About French MacLean

The Wisdom of Crowds

Hunting Hitler Web

Read this carefully, because I really need your help in proving or disproving a historical mystery, and after you think about what you have read I would ask you to email me with your opinions.

My interest in World War II probably began at age five and since then, especially concerning the war in Europe, I have tried to read book after book on this subject that has been printed in English or German.  After five decades and at least 1,000 books read, I was pretty comfortable that I understood how the war unfolded and the general ground truth of what happened.

Within the last two years, however, something has changed with the publication of the book Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler, and last fall the appearance on the History Channel of the series Hunting Hitler.  Until these two events, I would have mortgaged the house, sold the dog, taken a second job and wagered every dollar I had, or would ever make in the future, on the premise that Adolf Hitler committed suicide in Berlin on or about April 30, 1945.  That event was a given in World War II history and was supported by a mountain of indicators.

Now, while I still freely admit that the mountain of indicators is still there, this little, itty-bitty voice of doubt has crept into some historical recess of my mind that is now saying, “Not so fast.”

Let’s do a quick review of established history.  The Soviet Army advanced through Poland and was in an operational pause along the Oder River, just east of Berlin.  On April 16, 1945, they launched their attack to take the German capital, concentrating their forces to break through in the Seelow Heights area.  After two days of bitter fighting, the Soviets broke through the German defenses and advanced toward Berlin, while at the same time sending attack wings north and south of the city so as to encircle it.   By April 23 April, Berlin was fully encircled and the Battle for Berlin entered its final stage.  Hitler decided to die in Berlin, while many or his subordinates attempted to escape over the next eight days.  During the last 49 hours of his life, Adolf Hitler married his long-time mistress Eva Braun, dictated his final will and testament and made preparations for his death.  The two committed suicide about 3:30 pm on April 30, 1945.  SS personnel took the bodies of both people outside the bunker, where they attempted to burn them beyond recognition.  A general breakout from the bunker occurred the next day, with some personnel escaping the Red Army, but with most killed or captured.

Grey Wolf, and since I first read it I have discovered that several investigative reporters and historians in South America have come to the same conclusion – one even stating that some of the work in the book was his own – presents a detailed account of how the Nazis amassed a fortune in Argentina and paid off several highly-placed Argentinian leaders to not only look the other way, but to actively assist those Nazis that escaped to their country after the war.  The non-fiction work then goes into detail on how Hitler – and Eva Braun – escaped.  It gives names of those assisting in the effort, presents the most-likely path of escape, tells of the exact U-boat that ferried the Führer across the Atlantic, describes Hitler’s life in the South American country and presents a descript of the Nazi leader’s last days.  More incredibly – if that is possible – the work tells how Eva soured on her husband and how she and their two children left the unstable dictator.  In short, Grey Wolf tried to answer the question: Did Hitler, code name “Grey Wolf”, really die in Berlin in 1945?

That all sounded incredible – to the point that I have read the book three times and began a search to verify or disprove the details as they were presented (i.e., what was the history of the U-boat in question; what was the history of the area in Argentina to which the couple fled, etc.)

Then last fall, History Channel introduced their series Hunting Hitler, which not only had one of the authors of Grey Wolf on its investigation team, but was also staffed by several other accomplished experts and led by former CIA case officer and author Robert “Bob” Baer.  Here was a “heavy-hitter”, a graduate of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, an intelligence columnist for Time Magazine and a consultant on intelligence issues and subjects for CNN.  Mr. Baer simply is not the type of professional who would support a fraudulent effort to answer a legitimate question, because his reputation is his stock in trade.  After watching every episode of the series, my conclusion was that Hitler and Braun could have escaped from Berlin; the short series simply did not have the time or focus to get me to a conclusion that they did escape.

There are now rumblings that there may be a second year for the series, and it may be wise to turn to a new method of analysis to try and prove or disprove this potentially history-shaking subject – the wisdom of the crowd.  This information-gathering and decision-making tool rests on the conclusion that the collective opinion of a group of individuals is more accurate and prescient than that of a single expert.  Behavioral scientists have found time after time that a large group’s aggregated answers to questions involving quantity estimation, general knowledge and many types of reasoning is as good as – and often better than – the conclusion arrived at by any single individual within the group, no matter their education or specialty.  This is also the basis of our jury system and how 12 jurors can come up with the correct verdict.

The readers on this website are real thinkers, as their emails to me indicate all the time.  So if you are reading this post, I would like you to think about your answer to the following question:

What would History Channel in the second year of their series Hunting Hitler have to show you for you to conclude that Adolf Hitler probably did not die in Berlin in 1945 and instead escaped to South America?

To help you organize your thoughts let me offer some “baskets” of proof that you could consider – but if you have something else, please develop that.  The goal of this post is to have you send me an email (go to contact the author) and let me hear the wisdom of the reading group and I will try and get that to the creators of the series.

Basket 1 – Witness Statements.  This might include Argentinians who believe they saw Hitler in Argentina after the war.  How many different witnesses would cause you to believe their conclusions?  What if one or more of the U-boat crewmen that reportedly took Hitler to South America was still alive and made a statement on camera to that effect?  Would it take more than one of these sailors to convince you?

Basket 2 – Photographs.  If any photographs of Hitler were shown, and were verified by photo experts to have been taken in the 1940s or 1950s, and a forensic expert was able to superimpose them on known photographs to get a percentage of match, how would that affect your opinion?

Basket 3 – Remains or DNA.  I am not sure if anyone has DNA that is known to be Hitler’s or someone in his family, as DNA was not a known tool back then for identification.  What are your observations concerning the use of DNA.  Additionally, if the investigators found what they believe are the remains of Hitler, how would you want that presentation to be handled: a dental records comparison, etc.?

Basket 4 – Eva Braun and the supposed children.  Even if Hitler did escape, he would be long dead by now and Eva Braun would most likely be dead unless she was over 100 years old.  But if the couple indeed had children, those individuals could still be alive.  What evidence concerning them would you like to see?  If the investigators find a gravestone in a secluded cemetery for Eva Braun and the burial records show the person was born in Munich on the same day that the famous Eva was, what does that do to the little voice in your head?

Basket 5 – Something else.  No matter how crazy it may sound, let me hear it!

Basket 6 – This is the “I ain’t buying anything they find or show.”  That is important to know as well as it shows a would-be writer or producer the magnitude of the challenge he or she must overcome to change a historical opinion that has been sort of set in concrete for over 70 years.

So please think about the essential question, Did Hitler really die in Berlin in 1945?  Think about what level of evidence or proof you need to answer this in the negative, if that can be done at all.

And then please write me with your thoughts!

 

 

 

The Wisdom of Crowds2016-03-27T11:01:32-06:00

The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter

The Third Bullet CoverThe Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter

A Bob Lee Swagger Novel

Simon & Schuster, 2013

(January 25, 2015)  I just re-read, for probably the fifth time because it is so well-written and a real pager-turner, The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter.  Part of the Bob Lee Swagger series, this fiction book transcends that genre, which I’ll address in a moment, and is clearly on my all-time top ten fiction book list.

It would probably not spoil the book, which I have carefully stored in our hide-away in Puerto Rico so that I may read it every year when we are down there, if I mentioned that it is about the John F. Kennedy assassination in Dallas in 1963.  Kennedy’s picture is on the front dust jacket of the hard cover edition of the Simon & Schuster book (while Lee Harvey Oswald’s picture is on the back dust cover.)  On the front title page is a photograph of the murder weapon, the infamous Mannlicher-Carcano Model 38 carbine with its cheap and poorly attached Japanese-made scope, and on both the front and rear inside of the hard cover are detailed sketches of Dealey Plaza – which probably has no significance for 99% of all Americans except for being the site of JFK’s murder.

The book begins with the hit-and-run death of an author (a “gun-guy” that wrote about snipers and weapons,) which being a writer myself obviously caught my undivided attention.  The man’s widow does not believe it was an accident, so she contacts Bob Lee Swagger, who had been a sniper in Vietnam, who has had additional gun-related escapades in his later years, and whose body has so many old bullet wounds that it makes Swiss cheese look solid.

I will leave the story there and apologize to Mr. Hunter if I have said too much already.

Reviewer Lee Child (Jim Grant, Jack Reacher series) said of the book, “it might even be true,” while noted author Vince Flynn – who died shortly after The Third Bullet was published – opined that the book “answers the question ‘What if?’ in astonishingly plausible detail,” so if my modest writing skills remain unimpressive, at least you know that those two literary heavyweights liked Hunter’s book as well.

From Mark Lane (Rush to Judgment,) almost immediately after the assassination, to tomes published to this day fifty years later, authors have attempted to show that this group or that – with or without Lee Harvey Oswald’s participation – brought off the crime of the century, and some would say the most significant crime in the entire history of the United States.  Most of these books, while they add bits and pieces to the general body of knowledge surrounding the assassination, often fall short in two areas: the technical capabilities of the firearm (maybe more than one, you’ll have to read the book) and bullets in question, and that the route of the presidential motorcade did not become known until a short few days before the event.  Large, complex organizations do many things well, but doing them quickly is usually not a characteristic of the ponderous, as the author shows.

In short, after reading and re-reading Hunter’s work, one quickly concludes that the author truly understands firearms in all their complexity – and sometimes simplicity, such as a tour-de-force description of what the Mannlicher-Carcano was originally designed to do when developed in 1891 – as well as a consummate ability to leave no loose ends in the theory at the heart of the story.

However, there is another level to the novel that I mentioned earlier.  Later in the work, the main character, Bob Lee Swagger, is informed by several literary experts that people who loved to read great literature often develop a sense of how they could insert puzzles and clues in their work (be that writing or espionage, etc.) that some people might find, while others miss them; some of these puzzles – which were key to understanding “who done it” – were in plain sight, while others had multiple layers of detail and nuance; some of them followed a clichéd formula, while others are undramatic and small.

Why is this dialogue important?  Because the discussion is really not a focal point of finding “who done it.”  That revelation is already known in the first third of the book.

No, I believe that Stephen Hunter slid this conversation of literary puzzles into the book intentionally for someone to find much later in reading The Third Bullet – maybe decades from now after Hunter and I and those of us who were living in 1963 are long gone – and conclude:

“This story is not total fiction.  In fact, it is probably 70% true, maybe even more, and the author stumbled across it and promised his source that he would portray the book (‘Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination…’, humma, humma, etc.), as PURE fiction, when it is anything but a work of fiction at its heart.”

Read The Third Bullet yourself and see what you think.  Is it simply a work of fiction that is so well-conceived and adroitly written that Stephen Hunter hit it out of the park, or is it something more?

The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter2016-01-28T15:26:45-06:00

An American Hero

Mac MacLean

The best soldier I ever knew, my father, died on July 28, 2015 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Decatur, Illinois.  He was 91 and oddly enough, he passed away on the exact seventh anniversary of my mother’s death.

Thank you to everyone who knew him and was nice to him.  I may have been a colonel, but he was the general of the family.  The following is his obituary that appeared in the Decatur Herald & Review:

 

Myron D. MacLean.  I lost my hero on Tuesday, July 28, 2015, when he passed away at St. Mary’s Hospital in Decatur, Illinois.  He happened to be my father.  Born on September 4, 1923 in Peoria, “Mac” graduated from Peoria High School before attending Bradley University for two years prior to serving as an Infantryman in Company B, 1st Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment in the Hürtgen Forest and Battle of the Bulge in World War II.  Mac always claimed he made corporal; my mother insisted that he topped out at private first class.  At any rate, he was wounded several times, received a Silver Star and Combat Infantryman’s Badge and – after his last wound – he came to looking down the business end of a German paratrooper’s assault rifle.  Years later, my brother David and I would watch “Hogan’s Heroes” on television and the young lad made the mistake of asking Dad if that was what a prisoner of war camp was like; he received a scowl as an answer.

To paraphrase the movie “Rudy,” Dad was “5 foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’,” and yet I saw him smash drive after drive each one straight as an arrow and close to 300 yards on the golf course, while I caddied for him.  I remember one memorable round when he carded a 69 – no mulligans, no winter rules, no TV tap-ins, no kicking the ball out of the rough when nobody’s looking, because Dad said it was more important to do the right thing when no one was looking than it was when they were – just a pure 69.  I think he won two bucks that morning and I know he paid me four.  He liked Jack and Tiger, but he loved Arnie – living and dying with his hero during charge after charge on the final day of a major.

Dad also loved Caterpillar, his granddaughters Heather and Megan, and most of all he loved my Mom, Julie Lane MacLean.  They had been married 60 years when she passed away in 2008; also on July 28.  For the last several years of her life, the saints at Decatur Memorial Hospital provided her with a restful life, while Dad went over for every meal to help her eat – knowing that she would never again be able to say the words, “Thank You.”  And over the last few days, the wonderful people at St. Mary’s did the same for Dad, making his last hours peaceful.

Knowing that I would never be able to swing a golf club like Dad, I went to West Point – as did David, who is now in London – in part to see if I could catch the old man as a soldier.  After thirty years in the Army, I realized I was chasing an apparition that I could never catch, let alone surpass.  And I am happy in that knowledge; because that’s the way it is supposed to be with your hero.

An American Hero2015-08-16T16:27:08-06:00

The Fifth Field Wins the Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry Award

2013 Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry Award

LTG Richard G. Trefry, Inspector General of the United States Army

(June 18, 2014)  The Army Historical Foundation has recognized two authors for 2013 with the Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry Award for their contributions to the literature on the history of the U.S. Army.  Colonel French L. MacLean was honored for his book, The Fifth Field:  The Story of 96 American Soldiers Sentenced to Death and Executed in Europe and North Africa in World War II (Atglen, PA:  Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.).  Rick Atkinson was recognized for his highly praised Liberation Trilogy, consisting of the books An Army at Dawn:  The War in North Africa, 1942-1943; The Day of Battle:  The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944; and The Guns at Last Light:  The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (New York:  Henry Holt), on the U.S. Army in North Africa and Europe in World War II.

Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry, who had served as an enlisted man in World War II, retired from the U.S. Army after 33 years of active duty.  He served as the Inspector General of the U.S. Army for six years under three Chiefs of Staff and Secretaries of the Army, revolutionizing the Army’s approach to the Annual Inspector General Inspection by transforming it from a compliance event into an inspection that identified and corrected systemic failings that inevitably led to recurring deficiencies and interfered with the ability of unit commanders to accomplish their missions.  After retirement, General Trefry served in the White House as the Military Assistant to the President of the United States, directing the White House Military Office during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, as a military advisor to President George H. W. Bush.

In 1995, General Trefry served on the Board of Directors of American Military University and today, continues to serve on the Board of Trustees of the American Public University System as a member and committee chair.  In addition, he has served as a Senior Fellow for the Institute for Land Warfare in the Association of the U.S. Army and is Program Manager of the Army Force Management School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  General Trefry teaches and speaks frequently at service schools, public and private organizations, and at public and private schools and colleges.  In 2009, the Secretary of the Army established the Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry Lifetime of Service Award, honoring Lieutenant General Trefry’s extraordinary achievement and service to the Army, the Department of Defense, the Federal Government, and our Nation.

General Trefry holds a B.S. degree in Military Science from the United States Military Academy, West Point, and is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College and the Army War College.  In 2006, he received the Distinguished Graduate Award from the United States Military Academy Association of Graduates.

His presentation on “How the Army Runs” has become legendary in military circles in explaining the Constitutional and legal underpinnings of what the Army has and what the Army does.

 

He had this to say about The Fifth Field:

“I couldn’t put it down… a hell of a good book…the subject is fascinating… you have done yeoman’s work and produced a great book.”
“I had been an enlisted man in World War II and knew that soldiers had been executed, but I did not know how many.  Later, when I was the Inspector General of the United States Army, I was visiting the American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg about 1980.  As I looked at the crosses, I wondered where the soldiers who were executed were buried.  Now, I finally know.”
The Fifth Field Wins the Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry Award2015-08-31T14:02:17-06:00

Fifth Field Presentations

The Fifth Field presentation on 96 American soldiers executed in World War II

Program for 7th Annual George Prugh Lecture on Military Law History

In April  2013 French MacLean, US Army Retired gave a presentation on The Fifth Field to the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia, as the recipient of the Seventh Annual Major General George S. Prugh Lecture in Military Legal History.

Major General George S. Prugh became the Army’s Judge Advocate General in 1971 and served four years in that position.  He played a significant role in developing additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention during this period.  Shortly before his death in 2006, he provided a generous donation to establish an annual lecture in Military Legal History at the JAG School.

Some 140 majors and lieutenant colonels in the JAG Corps attended the presentation as did Brigadier General Flora Darpino, the Commander and Commandant of the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School.

The presentation centered on the General Courts-Martial of 96 American soldiers in Europe and North Africa and their subsequent sentences, executions and burials in France.  The subject is also a book by Schiffer Publishing, by the author.

 

Fifth Field Presentations2022-04-18T15:16:59-06:00

1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Officers

The Battle of Bourbon Street

We went on four Officer Professional Development trips while I was in the battalion.  Here, we visited the Battle of New Orleans from 1814.  That night we all went down to Bourbon Street for some fine cuisine and from what it shows, a few local drinks.  I headed back to the hotel at a decent hour, but the lieutenants reportedly took Bourbon Street block by block until they came in about 4:00 a.m.

Wherever you guys are now, I wish you well!

1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Officers2015-08-31T14:04:04-06:00

Back in the Day

It sometimes is difficult to know where you are going if you do not know where you have been, unlike Sir William Marshal shown above.  Doing even a small amount of research into your family history can be exciting, because it is often counter-intuitive.  For example, you probably do not want to find that dear old grandpa was a cattle rustler back in the day.  On the other hand, finding that your great-great-great-great grandfather was a rogue of some sort will probably prove fascinating.  Subscribing to something like Ancestry.com can make searching a lot easier, but remember that you are always doubling your search — that is, two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents and so on.  So if you go back twenty generations, you will be looking for over one million people for just that last generation.  Obviously, you have to narrow it down.  What I did was to try and find those people in the family tree who had some interesting experiences in the military of one country or another. After doing all this research, I came to the conclusion that no matter where you are from, we are very likely related to one another…one giant family.  Here are some interesting folks who may be part of your family as well, if you go back far enough:

Hrolf Rollo, Robert I De Normandie, was a Viking chief born in 846 in Norway.  He was with the Viking fleet that captured Normandy and besieged Paris in 885.  After leaving the area, he returned in 911, recaptured Normandy and launched another attack on Paris, before laying siege to Chartres.  He was defeated by Frankish forces at the Battle of Chartres on 20 July 911, but retained Normandy, after pledging feudal allegiance to King Charles.  After Charles’ death, Rollo expanded his domain by seizing Le Mans and Bayeux; 30th great grandfather.

Guy Geoffrey, William VIII, Duke of Gascony, Duke of Aquitaine, was born in 1025.  He was the leader of allied army that helped Ramiro I of Aragon at the Siege of Barbastro, Spain in 1064, the first campaign organized by the papacy against a Muslim city and served as a precursor of the later crusades.  He died on 25 September 1086 at Chizé, Poitou-Charentes, France and is buried at the église abbatiale de Saint-Jean l’Evangéliste de Montierneuf, Poitiers, Poitou-Charentes, France; 28th great grandfather.

Henry De Ferrers, Earl of Stafford, was born in Ferrieres, Normandy, France in 1036.  He distinguished himself at the Battle of Hastings, 14 October 1066, fighting with William the Conqueror.  He died in 1088 at Castle Tutbury, Staffordshire, England and is buried there; 27th great grandfather.

William I, Duke of Normandy, “William the Conqueror,” conquered England in 1066 after winning the Battle of Hastings, 14 October 1066; 25th great grandfather.

Richard De Surdeval was born in 1023 and owned, the Manor of Surdeval, a village in Normandy near Mortain.  He fought as a knight at the Battle of Hastings, 14 October 1066, with William the Conqueror; 25th great grandfather.

Malcolm III, King of the Scots, was born in 1031.  He was killed while besieging a castle at the Battle of Alnwick on 13 November 1093 by Arkil Morel, under Robert De Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria; 25th great grandfather. 

Sir Anston Luttrell fought at the Battle of Hastings, 14 October 1066, with William the Conqueror; 24th great grandfather.

Foulques (Fulk) V, Foulques the Younger,” Comte d’ Anjou, King of Jerusalem, was born in 1092 at Anjou/Pays-de-la-Loire, France.  On his initial crusade 1119-1121, he was attached to the Knights Templar.  His next crusade was from 1130-1143, when he was defeated at the Battle of Barin, 1137.  He died in Jerusalem on 10 November 1143 in a hunting accident after his horse fell and crushed him; he is buried at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, Knight Templar; 27th great grandfather.

Duncan MacCrinan, Duncan I, King of Scotland, killed by MacBeth at the Battle of Pitgavenny, 14 August 1040; 26th great grandfather.

Hugh Vermandois, “The Great,” Count of Vermandois, Duke of France, was born in 1057 at Vermandois, France.  He was influenced to join the First Crusade after observing an eclipse of the moon on 11 February 1096.  He helped capture Antioch in 1098, returned to France, but went on the minor Crusade of the Faint-Hearted in 1101.  He was wounded in battle with the Turks in September 1101 and died of his wounds at Tarsus on 18 October 1101.  He was buried at the St. Paul Church in Tarsus; 27th great grandfather.

William VII, Count of Poitou, Duke of Aquitaine and Gascony, was born on 22 October 1071 in Aquitaine, France.  He was on the Crusade of the Faint-Hearted, where in September 1101 at Heraclea, Anatolia, Turkey, almost his entire army was destroyed by the Seljuk Turks; he reached Antioch with only a handful of men.  He died on 10 February 1126 in Poitiers, France; 27th great grandfather.

Sir Nigel De Aubigny was a Norman nobleman and supporter of Henry I of England.  He fought at the Battle of Tinchebray in Normandy on 28 September 1106, as part of Henry I of England’s invasion of Normandy; 25th great grandfather.

Henry I, King of England, was born about 1068, the fourth son of William the Conqueror.  He fought in various battles to include the Battle of Tinchebray in 1106 and the Battle of Brémule in 1119.  He died on 1 December 1135; 24th great grandfather.

Sir William Marshal, 4th Earl of Pembroke, was born in 1146 in Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, England.  He went on Crusade from 1184-1187, known throughout Europe as “The Marshal” and described as the greatest knight who ever lived.  He defeated over 500 knights in jousting tournaments and became the only man to defeat Richard “the Lionhearted” in such a test.  He signed the Magna Carta on 15 June 1215 at Runnymede as one of the witnessing barons.  He led Henry III’s forces to victory at the Second Battle of Lincoln during the First Barons’ War on 20 May 1217.  He died on 14 May 1219 in Caversham Manor, Henley, in Oxfordshire, England.  On his deathbed, he was admitted as a Knight Templar; he is buried at Temple Church, London, England; 25th great grandfather.

Guy II of Ponthieu was born in 1090 at Ponthieu, France.  He was on the Second Crusade until he died of illness on 25 December 1147 at Ephesus, Turkey.  He is buried at St. John’s Basilica in Ephesus; 23rd great grandfather.

Amadeus III, Count of Savoy and Maurienne, was born in 1092.  In 1147, he accompanied his nephew Louis VII of France and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine on the Second Crusade.  Amadeus travelled south through Italy to Brindisi, where he crossed over to Durazzo, and marched east along the Via Egnatia to meet Louis at Constantinople in late 1147.  After entering Anatolia, Amadeus, who was leading the vanguard, became separated from Louis, near Laodicea, and Louis’ forces were almost entirely destroyed.  Marching on to Adalia, Louis, Amadeus, and other barons decided to continue to Antioch by ship.  On the journey, Amadeus fell ill on Cyprus, and died at Nicosia in April 1148.  He was buried in the Church of St. Croix in Nicosia; 24th great grandfather.

Sir Henry De Essex, Constable of England, was born in 1121.  During the campaign in Wales during the Welsh Wars in 1157, he dropped the royal standard of Henry II.  He was later accused of treason and fought a trial by battle on Fry Island, where he was defeated by Robert De Montfort.  He survived, but as a convicted traitor, his estates and offices were forfeit and his family disgraced, so he took the Benedictine cowl; 24th great grandfather.

Sir Roger De Mowbray, Lord of Montbray, was born in 1122.  He fought at the Battle of the Standard on 22 August 1138 against the Scots at Cowton Moor, Northallerton in Yorkshire.  In 1141, he was captured with King Stephan at the Battle of Lincoln in the civil war in England.  In 1147, he accompanied Louis VII of France and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine on the Second Crusade, gaining acclaim by defeating a Muslim leader in single combat.  He participated in the Revolt of 1173 against Henry II, but was defeated at Kinardferry, Kirkby Malzeard and Thirsk.  He went on Crusade again in 1177 and again in 1185.  He fought and was captured on 4 July 1187, again on Crusade, at the Battle of Hattin in the Holy Land by the Muslim armies under Saladin.  The Knights Templar ransomed him several months later, but he died shortly afterward.  The account of Roger’s military service was first described in a sixteenth-century narrative from Newburgh Priory, tells of adventure, fantasy and daring.  According to this version of events, Roger wrestled with a dragon and encountered a lion, which he brought back with him to his castle at Hood, in Yorkshire.  His exploits are remarkably similar to those of the Arthurian hero and Knight of the Round Table, Yvain, in Chrétien de Troyes’ twelfth-century romance, The knight and the lion; 24th great grandfather.

Frederick I “Barbarossa,” Duke of Swabia, King of Germany, King of Italy, King of Burgundy, Holy Roman Emperor, was born in 1122.  He was on the Second Crusade 1148, launched six military campaigns into Italy and led the Third Crusade in 1189, before he drowned in the Saleph River (now the Göksu River) in southern Turkey on 10 June 1190, 24th great grandfather.

Sir William De Ferrers, Earl of Derby, was born 1140 at Staffordshire, England.  He was a compatriot of Richard the Lionhearted; he was on the Third Crusade until he died on 21 October 1190 at the Siege of Acre.  He was a Knight Templar; 24th great grandfather.

Sir Thomas Salisbury, Knight of the Holy Sepulcher, was born 1160 at Denbighshire, Wales.  He was on the Third Crusade, 1189-1192 and fought at the Siege of Acre in 1191; 24th great grandfather.

Sir Henry Salisbury was known as “The Black Knight” for his prowess against the Saracens on the Third Crusade; 23rd great grandfather.

Sir Nigel De Mowbray was born in 1145 at Axholme Castle in Lincolnshire, England.  He was on the Third Crusade and was killed at the Siege of Acre in 1191; 23rd great grandfather.

Jean I of Ponthieu was born in 1135 at Montreuil-sur-Mer, Flanders, France, he was on the Third Crusade until he died on 30 June 1191 at the Siege of Acre, Holy Land; 22nd great grandfather.     

Henry De Bohun, 1st Earl of Hereford and Essex, Constable of England, Sheriff of Kent was born in 1176.  He signed the Magna Carta on 15 June 1215 at Runnymede as one of the witnessing barons.  He served with King Louis VIII of France’s forces at the Second Battle of Lincoln during the First Barons’ War on 20 May 1217 and was captured.  He was on the Fifth Crusade, 1219-1220, but died on 1 June 1220 in Egypt enroute to the Holy Land.  He is buried Llanthony Priory, Gloucester, England; 23rd great grandfather.

Sir Robert De Vere, Master Chamberlain of England, 3rd Earl of Oxford, was born in 1164.  He signed the Magna Carta on 15 June 1215 at Runnymede as one of the witnessing barons.  He died in 1221; 22nd great grandfather.

Sir William De Mowbray, Lord of Axholme Castle, was born in 1173.  He signed the Magna Carta on 15 June 1215 at Runnymede as one of the witnessing barons.  He died in 1222; 22nd great grandfather.

Malise mac Gilleain, 2nd Chief Clan MacLean, fought at the Battle of Largs against the Vikings on 2 October 1263; 22nd great grandfather.

Sir William De Fiennes, Sheriff of Somerset, Lord of Wendover, was born at Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire, England.  He was on Crusade in 1240-1241, before he died in April 1241 at Acre, Holy Land; 22nd great grandfather.

Sir Humphrey De Bohun V, “The Good”, 2nd Earl of Hereford and Essex, Constable of England, godfather of Prince Edward, later to be Edward I of England, was born 1208 in Hungerford, Essex, England.  He was on the Seventh Crusade, 1250-1252.  He died 24 September 1275 in Llanthony, Gloucester, England and is buried at Llanthony Priory; 22nd great grandfather.

 Robert I, “The Good”, Count of Artois, Prince of France, was born on 25 September 1216.  He was on the Seventh Crusade before he was killed while leading a group of Knights Templar at the Battle of Al Mansurah, Egypt on 8 February 1250; 21st great grandfather.

Sir Hugh Le Despencer, 1st Baron le Despencer, Justiciar of England, Constable of the Tower of London, was born at Loughborough, Leicestershire, England on 5 August 1223.  He was killed by Sir Roger Mortimer at the Battle of Evesham on 4 August 1265 during the Second Barons’ War, while fighting on the side of Simon Montfort and the rebellious barons; 20th great grandfather.

Malcolm Gillie Coluim MacLean, 3rd Chief of Clan MacLean, helped defeat Edward II of England at the Battle of Bannockburn in the First War of Scottish Independence, 24 June 1314; 21st great grandfather.

Sir Alexander Luttrell was born in 1236 at East Quantoxhead, Somerset, England.  He was on the Eighth Crusade, 1270-1273, until he was killed at Acre, Holy Land on 3 May 1273.  He is buried at West Quantoxhead; 22nd great grandfather.

Sir John Salisbury of Lleweny, born 1240 in Lleweny, Denbighshire, Wales, on Eighth Crusade, 1271-1272, died on March 7, 1288, unknown burial; 22nd great grandfather.

Edmund “Crouchback” Plantagenet, Prince of England on Eighth Crusade, born 1271, killed at the Siege of Bayonne, France for his brother, King Edward I, on 5 June 1296, interred at Westminster Abbey; 20th great grandfather.

Sir Robert De Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale, was born in 1243.  He fought in the Second Barons’ War, Welsh Wars, and First War of Scottish Independence, including the Battle of Dunbar Castle on 28 April 1296, as a supporter of King Edward I; 20th great grandfather.

Sir Robert De Tibetot, Constable of Porchester Castle, born 1228 in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, England, on Eighth Crusade, 1270, died 22 May 1298 in Nettlestead, Suffolk, England; 19th great grandfather.

Sir John De Mowbray; 2nd Baron Mowbray, born 4 September 1286 in Lincolnshire; fought and captured at the Battle of Boroughbridge, 16 March 1322, as part of rebellious barons under Lord Thomas the Earl of Lancaster, against King Edward II; hanged at Yorkshire on 23 March 1322; 19th great grandfather.

Sir Humphrey De Bohun, Earl of Hereford Essex, killed at the Battle of Boroughbridge, 16 March 1322, as part of rebellious barons under Lord Thomas the Earl of Lancaster, against King Edward II; 18th great grandfather.

Hector Ruadh MacLean, 6th Chief Clan MacLean, killed at the Battle of Harlaw, “Red Harlaw,” 24 July 1411; 18th great grandfather.

Sir John De Vere, Earl of Oxford, fought at the victories at the Battle of Crecy, 26 August 1346 and the Battle of Poitiers, 19 September 1356 against the French.  Died on 23 January 1359 at the Siege of Rheims during the Hundred Years’ War; 18th great grandfather.

Sir Ralph De Shelton, 14th Lord of Shelton, was born in 1315 and fought during the Hundred Years’ War.  At the Battle of Crecy, 26 August 1346, he served in King Edward III’s company and was knighted for saving the life of the king’s son, Prince Edward III of Wales, “The Black Prince.”  At the Battle of Poitiers, 19 September 1356, he captured French nobleman John Recourt; 18th great grandfather.

 Lachlan Bronnach MacLean, 7th Chief of Clan MacLean, captured at the Battle of Harlaw, “Red Harlaw,” 24 July 1411; 17th great grandfather.

Sir John Hawkwood, Condottieri, fought during the Hundred Years’ War at the victories at the Battle of Crecy, 26 August 1346 and the Battle of Poitiers, 19 September 1356 against the French.  He commanded the White Company of mercenaries in France and Italy, and was commander-in-chief of the army of Florence in the war against Milan in 1390; 17thgreat grandfather.

Sir John Tyrell fought in the retinue of Sir Walter Hungerford in the victory at the Battle of Agincourt against the French on 25 October 1415 during the Hundred Years’ War; 15th great grandfather.

Hector Odhar MacLean, 9th Chief Clan MacLean, killed at the Battle of Flodden Field, 9 September 1513; 15th great grandfather.

Rueben Lisenby, private, served in Captain Samuel Martin’s Troop of Lieutenant Colonel William Polk’s Regiment of Light Dragoons, in Colonel Thomas Sumter’s South Carolina First Brigade of Militia against the British in South Carolina during the American Revolutionary War, 5th great grandfather.

Johannes Heinrich Jobst served in the 2nd Hessian Hussar Regiment (14th Prussian Hussar Regiment) in Frederick The Great’s Army, 1780-1792, 4th great grandfather.

Myron D. MacLean, corporal, fought in the Battle of the Bulge and the Hürtgen Forest in the 9th Infantry Division, where he was wounded and taken prisoner, 1944-45, father.  He later received a Silver Star for this action.

From this list, it appears that the family “grandfathers” didn’t always win, but they weren’t afraid of a fight either if they believed in a cause…not bad, not bad at all!

Back in the Day2016-01-13T18:07:15-06:00

Majors MacLean, Mark Kimmitt and Clint Anderson on SAMS Map Exercise

Majors MacLean, Mark Kimmitt and Clint Anderson on SAMS Map Exercise

The School for Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) was the most difficult academic school that I ever attended.  Class ran from 7:30 a.m. to noon.  The rest of the day and night was a reading assignment of 400-500 pages, often an entire book.  The following morning, the seminar would discuss what they had read.  SAMS began in the early-1980s; it was based on the demanding training that the Prussian and German General Staff officers received long ago.

Majors MacLean, Mark Kimmitt and Clint Anderson on SAMS Map Exercise2015-09-10T15:03:00-06:00

Olga at the Oktoberfest

Olga at the Oktoberfest

Olga (left with large beer mug) at the Oktoberfest.  Olga can make friends with anybody.  Many were the times that she has taken the spouses on various excursions away from a battlefield visit.  These side trips usually involved excellent food and out-of-the-way shopping opportunities.  On the Fifth Field research trip to France in September 2012, she took the lead in numerous French villages and was so outgoing that at every stop, people were happy to help us find obscure crime scenes.

Olga at the Oktoberfest2015-09-11T11:48:52-06:00
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