[Glover] Johns…showed marksmanship for what it ought to be. This full colonel would stroll along the [rifle] range for a while giving encouragement and instruction, then stop by a soldier.
“You got a quarter, son?” he’d ask.
“Give me your rifle there.” The trooper would hand over his weapon. After taking a good hard look at it, Johns would turn to the kid. “Now you just throw that quarter up in the air. High as you like.”
The trooper would toss up the coin, and before he had a chance to blink, Johns would put a bullet—sometimes two—right through the middle of it. He’d hand back the kid’s rifle as the quarter ricocheted to the ground, and continue down the firing line until he got the urge to display his prowess once again.
The “Johns Quarter,” as it was called, was a sought-after prize. More than that, though, was the pleasure of watching him “produce” one. The troops loved it. Johns was a showman in the truest sense of the word (and he was also the first to admit it)—for him it was a basic principle of leadership.
— About Face, Chapter 12
In one respect at least, ancient war was more civilized than our own. The aim of ancient war was generally to kill or capture the opposing chief and display him in a cage. Because of the primitive state of technology, the only way to get to the opposing leader and his inner circle was to cut through the mass of his people and army, necessitating bloody battles and great cruelty. But since the Enlightenment, Western leaders have exempted themselves from retribution and have sought to punish each other indirectly: by destroying each other’s armies and—since Grant and Sherman—by making the civilian populations suffer as well. But is it really more honorable to kill thousands by high-altitude bombing than by the sword and ax?
— Warrior Politics, pp. 122-23
There is little finesse in air combat. Many civilians and those who have never looked through the gun sight…at an enemy aircraft have a romantic perception, no doubt influenced by books and movies about World War I, that pilots are knights of the air, chivalrous men who salute their opponents before engaging in a fight that always is fair. They believe that elaborate rules of aerial courtesy prevail and that battle in the clear pure upper regions somehow is different, more glorified and rarefied, than battle in the mud. This is arrant nonsense. Aerial combat, according to those who have participated, is a basic and primitive form of battle that happens to take place in the air. Fighter pilots—that is, the ones who survive air combat—are not gentlemen; they are backstabbing assassins. They come out of the sun and attack an enemy when he is blind. They sneak up behind or underneath or “bounce” the enemy from above or flop into position on his tail—his six-o’clock position—and “tap” him before he knows they are there. That is why fighter pilots jink and weave and dart about like water bugs in a mason jar. They never hold a heading or a position longer than six or eight seconds. Aerial combat is brutally unforgiving. To come in second place is to die, usually in a rather spectacular manner. Most casualties never know they are targets until they are riddled with bullets, covered with flames, and on the way to creating a big hole in the ground. Those who want to engage in the romanticized World War I pirouette of a fair fight will have a short career. Thus, aerial combat favors the bold, those who are not afraid to use the airplane for its true purpose: a gun platform. There is nothing sophisticated about sneaking up on someone and killing him. Aerial combat is a blood sport, a knife in the dark. Winners live and losers die….
— Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, pp. 42-43
So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 [C.E.] when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braid, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal highnesses, seven queens—four dowager and three regnant—and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries. Together they represented seventy nations in the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last. The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortège left the palace, but on history’s clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.
The photograph is not from The Guns of August. I failed to record what book I found it in. Imagine if it was a color photograph.