’s story is a reminder that no matter where or when one serves, military service carries considerable risk.

For more information about this program, please contact the Army Heritage Center Foundation at 717-258-1102 or info@armyheritage.org

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