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

Saturday, January 29, 2005


This is coolbert:

For a fifteen year period beginning in the mid-1960's, the "rogue" nation of Rhodesia faced an insurgency that posed particular dilemmas to the breakaway British colony. Having unilaterally declared independence [UDI] from Britain, the Rhodesian military faced an almost insurmountable problem from various quarters.

A small country, not wealthy, having resources albeit of a limited nature, the white minority regime of Rhodesia attempted to quell for over a decade an insurgency that seemed to have every advantage in the world.

Insurgents far outnumbering the government forces, having sophisticated communist mentors, an abundance of small arms and associated munitions, and safe haven in neighboring black ruled African countries, seemed to be headed to an easy victory over the pariah nation of Rhodesia.

This easy victory was just not to be.

The white Rhodesians did have leadership that did not balk at taking measures they saw fit to defeat the insurgents. The white population was motivated, and determined to defeat what they saw as "red communism" [Robert Mugabe, leading one of the factions opposing the white minority regime of Rhodesia, WAS and IS a communist!].

The Rhodesians demonstrated that IT IS possible for a small nation to successfully wage war against an enemy that is numerically superior. An enemy that SEEMS to have every advantage. The Rhodesian military fought an inspired, intelligent, and ruthless campaign to defeat the insurgents. In this they were ultimately unsuccessful. But they did hold out for fifteen years. And gave a good account of themselves.

During that fifteen year insurgency, the Rhodesians faced some obstacles that at first must have seemed to be insurmountable for a nation lacking international support of any kind.

One such obstacle was the use of land mines by the insurgents. Land mines that were spread by the insurgents [referred to as the terrs [terrorists]], in abundance. The insurgents were supplied an almost unlimited number of land mines by their communist allies. The road system in the agricultural areas of Rhodesia being primarily hard packed dirt, land mines that proliferated like weeds became perhaps the favorite weapon of the terrs.

To combat the line mine threat, the Rhodesians were resourceful and imaginative. Careful study of the problem and possible solutions DID allow the Rhodesian military to come up with innovative methods to counter the land mine threat.

One solution was the "Hippo" personnel carrier. A unique vehicle among the militaries of the world. A troop-carrying vehicle that provided for road and cross-country travel across rough terrain while affording protection from land mines.

It can been seen from the construction of the "Hippo" that a lot of thought was put into the design of this troop carrier. Among the features of the "Hippo" are features that in part would mitigate a land mine explosion. The "Hippo" included:

High ground clearance.

Large, wide, oversize tires.

A cab with accommodation for the driver only. This cab provided for all-around protection.

A vee-shaped hull that doubled as a water tank.

Passenger seats for two infantry teams of five men each. One team on each side of the vehicle centerline. Passengers facing outward, strapped securely in place during vehicle movement.

That vee-shaped hull in particular had the ability to deflect the blast from a detonated mine outwards and away from the vehicle. Water stored in the tank directly above the vee-shaped hull would further cushion the land mine detonation and protect the troops seated above. Operating in arid regions, the water tank not only helped to protect against land mine blast, but provided an abundance of water for the troops as well.

High-ground clearance, oversize, wide tires, a protected cab for the driver, and a souped-up engine allowed for cross-country movement in rough terrain. Each convoy of "Hippos" was reputed to have a vehicle accompanying the convoy carrying nothing but spare tires. Such was the rough nature of the terrain Rhodesian infantry operated in [the bush].

Another vehicle developed by the Rhodesians to combat the land mine problem was the "pookie".

The "pookie" was another unique vehicle that was put to good use to detect and detonate land mines. See a web site where the "pookie" is shown by clicking here. [This site has some other interesting features. Looking at the photos, there is one snapshot [caption is "The Pookie At War"] that shows a Russian T-34 tank in operation. This tank evidently has been captured by the Rhodesian from someone and has been put to use against the previous owners. You may recall that I have previously blogged concerning the T-34. First designed in 1934, that tank was still being used in southern African in the mid-1970's!!!].

The "pookie" DID work. DID it's job and in a fine fashion. Nations such as Rhodesia, using their initiative and resourcefulness, can come up with military solutions that are innovative and DO WORK [another such small nation is of course Israel]!!!

Go here to see a web site that shows a modern day refurbished version of the "pookie"!! This "thing" is still going and doing it's job!!

Like I have said in many previous blog entries, sometimes the old ways are the best ways. And sometimes the not so old ways are the best ways. What is the U.S. Army using now in the effort to clear roadsides in Iraq of improvised explosive demolitions [IED]?? A vehicle that looks similar to the "pookie". What appears to be an engineering road grader has been modified to clear IED from roadsides in Iraq. Has the apparatus on it for such clearing, and what appears to be an armored cab for the driver.

And of course, Hans [Waggemueller] the German SS officer who supposedly commanded the German SS battalion in Indo-China has to have the final say on mine clearing vehicles. Evidently the Germans under Hans DID encounter a similar situation to what the U.S. is now facing in Iraq. And DID have innovative solutions to the problem. Regarding convoys his battalion ran during the first Indo-China war:

"The vehicles . . . With an old GMC truck leading the way . . . We fitted the front of the GMC with a pair of heavy steel wheels, in line with the front tires but nine feet ahead. The wheels could be raised or lowered on their hinged mounts by the front pulley. They were ordinary transmission wheels which used to drive the machinery of an old mill; heavy enough to detonate pressure mines yet sufficiently solid not to break easily but rather to lift upward should a charge explode under them. Curved steel plates and inch thick shielded the driving compartment and the tires from fragments . . . Defense against command-detonated mines was not easy . . . We devised a primitive contraption, a sort of narrow-bladed, sturdy hoe which the GMC dragged along the roadside to pick up the wires of such command detonated mines. A swivel socket with springs prevented the hoe from breaking when it caught a root or a stone."

There is no easy answer to land mines period. The problem CAN be addressed. But imagination and initiative are needed. And bring some mechanical skills too.

[personal note: I would venture that the Rhodesians had a lot of people that were experienced at farming and knew farm equipment and the repair and modification of same thereof. Such people could put contraptions together using their ability to modify and keep going old farm equipment. Such people are good at tractor pulls, chunkin-pumpkin shoots and the like. People with just good old fashioned practical knowledge].


Thursday, January 27, 2005


This is coolbert:

In the eyes of some observers, China has been a rather powerful, but generally historically speaking, peaceful, even benevolent power. NOT an aggressive, warlike nation. It has been said of China, "it is fortunate that China is such a peaceful nation, otherwise it could conquer the world!!"

This has not always been the case!

Several books from antiquity written by Chinese authors demonstrate that the Chinese have had a long experience with war and the art of successfully waging war. And entire philosophy of war that is profound.

The book, "The Art of War", by Sun Tzu, is generally accepted to have been written around 500 B.C. Any commentator, writer, historian of military affairs MUST be familiar with this book. Quotations from this work are bandied about freely and liberally by the knowledgeable [sometimes the NOT so knowledgeable].

According to Joseph Campbell, 500 B.C. occurs within the period in Chinese history referred to as Early and Middle Chou [pronounced "Joe"]: 1027-480 B.C. More specifically, the period from 771-480 B.C. is called the Period of the Great Protectors. This was, according to Campbell, "The Chinese age of disintegrating feudalism and the rise of contending princely states".

Subsequent to 480 B.C. occurs what is called the Late Chou Period, which lasted until 221 B.C. This is also called the Period of the Warring States. This period culminated in the unification of China under the Chin Dynasty. The word China of course comes from the name Chin.

As has been mentioned in a previous blog entry, during the Chin Dynasty, China was an expansionist, aggressive, imperialistic power. Dominion over territories to the far west, as far as Lake Balkash, was established by the Chin. [the same thing occurred during the Tang Dynasty also].

The Chin, according to Campbell, "established the first Chinese military empire, build the Great Wall, burned the books of the philosophers, and initiated in grand style that politics of despotism - - alternately barefaced and masked - - which has been the vehicle of Heaven's Mandate in the Middle Kingdom [the Chinese like to refer to themselves as "Celestials", occupying an abode half way between heaven and earth, all others being barbarians] ever since."

During this time, another book was written in China, "The Book of the Lord Shang", which demonstrates that "China too . . . has a background for power politics in it's own past".

According to this book:

"If a country is strong and does not make war, . . . there will be villainy within and the Six Maggots, which are, to wit: rites and music, poetry and history; the cultivation of goodness, integrity; kindness and morality; detraction of warfare and shame at taking part in it. In a country that has these twelve things, the ruler will not be able to make people farm and fight, with the result that he will become impoverished and his territory diminish. Therefore, I would have people told that if they want gain, it is only by plowing that they can get it; if they fear harm, it will only be by fighting that they can escape . . . If things are done that the enemy would be ashamed to do, there is an advantage."

Heavy stuff indeed. This book, along with Sun's, demonstrates that a whole philosophy of warmaking did exist in China, even in antiquity. The "Book of the Lord Shang" describes, albeit, a philosophy moderns would discern as being ruthless and cynical. Power politics as understood by moderns.

It is reputed that Mao saw himself as fulfilling the role of a latter day Chin Emperor. Restoring China to greatness. Fulfilling a mandate [through communism and world-wide revolution] "ordained" not by GOD, but by the works of Marx and Engel's. [Mao's Little Red Book seems to contain a lot of paraphrasing of Sun's comments on war. This would seem to suggest that Mao was familiar with and had read "The Art of War". Had Mao also read "The Book of the Lord Shang"?? Not sure. Shang can be translated as "sage" or wisdom. Mao was never one to NOT think of himself as lacking in sageness or wisdom. Perhaps Mao was influenced by this book as well?].

"If things are done that the enemy would be ashamed to do, there is an advantage."

Concerning the above quote from the "Book of the Lord Shang". Contrast with this quote:

"We must be prepared to use techniques and methods that even our enemies shrink from using!!" [J.Edgar Hoover, commenting on the communist menace to the U.S. and how American can defend itself against same].



Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Warmonger II.

This is coolbert:

 America the Warmonger II?

Again, among some foreign and domestic observers, the U.S. appears to be an imperialistic, expansionist, warlike, aggressive world power. Much more so than other nations around the world. America is equated to the strongest and most dominant world power since Imperial Rome, two thousand years ago. A nation more to be feared than respected!

Is this assertion true??

It is undeniably true that the U.S., in it's history if over two hundred years now, has fought more than it's share of wars. Five major wars in the twentieth century alone!! And counting expeditionary forces, punitive interventions, etc., the U.S. has engaged in something like two hundred instances of military action, at home and abroad!! [this is in all likelihood counting military actions against the various American Indian nations].

Taking ONLY the above into consideration, it would appear that America is a VERY militaristic nation, akin to Imperial Rome. Currently the ONLY nation in the world that can PROJECT military power to all parts of the world, seemingly at whim.

Other considerations however, HAVE to be taken into account when evaluating whether the U.S. is indeed or not a militaristic world power in the manner of ancient Rome.

Four times in it's history, the U.S. HAS been the dominant military power in the world. And four times the U.S. HAS unilaterally disarmed.

And done so without external prompting.

At the end of the American Civil War [1865], the Union forces were the most powerful military force on the planet.

Put together that proper combination of ground and naval forces unequalled among the world's powers.

Also lavishly equipped by the newly acquired industrial might of the northern states.

 In the aftermath of the war, however, America disarmed. [the entire U.S. Army at the time of the American Indian fighting wars numbered about 10,000 men].

[personal note: The U.S. military has always tended to have a balanced fighting force. That correct combination of ground, naval, and now air forces that make it an efficient and effective fighting force. Some nations may have had at one time a larger naval force [Britain], and other nations may have had a larger ground force [Russia], but the U.S. put together the most powerful military in totality, taking into account ground, naval and most recently air forces].

At the end of World War One [WW1, 1918], the U.S. once again found itself having the most powerful military in the world.

A military once again possessing the proper combination of ground and naval force.

Again, lavishly equipped.

A military backed up by the now MOST powerful industrial base on the planet.

A military not decimated by four years of previous attrition war as practiced by the European powers.

In the aftermath of the war, however, the American military disarmed. [at the time of the start of WW2, the American Army [100,000 men] was sixteenth in size among the world's powers, trailing even Romania].

At the end of World War Two [WW2, 1945], the U.S. again found itself having the most dominant and powerful military of all nations on the planet. Again, as before, that proper combination of ground, naval, and now air force, all lavishly equipped, and SOLELY possessing atomic weaponry. Not only the most militarily powerful, but also possessing the most powerful, by far, economic, financial, cultural, and influential society on the planet. In the aftermath of the war, however, America disarmed. [at the beginning of the Korean War, the U.S. military had only one infantry division and one air wing deemed capable of being rated combat ready!!].

At the end of the "Cold War" [1990], the United States emerged again, after a forty-five struggle with the Soviet Union, as the sole dominant military power on the planet.

That correct combination of as usual, lavishly equipped ground, naval, air force, and atomic weaponry made the U.S. military way and ahead of all other world powers or combinations of world powers.

Societal the U.S. is also dominant in a manner that no other power has been since Rome, two thousand years ago.

And dominant world-wide!! In the aftermath of the Cold War, however, America disarmed. Ground forces have been cut in half. As have naval forces. And a plan has been devised and has being implemented for some time now to cut atomic weaponry by over 95 %!! From a stockpiled arsenal of something like over 30,000 nuclear warheads [mid-1960's, tactical and strategic], the goal is to decrease the atomic arsenal until about 1,000 warheads will be on hand. This should be considered to be extraordinary!!

I am sure skeptics will say that disarmament proves nothing. That the U.S., due to a variety of constraints, MUST disarm, whether the U.S. ruling elite wants to do so or not. That unilateral disarmament on four occasions IS NOT a sign of altruism and good will and peaceful intentions. And the skeptics do have reasonable arguments. It may be that technological advancements and budgetary restraints render a large, bloated military, armed with a profusion of nuclear weaponry just not desirable or necessary.

Nonetheless, these clear and consistent patterns of disarmament on four occasions over a long historical period is surely an indication of peaceful intentions. World powers with aggressive, warlike, expansionist designs do NOT behave in this fashion! Obviously the U.S. IS the world's dominant military power, and will be for some time to come [primarily by default]. But, aggressive, warlike, expansionist?? NO!!


Tuesday, January 25, 2005


This is coolbert:

Here are interesting extracts from another web site with my comments [in bold as usual] concerning some of the practices of warfare engaged in by the ancient Greek city-states.

I have discussed some of these practices in previous blog entries.

The ancients did have highly developed thoughts concerning warfare.

Thoughts that were nuanced and had sophistication we only usually associate with the modern era.

"The constant threat of attack from the mainland or other quarters, in combination with the wariness towards fellow lowland states, and the necessity to maintain a high state of competitiveness in many matters, eventually brought about a surprising system of competition-cooperation between most of the city-states of the peninsula. For instance, every state would tend to all the wounded or ill found on their own territory after a battle, friend and foe alike, and return significantly injured/ill enemy soldiers to their home country at the earliest opportunity . . . No side would knowingly interfere in the care of sick or injured soldiers. For example, a troop of soldiers might pass through an enemy hospital camp on their way to battle, but not harass or threaten anyone in the camp at all along the way.

Teachers, tradesmen, physicians, women, children, slaves, and pack animals enjoy safe passage through areas of conflict (though the normal taxes or fees of peacetime passage could still be demanded, and from time to time mistakes did occur-- but there were stiff punishments for knowingly harming these entities)."

This is most interesting. War is not activity where the rule is that there are no rules. Even the ancients realized this and took this into account with rules, laws, protocols, etc. Wounded honorable enemy were treated with respect. Inviolate for the most part. And punishments were meted out for breaking the rules. American forces did treat captured, injured communist soldiers in Korea with decency. Japanese forces in World War Two [WW2] on numerous occasions attacked in a deliberate manner hospitals, killing with relish wounded enemy. In some cases the moderns emulate the ancients, in some cases they do not.

"Another unusual aspect of cooperation/competition between the city-states is multi-modal war. That is, distinctly different classes of overt conflict."

Multi-modal war is akin to the war/peace polar opposite sliding scale continuum that was mentioned in another blog entry. Even the ancients were aware of this concept and did practice it!!

"All-out war is a classification 20th century humanity would recognize. But this level of war among the lowlands state is most often declared against external threats rather than neighboring lowland states. For instance, all-out war is typically used only against the mainland.

The methods and consequences of all out war are of course much like what 20th century humanity would expect: the single rule that there are no rules, and winner take all."

This would be usually all-out war with external powers, not within the framework of the Greek-city states. NOT a contradiction when compared to my previous statement that IT IS not the case that in war the only rule is that there are NO rules!!

"Sport-war by contrast is almost like a Greek Olympics competition involving good fractions of entire armies wielding non-lethal weapons or even bare hands, in a test largely of stamina, strategy, and luck on the part of the opposing teams. The prizes of sport-war are pay offs from related gambling pools, bragging rights, and sometimes a special trophy of some sort, very similar to sporting events involving far smaller teams in the 20th century. Sport-war is engaged in frequently and easily, as it's fun and usually not much more dangerous than skiing or football will be for 20th century US Americans (i.e. isolated fatalities, occasional broken limbs, lots of sprains, bruises and cuts). It's also good exercise and practice for the troops involved, in manuevers and hand-to-hand combat.

Sort of sounds like baggattaway, doesn't it??!! NO, IT IS the same as baggattaway!!

"A more serious form of sport-war is trade-war, where some trade argument which cannot be settled in any other way is resolved as a result of the two city-states pitting perhaps half their respective armies against one another in a larger, grander version of the Sport-war, once suitable prizes have been established by the negotiation teams."

Peaceful co-existence with economic competition. [Japan and the U.S.].

"Freedom and citizenship offers many privileges; but serving in military actions is one of the costs for those privileges. All men of normal physical capacities are required to serve as soldiers between the ages of 14 and 21 in most of the city-states."

The American public rates military service as being the highest expression of a citizen's duties. In order of importance, military service, jury duty, voting.

"There are ways families can avoid their sons' recruitments, but those too are potentially costly in one way or another."

During the American Civil War, in the North, wealthy persons could buy their way out of military service by having a person take their place on the battlefield. This was possible.

"Of course, you could buy your way out of the draft. Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., did it, as I told you. A guy named Grover Cleveland did it. You could pay $300 bucks to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue."

But there was a hidden cost. This practice was legal, but had consequences in that it became a less than honorable practice, legal or not.

"Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., was a draft dodger; he bought a substitute. Perhaps that’s why Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., overcompensated just a wee bit."

A family name might become besmirched by those taking advantage of this "legality".


Monday, January 24, 2005

Warmonger I

This is coolbert:

America the warmonger!

In the eyes of observers foreign and domestic, America seems to be a nation that presents itself to the world as being aggressive, warlike, and being in a constant state of "war or rumors of war".

Is this a fair characterization??

One observation that has been made of America is that ten men that became U.S. Presidents have held the rank of General officer in the U.S. military. This is cited as being evidence that American voters have an affinity for electing a military man as head of the country.

Is this observation valid?

Well, it is true that ten men that have ascended to the office of President were at one time or another General officers in the U.S. military. Presidents Washington, William Harrison, Jackson, Taylor, Pierce, Grant, Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, Arthur, and Eisenhower all held the rank of General prior to becoming U.S. President.

This is about one quarter of the men that have been elected to the Presidency. [Ten out of forty two to date].

Some things need to be clarified regarding the office of President of the U.S.

The Presidency is an EXECUTIVE position.

The U.S. government is an executive form of government, in contrast to the parliamentary system followed in many parts of the world.

The President by design is a man who executes the laws, AND at the same time, is Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces of the U.S. A leader!!

Experience as a general officer [an executive position??] in the military would have to be regarded as a plus when voters give consideration as to whom to elect as President.

The President, as head of one of the three branches of the U.S. government, is beholden to the entire populace, just as a general would be beholden to the entire force of troops serving under him.

A man running for the Presidency having already served as a general officer has demonstrated executive ability, leadership, and of course possesses a knowledge of the military, a knowledge that MUST be considered to be again a big plus for a man assuming the duties as CIVILIAN commander-in-chief.

The President also acts as Head of State. And important consideration when dealing with foreign powers.

American Presidents that have previously served as a general officer CAN be placed into discrete distinct categories. Categories that reflect the era of the time within which they lived and served.

George Washington is undeniably in a category all by himself. I do not think that any reputable historian would disagree that without the military leadership of Washington, there would JUST NOT be a United States today. And Washington the democrat as President DID establish and set a tone of behavior for Presidents that is followed and emulated to THIS DAY!!

William Harrison, Andrew Jackson, and Zachary Taylor WERE professional military men who did ascend to the position of President. Franklin Pierce, while having served as a general officer during the Mexican-American War, did so in the capacity as a MILITIA GENERAL, not as a professional military man. These were men that seemed to transcend the sectionalism [North vs. South] so prevalent in the U.S. during the period between the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

Grant, Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, and Arthur all served as general officers during the American Civil War.

Again, as with Pierce, not as professionals, but as men called to service during a time of conflict.

Grant was a West Point grad, but had a decade long civilian hiatus between the end of the Mex-American War and the start of the American Civil War.

Garfield and Harrison were combat commanders of state militias and Arthur, while having the rank of general, served as a QUARTERMASTER, procuring supplies and war materials for the New York state militias.

These were men who in the most MARKED fashion, at least in the case of Grant, Harrison, and Garfield, were willing to put their bodies where their mouths were. Willing to put their lives at risk on the battlefield for their beliefs. Admirable men!

Arthur, while NOT being a battlefield commander, DID demonstrate executive ability of a high order in his position as quartermaster.

Eisenhower, of course, WAS a professional military man who rose to very high rank. While NOT a combat commander in the traditional sense of the word, Eisenhower was an EXECUTIVE of the most demonstrable ability. A general with outstanding leadership ability. The ONE man, who in the eyes of some, is the ONLY President who truly understood what the military strength of the U.S. relies upon and consists of!!

Somethings should be obvious here.

Since the time of Chester Arthur to the present, just ONE man has ascended from the rank of military general to the Presidency, that being Dwight Eisenhower. For a period of over one hundred years, Eisenhower is the only man to go from general to President. That CANNOT be a sign that America has an affinity for military men as political leaders.

[personal note. Perhaps not since the time of Washington, has ANY MAN has been better prepared or suited for the job of President than Eisenhower!!].

Furthermore, during the Presidency of all ten men that have risen from generalcy to Presidency, NOT ONCE was a major war fought by the U.S. [I am not counting the American Indian wars as a major war for this consideration].

Having a President who was once a general in the military does NOT make for an aggressive, warlike nation seeking and fighting wars. This IS NOT the case. Men serving as Presidents that have previously been general officers are not any more inclined to take the country to war than would any other President. On the contrary.


Saturday, January 22, 2005


This is coolbert:

As was mentioned in a previous blog entry, the U.S. Army, as did it's adversary, did suffer a lot of cold weather injuries during the Korean War.

Especially during the period of December 1950 and January 1951.

Troops were just not prepared for the cold and DID NOT have the right clothing to keep them warm. After this harsh initiation to cold weather warfare, in the period subsequent to the end of the Korean War, the U.S. Army DID a lot of research into proper clothing for troops exposed to extended periods of cold weather.

To me, doing this research at this point in time does seem strange.

For a period of fifty years prior, the U.S. Army had bases and had stationed troops in Alaska.

And officers such as Simon Bolivar Buckner DID a lot of experimentation and research on their own into the problems of winter warfare.

And DID have successes.

And obviously the U.S. Army had observed and should have made the proper judgments based upon the German experience in Russian during the Second World War [WW2].

The Germans DID have a very big learning curve before they were able to master cold weather warfare and even use it to their advantage.

Surely with the "Cold War" at it's height, it MUST have been speculated that U.S. and Soviet troops might confront and fight in a cold weather climate. A cold weather climate that U.S. troops HAD to be prepared for [obviously, in Korea, U.S. troops were not prepared for the cold!!].

"Among U.S. Army and Army Air Force troops, there were over 90,000 cold injuries requiring medical treatment during World War II, and another 10,000 during the Korean War, accounting for 10% of all casualties experienced during these conflicts. German casualties due to cold injury during World War II were comparable or greater than experienced by the U.S. Army."

U.S. Army research into the cold weather "problem" was based upon and observation that there were two types of cold weather.

A wet cold and a dry cold.

Wet cold is encountered in climates where it gets above freezing during the day and goes below freezing during the night. The cycle is thaw/freeze, with a lot of wetness [such a place would be Korea].

Dry cold is encountered in climates where the temperatures go below freezing and stay below freezing for extended periods of time [months even]. Such a place would be Alaska.

Clothing had to be found that would protect against cold conditions that would vary from place to place around the world. Harsh climates such as Korea where so many U.S. troops suffered from frostbite, trenchfoot, and exposure to the cold made worse by inadequate clothing.

[it should be noted that of all climatic conditions existing on the planet, cold is the one condition man is least biologically prepared for].

"Humans do not acclimatize to cold weather nearly as well as they can acclimatize to hot weather, although repeated cold exposure does produce what is referred to as habituation. Proper training before deploying into cold-weather regions is more important for prevention of cold injuries than repeatedly being exposed to cold temperatures.

Following habituation, shivering is much less vigorous. This is advantageous because shivering is inefficient, and most of the heat produced is lost. Also, shivering can interfere with sleep causing fatigue.

With habituation to repeated cold exposure, humans adjust mentally and emotionally. Training outdoors in cold weather before deployment will help build confidence in soldiers' ability to physically, mentally and emotionally contend with the stress of cold-weather conditions."

Solutions were found to the cold weather problem. 

Wool was found to be the ideal solution. Layers and layers of wool clothing will protect the soldier from cold.

And wool, even when wet, still retains insulating qualities that other materials do not, such as down.

Wool became the material of choice for the soldier operating in the cold.

And an entire ensemble was designed.

Layers and layers of wool clothing completed the ensemble.

And it DID work. Soldiers wearing this ensemble would be warm, even in the wet cold environment.

 But there was a problem with this ensemble.

It became so bulky from all the layers that the soldier, while being warm, was not able to move and perform the normal physical tasks required of the soldier in the field, especially for the infantryman.

Re-design of the ensemble was required, and was done. A better ensemble that did protect the troop in the field from all manner of cold, where ever in the world that troop might have to fight.

Particular attention was paid to cold-weather footwear. From research was developed the "Mickey Mouse" boot. This was a real innovation. Two layers of rubber with wool [felt??] sandwiched between the rubber layers. Kept the foot warm in all cold conditions. A troop only needs to have a pair of dry wool socks on the inside for the warmth.

I think it is of significance that the U.S. Army does recognize that cold weather warfare does require special clothing, equipment, and training.

All officers of the U.S. Army are more or less required to complete one of two courses during their career.

One is the basic parachutist course.

The second is the cold weather warfare training course!! It seems these two courses are an excellent filter mechanism. Those officers that do not have the stamina or the mental wherewithal to complete either one of these two course will just not make good officers and leaders.


Thursday, January 20, 2005


This is coolbert:

At the very end of the Korean war, in 1953, there occurred two prisoner exchanges between the combatant powers.

These were called "Little Switch" and "Big Switch".

Simultaneous repatriation of captured prisoners. At the time many tens of thousands of prisoners were held by U.N. forces, thousands of U.N. troops in turn being held by the communist forces.

And during one of these prisoner exchanges, newsreel photographers captured a spectacle that created somewhat of a world-wide controversy. Somewhat similar in nature to the photos taken of the much more recent Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse.

What was photographed by the newsreel cameras [and shown in movie houses all over the world] was hundreds of communists POW's being repatriated by hobbling on crutches to their own forces. These men, many hundreds of them [up to five hundred at one time] had either one foot amputated, or both feet amputated in many cases. This made for a very sorry spectacle. [anyone seeing this newsreel, including myself, will agree that it does really look bad!!].

And this did create questions world-wide in the minds of all those that saw the newsreel. How was this possible? So much misery! Did the American forces mistreat these people that badly?

The truth of the matter is that these amputations, as severe as they were, were a sign that U.S. Army doctors had not so much mistreated the communist prisoners [I think these were primarily Chinese communist troops], but that they had received such good treatment. These amputations were done TO SAVE the lives of these prisoners, not abuse them.

During the Korean winter of December 1950 and January 1951, very brutal cold temperatures were encountered by U.S. forces.

Obviously for the communists forces as well.

Both sides did NOT provide their troops with footwear adequate for the climate. U.S. troops had a leather boot.

Chinese communist troops were equipped with what can be best described as a low-cut, canvas gym shoe time of footwear [Chinese communist troops were better prepared with the rest of their uniform. Mittens, padded down filled pants and coats, and a pile type of cap with ear flaps].

Neither form of footwear was adequate for the low temperatures encountered in the bitter, hard fighting of that winter. Troops on BOTH sides suffered terribly from frost bite, trench foot, and just plain FROZEN feet.

American doctors DID have to amputate a LOT of toes and feet of American troops.

And DID the SAME for a LOT more captured communist troops.

Given an injured soldier suffering from frost bite, trench foot, or frozen feet, a military doctor will just cut. They do NOT have the time for alternative, sophisticated, long-term care. Alternative care that may or may not be successful. Dead tissue MUST be removed. The alternative for the injured troop is a slow and terrible death. Amputation MUST be done. This is what happened to all those hundreds of communist troops filmed during the repatriation process.


Of course, none of this was made apparent by the newsreel. Persons seeing the newsreel in all probability reacted in an emotional way to the spectacle, not realizing or understanding what exactly they were seeing.

[Wilfred Burchett, an Australian "journalist" and member of the Aussie Communist Party, was very instrumental in presenting this newsreel to the world as "proof" that communist prisoners in Korea being held by American forces were being "mistreated". Burchett himself participated in the interrogation of American POW's during the Korean War and later wrote glowing articles describing the North Vietnamese communists as real "humanitarians"].


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Know Your Enemy II.

This is coolbert:

Without question, there are many thinkers in the Islamic world that have observed the relative weakness of the nations of the Islamic world vis-a-vis the nation of the western cultural entity.

And, as I have said in a previous blog entry, there seems to be two schools of thought in the Islamic world concerning possible solutions to this dilemma that the Islamic nations of the world face.

One school of thought says that this weakness is due to the archaic culture followed by Muslim nations. That to be rivals and equals to the western nations the nations comprising the Muslim world must become MORE like the west. To become successful, it is necessary to discard the ancient mores and adopt and emulate western forms of behavior. Persons such as Ataturk in Turkey and Nasser in Egypt would subscribe to this school of thought.

The second school of thought says that this weakness is due to the nations of the Islamic world being TOO MUCH like the west. According to proponents of this second school of thought, the nations of the Islamic world, to an extent, have adopted western forms of behavior which corrupt them and make them weak. To become great, the world of Islam must be true to itself and it's roots. The Islamic nations are weak, but can become the dominant power in the world IF they go back to the ancient ways, ways ORDAINED by GOD that will allow the Islamic world to thrive and be successful. Adherents to this second school of thought are called the "revivalists".

Click here to see an entire web site about Islamic Revivalism.

I have taken excerpts from this web site I feel highlight the general thought as expressed by a whole host of revivalists [and there are a number of them over the decades and centuries].

The current wave of jihadists, those persons espousing violence against the "west" as a jihad that will bring about, in the long term, eventual Islamic domination of the world, have been greatly influenced by the various revivalists. It is this current group of jihadists that are ascendant in the Islamic world. The thought that Islamic nations can prosper and equal or surpass the west by becoming MORE like the "west" is on the descendancy.

And some interesting observations can be made regarding the revivalists.

These are not wild-eyed frothing-at-the-mouth-fanatics [from time to time it may appear to persons in the west that this is what these persons are, but this would be an exaggeration]. These are for the most part reasoning men that have given a lot of thought to the topic of Islamic weakness and potential solutions.

There IS a continuity of thought existing among the revivalists. Among others, Al-Banna influenced Qutb, who influenced Azzam, who influenced bin Laden. This is just one instance.

Most extreme among the revivalists there is an implacable hatred of the west. A very strong hatred of all things western, even the most mundane and to the westerner innocuous behavior. There is a complete and very STRONG rejection of things western. To the revivalist, the west is not only an enemy, IT IS AN ABOMINATION!!!

My comments to the extracts are of course in bold.

* Deobandi Muslims.

"While Deoband teachings do not advocate overt militancy, they do teach students to distrust other cultures. Deoband teachings, like those of the Wahhabis, are puritanical in tone: they seek to purge Islam of Western and modernist influences and institutions and to establish the Qur'an and Hadith ("sayings" of the Prophet Muhammad) as the sole guiding lights."

These are the Muslims of India. It must be remembered that Islam ruled the Indian sub-continent for about half a millennium. These were the Mughal rulers. Ruled on many occasion in a despotic manner, severely oppressing the Hindu majority. An Islamic minority ruled with a heavy hand over a Hindu majority. We see here the distrust of foreign influence and advocacy of a puritanical way of life.

* Afghanistan's Taliban Movement.

"On April 4, 1996, Mullah Omar appeared on a rooftop in Kandahar dressed in a relic known as the "Cloak of the Prophet Muhammad." . . . Mullah Omar was declaring his claim to rule not just Afghan Muslims but all Muslims."

Omar did not see himself as merely the ruler of a small Islamic sect in a small insignificant part of the world. He DID see himself as the vanguard of a world wide movement. Maybe STILL does?

Abdullah Azzam, 1941-1988.

"Azzam was a militant jihadist who preached that the jihad in Afghanistan was an obligation on all Muslims everywhere. After Afghanistan had been made safe for Islam once more, Muslims would then be duty-bound to carry the jihad into all other lands that had once been Muslim but had fallen away, including Spain (which he referred to by its Muslim name "Andalusia"). Other areas Azzam singled out for jihad were Palestine, Bukhara, Lebanon, Chad, Eritrea, Somalia, the Philippines, Burma, South Yemen, and Tashkent."

Azzam advocates not only jihad in the lesser sense. He advocates the spread of jihad on a world-wide basis and the "recovery" of "lost" Islamic lands. Azzam had a big influence on bin Laden.

* al-Jihad.

"The group's philosophy was based on views contained in a pamphlet written by Farag entitled al-Faridah al Gha'ibah, "The Neglected Duty." The "neglected" duty was jihad, which in this context was narrowly defined as armed battle against apostates from the Islamic faith. The broader interpretation of jihad as spiritual resistance against evil was denounced as a "fabricated tradition" invented to "reduce the value of fighting with the Sword"

This refers to a repudiation of the greater jihad of the Sufi. To advocates of this "philosophy", jihad is strictly jihad. There is not lesser or greater jihad.

* Takfir wa'l-Hijra.

"In Egypt in 1977, members of the Islamist separatist group Takfir wa'l-Hijra
("Condemnation and Migration"), also known as the "Society of Muslims," attacked night clubs in Cairo."

This is reminiscent of the attack on the "western" nightclub in Bali, where over two hundred "westerners", mostly Australians, were murdered. The stimulus here is the hate of sexes mixing, dancing, consuming alcohol, having fun TOGETHER.

* Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, 1902-1989.

"Ruhollah's education reflected a strong Persian dualist outlook on the world: a
tendency to draw sharp boundaries between the worlds of light and darkness, between black and white, between haq ("truth") and batel ("falsehood"). This approach to the world, under girded by a traditional Iranian Shia conviction that the world is unsafe for Shiites, that neither the Prophet Muhammad, his family, nor any of the twelve Shia imams died a natural death ("We are either poisoned or killed."), contributed to the construction within Khomeini of the uncompromising personality of one who feels relentlessly persecuted."

Nobody ever said Ruhollah ever had a low opinion of himself. This mentality contributes to what is commonly referred to as "megalomaniacs disease". Dictators who have a very high opinion of themselves are led to all sorts of excesses, excesses sometimes very much regretted later by their followers.

* Sayyid Abu'l-A'la Mawdudi, 1903-1979.

"Mawdudi concluded that diversity was the culprit: the centuries old practice of interfaith mixing had weakened and watered down Muslim thought and practice in that region of India. The solution was to purge Islam of all alien elements . . . Islam seeks the world. It is not satisfied by a piece of land but demands the whole universe...Islamic Jihad is at the same time offensive and defensive...The Islamic party does not hesitate to utilize the means of war to implement its goal."

"Mawdudi's goal was to wage jihad until the whole natural universe has been brought under the rule of Islam. He wrote: Islam wants the whole earth and does not content itself with only a part thereof. It wants and requires the entire inhabited world."

From this we can see that the Muslim fanatic is not concerned with a piece of land for the Palestinians. Nor is the jihadi concerned with American troops "defiling" the holy places of Islam. Islam desires to bring the ENTIRE WORLD and it's populace under it's domination. To the jihadi, this MUST be so. Jihad again is the "lesser" form. Again, to the jihadi, there is NO lesser and greater form, there is merely the militant form.

* Sayyid Qutb.

"It is necessary for the new leadership to preserve and develop the material fruits of the creative genius of Europe, and also to provide mankind with such high ideals and values as have so far remained undiscovered by mankind, and which will also acquaint humanity with a way of life which is harmonious with human nature, which positive and constructive, and which is practicable. Islam is the only system which possesses these values and this way of life."

An incident from Qutb's life is evocative of how the jihadi advocate sees the west in a manner that to the westerner is ABSURD. While studying the American educational system in the late 1940's Qutb, then in his forties, observed a sock-hop, a dance for teenage boys and girls, where the couples danced together while the lights of the dance floor were turned down low. This was extremely offensive to Qutb. So much so that this incident left a marked impression upon him. Keep in mind the nightclub attacks of the jihadists in Cairo and Bali. Once again, the sexes mingling and having fun is extremely offensive to the jihadist.

* Hasan al-Banna.

"One of the ways al-Banna himself contributed to the Brothers' reputation for violence was by teaching a more activist version of jihad, giving primacy to the minor jihad (fighting) over the major jihad (the inner spiritual struggle against evil)."

Again, greater jihad is totally rejected and lesser jihad chosen as the WAY.

* Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami ("HT").

"HT has been influenced by the Wahhabis uncompromising opposition to Shiism and to Sufism. But, HT differs from the Wahhabis in that it seeks to bring about change peacefully while the Wahhabis emphasize militant jihad."

Uncompromising opposition to the Sufi. The Sufi or course are the ones who primarily originated the concept of "greater" jihad. Peaceful, not violent. These HT are peaceful now, violent tomorrow??

* Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani .

"They [the materialists, influenced by the West] are the destroyers of civilization and the corrupters of morals...they are the annihilators of peoples...Their kindness is a ruse, their truthfulness a deceit, their claim to humanity imaginary, and their call to science and knowledge a snare and a forgery."

Westerners and westernism and it's adherents propose ABOMINATION!!

* Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyya, 1263-1328.

"Many twentieth century extremist militant movements have allowed their thought and behavior to be guided by Ibn Taymiyya's classic and literal interpretation of jihad as holy war against all non-Muslim infidels. The command to participate in jihad and the mention of its merits occur innumerable times in the Koran and the Sunna."

Classical and literal interpretation. NOT the greater form. The lesser form. Of course, as I have said repeatedly, the jihadist does not even recognize the lesser and greater form, to them, there is only jihad, the militant warlike form.

* The Wahhabi Movement, Eighteenth Century Arabia.

"Wahhabis in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries went on an uncompromising campaign against Sufis, Shiites, and all others deemed unfaithful to the Wahhabis' strict interpretation of the sunna ("custom") of the Prophet Muhammad. The ways of Muhammad and his community at Medina were the only acceptable models for the Wahhabis, and, all Muslims, in their view, should be compelled to follow them."

This is the form of Islam being exported thanks to petro-dollars to all parts of the world for decades now from Saudi Arabia. A militant form advocating violent jihad and not even recognizing the greater form of the Sufi.

The entire world now finds itself at peril from jihad. Jihad that seeks to combine modern weapons of mass destruction with a motivation of the true believer. Very dangerous!!


Sufi & Jihad.

This is coolbert:

Ever since the outrageous 9/11 attacks on the U.S., there has been an enormous amount of talk concerning the Islamic concept of jihad. "Holy War". To the westerner, this is an oxymoron. A contradiction of words that does not make sense.

Within Islamic circles, the word jihad is of course used and is part of the Koranic holy text. And Muslim advocates [apologists] of "understanding" with the west are quick to point out that there two meanings of the word  jihad.

There is one meaning that is called the lesser jihad. This is type of war that is recognized by the general public as WAR. Two groups, using arms, each trying to impose their will on own another.

There is a second meaning is called the greater jihad. This is not war in the common use of the WAR. This is for the individual Muslim who is striving to achieve moral perfection, to the greatest extent possible, through physical, mental, and spiritual adherence to his beliefs.

So which jihad are the persons that the current anti-terrorist war is being fought against most concerned with? Without a doubt, the lesser jihad. This is war in the sense as Muhammad would have recognized it. Muhammad would not have even understood the term lesser or greater jihad. To use such terms would not have comprehensible to him.

The entire concept of greater jihad only became of use during the time of the Sufis. The Sufis are best described as Islamic mystics. Persons to whom the entire panoply of Islamic ritual is not adequate to bring closeness to and understanding of GOD. The term greater jihad is attributed to the Sufis who existed and flourished many centuries after the death of Muhammad. To read further about the Sufis and their beliefs, click here.

The Sufis are persons that eschewed violence and rather advocated ascetism, contemplation, and rituals to enhance the mystical process. These WERE NOT violent people. Sufi beliefs are not followed by the current wave of Islamic thought, advocated by the followers of Abdul Wahab. Sufi beliefs are anathema to the Wahabbi. A Wahabbi will seek to persecute a Sufi. Wahabbism is the form of Islam as taught in Saudi Arabia. A form of Islam that advocates violence. The war that we see today.

Greater jihad DOES exist, but that is not what we are seeing, we are seeing the lesser form, the violent WAR form.


Saturday, January 15, 2005


This is coolbert:

During the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, a war that lasted from 1945-1990, there was the real constant fear of a the "cold war" becoming a "hot war". And U.S. military planners did see and were dismayed by the Soviet "threat". On paper, the Soviets DID possess more submarines, more tanks, more ICBM's [intercontinental ballistic missiles] with more and more potent nuclear warheads than did the U.S. military forces. The Soviet military WAS a huge and potentially very grave threat to U.S. military forces all over the world.

Of most primary significance to the "western democracies", NATO in particular [led by U.S. commanders and significantly manned by U.S. troops] was the threat of a massive Soviet attack on western Europe [Big Red moves west!!].

All sorts of scenarios were conjured by NATO planners that saw the Soviets launching a conventional attack on western Europe that would have been unstoppable. The preponderance of the Soviet military consisted of ground forces, the Soviet Army. Once again, on paper, the Soviets DID possess a significant and very threatening quantitative edge on the potential battlefield. More tanks, more artillery, more rocket launchers, just more of everything that counted in modern warfare. Some experts commented that all this ground force equipment was to a degree inferior to U.S. equipment. However, in the eyes of most observers, NOT that much inferior to make a marked difference in actual combat.

This threat of a massive Soviet ground attack on western Europe was further exacerbated by some observations made by U.S. planners in the 1970's. Soviet units that would have spearheaded any attack upon NATO were moved into permanent forward bases close to the border between West and East Germany. These units, furthermore, were then equipped with a full thirty day supply of fuel and ammunition at all times. There would not have been any need to prepare these units for combat. The order could have been given to go and these spearhead units would have been able to move and conduct a thirty day campaign without any resupply. This was all very alarming and significant to NATO commanders and planners.

As part of this assessment of the Soviet "threat", manpower considerations were also taken into account. And the Soviet military was seen as being manned by competent, and in some cases very able troops.

Was this true??

From a variety of defectors prior to 1990, and from post-Soviet-era research of independent observers, it can be see that some questions surely should have been raised as to the competency and ability of the Soviet troops of the ground forces. [I am not talking about the troops of the other military branches here. I am talking here strictly about ground force troops. As this was by far the bulk of the Soviet military, this would obviously been of paramount concern to NATO planners].

Accounts of the various defectors seem to suggest that the troops of the Soviet military from top to bottom could be categorized into three groupings.

At the top was a very small, very elite, very powerful number of the top Marshals [commanders of armies, called a front in Soviet parlance] and Soviet Generals. These men indulged themselves in what only be called a sybaritic [pleasure and luxury] lifestyle. A lifestyle that almost no one else in the old Soviet Union could ever hope to achieve. Numbers of private villas [called dachas], private hunting preserves of immense size, accompanied by an entourage of fawning "yes" men [lickspittles], cooks, gardeners, valets, chauffeurs, guards, and young female "entertainers". It was if the nobility of Tsarist Russian was replaced by the most senior officers of the "army of the people". The princes and Grand Dukes of the Tsarist era were now called Marshals and Generals. And this from an army that professed itself to be the savior of "oppressed" people all over the world!

At the bottom would be found the draftees of the Soviet Army.

As one might expect, the conditions endured by the Soviet ground force draftee was in extreme marked contrast to the lifestyle of the Marshals and Generals. The life of a Soviet Army draftee, serving a two year term of enlistment, can best be equated to that of a stockyard animal. Kept in cramped quarters, with little chance to wash and clean oneself, fed a coarse, bland, diet that was barely minimum to ensure sound health, these troops led a life of spartan austere privation.

And the quality of the Soviet Army draftee led much to be desired also, according to the various defectors. We are speaking here about men that had in many cases only a very rudimentary knowledge of the Russian language [Russian was the lingua fraca of the Soviet Army]. In some cases troops could not speak any Russian at all! [Soviet troops needed to know and were taught ten basic commands in Russian.] Educationally the bulk of the troops in the ground forces left much to be desired also. Illiteracy and semi-illiteracy was abundant, instruction in soldiering tasks being carried out at a very basic and low level.

Ethnic tension and hatred did exist among the low ranking draftees. This hatred and tension did from time to time boil over into real pitched battles between ethnic groups [quite often between "Christians" and "Muslims". I am speaking ethnically here]. These battles would often involve thousands of troops on each side, using bare hands, clubs, knives, hatchets, shovels, etc.

These draftees were in most cases ill-disciplined, order having to be maintained by a system of military law that was very harsh, cruel, even sadistic in nature.

Also, among the draftees there existed within the barracks an informal but potent system of what was called "grandfather rule". Troops that had completed their first year of draftee service had instituted an informal system by which they dominated and abused those draftees that were just beginning their two term of service. The American General Odom, a fluent Russian speaker, and former head of the National Security Agency [NSA], describes "grandfather" rule as being akin to fraternity house initiations. I would disagree with this whole heartedly. Descriptions from defectors seem to suggest that it is way too mild to compare the rule of the more senior soldiers over the raw recruits as "frat house hijinks". Again, this "grandfather rule" was very harsh, cruel, even sadistic in nature.

Sandwiched in between these two polar opposite groups were the junior officers of the Soviet Army. Those lieutenants, captains, majors, and colonels who would have led the combat troops into battle. The men that would led the spearhead units to what the Soviets would have expected to be "the victory for world proletariat". These junior officers are said to have been competent, able, dedicated and for the most part professional. Soldiers that knew their tasks. Soldiers also abused by a system that was venal at the top and of low quality at the bottom. Soldiers that after years of experience developed an attitude that can be best described as "jaded".

So, how would the Soviet Army have performed against NATO forces if "Big Red" had moved west?? Surprisingly, those junior officers previously mentioned did feel the Soviet Army would have given a good account of itself. Even with all the personnel drawbacks inherent in the Soviet system, the Soviet Army, due to sheer mass primarily, would have posed a serious problem for NATO to contain.

[One has to wonder about this self-appraisal of the Soviet Army. The Soviet performance in Afghanistan left MUCH to be desired. Especially among the draftee ground force units. Soviet units such as airborne units, air assault, and special purpose [Spetsnaz], did acquit themselves well. Run-of-the-mill ground force units, however, not so well. One thing the Afghan guerilla fighters came to notice was that when ambushing Soviet units, the officers of the ambushed unit tended to bunch together in one group, the draftee private soldiers in another group. This demonstrates a serious lack of confidence on the part of both officers and enlisted and a total absence of unit cohesion. When Custer and his men were annihilated at the Little Bighorn, the officers were found laying in one group, the remaining enlisted troops in another group, demonstrating that in that instance too, unit cohesion had broken down under severe stress].

[The performance of the Russian Army in both Chechen Wars also leaves much to be desired. Frustration with an inability to bring to grips the Chechen fighters has been a source of great embarrassment to the Russians. Many atrocities are purported to have been committed by undisciplined troops, officers and enlisted both].



Sunday, January 09, 2005


This is coolbert:

Here is an excerpt from the book "War On The Eastern Front". By James Lucas. I have mentioned this book before and recommend it highly to all readers of military history. One of the best books written in the field. Period.

This particular excerpt deals with three topics I have blogged about before.

How very young persons sometimes excel at war. Excel in a manner unexpected for a person of such young age.

How men-a-foot [infantry] can fight and defeat tank forces, if properly equipped, trained, motivated and led.

How suicide can be and is used by soldiers who find themselves in an impossible and desperate situation.

According to Lucas:

[describing here the actions of a unit of German antitank infantry at the end of World War Two [WW2].

"To overcome the shortage of trained infantrymen and adequate weapons . . . more and more use was made of small groups of dedicated, hard, and skillful men . . . this assault company into a para-commando and then into an anti-tank company [DORA II] . . . a group of determined tank hunters, individual destroyers of enemy machines who went out with hollow charges [shaped charges] and other close combat weapons to launch themselves at the Soviet vehicles, to clamber onto the moving machines and to plant their explosive charge firmly . . . soldiers who . . . carried out this type of dangerous mission were men of long experience and years of combat on the Eastern Front . . . led by Untersturmfuhrer Porsch. Born in 1924, he had joined the Waffen SS in 1941 [age 17] and before he was nineteen years of age was a Company Commander [!!!] . . .visible emblems of his bravery . . . no fewer than four tank destruction badges . . . . A Red tank squadron charged . . . Porsch named his men, allotted to them the tank they were to destroy . . . On one side the human with his explosive charge or rocket launcher . . . on the other side, an opponent heavily armored and strongly armed . . . The company scored it's 100th kill and Porsch his twelfth and thirteenth victim . . . The company continued to score victories. The 125th victim was gained and Porsch destroyed his seventeenth . . . One SS man, his legs shattered by bomb blast, bade his comrades goodbye and blew his life away with a hand grenade . . . and, in another shell hole, two more badly wounded men ended their lives by committing suicide . . . A quick check among the SS men showed that only one round of ammunition remained. It's owner shook hands with the survivors of the little group for the last time, raised a pistol to his temple and fired . . . "

All these events occurring in 1945, this meant that the commander of the SS unit, Porsch, was twenty one years old, and had been a company commander for two years already at the time!! Porsch alone accounted for seventeen victories, destroying an enemy tank on each occasion. This is a super-human effort engendered by the most desperate of circumstances. And it proved to be all for nought also.

This company of Porsch's were men trained to use a variety of weapons, the panzerfaust [shaped charge anti-tank weapon], anti-tank mines, satchel charges and flame weapons to destroy enemy tanks.

Click here to see an excellent web site that deals with the German anti-tank weapons wielded by Germans troops.

All these weapons being used at very close range.

Those panzerfaust anti-tank weapons were probably not very accurate at a range in excess of fifty yards!! You had to wait until the tank was more less right upon you before firing and hoping for some degree of success.

With satchel charges, other forms of demolitions, and anti-tank mines you would have to approach the tank until your could more or less reach out and touch the beast. The tank could be destroyed, but only with the greatest danger to yourself, the anti-tank trooper.

As for suicide, rather than being captured or enduring pain and privation, mutilation and torture at the hands of the Red Army troops, it is clear that the SS men preferred a quick death at their own hands. For the SS men, suicide was an option. And used!!


Friday, January 07, 2005


This is coolbert:

Ever since warfare has existed, suicide has been a constant companion of the soldier and warrior.

Done for a variety of reasons over the millenniums.

A previous blog entry has mentioned incidents of mass suicide as evidenced by the actions of the Balinese [paputan] and the zealots at Masada.

These mass suicides were a response to an irredeemable and irrevocable situation. A means for the persons committing suicide to defeat their foes in death and show contempt at the same time. The dead are saying to their foes, "we die, but we do not surrender. We have contempt for you and death and do not fear either!!"

Suicide in some cultures has been a means for soldiers or warriors to atone for failure.

After the defeat and annihilation of three Roman legions at the Teutoberger Wald, Varus, the Roman official who ordered the rash and ill-conceived expedition in the first place, committed suicide. Varus's head was cut off by the German tribesmen who sent it back to Augustus as a macabre souvenir. It must have been that Augustus felt that honor had been maintained by Varus killing himself, as Varus's head was suitably entombed, with dignity.

Among the Japanese samurai, the practice of suicide has always been a part of their highly developed code of honor. Failure must be atoned for!

The Japanese Kabuki play "Forty Seven Ronin" [this play is reputed to be based upon a real incident], has as it's climax the ritual suicide of the forty seven samurai who have avenged the assassination of their master. These samurai, having first failed in their mission of protecting their master from assassination, having then sought and obtained vengeance, proceeded to expiate their guilt by mass suicide. The samurai ideal was maintained in this manner.

Even among the Japanese military of World War Two [WW2], suicide as a means to atone for failure was a common, seemingly obligatory practice. The two Japanese commanders on Okinawa in 1945, when cornered and realizing that the battle for the island was lost, blew themselves up with hand grenades placed to the head [one of these two generals was General Cho, who presided over the "Rape of Nanking"]. It was normal during WW2 for Japanese high and low ranking soldiers [sometimes in large numbers [Tarawa]] to commit suicide in this fashion when finding themselves in a hopeless position.

[suicide has also been practiced as a way of accompanying to the after life a leader who has just died. At the exact moment of the burial [cremation?] of the Japanese Meiji Emperor, General Count Nogi, hero of the Russo-Japanese war, and his wife, both committed suicide in deference and honor to the fallen Emperor, and in their belief system, as a means of following the recently fallen leader to "the other world"].

Among the plains Indians of North America, the ritual death of "tying of the thong" was considered to be the highest expression of a warrior's bravery and courage.

For whatever combination of reasons, when an American Indian warrior of the high plains of North America wanted to display "suicidal" courage [indeed, this was a form of suicide, and cannot be counted as anything but], he would singly enter the camp of an enemy, drive a stake into the ground, tie a leather thong to one end of the stake and the other end to his ankle. This would preclude any attempt to flee. This warrior, once tethered, would fight it out with his enemies unto death, death for the lone warrior being the only outcome. Can this be considered to be anything but suicide??!! I think not.

Suicide has been used from time to time as a means of inflicting very heavy casualties on your adversary.

The archetype in this regard is the Japanese kamikaze of WW2. Flying bomb-laden aircraft into an American warship, the kamikaze DID inflict very heavy casualties upon the American Navy, especially in the last days of WW2 in the Pacific. This was albeit at great cost to the attacker, only a small percentage of the suicidal Japanese kamikazes being able to penetrate American air defenses and successfully dive their aircraft onto an American ship.

The Palestinian and Islamic suicide bombers of the modern era seek to emulate the Japanese kamikazes.

Several things need to be said about this purported emulation.

The Japanese were military men fighting other military men in open combat.

The Palestinians and Islamic [P & I] suicide bombers for the most part attack civilian targets. Persons not able to respond or react appropriately. Surreptitious methods are employed by the Palestinian suicide bombers. Depraved methods are employed by the Palestinian suicide bombers. Civilian targets, use of poison, wanton implementation of weaponry intended to cause unnecessary suffering. These Palestinian suicide bombers are correctly labeled as "terrorists". Palestinian suicide bombers, regardless of what THEY think, are not in the same league as the kamikaze. Period.

For the Japanese, one can have respect. For the Palestinian suicide bomber, no respect.

The method of using suicide to inflict casualties upon your adversary indicates a position of desperation, and should be recognized as such. You, the suicide bomber, are saying, whether you realize it or not, "We are weak and relatively powerless against our foe. The normal methods of war do not suffice. We cannot defeat our enemy using conventional methods. We must resort to suicide as weapon!!"

[it is reported that Jimmy Doolittle [the master of the calculated risk], told his aircrew prior to the raid on Tokyo in 1942 that, "I am forty two years old and have lived my life. If our aircraft is damaged and I see we are going down, I want all of you to bail out. I will then pick out a target of opportunity and crash our damaged B-25 onto the target, taking my life with it!!"]

Suicide on the battlefield is sometimes resorted to by the individual soldier as a means of dealing with a combination of combat related physical privation and mental stress that has driven the individual to what is called the "breaking point". A point has been reached where the individual has been stressed so much that they cannot continue. Further movement forward [more combat] is impossible, and movement backward [desertion or other such alternative] is impossible. Suicide may seem to be the only viable alternative.

Suicide is accomplished in a variety of ways by the suicidal individual soldier:

The suicidal soldier may take their own life. Using the means readily at hand [assault rifle, hand grenade].

The suicidal soldier may allow the enemy to take his/her life by exposing their own very person to enemy fire on the battlefield.

A sailor may jump off ship, refuse rescue, and drown. [this type of behavior was observed among U.S. Navy personnel enduring kamikaze attacks during the Battle of Okinawa. A certain "breaking point" would be reached where a sailor would leave their battle station and jump off ship, rather than have to face further suicide attacks on the part of the enemy]. [in this specific case, suicide was the response to suicide!!].

Some persons have noticed the alleged high suicide rate [a high rate relative to what, I would ask??] of American troops in Iraq.

The Waffen SS in WW2 also is purported to have suffered from a high suicide rate.

Suicidal response in these cases is more than likely the result of two factors. Factors that produce what can only be described as melancholy [this was the exact term used to describe soldiers who in the aftermath of the American Civil War exhibited symptoms of what is nowadays called "combat fatigue"]. Melancholy that in extreme cases can result in suicide.

One factor is the constant, present, and very real danger of death that is found in the counter-insurgency, urban warfare environment of Iraq. [German Waffen SS troops faced an even more extreme version of danger in THEIR combat environment on the eastern Front of WW2]. Even for those soldiers that emerge unscathed from combat, the constant presence of danger cannot but have a profound effect upon the psyche of even the survivor!!

A second factor would be participating in and witnessing the extreme destruction caused by modern warfare, urban counter-insurgency type of warfare in particular. I am talking here about death and destruction of a nature as recently seen in the fighting in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. A once bustling city of several hundred thousand persons has been reduced to a burned out hull. Inhabited by the dead bodies of enemy "fighters" and a lot of civilians who were foolish enough to NOT flee the fighting in advance. The sight of such an immense amount of destruction and death [bodies of the dead lay decomposing for days or even eaten by feral dogs] CANNOT BUT have a profound impact upon one's mental state. For EVEN the most hardened soldier!

Melancholy caused by exposure to such conditions WILL in some extreme cases lead to suicidal thoughts and suicide itself.

[in the novel "Dr. Zhivago" the Red partisan Pamphil witnesses the aftermath of an attack by "White" forces [anti-communist] upon a village friendly to the "Reds". Inhabitants of the village have been slaughtered and dismembered. Upon seeing this, Pamphil murders his family of small children and then wanders off, presumably to commit suicide. This in response to depression brought out by seeing this atrocity upon persons friendly to his cause. And this from a hard-core revolutionary!!].

[while executing Jews, German Einsatzgruppen [SS men] of WW2 would set up a table nearby the execution site where bottles of schnapps and vodka would be available. In between shooting unfortunates, the shooters would get "plastered". A means of coping and dealing with something they KNEW to be WRONG!!].

Hey, no one said war was fun or easy!!


Sunday, January 02, 2005

Four Square.

This is coolbert:

Physical privation is a constant in the life of a soldier involved in combat. This has been commented about in previous blog entries.

And this privation takes a number of forms.

* Just plain physical exhaustion is of course what immediately comes to mind. Being required to march while carrying a heavy load sometimes for days on end is the usual fate of the combat soldier. Roman legionnaires of two thousand years ago were referred to as "Marius's mules", for instance.

* Exposure to the elements is yet another form of physical privation. Rain, sun, heat, cold, snow, etc. All these may be encountered by the soldier at one time or another. Or met on the battlefield in various combinations. Finding shelter from the elements is sometimes impossible. Rather, the combat soldier may have to endure privation from the elements for long periods of time.

* The soldier may have to go without food or water for extended periods of time, or exist on less than a subsistence diet. Resupply may not be possible for a variety of circumstance. Sometimes the soldier may resort to eating bad food or drinking bad water, both of which can result in debilitating sickness.

* And of course, the soldier may have to endure extended sleep deprivation. Little or no sleep in combat may be the soldier's lot. This may extend for days on end.

As well can be imagined, sleep deprivation has a profound impact on the ability of the soldier to perform with effectiveness. Fatigue from sleep deprivation can of course lead to a lack of alertness. A soldier on guard duty that is not alert and aware of his/her surroundings can lead to catastrophe for a unit.

The U.S. military is keenly aware of this problem and has done some interesting research into sleep deprivation and concepts of "time" that are unusual to the layman.

One such concept is the "chaotic day" consisting of an eighteen hour and sometimes a thirty six hour period. Some of this research was done by placing individuals in caves and isolating them from all stimuli regarding time that is familiar to people. NO clocks or natural occurring cycles of times such as the sun/moon, day/night. More about this eighteen hour "day" later.

Ground and air forces in modern warfare are at the mercy of a tempo of activity that places great stress upon the human body physically, mentally, and allows for little if any sleep necessary to preclude mental fatigue and befuddlement.

Troops of a modern combat unit will be told that they many encounter a scenario where they have to go for days on end without sleep. Active at a pace that is frenetic and exhausting on top of being sleepless.

Even combat support and combat service support troops may be in for a "day" that will consist of twelve hours of duty at their specialty, five hours of guard duty, five hours moving [road march], three hours making and breaking down camp and two hours of eating and attending to bodily functions. That makes for a twenty seven hour "day", with no provision for sleep!!!

This of course, is ABSURD, and makes for a soldier, even if they were able to maintain such a pace, that becomes very inefficient and is debilitated at his/her ability to do the job they must do on the battlefield.

This situation became very acute in the 1970's and the 1980's when it became apparent that NATO forces on any possible central European battlefield would be facing a Soviet opponent that was totally callous in the manner with which they planned to use THEIR troops.

Soviet planners were quite willing to send into combat an infantry division of say 10,000 men that would be committed to combat for three to four days straight without rest, sleep, food, water, or resupply in any manner. Such a unit would attempt to maintain an almost impossible tempo of attack day and night that would result in ghastly but to the Soviets acceptable casualties as long as the objective was met. After three to four days, this unit would simply be drawn out of combat and replaced by a fresh unit. At the end of that time, of the 10,000 Soviet troops originally sent forward, perhaps only 2,000 would be left standing!!

Such a tempo desired by the Soviet would wear down the NATO defenders, outnumbered as they would be from the start. The NATO defenders would NOT be pulled out of the line and replaced by a fresh unit. NO rest would be possible for the defenders. Sleep would NOT be an option. Effectiveness of the defender would diminish greatly.

This increased tempo activity and the desire to conduct continuous military operations does indeed have a profound effect on the tiredness of soldiers, no matter how well conditioned. And of course lack of sleep in addition to physical tiredness of course leads to a befuddled mental state that impairs the ability of combat commanders in particular to make sound decisions.

Demonstrations of befuddlement on the part of combat commanders were evident during field training exercises [FTX] held over many years at the national Training Center [NTC], Ft. Irwin, CA.

These exercises would pit an infantry battalion ending a training cycle in simulated "war games" against a specially trained opposing force, [OPFOR]. This OPFOR could fight as would potential enemies would on the battlefield.

This realistic training, lasting continuously, day and night for seventy two hours, was a severe test of a battalion's ability to perform it's mission. Careers for senior commanders of these battalions could rise or fall depending upon their units performance. Knowing this, battalion commanders, believing they could do so, would attempt to stay awake for three straight days, micro-managing their battalions movement and activity on the simulated but realistic battlefield. THIS THEY COULD NOT DO!! Sleeplessness and fatigue impaired their judgment and erroneous decisions became the rule. Battalion commanders were strongly advised to NOT attempt something so foolhardy as staying awake for three days on end, all the while trying to make crucial decisions. Well thought out pre-arranged plans, delegation of decision making, etc., and getting sleep from time to time was the way to go!!

Different U.S. military services have thought through the sleeplessness and fatigue factor and come up with solutions to the problem. NOT panaceas, but solutions that provide manageable situations.

One such solution is found aboard American submarines, whose crews when submerged do not have the normal stimuli of day/night, sun/moon, work/sleep regimen found in civilian life.

Submarine crews divide the "day" into three six hours shifts. This is done with ease as the normal stimuli present for a "surface dweller" is absent under the ocean. NO sun, NO moon, NO normal routine associated with the twenty four hour clock. All this is designed to make for an efficient crew. A crew devoid of the normal "day" with it's periods of work, sleep, eat, etc.

"Periods of time (that civilians call "days") are DELIBERATELY MANIPULATED using years of submarine experience to MAXIMIZE THE DRILL SCHEDULE. Sleep is NOT the primary consideration. Days don't start and stop with distinction, they roll into each other. Weeks roll into each other. An underway has a continuous and persisting concept of time unlike the one you use at home."

Of course, in the above example, preventing sleep deprivation is not the primary motivator in adopting the modified "day". It is an example of how normal time periods can be modified to increase efficiency in a military unit.

Another answer to the sleep deprivation problem is the "four square" battalion concept practiced by the U.S. Marines during World War Two [WW2]. A infantry regiment would consist of four infantry battalions, two of which at any given moment would be in actual contact with the enemy while the other two battalions would rest in the rear. After say two continuous days of combat with the enemy, the battalions in contact would be relieved by the those in the rear. Moving to the rear, the relieved units would be able to eat hot food, use the toilet with paper, and get SLEEP. This rotation process would continue until the mission was accomplished. Allowed for relatively fresh troops to be in combat with the enemy at any given time.

And of course we cannot neglect the mention of DRUGS as an answer to the sleeplessness and fatigue problem. The U.S. military has and does use drugs to combat sleeplessness.

Drugs as used by the military to combat sleeplessness should not be thought of as drugs that create a "hopped up" individual with superhuman strength, tireless, but also perhaps incoherent and uncontrollable. Anything but that!!

What are referred to as "GO" pills are nothing more than a dose [super??] of caffeine in concentrated form.

For decades, U.S. Air Force fighter pilots ferrying planes [F-15, F-16] across the Atlantic would be given as standard issue "GO" pills. This did create a negative impression among the general public. People were concerned that American pilots were flying "hopped up" in the same air corridors as were civilian aircraft. This was not the case. The pilots were issued the "GO" pills, each pill containing about the same amount of caffeine as one would get from drinking three cups of coffee. The pilots were to use them to ward off fatigue at their discretion. But also cautioned to not take more than three pills during any one mission. This hardly created a druggie that was "high". The warding off of fatigue on these missions was most important, as several mid-air refuelings would be needed for the plane to make the transit of the Atlantic. Mid-air refuelings that require concentration and alertness. Rather than creating a dangerous situation, use of pills perhaps created a more safe situation.

[it is reputed that B-2 bombers flying missions over Iraq and Afghanistan have done so by making round trip missions non-stop from bases in the U.S. These missions will take up to thirty one hours. The dangers from sleep deprivation for the aircrews are present in this case. It is rumored that two crews of two men each fly on each mission per aircraft. Folding reclining lawn chairs allow one crew to rest and SLEEP as needed while the other flies the bomber].

The problem of sleeplessness and mental fatigue on the battlefield can be approached in many ways. Mental impairment from sleeplessness can be hazardous to your health, we all appreciate this, and even more so on the battlefield.