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

Friday, December 31, 2004

Gran Chaco.

This is coolbert:

It has often been suggested that the Spanish Civil War [1930's] was a dress rehearsal for World War Two [WW2].

Equipment, tactics, etc., to be used during WW2, all were tried out to some degree by the warring parties [it is said that the bombing of Guernica by the German Condor Legion was a warm-up to the saturation bombing of WW2].

Both sides in the Spanish Civil War WERE aided and abetted by competing foreign powers, to include fascist Germany and Italy, and the communist Soviet Union.

There is, however, another war fought during the same period that perhaps was even a more apt and realistic rehearsal for WW2. A war that is neither appreciated or even known to military "experts".

This is the Gran Chaco War.

Fought in South America between the countries of Paraguay and Bolivia.

Fought for possession and control of a barren land [the Gran Chaco] that would best be described as wasteland.

A land that was thought to contain vast deposits of oil just waiting to be taken out of the ground. A fortune that would drastically change the status of two countries that are generally accepted as being among the poorest of the poor in south America.

Paraguay in more recent times has always been thought of as a land ruled by dictators of German descent.

A land that provided haven for German war criminals fleeing justice at the end of WW2.

A land poverty stricken for the most part.

A land where the major industry is smuggling.

A land with a populace consisting mainly of Guarani [ghwar-a-nee] Indians. A populace that is said to have an outstanding reputation as "fighters".

Bolivia is of course another poverty stricken country in South America. A largely American Indian populace ruled by a small upper crust of "white" rulers descended from the original conquistadores.

During the 1930's, a time of world-wide depression, rumors and speculation that oil existed in abundance in the Gran Chaco was enough to cause a crisis to develop between the two nations of Paraguay and Bolivia. A crisis that developed into full scale war that neither country wanted or could afford.

A war that for both countries proved to be costly, and almost apocalyptic in nature.

The crisis that developed into war followed a path similar in nature to the path followed by other nations of the world when they go to war.

* Title to land is disputed.
* Both sides feel they have some justice to their cause.
* Tensions develop. Diplomacy attempts to find a solution.
* Then further findings or tensions result in the crisis escalating.
* Both sides will not back down.
* War begins!!

And immediately, as war began and fighting became widespread, some interesting trends developed.

Bolivian forces were commanded by "Europeans" who still commanded and thought in the way of World War One [WW1] combat.

Paraguayan forces were commanded by more flexible, astute, adept, and just better, all-around commanders.

Bolivian forces were equipped in a manner superior [at least on paper] to the Paraguayan forces. This however, having superior equipment, was to proven to not to an advantage, rather, a hindrance.

Paraguayan forces had adopted and were adept at the infiltration type of warfare as practiced by the Germans at the end of World War One [WW1].

The Bolivians continued to follow the attrition style attacks of WW1, employing tactics not suited for the terrain and climate [there was a movie made some years ago now called "Aguirre, Or the Madness of God". Was about an expedition of Spanish conquistadores who descended from the Incan highlands to the jungle lowlands in search of the El Dorado, the city of gold. This party consisted of about one hundred and fifty persons, half of whom were Peruvian Incan slaves. Within two weeks, the Peruvian Incas, without exception, had all died. Could not withstand the change in climate, altitude, rugged conditions they were unaccustomed to. I would bet the Bolivian troops found themselves in similar circumstances!!].

Whether on the offensive or defensive, the Paraguayans always seemed to possess the upper hand.

As has been previously mentioned, all the components of warfare as it was practiced during WW2 was used to some extent in the Gran Chaco war.

Air power and armor was employed by the Bolivians, who possessed an advantage over the Paraguayans in these areas.

But it all went for nought as the Paraguayans found that resourceful and determined troops, with leadership, could defeat the machines of modern war using skillful tactics and the previously mentioned fighting capacity of the Guarani.

"Paraguay won almost all the battles of the Chaco War, often by encircling numerical and materially superior Bolivian units. Superior leadership and better familiarity with the country proved decisive. Paraguay's army was, in fact, limited only by her relative poverty and consequent lack of materiel. After 1932, almost all her trucks, artillery, machineguns, and small arms were obtained from captured Bolivian stocks. Paraguay's armies finished up outside the Bolivian fortress of Villa Montes, astride Bolivia's oil fields. By 1935, she had conquered all of the disputed territory in the Gran Chaco."

A negotiated settlement was finally reached after Paraguay had established obvious military dominance and victory. This only after much death on both side. It is reputed that three quarters [3/4] of the military age men in Paraguay became casualties in one way or another! This is a frightening statistic. And this from the winner!!

And as to all the oil in the Gran Chaco. Well, I bet some of you may have guessed what happened to all that oil!!

"And the oil? In a final irony, the petroleum wealth that had inflamed the imaginations of prewar nationalist agitators turned out to be a will-o'-the-wisp. There was no oil in the Chaco itself, and Bolivia's modest output was exported, not by river, but by pipeline through Brazil. The oil speculators pronounced themselves mistaken, and left the Gran Chaco to the cow, the quebracho, and the dead."

Such is the vicissitudes of warfare!!

[personal note: At the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War, say around 1972, some American oil companies began to make exploratory drillings in the area of the South China Sea. And at the time, it was said that the oil company geologists expected to find an abundance of oil under this shallow sea. Similar to what has been found in a number of contiguous nations [Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia]. Upon hearing of the commencement of the drillings, many critics of the war hit upon this as being evidence of some sort of true indication as to why the U.S. had fought in Vietnam in the first place. To make the place secure for the oil companies. It became a version of "I gotcha". Well, it has been over thirty years now, and to my knowledge, there are no viable oil wells that came out of this exploration. It was another mirage that never happened. You still hear, from time to time, that a number of countries, China, Vietnam, Philippines, etc., engage in brinksmanship over the Spratley Islands in the same area. But once again, nothing ever seems to come of it].


Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Task Force Smith

This is coolbert:

Much hay has been made recently of the U.S. Army's unpreparedness for the Iraq war. And the stress of the argument has been that vehicles such as the Humvee and resupply trucks are not "armored". These types of vehicles have never been armored in the experience of the Army period. It was felt to be not necessary or excess.

This argument seems small potatoes however, when considering an incident that occurred at the start of the Korean War. An incident that absolutely demonstrated the "unpreparedness" of the U.S. Army.

This incident was the sending into combat of Task Force Smith. The first American unit to engage communist forces in the Korean War.

Task Force Smith, named after the commander of the unit, Lt. Col. Charles Smith, was a unit woefully inadequate for it's task. That task being to halt or delay the advance of the North Korean Army at the beginning of the Korean war, this in July of 1950. So strong was the negative impression created by the deployment of this "ill-starred" unit, that there is a saying in the U.S. Army to this day, "No more Task Force Smiths".

Task force Smith was created and sent into precipitous combat at the behest of the top echelons of command in the U.S. government, both civilian and military. When it was made apparent that South Korean forces were inadequate to the task of stopping the North Korean advance south, President Truman and his advisors felt the only alternative was to have U.S. military forces enter the fray on the ground, and do so as soon as possible.

This desire to send American Army troops into combat as soon as possible was predicated in all likelihood upon the assumption that when contested by American ground forces, the North Korean communists would either halt their advance, or perhaps even withdraw back to their own territory. Just having emerged from World War Two [WW2] as the world's leading power, and having nuclear weapons, American planners just could not believe that little, poverty stricken North Korea would be able to contemplate an all-out war with the U.S.

This assumption was to be proven WRONG!

Several things need to be said about Task Force Smith.

It is described in histories as a battalion. This is not true. The actual manpower strength of the Task Force was two infantry companies, less than half the strength of a fully manned infantry battalion. A normal army Task Force would consists of a fully manned battalion reinforced for the task at hand. Lt. Col. Smith had nothing of the sort at his disposal!!

Not only was the battalion under-strength in a woeful manner, the type of manpower was of poor quality. The officers were trained and experienced [Smith himself was grad of West Point, class of 1939, and had experience from WW2], but the remainder of the troops were just of poor quality. Undermanned, undertrained, underequipped, and lacking unit cohesion that is essential for effective combat. This "battalion" was thrown forward almost as a sacrificial pawn in the game of international machinations. The peacetime occupation army of the U.S. stationed in Japan at the time, represented by the 24th Infantry Division, was an army and unit not prepared for combat in any way. My guess would be that this unit consisted of soldiers that in their wildest dreams never even thought that combat was even a remote possibility. The American soldiers life in post-war Japan probably resembled would can only be best described as "ONE CONTINUOUS HAPPY HOUR". That is my estimation.

These troops under the command of Smith were just not ready for combat period!

Nonetheless, Smith and his battalion were moved from Japan quickly to Korea and in short order were deployed at the "front". With the mission of stopping or delaying the North Korean advance. Smith did select appropriate ground for defense. And Smith was reinforced by a battery [six guns] of artillery. But that was about it. Smith and his men found themselves in an impossible situation, but resolved to do their duty.

Almost immediately, for the first time, the U.S. Army came into contact with and engaged in combat with communist forces.

And, again, almost immediately, several very rude and disturbing trends developed that were a big shock to U.S. combat commanders.

One observation was that U.S. anti-tank weaponry was totally inadequate against the Soviet T-34 tank fielded by the North Koreans. Neither armor piercing rounds fired by artillery, the WW2 bazooka, or the newly developed recoilless rifles wielded by American forces could make a dent on the communist tanks! The T-34 was impervious to U.S. anti-tank weapons!!

[this should not have been a surprise to American soldiers. The T-34 [first developed in 1934], was the standard Soviet tank of WW2. The Germans had a LOT of experience similar to that of the American soldier in Korea. And before them the Japanese at Khalkin-Gol had the same similar experience. The T-34 was an outstanding tank. That the U.S. military was not aware of the inadequacy of U.S. anti-tank weapons vis-a-vis the T-34 is just incomprehensible!! As late as 1976 the T-34 was being used in Angola by Cuban troops with effectiveness].

The second observation made was that the North Korean troops were VERY good.

Experienced, tough, aggressive, well-led, and determined. This was a very big shock to Smith and his men. They had NOT expected this. Not ONLY badly outnumbered, but outfought as well!!

[During the initial stages of the engagement between Task Force Smith and the North Koreans, Smith and his men faced a full regiment of North Korean infantry and a battalions worth of T-34 tanks [about 32 tanks]].

Smith and his men were badly outnumbered, out-gunned, and just plain outfought!!

[it was later determined, much after the fact, that the North Korean troops encountered by Smith and his men were veterans of the Battle of Stalingrad in WW2!! Ethnic Koreans who served in the Soviet Red Army in WW2 and got their experience fighting in one of the worst and toughest battles of all time. Kim Il Sung himself is reputed to have fought at Stalingrad as a Captain in the Red Army and was duly rewarded by being made ruler of North Korea in the aftermath of WW2].

Smith and his unit, even when outnumbered, outgunned, and outfought, did put up a game fight. But, facing a U.S. unit did NOT dissuade the North Koreans to halt their advance or turn back. On the contrary. The North Korea T-34's plowed through Task Force Smith and continued their advance south as if nothing had happened. And Smith found his small unit in real danger of annihilation! Seeing his position as being untenable, Smith ordered his task force to conduct a delaying action south. If Smith DID have a fully strength battalion, reinforced with say U.S. armor and engineers, this MAY have been possible. But Smith did NOT possess such assets. Upon being given the order to move to the rear, Smith's men did so, but not in a coordinated fashion, maintaining unit cohesion [one can say that unit cohesion did not exist in the first place]. Rather the movement to the rear of Task Force Smith resembled a disorderly retreat. This was major defeat and embarrassment for the world's foremost power!! [when an army is "retreating", the question should always be asked by the astute observer, is the "movement to the rear" orderly or disorderly. The former suggests something can be still done, the latter does not!!].

The fate of Lt. Col. Charles Smith was very grim. In the end, Col. Smith was last seen personally manning a machinegun, supported by four enlisted men, as Smith and these four other brave Americans attempted to stop a unit of North Korean tanks. Neither Smith or these men were seen alive again, all being listed as KIA, BNR [killed-in-action, bodies-not-recovered!!].

Unpreparedness can have a very heavy price in war!!



Monday, December 27, 2004


This is coolbert:

In my previous blog I have commented on the article, "The Origins of War". And stated that I was not at all satisfied with the author's explanations as to the origins of war. For a variety of reasons.

It just seems that being able to define what exactly is war is part of the problem.

Perhaps it is wise in this case to remind ourselves of De Puy's verity of combat # 13. "Combat is too complicated a subject to be described in an aphorism [simple statement of truth]".

[When De Puy is speaking of combat he is speaking about the tactics and aspects of the operational art that will achieve strategic goals on the battlefield and in war].

Perhaps De Puy's verity of combat # 13 can be also be reasonably restated as, "WAR is too complicated a subject to be described in an aphorism!"

Perhaps the textbook definition of war as being two groups of people using arms, each to trying to impose their will upon the other is just too broad? As would be the dictum of Clausewitz, "war is politics by other means."

Using this definition, blood feuds, skirmishes, cattle rustling could be categorized as war.

This is not war as modern people understand war. Moderns think of war as an army invading the territory of the foe, defeating the foe's army, occupying the foe's land, and breaking the will of the foe to resist further. This is war as moderns understand it. War as understood by moderns DOES seem to imply a large scale organization of society with a political structure that has a leadership that can command resources and dedicate themselves to goals that have finite and realistic aspect.

But, then, what is in to make of say what is occurring right now in the Congo? Factions of heavily armed men, usually but not exclusively so organized along tribal lines, have been waging what only be called war for a number of years now [ever since the Rwandan genocide of 1994]. It is reputed that MILLIONS of persons have been killed in this little reported "conflict". However, organization, strategy, plans, goals, leadership at a high political level just seems to be totally lacking here. And yet, can anyone deny that this is anything but WAR??

If, then, aphorisms and dictum do not suffice, what does??

Perhaps rather than just looking at war, we must look at the war AND peace as part of a continuum?

Perhaps the best vehicle for understanding this subtlety would be what I would call the war/peace polar opposite sliding scale continuum. [yeah, I know that is mouthful].

Such a continuum is analogous to the yin and yang of Chinese daoist philosophy. NOT a religion, more a philosophy of organizing phenomenon observed in nature to an understandable format. [white and black, hot and cold, tall and short, on and off, male and female, light and dark, etc.].

At one end of the continuum would be absolute peace. Never actually attained, but approached. Epitomized by the relationship between the U.S. and Canada. Open borders, cultures with a large degree of commonality, amicable relationship at the highest levels of government, little competition between the societies, but rather cooperation.

At the other end of the continuum would be apocalyptic war as perhaps epitomized by a global thermonuclear weaponry exchange of catastrophic proportions between the U.S. and the old Soviet Union.

In between these two opposites lie a whole range of possibilities for war and peace.

One example of a relationship that lies in the peaceful end of the continuum is the relationship between the U.S. and Japan. A state of peace and relative amicability exists while the two nations are in a state of serious international economic competition. The slide on the continuum is moving here from the peaceful absolute to a less peaceful state, although not excessively so. No one would rationally suggest that the current peaceful international economic competition between the U.S. and Japan could develop into armed conflict.

An example of where the slide on the continuum has moved far from the peaceful absolute toward the polar opposite [war], was the forty five year "Cold War" between the U.S. and the old Soviet Union. Constant tension, as evidenced by hostile and incompatible ideologies, an arms race, diplomatic wrangling and threats, a constant barrage of propaganda, jostling under the sea by submarines, etc., all these are indicators of a hostile situation that could in very rapid pace have gone from "peace" to "hostile" to a state of extreme shooting war. Competition AND hostility here could reasonably have led to an armed conflict.

The war/peace polar opposite sliding continuum does allow for a much more nuanced understanding of conflict and war. Sees the situation and describes it more clearly.



Sunday, December 26, 2004


This is coolbert:

Here are the comments, as promised, I have on "The Origins of War" article I have previously posted about. You can see the article in it's entirety by going here.

My comments, as usual, are in bold:

I am using for this entry, the textbook definition of war as being two groups of people, using arms, and each trying to impose their will upon the other.

Also keep in mind that Clausewitz defined war as "politics by other means".

This blog entry is partially in response to a question posed by a friend of mine, "when does skirmishing end and war begin, and how do we differentiate between blood feuds and war?".

"Although it is possible to dismiss virtually all forms of hostility among animals as being not truly warlike, there remains one glaring exception... ants."

Here, the author seems to neglect the studies and observations of Jane Goodall. That chimps seems to possess a basic innate aggressiveness that is probably present in humans too. When the resources of chimps are threatened by another troop of chimps, the chimps engage in violent behavior that can only be described as war. Led by the boss ape, the alpha male, this sort of thing has been mentioned in previous blog entries.

"And eventually it would permit us [humans] to wage war, not because our genes compelled us, but as a premeditated response to external conditions."

Is the author ruling out the innate aggressive nature of humans with this statement?

"However, war as we have defined it would have been basically irrelevant in a world in which personal property had to be limited to what could be carried, seasonal diversity more than territory dictated the availability of food, and the genetic necessity for outbreeding made it advisable to avoid alienating other local gene pools."

I am not sure if the author has even properly defined war at this point. Seems to suggest that war as we moderns understand war is the only type of behavior that can be called war. And again, chimps, when having their resources threatened by another troop of chimps, do respond with what can be called warlike behavior. And these are critters that do not even carry or store food or move with seasonal diversity to any other locales.

"able to undergo a transformation that in relatively short order would find us living in vast despotic societies that were at least broadly analogous to those of the social insects."

This would of course be the transformation from hunter-gatherers to the "civilized" societies of the "land between the two rivers" type of cultures. Sumer, Ur, Chaldea and such. Sargon the Great the warrior king is the archetype despot the author has in mind here.

"This was not China's fate. Here, the patterns of social and political evolution predisposed the Chinese to remain wary of the institution of war. Given the continuing pastoral threat from the steppe, the necessities of armies and defense could never be ignored. Yet they approached war gingerly, shackling it with all manner of intellectual and governmental restraints."

This is both in part right and wrong. Surely the author is not ignoring the history of China in the period of the warring kingdoms?? Without the incessant wars fought during this period, Sun Tzu would not have been able to amass the background to write so profoundly as he did on the subject of war. In the chapter of Sun's dealing with spies, great emphasis is placed upon capturing enemy spies and turning them against their master. This would seem to imply having an effective counter-intelligence organization in place with a lot of experience. You cannot turn a spy against their own master unless you can catch them first!! Sun is supposed to have written his book in around 500 B.C. So we can infer that war was a constant in the centuries prior to Sun, and was a constant in China at least until the Chin Emperor united the various warring kingdoms under his rule!!

"Though sporadic and geographically irregular, these raids would have had economic and even ideological motivation sufficient to mark them as the beginning of something approaching true warfare among humans."

The Canadian writer Gwyn Dyer writes that until relatively recent times the phenomenon of nomadic but powerful and dangerous tribesmen descending upon sedentary village or city dwellers [burgers, bourgeois, burgesses] in fortified towns was something that occurred throughout ancient history and found an apogee of development in the predations of the Mongols under the great Genghis. This form of warfare, nomadic but very dangerous tribesmen attacking the farmers and city dwellers was a fact of human life for thousands of years, ended only in relatively recent times, perhaps only since the advent of gunpowder. [are we seeing a return to this type of warfare with the "barbarians" [read terrorists], attacking the village dwellers [read NYC]].

"Armed male elites, the first true armies, rose quickly to prominence, fostering governmental structures, unequal access to resources, and coerced organization of labor."

Here I would disagree with the author. From the observations made of ancient horse cultures, it would seem that the ancient Indo-Europeans, a semi-nomadic people, did possess even in very ancient times, the stuff that armies and war making societies are made of. The caste system with priests, warriors, and all the rest of the people [Julius Caesar divides the people of Gaul into such groups] was well established even before the first cities and towns were built. Of course, the warriors were engaging in behavior that we would now call "cattle rustling", or protecting the cattle from same. Witness the role of the kshatriya warriors of India or the warriors mentioned in the Irish epic poem, "The Great Cattle Raid of Cooley". These warriors were even in the most ancient of antiquity, highly trained in warcraft and all the weaponry associated with same. My previous entries blog entries mentioned how chess is based upon the forces arrayed upon the climactic battlefield of the Mahabharata [1400 B.C.]. Horsemen [knights], men-a-foot [infantry], elephants with towers [tanks], etc. [combined arms of a high order even at that early date!!!]. This all seems to suggest a high level of development that was thousands of years in the making, pre-dating the development of cities. And this from a society that is characterized as semi-nomadic!!

And also.

How would the fighting of such "primitive" societies as the "mudmen" of New Guinea fit into the author's equation of war. These societies, using blood feuds and the desire to acquire the "goods" of neighboring tribes, fought for thousands of years combats that can only be described as war. War that was well organized, had specific intent, and was very bloody and apocalyptic for the losers. "Mudmen" can scarcely be called civilized or highly developed in any sense of the word!!

"But imperial societies (contingent upon their origins, location, and internal dynamics) varied considerably in their dependence on war. Thus Egypt, sheltered geographically and blessed with environmental factors that moderated the swings of demography, gave more attention to building monumental architecture. Assyria, surrounded by enemies, came to be driven by war, pursuing it almost for its own sake until it was finally destroyed by belligerence. The very feature that made warfare a serviceable equilibrator;that it could be initiated as a matter of choice; also allowed it to become an all-consuming pursuit."


"Perhaps most interesting from a theoretical perspective is the independent development of warfare in the Americas. Here the absence of a sufficient array of animals to support independent pastoralism, and the resulting urge among agriculturalists to huddle behind walls, caused social and political consolidation to take place in a less abrupt fashion, under conditions that reduced demographic instability. War was plainly part of the process, but its role was more exclusively political; a matter of conflict among elites, not peoples."

What is the reader to make of this when contemplating the warrior societies of the North American Indian?? As I have said, some American Indian tribes were placid hunter-gatherers contented and living in peace with their neighbors. And other tribes [Sioux, Apache, Iroquois] seem to have waged war almost strictly for the sake of waging war, and were very successful at it too. None of the American Indian Tribes in North America can be said to have developed the high culture found in the "land between the two rivers", or for that matter, in other parts of the world. And yet some American Indian tribes waged war in what can only be described as war as understood by moderns.

I am not exactly sure what is the author's message in this article. It seems that some sort of entropy is on the mind of the author. An equilibrium is achieved and an energy transfer of resources is made by waging war?? It is hard to tell? The way the article is written is in my estimation poor and does not adequately address the author's intent. My opinion.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Chess II.

This is coolbert:

So, was and is chess a valid analogy of war? A valid analogy that presents "war" in a game form?

Several things need to be kept in mind regarding the game of chess and the analogy the chessboard has to the real world battlefield.

The chess master IS able, at a single glance able to know with precise accuracy, the positions of all his pieces [units] on the board, AND also know with precise accuracy the positions of all the opposing pieces [units] on the board.

Knowing with precision the position and status of all his own pieces [units], AND also the position and status of all his oppositions pieces [units], allows the chess master to formulate very precise strategy and tactics [movement of pieces] on the chessboard that can lead to victory. A preciseness that follows the rules of the game, rules that do not allow for deviation!

Up until recent historical times, say even until the time of the American Civil War, a general officer on the battlefield, the combat commander, WAS able to know with great accuracy the positions and status of his units [pieces] in actual combat with the enemy AND also know the same regarding the enemy units [pieces] his forces were in contact with.

If suitable dominating terrain was available, the combat commander of say the stature of a Wellington, Napoleon, Meade, or Lee WAS able to determine, at almost a single glance, the positions and status of his units on the battlefield, And also able to determine with a great degree of accuracy the same regarding the units of his opposition.

Dispersion of troops over a wide area was just not something practiced by armies prior to the combats of the two world wars of the twentieth century. At Waterloo, for instance, about 150,000 soldiers were arrayed against one another on a line of contact [LOC, the actual point where the combat forces of the two armies are in actual contact with one another] that spanned a distance of about two miles. Fifty years later, at Gettysburg, about 200,000 soldiers fought on a battlefield where the LOC spanned a distance of about three to four miles maximum. Napoleon and Wellington at Waterloo, and Meade and Lee at Gettysburg knew with great precision where their units were, the status of those units, and how the battle was progressing, either in their favor or against. This the respective combat commanders could tell at almost a single glance.

Also known to the chess master is that each piece on the chess board has a precise ability to move and to capture [kill] opposing pieces. A precise movement and capture ability that has been defined by the rules of the game itself. A white knight on the chess board has the same movement and capture [kill] ability as does a black knight. A white rook on the chess board has the same movement and capture [kill] ability as does a black rook.

A similar situation with regard to movement and capture [kill] capability existed on the real world battlefield existed until relatively recently [up until again, the two world wars of the twentieth century].

It could be safely said, with a general but fairly accurate degree of accuracy, that one British battalion of infantry on the Waterloo battlefield had about the same movement and killing [capture] capability as did a French infantry battalion. A battery [six guns] of British artillery had about the same movement and killing [capture] capability as did a battery of French artillery. The same can be said about a squadron of British cavalry. Movement and killing [capture] capability were about the same as a squadron of French cavalry.

Analogies, those that perhaps only existed in general sense to begin with, between the chessboard and the real world battlefield probably ended about the time of the end of the American Civil War [1865].

Dispersal of military units began in the years following 1865 as a response to the exponential and ever increasing lethality of modern weaponry. A modern army of 200,000 would now NOT have a LOC of four miles as was present at Gettysburg. The LOC for a modern army of comparable size would be on the order of hundreds of miles!!!

The modern combat commander is NOT able to know with a great degree of precision the exact locations and status of his units [pieces]. What he does know is the imprecise locations and status of his units [pieces]. This is quite UNLIKE what the chess master knows. What the modern combat commander knows about his units positions and status is based upon messages relayed to him via either field telephone, teletype, or radio traffic of either a message or data format. These messages are subject to delay, garbling, or contain impreciseness of communications that further hampers the ability of the combat commander from knowing exactly where all his units are and what their immediate status is.

In addition, the modern combat commander knows even LESS about the exact positioning and status of enemy units [pieces]. Again, this is in marked contrast to the chess master, who knows at a single glance the exact position and status of all the opposition pieces [units] on the chess board. Even possessing a formidable intelligence apparatus to determine the locations and status of enemy units [pieces] on the battlefield does not always assist the combat commander to achieve knowledge of the enemy units [pieces] to the desired degree. Remember, as I have mentioned in previous blog entries, not only is determining the locations and status of enemy units [pieces] difficult, as the enemy is trying to prevent you from finding out this information, but at the same time, the enemy is attempting to deceive you in this regard by feeding you deception. Deception that can mislead the combat commanders intelligence apparatus.

This lack of precise information on the modern battlefield is commonly referred to as the "FOG OF WAR". Remember the experience of Jellicoe at Jutland? At the critical moment of Jutland, Jellicoe was only somewhat sure of the locations of his own ships, not even taking into account was exactly he knew about the locations of the German ships. Trying making vital decisions based upon such inexact information!!


Remembering the above passage from this blog entry as shown below, to what degree of preciseness can modern units or machines of war be quantified with regard to movement and capture [kill] ability??

"Also known to the chess master is that each piece on the chess board has a precise ability to move and to capture [kill] opposing pieces. A precise movement and capture ability that has been defined by the rules of the game itself."

The ability on the modern battlefield of units [pieces] and machines [tanks] to move and kill [capture] CAN be quantified with a degree of superficial preciseness. But only to a certain degree. There is much about the ability of modern units and machines on the modern battlefield that is subjective and must be taken into account by the combat commander. Subjectivity that has a profound impact upon the battle to be fought.

Take for instance, the Abrams M-1 tank and the Soviet T-72 tank. Most "experts" would consider these tanks to be roughly the equivalent of one another. When the "experts" look at these things, they look at obvious, superficial criteria, amount of armor [thickness], the caliber of the main gun, etc. But there area also many other factors that must be considered when evaluating the relative abilities of two tanks being used by opposing sides [such was the case during the Iraq wars, when the U.S. fielded the Abrams tank, and the Iraqi the T-72 tank]. The combat commander is constantly taking into consideration an entire host of factors that when taken as a whole, create a very subjective judgment as to movement and "kill" ability. Among those factors would be: [in no precise order].

Number of rounds [ammo] each tank carries. [having more rounds is said to be an advantage].

Who possesses better night vision equipment?

Can each tank fire and hit the target while moving? [gun stabilizer].

Which tank has better ranging and aiming equipment?

Whose tank crews are better trained and motivated?

Does the interior of the tank tire the crew from constricting movement?

Whose tank can fire, hit, and kill the opposing tank at a longer range?

Is my [the combat commanders] initial plan to fight defensively or offensively? [some tanks fight better defensively].

Which side has better resupply and refueling capability?

Whose tanks are more robust mechanically and are less susceptible to breakdown?

Does the turret have to be returned to the "zero" position prior to reloading the main gun? [this was the case with the T-72. The turret has to be returned to a position where the main gun points straight ahead and its aligned parallel with the main axis of the hull to be reloaded].

Whose tanks are heavier? And germane to the former question, will rivers have to be crossed? [with regard to crossing rivers and bridges, the heavier tank is said to be at a disadvantage].

Given such a host of questions that need to be answered, it can be seen that only when the battle develops, can the modern combat commander get a "feel" as to how well his tanks [knights] can move and "kill" [capture] on the battlefield. This is in marked contrast to the chess master, who knows with precision, based upon the rules of the game, what movement and capture capability each piece has at any given moment.

And the above evaluation is just for one weapon system among a large number of weapon systems on the modern battlefield!!

Finally, what does the Soviet defector Suvorov have to say on the analogy of chess to modern war?

From the book "The Liberators" by Suvorov:

"Tactics, brother, are the most complicated subject on earth. But just tell our generals that tactics are more complicated than chess and they laugh their heads off, they simply don't believe it. But it's really no laughing matter. Chess is the crudest form, the most superficial model of a battle between two armies and the most primitive of armies [based upon the armies of the Mahabharata, 1400 B.C.] at that. In all other respects, it's exactly like war . . . A contemporary battle . . . is a thousand times more complicated than chess. If you want to model a small contemporary army on a chess board, the number of chess men, with all kinds of different capabilities will have to be sharply increased. Somehow, you will need to designate tanks, anti-tank rockets, anti-tank artillery and attack planes, strategic bombers, air transport and helicopters - - you just can't list them all . . . and all demand a united plan, a united strategy and the closest possible co-ordination."

[The above is taking into account only the friendly forces [pieces]. The above does not take into account the enemy forces [pieces]. Nor does it take into account the "fog of war"].


Monday, December 20, 2004

Chess I.

This is coolbert:

The ancient and venerable game of chess has long been touted as providing excellent training for military commanders. Those generals that actually command combat forces on the battlefield.

This belief is true to a certain extent.

As a means of training and sharpening the mind to think AHEAD, it succeeds in this respect.

And the fact that the game of chess has an origin in actual warfare itself is undeniable.

Although the game of chess as we moderns understand it is said to be of Persian origin, evidently the game has even earlier origins, based upon the battle formation of the climactic combat as described in the Mahabharata. The epic Hindu poem mentioned in other blog entries. Describes an actual battle that occurred around 1400 B.C. The pieces of the original game included pawns, riders [knights], towers [rooks] [originally symbolizing an elephant with tower mounted atop], King, and something called a "boatman" [not sure of the purpose of this piece].

"The Sanskrit name Chaturanga means 'quadripartite' (divided into four parts) and was also used to describe the Indian army of Vedic times in which a platoon had four parts: one elephant, one chariot, three soldiers on horseback, and five foot-soldiers [this is an early example of "combined arms"]. The board was known as the 'ashtapada' (eight-square) and is believed to have been adopted from an older race game related to parcheesi.
The date of the game's origin is uncertain, but documentary evidence exists from c. AD 620 in the form of a Sanskrit document, Vasavadatta from Subhandu which describes what could be chess pieces. Another document, dated from between 750 AD and 850 AD is Chatrang-namak by Pahlavi which describes the arrival of Chatranga to the court of Persia with an Indian embassy. The authenticity of the latter account is doubted by some.

The pieces were raja (king), mantri (counsellor, ancestor of the ferz), gaja (elephant, later called fil), asva (horse), ratha (chariot, later called rook), and pedati (infantry or pawns)."

And the game of chess DOES teach the player concepts that would seem to be germane to a military commander on the battlefield.

A successful master of chess will be familiar with various strategies and the tactics to achieve those strategies required for victory. These are referred to in chess as "openings". This applies both for offensive and defensive play.

A successful master of chess will employ feints and ruses to achieve victory. The successful chess master may sacrifice minor pieces to gain an upper hand.

In chess, feints, ruses, sacrifices are called "gambits".

A successful master of chess will strive to control the center of the board, always striving to gain and maintain the initiative. The master will make the foe respond to his moves, not the other way around.

A successful master of chess will understand that the player who is content with defensive moves only will never gain the initiative needed for eventual victory.

And, as been stated previously, the chess master but be able to think AHEAD. The master must not be content with analyzing the current move being made without regard to the future. The master must be concerned with the current move and looking forward two, three, four, or even more moves in the future. Each move does not exist in a vacuum! Each move must be taken in the context of future moves that lead to eventual victory!

[A U.S. divisional combat commander of the late Twentieth Century, was taught then when opposing Soviet forces, that commander had to be aware of and planning for not only the enemy forces he was in contact with at the moment, but had to be additionally aware of and planning for enemy forces he might be in contact with 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours into the future].

So, how valid is the concept of chess as being an analog of war? Albeit as a game.

How valid is chess as being a tool and game that prepares a general to think as a combat commander on the battlefield needs to think?

I would think valid. But only to a certain extent, perhaps a very small extent. The idea has merit, but perhaps only during a certain period of historical time. NOT so valid in the present. Maybe is similar to trying to learn to swim by reading a book on the subject. Nothing beats getting your feet wet! Only then can you learn the true nature of the subject.

More on this later.



This is coolbert:

I have mentioned in previous blog entries that being in the modern military is inherently dangerous, even in peacetime.

Certain tactical operations and practices places the modern soldier at risk of loss of life or limb, even when not in actual combat.

Dismounted mechanized infantry troops afoot among moving tactical formations of tracked vehicles [tanks and Bradley type vehicles] stand a good chance of getting run over and killed if they do not keep their wits about them.

Crews on the flight decks of aircraft carriers while flight operations are actually occurring stand a good chance of being killed they are not alert at all times. [films have actually been taken showing how these flight deck crews protect themselves, consciously or not. Always operating in pairs, heads constantly swiveling around in all directions, alert for danger. Almost exactly the same behavior as seen in prey animals on the Serengeti in Africa].

Pilots of high performance aircraft and helicopters employing low-level flight [NOE] [nape-of-the-earth] stand a good chance of crashing and being killed if even the slightest degree of concentration is lost.

Night operations period pose a constant problem for all soldiers, regardless of their job. Accidents are a norm during reduced visibility, even for the most menial of military specialties. You can get run over or crash a vehicle in the proverbial heart beat!

There is also an irony here.

The military, even in peacetime, can be very dangerous for your health, but also can be very beneficial for your health!!

Many practices of the modern military are designed to produce a healthful soldier, resulting in a trooper who has generally just all-around better health than his/her civilian counterpart of the same age.

The modern soldier eats a more balanced nutritious diet.

The modern soldier engages in daily physical fitness training.

The modern soldier gets a full set of inoculations and keeps these inoculations up to date, and is mandated to do so!!

The modern soldier has medical care available on demand. Minor illnesses are treated to prevent a more serious condition for occurring. [by law, a member of the U.S. military CANNOT refuse medical care].

The modern soldier washes daily with soap and water. This of itself, the washing on a daily basis with soap and water, something that has become prevalent only in the last hundred years or so, is the single greatest advancement for the cheapest cost in health care period.

Preventative maintenance [constant cleaning and scouring] of living quarters [barracks] does away with dirtiness and uncleanliness that can lead to disease and just plain unhealthiness.

Soldiers engaging in unhealthful practices such as excessive drinking of alcohol, drug usage, overweight, etc., are given counseling and remedial treatment as required. Uncle Sam has too great an investment in the individual soldier to give up immediately with those troops that have run afoul of abusing their bodies.

All this contributes to having a soldier that is plain more healthier, robust, physically fit, less susceptible to illness. A person who when becoming ill, recuperates and recovers and returns to duty faster than would a civilian counterpart of the same age.

And there is historical precedent for this phenomenon of physical health among the military.

Archeological digs of grave sites containing the skeletal remains of Roman Legionnaires have allowed modern medical science to examine these remains of Roman professional soldiers and arrive at definite conclusions.

Roman Legionnaires had a better diet, better and more physical activity, and access to medical care in a way that the Roman civilian populace did not. The Roman soldier was just a more physically fit, healthy, and robust specimen that the rest of the population. Sounds familiar, doesn't it!!??

It seems that military medical care as practiced among the ancients was in many cases more skilled than we can appreciate. The ancient "doctors" knew how to treat wounds, set broken bones, open skulls [trepanning] to relieve pressure from blunt force trauma, use a variety of herbal medicines, etc.

[This PBS program on the Battle of Isandhlwana that was broadcast as part of the series "Secrets of the Dead" interviewed a Zulu isangoma [witch doctor], who described the process of opening the skull to release pressure caused by blunt force trauma. A correct opening of the skull by the witch doctor produces a "pssssst" sound as one would hear when opening a can of carbonated soft drink. Even the "primitive" Zulu possessed formidable medical knowledge of battlefield medicine].

There was an incident some years ago now that illustrates the superior nature of health as enjoyed by the modern soldier. An entire barracks full of Marines on Okinawa was engulfed by flames and an entire platoon housed in the barracks received severe burns. These Marines were treated and ALL survived, even thought some were severely burned. This survival rate was attributed to superior diet, physical conditioning, etc. Just plain superior health contributed to survival, faster healing and recuperation, etc.

And, among black American soldiers living on a military base, there is another healthful factor at work. Safety. Some staggering statistic exists that contrasts the safety enjoyed by a black American soldier and his/her civilian counterpart living in an "inner city" neighborhood. The soldier is forty times less likely to be the victim of violence or other criminal behavior. Except for alcohol, cars, and fights over women, life on a military base is generally very safe and almost crime free, albeit petty theft occurring as it does in civilian life.


Thursday, December 16, 2004


This is coolbert:

Throughout history, various martial [warlike] societies have devised "games" as a means of preparing their young men for combat.

One such "game" was the American Indian game of baggattaway.

Baggattaway seems to be the province of American Indians living in the area from the North American Great Lakes eastward.

Baggattaway became the modern game of lacrosse. A popular American east coast game with many adherents. Liked because of the fast pace and rugged style of play. Lacrosse is today the national sport of Canada [not ice hockey].

[while playing football at the University of Syracuse, Jim Brown, one of the greatest football players of all time, also played lacrosse in the off-season as a means of keeping in shape for football. Brown was a dual all-American at both football and lacrosse. One might very well ask the question, is lacrosse an excellent means of keeping in shape for football, or is it the other way around, football being an excellent training device for lacrosse. Syracuse of course is located in the heart of the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York, the homeland of the Iroquois.]

Among such tribes as the Iroquois, baggattaway was used as a means of training the tribal young men for war. Teamwork, physical conditioning of a high level of development, and the rugged contact of the sport all made an excellent vehicle for war preparation. Indeed, among the Cherokee, the translation of their name for the "sport" translates best as THE LITTLE BROTHER OF WAR.

Click here to read about the importance of this "game" to the American Indian.

[there are several photos included as part of the above site. One shows what must be a regulation [by American Indian standards] type game. Note that several of the competitors seems to have been cold-cocked. The other photo shows a general melee type of game].

Developed in the highest form among the Iroquois.

A previous blog has mentioned the Iroquois as being one of the most warlike of American Indian tribes, waging war very successfully against their neighbors.

The Iroquois evidently had a standardized form of this game, with a set number of players per team, and a field of play that was of set dimensions.

But what I am talking about here is a form of the game that was suited and played with war preparations in mind.

We are talking about a form of the game that is almost apocalyptic in nature.

This form consisted of the entire male population of whole villages in competition with one another. There could be literally thousands of players on each side!! And the goals would be a long distance apart. Miles, perhaps even tens of miles would separate the goals!! Furthermore, participants were allowed to carry whips, knives, and tomahawks, and use them, if acceptable to both sides!! You could lose your life during one of these "competitions"!!

This was a "game" that had real merit as a training ground for war!!

[During the Pontiac Rebellion, American Indians, using a game of baggattaway as a ruse, gained entry to the British garrisoned fort at Michilmackinac [at the straits of Mackinac, where Lakes Michigan and Huron come join] by "accidently" throwing a ball over the fort's stockade fence. Warriors feigning to retrieve the ball proceeded to attack and overwhelm the garrison!!

"On June 2, 1763, King George Ill's 25th birthday, local Chippewas hon­ored him with a game of baggatiway (the precursor of modern lacrosse) out­side Fort Michilimackinac the site of present-day Mackinaw City, Michigan. The fort’s haughty commander and most of his 35 soldiers watched the game with bemused interest from outside the open gate, until one player threw the ball over the stockade and all the Indians rushed inside after it. There they slaugh­tered 16 British defenders and took the rest prisoner."]

Click here to see another stylized picture of a baggattaway melee involving hundreds of American Indian warriors.

Another society that practiced a "game" as a form of war preparation was the Mongols of the era of Genghis Khan.

This was the hulega. Best translated as circular hunt.

"Training for the Mongolian army took the form of the hulega, or Great Hunt, a slow, circular advance made at a steady pace which they called the wolf lope. It was conducted like a campaign and was designed to teach discipline, strategy and unity under command."

A Mongol unit of say touman size [divisonal size unit consisting of about 10,000 men] would initiate the hulega by riding in an enormous circular pattern, many miles in diameter, and do so as a unit. The hulega was a means for the Mongols to practice unit cohesion, tactics, strategy, etc. Any wild animals caught within the hulega became fair game for the Mongol riders. Using their horse bows, Mongol archers, firing from horseback while moving, would attempt to engage and kill a suitable wild game target with a single bowshot. Failure to make a "kill" would cause a Mongol archer to lose a lot of esteem among his compatriots!!

[two comments about the hulega. It is reputed that the horse bows the Mongol archers wielded had a draw [the force to pull the string of the bow back] of about 150 pounds!! This is just phenomenal. Modern hunting bows have a maximum pull of about 65 to 75 pounds of draw pull. Mongol riders also possessed stirrups that provided a platform for the rider to stand up and balance himself while shooting the horse bow. Made for a steady balance and a clean and accurate bow shot. Some of you may recall a previous blog entry mentioning a film I have seen of a modern day Mongol cavalry militiaman firing with a SKS semi-auto rifle at targets while standing up in the saddle of his horse which is racing toward the camera at full gallop. The horse has evidently been trained to gallop in such a manner that it does not bounce up and down, also assuring a steady platform for the shooter!! As I have said many times before, sometimes the old ways are the best ways!!].

Click here to see an interesting site about horse bows. These weapons are still available today!!


Tuesday, December 14, 2004


This is coolbert:

I have mentioned in previous blog entries about how weaponry that was once available to only the militaries of the most technologically advanced nations is now readily available to anyone in the world.

Anyone, whether it be a nation-state, a drug cartel, or a criminal gang, possessing the means to pay for advanced weaponry and related technology, can obtain almost whatever is their hearts desire.

One such technological area is the once arcane and secretive field of cryptography.

According to Webopedia, cryptography can be defined as:

"The art of protecting information by transforming it (encrypting it) into an unreadable format, called cipher text. Only those who possess a secret key can decipher (or decrypt) the message into plain text."

We are talking here about protecting information, data, messages, etc., from being read [listened to as well], by unwanted, prying recipients [unintended parties].

Cryptography was for centuries, even for milleniums, almost strictly the purview of governments. And when cryptography was used by governments, it was used primarily only by a few select institutions and individuals within a government. The military, diplomats, and certain select high echelon officials made use of cryptography, and then only when required [to safeguard sensitive secrets].

And the entire process of cryptography was cloaked with the greatest secrecy. Almost NOTHING at all was in the public domain concerning cryptography. What was available was a limited historical record. But this tended to be sparse and was usually not very revealing.


The modern transformation of cryptography from an arcane "art" to the current ubiquitous public usage [the user may be using cryptography without even realizing it] began with the widespread use of computers in networks. Computer networks such as MILNET [military network], DARPANET [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency network], and a variety of industrial, commercial, academic, and financial networks, began to merge in a semi-haphazard fashion with a multitude of public and private users to form the current Internet and the World Wide Web [WWW], in all it's manifestations and applications.

And very early in the networking game, say around the mid-1970's, it became abundantly clear that all this communications via computer had to be safeguarded in some manner. Governmental secrets were only one part of the safeguarding issue. Industrial trade secrets, business transactions, and individual privacy were all at stake here. The value of financial transactions DAILY via the international currency markets is over a TRILLION dollars [perhaps more now??]. Some sort of safeguarding was required.

Especially when it was realized that the internet was also susceptible to compromise by a host of nefarious characters. HACKERS. Again, what was once the purview [intercept, cryptanalysis, etc.] of only a small select group of governmental agencies [espionage agencies], was now something that could be practiced by lone individuals working out of their basement [again, HACKERS].

"As the Internet and other forms of electronic communication become more prevalent, electronic security is becoming increasingly important. Cryptography is used to protect e-mail messages, credit card information, and corporate data."

[internet phone can also be secured by cryptographics now available. Click here to see such a site that allows the individual to use secure internet phone for FREE. Believe me, this is something, secure voice communications, that was once available until recently ONLY to the most senior governmental officials].

And safeguarding was found.

A whole host of cryptographic systems have been developed by computer science experts to safeguard the multitude of communications traveling DAILY over the internet. These cryptographic systems [algorithms] have names such as DES, 3DES, AES, Blowfish, GOST, PGP, etc. Cryptographic algorithms that can be obtained by the private individual personal computer [PC] user as freeware. YES, FOR FREE.

[I would point out that these systems all seem to be revised and improved variants of Lucifer. A computer cryptographic algorithm devised in 1966 by a computer scientist working for IBM. It could be that this algorithm was named Lucifer because it was so diabolical in it's concept and design!!].

Not only have a whole host of cryptographic algorithms been devised and made available to the average consumer, but the vital keying obligatory for these systems has been devised and implemented. As was mentioned above:

"Only those who possess a secret key can decipher (or decrypt) the message into plain text."

"Cryptography systems can be broadly classified into symmetric-key systems that use a single key that both the sender and recipient have, and public-key systems that use two keys, a public key known to everyone and a private key that only the recipient of messages uses."

This is referred to as PUBLIC-KEY CRYPTOGRAPHY.

The user of such cryptographics may well ask themselves, "well, how secure are these cryptographics??" I think it is safe to say that these various cryptographics are very, very secure. Secure from all but the most dedicated of espionage agencies of the world's powers. A lot of time, effort, resources would have to be used to read just one message.

And you have to ask yourself, unless you are a person of interest to the espionage agencies of the world's powers, what good would it do to read your message traffic?

The user might then also ask the question, "well, do these cryptographics provide absolute security??" And the answer to that question is NO!! The only cryptographic system that affords absolute security is the one-time-pad [OTP]. And that, if only used correctly. These various cryptographic algorithms now being used are of a periodic nature. A period that is very long, but is nonetheless, periodic. According to the great American cryptographer/cryptanalyst, William Friedman, "any period cryptographic system can be read, if enough resources and time are dedicated to the effort." Read about the one-time-pad by clicking here.

It is important for the user to understand that a cryptographic system does NOT have to provide absolute security. What it must do is defeat the efforts of unintended recipients to read the encrypted message within time to provide actionable intelligence.

The classical scenario is of an encrypted message sent on a Sunday that would say something like:

"Convoy sails from Brindisi on Monday, arrives Malta on Wednesday."

If the unintended recipient of this message was not able to read the message until the following Friday, reading the message does the unintended recipient no good. He does not have actionable intelligence. If the unintended recipient read the message on say Tuesday, he would have actionable intelligence and could act in an appropriate manner [sink the convoy].

Whatever cryptographic system is used to safeguard the above message would only need to be effective enough to delay the unintended recipient from reading the message in time, NOT absolutely safeguarding the message, just providing the required amount of security.

Unfortunately, the various cryptographics available for FREE on the internet are also available to a variety of bad eggs as well. Groups or persons that are disreputable can and do make good use of secure cryptographics to safeguard their activities as well. Groups such as terrorists, rogue nations, criminal gangs, drug cartels, perverts who use the internet are examples of villains that can employ secure cryptographics. However, the positive nature of secure cryptographics on the internet probably far outweighs the use of secure crypto by the villains of this world.

Technology that was not so long ago was available only to persons such as the President of the United States is now available to the average citizen, and as I have said before, FREE TOO!! Can that be bad??!! NO!!!



Sunday, December 12, 2004


This is coolbert:

Walking through the aisles of the discount book store yesterday.

And come to the history section.

And see a book with a title that catches my attention immediately.

The title is "Japanese Atrocities in World War Two [WW2]".

So I pick the book up and thumb through it.

Curious about the entire subject.

Go to the index and look up two items that I have previously blogged about.

One is the Andaman Islands massacres and the other is Colonel Tsuji.

The former was one of the most egregious atrocities of WW2 [can an atrocity be referred to anything else other than egregious??]. The latter was the man who was instrumental in the massacre of ethnic Chinese living in Singapore in 1942, and the callous mistreatment of American prisoners in the Philippines during the same year.

And guess what?

Neither the Andaman Islands atrocity or the name of Colonel Tsuji is mentioned in the book.

How is this possible??

It is not like this stuff is small potatoes.

And I know that Tsuji escaped prosecution at the end of the war by going into hiding. So, in a technical sense, Tsuji was never found guilty of anything.

But nonetheless, was the author so ignorant of this events and person that he did not include them in this book??

I just cannot say.

Who knows what goes into the minds of those that write history?

 I know you cannot include EVERYTHING. Hard to say what went on in the mind of the author in this case. Maybe there is just so much to cover you can only include what YOU feel is important.

There are perhaps several factors as to why Japanese atrocities of WW2 just have not been covered to the same degree as the atrocities of the German Nazis have been.

To begin with, in the aftermath of the war, the Japanese were looked upon by some persons as being the "victims".

This as a consequence of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The American author Joyce, who wrote "From Here To Eternity", a novel of WW2, and who lived as an expatriate in Paris for decades, comments about this in his book, WW Two.

Joyce relates how it was very fashionable for Parisian intellectuals beginning around 1947 to portray the atomic bombings as terrible unwarranted crimes that made the Americans just as bad as the Japanese, perhaps even worse??!! These were persons who were anti-American and hated everything American and were usually communists or communist sympathizers.

[the fact that about 15 million ethnic Germans were uprooted from their ancestral homes all over eastern Europe and ordered at bayonet point to depart at once and be resettled in Germany would never be allowed to be used as an event that would portray the Germans as being "victims" of the war].

Some persons have suggested that the number and scale of Japanese atrocities was down played by allied authorities in an attempt to bring the Japanese on board in the Cold War. Not to antagonize the Japanese was seen as a positive step to bring the Japs into the camp of "free nations".

Again, the myth man Joseph Campbell has some interesting observations on the subject.

Germany, says Campbell, was felt to be a member of the civilized, Christian world.

The Germans knew better than to do what they did in the war. What they did went against their basic nature and is to be condemned in the strongest terms.

Nations such as the Russians, the Chinese, or even the Japanese are not part of the civilized, Christian world.

Do not possess the moral code or ethical standards of behavior that western Christian countries and their armies are supposed to adhere to. When they commit atrocities, they are acting according to their true nature. Nothing better can be expected of them.

The true and complete explanation of why Japanese war crimes during WW2 were glossed over is probably a combination of the above factors. Understandable, but not excused.


Saturday, December 11, 2004

High Water.

This is coolbert:

Throughout history, there have been battles fought that have become known as "high water marks" of history.

Among the many battles of history these are some of the noteworthy "high water marks":

Marathon [490 B.C.]. Persian invader defeated by the Greek .

Carrhae [53 B.C.]. Roman invader defeated by the Persians [Parthians].

Teutoburger Wald [9 A.D.]. Roman invader defeated by the Germanic tribesmen.

Poitiers [732 A.D.]. Muslim invader defeated by the massed Frankish army.

Talas [751 A.D.]. Muslim expansionists defeat forces of Tang China expansionism.

Vienna [1683 A.D.]. Turkish invader defeated by coalition forces of Holy Roman Empire and Poland.

In each of the above cases, we see an imperial power, expansionist, reaching a geographic point beyond which they were unable to advance further.

These battles without exception marked a point beyond which no further advance became possible. A "high water mark", that like the oceanic tides, advances, leaves a distinct mark, and then retreats. Cannot go further.

Marathon marked a point beyond the Persian Empire was unable to further advance westward into an area of European cultural domain.

Teutoburger Wald marked a point beyond which the Romans were unable to further advance into central and eastern Europe.

"Quinctilius Varus. Not a household name maybe but he changed the course of history in 9 A.D. His actions led to the frontier of the Roman Empire being on the Rhine rather than the Elbe. The Germanic peoples remained outside the immediate control of Rome and eventually Germanic influxes were responsible for the fall of the Western Empire. Rome was forced to maintain a strong garrison on the Rhine frontier which limited their expansion elsewhere."

Carrhae marked a point beyond which the Romans were unable to further advance eastward into Asia. [Crassus, one of the Roman leaders at the battle, was reputed to be the richest man in the world at the time. Was the man who suppressed the Spartacus rebellion. Was executed by beheading after the battle. The English word crass comes from the name Crassus].

Poitiers marked a point beyond which the Muslim was unable to further advance into France and Europe.

Go here to read what the chroniclers had to say about Poitiers.

Read the Muslim account as written by their chronicler by clicking here.

Talas marked a point beyond which the Tang Empire was unable to further advance westward into central Asia. From this point on the Muslim advanced into lands the Tang Empire had coveted.

"While the battle in itself was of minor importance, its ramifications on the future were very significant. The Arabs were put in a position to extend their Islamic influence throughout central Asia and its silk routes. The T'ang (in China) lost a good amount of power and their westward advance was halted. Muslim shipping in the Indian Ocean improved, which restricted the ocean's contacts with Hindu and Buddhist areas. The Muslims were never able to take control of the Himalayan northern borderlands. Paper manufacturing, an unexpected byproduct from the Battle of Talas, was first spread to Samarkand and Baghdad, then from there carried to Damascus, Cairo, and Morocco, and finally entered Europe through Italy and Spain. This diffusion originated when Chinese prisoners who knew how to make paper, an art discovered in China at least 650 years earlier, were taken by the Arabs at the Talas River. But most importantly, the Battle of Talas led to the An Lushan revolt, which broke out in 755. This rebellion paralyzed China for years and weakened the Tang dynasty until it collapsed a century and a half later."

Vienna marked a point beyond which the Ottomans were unable to advance further into eastern and central Europe.

Go here to see an outstanding photo gallery of paintings highlighting the exploits of the Poles at Vienna. Aspects of the Polish Hussars can be seen in the paintings, including the leopard skin cloaks and the wings the Hussars attached to their uniforms.

The myth man, Joseph Campbell, is most adamant these battles did not only signify a military defeat for one side that had profound consequences, but also a defeat that signified a culture clash. A clash of "civilizations" possessing diametrically opposite values and mores!!

[Speaking here about the defeat of the Muslim invader at Poitiers].

"By 732 it [Islam] was on the point of engulfing France, when there eventuated another of those moments - - as of Marathon and the Maccabees - - when the limit of an East-West-East-West-East pendulation was attained. For as every such moment has shown, there is a point beyond which the character of an invaded major culture province cannot be contravened. And this arrived, this time, in Europe, at the Battle of Poitiers . . . ".

What Campbell is suggesting is that the defeat of the Muslim was not due to merely battlefield numbers, tactics, strategy, motivation, etc. Other factors were at work here. Factors that cannot be overcome by military force alone.

It may very well be that in Iraq, while the U.S. military will be victorious on the battlefield, they will not be able to overcome cultural norms and societal impulses of the Iraqi that will lead to eventual defeat of U.S. aspirations. Defeat not in the battlefield sense, but in a sense of not being able to remake Iraqi society in a manner that violates the basic nature of the Iraqis themselves!!


Tuesday, December 07, 2004


This is coolbert:

From ancient times, the sling has been a weapon of war. Not fully appreciated as to it's effectiveness in modern times, it was a required and desired weapon of armies of antiquity.

Of course, we are familiar with the exploits of the Hebrew shepherd boy David.

Slew the Philistine giant Goliath in single one-on-one combat armed with only a sling and a stone. David, as a shepherd boy, would have been adept in the use of this weapon, using it to drive off predators endangering the sheep of the flock he was charged with shepherding. Proficiency with the sling was a required must for shepherd boys of the time.

"Then David thrust his hand into his bag and took a stone from there and slung it, so that he struck the Philistine in his forehead and the stone sank into his forehead, and he went falling upon his face to the earth." - - 1 Samuel 49.

The Assyrians incorporated slingers into the missile throwing troops of their armies. There is a carving that has been found that shows how these troops were arrayed. Javelin throwers in the front ranks, several rows deep. Followed by archers, also several rows deep. And then the sling throwers [peltists]. Also several rows deep. This would seem to suggest that the peltists could cast their "stones" further than an archer could shoot his arrow??!!

The Roman Legions also used peltists among their troops.

It seems that mercenaries from the Balearic Islands [off the east coast of Spain] were most proficient at the use of the sling and were recruited and highly prized by the Legions.

The Romans, as part of their usual war making capability, institutionalized and industrialized the field of peltistry.

The Roman peltists did not merely cast "stones" gathered from the ground. Rather, Roman peltists cast solid lead glandes that were the size and the shape of a human kidney. The English word gland comes from the Latin word glandes, meaning kidney. Actual molds used in the smelting process of the glandes have been found. Getting hit by a glandes cast by a peltist could easily break a bone, rupture an internal organ, cause further serious injury, or even kill any person hit by one of these solid chunks of lead being hurled at high speed!!

[the Romans were especially fond of lead. Where ever the legions marched, lead deposits were always sought out. Lead, mined and smelted, was used by the Romans for a variety of purposes. Piping to direct hot water for Roman baths was a favorite usage [the word plumber comes from the Latin word plumb, meaning lead]. And of course, the smelting of glandes for the peltists of the legions was another. There was a terrific demand for lead during the time of the Romans. Indeed there is found all over the world, a 2000 year old deposit of lead that is a legacy of the quantities of lead mined and smelted by the Romans!!].

And please do not think that the sling is an archaic weapon no longer in use!!

During the Spanish Civil War [circa 1936], a famous film was shot of what appears to be a Republican soldier atop a roof slinging hand grenades at an unseen enemy. Using the sling allowed the soldier to cast the grenade much further than could be done by hand.

And during the several intifadas of the Palestinians against the Israelis, Palestinian youth on many occasions have employed slings to cast "stones" at Israeli troops. Much to the consternation of the Israelis, these sling wielding youths can cast a "stone" large enough to harm or kill from a long distance. And with great accuracy too. These Palestinians are carrying out a three thousand year old tradition of confronting a superior foe with crude but very effective weaponry!

"Even in the first Intifada, the media glorified 'children of the stones' as latter-day 'Davids'struggling against the Israeli 'Goliath.' Young Palestinians, armed with slings and stones, were on the front lines of the struggle against "occupation." "

[in the case of the Palestinian youth, not only is the "stone" cast by a sling in actuality an effective weapon, capable of causing harm, it has a tremendous metaphorical aspect to it also. The Palestinians like to see themselves as the modern day "Davids", fighting the modern day "Goliath" [Israel], with weaponry that was actually used by David himself].

As I have said in a number of previous blog entries, sometimes the old ways are the best ways!!


Saturday, December 04, 2004


This is coolbert:

In the minds of men from societies all over the world, unusual celestial phenomenon has been associated with events of a portentous nature. This phenomenon quite often may take the form of a solar eclipse or a comet.

On a number of occasions total solar eclipses and comets have been associated with military events that were of an epic nature.

1. During the epic battle between the families and armies of the Pandavas and the Kauravas as described in the Hindu epic poem "Mahabharata", a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse occurring only thirteen days apart is said to have occurred.

[it is from the descriptions of both this solar eclipse and an accompanying lunar eclipse that is mentioned in the epic poem, that the climactic battle of the Mahabharata can be dated [1400 B.C.]].

Click here to see a most interesting web site that describes the calculations involved in determining the 1400 B.C. date.

2. During the Battle of Isandhlwana between the forces of the British and the Zulu nation, an annular solar eclipse also occurred. Reduced visibility on the part of the British defenders from a combination of gunsmoke and the reduced light level from the eclipse is said to be one of the reasons the British force was overwhelmed.

3. And finally, while running the rapids of the Falls of the Ohio [rapids that existed where Louisville KY. now is], the frontier militia of George Rogers Clark also encountered a total solar eclipse. This, at the very onset of the campaign by American forces to defeat the British garrisons of the Northwest Territory, was commented upon both by George Rogers Clark and his men as being a sign that could be interpreted either as yay or nay regarding their campaign.

Comets too have been observed as a forewarning of great danger by various societies. Danger that quite often took the form of military action.

Twice Haley's comet appeared at a time of great ferment that led to war in different parts of the world.

1. Haley's comet with an unusual form was seen just prior to the outbreak of the Jewish War, between the forces of Rome and their revolting Jewish subjects in Judea [66-70 A.D.]. This comet was described as appearing to hang over the city of Jerusalem and had the form of a sword!!


In the year 66 A.D., Israel was invaded by Roman forces, In the Spring of 66 A.D., Haley's Comet appeared very bright in the sky over Jerusalem. The comet's closest approach to the earth occurred on March 20/21 of that year. The Passover was on March 28/29. The following is a quote from Josephus "Wars of the Jews."

"Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers, and such as beheld God himself; while they did not attend, nor give credit, to the signs that were so evident, and did so plainly foretell their future desolation; but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciation that God made to them. Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, a comet that continued a whole year. Thus also before the Jew's rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus (Nisan), and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round about the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day-time; which light lasted for half an hour. This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskillful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes as to portend those events that followed immediately upon it." "

2. The passage of Haley's Comet in 1066 A.D. was observed, interpreted, and has been associated with the invasion of England by William the Conqueror. The Saxons did consider the comet to be a bad omen.

"Haley's Comet, first seen on the 24th April 1066. Considered by The Saxons to be a bad omen, this visitation has been calculated to have been much brighter than the appearance in winter 1985. The understanding of cometry movement and other celestial anomalies such as this were god sent to encourage or warn. Omens were taken very seriously in those days."

The famous Bayeux Tapestry hanging in Normandy commemorates the invasion of England by William and most prominently shows Haley's Comet as a significant feature.

Click here to see Haley's comet as shown in the Bayeux Tapestry.

The less sophisticated mind of the past must have undoubtedly saw these celestial phenomenon as omens or signs from "higher beings" that something portentous was occurring. Portentous military events in these cases that were of an epic nature!!


Friday, December 03, 2004


This is coolbert:

A most significant person from American history in general and from American military history in particular is George Rogers Clark?

It is because of the efforts of Clark, while in command of a small band of frontier militia, that the size of the United States was DOUBLED in the aftermath of the American Revolutionary War.

And yet, little if nothing is ever mentioned about George Rogers Clark in American history books. This would appear to be a significant oversight.

I believe the bridge over the Ohio River at Louisville is called the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge. And that is about it. Not much is remember about George Rogers Clark. A lot more is known about and has been written about the younger [by 18 years] brother of George Rogers, his brother, William. William Clark of course was the co-commander of the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition to survey the Louisiana Purchase. But of George Rogers, a blank slate for the most part seems to exist.

George Rogers Clark was a man of the most extraordinary abilities and talents.

A military leader of repute, respected both by the American Indian and his fellow English speaking frontiersmen.

"The fact that the Kentucky settlers entrusted Clark with such great responsibility at the age of 24, and that he was sufficiently persuasive to bring the General Assembly and a number of important men around to his way of thinking was indicative of his personal charisma, speaking abilities, leadership and qualities of mind. He was well over six feet tall, had red hair and was reliably reported to have been rugged and handsome. The fear and respect which he inspired in his Indian enemies indicated that he was a formidable warrior . . . [but] whenever possible he used diplomacy and bluff rather than battle in dealing with the Indians. When he retired to Clarksville in later life, the Indian chiefs and warriors still came to smoke the pipe of peace and friendship with their conqueror, calling him "the first man living, the great and invincible long-knife."

Skilled at military intelligence, negotiation, psychological warfare, and leadership. A man possessing a keen sense of offensive action and initiative.

"George Rogers Clark was a master of military intelligence, strategy and tactics; a practical psychologist who could persuade literally anybody to his thinking, including French settlers, chiefs of Native American tribes, the British military, and his own men; a brilliant field commander; and a 6-foot, 200-pounder with red hair."

A man who believed in measured audacity. Audacity that resulted in great rewards for the at-the-time-newly-formed United States.


It should be remembered that the American territory at the time of the Revolutionary War consisted of only the original thirteen states on the eastern seaboard. All territory west of the Allegheny Mountains was generally under the control of Great Britain. The land that became the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indian, Illinois and Wisconsin was known at the time as the Northwest Territory. Small settler towns and [inhabited by primarily settlers of French or French-Canadian ancestry] and forts manned by British troops [fortified by large numbers of American Indians loyal to the British cause] dotted the territory.


"In 1776, when independence was declared, the United States included only the thirteen original States on the seaboard. With the exception of a few hunters there were no white men west of the Allegheny Mountains, and there was not even an American hunter in the great country out of which we have since made the States of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. All this region north of the Ohio River then formed apart of the Province of Quebec. It was a wilderness of forests and prairies, teeming with game, and inhabited by many warlike tribes of Indians."


From 1776 onward, the British commander of the garrison at Detroit, Hamilton, encouraged the Indian nations of the Northwest Territory to wage war against the American settlers of Kentucky. Bounty was paid for scalps brought back as trophies. Proof that a settler had been killed.

This challenge and attacks upon the American settlers was answered by the inspired leadership of George Rogers Clark. Empowered to lead an expeditionary force to defeat the British garrisons with the Northwest Territory, Clark made ready and put his plans into fruition.

In 1778, the then GENERAL George Rogers Clark [at the age of TWENTY SIX!!] led his expeditionary party of about two hundred frontier militia on a campaign that had as it's goal the defeat of British forces in the Northwest Territory. A campaign that succeeded in a manner that could not have been anticipated. A successful campaign that had dramatic consequences.

"As George Rogers Clark pushed onward through British territory, he succeeded in capturing the forts at Vincennes, Cascaskia, and Cahokia, winning control of the Northwest Territory and doubling the size of the newly forming United States of America. All of this was accomplished without the loss of one man. In fact, it has been theorized that if Clark had not been as victorious as he was against the British, the Canadian and U.S. border might have been the Ohio River. Now there is something to think about!!"

These victories of George Rogers Clark are astounding by what seems the relative ease with which the enemy capitulated. [these victories were obtained without losing a man???!!!].

Rather than focus upon the ineptitude of the British, credit should be given to Clark and his men for their daring-do.

Clark and his men were experienced fighters, frontiersmen accustomed to living rough and crossing uncharted territory with ease. Skilled in the use of the weaponry they carried and led by an inspired and skilled commander.

And yet, for a combination of reasons, as has been mentioned before, the name of George Rogers Clark is not well known in American history annals. This should be considered to be an unfortunate oversight.

"Political enemies, the bureaucracy of Virginia, and the indifference of history has robbed George Rogers Clark of his titles and reputation, beggared him of most of his fortune, and has confused him with his brother William of the Lewis and Clark Expedition."

[the quotation between the asterisks is from Theodore Roosevelt's American History].