Showing posts with label military. Show all posts
Showing posts with label military. Show all posts

Monday, May 2, 2016

America First?

When I first heard Donald Trump use the slogan "America First," I wondered if anyone working on his campaign was aware of the history of the "America First Committee" and what a discredited slogan that became after Pearl Harbor.

Last week, Rachel Maddow on MSNBC explained the sordid history of "America First" so that anyone should be able to understand not to use it:

Apparently Donald Trump doesn't get it.

For those unfamiliar with the history, here is Wikipedia's brief account: "The AFC was established on September 4, 1940, by Yale Law School student R. Douglas Stuart, Jr. (son of R. Douglas Stuart, co-founder of Quaker Oats), along with other students, including future President Gerald Ford, future Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver, and future U.S. Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart. Future President John F. Kennedy contributed $100, along with a note saying "What you all are doing is vital." At its peak, America First claimed 800,000 dues-paying members in 450 chapters, located mostly in a 300-mile radius of Chicago." The
 Not content with using a discredited slogan, last week Trump gave what was presented as a major foreign policy address. Slate's Fred Kaplan commented that the speech, read from a teleprompter, "—was even more incoherent than his impromptu ramblings of the past several months. In fact, it may stand as the most senseless, self-contradicting foreign policy speech by any major party’s presidential nominee in modern history."

I take exception to Kaplan/s remark, but only because Trump is not yet a "major party's  presidential nominee. It may seem like splitting hairs, but Trump is not the nominee until the Republican convention declares him the nominee.

That being said, if Trump is nominated, he will easily qualify as the most ignorant presidential candidate since I started noticing such things around 1940. 

How do I know? National security policy and international relations have been my profession for more than sixty years. And I was paying attention long before that.

Believe me!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Courage, Mes Amis!

I've been watching the Republican Presidential debate. It is not a pleasant experience.

I can't believe the most reasonable voice on foreign policy in that party is Rand Paul.

Donald Trump just emphasized that immigrants must come here legally. I can't help noting that Donald Trump's immigrant grandfather [Drumpf] met all of the requirements to immigrate in 1885: 1) He proved he was not Chinese; 2) paid a $50 head tax.

I can't believe the hysteria over Syrian refugees. Why Syria? We've never had a terrorist act by a Syrian immigrant. Where have our terrorists come from? Most of them have been home grown white Christians (and a few Jews). But incidents involving immigrants seem to more frequently involve Saudis and Pakistanis than anyone else. As for "Radical Islamic Jihadism" (or whatever magical incantation Republicans want to use) the foundation of that movement is the radical fundamentalist form of Islam nurtured in the Wahabbi sect in Saudi Arabia, funded by the Saudi state. The other troubling source of terrorism has been Pakistan and the region just across the border in Afghanistan.

This group is mostly not rational.

They live in a fantasy world and have magical solutions to imaginary problems.

Heaven help us!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

May Day, 1960

May Day, 1960, CIA pilot (former Air Force officer) Francis Gary Powers, flying alone at more than 70,000 feet, was on his 27th U-2 mission, flying over Sverdlovsk in the Soviet Union. The CIA estimated the altitude of the U-2 was above the reach of any Soviet missile or aircraft. That estimate proved to be too optimistic, and Gary Powers was shot down on one of the biggest Soviet holidays.

Contrary to the CIA's expectations in such an event, Powers survived and was captured.

Stephen Spielberg captures much of the drama of that time in the Cold War in his new movie,Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks. The main hero of the story is a New York lawyer who negotiated the eventual release of Powers. A second important character is the Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel, who was offered in exchange.

It is mostly a true story, with some embellishment for effect. Here is a useful comparison of the true events with the fictional movie version:

Go see Bridge of Spies.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How Long Do Wars Last?

This month marks the 70th anniversary of the surrender of Germany and V-E (Victory in Europe) Day. WWII between the United States and Germany lasted from December 10, 1941 until the surrender on May 8, 1945. Almost exactly three years and five months.

This coming August 13 will be the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender (V-J Day). Our war with Japan lasted from December 7, 1941 until August 13, 1945, or three years, eight months and six days.

March 8, 1965 - first American combat troops (Marines) landed at Danang. March 29, 1973 - last US combat troops leave Vietnam. Duration: eight years, three weeks.

More recent: Iraq? Afghanistan? Middle East? Who knows?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

May 1945: War In Europe Winding Down

V-E (Victory in Europe) Day is usually listed in the US as May 8. But surrenders were already underway in April.

1,500,000 prisoners taken on the Western Front in April by the Allies; 120,000 German troops captured in Italy; up to the end of April, over 800,000 German soldiers surrendered on the Eastern Front.

Finland: On 25 April 1945, the last Germans were expelled by the Finnish Army;

Mussolini's death: On 27 April 1945, as Allied forces closed in on Milan, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was captured by Italian partisans. Executed 28 April;

Hitler's death: On 30 April, realizing that all was lost and not wishing to suffer Mussolini's fate, German dictator Adolf Hitler committed suicide;

German forces in Italy surrender: On 29 April, the day before Hitler died, SS General Karl Wolff signed a surrender document agreeing to a ceasefire and surrender of all the forces at 2pm on 2 May; nearly 1,000,000 men in Italy and Austria;

 German forces in Berlin surrender: The Battle of Berlin ended on 2 May. On that date, General der Artillerie Helmuth Weidling, the commander of the Berlin Defense Area, unconditionally surrendered the city to General Vasily Chuikov of the Soviet army;

German forces in North West Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands surrender: On 4 May 1945, the British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery took the unconditional military surrender from Generaladmiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, and General Eberhard Kinzel, of all German forces "in Holland [sic], in northwest Germany including the Frisian Islands and Heligoland and all other islands, in Schleswig-Holstein, and in Denmark… includ[ing] all naval ships in these areas." The number of German land, sea and air forces involved in this surrender amounted to 1,000,000 men. On 5 May, Großadmiral Dönitz ordered all U-boats to cease offensive operations and return to their bases. At 16:00, General Johannes Blaskowitz, the German commander-in-chief in the Netherlands, surrendered to Canadian General Charles Foulkes in the Dutch town of Wageningen in the presence of Prince Bernhard (acting as commander-in-chief of the Dutch Interior Forces).

Central Europe: On 5 May 1945, the Czech resistance started the Prague uprising.

German forces in Breslau surrender: At 18:00 on 6 May, General Hermann Niehoff, the commandant of Breslau, a 'fortress' city surrounded and besieged for months, surrendered to the Soviets;

Jodl and Keitel surrender all German armed forces unconditionally:  At 02:41 on the morning of 7 May, at SHAEF headquarters in Reims, France, the Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, General Alfred Jodl, signed the unconditional surrender documents for all German forces to the Allies;

Victory in Europe: News of the imminent surrender broke in the West on 8 May, and celebrations erupted throughout Europe. In the US, Americans awoke to the news and declared 8 May V-E Day. As the Soviet Union was to the east of Germany it was 9 May Moscow Time when the German military surrender became effective, which is why Russia and many other European countries east of Germany commemorate Victory Day on 9 May.

That left Japan.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Seventy Years Ago In Europe - The End Approaches

In early May, 1945, the German Army began collapsing. Soldiers on the Western Front were surrendering right and left. Here is one story of a German Army (150,000 men) surrendering to an American Division (10,000 men).

Monday, March 30, 2015

Only Two Doolittle Raiders Left

April 18, 1942, 16 US Army B-25 Medium Bombers took off from the Navy Carrier Hornet to attack the Japanese home islands. This was one of the most remarkable military operations in history. It happened only four months and eleven days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The raid didn't do much damage, but it showed Japan they were vulnerable and changed the course of the war. If you haven't seen the movie Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, put the movie on your list.
Retired Lt. Col. Robert Hite, one of the famed World War II Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, has died. He was 95 and had Alzheimer's disease .
LA Times

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Last Man Killed (In the Great War)

When we lived in Belgium and traveled in northern France, we soon learned that Frenchmen had little to say about World War II. After all, we finally understood, to France, WWII consisted of two brief periods: one from the German invasion until Dunkirk and surrender, and eleven months between Normandy and the German surrender. The rest was German occupation.

The war of vivid French and Belgian memory was the "war of 14-18" as they call it. In 1980, we attended a wedding feast in Belgium, sitting across from an octagenerian who had been a young woman of twenty when the Germans (les Boches, she called them) invaded.  Her memory of those four years was as clear as if the events had happened yesterday. And she had no use for "les Boches."

Today's New York Times  has an article by Richard Rubin (author of The Doughboys) describing his search in the Argonne forest region for a monument he had seen years earlier. Finally, with the help of a local woman, he found it:

"It’s an unassuming marker, a stone just a few feet high. Someone had placed a bench next to it since the last time I’d visited, but [my guide] didn’t sit; perhaps she felt that would be irreverent. This, after all, was the very spot where the very last man was killed in the Great War: Pvt. Henry Nicholas Gunther of Baltimore, 23 years old, shot through the head at 10:59 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918."

There is surely a story here. The Armistice was to begin at 11:00 a.m. November 11, 1918. Surly the Sergeants told their soldiers to keep their heads down. Why did Gunther stick his head up? What was the German shooter thinking? What was the point of pulling the trigger?

Rubin's article is worth reading for many reasons. He tours the battlefields and is impressed with the formidable and technologically advanced German installations. "How could Germany have lost?" He asks repeatedly.

Historians still grapple with that question. But when Rubin asks local Frenchmen how the Germans lost, their answer is succinct: "Les Americains."

It is worth reading Rubin's other New York Times articles touching on the same subject:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Armistice Day, 2014

The calendar says today is Veterans' Day. History says today is Armistice Day - the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when the guns that had roared in August, 1914 fell silent. The war that decimated Europe had come to an end not with victory, but with an Armistice. A truce.

There was still hope that this had been a "war to end wars."

But the Armistice had been a fiction. Germany was defeated, and the country was falling apart.

The failure of the Allies to insist on a German surrender was to create problems in the years ahead.

The peace was still being negotiated at Versaille. It was to be a draconian peace imposing harsh terms on Germany that, if fully implemented, would destroy the economy of Europe.

None of the belligerents was satisfied with the outcome. England and France wanted greater reparations payments, notwithstanding the damage this would do to their own economies. (John Maynard Keynes described what would happen in his book The Economic Consequences of The Peace.)

The only belligerent that achieved its war aims was Serbia (in the form of Yugoslavia) who started the whole thing in the first place.

Europe was in discord. Hungary didn't like the settlement and attacked Czechoslovakia. Poland didn't like the settlement and attacked the Soviet Union.

Russia (the Soviet Union) lost Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Finland, and for a time lost Ukraine. Central Asia did its best to avoid incorporation into the Soviet Union.

The United States intervened in the Russian Civil War in the Murmansk area and in Eastern Siberia. Japan tried to carve out a part of Siberia.

The Czechoslovak Legion fought its way west to Vladivistok and on by sea to the newly independent state of Czechoslovakia.

Great Britain, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Italy, Germany and the remains of Austria licked their wounds and sulked.

It was a long way from a peaceful world (I won't mention the Far East), but still the Armistice brought hope.

Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I wish we still called it Armistice Day.

In memory of the hope the day brought.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Seventy Years Ago: October 5, 1944 - Audie Murphy Gets Another Silver Star

Soldiers and sailors mostly understand that success in war involves a lot of luck. Who survives and who doesn't may depend on a slight difference in the ballistic trajectory of a warhead or the difference of a foot or so in where the soldier stands.

But some soldiers have more luck than others. Or perhaps enough skill and determination to make a difference.

Such a soldier was Audie Murphy.

Before he was a movie star, he won a lot of medals.

Here is part of his story: his second Silver Star in three days.

The Big Lie Technique in Action A Century Ago

Last August I published the link to an extract from Barbara Tuchman's Guns of August concerning the burning of Louvain in Belgium by German invaders. The loss of priceless historical documents and works of art from the incomparable Belgian library at the University should have concerned Germans in academia.

Rather than being outraged, though, ninety-three prominent German scholars, including winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, spoke out against the charges, defended the German invaders, and blamed it all on Belgium. Their lengthy rationalization is here.

Academics, seem no more inclined than the general public to question assertions of their national authorities in time of war. We see this again and again during World War I.

But Germany's policies of  treating occupied territories severely long predated World War I and can be documented during their occupation of Samoa in the 1880's.

Was our own treatment of Native Americans more enlightened?

Not so much.

And we can all remember more recent events of misrepresentation.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Antidote To Fear: FDR Address To Congress January 6, 1941

I remember 1941. My father was in the US Army Air Corps, stationed at what became McDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

When we went to a movie, the highlight was the news reels. We saw strutting German soldiers goose-stepping along the streets of conquered countries. We saw scenes of Japanese soldiers in China fighting the Chinese Nationalists. We saw scenes of London burning.

What I don't remember is fear.

If the adults around me had been fearful, I think I would have noticed.

War was in the air, but there was no sense that this was someone else's job. It was everyone's job.

A sense of the national attitude at the time was expressed in President Roosevelt's address to Congress on January 6, 1941. It is worth reading the whole speech, but here is an excerpt:

"....there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

"Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.
The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

"These are the simple, basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.

"Many subjects connected with our social economy call for immediate improvement.

"As examples:
We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age pensions and unemployment insurance.
We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care.
We should plan a better system by which persons deserving or needing gainful employment may obtain it.

"I have called for personal sacrifice. I am assured of the willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that call.

"A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more money in taxes. In my Budget Message I shall recommend that a greater portion of this great defense program be paid for from taxation than we are paying today. No person should try, or be allowed, to get rich out of this program; and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation.

"If the Congress maintains these principles, the voters, putting patriotism ahead of pocketbooks, will give you their applause.

"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

"The first is freedom of speech and expression - everywhere in the world.

"The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way - everywhere in the world.

"The third is freedom from want - which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants - everywhere in the world.

"The fourth is freedom from fear - which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor - anywhere in the world.

"That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

"To that new order we oppose the greater conception - the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear."

Friday, September 19, 2014

Another Day At Arnhem: A Bridge Really Too Far - September 19, 1944; Some Heroic Tales

Anyone who has ever seen the movie, "A Bridge Too Far," knows something of the heroics of British, Polish and American paratrooperes, with very light equipment, attempting to hold a road through Holland leading to the Bridge at Arnhem.

These were very determined men. They had a job to do: hold the bridge for two days, until the tanks arrived. They did their very best, even when the tanks didn't come. They lasted four days.

In some respects, the operation was, as the Brits say, a "shambles." Still they persevered. Some say they fought for their country. Maybe so. But more importantly, they were fighting for their fellow soldiers.

None would ever to claim to be a hero. They just did what had to be done, and none fought for any kind of personal gain or glory. They had a job to do.

Here are some of the stories.

RAF aerial reconnaissance photo of the Arnhem road bridge on 19 September, showing signs of the British defence on the northern ramp and the wrecked German vehicles from the previous day's fighting.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Seventy Years Ago: Another Day On Peleliu

*World War II Today: 16 September 1944: Peleliu: US Marines attack towards Bloody Nose Ridge:
It was already apparent that the landings on Peleliu were not going to be over within the four days originally anticipated. Despite the blasting that the entire island had received prior to the landings on the 15th most of the Japanese defenders had survived in their bunkers. Eugene B. Sledge, with the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines 1st Marine Division, was keeping notes of his experiences in his New Testament Bible. He was later to develop it into one of the classic memoirs of the war. After being selected for officer training he and many others had deliberately ‘flunked out’ so that they didn’t ‘miss the war’. So it was that he found himself as a Private in the middle of one of the bloodiest operations in the Pacific. After a sleepless night under shellfire they were all desperately thirsty, but men fell ill after drinking from a well. When water reached them in old oil drums it proved contaminated with rust and oil. That day it would reach 105 in the shade and, as Sledge points out, they were not in the shade. Their job was to attack across the airfield:
“Let’s go,” shouted an officer who waved toward the airfield. We moved at a walk, then a trot, in widely dispersed waves. Four infantry battalions — from left to right 2/1, 1/5, 2/5, and 3/5 (this put us on the edge of the airfield) – moved across the open, fire-swept airfield.

My only concern then was my duty and survival, not panoramic combat scenes. But I often wondered later what that attack looked like to aerial observers and to those not immersed in the firestorm. All I was aware of were the small area immediately around me and the deafening noise.
Bloody Nose Ridge dominated the entire airfield. The Japanese had concentrated their heavy weapons on high ground; these were directed from observation posts at elevations as high as three hundred feet, from which they could look down on us as we advanced. I could see men moving ahead of my squad, but I didn’t know whether our battalion, 3/5, was moving across behind 2/5 and then wheeling to the right. There were also men about twenty yards to our rear.

We moved rapidly in the open, amid craters and coral rubble, through ever-increasing enemy fire. I saw men to my right and left running bent as low as possible. The shells screeched and whistled, exploding all around us.
In many respects it was more terrifying than the landing, because there were no vehicles to carry us along, not even the thin steel sides of an amtrac for protection. We were exposed, running on our own power through a veritable shower of deadly metal and the constant crash of explosions.

For me the attack resembled World War I movies, I had seen of suicidal Allied infantry attacks through shell fire on the Westem Front. I clenched my teeth, squeezed my carbine stock, and recited over and over to myself, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me…”

The sun bore down unmercifully, and the heat was exhausting. Smoke and dust from the barrage limited my vision. The ground seemed to sway back and forth under the concussions. I felt as though I were floating along in the vortex of some unreal thunderstorm. Japanese bullets snapped and cracked, and tracers went by me on both sides at waist height. This deadly small-arms fire seemed almost insignificant amid the erupting shells.
Explosions and the hum and the growl of shell fragments shredded the air. Chunks of blasted coral stung my face and hands while steel fragments spattered down on the hard rock like hail on a city street. Everywhere shells flashed like giant firecrackers.
Through the haze I saw Marines stumble and pitch forward as they got hit. I then looked neither right nor left but just straight to my front. The farther we went, the worse it got. The noise and concussion pressed in on my ears like a vise. I gritted my teeth and braced myself in anticipation of the shock of being struck down at any moment.

It seemed impossible that any of us could make it across. We passed several craters that offered shelter, but I remembered the order to keep moving. Because of the superb discipline and excellent esprit of the Marines, it had never occurred to us that the attack might fail.
How far we had come in the open I never knew, but it must have been several hundred yards. Everyone was visibly shaken by the thunderous barrage we had just come through. When I looked into the eyes of those fine Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester veterans, some of America’s best, I no longer felt ashamed of my trembling hands and almost laughed at myself with relief.

To be shelled by massed artillery and mortars is absolutely terrifying, but to be shelled in the open is terror compounded beyond the belief of anyone who hasn’t experienced it. The attack across Peleliu’s airfield was the worst combat experience I had during the entire war. It surpassed, by the intensity of the blast and shock of the bursting shells, all the subsequent horrifying ordeals on Peleliu and Okinawa.
See E. B. Sledge: With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa


Sherparick said...
E. B. Sledge's book I have come to see as the Great Book of WWII. If you have not read it, please do.
Today, September 17, is also the 152 anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.
"I had just got myself pretty comfortable when a bomb burst over me and completely deafened me. I felt a blow on my right shoulder and my jacket was covered with white stuff. I felt mechanically whether I still had my arm and thank God it was still whole. At the same time I felt something damp on my face; I wiped it off. It was bloody. Now I first saw that the man next to me, Kessler, lacked the upper part of his head, and almost all his brains had gone into the face of the man next to him, Merkel, so that he could scarcely see. Since any moment the same could happen to anyone, no one thought much about it."
Christoph Niederer, 20th New York Infantry, 6th Corps"
For us historically minded humans, with our lives of numerals that end in "0" and "5," we have 200th anniversaries of the War of 1812 (Star Spangled Banner), the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (Sheridan's victory at 3rd Winchester is on 19 September), 100th anniversary of the Great War (the 1st Battle of Aisne had ended and the Race to the Sea has begun as the Western Front stalemates), the 70th and 75th anniversaries for WWII (a six year war produces such terrible double anniversries for "live blogging"), and now the beginning of 50th anniversaries for Vietnam, and next summer the 25th anniversary for the Gulf War I, and we have been in war continuously since September 11, 2001
And we are now going to do it again, and again, and again.

KenL said...
Don't forget the section where Sledge runs into Paul Douglas. Yes that Paul Douglas. The fighting economist.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Seventy Years Ago: A Bridge Too Far (Market Garden)

Imagine you are dressed in your best parachute, flying over Holland enroute to a bridge over the Nederrijn at Arnhem. 70,000 years earlier, Neanderthals had lived nearby. It seems like the war in Europe is coming to an end.
It is September 17, 1942.
Landing at Arnhem, the objective deepest into German occupied territory, were the British First Airborne Division. John Frost, commanding 2nd Parachute Battalion who were to spearhead the attack, was pleased to find that the landings had gone nearly as well as could be expected. He and the Parachute Regiment had come a long way since the Bruneval Raid in 1942. It was a warm Sunday afternoon and he reflected how the countryside and the neat Dutch houses were not so very different from the outskirts of Aldershot, home town of the British Army. He describes the early stages in the operation as the paratroopers collected together at their rendezvous point in a wood:
It was by now about half-past two in the afternoon and quite hot. The sweat was pouring off the cheerful faces of the men as they filed past me into the wood. Wireless sets seemed to be the only casualties from the drop, among them the brigade set, but fortunately a spare was available. Just as I was beginning to feel that on the whole things could not be going better, the sound of firing broke out in the woods not more than three hundred yards from where I was standing and I moved to a track junction in the middle of the wood, which was where we had planned to set up Battalion Headquarters.
A battle at our rendezvous in the woods was one of the things to be feared most of all. It was vital that we should be able to move off without delay and equally vital that our ammunition should not be expended unduly early when we had so much to do. At first it was hard to tell what the trouble was, but we didn’t let it interfere with the process of forming up and getting ready to move. The troops and anti-tank guns allotted to us arrived punctually, also most of our airborne transport, consisting of five jeeps and a bren carrier. I passed some anxious moments while they were being sorted out. All army drivers have a predilection for driving into the middle of a headquarters, thereby causing the utmost confusion, and our drivers were no exception to the rule. To the tune of vigorous cursing, order was restored.
The companies reported in over ninety-five per cent, and the firing turned out to be caused by a small party of Germans who had driven up in a lorry with one armoured car as escort. By the time I thought of moving off, the armoured car had fled, leaving the lorry and several prisoners. Soon after three o’clock a message came from Brigade Headquarters telling us to move on with all possible speed, without waiting for stragglers, and just as the message went to ‘A’ Company, who were the vanguard, firing broke out afresh from their area. However, there was no delay, and as we passed their old positions we found two lorries and three motor-cars in various stages of destruction, also an untidy little bunch of dead and wounded Germans. It seemed a pity that the vehicles were now unusable, but there had been no time to arrange a road-block.
It was however a very encouraging start. Approximately thirty Germans, including officers among them, and valuable transport, accounted for without loss to ourselves. We marched towards Arnhem. A man and a woman on bicycles made as if to ride on past the column and seemed quite surprised at being ordered to turn back.
See Major General J. Frost: A Drop Too Many

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Russian Corporal Of Airborne Forces Captured And Interrogated In Donetsk Oblast Of Ukraine

This is a link to a YouTube video of a Russian Corporal being interrogated by Ukrainian military intelligence after capture near Donetsk August 25.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Seventy Years Ago: Paris, August 24, 1944 - The Night Before Liberation

Matthew Halton was a Canadian reporter travelling with General Le Clerc’s tanks that were approaching Paris. During the day he was to broadcast:
"Wherever we drive, in the areas west and south-west of the capital, people shout: “Look, they are going to Paris! ” But then we run into pockets of resistance here or there and are forced to turn back. It’s clear that we are seeing the disintegration of the German Army — but we never know when we are going to be shot at.
"There are still some units of the German Army, fanatical men of the SS or armoured divisions, who are willing to fight to the last man. They are moving here and there all over this area, trying to coalesce into strong fighting forces…
The people everywhere are tense with emotion. Their love of freedom is so very deep, and a nightmare is lifting from their lives; and history races down the roads towards Paris."
The first of LeCerc's arrived in the capital at 11 o’clock that night. It was clear that Paris would be liberated the next day.

French radio announcer Pierre Crénesse announced over the newly liberated French public radio:
"Tomorrow morning will be the dawn of a new day for the capital. Tomorrow morning, Paris will be liberated, Paris will have finally rediscovered its true face.
"Four years of struggle, four years that have been, for many people, years of prison, years of pain, of torture and, for many more, a slow death in the Nazi concentration camps, murder; but that’s all over…
"For several hours, here in the centre of Paris, in the Cité, we have been living unforgettable moments. At the Préfecture, my comrades have explained to you that they are waiting for the commanding officers of the Leclerc Division and the American and French authorities.
"Similarly, at the Hotel de Ville the Conseil National de la Résistance has been meeting for several hours. They are awaiting the French authorities. Meetings will take place, meetings which will be extremely symbolic, either there or in the Prefecture de Police — we don’t yet know where."
 It would be a sleepless night in Paris.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Century Ago: Germans In Lorraine

Today's New York Times on line publishes the account of a young German soldier's experiences with the German Army in Lorraine August 22, 1914 and afterward.

The story is told by an American woman living in Paris whose grandfather was among the invaders of the little village of Mercy-le-Haut. But she also tells the story of what happened to the villagers when the Germans came.

One villager, Marthe Mandy, recounted her mother’s tales of those years as if she had lived it all herself. Her eyes welled up as she told of an uncle she never met who was executed by the Germans that night. The uncle, Léon Mandy, was 17. He had been ordered to gather the bodies of nine of his neighbors who died as the Germans stormed the village and to bury them in a mass grave. When Léon had finished his grim task shortly before dawn, he was shot.

Many accounts of World War I claim that the war was fought in a chivalrous fashion at the outset, but became more inhumane as time went by. Tell that to the French and Belgians along the frontier! The invasion did not seem so humane to them.

Why did the Germans shoot Leon Mandy?

They shot countless Frenchmen and Belgians in the early days of the war, sometimes for being impolite to the invaders.

What is the moral of the story?

In the end, Germany lost. A quarter century later they attacked again and lost again.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Century Ago: Germany Invades Belgium

On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Russia mobilizes. Following events came on hot and heavy. July 31, Germany warns Russia not to mobilize. Russia responds they are only mobilizing against Austria. August 1, Germany declares war on Russia. August 2, Germany invades neutral Luxemburg. August 3, Germany declares war on France. Neutral Belgium denies Germany permission to pass through to the French border. August 4, Germany attacks neutral Belgium, Great Britain protests, Germany replies that the treaty guaranteeing Belgian neutrality is just a chiffon de papier. The United Kingdom declares war on Germany.

Thus a week after Austria declares war on Serbia, war is well underway on the Western Front.

August 4 Germany begins its siege of Belgium's fortresses at Liege. Surprisingly effective Belgian defense slows German advance. Germans do not capture Liege fortresses until August 16.

August 16-19, Serbs defeat Austria Hungary at the Battle of Cer.

August 17, Russians invade East Prussia. Two weeks into the war the Eastern Front begins to take shape.

Monday, July 28, 2014

100 Years Ago:Franz Joseph Declares War On Serbia

July 28, 1914, Emperor Franz Joseph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, responding to Serbia's answer to Austro-Hungary's ultimatum concerning the assassination of the heir to the throne, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Even at the time, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany thought the Serbian response had "removed all pretext for war." By the standards of the day, the assassination plausibly served as a causus belli, but even so, there were dangers.

Justified or not, the Austrian declaration of war comes down as one of the most disastrous decisions of all time by a major state.

Here is the declaration:

"To my peoples! It was my fervent wish to consecrate the years which, by the grace of God, still remain to me, to the works of peace and to protect my peoples from the heavy sacrifices and burdens of war. Providence, in its wisdom, has otherwise decreed. The intrigues of a malevolent opponent compel me, in the defense of the honor of my Monarchy, for the protection of its dignity and its position as a power, for the security of its possessions, to grasp the sword after long years.

"With a quickly forgetful ingratitude, the Kingdom of Serbia, which, from the first beginnings of its independence as a State until quite recently, had been supported and assisted by my ancestors, has for years trodden the path of open hostility to Austria-Hungary.

"When, after three decades of fruitful work for peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I extended my Sovereign rights to those lands, my decree called forth in the Kingdom of Serbia, whose rights were in nowise injured, outbreaks of unrestrained passion and the bitterest hate.

"My Government at that time employed the handsome privileges of the stronger, and with extreme consideration and leniency only requested Serbia to reduce her army to a peace footing and to promise that, for the future, she would tread the path of peace and friendship. Guided by the same spirit of moderation, my Government, when Serbia, two years ago, was embroiled in a struggle with the Turkish Empire, restricted its action to the defense of the most serious and vital interests of the Monarchy. It was to this attitude that Serbia primarily owed the attainment of the objects of that war.

"The hope that the Serbian Kingdom would appreciate the patience and love of peace of my Government and would keep its word has not been fulfilled. The flame of its hatred for myself and my house has blazed always higher; the design to tear from us by force inseparable portions of Austria-Hungary has been made manifest with less and less disguise.

"A criminal propaganda has extended over the frontier with the object of destroying the foundations of State order in the southeastern part of the monarchy; of making the people, to whom I, in my paternal affection, extended my full confidence, waver in its loyalty to the ruling house and to the Fatherland; of leading astray its growing youth and inciting it to mischievous deeds of madness and high treason.

"A series of murderous attacks, an organized, carefully prepared, and well carried out conspiracy, whose fruitful success wounded me and my loyal peoples to the heart, forms a visible bloody track of those secret machinations which were operated and directed in Serbia.

"A halt must be called to these intolerable proceedings and an end must be put to the incessant provocations of Serbia. The honor and dignity of my monarchy must be preserved unimpaired, and its political, economic, and military development must be guarded from these continual shocks. In vain did my Government make a last attempt to accomplish this object by peaceful means and to induce Serbia, by means of a serious warning, to desist.

"Serbia has rejected the just and moderate demands of my Government and refused to conform to those obligations the fulfillment of which forms the natural and necessary foundation of peace in the life of peoples and States. I must therefore proceed by force of arms to secure those indispensable pledges which alone can insure tranquillity to my States within and lasting peace without.

"In this solemn hour I am fully conscious of the whole significance of my resolve and my responsibility before the Almighty. I have examined and weighed everything, and with a serene conscience I set out on the path to which my duty points. I trust in my peoples, who, throughout every storm, have always rallied in unity and loyalty around my throne, and have always been prepared for the severest sacrifices for the honor, the greatness, and the might of the Fatherland. I trust in Austria-Hungary's brave and devoted forces, and I trust in the Almighty to give the victory to my arms."


Thus with flowery language of the nineteenth cenury did the Emperor Franz Joseph initiate the destruction of his own empire and that of his allies, Germany and the Ottomans. The war also destroyed the Tsarist Empire and seriously damaged the British and French Empires. On the whole, it was a disastrous introduction to the Twentieth Century.