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Historians At Odds

July 2024
1min read

In our October, 1971, issue we printed part of a letter from Thomas J. Fleming, author of a history of West Point, criticizing “A Black Cadet at West Point” (August, 1971), by John F. Marszalek, Jr., for “a severe lack of historical perspective.” Not surprisingly, Mr. Marszalek has reacted with equal vehemence. “Mr. Fleming’s criticisms,” he writes, “while presented with spirit and flourish, are not valid. … his knowledge of the entire matter, judging by his book’s bibliography, was based mainly on a contemporary article written by a West Point professor before the court martial had met. As for the reversal of the decision, it came at a time when the nation had tired of the case and [it] won or lost few votes for the Arthur administration. … Mr. Fleming’s insistence that the cadets would not have been stupid enough to make such a blunder as tying Whittaker, etc., is supposition and nothing more. It is just as logical to offer the supposition that Whittaker was not stupid either. Facts not suppositions determine truth. …”

Rather than extending this interesting controversy any further, we suggest that concerned readers compare the article by Mr. Marszalek with the account of the Johnson Whittaker case given in Mr. Fleming’s book, West Point: The Men and Times of the United States Military Academy (1969) .

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