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

Saturday, July 31, 2004

This is coolbert: The "Last Stand". This theme seems to be a favorite of Hollywood when making war movies. A small group of soldiers, cut off from all hope and help, and surrounded by an endless "sea" of enemy troops, fights valiantly and bravely, sometimes winning and surviving, sometimes not winning, but always showing a mettle that is admirable.

And it is generally accepted in military circles that the most dangerous and greatest test of a military unit's ability is when that unit comes under attack by overwhelming numbers of the enemy.

And historically, such "last stands" have actually occurred. And been significant events in all cases, much having been written and said about them. And movies made too! These "last stands" just seem to possess a psychological impact that is really profound!

In American history, the Alamo and Wake Island are two examples.

In British history, Lucknow, Rorke's Drift, and the Imjin are examples of British pluck and resolve.

In the two American examples, the American forces were finally defeated by what was indeed overwhelming numbers of the enemy. But not before inflicting very heavy losses on their attackers. And inspiring their compatriots who went on to ultimate victory.

In the three British examples, the British forces, besieged as they were, did emerge victorious, albeit with great loss to themselves, but also after inflicting very great loss upon their attacker.

What seems to be a common thread in all these "last stands" is how the defenders see themselves, and see themselves in the context of their situation.

At the Alamo, the defenders saw themselves as men who were defending their GOD-given-inalienable-rights. Rights that been guaranteed to them and then taken away by a despotic Mexican dictator. Rights that they were ready to die for [and die they did].

The Marines at Wake Island saw themselves as representing the U.S. military. A military that had been administered shameful defeats by the aggressor Japanese. The Marines on Wake Island did realize their position was hopeless, but they intended to "show the way" as to how to defeat the Japanese [this they did].

It is significant that in my mind the attackers at both the Alamo and Wake Island mistreated the dead and the captives after the fighting had ended.

The bodies of the dead defenders of the Alamo were burnt, and all trace of them eliminated. This behavior of cremation and scattering of ashes was at the time unheard of in a Catholic country.

And one of the first thing the Japanese did upon occupying the island of Wake was to behead five enlisted Marines in retaliation for the enormous casualties the Marines had inflicted upon the Japanese attackers.

What this tells me is that the attackers in both cases, Mexicans and Japanese respectively, realized that something of very great significance had occurred. A significance that worked against them. A significance they hope to erase or minimize. They were not successful!

At the various British "last stands", the troops defending at Lucknow [Sepoy Mutiny] [read further about Lucknow by clicking here], Rorke's Drift [Zulu War] [read further about Rorke's Drift by clicking here], and the Imjin [Korea] [read further about the Imjin by clicking here], all faced annihilation at the hands of enemies that possessed extreme numerical superiority.

In the former two cases, literal annihilation was at hand, the mutinous Sepoys and the Zulus not being of the mind to take prisoners.

And at the Imjin, the Chinese communist troops were not noted for fair and humane treatment of prisoners, those prisoners that they were willing to take.

These last stands were no-holds-barred-to-the-death-warfare. And yet in all three cases the British line "held" and the defenders were victorious. [Among the battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment, who bore the brunt of the Chinese attack, of six hundred men that went into the battle, only sixteen were left standing at the end of three days!!!].

It is also interesting to observe that in the two former cases, Lucknow, and at Rorke's Drift, British units fighting their last stands succeeded at a time and a place where other British units nearby had failed.

The British writer Bryan Perrett comments about British resolve in this manner:

"Much of course [speaking about the course of the action at the last stand] depends upon the character of the commander concerned, but this of itself is not enough unless he has the complete support of his men. From what, then, does this fierce motivation stems? Anger? Fear? Esprit de Corps? Tradition? Discipline? Loyalty? Belief in a cause? Hope of relief? Or self-sacrifice on the behalf of others?"

It would seem that all the above are present in some measure in all these "last stands", British and American. Each incident must be looked at individually to determine the motives of the defenders.

[My own personal note!] It is interesting to note that the significance of the British defense of Lucknow and the sacrifice of the defenders was seen in such a light that the only place in the British Empire where the British flag could fly twenty four hours a day was over Lucknow!!

When the British raj in India ended, British troops, almost one hundred years later after the siege had ended, as one of their last acts, cut down the flag pole at Lucknow, dug up the stub of pole left in the ground and left the entire area concreted over. This all done at night so that in the morning, the newly formed Indian government could not fly their flag over such a "sacred site"!!!!! Such was the impact of Lucknow in the mind's of the British even for decades after the event!!


This is coolbert: In a previous blog I mentioned the German 88 mm gun. One of the most effective and significant weapons of World War Two [WW2]. Well, the Soviets did of course observe the effectiveness of this weapon and did during the war develop equivalent models to counter German tanks. The direct fire gun such as the 88 mm gun was perhaps the effective anti-tank weapon during WW2.

And for decades after the end of WW2, the Soviets continued to field battalions of such weapons, direct fire anti-tank guns, in their inventory. Long after the various armies of the western powers [western armies felt the anti-tank guided missile was the way to go] had determined this weapon, the anti-tank gun, to be obsolete, the Soviets felt the contrary, and continued to deploy the anti-tank direct fire gun in prodigious numbers.

Up until just recently, and maybe even now, as we speak, the Soviets, and subsequently the Russians, deployed in each of their Motorized Rifle Divisions [MRD] a battalion of anti-tank guns. This was the T-12 towed 100 mm anti-tank gun. Looked like a obsolete artillery piece with a long barrel and the crew shield [protection against small arms fire] in front. Each MRD, as mentioned, would have a battalion of these guns, totaling eighteen. This battalion was organized into three batteries of six guns each, the battalion being under the direct command of the division commander.

This battalion was under direct control of the division commander and would be used in two specific circumstances, and only at the behest of the division commander. If the MRD was on the defensive, this battalion would be put astride the avenue of approach into the divisional area that the divisional commander had determined to be the most favorable approach for the enemy to employ. And if the division was on the offensive, the battalion would be employed only when a breakthrough was accomplished. This firing batteries of the battalion would be employed to defend against an enemy counterattack the intention of which was to seal the breakthrough.

From this we can understand that the anti-tank battalion of the MRD was a special unit designed to be used in the most special of circumstances, and at the total command of the divisional commander.

Suvorov devotes and entire chapter to these guns and their employment by the Soviets. Suvorov writes: [The chapter is titled, "Why Are Anti-Tank Guns Not Self-Propelled].

"Anti-tank guns are used in two situations. In defense, when the enemy has broken through . . . and must be stopped at any price. And in the offensive, when one's own troops have broken through . . . and the enemy tries to cut off the spearhead at it's base . . . Towed guns are compelled, by their weight, to fight to the death . . . . Only one option is available to the crews - to die on the spot, as they prevent the enemy from crossing the line they are holding."

Nobody ever said service in the Russian military was easy.


Friday, July 30, 2004

This is coolbert: Much has been made of this "new" policy of pre-emptive strike on nations hostile to the U.S. President Bush has stated that the U.S. can no longer wait to be struck by an attack from a foe, and then hit back. And opponents of this policy have taken grave exception to the attack on Iraq, an attack justified in part by the "new" policy.

To begin with, is this a "new" policy??

According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to President Carter, this is not a "new" policy. It seems such a policy of pre-emption has always existed [at least after the end of World War Two??]. The United States has always reserved the right to self-defense using a pre-emptive strike if it was detected that some foreign power was preparing to launch a war or attack against the U.S.

One enunciated exception to the pre-emptive policy of the U.S. was in the realm of nuclear warfare. In an effort to prevent an accidental nuclear war between the super-powers [United States and Soviet Union] of the day, the U.S. had announced it would not use nuclear weapons unless struck with nuclear weapons first. The U.S. was prepared to absorb a nuclear strike from the Soviet Union before retaliating. It was felt that this policy would eliminate, to the greatest extent possible, the chance that an inadvertent and erroneous warning would cause the U.S. to go to war with the Soviets, a war where nuclear weaponry would be used from the onset.

There are many critics of this "new" pre-emptive policy of the U.S.

To critics of the pre-emptive policy of the U.S., this whole philosophy and outlook of pre-emption is wrong. The U.S., according to the critics, must never have such a policy to begin with. And the U.S. must never exercise the pre-emption option, if such a policy did exist, NO MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCES! In the eyes of the critics, the U.S. must always be the good-guys, the guys in the white hats, the persons always occupying the moral high ground. Pre-emption does not fit into their conception of moral high ground.

And what is the exact reasoning behind this sudden emphasis upon pre-emption?

It would have to be related to the nuclear threat emanating from Al Qaeda!

Now, Al Qaeda's leadership has threatened to use nuclear weapons on the U.S. bin Laden himself asked the question, "why would it not be permissible for us to use atomic bombs on the Americans? Did not they [the Americans] use atomic bombs on Japan?" And one of bin Laden's lieutenants is supposed to have said, "we will have to kill 4 million Americans to bring them to their knees, including 1 million children!!" So this threat is on the mind of Al Qaeda.

As is the intention to use, if possible, all types of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, biological, and chemical.

Of all these threats, the detonation of a nuclear weapon or weapons would pose a threat to the U.S. that calls for pre-emptive action when necessary. As Bush has said, "we cannot wait for a nuclear weapon to detonate in one of our cities!" And in this matter, Bush is correct. We cannot wait. The consequences of just one atomic detonation in a major U.S. city would be catastrophic. And the detonation of multiple numbers of atomic bombs might damage the U.S. to the point where it could not recover! This circumstance must be prevented at all costs! And pre-emption is one way to prevent such an occurrence.

And pre-emption IS the only recourse with Al Qaeda. As I have said before in previous blog posts, the normal deterrent of retaliation does not work with Al Qaeda. Normally, anyone would be terrified of using nuclear weapons against the U.S. as the threat from retaliation would be so great. This does NOT work with Al Qaeda. On the contrary. Al Qaeda does not only not fear retaliation, they welcome retaliation, so as to alienate the Muslim world further against the U.S. ONLY pre-emption will work, when and if possible.

For those critics that disdain the entire concept of pre-emption, well, do they have a better suggestion? If so, I have not heard of one.

With regard to the previous paragraph where I mention that the U.S. was prepared to absorb a nuclear strike from the Soviet Union prior to retaliating, the Soviet defector Suvorov has most definite comments on this matter. Comments that people that are critics of pre-emption do not like to hear. According to Suvorov:

"as I studied American theories of war, I came to an appalling realization . . . the modern American cowboy who is working up to a decisive fight will always expect to begin by spitting at and insulting his opponent and to continue by throwing whiskey in his face and chucking custard pies at him . . . he expects to hurl chairs and bottles . . . and only after this to fight it out with his gun."

Suvorov further states that the Soviets had absolute contempt for this philosophy: [this of course with regard to nuclear attack].

"it was concluded that[by the Soviet Generals], no one believed in the theory . . . . it was devised for the ignorant and for the popular masses in the West, to reassure the man in the streets."

Well, obviously, the critics of pre-emptive strike want this sort of pattern of behavior to be the pattern of behavior for the American government to follow. Rather than pre-emptively strike your enemy, the American government is expected to absorb all sorts of abuse without flinching before they react. You must let the enemy strike first and only then can you respond. This is of course assuming that you are able to respond. Only then, say the critics of pre-emptive strike, can you maintain the moral high ground.

I just hope the persons that are killed in a nuclear attack by Al Qaeda will be happy with such a suggestion. I doubt it very seriously.


Thursday, July 29, 2004


This is coolbert:

The occupation of mercenary is something that seems to have gone the way of the proverbial dodo [extinct].

With the exception of a South African organization called "Executive Outcomes", this "trade" is seemingly no longer practiced. Read about Executive Outcomes by clicking here.

In modern times, mercenaries were last employed in numbers during the 1960's.

Various conflicts in Africa saw mercenaries involved, mostly white Europeans [few if any Americans], fighting for newly formed African governments that came to power in former colonies that had just won their independence.

Such a place was the Congo.

Various governments in the Congo were just so incompetent and corrupt they were unable to form an effective army to hold their country together.

The solution was to import mercenaries, who formed effective fighting forces to quell rebellions and bring peace. Charismatic leaders such as Colonel Mike Hoare [British], and Colonel Bob Denard [French], led mercenary contingents that were the answer to the woes of different Congolese governments.

Several decades ago now, the entire concept of mercenary came into such disrepute that the International Red Cross, at the behest of African governments, decided to rule that mercenaries, if captured, would no longer be given protection as prisoners-of-war.

This was in response to a contingent of mercenaries involved in the fighting between the communist government of Angola, the rival rebel factions in the same country, and the foreign influences that dabbled and more than dabbled in the internal politics of Angolan affairs. [read here Cuba, Soviet Union, U.S., and South Africa].

A small group of mercenaries were captured by the Angolan government, tried, and executed. After this incident, mercenaries seem to have become as rare as hen's teeth world-wide.

Historically, mercenaries have not been so reviled or held in contempt. In some instances, mercenaries have been highly prized and sought out.

During the heyday [1500's and 1600's] of the Asian spice trade, Portuguese mercenaries were all the rage among the local rulers of the Indian Ocean region. These Portuguese military men, mostly artillerymen and cannoneers, were employed by the shahs, rajahs, and kings who needed the expertise of such men, an expertise of which could not be obtained locally [merely purchasing cannon and artillery from the European "powers" was not enough. You needed men to train the locals in the use of such weaponry and employ the "European" cannons with effectiveness].

In many cases these Portuguese mercenaries made new lives for themselves among the locals, marrying local women who would be willing to convert to Catholicism. A Portuguese mercenary could lead a style of live and be esteemed and respected in a manner he could not be in Portugal. This became a win-win situation for all involved.

To this day, four hundred years after the heyday of the spice trade, the descendants of those original Portuguese mercenaries are still doing well.

On the island of Sri Lanka [Ceylon], these descendants form a unique part of the population [1 % of the population], called "burghers" [townspeople]. Very influential in governmental circles, still practicing Catholicism, and as may be expected, very active in the military, holding high rank in many cases. These are persons with last names such as Da Souza and Da Silva. Another such person would be the most recent Indian Minister of Defense, a man named George Hernandez.

The old tradition lives on to this day!!

[I have also been told by an informant that the area in Malaysia around Malacca is also an area where a lot of people of Portuguese descent are found!! This does sound reasonable, as the fort of Malacca was a stronghold of Portuguese domination for several centuries].


This is coolbert: Here is an analogy between the world of nature and the world of military intelligence I think may be applicable.

In the world of nature, the defensive phenomenon of scattering has been observed over and over in various species. Prey animals flocking or herding in enormous numbers. And when a predator makes an attack, say an eagle on a huge flock of birds, or a lion on an enormous herd of wildebeest, the prey animals scatter in all direction. No reason or rhyme as to where they scatter to, just that it is done. This creates a large degree of confusion in the predator. The predator goes into sensory overload from the scattering and is unable to concentrate on a specific prey animal. The prey animals escape and the predator is just holding the bag, watching the fleeing prey.

It has occurred to me that an analogous effect can occur in the world of military intelligence. This thought was stimulated by reading the web site describing the successful attack by the British bi-planes on the moored Italian fleet at Taranto. Go to that site by clicking here to refresh your memory if you have not already visited the site. At the time of the aerial attack, the British had a number of other naval operations going on simultaneously in the Mediterranean. All these operations, to not include the proposed attack on Taranto, would have caught the attention of Italian intelligence. Consider all this occurring at once:

"Six groups of British warships and four convoys of merchantmen were to have their movements co-ordinated in an operation that stretched from Gibraltar to the coasts of Greece and Turkey.

Force A: Battleships Warspite, Malaya, Valiant, aircraft-carrier Illustrious [bi-planes from this carrier carried out the attack on Taranto], 2 cruisers and 13 destroyers.

Force B: Two cruisers (Ajax and Sydney) would take troops and supplies from Port Said in Egypt to Suda Bay in Crete.

Force C: One cruiser (Orion) would take RAF supplies and personnel to Piraeus in Greece and then go on to Suda Bay.

Force D: Battleship Ramilles, two anti-aircraft ships (Coventry and Calcutta) 13 destroyers, 2 armed trawlers and 1 minesweeper.

Force F: Battleship Barham, 2 cruisers and 3 destroyers (3 more destroyers were temporarily attached from Force H).

Force H: Aircraft-carrier Ark Royal, cruiser Sheffield and 5 destroyers sailing out of Gibraltar would escort Force F as far as the island of Malta.

The merchant ships were gathered into four convoys:-
Convoy AN6: Three merchantmen and two armed trawlers were to take petrol and bunker fuel from Port Said to Greece.
Convoy MW3: From Alexandria, five ships to Malta and two to Suda Bay, Crete.
Convoy ME3: Four empty, fast transports returning from Malta
Convoy AS5: Empty merchantmen returning from Greece and Turkey to Egypt.

There were five main tasks to be accomplished; the Mediterranean Fleet was to be reinforced by warships from England, a convoy would be pushed through to Malta, other convoys would take supplies to Greece and Crete, empty merchantmen would be brought back to Alexandria and Taranto would be attacked.

Though a highly complicated series of movements needing great co-ordination, the very complexity caused great confusion within Supermarina, the Italian Naval Command, and at no point did the Italians have a clear picture of what was going on." [This last part says it all, doesn't it!!].

The Italians suffered from an information overload! Too many things occurring at the same time prevented them from concentrating on any one thing, much to the detriment of the Italians. They were unable to separate the wheat from the chaff!!

Whether it was witting or unwitting on the part of the British Naval commanders, this complicated and multiple operation of disparate units in disparate locations did confuse the Italians and contributed to British success!!


Wednesday, July 28, 2004


This is coolbert:

The gadfly author James Bamford makes an interesting speculation about the Israeli attack upon the U.S.S. Liberty during the Six Day War of 1967. Bamford speculates that the attack upon the Liberty WAS an intentional Israeli attack intended to sink the Liberty! And that this attack was directly related to the massacre of the Egyptian prisoners at the hands of the Israelis mentioned in the previous blog.

Could this be the case? That Israel would intentionally attack and attempt to sink a warship of an erstwhile and most valuable ally?

Bamford's contention is that the Liberty, a signals intelligence vessel of the U.S. Navy, could have possessed radio intercepts of Israeli communications that revealed the massacre. These intercepts would naturally have been expected to been brought to the attention of U.S. authorities. Such evidence of Israeli atrocity would not have gone over well in U.S. leadership circles, so the story would go, and the Israeli attacked the Liberty to destroy the evidence, if indeed it did exist!

What is the evidence with regard to this assertion?

The U.S.S Liberty WAS off the coast of El Arish/Gaza at the time of the Six Day War.

Bamford asserts that the Liberty WAS on a signals intelligence mission. Whether the Liberty DID possess radio intercepts of Israeli communications that revealed the massacre of the Egyptian prisoners is not known to Bamford.

The Liberty WAS attacked by the Israelis, with the intention to sink the ship. First the Liberty was attacked by Israeli aircraft, and then further attacked by Israeli torpedo boats. The latter fired a torpedo "spread" referred to as a "kill shot". NO defense against the torpedo spread was supposed to be possible. This attack WAS intended to sink the Liberty. Only by the most careful maneuver was the damaged ship able to survive. [The Captain of the Liberty later got the Medal of Honor for his actions]. All this occurred even though the sailors of the Liberty maintain the ship was carefully marked as American!!

In the aftermath of the attack upon the Liberty, and the survival of same, miraculous as it was, recriminations and profuse apology on the part of the Israeli abounded.

So, was this attack upon the Liberty an attack to deliberately sink the ship and destroy possible evidence of the Israeli massacre of Egyptian prisoners?? No conclusive proof has ever been offered. It may be that the attack was an honest mistake. Any decision for a deliberate attack as part of an Israeli cover up would have HAD to been made at the highest level of the Israeli government authority, and after almost forty years all the familiars are probably now deceased!

What proof is there?

Well, maybe there is something? Bamford further maintains that in addition to the Liberty, a Navy EC-121 signal intelligence aircraft was also active at the same time in the area of El Arish/Gaza.

This aircraft, according to Bamford, could also potentially have overheard and recorded Israeli radio intercepts detailing the prisoner massacre. And perhaps even intercepts dealing with the attack upon the Liberty itself! If such info exists, however, no one is talking. C'est la guerre!



This is coolbert:

About ten years or so ago, the military of Israel admitted that during the Six Day War in 1967, contingents of surrendering Egyptian soldiers had been shot dead by the Israelis during the rapid Israeli advance through the Gaza Strip.

Massacred after surrendering! About seven hundred were said to have been machinegunned by Israeli troops.

And this created quite a stir in both Israel and Egypt, as could well be expected! Israel has always like to consider itself to be a paragon of virtue when it comes to waging war. Clean fighters that are virtuous. This admission of shooting surrendered prisoners certainly besmirched the reputation of the Israeli military!

I can tell you with almost absolute certainty as to happened here!

There are something you don't want to do if you are a soldier surrendering to the enemy. One is that you do not want to surrender in a large group. The second is that you do not want to surrender to an armored vehicle. If you expect to surrender to the enemy and not be shot dead, you MUST NOT violate either of these unwritten rules.

In the case of not surrendering in a large group, the fear of your captors will be that there are too many of you to safely handle. YOU pose a threat to the enemy you are surrendering to just by being in a large number. To bring the number of prisoners down to a more manageable number, the enemy will just shoot some of you dead on the spot. Create a smaller number of prisoners that can be more easily handled.

In the case of not surrendering to an armored vehicle, the commander of the armored vehicle cannot afford to release a crew member to guard you, and the commander on the other hand just cannot let you go. You will just be machinegunned dead on the spot by the crew of the armored vehicle!! This is their only recourse.

This is something that is known to all militaries of the world, but is just never be talked about, for obvious reasons. This is something that JUST HAPPENS!

In all likelihood, the surrendering Egyptians that were subsequently machinegunned tried to surrender both in a large group and attempted to surrender to a column of armored vehicles. During the Israeli advance into El Arish/Gaza, an advance spearheaded by tanks, the Egyptian infantry was abandoned by their officers and left to their fate. Large numbers did surrender! And surrendered to tanks! Probably presented a situation for the Israeli that would have inhibited their armor advance. A situation solved by machinegunning the captives! I can almost guarantee this is what happened!




This is coolbert:

I have mentioned in previous blogs the name of Rabbi Akiva. Lived 2000 years ago in ancient Israel. Is considered one of the great sages of the Hebrew people. And I have mentioned the quote attributed to him on several occasions also, "in time of war, all laws may be set aside, except for murder and apostasy [changing your religion]."

It is important to properly understand the context that existed when Akiva made this quote.

At the time, the ancient Israelis were involved in a rebellion against Roman rule that was a no-holds-barred-fight-to-the-finish-battle. This rebellion was the second that occurred in Judea during a sixty year period. The first Jewish rebellion was in 66 A.D. and was suppressed by three Roman legions, Fretensis, Macedonia, and Appollonaris. This second Jewish rebellion [125 A.D.], was headed by a Jew named Bar Kochba, who saw himself as the Jewish Messiah. And to defeat this second rebellion, the Romans sent in a force even greater in strength than that used in 66 A.D. The goal of the Romans this time was not just to suppress the rebellion, it was to liquidate the Jews and drive them from their land.

And during the fighting to defeat the Jewish rebellion, the Romans observed and took advantage of a certain phenomenon. This was that the Jews refused to fight on their Sabbath. The Jews were following their law that said that it was impermissible to work on the Sabbath. And fighting at war fell within the category of "working". Rather than fight back when attacked by the Romans on their Sabbath, the Jews just sat still and allowed themselves to be slaughtered. The Romans knew this and timed their attacks to commence on the Jewish Sabbath. Obviously, this was a serious weakness for the Jews, and they suffered defeat and slaughter over and over because of their literal adherence to their law.

It must have been that at some point, the Jews realized the peril they were in by this slavish adherence to their law, the law forbidding them to fight on the Sabbath, even in their own self-defense. And someone must have suggested that Akiva be approached to seek out his opinion on this matter, he being the foremost teacher and sage in ancient Judea. A man also who was listened to in matters of the most important regard. A matter such as this.

And Akiva did respond with his opinion, as voiced in the above mentioned quote. And Akiva must have given careful consideration to the matter, as he did mention the two exceptions to his ruling that in time of war all laws could be set aside [except for murder and apostasy]. In time of war, Jews were allowed to fight on the Sabbath!! Akiva understood that the slavish Jewish adherence to their laws even in time of war was not realistic. That what might result would be the defeat and the annihilation of the Jews and the subsequent end of their law altogether. Adherence to the law strictly, heedless to the circumstances, would result in the law itself becoming extinct, as the people practicing the law would no longer exist!

Even with this ruling of Akiva, the rebellious Jews of ancient Judea met a very sad fate. The Romans did defeat the rebellion. The Romans did expel the Jews from their homeland and disperse them to the nations of the world. And Akiva was arrested, and slowly tortured to death by having his flesh peeled off his body by red-hot tongs. A very sad fate indeed!


Tuesday, July 27, 2004


This is coolbert:

"the truth is so precious that it must be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies."

Now, this famous quote of Winston Churchill is bandied about by a lot of "experts" and conspiracy theorists and offered as proof that governments around the world generally are constantly lying to us and deceiving us about the truth of things.

Now, what was Churchill actually talking about in the context of this quote?

He was talking about BODYGUARD. A deception plan, one of two deception plans, that was used to deceive the Germans as to the true place of the landing by the Allied forces in France. The other plan was code named FORTITUDE. Both of these plans were designed to deceive the Germans, and both worked famously.

"The most important reason was the development of an extensive deception plan, which was named Bodyguard. It had two major objectives; 1) to confuse the Germans about when and where the invasion was to take place, and 2) to cripple the Germans once the invasion began. [4] It was the most complicated deception plan of the entire war, if not of all time."

The main idea of these deceptions was to confuse the Germans as to the true place intended for the main landings of the Allied forces in France. From Norway down to the border between France and Spain were all possible landing points. And the Germans, being the defenders, had to spread their defenses out. The Allied forces, between the attackers, had the initiative, and this allowed them to achieve superiority at the time and place of their choosing. The approximate time could be surmised by the Germans with some accuracy. After the bad weather in the North Sea from winter of 1943-44 had subsided, and the summer was not too advanced. That would be the months of May, June, or July. The place for the landings was more of the mystery.

And it was here that the deception plans totally fooled the German defenders.

The deception plans led the Germans to believe that a whole lot of Allied armies existed that actually did not. One imaginary [notional] army was poised to invade Norway. Another notional army was poised to invade the Pas de Calais area [the shortest route across the English channel]. Another part of the deception was intended to lead the Germans to believe that the allies would land in the low countries [Belgium, Holland]. The Bay of Biscay as a possible landing area was also located included in the deception plan.

"The centerpiece of the deception plan was to convince the Germans that the invasion would occur in the Pas de Calais area. This proved to be relatively easy. As early as October 1943, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt (the Commander of the German Armies in France) became convinced that the Allies would invade there, an opinion he sent via Enigma to OKW (the German military headquarters). [7]"

"To keep the Germans preoccupied with Pas de Calais, the Allies created the mythical 1st United States Army Group (FUSAG). It was "placed" opposite the Germans in Dover, and "commanded" by US General George C. Patton. [8] From October until the end of July 1944, when this deception was finally dropped, it remained a primary focus of Bodyguard. At all times, it was imperative to keep the Germans convinced that the invasion site was Pas de Calais."

The allies had an additional and huge advantage in that they knew what was the course of action Hitler believed they [the allies] would take. That was a major landing in the Pas de Calais area. Hitler believed this was where the allies would strike, the allies knew it, and the allies took full advantage of this. A lot of the deceptions were designed to reinforce this idea in the mind of Hitler. And Hitler continued to believe the deception even after the allies landed in Normandy!! Hitler believed the Normandy invasion was just a diversion!? Knowing what your foe believes allows you to take advantage of their belief if you are skilled enough!

And best of all, the allies had a feedback mechanism to tell them how well their deception was working. This was done through Enigma decrypts. German encrypted messages were intercepted by the allies and decrypted. These messages told them that they were successful in deceiving the Germans. Success was reinforced and the plans worked.

"Luckily for the Allies, a significant amount of Ultra was being deciphered by the Allies in 1943 and 1944. This made it easy to measure the plan's effectiveness as it was being carried out. During the spring of 1944, Ultra was thorough enough to offer a nearly complete picture of the enemy."

"All war is based upon deception", - - Sun Tzu. How many times have I mentioned this quote? So appropo here, isn't it?!



Monday, July 26, 2004

Sapping and Mining II.

This is coolbert:


One would have thought that with the advent of gunpowder and cannon, the age of sapping and mining has ended.

But that is not the case.

Now, it is true that gunpowder and cannon did end the age of walled cities such as Constantinople. The walls of Constantinople were never breached in all their history until the Turkish siege of 1453. Using massive brass cannon and stone cannon balls, the Turks were finally able to do what no besieger previously had been able to do, pierce the walls of the city! After this massive walled constructs of the like of Constantinople were rendered useless and were never again built.

But this was not the end of sapping and mining! This technique of dealing with fortifications continued, albeit in an altered form, even unto recent times.

During what is called the era of "magazine" warfare, forts of amazing complexity continued to be built.

These forts even proved to be relatively impervious even to cannon fire!?

One response to the forts of this era was for the attacker to employ another method of sapping and mining called fingers and laterals, also called zig-zags and parallels [click here to see a description of the zig-zag and parallel system]. Trenches were dug by sappers first leading directly from the attacker toward the defending fort, followed by lateral trenches to surround the fort closely from all directions. This system of trenches allows the attackers to approach closely the fort being attacked without exposing themselves to direct fire.

The Union side in the American Civil War and the British in World War One [WW1] both employed sapping and mining, and combined it with gunpowder, in an effort to overcome formidable trench defenses.

Union miners from Pennsylvania dug a tunnel and a massive cavern under the Confederate trench system at Petersburg, packed it with gunpowder, and detonated it. The resultant battle became known as the "Battle of the Crater". Named for the huge crater formed from the detonation. The resultant attack of Union troops, however, was a failure, as the terrain of the crater was not passable, even by soldiers on foot. The attack was repelled by Confederate forces. This battle is the first scene of the movie, "Cold Mountain".

A similar situation existed during World War One in Belgium.

British miners dug six tunnels and caverns under the German trench system, and also packed those six caverns with gunpowder. When detonated, each explosion was on the level of a tactical nuclear weapon!!

The gain for all this effort was meager however, and one must ask if the gain was worth the pain!? Again, results from the follow up attack by the British were scant.

Seems the same situation resulted in Belgium as had at Petersburg. The ground is so torn up and impassable that advance by even foot soldiers is not feasible.

The Royal Engineer, a Captain, was electrocuted in detonating the explosives in the caverns. Six caverns were filled with gunpowder, but only four of them detonated. And the exact location of the two unexploded caverns was lost. The general location is know, but to this day, somewhere in Belgium, are two huge caverns of explosives waiting to go off, each being equal to a tactical nuclear weapon!

It is also said that Lloyd George, then Prime Minister of England, waited quietly in his study in anticipation of the detonations, as he knew the exact time when they would occur, and that the shock of the explosions could be felt as far away as London, one hundred and twenty miles away!!.

Sapping and mining techniques as used during the "magazine" era were resurrected by the attacking Viet Minh during the siege at Dien Bien Phu [DBP] in 1954.

When seeming stalemate was reached during the siege [DBP], the Viet Minh began to duplicate the fingers and laterals as employed three hundred years earlier by besiegers of the "magazine" era. And again, the North Vietnamese did try the fingers and laterals technique at the siege of Khe Sanh in 1968, but with scant results.

The most up-to-date use of sapping and mining would be by the North Koreans.

A defector from North Korea has reputed that as many as twenty tunnels [only four have been found] have been dug from the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone [DMZ] into South Korea.

These are evidently sophisticated mine shafts dug with sophisticated imported drilling equipment, the mine shifts equipped with lighting, ventilation, and a tram way. Would be used by North Korean ranger/commando units emerging en masse either just prior to or during an invasion of South Korea by the North.

A commentator remarked that the boring of these tunnels through solid rock is just another indication of a favorite technique of communist subversion, boring from within and undermining! Surely within the definition of sapping and mining!


Sapping and Mining I.

This is coolbert:

Sapping and mining have been used by militaries all over the world ever since the advent of fortifications. And the practice of mining and sapping continues to this day, in certain rare circumstances.

To properly understand the concept of sapping and mining, the development of fortifications must be understood at least in a rudimentary manner.

The original fortifications, as best can be seen from archeology, were "barrows" or "bergs", as found in ancient Europe.

A naturally occurring hill modified for defense by a settled people. Settlers that feared attack by nomadic marauders who would appear suddenly and with intent for murder, rape, arson, plunder. A suitable hill would be modified to provide for defense in case of attack, the hill being leveled at the very top and a wooden stockade erected to provide an enclosure for the defenders.

These barrows or bergs, signifying a high place, could be considered in the case of Europe to be the first towns. The commonly occurring names of Berg, Burgess, and Bourgeois all are from the word meaning "town dweller".

As man's culture and technological sophistication progressed, the earth and wood stockade type of fortification was found to be inadequate, and the development of stone fortifications began.

These stone fortifications, found all over the world, follow a similar pattern.

An outer wall of stone protects a small town and town dwellers [most ancient towns were small area wise, with exceptions such as Jerusalem or Constantinople, which occupied a large area].

A further fortification of stone, much more massive, acted as a more formidable defense than the outer wall. This is usually referred to as a castle. Protects the ruler of the town, his liege men and retainers, in case of sustained and determined attack. These stone walled towns and castles did provide formidable defense and were a deterrent to attack by unsophisticated marauders. Click here to see a web site about Krak of the Chevaliers, perhaps the ultimate in Crusader castles.

As I have said, the stone walls of most towns provided adequate defense against horse mounted nomadic marauders. Not so against more sophisticated opponents.

Attackers possessing a variety of technologies were with enough effort and time able to defeat even the most formidable of stone wall and castle defenses.

Over time, a variety of weapons were developed that could be employed to defeat stone wall defenses and castles. Rams, towers, catapults all were successfully employed by attackers to defeat stone fortifications.

In addition to the above mentioned weaponry, the technique of sapping was also developed to a high degree. "Sap - - to wear away gradually, to undermine." This is the definition of sap. And this is what would occur if a prolonged siege would develop. A siege where the normal weaponry of rams, towers, and catapults proved to be inadequate.

Now, it should be fully understood that the decision to employ sapping techniques meant that the attackers were determined for the long haul. That this was a siege of a town that the attackers meant to carry through to the end. Sometimes this sapping was a very prolonged affair. ONLY the most resolute and determined attackers would employ sapping as a last resort.

A siege campaign involving sapping would usually commence as follows:

The attacker, having made the decision to commence sapping, would build a line of defense encircling the besieged town. A line of defense that would face outward to repel relieving forces, and inward also to prevent occupant of the besieged town from escaping. [Caesar used just such tactics during the siege of Alesia in Gaul].

The attacker would then bring forward a contingent of miners to conduct the sapping operation. These miners, most of the time slaves [not always so, but most of the time], were experienced in mining techniques, and accustomed to the dangerous, hard physical pick and shovel labor exertions of the time.

The miners would then proceed to dig a tunnel from the lines of the attacker toward the stone wall fortifications of the defenders. The object was to dig a tunnel long enough so that the face [the actual point where the pick and shovel work is occurring. The foremost point of the tunnel] of the tunnel was directly under the walls of the fortified town. It should be noted that many of these tunnels had to be dug through solid rock. Fortified walls of a town or the even more ponderous fortifications of a castle were of an enormous weight. This weight could only be supported if the underlying base was of itself rock! Digging a tunnel through solid rock, given the tools of the time, must have been an arduous task, probably only best performed by slaves!

Once the face of the mine shaft was measured carefully and determined to be directly underneath the stone walls of the town, the miners would then proceed to excavate a cavern underneath those same walls, working from the face of the mine shaft to expand this cavern in all directions.

As the cavern under the walls would be expanded, the miners would install shoring, consisting of vertical wooden timbers, to support the roof of the cavern so that it would not collapse upon them. As the cavern would expand, it would resemble a forest on the inside as more and more timbers were erected.

At some point, when the cavern was expanded to large enough a size, the entire cavern would be densely packed with dried brush.

The cavern and mine shaft would then be evacuated, and the dried brush set on fire.

As the brush burned, it would in turn set the shoring timbers afire and they would slowly burn as well. As they burned through, the timbers, the support mechanism for the roof of the cavern, would slowly but surely collapse, one by one. When enough timber supports had burnt through and collapsed, the support for the roof would no longer exist and the roof of the cavern would collapse under the enormous weight of the walls or castle above it.

As the ground or stone above the cavern would give way, so would the stone walls of the town in turn collapse, the primary defense of the town or castle eliminated. The attackers at that point making a frenzied and more than likely successful attack upon the once impregnable secure defenders.

Sapping as was carried out in ancient times often having disastrous consequences for those inside the fortified castle and walls, death at the hands of the attackers, no-quarter being the normal practice!



Sunday, July 25, 2004


This is coolbert:

In light of the findings of the 9/11 commission, it would be worthwhile to remember another catastrophic attack the U.S. suffered, that at Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The 9/11 WTC attack is said to have had the same shock effect upon the American public that Pearl Harbor did. But sixty years later, of course.

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the American public was said to be incredulous that such a thing could have happened. "Were not he authorities aware of such a possibility?", was the refrain!

How aware at the time was the U.S. Navy that the fleet at Pearl harbor was vulnerable to attack? Very aware if the words of Husband Kimmel, naval commander at Pearl are to be believed.

Kimmel was well aware that while affording an excellent harbor for the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet, the harbor at Pearl also had a glaring weakness. It had a narrow mouth that allowed for only one major ship at a time to enter/exit. If just one major warship was sunk in the mouth of the harbor, whatever ships were in the harbor at the time would be bottled up for months at a time. Not able to exit because of the blockage.

Kimmel was also aware of the possibility of a Japanese naval aviation sneak attack against the massed docked fleet. This was on his mind!!

Kimmel was aware of the successful attack by British naval aviation the previous year on the Italian docked fleet at Taranto.

Taranto was a port that had the same characteristics as did the port at Pearl.

The British making a night attack on the docked Italian fleet at Taranto with antiquated, wood and canvas bi-planes carrying torpedoes.

This night attack succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of the British, the major warships of the Italians being torpedoed and put out of action, not to be available for naval action for quite a subsequent time. This was a major coup on the part of the British. And was accomplished by just FIFTEEN torpedo carrying bi-planes. The Italian ships were not sunk, but were damaged to the point where they could not sail and therefore useless to further war effort. Click here to see a very interesting site about the attack at Taranto.

And, strangely enough, the U.S. Navy itself had in 1934 successfully wargamed the carrying out of a sneak attack by naval aviation on the massed fleet at Pearl Harbor!?

Naval contrarians in the U.S. Navy had long advocated the fast striking power of naval aviation against battleships. And this advice was long ignored by the battleship admirals as being unfeasible. This specific war game in 1934 involved one fleet defending Pearl Harbor and a second fleet [aggresssor] sailing from Panama to simulate an attack upon Pearl. This second fleet had as a constituent part the aircraft carrier Lexington. It should be noted that the major part of this second "aggressor" fleet sailing from Panama was battleships [the aircraft carrier was at the time considered to be an adjunct]. It was foreseen that the naval battle would go like this:

* The aggressor fleet would sail from Panama.

* This aggressor fleet would be tracked by reconnaissance of the defenders, i.e., submarines, patrol planes, patrol surface vessels, radio intercepts, etc.

* The defending fleet at Pearl would wait for the proper moment to sail, all the while being "protected" at the "safe" anchorage of Pearl Harbor.

* Once the aggressor fleet was within a certain range of Pearl, the defending fleet would sail and both fleets would maneuver for position and advantage.

* At some point, the two fleets would meet in a climactic, battleship suface action, with all other vessels being adjuncts to the massed guns of both fleets.

* The defenders would of course win and the battleship admirals would be vindicated in their beliefs.

This is what did not happen!!

What did occur is a successful, without warning, sneak attack [war game, not lethal of course] by the naval aviation of the Lexington upon the moored and defenseless battleships of the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl.

The Lexington, steaming very fast, left behind the slow-poke battleship aggressor fleet of which she was a part, and on her own, maintaining radio silence, sailed around the Hawaiian islands and approached Pearl from the north, just as the Japanese did seven years later.

The officer in charge of leading the attack decided that seven o'clock, Sunday morning would be the most opportune time to attack the moored fleet [it is often felt by some that this time was the most opportune as a reaction by the moored fleet would be impossible due to so many sailors being incapacitated by drinking binges from the previous night!!].

Launching aircraft early in the morning, the planes of the Lexington, following and hiding in a storm squall, emerged over Pearl Harbor fully armed and ready to attack. The umpires of the war game ruled this to be a legal and possible maneuver. And that all the ships at anchor at Pearl were deemed to have been sunk or damaged by the attacking planes of the Lexington!

And what happened seven years later? Japanese planes, attacking from the north, using the mountains [not a storm squall in this case] for cover, at seven o'clock on Sunday morning, caught the U.S. Pacific fleet at anchor and destroyed it!!

Now, someone might say, did the Japanese know of this war game and know what possibilities this manner of attack offered?

I am not sure.

But it is a good bet that by careful radio monitoring of U.S. naval exercises, the Japanese probably had a good idea of U.S. naval tactics, to include this simulated attack upon Pearl. [U.S. Navy radio monitors all throughout the 1930's maintained a very large number of intercept stations throughout the Pacific. These radio monitors were very good at monitoring Japanese fleet activities and observing from afar Japanese tactics and strategies. It is not beyond possibility the Japanese did the same to the U.S. Navy in the years leading up to WW2].

So, Admiral Husband Kimmel was aware of the great danger posed to the U.S. Pacific Fleet by a sneak attack upon Pearl Harbor. And Kimmel was aware that Japan was going to take some military action in the Pacific in the days prior to the attack upon Pearl Harbor. And yet, knowing all this, the fleet was still caught at anchorage and destroyed! Go figure!



Friday, July 23, 2004


This is coolbert:

In a previous blog I have described how Spartan youth was put through ordeal to "toughen" and "test" them for a life of military service.

Please do not think that preparing youth for a life of war or military service ended with the Spartans. This sort of thing is done in much more ameliorated versions to this very day. By societies all over the world, all having their own unique way of doing so.

The whole nature of the Boy Scout movement as conceived by Baden-Powell was to prepare youth for entry into the military.

Teach them skills as boys they would require to survive and prosper if inducted into the military when they became adults.

Baden-Powell observed during the Boer War [1899] that the aristocratic youth of England, when becoming officers in the British Army, were just not prepared for living rough. Could not camp, start a fire, find their way cross-country by map and compass, hike, etc.

Learning how to do all these things while a Boy Scout would so much better prepare aristocratic boys for future military service as leaders in the British military. [Of course, today, the Boy Scouts are no longer exclusively for aristocratic youth. Are for all youth. Baden-Powell, when he did think up the idea originally, did have aristocratic youth in mind however].

And of course in the U.S. we have Junior ROTC [JROTC] at the high school level. Participants learn proper wearing of the uniform, marching, protocol, leadership skills, marksmanship using air rifles, etc. For those youth expecting to join or contemplating to join the military upon graduating high school. It is interesting to note that the U.S. Military Academy at West Point does take a contingent of twenty JROTC cadets each year as freshman. This bypasses the entire Congressional appointment system.

In the old Soviet Union, an organization called DOSSAF existed.

This was a military run organization oriented toward preparing interested Soviet teenage youth for military service. And what was taught in the DOSSAF camps? Marksmanship [with real rifles, not air rifles], orienteering [following a course on a map by compass], piloting aircraft, sport parachuting, martial arts, etc. Spartan-like real military training. As close to the Spartan ideal as we find in modern times.

And the grads of this program quite often went to serve in the most elite of the Soviet military units, Spetsnaz [special purpose units] in particular.

[Some time ago I read a most interesting article about a course run by DOSSAF. This course consisted of youths who would build from a kit portable radios and directional hand held antennas. These youth would then as teams be dropped off in a wilderness and be required to follow the directional antennas in a "fox hunt" to find a distant moving transmitter they could hear via their portable radios. A variety of skills would be learned in this type of course. Electronics, orienteering, wilderness movement and survival, physical endurance and hiking skills, etc. All combined into one course. I find it interesting that the Soviet defector Suvorov reported that Spetsnaz units were equipped with directional antennas that would allow them to "home" in on transmitters of U.S. nuclear equipped units, the main targets of Spetsnaz.]

Israel too has pre-military courses for their most promising youth. This is called GADNA [there is another program called Mechina [read about Mechina by clicking here], but this is a different approach to pre-military training than GADNA]. In a country where almost all secular youth are conscripted into military service, this would not be unexpected. A select group of Israeli youth prior to conscription are put through a training program for evaluation. These are youths that have been spotted as potential leaders in the military, even at an early age. Officer candidates, pilots, members of elite ranger/commando type units. Training consists primarily of long cross-country marches by small groups, marching the length and breadth of Israel in month [?] long exercises. Leadership, living rough, hiking, physical fitness, a oneness with the land, orienteering, etc., all are stressed as part of the training. Go to this web site by clicking here to read and see a description of one of these hikes.

"Time spent in training increased from fifteen days yearly plus one hour per week during the ninth year of school to roughly forty days a year in the twelfth year of school. Over the years, its emphasis had shifted from weapons familiarity and drilling to sports, physical fitness, and camping."

All the while these specially selected youth are being evaluated for future leadership roles in the Israeli military.

Potential pilots for the Israeli Air Force in particular are screened as part of this process. Israel begins training it's Air Force pilots at the age of nineteen, this type of pre-military training allowing for proper evaluation. You do not have to guess if a candidate will be suitable. A much better evaluation can be had by observing a trainee engaging in exercises of the sort described above.

[This type of training goes back to the days of Orde Wingate, mentioned previously in a prior blog. Wingate popularized this type of military oriented exercises in Palestine during the 1930's as a way of preparing recruits for the "Jewish Special Night Squads". Wingate was a man who had long experience in this type of military activity from his days leading cross-country patrols in the Sudan in the hunt for "shifta" [bandits]. Cross-country marching under load, living rough, etc. All useful skills for the soldier.]

Victor Ostrovsky, the renegade Israeli Mossad katsa [case officer], describes GADNA [Bow and Arrow] as being a training ground for what he calls "frames". Jewish self-defense groups. In countries outside of Israel, where Jews are in the minority and persecuted, these "frames" constitute a military self-defense group to fight back against attackers.

The British continue in the tradition of Baden-Powell with youth oriented programs run by the various regiments of the British Army, such as the Royal Green Jackets.

These are "cadet" youth programs that develop a rapport between British youth and their military. Wholesome activity that channels the energy of the young [teens] into useful enterprises. And allows those youth who are so interested to begin seriously considering a career with regiments they are familiar with. Evaluation works both ways in these cases. The youth can begin to consider if the military is for them, and the military can to begin to consider if the youth is for them. This is especially useful in a military such as the professional British force, which can choose to be selective and discriminating. Cadet training includes:

"Royal Green Jackets Cadets

The Army Cadet Force

Cadets participate in a wide range of activities designed to bring out their talents including:

Outdoor activities

Expeditions (in the UK and overseas)
Cross-country running
Learning to work as a member of a team
Learning how to instruct and to encourage others
Self development by becoming part of the management "

The training philosophies of the Spartans still exist, but in, as I have said, ameliorated form!


This is coolbert: We have all heard about how the Spartans of ancient Greece used to expose new-borns to see if they were fit for survival and training as a Spartan. Exposing a new-born to the elements for one day was a way of testing the babe to see if it was fit. If the baby survived one day exposed to the elements, the baby was fit to be a Spartan, if it did not survive, well, it was no good to be a Spartan. This is somewhat exaggerated. New borns would be examined for any physical impairment. If an impairment was found, then the baby would be left to the elements to die. But only if upon examination an impairment was found.

When the young Spartan lad attained the age of eight, military style training would commence. This would continue until the age of twelve, where upon the youth would then be tested. The twelve year old youth would be required to run a gauntlet, the goal being to reach an altar. If the gauntlet was run and altar was reached, the youth was said to be fit to be a Spartan. Otherwise, not fit to be a Spartan.

Now, in addition, some of these twelve year olds would be observed to possess physical and mental abilities beyond those of their peers. Natural soldiers and military men. Leaders. These youths possessed innate abilities the Spartan elders were looking for. And the elders would choose some of these youths to become krypteria, secret killers.  Nomadic, wild killers. Living free, roaming about solo, hiding in the mountains, living off the land. Killers that would descend from the mountains to kill, at their discretion, helots. The helots were the slaves of the Spartans would did the menial dirty work of keeping the society going for their Spartan overlords. To keep the helots in line, to intimidate them, and to strike the fear of god into the helots, the Spartans maintained this killer elite that operated as "lone wolves". "Lone wolves" that would probably keep a secret watch on the helots, watching from afar for laziness or shirking, and then striking at will, thusly inspiring great fear. An intimidating factor designed to keep the helots on their toes. You could never know when a "lone wolf" was watching.

"Krypteria or Crypteia was a kind of secret police force organised by the ruling classes of Sparta and targeted at the enslaved Helot population that economically supported it.
Young Spartan men who had completed their training at the agoge with such success that they were marked out as potential future leaders, would be given the opportunity to test their skills and prove themselves worthy of the Spartan military tradition through membership of the Crypteia.

Every autumn, the Spartan Ephors would declare ware on the Helot population so that any Spartan citizen could kill a Helot without fear of blood guilt. Armed only with dagger, the Crypteria were sent out into the countryside with the instructions to kill any Helot they encountered at night and to take any food they needed. This could be used to remove any Helots considered troublesome and provide the young men with a manhood test and experience of their first kill. Such brutal oppression of the Helots permitted the Spartans to control the agrarian population and devote themselves to military practice. It may also have contributed to the Spartans' reputation for stealth. "

It is not hard to imagine that such a system was in existance and that it did work to intimidate the helots. We have a modern version of this in the hidden cameras that bosses use at work to watch employees on the job, or in the special softwares that watch every keystroke of an employees computer. Employees are not killed, obviously, but intimidated by the "hidden hand and eye".


Thursday, July 22, 2004


This is coolbert:

Here is an interesting question that in probability cannot be answered in a definitive way. But probably can be answered with a good degree of confidence. If the atomic bomb did not exist, would there have been a Third World War [WW3]??

My intuitive response to this question is that YES, WW3 would have occurred if it were not for the existence of atomic weaponry.

What I have in mind here is a conventional war, non-nuclear, between the massed forces of the west [NATO/Free World/Allies], led by the U.S., and the communist forces [Warsaw Pact/China/North Korea/Cuba] led by the Soviet Union. Primarily war between what were called the world's superpowers [U.S. and the Soviet Union].

Now, from time to time, hot wars did break out in the period following the Second World War [WW2]. The wars between the communist forces in Korea and Vietnam and the U.S. are obvious. But these were not global conflicts. Were regional conflicts with limited means and intentions on the part of the combatants. What I have in mind is a global conflict, fought on all continents and oceans. Apocalyptic war between ideological foes.

And both sides, the "free world" and the communist, did provide mirror images of each other, each seeing themselves as the best hope for the future of mankind, a hope based upon again, mirror image ideologies of one another.

And both sides did possess considerable and potent conventional arms at their disposal to fight WW3. Conventional weaponry and manpower, that if employed by both sides, would of itself just have inflicted the most terrible damage. The communists possessed just massive ground forces backed up with lavish amounts of tanks, artillery, etc. The equipment for fighting and winning a ground war. The "free world" possessed a more balanced military, of ground, naval, and air forces, also of considerable strength.

And of course, both sides possessed with atomic weaponry the ability to destroy the populaces of their potential opposition many times. It was often speculated that a global thermonuclear war would have destroyed mankind and much of life on the planet period!

There were a number of flash points where war between the world's superpowers could have broken out. Of course the Cuban Missile crisis is an obvious point. A number of times war could have broken out over Berlin. It was not for a lack of points of conflict and contention that war did not break out.

But no global war between the super-powers occurred. The feared WW3 did not happen. Why? It should be obvious that the consequences of a war which would in all probability include the use of nuclear weaponry is the reason why? Trying to limit such a WW3 to not include atomic weapons was just not feasible. The fear was that even if atomic weapons were not used from the onset, unforeseen events might lead to the use of atomic weaponry, and a potential uncontrollable exchange of nukes. With disastrous results for everyone. The Cold War adversaries realized early that confrontations had to be reasonable, managed, and controlled. NO war happened because of the fear of the consequences of the use of nukes. Period.

A most interesting series on PBS a few years ago seems to bear this out! This series was entitled "Messengers From Moscow".

The various persons being interviewed on camera were advisors and speech writers for the various communist leaders during the Cold War. They gave their recollections of what occurred during this period.

One man, a speech writer for N. S. Khrushchev, recounted a trip that the Soviet leader made to China to visit for high level talks with Chairman Mao. While relaxing in a swimming pool together, Mao was reported to have asked Nikita Sergeyevich: "Why don't you just destroy the capitalists? Use atomic weapons against them." At which point Nikita is said to have hesitated and then after a long pause, retorted, "well, you would have to consider the consequences of such a war!" To which Mao replied, "consequences? What consequences?"

This exchange between the two leaders of the communist world leads me to believe that N.S. had indeed thought out the consequences of a war with the "free world", while Mao had not. [Mao is also reputed to have said at some point. "Go ahead and kill 300 million of us [Chinese]. There will still be 300 million left!"].

I guess the analogy of the two super-powers during the Cold War as being like two men locked in a dark basement with gasoline filling the floor up to their knees is correct. Who wants to the first to light a match to see what will happen??


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

This is coolbert: Here are some amazing statistics about Soviet casualties incurred during the almost ten years of warfare in Afghanistan. [All these figures "about" figures]

Dead - - 15,000 [from all sources].

Wounded - - 50,000 [from all sources].

Disease - - 400,000 [from all sources].

Note: "From all sources" means combat and non-combat sources.

Now, it is that last figure that catches my attention. 400,000 casualties from disease. No breakdown is given for the types of diseases. Probably mostly water-borne intestinal afflictions. Cholera, hepatitis, diarrhea, parasites, etc. In a previous blog I had mentioned that traditionally, one of the two biggest killers in war was water. Either not having enough to drink, or drinking bad [diseased] water. Other diseases may have been a factor here too. Within the current Russian Federation, tuberculosis seems to be a big problem now. Could be that tuberculosis was brought home from infected Soviet troops who were exposed to the disease in Afghan? Not sure about hepatitis being spread by the use of dirty needles among users of drugs? Drug use was a problem for the Soviet troops in Afghan. But this would have been mostly hashish and opiates, not necessarily heroin or morphine injected by needle. I would suspect that most disease the Soviets had was from bad water, bad food, and just plain dirty living conditions.

Personal and group [unit] hygiene is very important on the battlefield. This is something that must be very strictly disciplined by leadership if a unit is not to fall victim to debilitating disease. The unit becomes ineffective. It appears that a break down of this discipline did occur within Soviet forces in Afghan, with very marked effect.

The Soviet military medical system was in all likelihood just not geared to combating disease that would be found in an army occupied by a many year war in a land of very primitive conditions [Afghan]. Soviet military medicine was geared more probably to dealing with casualties that would be incurred in a short, very intense war with the U.S., casualties that would be inflicted by modern weaponry, not disease. Not a protracted war under conditions that the Soviets faced in Afghan. Soviet military medicine was just overwhelmed.

And one additional very important factor probably was present. I would suspect that the Soviet top brass just had a very indifferent, don't care attitude toward the whole disease situation. Just did not care to take proper preventative measures that would have gone a long way. Life can be very cheap in some societies.

My own personal comment: That ratio of 50,000 wounded to 15,000 dead is a ratio of 3.33. Recall in a previous blog the U.S. Vietnam experience was 3.44 wounded for each dead. Pretty close, eh!?


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

This is coolbert: A lot of talk has been going around in various circles lately about plans to reinstate the military draft. If this was to become the case, it would the first time that American youth will been drafted for the military in over thirty years. For the last thirty years plus, an all-volunteer military had sufficed, numbers available being adequate for the task. Now, we are told these numbers may no longer be adequate. A draft, say some, is what is needed!

It seems that two groups, having disparate viewpoints on the draft, have advocated a renewal of conscription.

One group says the military is just too lean. Does not have an adequate force for all the missions the military has been tasked with. Not enough "boots on the ground" is the common refrain. The only way to solve this problem, is to reinstate the draft and create new units to carry out the various military missions with an adequate force.

The second group that wants to reinstate the draft sees conscription in a different light. This group sees the draft as a way of preventing the U.S. government from engaging in what they see are reckless, poorly thought out, and just plain bad military misadventures throughout the world. The concept this group espouses is that by having a draft, and by having the possibility of having drafted American youth sent to fight and die in misadventures all throughout the world, will cause the parents of these youths to place such political pressure on the government that the powers in charge will hesitate and NOT deploy the military overseas.

There may be a way by which a draft could be instituted where the stress on the society would be minimized, a minimum number of young civilians drafted, and yet have fighting combat divisions formed, trained, and ready for deployment in a relatively short period of time.

This way would involve the U.S. Army reserve training divisions. Rather than build new units up from scratch, or reconstitute retired or deactivated units, use these units to gather an influx of specially selected draftees and form combat units that could be deployed oveseas in say a year.

These reserve training divisions currently consist of about fifteen hundred troops on active reserve status. The manpower of training divisions in reserve status is cadre level. Leadership positions filled by command, staff, and a NCO cadre of all MOS's found in an Army infantry division. Leaders without troops! Leaders that are fully trained and experienced. Leaders that have received special training as trainers. A training division as part of it's TOE also has a complement of drill instructors. As reservists, this training division cadre trains as a unit one weekend a month and then one two week period of summer camp per year, as would any other normal reserve unit.

During a time of war or national emergency, such as exists now, the reserve training division can be called upon to add combat strength to the existing active duty force.

This is the scenario for the activation of a reserve training division:

The training division is brought to active status and reports en masse to a fort or camp somewhere in the U.S. At this point the division would number all fifteen hundred cadre level personnel of the unit.

The division would then be sent an influx of about ten thousand raw recruits, just drafted. This would flesh out the division strengths. Keep in mind this is ten thousand raw, untrained, brand new draftees. A lot of work needs to be done!

The division TOE complement of drill instructors would then administer conventional basic training to the recruits. I am not sure how war-time basic training administered by a training division would differ from conventional peace time basic training. It may be that the basic training of a training division would differ in some way [accelerated, abbreviated, tougher, more intense??], but I am not sure if this is so. Is just speculation on my part.

Once basic training is complete for the new recruits, Advanced Individual Training [AIT] is then administered for all the different MOS's found in the division. This training is conducted by those cadre level NCO's who have been specially trained as trainers. Once again, training each and every troop in their specialty MOS may or not be abbreviated or accelerated in some fashion, I am just not sure.

Once both basic training and AIT are complete, unit training can then commence, at increasing levels of unit complexity. From squad to platoon to company to battalion to brigade and finally at division level. Those NCO trainers now become the leaders of fleshed out, trained units of troops [the previous newly drafted levees]. Unit commanding officers and staff that have been patiently waiting and drawing up unit training plans can now go to work, training the division as a division.

At some point the training division can then be evaluated and determination made as to the division's deployability. How long will this process take? Perhaps one year if things are rushed and everything is thought through and goes well. Longer if a more leisurely approach is taken.

Now, some comments about this whole process.

It may be feasible to resurrect a program the U.S. Army had during the Vietnam era. A program that produced a whole bunch of highly competent infantry squad leaders from newly inducted draftees. The U.S. Army during the Vietnam war had a voluntary program for draftees that would make infantry squad leaders out of them within a year, giving them the rank of Staff Sergeant E-6. This was unheard of. Strictly a volunteer program, soldiers who had just graduated from infantry AIT would be put into a six month intensive program that would qualify the soldier as an infantry squad leader. And this program worked! I talked on occasion to a infantry lieutenant who served in Vietnam and he said that this program positively worked. Not an easy thing or for everyone, but one that produces competent leaders quickly. Something that will be needed in this case.

I am currently familiar with two training divisions that could be brought to active duty in quick order. These are the 88th and 85th Training Divisions. In World War Two, these unit were "sister" units that fought side-by-side in the Italian theatre. The 88th Division in particular acquitted itself with distinction. Captured German documents rated this unit, the 88th, as a "shock" unit, to be greatly feared. The Germans quickly realized that wherever the 88th Division was located, was a point where a danger existed for the Germans. This is how good the 88th Division was in the eyes of the Germans. It may be that the U.S. Army has kept this in mind all these years, and kept the fighting reputation of the 88th Division in mind when they designated it and it's "sister" division as training divisions, worthy of call up if future crisis arose.

And a personal comment regarding the draftees themselves, if and when a draft commences. It would not be necessary to draft willy-nilly a large number of personnel. You could be very selective with regard as to who was picked. Test mentally and physically a large number of potential draftees and then select only the best specimens for your needs. In the case of two training divisions, this would amount to about twenty thousand draftees. Massive numbers would not be required. Just having superior manpower to work with from the start would create a big advantage.


Monday, July 19, 2004

This is coolbert: Basic training in the U.S. Army is said to be the most intensive basic training administered by any military in the world. Now, it is important to clarify that it is not the hardest basic training of all militaries in the world. Far from it. But it is the most intensive. Intensive in two ways. One is that more is learned by the basic training recruit in a shorter time than is learned by any other basic training recruit of any other military. And secondly, the transition from American civilian life to being a soldier in the U.S. Army is the most radical of any society in the world. You change your whole life more radically when you join the U.S. Army.
Now, a comment about basic training. It is just that. BASIC. And that fact seems to be forgotten from time to time. The most common refrain by old-timers is that things are just not what they used to be.  "Back in my day sonny, things were just a lot tougher." Things have just gotten too soft for the current basic trainee. Old-timers harken back to a day when things were far rougher. And this comment is probably heard today from Gulf War One veterans talking about today's basic trainee. And the Vietnam War vet laments the type of toughness that was present in his day. Well, so does the Korean War vet and the World War Two vet. Each vet, the further and further it gets in time, has a recollection that basic training was just that much tougher when he was a recruit.  What is the true status? I just cannot say. Perhaps such things cannot be compared, or should even be compared? The standards and situations are just too different to make reasonable assessments. 
And, as for training, it should be remembered, as I have said before, that basic training is just that, BASIC! After basic training, the soldier is then sent on to Advanced Individual Training [AIT], and then to his unit, where even more training is administered at the unit level. No one should ever expect that a soldier coming out of basic, AIT, or arriving at a newly assigned unit, is ready to do the task for which he is assigned. The infantry MOS, 11B is a perfect example of this. The infantryman has to be able to perform something like one hundred fifty [150] tasks before he is said to be fully qualified. This would entail the whole gamut of infantry tasks, cleaning, maintaining and firing his rifle, establishing a fighting position, use a radio, read and navigate using a map, etc. Coming out of AIT, the infantryman will be able to do only about half of these tasks. The remainder will have to be taught at the unit level. And being able to function as part of a team is also taught at the unit level. After all, AIT is Advanced Individual Training.
And all this takes time. What is it? Two months for Basic Training, three months for AIT, and then how long at unit level to become fully trained and qualified??!! This is all something trainers and drill instructors must keep in mind at all time. Don't expect the raw recruit to be superman overnight. And don't give up on a guy if he cannot master on the first try a task you, the DI or the trainer, have been doing for sixteen years or more!

Personal comment: Now, my basic training company, Echo Company, had very strict rules from the start. Our company commander was a Ranger who just gotten back from Vietnam. He wanted to toughen us for eventual duty in Nam. NO coke, candy, ice cream [cigarettes were allowed however]. We were confined to quarters [tents] when not training. Had to run everywhere we went, no matter what. NO time off on weekends, up early when everyone else was sleeping [PT run was the norm for our company early on weekends]. At the end of the eight week cycle, you never seen a more depressed, despirited bunch of GI's. Like dogs that had been beaten with a stick every day for eight weeks. And next to us was quartered Delta Company. They could anywhere they wanted when off duty, had all the coke, candy and ice cream they wanted. No excess training regimen for them. And what was the final result? Delta Company had all around better PT scores, better rifle range scores,  just all around better test scores in any and all areas!? So this stuff about making you that much tougher by just hard treatment just does not always work. Each case is unique and different.