Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Albert, you are doing nice work on this Blog. Lots of good thought.

I nominate you for General


This is coolbert:

We in the modern times think of prayer, war, and the soldier as being contradictions. Not all have shared this attitude.

During the Battle of the Bulge, in World War Two, General
Patton ordered his chaplain to compose a prayer in the hope that inclement
weather would be lifted, allowing grounded U.S. aircraft to take to the air
and be able to strike German positions. At first the chaplain was hesitant
to compose such a prayer. This might seem to be seen as asking for GOD's
in killing at war. But the chaplain did compose the prayer, the prayer
was said, the inclement weather was lifted, U.S. aircraft took to the air,
and the battle did go in favor of the U.S. forces. The short version of Patton's prayer goes as:

General Patton's prayer, prepared by Msgr. James H. O'Neill, Chief Chaplain
of the Third Army

"Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great
goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations."

There is a much longer version of Patton's prayer. To see the entire prayer, click here.

Now, some military units now only have prayed for success on the
battlefield, but did so in a fervent manner. Again, while to the modern mind,
prayer and the military are contradictions, in the past, this has not always
been so.

The "Ironsides" division of the New Model Army, during the British Civil War, commanded by Oliver Cromwell, went into battle both praying and singing the psalms!! Killing and prayer were not in conflict to them.

The Boer commando heading for the Battle of Blood River, previously
mentioned in a previous post, was said to resemble an intinerent prayer
service. Stops for prayers, entreaties to GOD, and solemn vows were all part
of the march. The date of the battle, December 14, was known in South Africa until recently as the "Day of the Covenant". The commando members had made a religious pledge that if GOD delivered their enemies [the Zulus] into their hands, they [the Boers] would consecrate that day and keep it holy as the would the Sabbath [I am paraphrasing here]. After the Boer War [a period far subsequent and many years after the Blood River battle], Winston Churchill made special mention in his memoirs of hearing the Boers preparing for battle by praying, and the chilling effect this had on the British soldiers.



This is coolbert: The Battle of New Orleans is another example of the strategic defensive. Or is it? The British troops fighting under Pakenham were at the time probably the finest troops in the world at the time [veterans and victors of the Peninsular campaign against the forces of Napoleon]. Were soundly, even obscenely defeated by the rag tag militia of General Andrew Jackson [fortified by U.S. regular army troops].

Whether he did it consciously or unconsciously, Jackson, defending, choose a position well suited for defense. The British troops had to advance through a swamp to get at the defenders. The artillery of the British could not follow, while the American defenders were not inhibited in such a manner, the U.S. artillery being positioned and sited. The results are well know. 2000 British dead while the American side lost 6 dead!! And of course the sad case is that the war had been over for two weeks prior to the battle being fought!! Jackson was elevated to high esteem and eventually the Presidency by this battle.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

This is coolbert: The ethnic bomb. This is an idea first heard about over
thirty years ago now. The concept is diabolically sinister. Find a germ
warfare [biological] agent, a virus or a bacteria, that will attack only certain groups of people, and leave the remainder of a populace unscathed.
For example, a ethnic bomb might be created that will attack only white
people, or only black or only Asian people, or only Swedes or only Russians,
but not others, this is the concept.

Is this concept feasible? Well, for the time being, the belief is NO! There is not enough diversity among the human species to be able to identify specific unique groups and find unique weaknesses
among that group. The human species is just too mixed.
It is said that the genetic differences between an Englishman
and a Nigerian are less than the genetic differences
between two gorillas living on opposite sides of
the same mountain in Rwanda!

The human species is just too closely related to be able to identify specific groups that accurately. You will not be able to
so precisely tailor a germ warfare agent that just attacks one
group solely. Whatever agent you have will in all probability attack
other groups too!

[This lack of genetic diversity among the human specifies is due
to an event that occurred 70,000 years ago.
The eruption of the volcano Toba on the island Sumatra almost
wiped out the human species. Of one million humans estimated to be alive
prior to the eruption, only 10,000 humans were left 1,000 years later!! From this group of 10,000 humans are descended all the people alive today!]

Having said that at the present time, to the best knowledge of the general
public, this concept is not practically possible, is it still a matter of
interest? YES! Click here, here, and here to see web sites that talk further
about this concept and such [the Village Voice site is particularly good].

About the same time that the ethnic bomb was mentioned in the public domain, a novel was published that proposed such a possible scenario as the use of an ethnic bomb. Not exactly the same, but close. This novel, written by an American author, dealt with the poisoning of wheat shipments from the U.S. to the Soviet Union with carcinogens [cancer causing]. These undetected carcinogens would be consumed with bread made from the wheat. Was a carcinogen that held a deadly delayed reaction so that it would be twenty years before all the cancers would show up. About 100 million Soviets would be afflicted with cancer, and the Soviet Union would be on it's way out as a great power. This novel, written in the early seventies, had the action taking place in the middle nineties. Did not anticipate the fall of the Soviet Union. Anyhow, this American, a man that had made a living trying to develop field expedient protection against nuclear blasts, was asked in an interview if such a thing as the poisoning was possible. He said yes, and then mentioned that he had been contacted by about twenty countries concerning his novel and the hypothesis contained within. The scientist also mentioned that in South Africa, there was a type of cancer that blacks got at a rate five hundred times the rate that whites got the same cancer! This was speculation, inferred by myself, as meaning possible poisoning of the black food supply by whites. Never proven. But read below and see the linked site.

Has confirmation of ethnic bomb ever been found in the public domain? Yes!! At the truth and reconciliation hearings in South Africa, after the end of the apartheid regime, scientists came forward to testify that they had worked on an ethnic bomb. But not a bomb to kill however. Was to sterilize the black population so they could not reproduce. A lot of bacterias were looked at but none were ever found to be effective. Again, this stuff was hard to use in a manner against a particular, unique population. Would come back to hit the disseminators as well. Click here to read about South African research in this area.

There is a disease out there that does hold promise for the ethnic bomb. Bubonic plague. The black death. It was discovered during research for AIDS that certain people, exposed to the AIDS virus, did not get the disease. Now, why was this so? It was found that their genetic make up did have an inherent immunity to AIDS. Now, some clever and knowing research did remember reading that during the bubonic plague epidemics in Europe in the period from the 14th to 17th century, a very small number of people were observed and mentioned in the chronicles to be seemingly immune to the disease. They did not get sick or die. This was determined to be about 2 % of the population. Well, the family histories of these survivors was studied and lo and behold they were found to be related to the same persons that had the immunity to AIDS. It was found that in 2 % of the white population, a natural immunity to the black death and AIDS is present. By some genetic fluke, these persons don't get sick. It was also found that in African [black], and Asian [oriental] populaces, this immunity did not exist at all. NONE, period! This would seem to suggest that if the black death hit the whole world all at once, only a very small percentage of the populace would survive, and they would all be white! Read about this by clicking here.

What would be the drawbacks to the ethnic bomb? Retaliation!! And the fear that what you are doing might get out of control and come back to bite you in a big way. This stuff, with the current technology, seems to be very feasible. Maybe is being done as we speak. At least the preparation for it. Have research or stockpiles of the pathogens ready. And not much would be required. Could be hidden in the proverbial refrigerator. You would have to assume that if you were an aggressive nation and had developed such toxins, others have done so too. You might not want to use them as you might have something used against you. And again, this stuff, whatever it is that you use, might get out of control in some way and come back to bite you in ways you cannot anticipate.


This is coolbert: My apologies to Pat Tillman.

In a previous post some time ago, I had discussed the subject of jock elite military units.

Said that the idea would not fly.

For a variety of reasons.

Well, Pat Tillman proved that elite athletes can join the military and serve in elite units with heroism and distinction.

But Pat Tillman is such a great exception to the rule.

How so?

Well, off the top of my head, I can recall only one other athlete of repute that served the military in combat during my time. That was Rocky Bleier of the 1970's Pittsburgh Steelers. Was in Vietnam and played with shrapnel in his body [Curt Gowdy was fond of mentioning this fact over and over]. But no others can I think of.

Now, in another blog published on the internet, just a short time ago, the comment was made asking, "why does someone who is worth something have to go to do what someone who is worthless will not do?" [I am paraphrasing here]. Well, ask yourself this? If someone worth something, like Pat Tillman, does not go and do it, who else can and will?


This is coolbert: Here are some interesting statistics.

According to Suvorov, during the Second World War, the Soviets manufactured about 300,000 mortars.

The Germans, by contrast, manufactured about 60,000 mortars during the same time.

And the rest of the combatants, combined, manufactured fewer mortars that the Germans did [<60,000].

This is a very startling statistic.

Now, these mortars the Soviets manufactured were cast iron, smooth bore, firing a cast iron bomb [mortar rounds are called bombs in all armies of the world with the possible exception of the U.S. Army]. Accuracy was not a concern to the old time Soviet Generals. Volume of fire was most important. Cast iron smoothbore mortars could be made quicker, more cheaply, and in much greater numbers [the same for mortar bombs]. Cast iron mortar bombs when exploding create more splinters than does a steel mortar bomb, both being of the same size. Small bore mortars were not favored by the Soviets either. They did make smaller bore mortars, but preferred sizes of 120 mm and greater. 120 mm was the standard size, 160 mm and 240 mm mortars also being produced [the two latter are towed]. That 240 mm mortar also had the potentiality for being nuclear capable.

[the Soviets classified all mortars with caliber of 120 mm and greater as artillery.]


Tuesday, April 27, 2004

This is coolbert: Now, during the Vietnam War, the South Vietnamese Army [ARVN] made a large scale incursion into Laos. This operation was called Lam Son or something like that. Turned into a disaster with the South Vietnamese troops being routed and running for their lives. Many pictures were taken of ARVN troops trying to flee and hanging to the skids of "Huey" helicopters. This was a big public relations disaster for the U.S. Now, the U.S. briefer in Saigon was briefing the news media in Saigon and was referring to this operation, Lam Son, as being terminated. He then said the ARVN were conducting a retrograde operation. One of the news people being briefed took exception to the word "retrograde". This reporter chastised the briefer as if the briefer was small child. The reporter then went on to say something like, "why do you used words to obscure the fact that the ARVN took a bad beating and are just retreating. Why do you use euphemisms such as retrograde? Why don't you just say retreat?" And this briefer did not know how to respond! Well, there is a conflict here. The briefer was talking in military jargon to people, the reporters, who are just not familiar with the terms of military jargon and what they signify. Terms used by the military have a significance that is of importance to the military but does not carry the same weight or meaning in the civilian world [Many of man's endeavors have jargon. The military is not unique in this. Eskimos are reputed to have twenty five words for ice. Ice can accomodate a man on foot. Ice that can accomodate a man crawling on the ice but not walking. Ice that is strong enough to accomodate a man and dogs and dogsled, etc]. The military is talking and using words the meaning of which is not understood by the uninitiated. For example:

retrograde movement
(DOD) Any movement of a command to the rear, or away from the enemy. It may be forced by the enemy or may be made voluntarily. Such movements may be classified as withdrawal, retirement, or delaying action.

withdrawal operation
(DOD) A planned retrograde operation in which a force in contact disengages from an enemy force and moves in a direction away from the enemy.

(DOD, NATO) An operation in which a force out of contact moves away from the enemy.

delaying operation
(DOD, NATO) An operation in which a force under pressure trades space for time by slowing down the enemy's momentum and inflicting maximum damage on the enemy without, in principle, becoming decisively engaged.

What is being said here? Some very specific things are defined for each term. First, a retrograde is any movement away from the enemy. And there are three types of retrograde. Retirement, delaying, and withdrawal. Each has a very specific definition. Each term connotates a specific image to the combat commander. Based upon this image, the combat commander can make decisions appropriate for the situation.

For instance. If a unit is delaying, they are moving away from the enemy, and having to fight as they do so.

If a unit is retiring, they are moving away from an enemy, and are not in contact with that enemy. Are not having to fight as they do so.

And, if a unit is withdrawing, they are moving away, are breaking contact, and may or may not be fighting the enemy as they move away.

A certain specific image is created with each word delay, withdraw, retire. This image can be used to create a response by the combat commander. If the unit is delaying, they need support as they delay and move to the rear. Artillery, close air support, etc. If they are withdrawing, they are breaking contact and may or not may not need support, but the situation bears watching. And if the unit is retiring, they are not in need of support now or in the foreseeable future. The combat commander can appropriately plan and prioritize his support for this units better if he receives a briefing using the correct terminology.

Now, in the case of the ARVN and Lam Son. It can be said that the situation was chaotic. Was this an organized move to the rear or an unorganized move to the rear? This was a subject for discussion. But to say that the military briefer was incorrect in his choice of words and was using euphemisms to conceal the truth was just not so.


Monday, April 26, 2004


This is coolbert:

The Straits of Malacca have become a hot topic item among naval circles.

Good program on the way home today on National Public Radio [NPR] about the Straits and the piracy threat.

How this threat may expand to combine the piracy threat with the terrorist threat. Especially from the various Islamic terrorist groups operating out of Indonesia, where most of the pirates come from.

We have seen how the terrorists in Spain obtained their explosives for their bombing campaign from local criminals in trade for drugs. The terrorists supply the drugs and the criminals the explosives.

The Straits of Malacca are a choke point where some outrageous amounts of the world major commodity trade passes through. Something like a third of the world's exportable oil, half of the world's exportable liquefied natural gas [LNG], etc.

Oil and gas from Indonesia to other points in the world and oil and gas from the Persian Gulf region to Japan primarily, but not exclusively. And besides Indonesia, a lot of smaller players here. Brunei, Singapore in particular are very susceptible to disruption of this major sea lane. To read further about the Straits of Malacca click here.

The Straits of Malacca have been since the time of the earliest European colonists and explorers an important transit point.

First the Arabs, then the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and finally the British used Malacca as an important trading point.

Many battles and wars were fought over the fortress at the Straits of Malacca.

Now the strait separates Malaysia and Indonesia.

The former worried about ferment in Indonesia and the threat it poses to the region, the latter in a state of constant upheaval from many quarters. In the 1960's, the Sukarno regime of Indonesia actually launched a mini-war against the newly created nation of Malaysia. And the Al-Qaeda associated Jamaah Islamiyah hopes to one day create a Malay Muslim state out of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the southern Philippines.

Piracy has always been a serious matter in this region of the world for centuries, even before European colonialism came upon the scene.

The infamous Bugi men of the Banda Sea used to range as far west as Singapore and as far north as the Philippines in search of targets for piracy. These are the same Bugi men your parents used to scare you about when you were a kid, "don't let the boogie man get you."

And the famous white Raja of Sarawak, [on the island of Borneo] Brookes Raja obtained a 100 year rule agreement from the locals for himself and his progeny if he was able to defeat and control the pirates that infested the area [he was able to do so]. To read further about Brookes Raja, click here.

The modern day pirates in this part of the world are no better than the pirates of yore.

Board a ship, at best set the crew adrift in life boats or at worst murder the crew [modern ships carry small crews], steal the ship and sell the commodity cargo at some port, and then use the ship for other nefarious deeds. To read about such a boarding, only seven days ago, on 19 April, click here.

The governments in the area are not equipped to handle this threat.

The Indonesian government is not able to stop the pirates from carrying out their piracy from their territory, as they have too much internal strife on their hands.

The navies of Malaysia and Singapore are too small and ill-equipped to deal with the threat other than on a sporadic basis.

The U.S. Navy does have port facilities in Singapore, although as to how extensive they are is not known to me.

It would seem that U.S. Navy vessels are not properly equipped to deal with this threat.

What is required, and I do not know if the U.S. Navy possesses such ships, is gunboats of the Israeli "Reshef" or "Saar" class [click here to see these ships].

Not small, but not big either.

Gunboats have both a good and bad reputation in the world. Gunboat diplomacy leaves a bad taste in the mouths of most modern nations that had a colonial past. But gunboats were also instrumental in ending the African slave trade too. The fight against modern piracy would be an excellent example of how gunboats could be utilized in the modern age.

For surveillance over a large stretch of water, such gunboats could be equipped with radar held aloft by a tethered balloon or could use unattended aerial vehicles [UAV] for a peek over the far horizon. Such capability is already being used and would serve perfectly in this situation.

If real armed boarding force is required, it may be necessary to have Marines or SEALS on standby or actually on board the gun boats, using Zodiac type boats to launching counter-attacks against suspected pirates.

The terrorist/pirate combination here warrants inclusion of the U.S. Navy into the scene.
Economic disruption of such countries as Indonesia, Malaysia, or Singapore would be the goal of the terrorists.

Hijacking an oil tanker of a liquefied natural gas [LNG] tanker would be a disaster if the hijacked ship was used as a floating fire bomb or in the case of the LNG tanker, a floating bomb that would have the destructive effect of a nuclear explosion. Sail one of these ships into Singapore harbor and the disaster would be terrible, even to contemplate. Such a scenario has been proposed as a possible threat for some time now. Has not materialized, but is a definite threat. Read further about this threat by clicking here.

What is needed is a solution now.

Well, as in so many things, it would seem the terrorists and the pirates have the upper hand now and for some time into the future. Let us hope the problem can be properly addressed and solved. This should also be an indication that the terrorist threat is not confined merely to western targets. This is a world-wide scourge.




This is coolbert:

When the army of Alexander the Great invaded ancient India, they encountered war elephants used by the army of the Hindu King Porus.

Elephants have been used in war by the peoples of the Indian sub-continent probably for as long as war has been waged, and elephants have been domesticated.

A platform would be mounted on the back of the elephant for archers to shoot down at the opposition. Side curtains of heavy cloth material would hang down from the sides of the elephant, retarding the impact of arrows and spears [similar armored side curtains are used to protect the wheels and treads of modern tanks]. The huge bulk and great strength of the elephant could be counted upon for making your opposition break ranks rather than stand in the way of the beast and get run over!

This was the main battle tank of the era.

Now, the troops of Alexander were seasoned veterans who knew how to deal with strange and new ways of fighting employed by the forces of their enemies.

But elephants were a new phenomenon.

The army of Alexander did have a way of dealing with the beasts. Beating of drums, blowing of trumpets, and the firing of fire arrows all were used to spook the elephants and cause the mahout [rider in command of the elephant] to lose control of his charge. The elephant then would run amok, and be a danger to all around, friendly forces as well as enemy [sort of like an Abrams tank going out of control, and running around aimlessly on the battlefield, a danger to everyone!].

Now, this tactic of causing the elephant to go berserk, was anticipated by the Indian troops of Porus. Perhaps they had encountered such a thing before? The mahouts were prepared for this. Each mahout would be equipped with a mallet and a large stake. So that when the elephant went nuts and was a danger to friendlies as well as foe, the mahout would then hammer that stake into the brain of the elephant, killing it instantly and disabling the beast.

Damn, that is a rough way to go!

There is even in the Bible, Book of Maccabees, an account where Eleazar, the brother of Judas, encounters and kills in battle a war elephant being used by the King of Syria himself!!

"A great many elephants were in the army of Lysias, and one of them being larger than the others and having more gorgeous trappings, was supposed by Eleazar to carry the commander-in-chief, Lysias. So he dashed forward alone and got under the elephant and, stabbing upward, killed him. But the elephant in falling crushed Eleazar and killed him."

In killing the beast, Eleazar himself died.

Read this too:

"Ælfric follows the Latin closely for the episode of the slaying of the elephant, but he adds the detail that Eleazar struck the creature at the nauelan (l. 518). The implication is that this was its weakest point. This is possibly from Isidore again, where it is stated that a rhino kills the elephant by stabbing upwards into its stomach with its horns"

[in pre-historic times, the Asiatic elephant is known to have roamed up and down the river valleys of Mesapotamia!!].


Sunday, April 25, 2004

Winged Hussars!

This is coolbert:

For those interested, here is an authoritative web site for Polish cavalry of the 1600's. Click here to see the site.

This site does describe the weaponry carried by the "winged hussars". A Polish cavalryman would carry a long lance, a rapier six foot long that was to be used in lieu of the lance if the lance broke, a saber, pistols, carbine, bow and arrows, and a war hammer.

During this period [1600's] it was not unusual for troops to carry such a melange of weapons.

Carrying firearms and bow and arrows both at the same time was not a contradiction. In battle, the carbine and pistols would be carried loaded, fired once, then the hussar would use the bow and arrow as arrows could be fired faster than firearms of the period reloaded and fired again.

If this seems strange, Ben Franklin at one time advocated arming the Continental Army with bow and arrow as he felt it would be more effective after the initial discharge of muskets [this idea was not adopted].

One picture from the above web site shows the lancers moving in to lance the enemy, while bowmen are also firing at the same [the bowmen are shown using the recurve bow favored by the Tartars. The Tartars being descendents of the Mongols living in the vicinity of the Crimea and the frequent opponents of the Poles].

Another picture from the above mentioned site shows a hussar carrying the war hammer in his hand. One end of the hammer head has the normal flat hammer surface, the opposite site of the head having the spike that could be driven through armor.

The role of the Polish cavalry did feature prominently in the writings of the Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1905. As a matter of fact, the books of Henryk were said to have inspired many Poles to develop idea of an independent homeland [Poland at that time was a part of the Russian Empire]. A cover from one of Henryk's books shows such a cavalryman, sporting both firearms and bow and arrows, the bow being again the Tartar type recurve, with the Tartar type quiver.




This is coolbert:
Uniforms are a part and parcel of the soldiers experience. And over time, some interesting uniforms have been developed. Customs about wearing the uniforms are also interesting from a cultural standpoint.

During World War Two, General Patton gave the Third Army under his command the famous [infamous [??]] order for his men to wear ties into battle.

This was against all protocols practiced at the time and caused a murmur among the troops.

Well, this was part of the "let the enemy know we are coming" concept. Rather than deciding to practice normal operational security, General Patton wanted to let the German units who they were up against, the Third Army.

Seeing troops coming toward you wearing ties would let the German soldier know they were up against the troops of General Patton and that their options were limited. The German could fight, but his efforts would be futile. They would either die or they could surrender. And it is a fact that many German units surrendered or even moved into the area of operation of the Third Army to surrender, as this was felt to be honorable.

And, as I have mentioned in a previous post, the Polish "winged Hussars" wore not only unique uniforms, their battle kit and horse were also strange to modern eyes, but had a definite purpose in mind:

The ultimate weapon of the Husaria was psychological.

"As well as wearing helmets, thick steel breastplates and shoulder and arm guards the Husaria also wore wings; great wooden arcs bristling with eagle feathers attached to the back of the saddle or the shoulders [a person I mentioned this to described this as sounding sissy or queer, well, that is the prevailing mores of our modern culture, not the reaction of a person from the 1600's]. Over their shoulders they wore the skin of a tiger or leopard as a cloak. Their harnesses, saddles and horse-cloths were embroidered and embellished with gold and gems and their long lances were painted with stripes like a stick of rock and decorated with a five-foot-long silk pennant which, along with the wings and jingling jewellery, made a frightful sound (described as "an evil hiss" by some) and sight during the charge. They even sometimes painted their horses red and white!"

However, with regard to uniforms, perhaps the ultimate was that worn by the ancient Celtic warriors. Accounts from the chronicles of the Romans report that many Celtic warriors preferred to go into battle naked!!

Most Celts scorned the use of armour and before about 300 B.C. preferred to fight naked. Some Celtic tribes still fought naked at the battle of Telamon in 225 B.C.

The Latin historian Strabone wrote: "All the Britons colour themselves with woad, which gives them a deep blue colour, so they look more fearsome in battle".

"The Celts fought naked and wore torques around their necks. The torque was not simply an ornament but above all a great catalyst of energy, as was the horned helmet."

I cannot say why exactly this was done. Perhaps it was felt that as you came into the world this way, this was the way to go out of the world, if the fates had that in store for you?? Click here to see a drawing of one of these warriors undressed in his finest.


Saturday, April 24, 2004


This is coolbert:

Both the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae 2500 years ago and the Afrikaners at Blood River in the 1800's employed a defensive technique [constricting terrain] that served them both well.

When faced with overwhelming numbers, both defenders sought, found, and used with great skill terrain superior for the defense. Terrain that allowed the attacker to attack from only in one direction and only in limited numbers [the constricting terrain limits the numbers of troops that can pass at any given time].

In the case of the Spartans, when faced with delaying an army of Persians reputed to be the largest army ever fielded prior to that point, a narrow "pass" between the sea and a precipitous mountainous rise was selected as the place to do battle.

This "pass" [the "Hot Gates" Thermopalae] was actually a ten yard wide flat stretch of land between the water and the mountainous rise [this constricting terrain has long silted over. It is now about a mile from the mountainous area to the sea].

There was no way around this "pass" and the Persian army was compelled to use it.

It was here that Leonidas and his Spartans made their defense.

The Spartans, well armed, trained, experienced, led by their King, and determined to fight to the last man, gave a good account of themselves, using the advantage of the terrain to defeat numerous attempts by the Persian army to force passage. The superior numbers of the Persians could not come into play here. Defeated in the end by overwhelming numbers, the Spartans did delay the Persians long enough to allow Greek forces to mobilize and organize a successful defense of their homeland.

The Afrikaners at Blood River in the 1800's also made successful use of constricting terrain in their defensive battle against overwhelming numbers of Zulu warriors [10,000 Zulus versus 500 Afrikaners].

Blood River is another example of the strategic defensive. The 500 Afrikaners invaded Zulu territory and found superior terrain that would constrict the Zulu army.

The Zulus would be forced to attack from one direction only and then only limited numbers all at once.

Setting up their defensive position on this superior terrain, the Afrikaners were able to defeat the much larger Zulu force [it is estimated that the casualties were 4000 dead on the Zulu side, a cut hand on the side of the Afrikaners!!!].

Of course, the Afrikaners were armed with muzzle loading rifles and were opposed by warriors armed with stabbing spears, oxhide shields, and knokberries [clubs with a knot on the end]. But, it should also be noted that in the 1870's, a Zulu army of 30,000 men was able to overpower and totally annihilate a British force of 1500 men!!! So it was not only weaponry alone.

Some interesting tactics were employed by the Afrikaners at Blood River. The Afrikaner riflemen held their fire until the charging Zulu warriors were within six feet before opening fire.

This created a wall of human dead that the subsequent charges of Zulus would have to climb over before they could get close to the defenders.

Among the defenders, only about 100 men actually were firing the muzzle loading rifles, the remainder loading and reloading discharged weapons. Each of the 500 men among the defenders had come prepared with about four rifles each, a lot of thought having been given evidently to the defense the Afrikaners had in mind from the start.


Friday, April 23, 2004

This is coolbert: The Poles do not have a great military tradition.

At least this is the image held by many Americans.

I remember when I was a boy the joke was, "what is this?", as a kid puts his hands in the air as if to show surrender. "Polish war hero", is the response, to mirthful laughter.

And of course the story is remembered that during the First World War, Poles fighting against Americans as part of the German Army, were supposed to have surrendered to American forces, coming forward with hands up and saying, "me Polski, me shoot high". This story was also recounted to laughter.

Well, is this image true??

Well, not exactly. The Poles actually have a very proud and long military tradition. The image as held by most Americans is not true, rather, contrary to popular belief, the opposite is true.

On three occasions, the Poles saved western Europe from foreign invasion and conquest.

One time was in the 1200's, when the Mongols, fresh from their conquest of Russian, made a concerted effort to conquer all of Europe all the way to what the Mongols called the "western" or "other" sea [the Atlantic]. One of several Mongol armies thrust westward from Russia through Poland toward Teutonic Germany. This army was opposed by the Poles with help from the Teutonic knights. The Poles fought six battles with the Mongols, losing all six, but causing severe casualties to the Mongols. Casualties to the point where the Mongol army turned south and did not proceed further west.

A second occasion where the Poles defended western Europe from invasion and conquest was at the siege of Vienna in the 1600's. A Polish army under the command of the Polish King, John Sobieski, attacked and defeated the besieging army of the Grand Turk. This defeat was thorough and save the Viennese from probably certain defeat [to this day, an important export of the Poles is Arabian horses bred from horses captured from the Turk]. Defeat of the Austrians would have meant that all of western Europe would have open to further attack by the "terrible" Turk.

The third time the Poles saved western Europe was in the year 1920. The newly created Polish state was under attack by the invading Red Army of General Mikhail Tuchachevsky. The Red Army had as it's purpose the imposition of Soviet control over Poland and a further campaign to spread communism to the very much weakened post-World-War-One Germany [Red Army cavalry rode forward singing a song that went in part, "we're taking Warsaw, take Berlin too". The Poles were victorious over the invading Red Army and maintained their newly won sovereignty for decades afterwards. This victory is referred to as the "Miracle on the Vistula".

There was a recent exhibition in Chicago of Polish cavalry uniforms from the 1600's, the same period when John Sobieski led his army to victory over the Turk. Not only was this victory significant, but all throughout the period, Polish cavalry fought sporadically against slave raiders from the realm of the Grand Turk. The Poles are defenders of Christianity and all of Europe. A little known fact. This exhibit featured uniforms of the "winged Hussars" [cavalry]. Read about this at this site, click here.


Thursday, April 22, 2004

This is coolbert: Here is another quote from war that is often uttered: "in war, truth is the first casualty." Well, I am not going to testify as to the truthfulness of that statement. What I have in mind is some graphic images of war that become established in peoples minds. Images that carry sometimes great weight in the minds of people. And images that while not being lies or distortions, can be misleading.

One such image is from World War Two.

A cartoon of a stereotypical [at least to western minds] Japanese soldier. This cartoon is very well done and contains reams of biting sarcasm. What it shows is a little-itty-bitty Japanese soldier, big grin on his face, with big buck teeth protruding, wearing thick glasses with slitted, slanted eyes showing through the glasses. This Jap soldier has boots on that go up to his hips, and in his hand is a samurai sword that is longer than the Jap is tall, and the sword is dripping blood. In the background is a pile of human heads. And the caption under the cartoon says, "so solly". Illustrates the basic contradiction in Japanese nature that was apparent to westerners. The oh-so-polite Japanese on one hand, and the bestial and sadistic Jap soldier on the other.

And this is based in fact, not on silly and unfounded propaganda [the Rape of Nanking is just one example of such behavior on the part of the World War Two Jap].

Now, during the Malayan campaign in 1941, when a Jap force successfully defeated a much larger British force, one British officer, upon surveying a battlefield and examining the Jap dead, reported to his superiors, "not one under six foot [these were probably Japanese Imperial Marines, chosen for their stature], and no eyeglasses or buck teeth". Well, images, wrong ones, create an impression in the mind that is hard to overcome. Impressions in war can lead to disaster.

The second image that was sensational in it's time and created a very unfavorable impression in people's minds was from the Vietnam War.

A very famous photo was taken of a South Vietnamese General, General Loan [head of the South Vietnamese National Police] executing a captured VC. This VC was shot in the head at point blank range, after being captured and tied. This extremely graphic photo [it appears that the bullet is just entering the VC's head as the photo is being taken], turned many Americans to lose any support they already had for the South Vietnamese. Portrayed the South Vietnamese, and especially General Loan, as being brutal and cruel bad guys themselves. "This is the people we are supporting?", was the common response.

However, when one hears the entire story behind this incident, one's perspective changes.

General Loan, stumbling upon the VC prisoner being led away, immediately asked, "where was this man captured?". Upon being told, "at the National Police Headquarters", General Loan then gestured to the soldiers guarding the VC prisoner to step aside, where upon the General executed the VC.

Now, what is the significance of this prisoner being captured at the National Police Headquarters? Well, General Loan had just come from the Headquarters, where he had found the bodies of one of his senior officers, the officers wife, and their four children, who Loan was godfather to. These unfortunates had all been murdered, by having their throats slit, and this after being tied. So, who ever killed these people at the Headquarters were cold blooded murderers.

The identity of the captured VC was later established, he being a VC with the rank of Captain, and being either present or actually leading the VC attackers at the National Police Headquarters. Even more significant is the fact that this VC was caught dressed in civilian clothes, meaning that by this action he had placed himself in the category of terrorist and spy, and was not due the normal courtesies due a combatant. At least by my reckoning, what General Loan did, while being not acceptable, is within understanding by the norms of how most people behave in war. But please don't consider this VC to be an unfortunate by any means!!


Wednesday, April 21, 2004


This is coolbert:

Here is a quote from J.F.C. Fuller that is correct, but somewhat misleading:

"In the World War [WW1] nothing was more dreadful to witness than a chain of men starting with a battalion commander and ending with an army commander sitting in telephone boxes, improvised or actual, talking, talking, talking, in place of leading, leading, leading." - - J. F. C. Fuller

Yes, what Fuller says is true. The generals of the First World War "lead" their troops from far to the rear of the combat. They were not exposed to shellfire, machine gun fire, lice in a trench, or mud up to your knees that would suck your boots off. Most of the time, the commanders were ensconced in French chateaus that had been commandeered. With cooks, valets, maid, and of course the prerequisite staff to do the paperwork so essential to military life. When not "conducting" a battle, the general and his staff would dine on chateaubriand and fine wine and such, and go to bed with fresh linens and hot bath each day.

So what is misleading with the quote of Fuller? Well, most, if not all of the major combatant powers of the First World War had laws prohibiting general officers from exposing themselves to combat and danger at the front. They could not be where the fighting was, and this by law! The reasoning of the major powers was something like this, "We have such an investment in these senior officers, the generals, and they possess such unique talents and knowledge, that they cannot be spared. Their lives are very valuable to the war effort. We cannot have them be killed. They are not replaceable and cannot endanger themselves".

Now, the men who were junior officers in the First World War and became commanders [generals] themselves in the following Second World War, as a result of the resentment toward the commanders of the previous war, adopted a hands-on form of leadership.

Up front where the battle was being fought was the rule for such generals as Montgomery, Rommel and Patton.

This had advantages besides the leadership motivation. Being close to the combat allowed these commanders to properly gauge how things were going and take appropriate measures as necessary. This type of leadership has been maintained to this day as the correct approach. Current U.S. Army doctrine calls for a division commander to command his troops from the forward command post, located within line-of-site [FM radio range], of the forward troops. A good policy.


Tuesday, April 20, 2004

This is coolbert: In a previous post I have mentioned the principles of war as enunciated by J.F.C. Fuller. A British officer of infantry who in 1911 began his own self-study of the principles of war in his anticipation of the outbreak of a general world war in Europe. To his amazement, Fuller found out that no one prior to him had bothered or were able to compile a list of the principles of war [in the quote by Slim, he mentions the principles of war from the Field Regulations, but they were not listed]. As was stated in my previous post, these basic principles were probably always understood at the intuitive level by many military practitioners, but not put into a cogent written form. Fuller did compile his own list which became the accepted set of principles agreed upon by the British army. These principles are:







Economy of Force


The U.S. Army adopted these principles as also the agreed upon principles of war, almost word for word. A couple of word changes were made by the U.S. Army, such as mobility was substituted for movement, and unity of command and simplicity substituted for cooperation. So the U.S. Army agrees almost verbatim with what Fuller had to say. De Puy is of the opinion that the word movement and mobility are both incorrect, although the principle is sound. De Puy says to substitute the word maneuver for movement and mobility and you got it right.

Fuller did serve with distinction in the First World War, and continued to write about military history, military doctrine, and such after the war. J.F.C. Fuller was of the age where he could have served in the Second World War also, and in the capacity as a general officer. But he did not. He was felt to have demonstrated in the years just prior to the war decided fascist tendencies and sympathy for fascist movements all over Europe. For this the British government incarcerated him for a time and then released him. Fuller was prohibited from serving in any capacity during the war and faded away. A very sad ending!


This is coolbert: The situation with modern tank development is analogous to the development of modern combat aircraft as discussed in a prior post.

It used to be that each army had a variety of tanks, each suited for a particular purpose. Light tanks, medium tanks, heavy tanks, fast tanks, and even flying tanks.

There was also considerable ferment in tank development. New models were developed and fielded, each being almost, if not so, obsolete just as it came off the assembly line.

The U.S. had the Stuart tank, the Sherman tank, and the models M47, M48, and M60. And for the two latter, variants A1 to A3, etc.

The Soviets had the T-34, the T54/55, the T-62/64, the T-72, the T-80, and the T-90 models.

Each had larger guns, more armor, bigger and better engines, etc.

This is no
longer sustainable. A tank must be developed that will not be obsolete within a decade or a few years. The cost per tank is just too great. A modern tank has to be designed to be built and be fielded for decades and be successful.

This is what is seen now with the Abrams model of tank. The Abrams will have to suffice for some time into the future.

And it can.

The basic model can always be improved with new gun, engine, armor, sighting and aiming devices, ammunition, etc.

And doctrine using the tank as an offensive weapon is most important. Even if anti-tank guided missile [ATGM] development continues [and it certainly will], using the tank properly, as an offensive weapon massed, will ensure it's future for a long time to come.

Just to give you an idea of how much tank development has progressed over the years, consider this. A Sherman tank main gun could penetrate four inches of armor at four hundred yards. The gun of a modern M60 tank, not even the Abrams, can penetrate sixteen inches of armor at two thousand yards. That is a leap of twenty in capability just for the gun alone, not considering the other advanced features that have been developed, such as gun stabilizer, night fighting capability, range finding, engine power and armor protection, etc. Modern tanks are light years ahead of their World War Two counter-parts!!


This is coolbert: Military thoughts miscellany. Now, Napoleon is rated by Montgomery of El Alamein as being one of the three best generals of all time. According to Montgomery, when asked who were the three best generals of all time, the Field Marshal answered, "Alexander [The Great], and Napoleon were the other two". Monty was never known for lacking in ego. Nonetheless, Napoleon, as successful as he was, did have major failures as well. His abortive expedition to Egypt is one of them. And of course the catastrophic defeat in Russia is another. I would not count Waterloo as a major failure, as Napoleon did not have time to reorganize his forces and prepare for the allied offensive against him.

In a previous post I spoke about Slim of the Arakan. How he relates while studying as a cadet he was "poring" over the principles of war as listed in the old Field Regulations. This was during the First World War. Well, those principles of war could not have been that old. It was only in 1911 that a British officer of Captain rank named J.F.C Fuller was able to assemble the accepted [at least in the English speaking world] principles of war. He did this on his own after finding out that no basic principles were agreed upon and listed on paper. Probably intuitively understood by the "Great Captains" of history, but not studied and enunciated in cogent terms understood by all prior to that time.


Monday, April 19, 2004

This is coolbert: River crossings are very difficult military operations. You are very vulnerable as you are moving from one realm, ground, to water, and then back to ground. Obvious.

During World War Two, the British forces twice did river crossings that in magnitude came close to rivaling the Normandy Invasion.

One was the river crossing of the Rhine river from west to east by the forces under the command of Montgomery of El Alamein. Boats, bridging equipment, smoke generators, ferries, preplanned artillery fire and air support, anti-aircraft artillery to protect the bridgehead from enemy air attack, all this was done on a massive basis. Idea is to get quick moving forces on the other side, have them establish a bridgehead, expand and protect this bridgehead, use ferries, pontoon bridges and then more complete and well built bridges to complete the river crossing. Then have follow-up forces cross in strength to carry out further offensive.

The second major river crossing(s) by the British in World War Two was that of the major rivers of Burma. After the defeat of the Japanese at Imphal and Kohima, General Slim, later to be Slim of the Arakan, moved to the offensive, his force having to move from west to east through Burma at cross-compartment [at a right angle to] to the major rivers of Burma, the Chindwin, Irrawaddy, and the Salween. Crossing each of these rivers would be difficult at any time of the year. In the spring, when the British advance began, it would have been even more difficult due to the rivers being swollen by snow melt from the Himalaya. To accomplish the river crossings, at each crossing, boats had to be built on site for the crossing. First timber from the surrounding jungle had to be felled, saw mills set up to mill the timber, and the boats built and then transported to the selected river crossing sites. These boats were able to transport about a platoon at a time [ 40 troops], and were designed by individuals in Slim's army who had shipbuilding design and experience. And this all had to be done on three occasions! [An interesting parallel can be found in the American Civil War to the problem faced by Slim. When recalcitrant Navy officers refused to sail their gunboats under the guns of the Confederate fortress at Vicksburg, General Grant found personnel within his own Army that had riverboat experience as civilians, commandeered the boats from the Navy, had his own men man those gunboats, and successfully sailed under the guns of Vicksburg, bombarding the Confederate emplacements].

The Soviet experience at river crossings is most indicative of their abilities at war. During the German advance into the Soviet Union, the Germans were able to set up four river crossings across the Dneiper river, a formidable river obstacle. When moving from east to west at a later stage of the war, the Soviet forces were able to construct fifty four (54) river crossings across the same river. Of course, these should not be understood to be river crossings as the Germans or any other self-respecting army would understand a river crossing. In many cases, this was a spot where soldiers were brought to the waters edge and told to get to the other side, by whatever means. If you could swim, great, if not, grab a log and hold onto the log as you dog paddle across. Maybe at some points a rope would be stretched across the river for poor on non-swimmers to hold onto, sometimes maybe not. In some locations a wooden foot bridge would be available for troops to walk across. The actual foot bridge would below water level so as to preclude spotting by aerial reconnaissance. [this same technique was used by the North Vietnamese]. In other places, self-respecting river crossings were set up, ferries, pontoon bridges, the whole works. But this would be the minority of the cases.

Now, Soviet tanks starting with the series T54/55 all were equipped with a snorkeling capability. Not just a fording capability, but a snorkeling one. Could be totally immersed and moving and go totally under water on the bottom to the other side. Could do this to a depth of eighteen feet. Prior to snorkeling, the crew would seal the tank from the outside, set up a large vertical pipe attached to the engine compartment [air input/exhaust output], and snorkel across the bottom of the river to be crossed. It is my understanding that the crew compartment would flood, the crew breathing through protective masks [the same ones as used for gas attack], attached to air inputs. This must have been a scary and dangerous operation. This capability of Soviet tanks was somewhat overstated. The river bottoms had to be rocky, the depth was limited to eighteen feet, and the current had to be relatively slight for this maneuver to succeed. Nonetheless, it was a significant capability that NATO tanks did not have. You can bet that NATO forces would have had all potential crossing points scoped out in advance [at least I hope so]. When a snorkeling operation would occur, a variety of techniques could be used to defeat it. Napalm could be dropped on the water at the crossing points, artillery fire directed against same, or logs placed in the water upstream to drift with the current and smash into the snorkel, depriving the tank and crew of the snorkel and fresh air.

Now, Suvorov in his books about the Red Army talks about these type of river crossing operations. Suvorov states that in 1967 the Soviet Union celebrated the Jubilee of the Communist Revolution with extravagant military displays. One of these displays was for foreign military dignitaries and did involve river crossings in two ways.

One way was to demonstrate the snorkeling capability of the Soviet tanks. Now, to make this demonstration go as planned, the river bank underwater was paved with concrete and concrete walls also placed underwater to create a channel that the snorkeling tanks could traverse. So that the operation would go without a hitch for the dignitaries. You may recall my previous comment about the river bank could not be muddy, must be stony for the snorkeling to be a success. Otherwise the tanks will get mired. And to prevent the tankers from going off course, the concrete walls underwater created the just-so-perfect channel to direct their course.

The second demonstration for the visiting military dignitaries involved building a railroad bridge over a river to show to the whole world that even an obstacle such as the Rhine river would not restrain the Red Army in case of war with NATO. Once again, the Soviets cheated on the whole thing. This bridge demonstration was orchestrated by General Ogarkov, who was head of Strategic Deception. A special bridge was constructed of special materials for one time use. A brigade of engineer cadets spent months and months just practicing to put the bridge together over and over. And a special steam locomotive was made to tow a train of box cars [empty] across this special bridge. The steam locomotive was gutted on the inside to make it as light as possible and a special electric motor that would just be able to propel the train and box cars across the bridge was put in place of the standard steam locomotion. Some sort of contraption was put in the gutted engine to simulate the smoke from a coal fire, so that the loco would look authentic. In front of the dignitaries, the train crossed the bridge and made it across, but with effort and very slowly. This special bridge creaked and moaned, but held. This impressed the military dignitaries very much. How much? Well, a U.S. Army pamphlet some years ago actually showed such a train crossing a bridge over the Rhine. Evidently NATO intelligence believed this Potemkin village to be the real thing. It was not.


This is coolbert: The Israeli tank the Merkava is an indigenously developed tank that the Israelis have built incorporating the concept of combined arms. The concept of combined arms was touched upon in a previous post. How each combat arm enhances and protects the other arms if they all work together as a team.

When designing the Merkava the Israeli designers incorporated features they felt would satisfy the combined arms concept. In the rear of the tank is a compartment for infantry [a team of five infantry] to ride in. This infantry can dismount as necessary and help to clear anti-tank infantry confronting the tank. A mortar is mounted on the rear of the tank that can be employed by the supporting infantry or the tank crew themselves.

These features were adopted mostly as a consequence of the Israeli experience in the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, when large numbers of Israeli tanks were surprised and destroyed by anti-tank guided missiles [Sagger] wielded by Egyptian forces. Tactics that previously worked famously against Arab forces, mainly the tank "charge", no longer worked.

New concepts and weapons had to be developed.

The Merkava ["Chariot" in Hebrew] was one answer.

It should be noted that the Israelis take the upper 10 % [recruits that score in the upper 10 % of the battery of tests given to recruits] of their soldiers and place them into the armor units that are the elite of their army. You get the most from the best where it counts most. The biggest bang for your buck from the raw human material available to you.


Sunday, April 18, 2004

Napoleon & Sun.

This is coolbert:

Interesting program on Napoleon this afternoon shown on PBS.

Good stuff abut his early life and his early military career.

As to the early life and achievements of Napoleon there was nothing in his early life that could have ever indicated greatness.

He did have ambition, but so do a lot of people.

His training was as a military cadet, his becoming an officer of artillery at age sixteen was not extraordinary either.

Combat command experience prior to his becoming a general was at Toulon, as a captain of artillery, where he was successful.

And also as an artilleryman in suppressing the "mob" during an insurrection in Paris.

Gained command of his first army at the age of twenty six.

Led this army in a campaign against the Austro-Hungarian forces and their allies in northern Italy.

It was at this time that Napoleon first demonstrated superior military ability, defeating more numerous opponents handily and establishing his reputation.

Nothing [?] could have prepared him to be so good so fast.

It has been noted that the first translation of the famous book by Sun Tzu ["The Art of War] was done in the 1770's by a French priest.

It also has been reputed that this book was known to Napoleon and read and reread by him. I cannot say with any assurance if that is so. But can one really believe that just by reading one book on war and tactics of war could really make one ready to be so successful as was Napoleon?

I think not.


This is coolbert: Here is a good site to go to. Marine warfighting doctrine. Put into a ninety page pamphlet style form. But tells you all you need to know. Click here to go to the document.

Now, within this document is a most interesting quote that I have not see anywhere else. It is attributed to Lord Slim of the Arakan. Quote is:

"Many years ago, as a cadet hoping some day to be an officer, I was poring over the 'Principles of War' listed in the old Field Service Regulations, when the Sergeant Major came up to me. He surveyed me with kindly amusement. 'Don't bother your head about all them things, me lad', he said. 'There's only one principle of war and that's this. Hit the other fellow, as quick as you can, as hard as you can, where it hurts him the most, and when he ain't looking'!"

------- Sir William Slim

Now, there is a lot of wisdom here. Now, Slim did become an officer and did fight in the First World War on the western front. After the war was over he wanted to continue his career as an officer but was impecunious [poverty stricken, without independent means]. There was one unit in the British Army that had positions for such officers, that being the Gurkha regiment. This was one of the best regiments in the entire world to serve in. Slim served with the Gurkhas during his career and rose to prominence in the Second World War commanding ground forces in the CBI theatre. Fought strategic defensive battles against the Japanese at Imphal and Kohima, defeating the Japanese, all the while preparing for his own offensive. Made a Viscount after the war as one of the most senior British commanders.


Saturday, April 17, 2004


This is coolbert:

Military quotations.

A reading of military quotations requires a lot of time, there are so many of them.

I have not even touched upon the Maxims of Napoleon.

This is just a small sampling of military quotations, ones that I have found to be apropo. A lot of wisdom concerning military subjects is contained in these quotations. My comments are in bold, as usual:


"It is a good thing for an uneducated man
to read books of quotations"
- Sir Winston Churchill

And for the educated man as well.

"Professional soldiers are sentimental men, for all the harsh realities of their calling. In their wallets and in their memories they carry bits of philosophy, fragments of poetry, quotations from the Scriptures, which, in times of stress and danger speak to them with great meaning. (Ridgway)"

So this does say that the commander does remember these quotations and pay heed to them?


"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the
battlefield will think hard before starting a war."
-Otto Von Bismarck

"In war there is no second prize for the runner-up."
-General Omar N. Bradley ,U.S. Army, 1950

These two above men did understand that war is "hell". I am wondering if Bismarck is speaking about the slaughter of Mars La Tour, in 1870? The survivors were described as walking about with dazed, withdrawn looks on their faces.


"Battles are won by slaughter and maneuver. The greater the general, the more he contributes in maneuver, the less he demands in slaughter."
- Winston Churchill

Rather than use head-to-head tactics to attack southern forces of the Confederacy, Sherman used maneuver to keep the enemy off balance and to keep the initiative with his army.


“Given the same amount of intelligence, timidity will do a thousand times more damage than audacity”
- Karl von Clausewitz

"Never forget that no military leader has ever become great without audacity. If the leader is filled with high ambition and if he pursues his aims with audacity and strength of will, he will reach them in spite of all obstacles."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"The majority of people are timid by nature, and that is why they constantly exaggerate danger. All influences on the military leader, therefore, combine to give him a false impression of his opponent's strength, and from this arises a new source of indecision."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"we must tell ourselves that nothing is accomplished in warfare without daring"
- Karl von Clausewitz

"The best form of defense is attack."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"Strength lies not in defense but in attack."
- Adolf Hitler

"Whether in attacking, counterattacking, or defensive tactics, the idea of attacking should remain central, to always keep the initiative." (Nguyen Giap)

"The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him."
- Sun Tzu

A whole bunch of people in different times and different places around the world have come to the same conclusion. Attack is necessary for victory.


"a certain grasp of military affairs is vital for those in charge of general policy."
- Karl von Clausewitz

How is this grasp obtained??


"To lead uninstructed people to war is to throw them away."
- Confucius

"Maneuvering with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous." - Sun Tzu

"Men are seldom born brave but they acquire courage through training and discipline - a handful of men inured to war proceed to certain victory; while on the contrary numerous armies of raw and undisciplined troops are but multitudes of men dragged to the slaughter."
-Flavius Vegetius Renatus

"You cannot be disciplined in great things and indiscipline in small things. Brave undisciplined men have no chance against the discipline and valour of other men. Have you ever seen a few policemen handle a crowd?”
- General George S. Patton Jr, May 1941,

"Untutored courage is useless in the face of educated bullets. "
- George S. Patton

You need a trained disciplined army to win wars. Not a mass of untrained, disorganized people trying to be an army. Not that the mass cannot do damage, but they are unorganized and undisciplined and have little chance of winning. At the time of the French Revolution, the concept of levee en masse was developed. In time of invasion by foreign forces, the French revolutionary government would send weapons to a town and impress the able bodied menfolk to take up arms and go against the invader as a military force. These mobs had no leadership, training, discipline, plan, or support. Rarely if ever successful. Just resorted in a lot of bloodshed.


"A man-of-war is the best ambassador."
-Oliver Cromwell

Patton also said that the best international law is the strongest army.


"By push of bayonets, no firing until you see the whites in their eyes!"
- Frederick the Great, at Prague, 1757

This was supposedly said at Bunker Hill too?


"Everything which the enemy least expects will succeed the best."
- Frederick the Great ("Instructions to his Generals")

"The unexpected cannot guarantee success, but it guarantees the best chance of success."
- Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart

Surprise is paramount on the battlefield. Some authorities have stressed the importance of surprise as being a factor not even wholly appreciated??


"To apply one's strength where the opponent is strong weakens oneself disproportionately to the effect attained. To strike with strong effect, one must strike at weakness."
- Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart

"So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak."
- Sun Tzu

Don't use your strength against the enemies strong point, use it against their weak point.


"If men make war in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail."
- General Ulysses S. Grant

The battlefield, no matter where, is a place of chaos and constantly changing conditions. World War One combat suffered from a lack of imagination on the part of the general staffs of all the combatants. They could not and would not adapt to the changing conditions and did not know what to do other than what they had been taught.


"Defense is the stronger form with the negative object, and attack the
weaker form with the positive object."
- Ernest Hemingway

Defense is the stronger form of combat, but does not achieve the desired goal, offense is the weaker form, but does achieve the desired goal, the defeat of the enemy.


"He who defends everything, defends nothing." (Fredrick The Great)

The wise commander will have to make value judgements regarding what can be defended and what cannot be and what should be and what should not be. You run a risk of spreading your forces too thin otherwise.


"The hardships of forced marches are often more painful than the dangers of
- General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson

"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier."
- Napoleon Bonaparte

Some of you may remember my previous posts regarding privation and physical hardship for the soldier?


"To foster the people's willing spirit is often as important as to possess the more concrete forms of power."
- Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart

"The moral is to the physical as three to one"
- Napoleon Bonaparte

"What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog"
- General Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 1958.

"Its not the size of the dog in the fight, its the size of the fight in the dog."

- Mark Twain

The will to prevail is important. Not necessarily size or armaments. The U.S. found that out in Vietnam.


"The art of concentrating strength at one point, forcing a breakthrough, rolling up and securing the flanks on either side, and then penetrating like lightning deep into his rear, before the enemy has time to react."
-Field Marshal Erwin Rommel

"Without cavalry, battles are without result"
- Napoleon Bonaparte

"The first and most important rule to to use our entire forces with the utmost energy. The second rule is to concentrate our power as much as possible against that section where the chief blows are to be delivered and to incur disadvantages elsewhere, so that our chances of success may increase at the decisive point. The third rule is never to waste time. Finally, the fourth rule is to follow up our successes with the utmost energy. Only pursuit of the beaten enemy gives the fruits of victory."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"In war there is but one favorable moment; the great art is to seize it!"
- Napoleon Bonaparte

"Strategy is the art of making use of time and space. I am less concerned about the later than the former. Space we can recover, lost time never."
- Napoleon Boneparte

What is being said here is that on the battlefield will occur a critical point. A critical point both in space and in time. A critical point where if the right enough of force is applied to, will result in the defeat of the enemy. The successful general is able to spot this point and bring the proper force to bear against it at the right time. This is referred to as getting their "first with the most". And in addition to the critical point, is the concept of pursuit. Do not allow the enemy respite to regroup. Pursue until the enemy force is totally destroyed.


"Soldiers usually win the battles and generals get the credit for them. "
- Napoleon Bonaparte

"Battles are sometimes won by generals; wars are nearly always won by sergeants and privates."
-F.E. Adcock, British classical scholar

"The sergeant is the Army."
- General Dwight D. Eisenhower

War is made by corporals [Hitler [Bohemian Corporal], Napoleon [The Little Corporal]], and won by sergeants.


"One bad general is worth two good ones."
- Napoleon Boneparte

It is much easier to be incompetent than it is competent.


"Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men."
- General George Patton Jr

"Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive one; it is man
and not materials that counts."
- Chairman Mao Zedong (Tse-tung)

It is not the guns, it is the men behind the guns.


"Laws are inoperative in war"
- Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.): Pro Milone.

"In time of war the laws are silent." - Cicero

Some of you may remember my posts from a while back about how in time of war all laws become moot.


"There is no victory at bargain basement prices." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Don't think war is going to be cheap. Or peace for that matter. Even to remain strong you have to pay too.


"It is even better to act quickly and err than to hesitate until the time of action is past. "
- Carl von Clausewitz

"Don't delay. The best is the enemy of the good. By this I mean that a good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week. War is a very simple thing, and the determining characteristics are self confidence, speed and audacity. None of these things can be done perfectly, but all can be done well."

- George Patton

"A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future."
- General George Patton Jr.

Well, what is being said here? Go with what you got at the time, rather than wait. If you wait for the perfect plan, that plan may be out of date when it is perfected, as the situation has changed so drastically.

I had originally read that this quote was attributed to George S. Patton III, the son of the famous WW2 general. I guess it was not.



Friday, April 16, 2004

It will be very tough on Reserve and Guard forces when their tours are extended. My old Squadron was mobilized for the wr, came back, and now targeted again to go in June

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Soldier & Warrior.

This is coolbert:

The soldier versus the warrior.

What is the difference if indeed there even is one?

The concept is something that has been around since the time of Alexander the Great [and probably before that].

I think to many people the difference is non-consequential, but this is not so.

Those differences that they exist to include:

* Soldiers fight as part of a team.

* Comport themselves to and accept discipline.

* Fight according to a plan.

Warriors do not do these things.

Warriors see battle and war as a means to gain glory, loot plunder and gain.

In the days of the medieval knight, warfare was a way for the nobility of the time to gain glory - - engaging in single combat with another knight and vanquishing your foe [someone who you probably knew personally and maybe were even friends with or were related to]. Noble men of time in constant training and practice, the man-at-arms requiring a skill not easily acquired or maintained.

The troops of Alexander, Caesar, and say the troops of the American Indian fighting army [Crook, Miles, and yes Custer] were soldiers.

The "barbarians" of Gaul and the warriors of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse were not.

It is interesting to note that after the massacre of Custer's troop, the remaining members of the 7th Cavalry hunkered down and did successfully defend themselves for three days while the victorious warriors of the Sioux nation milled around and could not make up their mind as to what to do. Concerted action on the part of the Indian warriors could have certainly defeated the remnants of the 7th Cavalry that survived the Little Big Horn battle. But this did not occur!


Wednesday, April 14, 2004

This is coolbert: What makes a "Great Captain"? Those war leaders who lead their troops to victory and do so with eclat. This is not something that seems to be easily understood. The normal modern progression for a military officer would be to graduate hopefully from a military academy, put in time as a commander at the lower ranks [platoon and company commander], attend a command and staff school, work as a staff officer and commander of units at the higher echelons [battalion and regiment], be selected for flag rank [general], attend or study at a "war college" the finer points of large unit maneuver [operational art] and the principles of war, etc. This would be the modern version of progression for the military officer aspiring to higher command.

When studying the backgrounds of many of the "Great Captains", we find little formal training, if any, and in many cases, little or no leadership at lower levels, culminating in higher command where greatness was achieved. The normal modern progression is not a model that has been followed in the past.

Some obvious exceptional "Great Captains" stand out in this regard.

Alexander the Great was only in his twenties when he set out to conquer the Persian Empire and the rest of the known world. Did have combat experience, albeit only limited. Did have exceptional education [his tutor was Aristotle] but not in the military sense. But did have exceptional generals that perhaps advised him. The chronicles of the time make specific mention that on many occasions Alexander ignored the advice of these men, and yet, he was successful.

Genghis Khan would have had combat experience from the almost continuous tribal warfare that existed among the Mongol tribes at the time [early 1200's]. Genghis could not have had any formal learning in the realm of military arts, as he was illiterate. That did not stop him from being a great organizer and leader. But nothing in his background suggest an ability to lead into battle armies of 200,000 Mongols and be successful, as he did.

Napoleon, was a military academy graduate. Yet nothing in his background either would suggest an overwhelming ability until he demonstrated his talent for generalship. Prior to ascending to command of the French armies, he did not have extensive combat experience, although I believe he had some experience as an artillery officer. And of course formal education for the military operational art did not exist at the time.

The American Civil War also produced some generals whose abilities could not have been anticipated at the start of the war.

Robert E. Lee had a long and distinguished military career, but limited combat experience, that being during the Mexican-American War of 1848. This experience was primarily in the fields of reconnaissance and engineering, not combat arms.

Ulysses S. Grant had a limited military career prior to the outbreak of war in 1861, had served in combat in the same war as Lee, the Mexican-American war of 1848, but only at lower echelons of command. Having been discharged for a number of years from the U.S. Army, it can not be said that Grant was in the loop prior to the outbreak of war, Grant's life being a mediocre one to that point.

Both Grant and Lee were West Point graduates. That would not have counted much toward mastering the operational art, as this term, and the study thereof, as it was for Napoleon, had not been conceived as a subject for study prior to that point.

The great Confederate General, Nathan Beford Forrest [Shelby Foote rates him as one of the two geniuses produced by the American Civil War, Lincoln being the other], had no military experience prior to the outbreak of war, was turned down for a commission, and enlisted as a private!! Nothing whatsoever in his background could have ever prepared him for leadership at any level, much less as a very successful general and an intuitive practitioner of the operational art.

I think the word intuitive is very applicable here. Each of these "Great Captains" seemed to possess an intuition that served them very well. Great leadership skills combined with this intuition to do the right thing at the right time enabled all these "Great Captains" to gain greatness.