Military History Nirvana....

Last weekend, I was in military history nirvana....that's right troopers, I was at the 2012 Society of Military History Annual Conference...

And yes, it was totally awesome.  While my +1 ably managed the home front, I was able to spend two blissful days discussing Clausewitz, tactics, doctrine, Civil War, aviation, COIN...sigh...almost too much to take in.

The staff was very friendly, the hotel actually served above average hotel food at the annual awards luncheon, and the conversation was quite stimulating.

I have to say, my favorite moment was the session where four War College students, all mid-field grade officers, presented the findings of their masters' thesis.  The first two presentations were average (at least to this Grouchy Historian), the next presentation was actually very interesting and well thought-out, and the final presentation was....well....awful, in my jaded, snarky opinion.  I must confess I had NO idea what this guy was trying to say, what his point was, or what conclusions he was taking to sell to us.  It was, in my mind, pretty dismal.  BUT, the best part was when the commentator, a weighty and respected historian who runs each session and ties together the presentations before launching into the question and answer session, got up to do his closing remarks.  This particular commentator is a decorated war vet, military history professor, and is very well respected in the community.  ANNNND, he pretty much smacked them all down.  Ok, I was a very bad man to let my schadenfreude get the best of me, but it was truly, truly a beautiful thing to watch.  Anyone who thinks historians are boring should take lessons in how this commentator politely and firmly skewered these guys.  I mean, it was truly one of those "and the horse you rode in on" moments, delivered with gentility and manners.  Ahhhh, truly a moment to savor.  Yes, I am bad..but there was a lesson to be learned in how to politely tell a colleague that he is full of crap.

The other interesting moment was my time in the exhibition hall.  As you well know, your Grouchy Historian has a severe weakness for books and I assumed there would be bargains to plunder.  However, all I proved, yet again, was the definition of assume...yup, I felt a severe let down.  I walked up to one table and asked about a book I was interested.  The gentlemen from this rather high and mighty publishing house said, "Oh, I can give you a 50% discount on that...only $45."  I politely declined, although I felt like saying, "Dude, I can get this on Amazon for $40 with free shipping."  Overall, I must say, none of the sellers seemed to realize that Amazon existed, at least in my opinion. I mean, I ASSUMED there would be some kick-ass discounts..I mean seriously, who else loves history books, right?  BUT, no, the only vendor that came close was the University Press of Kansas, one of my favorite publishers.  They actually beat the Amazon price on their books by about 5%, so BAMMO, instant gratification baby, daddy got the new book on Operation Anaconda.  This looks like it's going to be a truly excellent book, and yes, it's actually becoming a historical event now...10 years after that confused mess that was the first hunt for Osama in 2002.

I also bought an interesting unit history on the 4th ID in Iraq from 2003-2004 by a good ol' boy from Alabama that seems to be the 4th ID informal historian.  I think his little publishing house is so small, it's not even on Amazon.  But hey, it was only $25 and he was very polite, so I gave him my business.  So not a horrible hunting trip, but not a great one.

  Overall, I was very happy at the end of the weekend.  Lots of new things to think about, some new writing ideas, some new motivation to get off my butt and make those writing ideas a reality and BEST OF ALL, I figure I do indeed posses a truly magnificent military history library built up over 35 years...yes 35 years....but I ain't that old. I do, however still own my very first history book The American Heritage Picture History of World War II given to me by my big sis when I was a wee lad of 11...yup, I was toast after that book.  SO, thanks very much to all at the Society of Military History, you throw a great convention.