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

Wednesday, June 30, 2004


This is coolbert:

Of all types of literature, the epic poem is said to be the most difficult.

Well, it must be. Only a handful have ever been written in the history of mankind worldwide.

From school days, we are familiar with such epics as "Paradise Lost", by Milton, Ezra Pound's "Cantos", and the "Aeneid", by Virgil. To see a great site that lists the various great epic poems of mankind click here.

Now, many of these epic poems deal with war, warriors, and the feats of warriors. And these are not limited to the western tradition, but are a common genre and theme found worldwide.

Among the epic poems dealing with war from the western perspective, are found the "Iliad", by Homer, "Beowulf", author unknown, "The Song of Roland", author unknown, and surprisingly, "Don Juan", by Lord Byron.

The Iliad of course, deals with the siege and destruction of the city of Troy by the Achaean Greeks. Based upon a real event that occurred in the Bronze Age, the Iliad, along with the Odyssey, both by Homer, are the very cornerstones of western literary tradition. This poem concentrates not so much on the glories of "heroic" warfare, but on the tragedy that befell the protagonists:

"The poem is a poignant depiction of the tragedy and poignancy of friendship and family destroyed by battle."

Beowulf, the deeds of a Danish thane [knight], is generally accepted to be the earliest work of epic poetry in the English language tradition. The theme, fictional, is one of warriors pitting their skill against an enemy [Grendel, a monster]:

"It is fundamentally a depiction of a pre-Christian warrior society, in which the relationship between the leader, or king, and his thanes is of paramount importance."

The Song of Roland deals with the chivalry of medieval knighthood, during the time of Charlemagne. This was at a time when the societies of western Europe were just beginning to form cohesive groups during the dark ages in the centuries following the collapse of the Roman Empire. What we consider to be western society and culture as we know it today emerged from this period. And the knight on horseback and chivalry as practiced began at this time.

"The Song is based on historical events surrounding the battle of August 15, 778 in which the rear-guard of Charlemagne's retreating Franks was attacked by Basques; in the ensuing massacre, Roland and other important paladins were killed."

"The Saracens attack the rear of the Frankish army. Roland's friend Oliver advises him to blow his horn Olifant to summon the rest of the army. But Roland's code of honour obliges him to fight despite being outnumbered. The Franks are massacred, and at the end, Roland eventually sounds his horn, but it is too late. All his men are killed, but Roland, in his final act routs the last few Moorish forces before finally succumbing to his injuries."

In the epic "Don Juan", Byron places Don Juan in the Russian army under the command of Suvorov at the siege of Ismail, against the Turks.

"Suvorov appears in Lord Byron's Don Juan. If you're interested, the entire poem appears at Bob Blair's page (and may be available on line from Project Gutenburg). Don Juan was, of course, the famous lover/swashbuckler, and Byron gives him a role in the siege of the Turkish fortress of Ismail."

To see a short portion of the epic that deals just with Ismail, click here. In Byron's poem, the great Russian general Suvorov is referred to as Suwarrow.

And epic poems dealing with war, warriors and the feats of warriors are not limited to the western tradition.

Perhaps the most famous of all epic poems from the eastern tradition is the Indian [Hindu] epic poem, the Mahabhrata. This epic is based upon an actual historical battle that did occur, probably between kshatriya warriors of the Indo-European tradition around 1400 B.C. The antagonists here are the rival families vying for power, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. This is not only a historical epic, it contains the basic essence of Hindu religion as well. Applicable to this day.

"It is the second longest literary work in the world (after the Tibetan Epic of Gesar) and is hailed as not only one of the greatest epics, but literary accomplishments, of humanity."

"To represent the central war of the Mahabharata as a fight between 'good' and 'evil' is woefully off-base."

"The Mahabharata claims to contain the essence and sum of all the Vedas and other Hindu scriptures. It does include large amounts of interpolated Hindu mythology, cosmological stories of the gods and goddesses, and philosophical parables aimed at students of Hindu philosophy. The Mahabharatha claims that those who do not read it shall find their spiritual and yogic quests remain unfulfilled."

Another outstanding epic poem in the eastern tradition is "Manas". This epic originates in the Kyrgyz people of central Asia. Details the epic combats and lives of the Kyrgyz warriors who founded the traditions of the Kyrgyz people. The message contained in Manas is indeed profound.

"The epos "Manas" is a genuine epic creation, it reflects not only historic events, but also all sides of human life; social, economic, political situation, struggle for independence, relations with other states. The epos widely depicts the life, goodness and evil, friendship and humanism, love for homeland, care for people's well-being."

A comment must be made about Manas. The length of Manas is immense.

"The known Greek creations "Illiad" (15693 lines) and "Oddyssey" (12110 lines) together have 27083 lines. The above named version of the Kyrgyz epos 20 times exceeds their volume. It is even 2,5 times larger than the ancient Indian "Makhabkharata", which is known as the largest one, and it is 5 times larger than "Shakh-Name" (in the Pharsi language)."

This may be the longest epic poem in the world. [this Tibetan epic of "Gesar", may be longer, but I think the jury is out?]. And this epic is committed to memory by the bards. Persons who can word for word perfect recite the entire poem, and do so as a livelihood, entertaining an illiterate populace in their epic. These bards, and central Asia is perhaps the last stronghold on earth of such persons, chant epics such as Manas and do so with remarkable skill. To give you some idea of how long Manas is, a bard chanting the poem, and doing so for eight hours a day, would take six months to complete the epic if following the same schedule day after day!! To read further about Manas, click here.

And please do not think that these epic poems are not appreciated as being works that have relevancy. Indeed, Manas is chanted to this day by the bards for the Kyrgyz, something that was outlawed under the Soviets. The Soviets felt that Manas would foster nationalism, and guess what, it did!

And yet another epic poem, little known in the west, also has great relevancy. This is "The Battle of Kosovo". How more relevant could this be? About the loss of the Battle of Kosovo by the Serbs to the Turks, the subjugation of the Serbs, and the rebellions and upheaval that followed.

"Everyone in the West who has known these poems has proclaimed them to be literature of the highest order which ought to be known better." (Charles Simic)

"I first fell in love with the ballads that describe the adventures and heroic feats of various rebels during the Turkish occupation. They are "action packed," as they used to say on movie posters. The Turks are the cruel conquerors and the Serbs are either clever slaves or outlaws."

This is the image that the Serbs have of themselves to this day. Brave warriors fighting off the evil invader, reclaiming their stolen land, and the underdog fighting for liberty and justice. All evoked in their epic poem. To read more, click here.

Why do so many epic poems seem to deal with war and warriors and such? Well, Eisenhower stated it well when he said that war brings out the best and worst in the human being. The worst qualities are shown, cruelty, killing, etc. And the best qualities are also shown. Bravery, courage, ability to self-sacrifice one self for a higher cause. War brings out all these qualtities in the human. And the epic poem is a literary vehicle well suited for illustrating this for various societies and cultures throughout the world, and has done so for thousands of years. Art and war are not a contradiction.


Tuesday, June 29, 2004


This is coolbert:

[This particular blog entry dedicated to Karole P., who stimulated my thoughts regarding the subject of this entry].

Now, it is a common assumption that, "if only women ruled this world, why, there would be an end to all wars." Women are supposed to possess better powers of negotiation, compromise, a willingness to forego ego trips, and just a generally more genial and less aggressive attitude toward life.

Well, is this true? That there would be an end to all wars if women ran things? I say, intuitively, but emphatically, NO! Now, before we go further, I would mention that generally, at least in western societies, and in Indo-European cultures throughout the world, women are recognized as having the ability to be a ruler. We see this from Indo-European etymology. Gwen=woman. Gweena=queen. A specific word signifying female ruler having very ancient roots does exist. This would tell me that in antiquity females did rule, as well as they do now. This is an ancient tradition. I am not sure if this same recognition of women exists in other cultures other than the Indo-European. I again intuitively feel it does not! But, we do have the possibility of women ruling, wielding power, and in numbers to be significant too.

Now, in previous blogs, I have mentioned the innate aggressive natures of primates. In chimps for instance, as observed by Jane Goodall. While surfing the web recently, I came across an Israeli author who is studying the roots of pre-historic warfare. And this man also was struck by the observations of Goodall, and the films taken of chimps warring between troops [groups of chimps are referred to as troops, amazingly enough]. Goodall herself has stated that she does believe man does have a basic innate aggressive nature, and this manifests itself from time to time as war.

Does this basic innate aggressive nature exists in human females as well? Perhaps not in the exact manner as it does in men. But women do have a very strong protective nature toward their offspring. When a woman feels her private living space, her resources, or her offspring are threatened, she will react in a manner to protect them. Does anyone disagree with this? I think not! If evidence is brought to a gweena [female ruler] that a threat exists that threatens her offspring and community, I very much doubt she will hesitate to react.

And history demonstrates that this is so!

Queen Boadicea of the Britons [queen of the Iceni], from two thousand years ago is perhaps the archetype in this regard. When her land was invaded and conquered by the Romans, and when those same Romans raped her daughters, Boadicea did not react with kind words and negotiations. She reacted by raising an army, and leading that army against the Roman invaders with a vengeance. It was said of Boadicea that the wheels of her war chariot were splattered with the blood of the Romans! Read further about Boadicea at this excellent web site by clicking here.

Another English queen [gweena], fifteen hundred years later, Elizabeth the First, also demonstrated her mettle at war making, albeit in a defensive manner. When threatened by invasion at the hand of the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth did not hesitate to order Sir Francis Drake to lead the defense of her realm. Elizabeth did not send more legations to the Spanish, employ kind words, or implore the Spanish King to cease and desist. She acted and the rest is history. During her forty year reign, England went from one of the poorest nations in Europe to one of the richest.

Centuries later, another woman leader, Golda Meir of Israel, rallied her nation and commanded with tenacity when her people's existence was threatened. At the outbreak of the Yom Kippur/Ramadan War of 1973 broke out between Israel and the Arab states, Israel really found itself in jeopardy. When Israeli Generals vacillated as what to do, Golda kept her head, accepted the advice of men she trusted, and led her country in it's successful defense and eventual counter-attack. Golda did not hesitate to only defend, she went on the attack, and successfully too.

And Margaret Thatcher of England.

Prime Minister at the time of the Argentinean invasion of the Falkland Islands. Did Mrs. Thatcher regard this invasion of British territory as not worthy of a military response? A cause not worth the fight? It can be argued that the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, and the South Sandwich Islands were NOT worth fighting a war over. The total populace of the Falklands at the time was around 1500 souls, only nominally subjects of the British Crown. This mattered not a whit to Mrs. Thatcher, who as with Golda Meir, did not merely defend, but went on the attack, with resoluteness, achieving ultimate success. To Margaret Thatcher, defense of the realm, no matter how insignificant, was a matter of principle!

When female rulers find their realm threatened, they not only act, they in some cases act with more resolution than men do!!


Monday, June 28, 2004

This is coolbert: An analysis of the effect of friendly firepower was done after the Battle of Khe Sanh in an attempt to determine how effective the Arc Light [B-52 bombers] bombing campaign [Operation Niagara] at Khe Sanh was, and what sort of casualties it caused the North Vietnamese.

Now, it is very useful in any endeavor to obtain feedback. Feedback that allow you to determine if you are on the right course or not. In manufacturing, you use periodic or regular quality control [QC] checks to see if parts are being made according to specifications. And you may do surveys to see if the customers are happy or not with your service. Students are given tests by the teacher to see if the students are absorbing and learning the material and have mastered it or not. And if they not, where are they lacking so that you can appropriately tailor the instruction to make up for what is lacking. If you shooting at paper targets that are located a long distance off, you use a spotting scope to see if you are on target or not. This is all rather obvious.

And it is the same for the military. The military uses similar managerial techniques to see if what they are doing is working or not. If it is working, continue or accelerate the process. If not working, figure out why, and make adjustments.

At Khe Sanh, three types of assessments were used to determine how effective the aerial campaign of the B-52 bombers were. One method was "cause and effect". A second method was "killed by air". A third method was "bomb damage assessment". Click here to see a web site of the analysis and how the calculations were made. Particular attention should be paid to page ten.

Some assumptions were made for these calculations to be valid:

[Please note that all these calculations assume that for each killed in action [KIA], 3.44 wounded will have to be evacuated. This number is based upon American experiences during the war].

[Also 2000 enemy troops were counted as dead on assaults on Marine positions at Khe Sanh. This figure is taken into account in all calculations.]

[Enemy troop strength for these calculations is shown to be an average of 15,000 for the campaign. This would probably be infantry troops and not count support, although I am not sure about this].

The "cause and effect" analysis says that if you have this many friendlies in this size area, and they suffer this many casualties from this weight of enemy bombardment, you can create an equation that will allow you determine indirectly what the enemies approximate casualties from your own bombardment will be, all things being equal. See page ten of the above web site to see how this equation was created and how the calculations were done. This is of course, again, an indirect method of determining enemy casualties.

"Killed by Air" [KBA] analysis looks at the actual number of enemy KIA observed by aerial observers during air attacks on enemy positions and troop dispositions. In this case, 1288 were seen killed from the air.

The third method of analysis, "bomb damage assessment" [BDA], combines the direct observed enemy KIA as observed from aerial observers [KBA], plus combines the inferred losses from different types of damage. For instance, for each truck destroyed, one enemy soldier was said to be killed. For each bunker destroyed, two enemy soldiers were said to be killed. Etc. See page thirteen of the above web site for this analysis.

These equations and calculations show somewhat striking differences that shows the difficulty in determining with accuracy how effective the bombing campaign at Khe Sanh was. KBA shows the least casualties [14,600], BDA shows the most [28,900], and cause and effect comes up with a result somewhere in between the two former calculations [24,600].

This comment is made in the SECRET report to MACV [Military Assistance Command Vietnam] headquarters about Niagara:

"The magnitude of the enemy losses maybe appear to be unreasonable in light of the enemy's average strength of 15,000 troops."

What the reporter is saying is that the U.S. killed or wounded more enemy troops than were actually were deployed at Khe Sanh!? Well, the report then says that this takes into account that the North Vietnamese may have replaced losses, so these calculations are not to be considered invalid.

Are these methodologies invalid?
Are the results they are producing way over optimistic? Show what the big shots want to see? I am not sure. In lieu of better methodologies, what is available to go with? And the use of three methodologies demonstrates that concern was there at the top to do things right and not to over inflate results. Maybe what they need to do is take all three results, average them, and use that figure as the best we can determine. A compromise.

Of course, there would be an even more valid method. Go to the North Vietnamese and as a historical exercise, ask them to glean their records to see what casualty figures they come up with. But, I am afraid, the North Vietnamese will always have a self-serving interest in this area, and you would not more expect to find the truth on casualties from them than you would find from the methodologies shown above.


Sunday, June 27, 2004

Fish Hooks!

This is coolbert:

Another example of how somethings in war never change.

When, in around 700 B.C., the Assyrians invaded and conquered the northern part of Israel, they led ten of the tribes of Israel away into captivity. An interesting method was used to control the prisoners. The prisoners of the ten tribes were first tied. Then fish hooks were placed through their lips and the hooks tied together so all the prisoners were tied in a group. Then the prisoners were led away into captivity, never to be heard from again.

Now, move forward to the mid-1960's.

Fighting along side the American forces in Vietnam were tribesmen of Chinese ethnic background, called Nungs. These Nungs had a warrior tradition and were recruited by the U.S. as mercenaries for special missions. Most were used in what was called Studies and Observation Group [SOG]. To conduct long range recon patrols [LRRP] into territory which was denied to U.S. forces. This would include North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Areas where U.S. forces were prohibited from operating. But the Nungs could. And did so quite successfully.

And from time to time the Nungs, as part of their missions, would capture enemy prisoners. And had a special way of restraining them. Would take an awl and bore a hole through the prisoners cheek into the mouth. Would then run a wire loop of wire through the hole and out the mouth. Would then tie the loop of wire to a rope and lead the prisoner along in this method! Little chance of escape from the prisoner restrained in this manner!

Now, the Nungs were also employed in another special manner.

In Vietnam there were units of Nungs, a large company sized unit [300 men], called "Mike" forces. "Mike" forces were specifically chosen, trained, and armed for a special mission on command. This would be to rescue Americans that found themselves trapped in an impossible situation. On request, the Nungs would be air lifted into the dangerous area and attack, rescuing the trapped Americans. To read further about the Nungs, click here, and here. These Nungs employed in the "Mike" forces were chosen personally by General Mike Healey. Hence the name "Mike" force. General Healey commanded for five tours the U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam and also was commander of a airborne brigade for another tour. Was a mover and shaker among U.S. Special Ops in Nam [John Wayne told Mike Healey, "you do in real life what I do in the movies!!!!!".


Saturday, June 26, 2004

Staying Power.

This is coolbert:

 A few years ago the U.S. military conducted a survey of foreign militaries. The U.S. military wanted to find out what the perception was of U.S. military forces by foreign powers.

And the one item that all the foreign powers agreed upon was that the U.S. was not willing or able or could sustain heavy casualties. Because of domestic political concerns, the U.S. does not have staying power in a conflict if the casualties the U.S. suffered were heavy. This was said to be a glaring weakness.

How does this perception stand up under examination? In my opinion, not well. One particular historical example seems to indicate the American nation is able to sustain and endure heavy casualties and continue to fight.

When studying and reading about the American Civil War, one can see that Americans were able to sacrifice themselves in prodigious numbers.

As was mentioned in a previous blog, as many American troops were killed at Shiloh as were killed at Waterloo. And after Shiloh, twenty battles were to be fought that were of equal or greater magnitude. Total number of dead during the almost four years of the American Civil War were greater than the number of dead incurred during World War Two!?

Click here to see an interesting web site that describes the terrible casualties of the American Civil War [this site says the total population of the U.S. at the time was about 28 million. I have seen statistics that say as high as 40 million.

Again, these statistics quoted are often at variance with one another by a lot]. Click here to see another interesting site that lists the statistics from casualties in a number of Civil War Battles [please note that these casualties sustained were ONE DAY statistics for most of these battles.

Keep in mind also that in some of these battles, casualties include POW.]. No less authority than Winston Churchill cited this fact to his British Generals when they objected to large scale American involvement in the war. The British Generals said that the Americans were not able to sustain heavy casualties. Churchill said for his Generals to go read about the American Civil War!

The American military is able to sustain and carry out a war where heavy casualties are involved. But only under certain circumstances.

Several criteria have to be present.

The cause for which American troops are dying has to be a cause the populace feels is worth fighting for.

Korea and Vietnam were fights not considered to be totally vital to the American people. They were not willing to waste lives on a fight that was not totally vital.

But the Cold War, which turned hot twice in Korea and Vietnam, was considered to be vital and important enough to Americans that they were willing to stay the course for forty five years until the abrupt demise of the Soviet Union.NOT so much a sacrifice in lives but treasure nonetheless.

And there has to be a perception that success can be achieved.

And it does not have to be instantaneous success of a dramatic nature, or successes without failure.

Can be gradual and sustained, toward the ultimate goal of victory.

But successes are what win wars.

Progress has to be seen for the goal.

Generals cannot fight battles if they do not put the proper resources and skill to work to ensure success.

We as a people are not going to stand for wasting the lives of our troops in forlorn efforts that do not show progress.

We are a democracy. And this democracy wants to do things wisely. The wastage of human life on the Western Front is a perfect example of how the Generals were given free reign to the loss of millions without public opinion saying, "stop, this is not working."

The U.S. is not a China or a Russia where human life is regarded as being cheap. We place value and worth to the lives of our soldiers. Those foreign powers are just wrong, period!


Friday, June 25, 2004


This is coolbert:

Just as the Sikhs of India are a people who have adopted a martial life style, so the Cossack of Europe are a people who have done the same.

The name Cossack is of disputed origin. Said to mean "freeman" or "adventurer". Is undoubtedly related to the word kazakh [as in the country Kazakhstan]. A warrior on horseback.

Cossacks first appeared on the scene as a group in the 16th century. Groups of "freeman" banding together to lead a communal existence for protection. This protection was primarily against Turkic and Tartar slave traders. Each Cossack male was expected to be a warrior and ready to fight on a moments notice. And fight they did as predations from slave traders in the area north of the Black Sea were numerous and a constant way of life.

The "homeland" of the Cossacks is in the area north of the Black Sea. The same area that 2000 years earlier had been the "homeland" of the Scythians, who were mentioned in a prior blog. And a similar life style is practiced by the Cossacks as was practiced by the Scythians. Horse culture people, semi-nomadic to a degree, living a communal existence [while each man still considers himself to be a "freeman" at the same time], herding animals and tilling the land for crops. And warriors. Each and every man is expected to be a fighter ready to go on a moments notice. Read further about the Cossacks by clicking here. And here.

Now, it is proper to think of the Cossacks as a people who identify themselves with certain cultural practices. Primarily Slavic, the Cossacks have accepted many other people into their fold. This Slavic ancestry could best be described as basically Ukrainian in nature, although Russians, Poles, Tartars, and even Kalmyks [an Asiatic Buddhist people living in the area just north of the Caspian Sea] can also be counted among the Cossack "host". One tradition that a Cossack must follow is an adherence to the Christian faith [Russian Orthodox version]. There is even a Persian and Turkic ancestry among the Cossacks, this coming from captured women who married into the Cossacks communes!

There are many contradictions in the history of the Cossacks.

One contradiction is faithful service to the rule of the Russian Czar, and also rebellion against the Russian Czar.

Of course, the military expedition of Yermak the Cossack leader was touched upon in a previous blog entry. And Cossacks were extremely instrumental in the settling and further conquest of all of Siberia.

The attitude of "freeman" and the rule of an authoritarian government in Moscow caused all sorts of headaches for the Cossacks. Loyal on one hand, seeking to maintain their independence on the other:

"One of the most important liberties, the Cossacks possessed, the right, not to deliver refugees to the government, was lost under Peter the Great (1672-1725). The attempt, to prevail the delivery of escaped men by force, caused the revolt of the Don-Cossacks by Kondraty Bulavin, which was suppressed by the government, with difficulty. Again, a part of the conquered rebels seeked the protection with the Khan of the Isle of Krim."

Another contradiction is that Cossacks have been the perpetrators of genocide, and also the victims of genocide.

In the year 1648, the Cossack leader Boghdan Khmelnitsky lead a rebellion against Polish overlords. In this rebellion, a particular target for the Cossacks were the Jews who were agents of Polish nobility. Khmelnitsky considered these Jews to be the "anti-Christ" and large scale massacres of Jews occurred as a result.

"Since many have seen Jews as a source of oppression, a lot of Jews were murdered during the uprising. The number ranges from 10,000 to 100,000 (1648 - 1649) by different historians."

As a result of the actions of Khmelnitsky, there is very bad blood to this day between the Jews throughout the world and the Cossacks.

During the massacre of the "kulaks" in the Soviet Union during the 1930's, one year occurred in the Ukraine where about six million Ukrainians were starved to death. The total death toll in that same year from genocidal massacre at the command of Stalin was about ten million persons. The area known as the Kuban was a geographic stronghold of the Cossacks, and about one million Cossacks are believed to have starved to death at the same time as the killing of the Ukrainians!!!

A more historical contradiction of the Cossacks is that they fought on both sides in World War Two. Cossack units fought bravely for the Soviet Union. And Cossack units, fiercely anti-communist, also fought bravely on the side of the Germans as well!

Cossack units employed by the Soviet forces would deploy scouts that would range far in advance of a Soviet Front during the war. Up to 100 miles in front of the advancing Soviet troops, would be single Cossack horsemen used as recon. These men would determine German unit locations and report back to their Frontal headquarters.

The Germans employed with great success Cossack units that defected en masse during the war. The Cossacks were not fighting so much as for Hitler as against communism. These Cossack anti-communist units who fought on the side of the Germans were declared traitors by Stalin. And were subject to Operation Keelhaul after the war. One of the most sickening and deplorable actions of the war occurred after the end of the war! By trickery, during Keelhaul [very appropriately named], the British overpowered, tied, and sent back to the Soviet Union an entire division of Cossacks who had sought sanctuary as political prisoners at the end of the war. This was all done at the behest of Stalin. Accounts of this episode are most chilling:

"On 27 May 1945, in accordance with the agreement signed in Vienna by British and Soviet authorities, the British began to hand over to the Soviets the interned soldiers of the Eastern formations as well as the Cossacks. On that day, in Graz, they handed over the generals von Pannwitz, Krasnov, and Shkuro. All three hoped to the last that they would escape this fate, for von Pannwitz held German nationality, and the other two had emigrated from Tsarist Russia and had never held Soviet citizenship.

On 28 May 1945 the local British commander invited to a conference in the little town of Spittal in Austria the entire officer corps from the Cossack camp: 35 generals, 167 colonels, 283 lieutenant-colonels, 375 captains, 1,752 subalterns, 136 military functionaries and doctors, two chaplains, two band leaders, two photographers, and two interpreters: in all 2,756 persons. At the time of the departure from the camp, 2,201 Cossacks reported ready for the journey, the remainder having refused to board the trucks, or having disappeared. On the way to Linz, 55 of them committed suicide; the NKVD took 2,146 into custody. The prisoners included 1,856 Cossack officers, 176 Russians, 63 Ukrainians, 31 Caucasians, and a handful of other nationals. As to the fate of those delivered: 12 generals went to Moscow, Soviet soldiers of the convoy shot 120 officers on the way to Vienna, 1,030 officers died during interrogations by the NKVD, 983 officers were "passed along"; many of this group ended up in mines in the Urals, deprived of the right to come out to the surface of the earth.

On 1 June 1945 the Cossack camp in Linz held 32,000 persons, mainly old men, women, and children who were in fact refugees, but also including Cossack soldiers. On that day the camp handed over about 25,000 people to the Soviets. Even after the specified period of the delivery of prisoners, Soviet military missions made unexpected raids on Displaced Persons camps in the American and British zones, and took from them many people by force. In all, the Western allies handed over more than 150,000 Cossacks to the USSR."

Now, some comments about Keelhaul. It is not specifically mentioned above, but these Cossacks were overpowered by trickery.

Trickery perpetrated by the English.

The English told the Cossacks to turn in their weapons, as they were going to get new weapons.

The Cossacks, once disarmed, were then physically overpowered and tied. And then turned over to the Soviets.

You will also notice above that I have highlighted where 55 Cossacks committed suicide. Now, these were men who had their hands tied behind their backs.

And, you may ask the question, how could men whose hands were tied behind their backs commit suicide?

Well, there was a way.

These Cossacks, after being tied, were placed on railroad passenger cars. Cars that had glass windows in them. And what did the tied men do? Butted their heads through the glass to make a hole, then stuck their heads through the hole, and slit their own throats by rubbing their necks against the broken glass!!!!! This is how desperate these men were. In addition, an observation was made by an onlooker to these events.

It was observed that these Soviet NKVD men [forerunner to the KGB], bossed around the English soldiers who were in charge of rounding up the Cossacks for the Soviets as if they were insects or privates. And did so even to Alexander, a Field Marshal in the British Army!! Unfortunately, the government of England did not have a problem with this and complied with the Soviet demands without a murmur!?!?!?

Here is what one Englishman had to say about this incident [any person reading this ought to have any doubts erased as to why the U.S. stood against the Soviet Union in the Cold War]:

The statement of a Cossack emigrant quotes the impressions of a British sailor given here without alteration:

"I took part in the evacuation of Dunkirk. Our soldiers felt very badly.

I helped to fish out Germans from the sunken Bismarck, which received the greatest number of torpedoes in history.

I saw the population of Malta sitting in the cellars for many weeks.

I saw Malta being bombed incessantly and deafened by explosions of bombs and shells. They were exhausted from constant explosions and alarms.

I lived through the sinking of my own ship.

I know about jumping into the water at night, dark and without bottom, and the terrifying shouts for help of the drowning, and then the boat, and looking for the rescue ship. It was a nightmare.

I drove German prisoners captured during the invasion of Normandy. They were almost dying from fear.

But all that is nothing.

The real, terrible, unspeakable fear I saw during the convoying and repatriation of people to Soviet Russia. They were becoming white, green and grey with the fear that took hold of them. When we arrived at the port and were handing them over to the Russians, the repatriates were fainting and losing their senses. And only now I know what a man's fear is who lived through hell, and that it is nothing compared to the fear of a man who is returning to the Soviet hell."


Both the forces of the Czar and the communists of the Soviet Union sought to do away with Cossack culture. In this regard, both parties failed. The Cossacks are enjoying a resurgence of their culture and identity. Cossack schools, Cossack communes, and Cossack culture in general is being reborn. And all follow the old traditions of military discipline and faithfulness to their creed. And the same contradictions still are present. While being faithful to Russian [Cossack units were said to have fought as distinct units in Chechnya], the Cossacks also demand autonomy that the Russian central government would be hesitant to offer to any other "nationality" or "people".

Read further about Cossack resurgence by clicking here.


Thursday, June 24, 2004

KAL 007.

This is coolbert:

Every now and then, when listening to commentary on the TV, you hear someone blurt something out that makes you sit up and take notice. You say to yourself, "did I hear what I just heard?".

What I have in mind is something that someone said regarding the shootdown of the KAL 007 commercial airliner by the Soviet Union air defenses in 1982. Resulted in a 747 aircraft being shot out of the sky, with the death of all passengers.

And at the time, all sorts of apologists gave reasons for the Soviet reaction. Now, the aircraft had strayed into Soviet territory. Was off course for whatever reason. And the apologists reasoning went something like this:

"Well, the Soviets may have thought they were under attack. They thought this was a spy aircraft and reacted to what they thought was an attack. They are just as afraid of us [U.S.] as we are afraid of them. Put yourself in their shoes. What would we have done if an aircraft had violated our airspace? We might have done the same!"


Now what was this blurb that catches your attention?

And does this blurb relate to the shootdown of the KAL 007 aircraft?

Well, this "expert" is talking on TV about the old Soviet Union [this is in the mid-90's by now], and this man says, "well, during the days of the old Soviet Union, the Soviet air defenses shot down forty [40] of their own aircraft.

How this guy came by this information was not mentioned.

Perhaps he had access to U.S. Intelligence,

I just don't know?.

These guys in the Soviet air defenses were so trigger happy that they had shot down, over a period of say forty years, one of their own aircraft at the rate of one per year, and again, did so over a period of forty years or so.

Presumably Soviet radars had "lost" or gotten "confused" over an aircraft, and the order was given to shoot the plane down. Well, this would mean that on forty or so occasions, the Soviets must have felt they were under "attack" and responded.

Well, you would have to ask yourself this.

After shooting down say a dozen of their own aircraft, wouldn't you think they would have asked themselves, "maybe we are just a bit too trigger happy here?" But of course they did not. This would tell me that on all occasion they did not think they were under attack. The Soviet was just trigger happy. All these apologists were wrong from the start.

And in addition, there is another one of these apocrypha stories floating around concerning the shootdown of KAL 007.

The rumor is that Boris Yeltsin and his cabinet, shortly after coming to power in the new Russia [after the dissolution of the old Soviet Union], were interested to understand the full story of what happened with the shootdown.

It seems that there is a thirty minute tape that exists that has the conversations occurring at the time between the air defense commander in the Soviet Far East and his headquarters in Moscow.

Yeltsin and his cabinet wanted to hear this tape. And hear it they did. And the rumor goes that after listening to about half of the thirty minute tape, they became so disgusted and embarrassed at what they heard, that the listening session was abruptly ended.

Evidently the tapes revealed a cavalier attitude and jocular mood present when the decision was made to shoot the airliner down. Not what Boris wanted to hear.

In addition, when the airliner had been shot down, a recovery effort was made by U.S. and Korean authorities.

And what happened? Rather than admit error and assist the effort, the Soviets with intention impeded the recovery mission in a big way. Further evidence of their degree of don't-care-about-what-we-did attitude. Of course this interference is against all regulations, protocols, and international treaties regarding airline crashes. Que sera, sera.


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Human Shield.

This is coolbert:

The human shield.

A disreputable practice that unfortunately has been practiced by armies throughout history. By modern standards, this practice is a violation of the Laws of Land Warfare.

It is a known fact that the Mongols [well, these were the Mongols, what would you expect??] utilized human shields. When invading a land, they would capture and drive in front of them peasantry that would act as human shields. This was used especially when besieging a fortified city or a castle. An effective technique that causes great consternation for the defenders. What to do??

In the movie, "Breaker Morant", incidents of where human shields were used during the Boer War [1900] were mentioned. It seems the pesky Boers were proficient at mining railroad tracks used by the British military. Many military trains would run over one of these mines and set it off, derailing the train and causing casualties and all sorts of mayhem. Some enterprising Britishers thought up to use Boer prisoners as human shields. Tied Boer POW's were placed on flatcars that ran in front of the steam locomotives. As the train ran down the tracks, if the tracks were mined, the first car to set off the mine would be the flatcar with the Boer prisoners on it. They would all be killed or badly wounded. Voila, the practice of mining the tracks stopped almost at once.

There is another mention of human shields being used in Vietnam from an interesting book that has been out for some time now. This book is called "Devil's Guard". Supposed true story of a French Legion battalion in Indo-China consisting of Germans, many of whom were members of the Waffen SS. One chapter describes how a convoy to relieve a besieged French fort was able to pass through guerrilla country [Viet Minh], unmolested. Vietnamese villagers, women, children, old people, were piled onto trucks escorted by tanks that drove through an area infested by guerrillas, guerrillas that had previously wiped out several French relief columns. Loud speakers were used to broadcast the voices of the villagers as they transitted the road on route to the besieged fort. The convoy made it through without a scratch or a shot being fired!!

And of course we all remember the time Saddam Hussein made a threat to use western "guests" as human shields for his vital installations, such as the oil fields. Would place the "guests" around these installations and dare the coalition air force to bomb. The threat of course would be that bombing would kill these shields and cause all sorts of anguish among members of the coalition. Was threatened, but did not happen.

Now, in recent times, we find the phenomenon of "volunteer human shields". Persons using their bodies in a voluntary and reckless manner to stop a military action. The idea is that no military will dare to do what they are doing, if the voluntary human shields are in the way. To bomb will cause excessive human casualties and will become an impermissible tactic [bombing].

This phenomenon appeared first in Serbia, during the 90 day bombing offensive a few years ago. To stop allied air forces from bombing bridges, power plants, etc., Serb civilians would place themselves either near or atop these installations, and dare the allied forces to bomb. The idea is that the threat of mass civilian casualties would cause the bombers to stop and end the conflict, or at any rate, diminish it. It did not happen!

We find this same use of voluntary human shields in Israel and Palestine today. When these 50 ton armored Israeli bulldozers come to demolish a bunch of Arab homes, foreign volunteers sympathetic to the Palestinian cause attempt to place their bodies between the bulldozers and the homes to be demolished. This tactic has not had a good record. Several people, including a young women [Rachael Corrie], have been run over in such attempts to be a human shield.


Tuesday, June 22, 2004


This is coolbert:

Military conquest has had a profound effect upon the world. We are familiar with the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire and the Inca Empire. And we of course are familiar with the American settlers conquest of much of North America.

We are less familiar with the Russian conquest of Siberia. A conquest that established Russia as a world power. As much as the Spanish conquest of the Aztec was amazing [this has been touched upon in a prior blog entry], the Russian conquest of Siberia was perhaps even more so. A Cossack force of only five hundred musketeers [streltsy] defeated a much larger force of the Sibir Khanate, and established Russian claims, rule, and dominion over one of the world's greatest land masses.

In the 1500's, the Principality of Moscow governed only a small area, rule having been only recently consolidated by the famous Ivan, who proclaimed himself Czar.

Wealth within the principality was measured mainly in the value of furs traded with western Europeans. Furs such as European beaver, mink, ermine, and sable all returned a great value to the Moscovites. Depleted fur resources during this period meant the Muscovites had to look eastward of the Ural mountains for sources of pelts.

The family Stroganov was the principal movers and shakers in the fur trade. A trade that was now impeded by the Sibir Khanate, who ruled eastward of the Urals and controlled the fur trade in this area. This Khanate, ruled by Khan Kuchun, a descendant of the now gone Golden Horde, was hostile to the Stroganovs and the Russians and forbade trapping of furs from their domain.

In the year 1582, in response to the intransigence and hostility of the Khanate, the Stroganovs employed the services of a Cossack freebooter, Yermak, to bring the Sibir Khanate to heel. Freebooter means plunderer or pirate. It would be perhaps wrong to think of Yermak is being a pirate as we understand a pirate today.

Yermak probably engaged in what we would call genial extortion. Pay a tax in merchandise or I will make life miserable for you.

The name of Yermak should be as well known as is Cortez, Pizarro, etc., but it is not. Leading his band of five hundred cossack muskeeters [streltsy], by boat, to the capitol of the Khanate, Isker [the city of Tobolsk now exists approximately where Isker was once located], the cossacks engaged in battle and defeated the forces of the Khan [click here to see a famous painting of the battle where the Khan's forces were defeated].

This is another example of how superior firepower can be used by a numerically inferior force to defeat a numerically superior but technologically inferior enemy [forces of the Khanate were armed with bows and arrows and swords]. Read about the conquest from the Russian view point by clicking here.

The results of this battle were profound. Yermak relayed word to the Czar that he was victorious. And that the Czar could now justifiably lay claim to the Khanate and contiguous lands. These lands of course stretched from the Urals eastward to the Pacific!!! And of course, obligingly so, the Czar did claim the lands east of the Urals, all the way to the Pacific.

In the subsequent decades and centuries to follow, the Russians settled this claimed land in a fashion similar to what was done in the American conquest of the western part of North America.  

First a fort, manned by Cossacks, with a trading post co-located. Then settlers to farm. Then a village, a town, or a city. All the while receiving resistance from the "indigenous" population. And this progress spread from west to east with amazing rapidity until the Pacific Ocean was reached. Click here and here to see an interesting time lines for Russian expansion eastward. This process has had a tremendous impact on the Russian psyche:

"The joining of Siberia is the most important, happiest and greatest event in the history of Russia, after the overthrow of the Tatar yoke and the reforms of Peter the Great." (V.G. Rasputin) [This Rasputin is a modern Russian writer. I am not sure if he is related to the infamous Father Gregory Rasputin of one hundred years ago?].

The conclusion was a Russian Siberia of prodigious wealth and space. A wealth that was not even realized by the Stroganovs, the Czar, or Yermak. Furs, timber, oil, precious metals, etc. Great wealth that has not been fully exploited, even to this day. And all this acquired by five hundred men using superior firepower, and being led by a superior and determined individual [so much like Cortez, is it not??].


Monday, June 21, 2004


This is coolbert: When the two GI's [Gordon and Shughart] that won the Medal of Honor in Somalia [posthumously] were awarded the medal, this quote of the Sikh guru Gobind Singh was cited:

"The greatest warrior is the one who fights for a people he does not know, for a cause that he does not understand."

And in the case of the two GI's in Somalia, this is undoubtedly true, is it not?

The Sikhs are an example of a people that have totally adopted the warrior mentality. The entire life for a male is based upon martial concepts of behavior. The famous five "K's" of the Sikh are indicative of this. At all times the devout Sikh must wear a turban, not cut his hair or beard, wear a bracelet, and carry a comb and a dagger. Numbering about forty million in a population of over one billion, the Sikhs are more than well represented in the most robust and vibrant sectors of Indian life. Especially in the military, where Sikh units excel, just as they did under the British Raj. In civilian life too the Sikh population is very entrepreneurial and successful.

Perhaps the best example of the martial mentality of the Sikhs is exemplified in the Sikh guru mentioned above, Gobind Singh. The tenth and last [?] of the Sikh gurus, Gobind was renowned for his military ability. Adept at archery, sword play, and horsemanship. And also as a philosopher [guru, teacher]. This life style is not in conflict in oriental societies [I would classify India as an oriental society] as it would thought to be in a western society. The Japanese for one also say "sword and pen in accord". Here is something from the life of Gobind Singh that I find to be fascinating. At one point in his life, he was deserted by forty [40] disciples who left him in the midst of a battle, only to return and become martyrs. This forty is reminiscent of the forty that is constantly found in the Bible. Forty is a term used to signify something of great significance. Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness. It rained forty days and forty nights. The Jews spent forty years in the wilderness. Etc. How is it that the number forty also appears in the chronicles of Gobind Singh. Is it a coincidence or what? I think not!

"The most valorous part in this battle was played by a group of 40 Sikhs who had deserted the Guru at Anandpur during the long siege, but who, chided by their womenfolk at home, had come back under the leadership of a brave and devoted woman, Mai Bhago, to redeem themselves. They had fallen fighting desperately to check the enemy's advance towards the Guru's position. The Guru blessed the 40 dead as 40 mukte, i.e. the 40 Saved Ones."

To read more about Gobind Singh, click here.


Sunday, June 20, 2004


This is coolbert: In the international Jewish community [sometimes referred to as World Jewry] there has been a long standing grudge against the allied militaries and the leaders of same from World War Two [WW2].

The argument is made by the Jews that nothing was done to save the condemned Jews being sent to the death chambers and crematoria of Auschwitz. The feeling among world Jewry is that the Allies did not care, could have done more, but did not. And perhaps one reason, according to world Jewry, is that this slaughter of the Jews was not all unpleasant in the eyes of the allies. That somehow by their inaction they gave tacit approval to what the Germans were doing.

One suggestion that world Jewry has made is that the railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz could have been bombed. Impeding the process of the trains taking tens of thousands to death. The failure of the allies to bomb the tracks is cited as proof that the allies just did not care.

Is this argument plausible?

Not very! If the decision had been made to bomb the railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz, it would have had to have been during the daytime by a mass of bombers. Precision bombing just did not exist except in rare cases during World War Two. This mass of bombers could have all dropped their bomb loads at once on a stretch of track, but probably with less than satisfying results.

These types of bombing missions during the war almost without exception met with limited and less than satisfactory results. And the Germans were very good at repairing this sort of damage, and quickly too. The trains would be rolling again in no time. The Germans had put a high priority on sending trainloads of Jews to Auschwitz for extermination and this would not have deterred them. And what is worse is that the losses to the allied aircraft would have been prohibitive.

There would have only a few months out of the year to do this sort of mission [considerations of daylight], because of the length of the mission [pushing the bombers to the furthest of their range], and flying through the most densest part of the German air defenses to do so too [without escort].

Once when going to the target the bombers would be subject to fighter interceptor attack, and once again when returning to base they would have been hit a second time.

The losses would have been unacceptable for the gain.

As cruel as it may sound, the military gain would be nil, and actually impeded the furtherance of damage to the German war machine [defeating the German military was the paramount goal of the war].

An alternative approach would have been to destroy the crematoria at Auschwitz. This would have stopped the burning of the dead bodies and left the Germans with no recourse but to stop the executions of the Jews.

Not being able to burn the bodies would have created a monumental disposal problem that could not be solved.

Could this have been done?


One of the pilots from the famous "Dam Busters Squadron" was asked how the bombing could have been done. He suggested flying a four engine Lancaster to the target and dive bombing the crematoria with a huge bomb that would destroy the target. This would have been the only way.

Again, units such as the Dam Busters had more important agendas and target during the war. Sad to say, this would have not been a useful mission for such an elite unit.

Now, there is another alternative bombing that could have been done that may have had an even great effect on saving the condemned Jews.

In the nine hour documentary "Shoah", an interview was made with an American professor who had been an officer in the Polish Home Army [the underground guerilla force left over after the conquest and occupation of Poland by the Germans] during the World War. This officer, a Christian, toured a Jewish ghetto just prior to leaving for a mission to England. The Jews wanted this man to see for himself what was happening to them. And this officer recounts a conversation he had with two leading members of the surviving Jewish community. He asked the two men what could be done to save the Jews. Here is the response:

"First, the allies must announce to the German people what is happening to the Jews, using all the means at their disposal. Perhaps the German population does not know. Tell the Germans to stop or there will be consequences. Give them one month for the slaughter to stop."

"Then [secondly] if it [the killing] does not stop, the allies must mass their air force and on one specific day, they must then obliterate a German city from the face of the earth. Again, then announce to the German people what has happened and why. And tell them to stop. And once again, give them one month. And if the slaughter does not stop, once again, mass the allied air force and obliterate another city. And continue to do so until the slaughter stops".

This officer did relay his intelligence and personal observations to the authorities in London. But what was proposed did not happen.

Would it have stopped the Germans from slaughtering the Jews?

I bet it would not have. By that time the Germans were hell bent on their policy of slaughter and would have just continued without blinking an eye. Persons of the ilk that would carry out such a slaughter in the first place are not phased by threats.

Here is something further to consider with regard to bombing the railroad tracks leading to and the crematoria at Auschwitz.

There was a book published some decades ago now called "Poland, SOE, and the Allies". Recounts the various attempts of the British SOE [Special Operations Executive] to air drop supplies to the Polish Home Army.

All throughout the war this was a priority for the British. And yet, these air drops were almost uniformly unsuccessful.

And the reasons were very similar from what was previously described as being reasons for not bombing the railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz.

Long range bombers would have to be used, flying through the worst part of the German air defenses both ways, in day time so the drops would be on target, unacceptable losses for the gain, etc.

Even during the Battle of Warsaw in 1944 were the allies for the most part unable to air drop supplies to the Home Army troops. Long range bombers several times tried to drop supplies to the embattled Poles. The only successful drop was by the South African air force, and that was only once done successfully. If the allies could not help by air their fellow Christians, how could anyone assume they could have done better by air operations to help the Jews?



Saturday, June 19, 2004


This is coolbert:

In 1950, the U.S. General S.L.A. Marshall wrote a small pamphlet called "The Soldier's Load and the Mobility of a Nation".

This pamphlet contained observations and recommendations based upon many years of research by the General. A military historian who not only compiled military history, he was a driving force in using history to determine "lessons learned" and act upon them.

Marshall did what the Germans did in World War One. Create operational research analysis that led to better tactics and methods.

This particular pamphlet dealt with the load that American soldiers carried with them into combat.

And how this load was excessive and lead to a physically debilitated soldier whose efficiency is much reduced.

In the previous blog I mentioned the instance of the Normandy Invasion, D-Day. How the soldiers coming ashore were so overloaded with gear they could not cross the beach but with great effort. And many unable to cross the beach but were killed because of the conditions they had to face, and just plain ordinary physical weakness from the burden of gear carried by each soldier.

Now, there is something that needs to be clarified about load carrying ability of the soldier.

Many militaries throughout history have been faced with this dilemma and have reached the same conclusion after much study. A soldier cannot carry but about a maximum of one third [1/3] of his body weight without becoming debilitated and losing efficiency over a period of time. It is interesting that this comes out to about sixty to seventy pounds of weight. And this is what was carried by the Roman Legionnaire two thousand years ago and is what is carried by American air mobile troops in training during rucksack marches.

And please do not think that if soldiers were better trained they could do better and bear up better under load carrying conditions.

No amount of training or preparation in training can prepare the soldier to do better under conditions of combat. Combat, and the involuntary flow of fear induced chemicals in your body has the effect of exhausting the person, no matter who they are.

[As mentioned in a previous post, Marshall, while an officer leading his troops to the front during World War One, observed that half the men fell out on the march as they moved toward combat. These troops were carrying sixty pound packs and had trained to march twenty miles at a crack carrying such a load. And yet, with all this training, half fell out on the march. On the march AWAY from the front six weeks later, Marshall observed that not one troop fell out on the march!]

And what is the conclusion that Marshall arrived at?

Well, strip the combat soldier down to the basic minimum when going into combat. A rifle, ammo, grenades, canteen, ammo pouches, first aid kit, web belt and suspenders, entrenching tool, maybe bayonet, and that is it. Of course the soldier is wearing the helmet and has his uniform on, but that is to be expected, is it not? [this is called the basic fighting load]. And what does all this weigh? About thirty five pounds! And that should be the max for the combat soldier in battle. This is the fighting COMBAT LOAD!

Now, some staff officer will undoubtedly say, "well, what about food, what about if it rains, what about his chemical mask and chemical suit, and what about the night vision equipment, and what about going to the toilet, etc.??". Well, that is the problem. Everyone will agree that stripping the fighting soldier down to the minimum is the answer to the weight problem. But then everyone will have their own little items that they want to add. And then the problem starts all over again.

Marshall was fond of saying that mollycoddling the soldier will make a mollycoddle out of them.

The American soldier is expected to endure rain, cold, hunger if necessary. And maybe do this for a couple of days or more. And still fight.

What is suggested is that the American soldier goes into a fight laden down with the bare minimum and then have what he needs brought to him. And if what he needs cannot be brought to him, then the American soldier must learn to do without what cannot be brought to him.

An excellent example of how this could have been was illustrated during the winter of 1944.

General Patton had more casualties from trench foot in his Third Army than were casualties from combat action!? Soldiers could not keep their socks, boots, and feet dry in the cold weather. And they did not have the time to stop and dry their issue of socks. Patton said to send them new, clean, dry, socks that could be given to the soldiers. Just throw away the old and use the new. This idea was considered to be preposterous. And all this occured while bottled Coke, candy, and cigarettes were being shipped to the troops without problem. But to get new clean socks to the troops was considered to be impossible!?

Here is an alternative way to look at the situation. Called the infantry square. Take a regiment of four infantry battalions. Two battalions are up front in combat with stripped down soldiers and the other two battalions are in the rear resting and serving as a reserve. Those two battalions up front in combat go for two or three days fighting and having brought to them what they need. Then they are replaced by the reserve battalions who then continue the fight while those relieved get hot food, rest, and use the toilet, etc. Another way to do it.

And please do not think that this problem of an overweighted soldier is a thing of the past.

The American soldier say just in Afghanistan has been found to be way overloaded. Air mobile troopers are carrying with them loads that are just way overexcessive. And yet they are told all this is necessary and they must bear the load. And in the process their ability to find, close and destroy the enemy is greatly diminished. Read more about what one soldier has to say in this area by clicking here. Click here to see what the Marines have to say. And see what the Army has to say about this subject by clicking here. This last site is must illuminating. It is as if the observations of Marshall never even existed in the first place.


Friday, June 18, 2004

Shaped Charge!

This is coolbert:

One of the most significant but perhaps underrated and misunderstood weapons of modern times is the shaped charge.

Applications of this weapon has drastically changed warfare in modern times.

What is most amazing about the shaped charge is that how it works is not fully understood [theoretical models exist but are not fully conclusive]. What can best be said is that it is appreciated that it does work as it does and is used in a variety of interesting applications.

The shaped charge as best described for the layman is an explosive that concentrates the explosive force into one specific direction, creating an extreme blast effect against a small area. To read some descriptions of the shaped charge effect, and the theory behind it, click here.

One area where the shaped charge has been employed most effectively is in the area of anti-tank weaponry.

Prior to the use of the shaped charge as an anti-tank weapon, the infantryman had no weapon as his disposal that could defeat a tank.

With the advent of the panzerfaust, a German anti-tank weapon utilizing the shaped charge effect, the infantry now had a weapon that could defeat a tank, and do so quite handily. The shaped charge as used in the panzerfaust, creates a jet of extremely hot gas [plasma], that actually melts a hole through the steel armor of the tank, destroying the tank and the occupants.

A whole range of anti-tank weapons are based upon the shaped charge principle as first demonstrated with the panzerfaust. To include the Soviet RPG [rocket propelled grenade] family of weapons, and the U.S. LAW [light anti-tank weapon], TOW, and Hellfire. Read about the panzerfaust and it's use against tanks by clicking here.

Another area where the shaped charge played a significant role is in the development of nuclear weapons.

When nuclear weapons were first developed, the significant problem of controlled detonation was encountered.

The theory of critical mass [being able to bring together that specific amount of fissionable material together in just a split second so that a self-sustaining nuclear reaction and detonation would occur] was well understood as the means to achieve a detonation.

To be able to achieve the critical mass was however, not something that was easy to do.

Two methods were proposed.

One method to achieve critical mass was the gun method. Have a plug of fissionable uranium fired into a specific amount of other carefully weighted and machined fissionable uranium to create the critical mass and the self-sustaining chain reaction leading to a nuclear detonation.

The second method was the plutonium implosion method. Wedges of carefully machined plutonium would be brought together [imploded, squeezed together] in a precise split second to create the critical mass and achieve the nuclear detonation. At first, no feasible method could achieve the implosion fast enough and accurately enough. Finally, British scientists that were experts on shaped charges were brought in and solved the problem. Use shaped charges to drive the plutonium wedges together. This was successful and the plutonium bomb was detonated at Alamagordo in 1945.

Both in World War Two and in Vietnam, shaped charges were used as demolition devices.

Indeed, the first use of shaped charges in warfare was employed by the Germans during their airborne attack on the Belgian forts of Eban Emael.

German glider borne troops who had landed atop the Belgian forts carried forth from their gliders a large shaped charge [50 kilograms each?], placed these charges atop the steel gun cupolas of the forts, and detonated the charges.

The resultant jet of plasma melted it's way through the steel of the gun emplacements and destroyed the capability of the forts. Click here to see an outstanding site about Eban Emael. Shows photos of the gun emplacements and the damage done by the shaped charges.

U.S. forces in Vietnam used shaped charges to destroy VC bunker and tunnel complexes.

Rather than using traditional explosives, the U.S. forces would place a shaped charge over the suspected tunnel complex and detonate. The concentrated force of the shaped charge blast would create a narrow but deep hole, destroying the tunnel complex and killing anyone inside. To read further about the use of shaped charges in Vietnam, click here.



This is coolbert:

When a foreign military who is fighting U.S. forces calls for a truce, you know they are getting their ass kicked good and want a cessation of hostilities for their own survival. There are several instances of this being so, one in the not-so-distant past, and one occurring just recently.

It is generally accepted by the public that the Korean War was a stalemate. That neither side could militarily prevail over the other and that a truce and armistice was the best bet for both sides. This is not true!

The situation during the Korean War was:

First, North Korean forces invaded the south of the country and nearly forced an evacuation of U.N. [I have termed the defenders of the South as U.N., even though the bulk of the troops were American] forces from the Pusan perimeter.

Second, U.N. forces then launched a counter-attack at Inchon and regained control of the south and drove the North Koreans all the way to the Yalu River.

Third, invading Chinese Communist forces then entered the fray and U.N. forces had to retreat to a point somewhat south of Seoul. The Chinese offensive was stalled, then another U.N. counter-offensive pushed Chinese forces north of the 38th parallel.

Fourth, again, in the spring of 1951, the Chinese Communists attempted another offensive. Not only was this offensive stopped cold, but U.N. forces then began their own counter-offensive.

It was at this point that something phenomenal began. Chicom [Chinese Communist] forces began to surrender. And surrender en masse. First platoons, then companies, and finally battalions began to surrender, and surrender as I have said, in a group. This is a sure and certain sign of a major crack up. Demoralization had set in among the Chinese and they were losing, and big time.

At that point: The Communist forces called for a truce and negotiations. This was accepted by Truman who then began two grueling years of negotiations that led to the current armistice. The Chinese were on the ropes, and Truman let them off! Now, you can argue that Truman had good reasons for doing so [to prevent a wider conflict, prevent nuclear weapons from being used, to prevent a conflict between the U.S. and the Soviets, etc.].

Nonetheless, the Chinese Communist forces in Korea were losing big time, and rather that pursue the enemy, give them no respite, and defeat them conclusively, Truman gave into to political considerations and agreed to negotiations. But to say that neither side could prevail over the other in Korea is just not so.

Now, just this month, in Iraq, we see something similar.

This gadfly "cleric", Sadr, a thirty year old murderer who wants to run the whole place, set his "militia" against U.S. forces. Running battles lasting for days went on. And then Sadr calls for a truce.

Why did he do so?

His militia was losing a lot of men. And he did not have but a few thousand rag tag "fighters" under his control in the first place. Most of them were killed. His power base [all power grows out of the barrel of a gun should be his motto], was being destroyed before his eyes. And what option did he have? Call for a truce. Which was obligingly given to him by U.S. commanders. Plain and simple, this "cleric" did what he did because he was getting beat, and beat bad.


Thursday, June 17, 2004


This is coolbert:  

Richard F. Burton, an English military man of the Victorian era, can lay claim to being one of the most remarkable men that ever lived. Combined in the same person the unusual talents of great physical and intellectual abilities and an insatiable curiosity and desire for adventure.

A Captain in the British Indian Army, Burton was a man of the most profound abilities, and led a life of adventure. A man of action who took matters into his own hands.

Consider these accomplishments:

British Army officer
[British Indian Army].


Polyglot [able to speak 25 languages].

Greatest authority in the world on swords and swordsmanship.


Perhaps of all his accomplishments, Burton is best known for his explorations of east Africa in an attempt to find the source of the Nile. Explorations to find the source of the Nile in the 1800's should be considered to be about on a par with lunar exploration in the 1960's! With his army colleague, Speke, Burton did explore for the source of the Nile, but was not successful. While not successful, Burton and Speke did establish a path for further exploration that others could follow.

Additional exploration in what is now Saudi Arabia followed, Arabic being one of the twenty five languages that Burton spoke. On one occasion, Burton made the journey to Mecca, posing as a Muslim, and doing so quite successfully [at great risk to his own life]. He wrote a book about this, he being one of only a handful [if that] of non-Muslims to visit Mecca and survive.

[to this day, no non-Muslims are allowed in the Muslim holy cities of Medina and Mecca. The penalty being death].

As an expert [perhaps the world's foremost] on swords and swordsmanship, Burton was intrigued by the use of such weapons at war.

Even during the life time of Burton, swords as weapons of war were becoming very passe, their use being almost non-existent. However, during a British Army punitive expedition to Somalia, Burton engaged in a sword fight with a Somali, and was wounded on the cheek, leaving a large and vivid scar. [Some accounts say the wound was from a spear, others from a sword. There is no account of what happened to the Somali].

 I would suspect that Burton on this occasion not only engaged in a sword fight with the Somali, he intentionally engaged in the sword fight. No fun being an expert on the subject [swordfighting] if you were not able to do it yourself. Burton was a man who thrived on adventure and danger!

Burton put his skills as a polyglot to great use in a most interesting way during his lifetime.

Burton translated many works of Oriental cultures into English, his expertise being in the area of erotic literature. It may be that Burton was one of the first, if not the first, to translate from the Persian "1001 Arabian Nights", and the Hindu sex work "The Kama Sutra".

Burton indeed seems to have had an inordinate fascination with this erotic literature subject. Even to the point of visiting the male bordellos of Karachi to "investigate" the subject [I am not sure if I want to know about this form of investigation?]. This of course was all done during the Victorian era, when repressed sexuality and mention of same was the norm of behavior.

Burton was also an expert at going "native". Adopting the dress and customs of the "locals" and passing himself off as one of them. Please look at the famous picture taken of Burton that shows him in robes, sitting on the floor, a fez on his head, and glaring at the camera. I am quite sure that in person Burton exuded "bearing" and "presence".

Burton ended his life as Queen's consul in Trieste, putting his polyglot abilities to good use. Quite a remarkable person.

Several decades ago now, the American sci-fi writer, Phillip Jose Farmer wrote a trilogy called "Riverworld". As the hero of his trilogy, Farmer choose the person of Richard F. Burton! This is a most interesting series of books and I recommend them highly!

Here are two good sites on Burton. To see, click here and here.


Wednesday, June 16, 2004


This is coolbert:

The troops landing at Normandy on D-Day [June 6, 1944], found themselves in instantaneous trouble from a variety of sources.

Physical weakness was one of the problems. Having spent perhaps three days on vessels steaming out of British ports, the troops being embarked into landing craft faced a trip to the shore accompanied by a five foot "chop". This produced severe sea-sickness and vomiting that only exacerbated any sea-sickness and vomiting that the troops may already have previously experienced.

Now, when they show the movies of the landing craft bringing the troops ashore, it all looks so neat.

The landing craft sails right up to the edge of the water, down comes the ramp in the front of the landing craft and, and the troops run ashore, most without even having gotten their feet wet.

It was not so at Normandy.

Many of the first-wave landing craft could not get closer to the beach than where the water was five or six feet deep!?

The ramp in front came down, and the soldiers had to just make the best of it to reach the beach. Some jumped out into water over their heads! And of course all this was done under severe German fire at Omaha Beach! [the landings were supposed to be made under conditions of low tide. But the weather creating this "chop" negated any low tide conditions].

And of course the load each infantryman was carrying was so excessive as to be beyond belief.

In addition to the normal fighting load, each troop was wearing a pack with an unbelievable amount of gear that some staff had determined was necessary. Extra water, extra rations, life preserver, panel markers, etc.  

A tremendous amount of weight.

And those men carrying this load must have just become so sodden from jumping into the water five or six feet deep, that the load instantly became double?!

The staff that figured all this additional load was necessary for "survival" not only did not help the troop, they doomed the troop. [I am not sure of the exact weight of the load carried here, but it was probably in excess of the normal full existence load of 60-70 pounds, due to the "special" nature of this beach landing].

The crossing of the beach at Omaha was nothing in reality as it had been in training.

Now, in training, U.S. troops, fully laden, had been able to cross the one hundred [100] or so yards of beach in about twenty to thirty seconds. And this at a jog trot, without problem.

It was later determined that some of the troops landing under fire, after being immersed in five to six feet of water, took THREE HOURS to cross that one hundred yards of beach!?!?!? [this may well have been the exception, but is indicative of the conditions faced by some. To have stayed on the beach or in the water, as some did, meant death anyhow, from German machineguns, mortars, and snipers].

And there was another factor that greatly inhibited the ability of the troops to wade ashore and cross that one hundred yards of beach.


Extreme fear as would have been encountered by the troops at Omaha would have induced WEAKNESS!
 As I have stated in another post, the factor of fear is not something that can be duplicated in training.

Troops, fully laden, that can easily cross one hundred yards of beach in training, may have a hard time doing so in combat.

The flow of fear induced chemicals in the bodies of the troops prior to going ashore must have been huge.

Good in the short term, bad in the long term.

And this was in the long term.

Three days of being on ships, anticipating what they knew would be a hard fight, had to have stimulated chemical flow that created physical weakness. This weakness, coupled with the sea-sickness and vomiting, went a long way to creating a physically debilitated soldier unable to perform his duties under the weight of the equipment he was expected to carry!!


Tuesday, June 15, 2004


This is coolbert:

Here is another misconception from World War Two [WW2].

In December 1941, Moscow, the Soviet capital, was threatened by German forces. The Soviets mobilized their last remaining troopsin preparation for a last ditch effort to save the capitol and the brave Soviet soldiers triumphed, against the odds. This was also a victory for "General Winter". The cold of the winter of December 1941 was such that German troops were unprepared, and the Soviet soldier was prepared.

Now, this representation is both correct and incorrect. More incorrect than correct. The Soviet capitol was threatened, the Soviets did counter-attack successfully, and the cold did play it's part. But this is not the full story.

In truth, the Soviet counter-attack [7 December 1941] was not merely to defend the Soviet capital from capture.

The goal of the counter-attack was the total destruction of German Army Group Center [German forces invading the Soviet Union consisted of three army groups [collection of armies]. These groups were labeled North, South, and Center. [Center was the army group opposite Moscow]. The Soviet commanders [led by Marshal Zhukov] had been carefully husbanding their artillery, their rocket launchers [katushya], and most elite units. These latter units were the Siberian divisions. Ski mounted troops [moved forward using ski-joring, being pulled along by T-34 tanks], inured to the cold, and each man armed with a sub-machinegun.

In a previous post, I have mentioned and referenced the artillery tactics used by the Germans in the latter days of World War One.

Theorized and perfected by Colonel Bruchmuller. Well, the Soviets had carefully studied these techniques, and under the leadership of their artillery commander, Marshal Voronov, put Bruchmuller's ideas to good use in their counter-offensive to destroy German Army Group Center. "It is said that more artillery guns fired in this one counter-offensive of the Soviets than were fired by all the combatants on the Western Front put together in World War One"!?" [this would of course include mortars of equal to or greater than 122 mm caliber. The Soviets classify these as artillery].

And the Soviet counter-offensive of December 1941 nearly did succeed.

Catastrophic losses were inflicted on the Germans opposite Moscow. Not only was Moscow saved, but the entire German Army Group Center was in danger of annihilation! It was only through the most energetic and inspired command that German Army Group Center was not annihilated. The German generals were able to stabilize the situation, contain the breakthrough of Soviet forces, and inflict very heavy casualties on the Soviet attacker. This was one of the two things the German generals excelled at during the Second World War [stabilizing a situation, containing a breakthrough, and inflicting heavy casualties on the attacker in this case].

After the counter-offensive of the Soviets had run it's course, both sides in the conflict suffered a down. The Germans now realized that a protracted war with the Soviets was at hand. NO quick victory as had been realized in previous campaigns. And the Soviets, now realizing that Army Group Center could not be destroyed, also had to now plan for a protracted war, with much of the Soviet Union's most valuable real estate being in the hands of the German invader.


Monday, June 14, 2004

Munition Ships.

This is coolbert:

Munitions ship disasters were a hazard of both World Wars.

During World War One, the munitions ship Mont Blanc spontaneously exploded while docked in Halifax, Nova Scotia [Canada].

This ship, containing about 4000 tons of black powder, detonated and leveled a good part of the city of Halifax, and destroyed a goodly number of ships at anchor in the same harbor. This detonation had the effect of a tactical nuclear weapon [tactical nuclear weapons would be measured in kilotons [thousands of tons] of TNT that their blast would represent. The Hiroshima bomb was rated at 10 to 20 kilotons of TNT. Since black powder has an explosive index of perhaps only half of dynamite, and dynamite is only half of TNT, the Halifax bomb would probably be equal to a present 1 kiloton nuclear weapon]. Read more about the Halifax disaster by clicking here.

And during World War Two, occured the Port Chicago disaster.

Port Chicago, located on an estuary of San Francisco Bay, was used by the U.S. Navy as the loading depot for munitions bound for the Pacific theatre. Ships would load all manner of munitions and ship out for the Pacific, loaded with ammunition, flares, bombs, etc.

In the latter part of 1944, one of two ships docked and being loaded suffered a detonation that leveled the whole of the small town of Port Chicago. Set off a sympathetic detonation in the adjacent ship that was also being laden with munitions. This only exacerbated the situation. A large number of black stevedores loading the ships, an entire dock complete with munitions train, and the dock itself, all were vaporized. This too resembled the effect of a tactical nuclear weapon.

In the aftermath of the disaster, recovery and cleanup crews were sent into the area. One such crew of black stevedores refused to enter the area on the grounds that it was too dangerous. This even being the case, it being so dangerous, forty of the stevedores were tried and convicted of mutiny, their case being defended by Thurgood Marshall, later to become U.S. Supreme Court Justice. And to be quite honest, these men were guilty. Being in the military means that at some point, you may be required to do something that is dangerous. And in the process of doing this dangerous thing, you may be killed. Danger in the military is not a valid excuse for refusing an order. Should be obvious.

While not being totally germane to this post, another disaster of this magnitude and type occured in 1947.

This was the Texas City disaster.

Illustrates, and that is why I am including this mention of the disaster, of how potent a blast these ships can be, loaded with explosive material.

A ship, while at dock in Texas City, 1947, and loading ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer known to be explosive, detonated from injudicious handling of a fire within the ship. This ship had a cargo of about 500 tons of ammonium nitrate on board at the time of the blast. Everything for a radius of about 1 1/2 miles was leveled. About 500 people were killed, most of them shredded with flying debris to the extent that they could not be identified. Several planes orbiting at 1500 feet above the dock were batted out of the air as if a giant hand had come along and swatted them. A length of propeller shaft from the ship was found two miles away buried something like twelve feet in the ground!

Again, another ship docked close by suffered sympathetic detonation of it's cargo and another tremendous blast occured. This gives you a description of what level of explosive power can be had from one of these cargo ships laden with explosive material, whatever it may be. [the discovery of soaking ammonium nitrate with diesel fuel to make a safely handled explosive was considered to be a breakthrough in explosive safety]. Read more about Texas City by clicking here.

Now, more considering Port Chicago. Some persons, gadflies perhaps, have theorized that the Port Chicago disaster was intentional.

Intentional as a way of testing the uranium atomic bomb [two versions of the atomic bomb were developed in World War Two. One was the plutonium bomb, the implosion device, the other was the uranium bomb, the gun device. This experiment would have been testing the latter]. Cover the experimental detonation of a uranium bomb and disguise it as a munitions explosion.

A whole web site is devoted to this theory and the evidence concerning same. Could this be true? Hard to say. The whole of Port Chicago was never rebuilt, the town and surrounding area being incorporated into what became the Concord Naval Depot. I suppose if someone tested the soil for residual background radiation, and found uniformly high levels, this would indicate that the Port Chicago explosion was a nuke in disguise. [a friend of mine grew up in Martinez, located right next to the present Concord Depot, and he had never heard of this disaster until I brought it to his attention!]. To read about this theory and the good web site with all the background information, click here.

And how is all of this applicable to the current world situation? Well, just imagine that some terrorists get a hold of a ship carrying a cargo of some sort of volatile explosive nature. And unbeknownst to the authorities, sail it into some harbor, say in the U.S. somewhere, and detonate the whole ship, undoubtedly praying fervently just prior to the detonation. Well, you would have wholesale disaster on a scale of 9/11, or greater.