It’s a Free Country, and the Future of War

Marschflugkörper V1 vor Start
German V-1 “Buzz Bomb,” an early, unguided cruise missile

W.J. Astore

Two more anecdotes from my dad’s war letters involve the nature of military life and the future of war.  In June 1945 my dad wrote about female nurses assigned to his post at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  He noted that:

“The nurses on the Post have been going out with enlisted men.  They [the authorities] are trying to stop it by breaking an enlisted man that has a rating & the nurses get fined $75.00.  Nurses are commissioned officers & they [the authorities] don’t like officers going with enlisted men.  [The] United States is supposed to be a free country so you can see how the Army is.  I don’t think the nurses would break the regulation if there were more male officers on the post.”

$75.00 was a lot of money in 1945 (two weeks’ pay, roughly, for the nurses).  And busting an enlisted man was a serious punishment as well.  Even with the war won in Europe and demobilization already starting, the Army was not about to look the other way when its nurses engaged in almost trivial fraternization.

The second anecdote involves my dad’s speculation about the future of war.  In March 1945 he watched a short movie on the German V-1 “buzz bomb,” an unguided cruise missile.  My dad wrote that:

“In a movie short they showed the German V-1 robot, jet-propelled bomb.  It’s really uncanny how the darn thing goes through the sky.  Also showed the damage they caused, which is really terrific.  If they have another war, after this one is finished, the United States won’t have to worry about sending troops overseas.  With the progress that they could make in 20 years all we’ll have to do, also the attacking country is to send the flying bombs over the oceans and on to the targets.  As long as the Allied nations stick together there shouldn’t be any more wars.”

Of course, the Allied countries didn’t stick together, and we’ve had plenty of wars since 1945.  But my dad was partly right about war’s future.  Think about how the U.S. has launched Tomahawk cruise missiles against various enemies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.  The Tomahawk is essentially a much more sophisticated and guided version of the unguided V-1 cruise missiles pioneered by the Nazis in World War II.

A final comment: I like the way my dad assumed the U.S. would be the defending country in future wars.  Note how he writes “also the attacking country” would use flying bombs.  Sadly, the U.S. nowadays is usually the aggressor, even as the government couches its acts in terms of defense.

Today, America’s wars are endless, the troops are still overseas, but at least we live in a free country, right?  And now America has the best flying robot bombs as well.  The Nazis called these “vengeance” weapons; isn’t it wonderful today that the U.S. leads the world in making such weapons?

8 thoughts on “It’s a Free Country, and the Future of War

  1. As a teenager, when I asked my Dad, a Royal Navy doctor, about the contradictions of his role in life, he said that he thought the best way to prevent war was to have a strong defense, so that no other country would dare to attack us. I have thought a lot about that in recent years. With great difficulty, my Dad came around to oppose the war in Iraq. On one of our visits to the UK, when my 2 sons were already in college but were with us, he assembled us all in the living room, and sort of announced to us all, “In this family, we support the armed forces – but we do not support the war in Iraq.” – Nicolas Davies


  2. Isn’t the Pentagon working on an atmospheric weapon that is billed to be able to reach any point on the globe within an hour and a half? I presume it could be recalled, or at least rendered non-explosive in flight.

    On the V1 – I understand it flew so slowly that fighters could and did go next to it and flip it into a dive by lifting an airplane wing under a V1 wing. It took off from a ramp and used a pulse jet engine that made an easy to ID putt-putt sound. It determined when it had reached destination by counting the rotations of a very small free-spinning prop at the nose. When the “odometer” said it was far enough along to be near target, the engine was stopped and down it went. I recall seeing a V1 mounted as a war memorial in some small city in Illinois, but I can’t recall the city name.


  3. +I thought the commentators on this blog were up to date on this subject – wrong guess. Did none of you watch Putin’s Mar 1st speech? How about the Chinese carrier killers? Though I forget his name, didn’t an American General tell Congress last week that they Americans had no defence against Russian missiles? Didn’t Putin make the claim that their new technology obsoleted the total American ABM program. Didn’t another Pentagon spokesperson admit that the Americans were 10 years behind Russian technology?

    Americans ABM’s are like the middle age castles, which worked fine until artillery was invented and then they just became a big stone target. The Russians and Chinese have just invented and produced their cannons. Your defence of two oceans is the equivalent of castles that have become obsolete to hypersonic missiles.

    I think you are screwed, oh yeah, you have the F 35, I’M SURE THAT PLANE WILL SAVE YOU.

    Thomas Lunde


    1. Yes, the demonstrated strength of the Russian military has recently restrained the US from attacking Syria, and then having to admit that Syrian has won that war (which means the US has lost).
      Incidentally, Russia has now demonstrated a new ‘way of war’ in Syria, by busing enemy fighters out of a city. Then the city and its inhabitants are not destroyed, as the US does. That’s a different (asymmetric) kind of strength


  4. ” … isn’t it wonderful today that the U.S. leads the world in making such weapons?”

    Not so much, as long as those pesky local peasants continue cobbling together I.E.D.s for the price of a pizza. Yes, the U.S. Navy and Air force can fly over and bomb countries with no means of defending themselves, but let the Army and Marine Corps try setting a few boots on the ground for a little neighborhood patrolling, and that local “improvisation” will beat American “engineering” every time. As some of us learned to appreciate in Southeast Asia back in the 1960s and 1970s: “They’re killing us with our own garbage!” Best for the U.S. ground-pounders and bullet-catchers (i.e., Ordnance Absorption Technicians) to stay home patrolling the bars, strip-joints, massage parlors, and loan-shark monthly-paycheck-cashiers outside the front gates of Fort Podunk, U.S.A., where they belong and can do the least damage.


    1. Talk about predators, Mike. Lots of predatory loan sharks, car dealers, pawn shops, and similar establishments just outside the gates of most major military bases in the USA. Gotta love those strip clubs and tattoo parlors as well. All that “heroes” need to live the good life.


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