Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

Janine Davidson examines the art, politics, and business of American military power.

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Weekend Reader: D-Day, Prisoners of War, and the Last Navajo Code Talker

by Janine Davidson
June 6, 2014

d day anniversary British World War II veteran Frederick Glover poses for a photograph as soldiers parachute down during a D-Day commemoration paratroopers launch event in Ranville, northern France, on June 5, 2014. Some 3,000 veterans are among those attending ceremonies across the northern French coastline where Allied forces landed in the largest seaborne invasion in history to help speed up the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. (Thomas Bregardis/Courtesy Reuters)

D-Day: Seventy Years Ago Today. Our own William J. Parker offers an excellent commemoration for today’s anniversary. Elsewhere, The National Interest reminds us that hindsight is 20/20: the success of the landings at Normandy was far from a sure thing, and even as General Eisenhower did all he could to ensure D-Day’s success, he also prepared for the worst. Elsewhere, Foreign Policy reports on a forgotten massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane—one of the worst committed in occupied France—in the midst of the hasty Nazi withdrawal.

With the safe return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a furious debate. Nearly every element of the story is fiercely contested: why was Bergdahl never rescued via a special forces operation? Was he worth trading for five Taliban prisoners? Did President Obama act legally in the process? How many American soldiers died looking for him—and should he be tried for desertion? For now, the position of the Pentagon and many former commanders is firm; as General Stanley McChrystal (ret.) stated, “We leave no American behind. That’s unequivocal.” As a point of reference, the last wartime execution of a deserter by the United States occurred in the closing months of World War II. More generally, prisoner swaps were a regular (although forgotten) phenomena in World War II across British, American, German, and Japanese governments.

The last of the original Navajo Code Talkers, Chester Nez, passed away this week. There were originally twenty-nine: recruited by the Marine Corps for their fluency in a virtually unknown tongue, they played a crucial role in the Pacific war effort. Their double-encrypted code remained unbroken throughout World War II.

Number of Salafi jihadists has doubled since 2010. This is the conclusion of a troubling new RAND report. The big instigator is the war in Syria; even as these networks grow, modern communications mediums also make them increasingly decentralized.

Weekend Reader bonus: not all the technology intended for D-Day was a home run. Meet the Panjamdrum, a wheeled, rocket-propelled explosive wagon intended to charge the beach ahead of the troops. For obvious reasons, it was scrapped before June 6.

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