Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 10, 2002
HISTORY: Buried Valor

On the subject of the French, if you wanted a reason for the cultural decline of the martial spirit in France, think about the military families and veterans organizations, even in such a demilitarized culture as the U.S., that helps keep that spirit alive. Then think about the wholesale slaughter of France's best fighting men in several wars, stretching from the decimation of Napoleon's Grand Armee (Paul Johnson's biography tells of how his best troops were massacred by close-quarters cannon fire at Waterloo) to Verdun. I'm not going to get all Social Darwinist here, but the loss of so many men of any inclination to soldier had to have a depressing impact on the culture's tolerance for battle, one that Americans (even given the bloodletting of the Civil War) can scarcely imagine.

Anyway, that's one thought that came to mind in this fascinating Newsweek/MSNBC story on the discovery of a mass grave of Napoleon's army in Vilnius, in Lithuania. And there's a modern touch, too: the Lithuanians, bless their hearts, want to exploit the grave to further their campaign to get into the EU. Commercialism is the best revenge.

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