Saturday, May 28, 2005

Heading southeast down Bakalakadaka Street

Tonight I finally saw Team America: World Police.

I can inform you now that it is, without shadow of a doubt, the single greatest movie since Jumpin' Jack Flash.

This is not a value judgement I make lightly.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Cowardy Custard

This perhaps rather ungenerous (or not? - anyway that's not why I'm linking to it) Bill Lind piece put me in mind of the old story of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, when the Emperor, as was his wont in these situations, left his troops to rot and buggered off.

Upon reaching the last crossing out of Russia, he lumbered from his carriage and hurried over to the bridgekeeper:

NAPOLEON: "Have any deserters come through here?"
BRIDGEKEEPER: "No, you're the first."

Ahaha. Ha.

Not so nasty, brutish and short as we were led to believe...

Dan Drezner links to a Greg Easterbrook story at the New Republic and provides some commentary.

It sounds like a fascinating article, which I can't read as I'm not a subscriber - but maye you can. To be honest I think I can predict fairly readily what it's going to say, as I've read a lot of the recent work to come out surrounding this issue and I suspect it's mostly going to be a synthesis of existing research.

Regarding the whole sunny optimism stance that can accompany an empirical demonstration of a general decline in mayhem and bloodletting Drezner makes an extremely important point in noting the role of the USA in all this:

First, he neglects to mention the biggest reason for why war is on the decline -- there's a global hegemon called the United States right now. Easterbrook acknowledges that "the most powerful factor must be the end of the cold war" but he doesn't understand why it's the most powerful factor. Elsewhere in the piece he talks about the growing comity among the great powers, without discussing the elephant in the room: the reason the "great powers" get along is that the United States is much, much more powerful than anyone else.

Zing, as they say. Regardless of the merit or otherwise of current US administration foreign and defence policy, people who wish to see the USA seriously brought down a few pegs in the general scheme of things ought to be compelled to read this book and take note. If one day they get what they want (and, overhasty retractions by Paul Kennedy aside, that day will come at some point) they are likely to find the alternative significantly less palatable.

All Your Base Are Belong To Us

A string of fairly interesting Space Power related bits and bobs up at DefenseTech.

Here, here, here.

It's a subject I'm interested in and have pursued to the best of my ability, but I must admit I've fallen behind on the latest developments recently because my schedule has been so full of other things.

One of the most interesting things about the Astropolitics debate must be the extent to which it's very much a first come first served, winner takes all state of affairs. It's like Sea Power based geostrategy, only this time it goes up to 11.* Protestations regarding American intentions are surely desperately naive and unrealistic. Regardless of the "morality" of American space ambitions, unless other powers are prepared to make a play for the main chance themselves (and they mostly aren't with the exception of the Chinese - and if it's between the Chinese and the Americans one would hope that most thinking individuals would recognise where their bread is buttered), objections don't really amount to much more than stamping feet and going, "Stop, or I'll shout stop again!".

The willingness of certain players in the European Space effort to indulge the PRC with access to what could at best be described as distinctly dual-use satellite and communications technology doesn't strengthen the high dudgeon-based case against American militarisation of space either.

*I refuse to accept that Spinal Tap and the militarisation of space cannot by comfortable bedfellows. If you don't get the reference, you are the one with the problem. Just consider yourself lucky I haven't figured out how to work Transformers: The Movie into it...


AUT's Israeli academic boycott overturned.

Excellent news.

The Beeb is, in my view, adhering a little too closely to its strict codes of balance in this instance, painting it as a generally divisive issue when to all intents and purposes the divide seems to be between some British communist types and pro-Palestinian activists along with a rather obscure lobbying group based out of Ramallah on the one hand and the entire rest of the world, including the overwhelming weight of the actual Palestinian higher education system on the other.

Sue Blackwell, the key mover behind this deeply unedifying period in academic history, had the following to say:

"We won the moral argument. They just won the vote."

On the contrary, Sue. The only thing you succeeded in doing was making me temporarily embarassed to be British.

Harry Potter and the (????)

Daniel Nexon, an IR prof at Georgetown has apparently written a book on Harry Potter and international relations and is looking for a good title for it on his blog. If any of our readership can come up with anything (unfortunately I came to the matter having just spent time leaving through one of my Viz books, so the phrase "hocus poke-arse" keeps drifting through my head...), do help him out.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Summer Parameters

The summer 2005 issue of Parameters is out. If you have never looked at this journal, I highly recommend it. There is usually something of interest for a variety of intellectual palettes. In this particular issue, I suggest taking a look at Canadian Forces LTC Pierre Lessard's article on campaign planning and Antulio Echevarria's piece on historiography.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Missing Links

Over the enxt few days I'm going to be adding some links to the link section (and binning a couple of obsolete ones). If anything shows up there that is not familiar to you, do check it out because I have fabulous taste and you won't regret it.

Fright Night*

Got no life? No mates? All dressed up with nowhere to go? Like zombie films? Reckon - no, not reckon, know - revolvers are so much cooler than any of your semi-automatic nonsense? Well why not spend the next eight hours compulsively playing this?

And then have a look at some of the other stuff on this chap's site and marvel at how relentlessly untalented and mediocre and beige you are in comparison.

I know I did, and I'm far more spunky, interesting and brimming with vim than most people.

*Guns are involved and this is therefore an entirely legitimate post. Entirely.


Interesting post on the late Colonel David Hackworth at the Civil War Bookshelf.

My views on Hackworth are mixed (though largely positive - especially with regard to his advocacy in the field of solders' welfare), but my impressions of him are gleaned largely from reading his accumulated output as archived on his website and so I felt that I was perhaps not especially well equipped to comment in the wake of his death (and let's face it, whatever his flaws I can't see myself notching up anything like his achievements by the time I pop my clogs) so for once I kept my mouth shut. I do find the CWBookshelf post interesting though, because I found myself tihnking of Liddell Hart and (especially) Fuller when reading it and it made me wonder whether there is a certain "type" that can be found to make up a substantial chunk of the ranks of military iconoclast (or non-military ones for that matter). Certainly there is a debate to be had regarding the point at which purity in theory and personal convictions generate a lack of practicality and a friction in personal relationships that begins to outweigh their benefits.

And That's Kicking Your Ass...

About a month ago (maybe a bit more) I read a rather interesting book by Wolfgang Schivelbusch, entitled "The Culture of Defeat: On National Trauma, Mourning and Recovery". Interesting stuff. Schivelbusch effectively portrays attempts by national communities to cope with and recover from (in a non-physical manner) the effects of defeat in war as a string of collective neuroses, perhaps not unlike the coping symptoms associated with the onset of terminal illness (anger, denial, acceptance etc). Schivelbusch refers to his thesis as a "philosophy of defeat" and, at worst, it's pretty provocative and interesting. Though the various phenomena tend to come in stages, they can have a significant historiographical impact and result in enduring national myths.

Schivelbusch uses the opening section of the book to outline these various aspects and then employs three illustrative case studies - the American South, France after the Franco-Prussian War and Germany 1919. All in all it's an interesting book (though not a particularly easy read, in spite of the fact that it's a good translation) and worth a look, even if one is not inclined to endorse all of Schivelbusch's arguments. Some of Schivelbusch's theses, particularly the notion of the Unworthy Victory and of "defeat empathy", seemed to enjoy significant relevance in the contemporary world.

A (very) brief summary of Schivelbusch's proposed national coping mechanisms:


- The earliest symptom, in the final stages and immediate aftermath of national defeat. Has about it a strange undertone of euphoria and often involves a number of specific and recognisable factors: first, the scapegoating and overthrow of the defeated regime by is own people. This is then often seen as a strange kind of victory in itself - war guilt is transferred onto the old, discredited regime and the great mass of the nation perceives itself as having clean hands. In popular perception, defeat in war takes on a strangely liberating quality and the general feeling is often one of optimism, even to the degree of embracing the enemy power as a liberator and new ally. The general view is that things are going to get better. The new mood of optimism and the transfer of guilt away from the nation at large results in a strong belief and expectation that the victorious power will permit a return to the ante-bellum status quo. This state of mind will often last for no more than a few weeks, before which reality sets in with a thump.


- The next stage sets in when the expectations associated with "Dreamland" go tits up. It is likely to be especially pronounced if the victors (and now assumed friends and allies) refuse to co-operate and live up to expectations (this may or may not be the fault of the victorious power as such - expectations formulated during the Dreamland period may have been wildly unrealistic and unreasonable). The general feeling is one of high dudgeon and trust betrayed. Having overthrown the old regime with glee and repudiated all its works, opinion turns a hairpin bend and begins to tend toward the counter-revolutionary. It is at this stage that "stab-in-the-back" myths are likely to find their genesis.

The Unworthy Victory

- At this stage the myth develops that the victors somehow "cheated" to gain their victory. The heart of this is the development and cementing of a perception that the victors' victory is somehow illegitimate. Apparent asymmetries, such as army size, technology gaps or spiritual wholesomeness will be set-upon to reinforce this. The defeated will frequently construct a narrative that involves embattled heroes overcome by sterile, production line technocrats. Examples of this include Germany [heroes] vs Britain and later the USA [technocrats], the US Civil War, Confederacy [old school gentlemen with a warrior culture] vs Union [materialistic, mongrelised, effeminate arsenal practice merchants] and in many cases the French vs the English/British [Crecy - heroic knights vs cowardly longbowmen. Napoleon's comment that the British are a nation of shopkeepers]. Via this narrative the defeated (already absolved of their guilt) become martyrs and are paradoxically awarded a degree of dignity commensurate with this status and also are seen to have suffered an unjustifiable indiginity that justice demands be rectified.

Losers in Battle, Winners in Spirit

- This phenomenon is interesting in that it also draws on the victorious nation. Following on from the above, a process begins to work among the victors whereby those who have been defeated become the object of sympathy. Victory does not bring with it the satisfaction and solutions to problems that were envisaged. Suspicious of power, intellectuals in the victorious nation begin to embrace the defeated as somehow preferable to their own newly emboldened and empowered elites. Domestic and international perceptions of the victorious power nosedive. Hence, pre-1870, Germany was widely perceived as a centre of learning, science and culture. Post-1870 it rapidly came to be seen as a nest of marauding, soulless barbarians and thugs. Similarly, the notion of the Southern gentleman reached its apogee, not merely in the former Confederate states but in the Union and the world at large, during the post Civil War turmoil.

Revenge and Revanche

- Sccivelbusch traces the instinct for revenge in historiography back to the Iliad but sees an important distinction between revenge and revanche (redress). Whereas revenge is inherently punitive, revanche involves the restoration of equal footing and is essential to make reconciliation possible. Schivelbusch posits the notion that in order for revanche to be possible, said restoration and the reconciliation process must happen promptly, almost immediately after the event or a process of festering will begin, with the various above neuroses setting in and the development of losers' myths.

Interestingly, Schivelbusch argues that a different situation is likely to exist in the event of a nation facing defeat at the hands of a coalition. Defeat at the hands of a coalition is likely to result in the popularly accepted perception of the defeated nation as equal to the strongest member of the coalition. Defeat is thus once again seen to have honour in it and the desire for revanche is diminished, though other aspects of the defeat neuroses may well still be in evidence. Schivelbusch argues that the players who will be most likely to exhibit symptoms of defeat are, in fact, the junior members of the victorious coalition. This will hardly come as a revelation to hardcore Realists but it is certainly an interesting and provocative point within this framework.

Partly related to the issue of revenge/revanche, Schivelbusch notes that a policy of unconditional surrender on the part of the victors is only likely to prove successful if the victor is able to ensure the complete breakdown of the enemy on the scale of Japan or Germany in the 2nd World War. Even here, several of the above symptoms are becoming evident in German and Japanese historical and political discourse, even if on a somewhat delayed timescale.


Schivelbusch identifies various aspects of the final renewal process. First, the nation is likely to become increasingly forward looking and energised. The idea of war as a purifying force is more likely to set in in a defeated nation than in a victorious one. The defeated nation will begin to collectively identify with great heroic defeats through history. The goals of the war that brought defeat are likely to be either forgotten or noisily repudiated. Evidence may be seen of what Schivelbusch calls "defeat moralism" (Southern US politicians becoming evangelists for universal values and self-determination abroad, the Japanese setting themselves up as a beacon of pacifism and exemplars of an almost unique victimhood through their exposure to the only nuclear attacks in history).

On Getting Shafted

This is a very inadequate summary of what are actually fairly complex and involved expositions on Schivelbusch's part and although they have been given definite categorisation, aspects of the various different stages frequently interact and shade into each other. I'm still digesting a lot of what he has to say myself. Anyway, it's an interesting read and while you may not expect to agree with it all (it would be interesting to see Schivelbusch's model - for that's essentially what it is - applied to other conflicts), there are some definite nuggets of truth in there. If you're in the mood for something a little bit out of leftfield it may well be worth your time.

POSTSCRIPT: I notice that at the time of writing, American readers can pick it up from for $7.99. I'd go so far as to say that at that price you can't go too far wrong.

Speaking truth unto power...

Interesting piece up at NRO. It's a bit of a Curate's Egg, but overall worth reading and it's good that NRO chose to publish it.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

History, Heritage, Horseshit.

At the risk of appearing to have developed a strange VDH fetish, a couple of other related things:

First, another WW2 article. I think this is better than his last effort, though some of the criticisms still stand.

Second - and the main point of this post - I was intrigued to note that VDH has taken part in a written forum on the work of John Mosier, at "Historically Speaking: The Bulletin of the Historical Society". The website features abstracts of comments by Mosier himself, James Corum and Dennis Showalter and VDH has the full text of his comments up at the Private Papers.

I note with no small degree of horror that Mosier's "Myth of the Great War" was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, which in my view can only indicate that the accolade is completely worthless (apologies to Tom, who I have no doubt whatsoever earned his). MotGW fills, as Showalter notes, a gap. But beyond this it is a relentlessly bad book, crammed with straw man arguments, falling short of fundamental standards of academic rigour and suffused throughout with an unpleasant, priggish tone by an author puffed up with self-importance and a tendency toward ad hominem attacks on scholars who know their trade rather better than he does (oh, God, am I simultaneously describing myself?). Mosier's main problem is that where others see gaps in historiography, he sees conspiracies, intricate webs of lies and deceit just waiting for him to wade in with his might sword of truth.

Take this from Showalter's (otherwise quite critical contribution):

He took the trouble to read and analyze the great body of tactical and operational literature published by French soldiers and academicians in the interwar period, still relatively neglected in the Anglo-and German-centered approaches that dominate the English-language work in the field. He made a correspondingly useful contribution with a detailed account of the Franco-German combat from the aftermath of the Marne in 1914 to the end of Verdun in 1916. More generally Mosier also called attention to the fact that for most of the war it was the French who held most of the front—and did most of the dying.

This is all to the good (in theory - in practice Mosier's use of sources, while incorporating new primary source material, is deeply selective). However, rather than seeing the relative absence of serious work in the French archives as a gap in the market (a gap in the market freely acknowledged by British historians [I know of no contemporary British Great War historian who does not acknowledge that the French were the senior partners in the war] and largely existing due to a lack of language skills and simple laziness - with the exception of emerging work by people like Bill Philpott [full disclosure: he teaches War Studies at King's], Anthony Clayton and Hew Strachan), for Mosier it's part of a carefully orchestrated, British-led conspiracy to skew the popular perception of the war. In fact it is no such thing. Additionally, Mosier - in his ludicrously inadequate, highly selective and aggressively unpleasant "essay on the sources" - shows no awareness of recent scholarship (such as that by Strachan, Philpott and Clayton), attacks as worthless works significantly more carefully constructed than his and heaps praise upon works such as Lloyd George's War Memoirs (!) and John Laffin's ludicrous "British Butchers and Bunglers" (!!!!!!!!!!).

Mosier's follow-up, "The Blitzkrieg Myth" - see this review from H-Net for a good summary - tells a similar tale. Everyone's not merely wrong and stupid, but a liar and it takes a Loyola English Professor to sweep away the cobwebs. More straw men, more conspiracies, more aggressive attacks on significantly more rigorous historians than himself (and an apparent ignorance of recent scholarship that has already done a far better job than he has - see, for example, Robert Citino's Quest for Decisive Victory/Blitzkrieg to Desert Storm opus and his Path To Blitzkrieg and Jonathan M., House's Combined Arms Warfare in the Twentieth Century).

There is, of course, a long and glorious tradition of hyper-pissed off, personally abrasive revisionist historians, noted examples being Peter Hofschroer and Paddy Griffith (and, of course, A. J. P. Taylor). But there's more to serious revisionist history than peddling a supposedly new story and showcasing possesion of a spastic gall bladder. Apparently Mosier has, "
two books scheduled to appear in 2006: a study of the German army (Henry Holt) and of Ulysses S. Grant (Palgrave)". There is little doubt in my mind that both will be well worth giving a miss.

On a final, more upbeat note, I see that VDH has a military history of the Peloponnesian War coming out soon. I'm not entirely sure that there's a particular gap in the market waiting to be filled here (given the work of Donald Kagan [admittedly not a pure military history by any means], Nigel Bagnall and John Lazenby), but I can imagine it will be a very good read and will hopefully mark a return to form. One to put on the shopping list.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Sexing It Up

Of some relevance to this post, I've found an interesting related post at the (excellent though combative) Civil War Bookshelf.

Further to my recommendation of David Greenberg's excellent Slate two-parter (one, two), upon reading this section of the second installment I found myself wondering whether it has any applicability regarding the VDH piece that I took issue with earlier.

The British-based historian David Lowenthal (technically a "geographer") has written about the differences between history and what the British call "heritage": the commemorations of the past found in museums, folklore, pop culture, and the like. When we celebrate the Fourth of July, tour a battlefield, or enjoy presidential trivia, we're not trying to probe the problems of the past—to think hard about whether the Constitution betrayed or affirmed the ideas of the Declaration of Independence, or about the origins of the Civil War. We're looking to reaffirm our national or ethnic identity, to venerate our ancestors, to inspire wonder, or to instill patriotism or a sense of group solidarity. This is what people are looking to do when they read books by David McCullough.

Thus in some sense it is unfair, or at least beside the point, to attack heritage for not being history—like attacking Star Wars for not being 2001: A Space Odyssey. Although we need critics who will expose the perils of the historical blockbuster trend and show us more substantial ways to think about the past, we should also recognize the two modes have different functions, different aims. There ought to be a place in society for both heritage and history, provided that we retain a keen sense of the difference.

I've long felt, as I've already noted, that there are two VDHs; VDH the classicist and ancient military historian and... the other one. Is it that what I'm seeing is a split between history and heritage advocacy?

Friday, May 20, 2005

No More Heroes Anymore...

Last Great War cavalryman dies at 108.

Another sad landmark among many.

On another note, the Beeb are rather coy in this instance:

While serving in Flanders he was shot through the hand and spent 1917 convalescing in a Newcastle hospital but volunteered to return to the front and was back in position by spring 1918, now with the Machine Gun Corps.

After the Armistice he volunteered to serve again, this time in the growing Anglo-Irish conflict.

Do I detect the whif of stout and bitter? Not normally the sort of thing the BBC approves of.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Road To Damascus

Potentially good news from Syria.

Determining whether anything will actually come of this or what we should attribute in terms of causality is pretty tricky at this stage but it's better than no news, let's face it.

There She Goes (There She Goes Again)...

Also from Slate an interesting article on the dilemma regarding Afghan poppy production.

Interestingly, Bosco notes an ongoing internal bureaucratic struggle within the administration over how to deal with the problem. This sits on top of an existing rift between the United States and the United Kingdom over how to deal with the issue. The British, having been tasked with dealing with the problem, came under significant criticism for being less than vigorous in their pursuit of the destruction of the crop. The British, for their part, took the stance (also noted from non-British advocates in the Bosco article) that a punitive campaign against poppy production in the absence of viable alternative forms of economic opportunity would simply be a fast track route to economic collapse and armed uprising. Although the British recently relinquished responsibility for dealing with the poppy issue, it seems that the rather acrimonious Anglo-American row over the issue is not being replayed in microcosm in Washington itself.

It is far too ealry to attempt to judge just what the end game is going to be in this situation. However, it does seem fair at this point to draw the tentative conclusion that operations in Afghanistan have been hampered somewhat by a string of rifts - State vs. Defence, American vs. British, troops charged with Al Qaeda hunting vs. troops charged with stabilising the country and developing its post-conflict reconstruction (as one senior British officer with extensive experience in-country noted drily last year, if the interests and methods of the two groups coincide, it is purely a matter of "happy coincidence") and internal ructions within the NATO stabilisation forces.

Whether any of this was avoidable or whether it is all simply in the nature of the beast I am not sure.

The Long Winter Nights Just Fly By

It's History Week at Slate. (via Cliopatra)

Specifically worth a look is this piece (part 1 of 2) by David Greenberg on popular history, which deals iwth an area relevant to some of the personal research I have been undertaking over the past couple of months. I look forward to reading the second part.

Much of what Greenberg says is echoed in Jeremy Black's Rethinking Military History, which I believe should be made required reading for all incoming Military History or War Studies students, undergraduate or graduate.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

John Gaddis Speech

History Is(n't) Bunk

Interesting post over at HNN, putting forward a couple of rebuttals for this piece on alternatives to Yalta by Professor Bainbridge.

I don't think anyone finds Yalta to be a particularly agreeable state of affairs and even at the time it was hardly viewed as being ideal. That said, I do find some of the revisionism that has gone on of late a touch unpalatable. It has to be said that many of the supposed alternatives don't inspire confidence either.

Let's have a look at Professor Bainbridge's list:

Here's just a few ideas, in no particular order:
  1. Follow the strategy proposed by some of pursuing not a cross-channel invasion but a Balkans-based strategy of beating the Soviets to Vienna and then Berlin
  2. Let either Monty or Patton beat the Russians to Berlin
  3. Not send a dying man to negotiate with two of the best diplomatic card players in history
  4. Not be so desperate to get the Russians to attack Japan that you give away the store
  5. Not let a communist spy (Alger Hiss) be a key advisor
  6. Give the free Poles and Czechs fighting in the West support.
  7. Threaten to use the A-bomb
  8. Keep a viable fighting force in Europe post-1945
  9. Treat the Berlin crisis as a casus belli rather than a humanitarian problem
  10. Support the Hungarians in 1956
Most of these ideas seem to me to be pretty small beer (3) and largely the result of massive hindsight (5) or a disconnect with the political-strategic realities of the time (7, 8, 9, 10).

They Don't Like It Up 'Em

Number 1 is the biggest Big Idea. Does it represent a practical alternative? I admit I've given it very little thought prior to... er... now, but I'd say not. In a pretty big way.

When advocating a particular military campaign it is always worth while to make a map your first port of call. Click the link and take a shufti.

Now, I've already noted on here the logistical problems encountered by the Allies in sustaining an amphibious invasion and subsequent push inland from across the channel. Look at the map again. Even allowing for Allied control of the Med, the logistical effort to support a Balkans based strategy represents an order of magnitude many, many, many times greater. Just typing that doesn't serve to get over what a different ball game we're talking about - again. look at the map. Everything; distance, suitable landing grounds, useable ports, potential airbase facilities, is against it. You don't have to be George C. Marshall to figure it out.

Then let's factor in the terrain on the ground, something that Amy Lamboley has already noted. Even assuming that the Allies could get into the Adriatic to launch an invasion the terrain is horrible. If they had to land at the arse end of Greece they would actually be no closer to Berlin as the crow flies than if they landed in Normandy and would have to fight across some of the worst terrain in Europe in order to get to it.

If you advocate a Balkan strategy, geography and logistics are not your friends.


On the other Moderately Big Idea, setting Monty or Patton loose to drive for Berlin relies less on hindsight (and indeed is a concept Churchill toyed with) but still fails to account for the fact that a) the British effectively didn't have any infantry left and b) even at that stage the Allies were repeatedly coming close to outstripping their logistics train, among other things.

Miscellaneous Premature Ejaculation Jokes

Professor Bainbridge, to his credit, includes an interesting critique emailed by a reader in his post. There's some good things and some bad things in it, but again, the Big Idea, in this case an early 1943 invasion is, in my view, lacking:

We would have been better advised, in a strategic sense, to delay the Pacific struggle even further, provide minimal support in North Africa, and invade France in early 1943, before the Panzer V was available in large-enough quantities to make a difference on the Western front. The Panzer IV was a fairly even match with the Sherman; the Panzer V was... not. Further, the blood on the Eastern Front was still in Soviet territory at that time, which both would have allowed substantial airstrikes and interdiction of transferring troops and kept any Soviet victories from being on our doorstep. Well, relatively speaking: Europeans, even Russians, just don't have any real concept of continent-wide war. Remember that it's farther from Memphis to New Orleans than it is from Berlin to Moscow.

It was long an article of faith that the coup by the Imperial General Staff of convincing the Americans to delay D-Day for a year was highly fortuitous and one of the major Good Calls of Allied strategy (though the invasion of Italy was always viewed as more questionable). This interpretation has since come under attack with some scholars arguing that a 1943 invasion was, in fact, viable and that British strategy was excessively cautious. There may or may not be merit in this interpretation, but it seems to me that the specific option outlined here is dubious. The fact that the author frames the argument in nakedly technocentric terms with a tank comparison doesn't help:

invade France in early 1943, before the Panzer V was available in large-enough quantities to make a difference on the Western front. The Panzer IV was a fairly even match with the Sherman; the Panzer V was... not.

OK. But let's do a balance sheet here. you invade in early 1943 and there's that. There's also (just off the top of my head):

- No opportunity for the US Army to glean lessons learned from its relatively crap performance in North Africa.
- Similarly, no lessons learned from amphibious operations in the Pacific in the case of the US (though the record seems to indicate that relatively little was learned anyway it must be said) and insufficient time for the British to fully absorb out the lessons of Dieppe.
- Significantly less attrition of German infrastructure and capacity through the Combined Bomber Offensive.
- No Allied air superiority.
- Significantly reduced trained military manpower availability for the USA

But yeah, by all means, no Panzer Vs. Sounds like a really sweet little deal.

I'm being a bit catty here - the correspondent does allow for other factors (such as diversion of resources from the Pacific). But even here I think there's a failure to really engage with how things were seen (not unreasonably) then as opposed to now.

It's one thing to say that ,"Yalta was a bad thing, m'kaaay?". I'm not sure anyone would really dispute that. What the critics have largely failed to do, in my view, is really put forward a viable alternative*. If their 20/20 hindsight alternatives can manage to look unattractive right now, then it's hardly surprised that during the war itself statesment and generals without hindsight didn't leap on them.

And what we don't need is for this to become a politicised issue (something of which I don't accuse Professor Bainbridge, just to be clear) wherein a narrative springs up in which, predictably, the Democrats were a bunch of Commie-coddling, surrender-monkey fellow travelers. Such a reading of history would have about as much merit as banging on about Truman "losing" China.

*Professor Bainbridge cites Jonathan Haslam in "Virtual History" as an example of alternative strategies that would have been viable. I freely admit I have not read the book, having as I do only a deeply finite tolerance for alternative history that fancies itself more serious than a Harry Turtledove novel. That said, Jonathan Haslam is a fine scholar and if anyone has read the chapter in question and would like to fill me in on the specifics I'll be more than happy to give it a hearing.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Silent Revolution?

A cursory glance through the various revolution-boosting blogs out there seems to indicate that a mysterious reticence has overtaken people on the matter of Uzbekistan. Beirut - check. Georgia - check. The Ukraine - check. Oil for Food - check. Newsweek Buggering It Up - check. But Uzbekistan - not a sausage.

I wonder why.

Anyway, here are links to some related stories.

For important context, check out the old Chris Seiple E-Notes here and here.

(Some links via The Professor)

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Black As Hell And Thick As Grass

I have just received an email correspondence inquiring as to quite how Zulu is historically inaccurate.

It's a fair question and understandable given that Zulu is not, in contrast with, say, Braveheart, renowned as a film that plays havoc with history. Unfortunately it is, in fact, extremely sloppy indeed. Mistakes range from those likely only to get up the nose of the real buff to wholesale and gratuitous alterations made to real life characters on a scale as bad as anything to come out of Hollywood in recent years.

A few problems (not an exhaustive list):

First off, it is a complete myth that the garrison of Rorke's Drift was predominantly Welsh. They were overwhelmingly English. Although the regiment involved is referred to as the South Wales Borderers, the pre-Cardwell battalion actually involved was the 2nd 24th, which drew mostly from England.

There are numerous technical details that are off. The soldiers wear white foreign service helmets with metal regimental plates. In reality the helmets would either be covered with a khaki cloth cover while on active service or alternatively they would have the brass plate removed and be stained brown (sometimes with tea). Regulations forbad the shaving of the upper lip and in contrast to the images presented on screen, moustaches were, in fact, universal and beards very nearly so. Close examination of the battle scenes shows large numbers of the troops armed with bolt-action magazine rifles with Martini-Henry bayonets crudely affixed to the front (one can only assume that the M-H was in relatively short supply and enough could be procured only to equip actors in small scalle close-up shots). The film portrays the attacking Zulus as being armed with Martinis scavenged from dead British troops on Isandlwana when in reality the Zulus involved at Rorke's Drift took no part in the earlier battle and were armed with obsolete, privately purchased firearms and jury-rigged ammunition (hence in large part the general ineffectiveness of Zulu fire, even when in a position to overlook the British positions.

The real scandal, however, comes with the portrayal of several of the key characters:

Adendorff (Boer soldier) - The historical record is disputed as to whether or not Adendorff was actually present at the battle.

Surgeon Reynolds - Reynolds is shown operating from within the mission chapel. In reality he gave medical aid outside within sight of the mealy-bag perimeter and, far from his portrayal in the film ("Damn you Chard! Damn all you butchers!"), plied the rifle and bayonet with gusto when not required to attend to injured troops.

Colour Sergeant Bourne - In the film, Bourne is portrayed as a seasoned old salt; the quintessential grizzled old NCO. In reality the opposite was true - he was the youngest member of the garrison (and the last man among them to die, in 1945) and had an easygoing style and a popular reputation within the company.

Hook - Perhaps the most scandalous and bizarre misrepresentation of all. Portrayed in the film as a drunk, a malingerer and a rough diamond cockney rogue, Private Hook was in reality anything but. In fact - you couldn't make this up - he, almost alone among the men of B Company, didn't drink. The only time he was known to touch it during his service was immediately after the battle when liquid fortification was being distributed to the men, Hook was observed to be in line for a mug. When Colour Sergeant Bourne expressed surprise at his presence, he responded, "Well! I think I deserve something after that!" Additionally, far from being in the hospital due to a malingering disposition, he was present as an assistant to Surgeon Reynolds. All contemporary accounts point to him being notable for his hard work, reliability and popularity with both officers and men.

Commissary Dalton - Although it is noted that Dalton was awarded the VC at the end of the film, the uninitiated viewer might be forgiven for wondering why, as Dalton is portrayed as a stammering, pompous, upper class buffoon and pen pusher who does very little of merit before getting himself shot and put out of action. In reality, Dalton conformed fairly closely to the sort of character of the fictionalised version of Colour Sergeant Bourne and played a pivotal role in the defence of the mission station. In 1879 he had extensive active service experience under his belt and had fortuitously been sent on a mid-career training course in the construction of field foritifcations. He took the lead role in convincing Bromhead and Chard to fight from prepared defensive positions (as opposed to abandoning the mission station and striking out into the mountains) and at zero notice personally designed and oversaw the construction of the fortifications. During the fighting proper he took a place in the line alongside the ordinary troops, directed fire and was eventually put out of action temporarily by a bullet wound.

So much for the characters. The film also has rather a clumsy anti-war undertone, as with the aforementioned "Damn all you butchers!" outburst and Bromhead and Chard's post battle soul searching. In reality this is entirely fictional and has no grounding whatsoever in the historical record. Both Chard and Bromhead were enthusiastic regular officers, who demonstrated no sign of having had their appetite for active service dimmed by their experiences and who largely revelled in the celebrity they garnered in the wake of events.

And, on a final note, there is no evidence at all that the men of B Company met Zulu battle chants by singing Men of Harlech.

It's still a fantastic film. But in its own way it's no less of a farrago than Braveheart or U-571.

Saturday Night At The Movies...

It's that time again. Channel 4 has been showing a programme on the 100 Greatest War Films as voted by the viewing public.

Top 10 as follows:

1 - Saving Private Ryan
2 - Apocalypse Now
3 - The Great Escape
4 - Schindler's List
5 - Full Metal Jacket
6 - Platoon
7 - A Bridge Too Far
8 - Zulu
9 - Black Hawk Down
10 - Bridge on the River Kwai

There's a lot I could say, but won't. I find it rather disspiriting that Saving Private Ryan was Numero Uno. If you strip away the first 20 minutes there's a LOT of cliche, boilerplate and implausible guff going on.

Not that realism is necessarily the sole criterion by which we measure these things. My personal favourite of the top ten is probably Zulu (or perhaps the Great Escape), which is riven with horrendous levels of historical inaccuracy and bullshit.

The very strong showing for Vietnam films is interesting and provocative, though they may benefit by default on the basis of the fact that they are relatively recent.

Great to see The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp on the list (though too low!).

Notable by their absence (unless they were there and I was in the khazi when they came up) - The Hill, Waterloo, Gettysburg, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence.

That WW2 Revisionism Thing

I feel that VDH may be forgiven, in the face of this very peculiar article by Pat Buchanan.

Given that we've got a well briefed readership, I don't think it should be necessary for me to spend time performing an autopsy on it.

Take me on a rollercoaster, take me on an airplane ride...

Christ on a bike!

Also from the SSI site, various papers and PowerPoints from this conference, that featured, among others, Zachary Abuza, Peter Bergen, Tom Marks, Stephen Biddle, Michael "Artist Formerly Known As Anonymous" Scheuer, Steve Metz, John Nagl, Robert Steele, Antulio Echevarria, Jeffrey Record, Thomas Hammes and Paul van Riper.

I dunno about you lot but I haven't been this turned on since Transformation and Strategic Surprise.

Baby Jane's in Acapulco, We're all flying down to Rio...

Colin Gray has a new paper up at the consistently fantastic US Army War College SSI website (PDF).

I have yet to have a chance to read the paper, having just discovered it, but let's face it, it's going to be "The Shit" (which is, I am assured, a Good Thing). Read and enjoy.

From the summary:

The analysis has a strong thesis and conclusion. Specifically, it argues that in
period after period, and with few exceptions in war after war, the kind
of strategic surprise to which the United States is most at risk, and which
is most damaging to U.S. national security, is the unexpected depth and
pervasiveness of the connection between war and politics. Americans
usually are superior in making war: they are far less superior in making
the peace that they want out of the war that they wage.
The monograph argues that the current military transformation, though
certainly welcome, cannot itself correct the long-standing U.S. weakness in
the proper use of force as an instrument of policy. The discussion claims
that, notwithstanding its probable virtues in the enhancement of military
prowess, the current military transformation bids fair to be irrelevant to
America’s really serious strategic problem or condition. What the global
superpower needs is a military establishment that it can use in ways
conducive to the standards of international order it seeks to uphold, and
with the political consequences that U.S. policy intends. Whether that
establishment is more, or less, network-centric, or has, more or less, on-call
precision firepower, truly is a matter of less than overwhelming importance.
Politics rules! More accurately phrased, perhaps, policy should rule! War is
political behavior that must serve policy. Since the conduct of war should
not be a self-regarding apolitical activity, preparation for it in peacetime,
as well as its exercise in anger, needs to be suffused with the sense of
purpose that is provided only by the realm of policy. To summarize: this
monograph has taken no issue with the grand design of the transforming
Army, rather the salient topics are the use made of the Army by American
policymakers, and the way that the Army chooses to behave, both in
combat and afterwards.

I dunno about you lot but I haven't been this turned on since Sisters.

Look out! He's got snow on his boots!

Via the Telegraph (free registration required) it seems that the Security Service is somewhat disturbed by a very significant rise in Russian espionage activity in the UK.

Similarly, the Russians reckon we've been playing nosey buggers too. Interestingly, the accusations revolve around the notion that we're employing NGOs as a front for poking about.

Bit of Trivia apropos of nothing very much - It is illegal for private citizens to own GPS equipment in Russia.

...And Introducing Robin Lane Fox

A while back I attended a very enjoyable and enlightening talk and Q&A with Robin Lane Fox at the RUSI. I am pleased to announce that audio of the event is now available at the RUSI website.

Key points from RLF's talk:

- Don't snigger at the ambitions of young men.
- Old geezers can fight.
- So can gays.
- Unlike horses when confronted by elephants.
- And any old geezers and gays who may be mounted on said horses when they are confronted by elephants.
- There is a significant amount of value, when formulating theories regarding the tactical conduct of war from written sources, in actually trying to recreate what you're arguing as closely as possible to see whether there is a gap between theory and actual practicality.

In addition, from the RUSI frontpage, you can listen to the chief, Rear Admiral Cobbold, being interviewed on the Today programme regarding the potential renewal of British nuclear capability (along with Caroline Lucas spouting pious guff and Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, making it abundantly clear he hasn't the first idea what he's talking about).

The Long Slog

Related to the previous post, as something of a space filler I figure I might as well post up an essay I wrote a couple of months ago on the subject of the fighting in Normandy in 1944. It got a First ("A superb exposition of the various factors which contributed to the fighting in Normandy..."), though there are obviously things about it with which I am not entirely satisfied and it could be improved upon.


Why did it take so long for the Allies to defeat the Germans in Normandy? Were the Germans superior to the Allies as all round soldiers?

“This is the damndest country I ever saw.”

- General Omar Bradley

“Tommy is no soldier.”

- Comment in German after action report.

There are a number of reasons why Allied progress in Normandy following the D-Day landings was as slow as it was. Disparity in quality between the Allied forces and the Germans facing them is indeed a key reason. However, it cannot serve as an explanation by itself. The Allies faced a number of challenges during the Normandy operations that would have vexed the finest fighting forces in the world and this must be taken into account. However, the qualitative advantage enjoyed by German troops served to exacerbate the existing challenges facing the British, Canadian and American forces and made an inherently difficult job significantly more costly.

The Allies themselves identified four main impediments to swift progress in Normandy; first, the nature of the terrain; second, the weather; third, the quality of the German army and fourth problems with their own troops at various levels.[1] To this list can be added certain other factors relating to strategic planning and logistics. Although each aspect can be examined separately, the various factors involved fed into each other and it was the combined impact of all of the above that proved so troublesome.

The terrain encountered in much of Normandy, bocage, consisted of a chequerboard effect of small, self-contained fields, separated by high, thick hedgerows. This presented the defender with excellent terrain in which to operate for a number of reasons. In effect, the battlefield was compartmentalised, each field becoming a miniature battle in itself. This served to break down Allied command and control capabilities and resulted in Allied troops feeling isolated and vulnerable with a parallel decline in morale. Combat took place at extremely short ranges – 300 yards or less. This impeded advancing allied troops from bringing up heavy machineguns against already entrenched German positions and effectively served to negate one of the key allied advantages – weight of materiel. Close air support, artillery (one area in which the Allies [especially the Royal Artillery] excelled and upon which they were highly, perhaps excessively, reliant[2]) and mortars were all hampered by the close proximity of the two sides and Allied troops were often denied fire support due to the fact that the Allied and German positions were almost indistinguishable. The situation was worsened by differing approaches between the two sides. The Germans gave priority to weight of fire concentrated on set lines, employing machine and submachine guns to suppress advancing Allied troops, whereas the Americans gave priority to aimed fire over suppression (not something with an especially happy historical pedigree[3]), frequently not firing at all when there was nothing obvious at which to aim[4] – a situation that was the norm in bocage territory. The fact that the Germans possessed superior machineguns was an added problem when a firefight could be decided based on which side could keep its opponents to ground long enough to work around the flanks. In thick bocage terrain it was estimated that four small German defensive teams spread across four individual small fields could expect to tie down an entire US Army battalion and support units.[5]

Bocage territory was also deadly for tanks, given the heavily obscured sight lines and opportunities for infantry to approach tanks unseen. This problem was exacerbated by two factors. The first was the employment by the Germans of the panzerfaust (armoured fist), a highly effective one-shot, man portable anti-tank weapon tipped with a shaped charge. The second was very poor coordination between the infantry and tank arms of both the British and the American armies.[6] The British especially favoured formations that were excessively tank heavy. There were two further reasons for this. The first was faulty training.[7] In the matters of exploiting cover, concealment, dispersion (made more difficult by the nature of the terrain), suppressive fire, combined arms integration and small unit initiative, the British were woefully deficient.[8] Some of this can be explained by the fact that the British army was not an army of regulars, but one of citizen soldiers, facing an enemy of extreme professionalism and ideological zeal, but even so the British failed to make the best of what they had.[9] The second was the fact that Britain was facing an extreme manpower squeeze.[10] By August 1944, only 2,654 trained draft quality infantry were available to plug gaps in the British infantry force.[11] The British could not afford to lose infantry, but they could afford to lose tanks – an early expression of the concept of never sending a man when a bullet can be sent instead.[12] In the case of the Americans the situation was better, but not by a dramatic margin. One key problem that massively hampered co-operation between combat arms was that American infantry and tankers employed radios that operated on different frequencies and were completely incapable of communication with each other except face to face.[13]

It should be noted that not all problems were the result of tactical deficiencies. The Allies went into Normandy expecting a long, attritional slog and their planning made this almost inevitable.[14] Although enormous amounts of petrol were stockpiled, the logistical planners managed to heavily underestimate the rate of ammunition usage and this took some time to rectify. There were problems regarding unity of command, with different contingents harbouring differing priorities and command styles.[15] In the early days of the campaign, several key geographical points were left unsecured. The most notable of these was the Anglo-Canadian failure to secure Caen, a vital transport hub and assembly point, on the first day of the campaign (it ultimately fell a month and a half after D-Day).[16] Later, following the capture of Amsterdam, the British failed to open up the Scheldt estuary to Allied traffic, which resulted in continuing logistical problems (and gave the Germans valuable time to rest and refit).[17] Later, sluggishness on the part of senior British generals resulted in the failure to close the Falaise Gap, permitting in excess of fifty thousand crack German troops to escape – these troops would form a cadre that served as the foundation for continuing German resistance. For their part, the Americans often failed to adapt pre-invasion planning to new realities on the ground. Much time was spent attempting to secure French ports that had already been wrecked beyond all utility.[18] Meanwhile, General Bradley failed to concentrate American forces, distributing them in penny packets, which played into the man-to-man superiority possessed by the Germans.[19] Good old-fashioned bad luck also played a role, especially in the matter of the weather. 1944 having generally been a clement year, the Allied landings were almost immediately succeeded by the worst wind and rain in fifty years.[20] This not only destroyed one of the Mulberry harbours, significantly degrading the Allied logistics effort but it also served to ground large parts of the British and American close air support capability, further hampering the employment of what was among their key trump cards.

In order to establish areas of relative strength and weakness, it is useful to look at the qualities of the three main national forces – American, British and German – engaged in the Normandy campaign in more detail.

The US army, like its British counterpart, underwent a rapid crash expansion in order to fulfil the requirements of global total war. Unlike its German adversary, which had been planning for movement to a war footing for years before 1939, the US Army was not even fully aware of the strategic environment to which it would have to adapt until 1943.[21] As things stood, during the course of the Second World War, the army underwent a staggering increase from 334,000 men in 1939 to 12 million men under arms in 1945 – an increase of 3,500 per cent.[22] This expansion came at significant qualitative cost, a production line analogy being not unapt. US Army training tended to focus on technical competence rather than human factors and the entire system was impersonal and lacked stability.[23] A willingness to turn to technological solutions to perceived problems is a widely perceived keystone of American strategic culture[24] and this tendency was given full rein in this instance. Firepower and weight of materiel was employed as a substitute for high quality human factors.[25] The US Army was highly mechanised which in good terrain and with reliable supply lines resulted in mobility superior to that of the Germans. Unfortunately, as we have already seen, during the early stages of the Normandy campaign the terrain was very far from good, stymieing the largely road-bound US Army transport system, and the logistics train was splitting apart at the seams.[26] Ironies abound. Although the US Army took a somewhat techno-centric approach to war, its equipment was, with the exception of rifles (which, as we have already seen, the Americans did not employ well), largely inferior to that of the Germans.[27] The only combat arm that enjoyed a clear superiority over the enemy in terms of both equipment and competence was that of the artillery, which was unable to showcase its talents in the awkward terrain of bocage country. Additionally, doctrine and reality intersected only through happy coincidence. The US Army’s reliance upon artillery barrages, close air support and infantry of only moderate capability made it naturally effective on the tactical defensive. However, US doctrine stressed not only the operational offensive (understandably, given that the US Army was part of an invading force) but the tactical offensive too. This was not suited to the relatively rigid, brittle capabilities of the American infantry, which lacked initiative and combat motivation[28]. It would be wrong to argue that the Americans did not improve their performance - they did, creditably, all the while having to cope with an extremely steep learning curve.[29] However, the Americans themselves calculated that American attacks against German positions required, at minimum, a four to one manpower advantage in the Americans’ favour.[30] In reality they rarely enjoyed this advantage[31] and the results were predictable.

Painful though it is to note, British performance was, on balance, probably even worse. The British Army had been grossly under-funded in the interwar period and had to undergo an expansion of a similarly traumatic nature to that experienced by the Americans.[32] In spite of this, the British managed to excel in a number of areas. Inter-service co-operation was excellent, at sea thanks to a longstanding strategic culture of maritime expeditionary operations, at land in no small part thanks to the sterling efforts of Air Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder.[33] The Imperial General Staff as a body put in the finest performance of the war at the strategic level. The British were the senior intelligence partner and consistently led the way in this field, running rings around the Germans. British artillery best practice was the finest in the world and British combat engineers, clanking into battle atop bizarre and yet rather effective Heath Robinson-like “funnies”, were highly skilled and put in an outstanding performance.[34] However, the rest of the story is largely dismal. Combat arms integration, notably that of tanks and infantry, was extremely poor.[35] Infantry training lacked rigour and realism in comparison with that of the Germans.[36] Dissemination of doctrine ranged from inconsistent to non-existent.[37] The British regimental system was a double-edged sword. On the one hand it served to sustain morale to a certain degree (though this is a relative judgement - the British suffered from significant morale problems all the same[38]) and gave troops a sense of comradeship and belonging that was largely absent from their American counterparts. On the other, it could result in British troops adopting an actively hostile attitude to co-operation with other units, let alone other combat arms.[39] The British often suffered from weak leadership, perpetuated by the dominance of the class structure. Cliques existed in every army, but it is unlikely that a character such as Neil Ritchie, having failed so signally in the desert war, would have found continued employment at high level in the US or – especially - German armies. Additionally, due to internal army politics, armoured warfare specialists (notably those from the Royal Tank Regiment) were held back or sidelined to training posts far from field command.[40] Contrary to popular belief, social mobility within the British army was probably less flexible in the Second World War than it had been in the First; ironically, the Germans themselves rated British non-commissioned officers with singular respect, but relatively few were commissioned, even in the face of attrition.[41] British operations tended to be characterised by initial success followed by rapid breakdown when British infantry and tankers were required to operate (often separately) beyond pre-planned artillery support.[42] A final problem was that of experience. The British Army was significantly more experienced than its American counterpart and on paper at least, this should have paid dividends.[43] It did not. No soldier can continue to fight indefinitely and it is entirely plausible that many British units were simply outstripping their period of effectiveness, becoming ever more cautious as time progressed. The Americans, largely fresh, harboured no such inhibitions. It is noteworthy that high level US commanders feared that the continuation of military conflict in the Pacific beyond V.E. Day would soon result in American troops relocated East from the European theatre to suffer from a similar malaise. However, this can be taken too far. Most German units had also seen extensive combat experience and did not experience so marked a lack of performance. War-weariness on the part of the British was probably a very real factor in British performance but, as with so many other things, it was exacerbated by very real deficiencies elsewhere – deficiencies that could and should have been rectified, or at least ameliorated.[44]

The Allies themselves recognised that the fighting quality of the German soldier was one of the key factors in their slow progress across North West Europe.[45] German troops were brought up to a very high standard of training. German doctrine emphasised combined arms operations, small unit initiative and decentralised leadership.[46] Self-criticism and an open forum for ideas were also seen as key to training, something that could infrequently be said for British practice.[47] Training was also backed up be ideology[48] – many German soldiers were true believers, in contrast to their more cynical British and American counterparts. This had a major impact in terms of morale, aggressiveness and staying power.[49] The Germans tended to defend in depth, with large mobile reserves and had the flexibility and initiative to react effectively to Allied operations. Promotion on merit was far more strongly entrenched than in either of the two main Allied armies.[50] Although German equipment was largely superior, this cannot be held up as a deterministic explanation for German capability[51] Similarly, while, as noted, the terrain of Normandy largely favoured the Germans as a matter of nature, it was their skill that enabled them to employ it to greatest effect, actively seeking to neutralise where the Allies were strongest. In contrast to the focus on materiel cherished by the Allies, the Germans focused on human factors and on this basis it should come as no surprise to discover that man for man they were superior.[52] Happily, their operational and tactical brilliance was equalled only to the extent that they were also abominably bad strategists.[53] As Colin Gray has pointed out, the Germans were unequalled in the matter of fighting, but not very good at making war.[54]

In conclusion then, it can be seen that a variety of factors conspired to contribute to the slowness of Allied victory in Normandy. The superior quality of German soldiery must be a key plank in the overall explanation. It is not sufficient in and of itself. The Allies faced numerous obstacles, many of them unavoidable, or at least understandable. In warfare, perfection is a chimera, excellence is relative and glory is generally achieved merely by being better than the other man on the day. However, in examining Allied performance, lit though it was by enormous and ultimate success, it is impossible not to conclude that the British and Americans supplemented their already heavy burden with several loads of their own creation. And inevitably – to employ a turn of phrase with some contemporary resonance – they paid the blood price.


Biddle, Stephen (2004), Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press)

Creveld, Martin van (1983), Fighting Power: German and U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945 (London: Arms and Armour)

Creveld, Martin van (1977), Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Doubler, Michael D. (1994), Closing With The Enemy: How GIs Fought The War In Europe, 1944-1945 (Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press)

Doughty, Robert A. and Gruber, Ira D., eds. (1996), Warfare In the Western World (vol.2): Military Operations Since 1871 (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath)

Gray, Colin S. (1999), Modern Strategy (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Harrison Place, Timothy (2000), Military Training in the British Army, 1940-1944: From Dunkirk to D-Day (London: Frank Cass)

Holden Reid, Brian, ed. (1997), Military Power: Land Warfare in Theory and Practice (London: Frank Cass)

House, Jonathan M. (2001), Combined Arms Warfare in the Twentieth Century (Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press)

Jensen, Geoffrey and Wiest, Andrew, eds. (2001), War in the Age of Technology (New York: New York University Press)

Keegan, John (1982), Six Armies In Normandy (London: Pimlico)

Megargee, Geoffrey P. (2000), Inside Hitler’s High Command (Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press)

Millett, Allan R. and Murray, Williamson, eds. (1988), Military Effectiveness (vol.2): The Second World War (Winchester, MA: Allen & Unwin)

Murray, Williamson and Millett, Allan R. (2001), A War To Be Won: Fighting the Second World War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press)

Sheffield, G.D., ed. (2002), Leadership and Command: The Anglo-American Experience Since 1861 (London: Brasseys)

[1] Doughty & Gruber, eds. (1996), p.789 and Doubler (1994), p.36

[2] Murray & Millett, eds. (2001), p.417

[3] Jensen & Wiest, eds. (2001), pp.31-36

[4] Doubler (1994), p.40

[5] Doubler (1994), p.39

[6] Millett & Murray, eds. (1988), pp.110-112

[7] Harrison Place (2000), pp.128-153

[8] Biddle (2004), p.121

[9] Harrison Place (2000)

[10] Murray and Millett (2001), p.425

[11] Holden Reid, ed. (1997), pp.142-143

[12] It may be noteworthy that Montgomery gained early experience on the staff of British Second Army in the Great War, whose motto was “waste metal, not flesh”. It was a good rule to live by and Second Army’s performance was excellent, but the campaign in North West Europe saw this taken to extremes and nowhere was the finely tuned co-ordination inherent to the impressive British advances of summer 1918 in evidence. Sheffield, ed. (2002), p.125 lends weight to this notion.

[13] House (2001), p.167

[14] Murray and Millett (2001), pp.419-420

[15] Murray and Millett (2001), p.416

[16] Doughty & Gruber, eds. (1996), p.786

[17] Doughty & Gruber, eds. (1996), p.794

[18] Doughty & Gruber, eds. (1996), p.791

[19] Murray & Millett (2001), p.426

[20] Doubler (1994), p.36

[21] Millett & Murray, eds. (1988), p.46

[22] Millet & Murray, eds. (1988), p.47

[23] Van Creveld (1983), pp.76-79 and Sheffield, ed. (2002), p.123

[24] Gray (1999), pp.145-146

[25] Doughty & Gruber, eds. (1996), p.788

[26] House (2001), pp.138-139

[27] Millett & Murray, eds. (1988), p.73

[28] Van Creveld (1983), p.88 and Millett & Murray, eds. (1988), p.83

[29] Doubler (1994)

[30] Murray & Millett, eds. (1988), p.61

[31] Murray & Millett (2001), p.426 and Millett & Murray, eds (1988), p.61

[32] Millett & Murray, eds. (1988), p.90

[33] Millett & Murray, eds. (1988), p.107

[34] Millett & Murray, eds. (1988), p.73

[35] Harrison Place (2000), pp.128-130

[36] Harrison Place (2000), pp.40-63, van Creveld (1983), pp.72-74 and Millett & Murray, eds. (1988), pp.112-113

[37] Harrison Place (2000), pp.8-18

[38] Holden Reid, ed. (1997), pp.132-133

[39] Sheffield, ed. (2002), p.123 Harrison Place (2000) notes the incidence of a British armoured officer refusing to serve with Royal Artillery attached to his tank unit because, “the Royal Horse Artillery serves with the cavalry.” This is mind-boggling and would have been unthinkable in the US or German armies.

[40] Millett & Murray, eds. (1988), p.126

[41] ibid

[42] Biddle (2004), p.121

[43] Harrison Place (2000), p.3

[44] Harrison Place (2000), pp.168-177

[45] Doughty & Gruber, eds. (1996), p.789 and Doubler (1994), p.36

[46] House (2001), p.179, van Creveld (1983), pp.35-37 and Murray & Millet (2001), p.412

[47] Millett & Murray, eds. (1988), p.209

[48] Murray & Millett (2001), p.412

[49] Sheffield, ed. (2002), p.174

[50] Van Creveld (1983), pp.25-26

[51] Biddle (2004), pp.112-113

[52] Millett & Murray (1988), p.214

[53] Megargee (2000), pp.230-236

[54] Gray (1999), p.50