Category Archive 'Military History'

14 Nov 2016

General Winter (He’s on the Russian Team)

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generalhiver375

13 Aug 2016

The Roman Legion

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Informative.

29 Jul 2016

WWII Jurassic Graphic

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WWIIDinosaurs

An amusing effort to illustrate in an imaginative way the larger scale of WWII conflict on the Eastern Front.

28 Mar 2016

Great Bronze Age Battle Fought in Northern Germany

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BronzeAgeBones

Around the time that the Greeks were fighting the Trojans because Menelaos’ wife Helen had run off with Paris, evidence has been found proving that a great battle involving thousands of men was fought over a nearly 2 mile (3 kilometer) front along the Tollense River in Northern Germany.

The conventional perspective is that Northern Europe, in the Bronze Age, was a sparsely-populated wilderness containing only scattered individual farmsteads, no cities, no advanced cultures, no major population centers, just a few pitiful, fur-clad barbarians.

So, how on earth, could there possibly have been two leaders and two societies stretching across such large territories and featuring such potent forms of political organization as to be able to field such large armies prepared to fight to the death?

These questions are absolutely fascinating, but since literacy and written records simply did not exist, we will never know the answers. All this does seem to demonstrate, though, that Barbarous, Prehistoric Europe was a lot more culturally-developed and complex than can be readily imagined.

Science:

In 1996, an amateur archaeologist found a single upper arm bone sticking out of the steep riverbank—the first clue that the Tollense Valley, about 120 kilometers north of Berlin, concealed a gruesome secret. A flint arrowhead was firmly embedded in one end of the bone, prompting archaeologists to dig a small test excavation that yielded more bones, a bashed-in skull, and a 73-centimeter club resembling a baseball bat. The artifacts all were radiocarbon-dated to about 1250 B.C.E., suggesting they stemmed from a single episode during Europe’s Bronze Age.

Now, after a series of excavations between 2009 and 2015, researchers have begun to understand the battle and its startling implications for Bronze Age society. Along a 3-kilometer stretch of the Tollense River, archaeologists from the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Department of Historic Preservation (MVDHP) and the University of Greifswald (UG) have unearthed wooden clubs, bronze spearheads, and flint and bronze arrowheads. They have also found bones in extraordinary numbers: the remains of at least five horses and more than 100 men. Bones from hundreds more may remain unexcavated, and thousands of others may have fought but survived.

“If our hypothesis is correct that all of the finds belong to the same event, we’re dealing with a conflict of a scale hitherto completely unknown north of the Alps,” says dig co-director Thomas Terberger, an archaeologist at the Lower Saxony State Service for Cultural Heritage in Hannover. “There’s nothing to compare it to.” It may even be the earliest direct evidence—with weapons and warriors together—of a battle this size anywhere in the ancient world.

Northern Europe in the Bronze Age was long dismissed as a backwater, overshadowed by more sophisticated civilizations in the Near East and Greece. Bronze itself, created in the Near East around 3200 B.C.E., took 1000 years to arrive here. But Tollense’s scale suggests more organization—and more violence—than once thought. “We had considered scenarios of raids, with small groups of young men killing and stealing food, but to imagine such a big battle with thousands of people is very surprising,” says Svend Hansen, head of the German Archaeological Institute’s (DAI’s) Eurasia Department in Berlin. The well-preserved bones and artifacts add detail to this picture of Bronze Age sophistication, pointing to the existence of a trained warrior class and suggesting that people from across Europe joined the bloody fray.

FlintArrowHeadinBone

08 Feb 2008

A No-Confidence Vote for Western Civilian Leadership

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TMLutas contemplates a recent news development, and concludes that proliferation of WMD among non-state actors is inevitable, and that the current aversion of members of the modern Western intelligentsia to violence is only likely to lead, in the end, to far worse violence.

When the generals start getting restless, they do things like this preemptive nuclear strike proposal. But why are the generals getting restless all over NATO? Amerca’s Gen. Shalikashvili, Germany’s Gen. Naumann, the UK’s Field Marshall Inge, the Netherland’s Gen van den Breemen, and France’s Admiral Jacques Lanxade are all serious military players of varying politics. These are not brash, unthinking chest beaters. What possessed them to intervene in this manner and damage their societies’ moral standing in the world (and thus their vaunted ‘soft power’) by proposing an updated, in your face, first strike policy, coupled with a much more active NATO and explicitly decoupling military action from the UN?

I can see no other explanation than a profound, international vote of no-confidence in the political class of the West by heavily experienced military minds that live, breathe, eat, and sleep the problem of defending us all from violent threats to our liberties and very existence. I am not even sure that the presentation of the plan in Bucharest in April is coincidence. After all, Romania is a very good example of how even dead broke powers with unstable, highly repressive regimes can extract uranium and enrich it while nobody takes the threat seriously. Had Ceausescu managed his internal repression better, Romania would be a balkans “hedgehog” today similar to the Swiss except with nuclear armed Scuds and a sociopath’s hand on the button. Romania’s Ceausescu era relations with North Korea were always very good. They also had friends across the muslim world.

The ‘peace faction’ that does not look beyond its own nose will be shocked, outraged, and redouble its efforts to neuter the military so it cannot be used. It’s as if they have never heard of feedback loops or their own part in this very pernicious one. Spelling it out explicitly, the peace factions have neutered the political process so even vigorous peaceful competition is impossible. After all, to draw a caricature of Mohammad, write an insensitive book, or film a blaspheming movie draw death sentences from which we have little practical defense. The best we can do is a sort of life-long semi-imprisonment, insecure in our lives and our possessions, never knowing when the knife will fall.

The “peace faction” ensures that persistent, responding, violent escalations cannot happen so we end up implicitly enslaved because, in the real world, others are willing to persistently bring to bear more violence than we are. We shrink from exercising our freedoms because of justifiable fear. And thus we lose them in a practical matter because the muslims (and in their success they will draw imitators) are willing to tolerate periodic violent episodes that spasmodically, ineffectively lash out at them more as a sop to western domestic factions that demand “a response” because a durable majority in so many Western countries has shrunk back from the military buildup necessary to generate “a solution”.

The only thing that is left in modern Western political discourse is to make the spasmodic response so terrible, so violent, that in that short political window when the West permits itself to respond at all will annihilate our enemies and form a sort of “solution” after all. And thus the general staff rebellion in the making.

What the general staffs across the West see is the death of Western supremacy of violence…

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds.

28 Aug 2007

Some Vietnam War Titles

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Robert D. Kaplan, in the Atlantic, discusses in detail a number of Vietnam War books exemplifying the warrior ethos which are widely admired in professional military circles (just check the prices of those out-of-print Jean Larteguy titles), but which are not nearly as well known by the general public as they deserve to be.

Wikipedia profile quotes David Lipsky saying of Robert D. Kaplan:

Kaplan, over his career, appears to have become someone who is too fond of war.

Andrew J. Bacevich:

If Kaplan is a romantic, he is also a populist and a reactionary.”

Michael Ignatieff:

Mr. Kaplan is the first traveler to take us on a journey to the jagged places where these tectonic plates meet, and his argument–that our future is being shaped far away ‘at the ends of the earth’–makes his travelogue pertinent and compelling reading.”

David Rieff:

This is breathtaking. Here is a serious writer in 2005 admiring the Indian wars, which in their brutality brought about the end of an entire American civilization.”

26 Jun 2007

Horatius’ Commendation: Military Humor

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Nicolò dell’Abbate, Horatius Cocles défendant un pont
16th century, lithograph, 39.8 x 55.5 cm. (15.7 x 21.9″), Louvre

Horatius Cocles’s gallant defense of the Sublican Bridge was mentioned in despatches by Livy, and sung of in the poem by Thomas Babbington Macauley

Excerpt:

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the gate:
‘To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods,

‘And for the tender mother
Who dandled him to rest,
And for the wife who nurses
His baby at her breast,
And for the holy maidens
Who feed the eternal flame,
To save them from false Sextus
That wrought the deed of shame?

‘Hew down the bridge, Sir Consul,
With all the speed ye may;
I, with two more to help me,
Will hold the foe in play.
In yon strait path a thousand
May well be stopped by three.
Now who will stand on either hand,
And keep the bridge with me?’

Then out spake Spurius Lartius;
A Ramnian proud was he:
‘Lo, I will stand at thy right hand,
And keep the bridge with thee.’
And out spake strong Herminius;
Of Titan blood was he:
‘I will abide on thy left side,
And keep the bridge with thee.’

‘Horatius,’ quoth the Consul,
‘As thou sayest, so let it be.’
And straight against that great array
Forth went the dauntless Three.
For Romans in Rome’s quarrel
Spared neither land nor gold,
Nor son nor wife, nor limb nor life,
In the brave days of old.

Then none was for a party;
Then all were for the state;
Then the great man helped the poor,
And the poor man loved the great:
Then lands were fairly portioned;
Then spoils were fairly sold:
The Romans were like brothers
In the brave days of old.

More recently, Colonel W. C. Hall had some fun imagining what Horatius’ citation would read like in our modern era (printed in the British Army Journal, January 1953).

16 May 2007

Bush Found a Czar

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There is a famous military history by Kenneth P. Williams, titled Lincoln Finds a General, describing the lengthy series of unsuccessful Union commanders and the dismal record of Union defeats in the Eastern theater of the war, before, after three years of fighting, Abraham Lincoln finally made Ulysses Grant general-in-chief.

In Grant, Lincoln found a general who had an unbroken record of victory in the West, and it was Lincoln’s decision to give supreme command to a fighting general with a habit of success which brought his war to a successful conclusion.

Burdened with a similarly protracted war, one happily unmarred by any American defeat, but nonetheless a war increasing dramatically in unpopularity with the electorate, George W. Bush has found not a fighting general with a record of victory, but a staff officer. He has appointed not a general-in-chief with unlimited authority to wage war, but rather “a war coordinator” whose role will be “to eliminate conflicts among the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies.”

Following Lincoln’s example would have been more to the point.

Associated Press story

16 May 2007

Study Shows Insurgencies Can Be Defeated

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USAToday recently reported an in-progress study by military historians commissioned by the Department of Defense demonstrates that insurgencies can be defeated, but doing so takes time and requires ingenuity and patience.

Insurgencies, such as the one the United States is fighting in Iraq, last an average of more than 10 years, according to a study commissioned by the Defense Department.

For the United States, the good news is that rebels lose more often than they win. Chances for stopping an insurgency improve after 10 years, the study shows. …

“The violence in Iraq is going to go on a minimum for at least three or four more years and in reality another five plus years,” said Christopher Lawrence, director of The Dupuy Institute, which is conducting the study.

The Iraq war is in its fifth year.

The Annandale, Va.-based Dupuy Institute is under a Defense Department contract to study insurgencies to help give commanders more information about what works and what doesn’t. The study is due to be completed in September.

The military recently produced a new counterinsurgency manual that establishes doctrine for waging a counterinsurgency.

According to the manual, defeating an insurgency requires:

•An understanding of local society;

•Good intelligence about the enemy;

•Establishing security and a rule of law;

•Establishing a long-term commitment.

The new doctrine points out the limits to using overwhelming firepower, which could anger civilians, and the need to find political solutions to win over the population.

The manual says counterinsurgency is much more complex than other forms of warfare, requiring the coordination of political, military and economic efforts.

As part of the study, the institute built a database of 63 post-World War II insurgencies, including Vietnam, the French in Algeria and the Soviets in Afghanistan.

The United States experience in Vietnam soured the U.S. military on insurgencies, Lawrence said. The prevailing military doctrine after Vietnam emphasized building conventional capabilities to counter the Soviet threat. “The subject (of counterinsurgencies) has not been seriously analyzed by the Army since the 1960s,” Lawrence said.

Not all insurgencies are quagmires, the report shows. Insurgents only win in 41% of the conflicts in the database, Lawrence said. The remainder were victories for the counterinsurgents, were inconclusive or are still going on.

One of the most successful counterinsurgencies was the British victory over communist insurgents in Malaysia during the 1950s.

Col. Timothy Reese, director of the Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., cautions against reading too much into it.

Each conflict is unique, and the differences are as important as the similarities, Reese said.

“War cannot be reduced to a formula,” Reese said. “War is an art as much as it is a science.”

22 Apr 2007

A Tactics Primer

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William Lind (who teaches at Quantico) has a column at Military.com discussing why the Kesselschlacht is not part of the US Army’s modern battle repertoire.

It occasionally happens that a reader’s e-mail is translated into dots and dashes and sent to me over Mr. Morse’s wonderful electric telegraph. The sounder on my desk, opposite the inkwell and under the flypaper scroll, recently tapped out the following, from Jim McDonnell of Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

    “Could you please explain what’s meant by the remark about U.S. forces being unable to fight battles of encirclement? Is it that there are too few of them in Afghanistan or are you saying that our forces are constitutionally incapable of that kind of operation? If the latter is the case, that would make a column all by itself.”

It would, and it does. The problem is not numbers but tactical repertoire, or lack thereof. That deficiency, in turn, is a product — like so much else — of the American armed forces’ failure to transition from the Second Generation to the Third.

Second Generation tactics, like those of the First Generation, are linear. In the attack, the object is to push a line forward, and in the defense it is to hold a line. As we saw in so many battles in and after World War I, the result is usually indecisive. One side or the other ends up holding the ground, but the loser retires in reasonably good order to fight again another day.

Usually, achieving a decision, which means taking the enemy unit permanently out of play, requires one of two things, or both in combination: ambush or encirclement. Modern, Third Generation tactics reflect an “ambush mentality,” and also usually aim for encirclement. To that end, Third Generation tactics are sodomy tactics: the objective is to get in the other guy’s rear.

On the defense, that is accomplished by inviting the enemy to attack, letting him penetrate, and then launching a counterattack designed to encircle him, not push him back out. This was the basis of the new, Third Generation German defensive tactics of 1917, and also the German Army’s standard defense in World War II.

On the offense, the rule is not “close with and destroy” but “bypass and collapse.” The goal is to penetrate deep into the enemy’s rear, by stealth or by force (the Germans used a three, not two, element assault, and the largest element was the exploitation element), then roll up the enemy’s forward units from the flank and rear while overrunning his artillery, headquarters and supply dumps. The same approach was used by the Panzer divisions on the operational level, leading to vast encirclements of hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops on the Eastern Front in 1941.

The U.S. military today knows little or nothing of this. It did attempt an operational encirclement of the Iraqi Republican Guard by 7th Corps in the First Gulf War, but that attempt failed because 7th Corps was too slow. On the tactical level, most American units have only one tactic: bump into the enemy and call for fire. The assumption is that America’s vast firepower will then annihilate the opponent, but that seldom happens. Instead, he lives to fight again another day, like Osama and his al Qaeda at Tora Bora.

While the central problem here is conceptual – sheer ignorance of Third Generation tactics — there is a physical aspect to it as well. On foot, American soldiers are loaded down with everything except the kitchen sink, and they will probably be required to carry that too as soon as it is digitized. To use tactics of encirclement, you need to be at least as mobile as your enemy and preferably more so. The kind of light infantry fighters we find ourselves up against in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan are just that, light. They can move much faster on their feet than can our overburdened infantry. The result is that they ambush us, then escape to do it again, over and over. Flip-flops in the alley beat boots on the ground.

As the students in my seminar at Quantico discovered early in the year, the decisive break, both in tactics and in organizational culture, is not between the Third and Fourth Generations but between the Second and Third. It is little short of criminal that the American military remains stuck in the Second Generation. The Third Generation was fully developed in the German Army by 1918, almost a century ago. It costs little or nothing to make the transition. To those who understand how the Pentagon works, that may be the crux of the problem.

25 Nov 2006

General Crook’s Tactics in Afghanistan

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General George Crook (1828-1890)

Jim Dunnigan’s Strategy Page sees a parallel to today’s battle between the American Army and barbarian Taliban tribesmen in the Afghan wilderness with the US Army’s 19th century struggle to subdue hostile Indians. The author suggests that today’s Army adopt the tactics and diplomacy of General George Crook.

Crook relied primarily on diplomacy, making a reputation among the Indians for honesty in negotiations, while his diplomacy was backed-up by overwhelming superiority of armed force. Crook brought the enemy to bay by a system of alliances with rival tribes, and by exploiting his greater capacities for movement and supply. US cavalry could move and strike hostile villages in winter time, when the loss of shelter and supplies would prove a devastating blow to the normally elusive enemy.

Read the whole thing.


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