I was up at 7 again this morning to volunteer for the second and final day of the Colby Military Writer’s Symposium. This was the big day – the panel discussion that the conference is centered around, and this year’s theme, as I mentioned yesterday, Civilians in the Path of War.
However, earlier, there were two other events, one at 8 am, which was a breakfast presentation in Milano Ballroom. It featured John Nagl and Anne Nivat and was focused on journalism in combat zones, from Chechnya to Iraq and Afghanistan. Nagl is a Lt. Colonel in the US Army, and Nivat is a freelance journalist who’s been to a number of combat zones, and both talked about the need to tell the public what is going on in places, as well as it’s important to get a full story from every side.
I did some driving after that, shuttling authors from place to place by golf cart, which was fun, Gerhard L. Weinberg in the morning, and Mark Grimsley and Clifford J. Rogers later in the afternoon, after Roger’s talk about soldiers in the Middle Ages, which proved to be an utterly facinating talk on the changing mentality of soldiers as war has evolved. He was a highly animated and interesting speaker, and I really want to pick up his book on the middle ages at some point.
At 2, there was the main panel, Civilians in the Path of War, and a number of topics were discussed, from the fire bombings of Japan by the American forces, to POW casualties as a result of that, civilians in current conflicts, and the big question asked was: Is it okay to target civilians who collaborate with enemy forces, and what, if there is one, is the line between combatant/insurgent/terrorist? It’s a troubling topic, and I don’t think that there’s any clear answer, and there really wasn’t one given. The power went out twice on us, which was problematic, because they were doing a live broadcast. I left after the second outage, because I wasn’t all that interested in the student questions. Besides, I had a student to tutor.
Later in the evening, I dressed in better clothes and went to the Meet the Authors Dinner, a formal event in which people with good GPAs, important ranks, or volunteers for the conference were invited, along with teachers, guests and of course, the authors. Mark Grimsley was at my table, and we talked about England and Europe, and the effect of the internet (paticularly blogging, wikipedia and Youtube on mass media these days), which was interesting. A lot of my friends were there, which was fun, to chat with various people about things. Plus, there was an open bar.
Two books were awarded the Colby Award for excellence in military writing. I believe that the only criteria is that they have to be military related writing, political or something similar, and an author’s first work in the field. The two books were Conduct Under Fire: Four American Doctors and Their Fight for Life as Prisoners of the Japanese, 1941-1945 by John A. Glusman and Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the American Navy by Ian W. Toll. Both books look absolutely facinating, and I’m adding Six Frigates to my ‘To Buy At Some Point When I Have Income List’. I have one of the previous winners, Franklin and Winston, by Jon Meacham, which won two years ago – the books that they pick for the award are outstanding.
I didn’t get a chance to talk with either author to any extent, although I was in a converstation with Mr. Toll earlier today with a couple of other people – interesting guy. The dinner was outstanding, with really good food – Sodexo’s chefs read each of the books and tailor meals based on the countries that they’re based out of. I had an Iraqi chicken dish with rice – really good, with Pinot Noir Red Wine – Also really good.
That’s it for the conference. I said goodbye to some of the authors I’d met, and headed home. It was an enlightening couple of days, to say the least.