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November 21, 2012



Kos-Read! He's kind of a famous twat in BJ expat circles.


Stripped naked and covered in filth, while begging for a role, is probably how we should best remember him


I especially like the fact that his breakthrough role was playing...a blow-in laowai. Also, surely there's some irony in the Stilwell role, playing someone who made a career out of being a laowai and enormous self-promotion while not obviously contributing very much.

(Why do the yanks dote on Vinegar Joe so much? I remember reading the Barbara Tuchman book and scratching my head at why she and apparently the whole US government believed he was Mars himself, in much the same way WSC loved anything "special".)


"He's kind of a famous twat in BJ expat circles."

And now he's *actually* famous!

There's a revisionist school around Stilwell that now has him as the ground agent of America's betrayal of Chiang Kai-shek. It cropped up in Beevor's otherwise enjoyable general history of WW2. I checked and Beevor says in his afterword that he got his China data from Jon Halliday.


Presumably they loved Stilwell for the same reason they loved Chiang - very strong emotional attachment to one particular version of China.

Chris williams

Just re-reading Slim, and he seems to have been massively wound up by Stilwell, but also saw him as the only half-reliable conduit he had if he was to employ Chinese troops. Also Slim thought that the US army's untenable grand strategy for defeating Japan in China (prop. Stilwell) was less damaging than the USAAF's untenable grand strategy for defeating Japan in China (prop. Chennault).


That's a question: is there a good book on Americans being weird/colonial/missionary-y/messianic about China, in general? It strikes me as an interesting phenomenon, and one we know a fair bit about in single-point case studies but not as a thing in itself. And, of course, it had huge influence on history as late as the 1970s.

And the personalities! Pearl Buck! Edgar Snow! Vinegar Joe! the whole Wendell Wilkie/Madame Chiang slash thing! Tail-Gunner Joe! Chennault! George C. Marshall, making a brief inspection visit of crazytown before heading back to consensus reality! Richard Nixon! Mao, who for once isn't the craziest person in the story! Slim! Mountbatten! Herbert Hoover! Countless CIA goons and god botherers!


Chris: pretty good summary.

Alex: I was kind of hoping that the Tuchman book would be it, given the subtitle.

Push it back a bit and you can include Frederick Townsend Ward and the Ever-Victorious Army.

And, of course, John Birch.

"Birch was born to Baptist missionaries in Landour, a hill station in the Himalayas in northern India... In his senior year at Mercer, he organized a student group to identify cases of heresy by professors, seeking to uphold the Scriptural definition of conversion and other doctrines..."

Nobody expects the Sixth Form Inquisition!


And indeed Earthquake McGoon and the rest of the China Air Transport Service (one of the last survivors of whom I interviewed a few years back).

Richard J

I've got one kicking around that may cover a limited bit of the field i.r.o. Henry Luce that's been sitting on my to read pile for the past couple of years.


There's also John Hay and Teddy Roosevelt's Open Door policy and all that weird mackinderesque theorizing about the Asian landmass and the Shanxi coalfields. Which leads us on to Herbert Hoover's mining interests.

I read this a couple of years back. It's a bit dissertationy but it pulls it all together:


China really was a kind of lost Raj for the US.

Richard J

And that is precisely the book i was rambling on about - worth reading then?

Richard J

Football and tax fans - by the way, I'd hold off on the hubris if we're a Rangers fan. Polite disbelief in the verdict is a common view among my colleagues (including me, sadly) who've read the full judgment.


It was a *First Tier* Tribunal decision Richard. Even from the unfathomable depths of my tax ignorance it did occur that the clue might be in the name....

Richard J

True, but there is a question about the worth of appealing against a bankrupt company... That said, it's not just Rangers that it matters too - it's a fairly open secret lots of other clubs are in the same position and they were used as a test case to take to litigation (being in HMRC's view the worst offender)


"Football isn't a matter of life and death you know..but it's far more important than paying for schools or maintaining the roads" as Bill Shankly never quite said.

As I wander down Paisley Road West of an afternoon it seems that despite administration / bankruptcy etc it's business as usual at Ibrox.

That said, football focussed friends assure me that the matches are now more likely to be against Athletico Brechin or Dynamo Bathgate than Celtic.
But the idea that there isn't a continuous entity called Rangers, which should be held liable for the money it owes us all is, for non lawerly/accountant types, difficult to sustain.


Thanks for the recommendation, jamie and Richard.


And the personalities!

don't forget Henry "Scoop" Jackson, who was always consumed with an ambition for US/Chinese alliance. This was presumably out of a shared paranoia about Russia, although of course the whole shared massive-racist-about-the-Japanese thing would have given him some conversation starters.


Spartak Partick. Real Kircaldy. Grasshopper Crianlarich. Hey, this is fun.

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