Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tannenberg

Kosaken Kommen!

Way back about this time last century, Imperial Deutschland was like totally throwing her mighty military might against France, Belgium and Great Britain's BEF in the famous Schliefflen Plan as the 1st month of combat in WWI got all crunk up. 

With Imperial Russia mobilizing to attack Germany, the vaunted German General Staff took meticulously planned advantage of interior rail roads and logistics to deploy most of her troops - over 34 Corps (2 or more divisons each) - like nearly a million soldiers to overwhelm and annihilate Western Front Allied armies, accept a French surrender and cut peace deals with Great Britain and Belgium and then transport her victorious armies to the Ost Front and derail the dreaded "Russian Steamroller" as it began to finally advance on Germany. 

As a scarecrow of sorts, Deutschland left her 8th Army (4 and a half Corps, a cavalry division and the Konigsberg garrison) in what was then Ost Prussia.

Imperial High Command via von Moltke (the younger) instructed 8th Army:

Defend West and East Prussia yet not get overwhelmed by superior forces or be driven into the fortress of Konigsberg. If 8th army were threatened by superior forces - it was to high tail it behind the Vistula river - leaving East Prussia to Russia until victorious truppen fresh from the West Front would reinforce, counter attack and retake it.

Russia surprised everyone with her scheme of "Forward Mobilization" and fielded two ginourmous armies happily named the 1st and 2nd armies that formed up and struck into East Prussia a month ahead of schedule.

8th army had a rowdy rebellious Corps commander who dissed orders and launched an all out attack on the Russians 1st army at the frontier. Such a move could pull 8th army corps by corps away from her prepped defensive positions into an awful killing machine leaving part of Russia's 2nd Army with a chance to cut off and destroy most - if not all of 8th army.

Another spoiling attack on 1st Army caused an additional corps to flee from the Russians, 8th army was in very real danger of being driven into Konigsberg which OHL had expressly forbidden.

"Keep 8th Army intact. Don't be driven from the Vistula, yet in case of extreme need abandon the region east of the Vistula"

8th Army commander von Prittwitz felt the extreme need was now. Ringing up OHL at Coblenz, he announced his intention to retreat to Vistula river if not behind it. He added the waters in the summer heat were at low ebb and he was doubtful if he could even hold the river without reinforcements.

High Command was shocked. Reinforcements! Where on earth could they come from save West Front - where every last battalion was engaged? Worse - Russians on Vistula river would threaten Berlin, the Austrian flank and even Vienna. Giving up the valuable dairy and grain regions of the Reich would be a tremendous morale and prestige loss.

8th Army's junior commanders argued against such a retreat. Utilizing railways on which so much brain power had been expended would allow 8th Army to regroup, refresh and mass against the nearest danger - the Russian 2nd army. A full envelopment and defeat of the Russians could be achieved and then repeat the manuever on the 1st army.

Refusing anything but withdrawal secured von Prittwitz's dismissal from 8th army.

Recalling von Hindenburg from retirement and Ludendorf from capturing the fortresses of Belgium to command 8th army they concurred with 8th Army's staff's plan to regroup and attack 2nd army.

Suddenly an extrodinary phone call all the way from OHL - pledging 3 additional corps (about 6 divisions) - came through. Ludendorf - who knew down to the last decimal the required density of manpower per kilometre - could hardly believe what he heard.

In distributing Prussian refugees across Germany, the Germans had succeeded in frightening themselves. Tearful pleas of of high born Junker ladies to the Kaiserine, vast estates left for maurading cossacks and fears of a Russian advance into the heart of the Reich pulled those corps from the victory at Namur in Belgium.

8th army argued passionately against their transfer and the 3 corps were only out of line for a week in the West.

The battle began

Two armies, now totally committed, surged and gripped and broke apart and clashed again in confused and seperate combats over a front of 40 miles for days. A regiment advanced, it's neighbor was thrown back, gaps appeared, the enemy thrust through or, unaccountably did not. Artillery roared, cavalry squadrons, infantry units, horse-drawn field gun batteries moved and floundered through villages and forrests, between lakes, across fields and roads. Three hundred thousand men flailed at each other, marched, counter marched and died as the great battle of the Eastern Front was fought out.
95,000 Russians troops were captured in the action; an estimated 30,000 were killed or wounded, and of his original 150,000 total, only around 10,000 of Samsonov's men escaped. The Germans suffered fewer than 20,000 casualties and, in addition to prisoners captured over 500 guns. Sixty trains were required to transport captured equipment to Germany.

Tannenberg was a great victory for Germany, restored her faith in ultimate victory and made living legends out of von Hindenburg and Ludendorf in the 1st month of the war.

Yet withdrawing those 3 corps from West Front - even for a short time - ensured that Germany would lose the war in the coming few days...



Pic - "We had not merely to win a victory over Samsonof. We had to annihilate him."



Monday, September 1, 2014

Fall Weiß

At dawn on September 1st, Luftwaffe struck at Polish airfields destroying most of the planes before they could get off the ground. With control of the skies assured wicked Wehrmacht began the systematic destruction of railroads and the few communications nodes. From the very outset the Poles mobilization plan was seriously compromised. Before the day ended, chaos reigned at Polish Army HQ.

The first phase of the campaign, fought on the frontiers was over by September 5th and the morning of the 7th found reconnaissance elements of Army Group South’s 10th Army just 36 miles southwest of Warsaw. Meanwhile, also on September 5th, vBock’s Army Group North had cut across the corridor and turned southeast for Warsaw. Units of the 3rd Army reached the banks of the River Narew on September 7th, just 25 miles north of Warsaw. The fast moving armored panzer 'Schwerpunkts' of blitzing attacks left the immobile Polish armies cut up, surrounded and out of supply.


Meanwhile the closing of the inner ring at Warsaw witnessed some tough fighting as the Polish Poznan Army, bypassed in the first week of the war, charged heading and attacked toward Warsaw to the southeast. The German 8th and 10th Armies were put to the test as they were forced to turn some divisions completely around to meet the desperate Polish assault. In the end the gallant attack fell short and by September 19th the Poznan Army surrendered some 100,000 men and Poland’s last intact army.


As this was occurring the second, more deeper envelopment led by General Heinz Guderian’s panzers took the city of Brest-Litovsk on September 17th, and continued past the city where they made contact with the 10th Army spearhead at Wlodowa 30 miles to the south.

The war, for all practical purposes was over by September 17th. Lvov surrendered on the 19th. Warsaw held out until September 27th, gave up the ghost and the last organized resistance ended October 6th with the surrender of 17,000 Polish soldiers at Kock.


The campaign had lasted less than two months and ended in the destruction of the Polish Army and the fourth partition of Poland. German losses were surprisingly heavy considering the brevity of the campaign.


Deutsch casualties total some 48,000 of which 16,000 were killed. Fully one quarter of the panzers the German committed to battle were lost to Polish anti-panzer guns.  Luftwaffe was forced to trash  550 aircraft.


It was not a cheap victory by any means but it did confirm to the generals of  Wehrmacht that the military machine that they had built was indeed the best in the world and worthy of their confidence.


Reaction around the world on 1 Sept 1939?


France - mobilized her military and demanded Deutschland withdraw from Poland.


Great Britain - mobilized her army and RAF (the Navy was mobilized the day before) and demanded Germany withdraw from Poland.


Italy - Announced no military plans or initiatives.


Russia - warned concern for civilian population of Russian descent and fear of Polish bandits would warrant armed intervention. She also mobilized her military.


Great Satan - Demanded a halt of indescriminate bombing of towns and civilians.


Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Swiss - announced neutrality


Deutschland - "Determined to eliminate insecurity and perpetual civil war from the borders of the Reich"


Poland - appealed to Great Britain and France to intervene in honour of the Mutual Assistance Treaty of 1939.


1 September is the day an old world order was violently overturned, chock full of lessons, promises and harbingers that echo still today.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Arab Air Forces

 

The modern air forces built by autocratic Arab monarchies are designed primarily for self-defense, not attack. For Saudi Arabia, for example, the bogeyman is Iran. Saudi Arabia has bought scores of Eurofighter Typhoons from Britain, the front line equipment of many European powers. However, the Typhoon was designed in the 1980s for Cold War combat that envisaged Top Gun style dogfights between fighters, not close air support and ground attacks.

The Saudi Arabian Typhoons are of a later model that has been adapted to carry air-to-ground missiles for use on a battlefield, but it is not an ideal platform for that role. (After finding the limitations of Typhoons in the Libyan conflict the Europeans are only now making them more effective for precision attacks on ground forces.) The Saudi military is still essentially locked in a defensive mindset. Nonetheless it does have the region’s most sophisticated systems for managing air power, including the ability to refuel fighters in the air. They have carried out small strikes against terrorists in the Yemen, but a sustained campaign against ISIS would call for a far more public commitment and strength of will than any Saudi regime has so far exhibited.

Other Gulf powers have the same mindset. The UAE is buying the latest Predator drones, but is far from ready to use them. Tiny Qatar is shopping for 72 advanced fighters like the Typhoon but will not have an effective air force for years

Turkey is the closest of all countries to the conflict but is inhibited not by a lack of resources – it has a large force of U.S.-supplied F-16s and even an intelligence satellite – but by its tricky position in the region, with military links to NATO, Europe and the U.S., a delicate internal balance of secular and Islamic allegiances, and an evolving relationship with the Kurds after years of mutual hostility.

Jordan is in an even more delicate position, and a country that ISIS would dearly like to swallow. It also has a large force of U.S.-supplied F-16s. But Jordan’s highest priority seems to be a fear of insurgency and this year it is equipping its special forces with two highly lethal gunships, based on an Airbus supplied military airplane but armed by ATK, a U.S. supplier. Gunships are fearsome but they operate at low altitudes where they are vulnerable to the kind of shoulder-fired weaponry that ISIS most certainly has. Jordan doesn’t want to get into this air war any more than Turkey.

But if the Arab states mustered the will, they could demolish ISIS, as history has shown.

Seventy years ago, on Aug. 23 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the commander of the D-Day landings, went to inspect a battlefield in northern France. His forces had finally broken out of Normandy and were pursuing the remnants of a once-mighty Nazi battle group who were in full retreat.

The Germans were annihilated. They had no air cover and their exposed columns were like a fish in a barrel. The Allies had mastered a military equation that the Germans invented: the blitzkrieg, which combined air and land forces into one rapidly-moving killing machine. From that moment on it was obvious that any army without air cover would be fatally vulnerable – as long as there was air power to deal with it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dirty Wars Era

The Era of Dirty Wars?

Americans don’t always like to acknowledge it, but the U.S. has a long history of fighting so-called dirty wars.

Perhaps rather than insisting we should never get involved in these conflicts, we should learn how to do so as cleanly and efficiently as possible.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Worried About The Wrong Thing


Cheese and Rice!!

We all know them - the Unserious. Always inappropriate handwringers and worried about the wrong thing, you know?

Thankfully, no one's taking these goobs seriously.

Yet...

Pic "The Army is the only service that can seize and secure large expanses of territory for extended periods of time."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mantra Not Strategy


No boots on the ground?

That kinda chiz is mantra as policy, not a strategy.


And that mantra features three key strategic audiences: domestic, international and enemy.

Domestically, the mantra appears to reflect America’s tiredness of war. This tiredness, however, could be more a reflection of not wanting to use lives and funds to no end. America generally supports wars seen as “righteous” (waged for the right reasons) and progressing in pursuit of achievable aims (waged well). The righteousness of the war in Afghanistan and against al Qaeda is not in question, but in the eyes of many Americans, the war in Iraq was. How well each of these three wars has been and is being waged, however, is a reasonable question.

Americans do not support wars whose aims are unachievable or wars that do not progress toward even reasonable aims. With respect to waging the post-9/11 wars, our performance is certainly mixed. If the U.S. could articulate a strategy that had a reasonable chance of success in ending these wars in ways that are favorable to U.S. security interests, perhaps Americans would not accept this mantra as a reflection of their will. Current polling does not make this nuanced distinction.

Internationally, the mantra sends a mixed message. On the one hand, it signals allies, friends and other partners of the need to step up their willingness to act and their security force capacity.   
On the other hand, the signal is “we’re out.” The former is a necessary message; the latter is an abrogation of leadership responsibility. Even if the latter signal is more mildly stated as “we could be in but only to a limited degree,” it is a signal of weak leadership at a time when the world needs strong leadership.

The balance is a delicate one to be sure. Great Satan cannot be the world’s policeman, nor should it be. Timid leadership, however, puts American interests at risk in a global security environment.

Global trends have been unraveling these post-World War II arrangements since at least 1989. The current international security threat posed by a non-nation-state, al Qaeda and its ilk, is a poster child for multiple aspects of this unraveling. America must be a leader in reversing this trend and helping put in place structures that make sense for the new world in which we live. Such leadership cannot be from behind, nor can it be remote.

The international community hears “no boots on the ground” as timid leadership, and our enemies hear the mantra as an opportunity to advance their agenda.

Simply put, the mantra cedes initiative to our enemies.   
Once our enemies know that Great Satan has limited its options to technical intelligence gathering, airpower, special operations forces and perhaps advisors (but only under conditions of limited risk), they can advance their political agenda by conducting their operations in ways that hide from most technical intelligence-gathering capability, limit the utility of airpower, and negate or reduce the capacities of special operations forces.

This provides our enemies with a significant operational freedom, a freedom that they have taken advantage of.
Pic - "We should not tolerate the existence of a terrorist state similar to Taleban-era Afghanistan sprawling across Iraq and Syria."



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why We Fight


Forget Skippy Klondike's recent non profit jaw flapping about war fighting.

See,

Maybe he is presumably familiar with the theory of “just war,” but there is no sign of it in his article that assumes that all wars are initiated for one ignoble motive or another. This is perhaps an indication of how far liberalism has come from the fighting faith of its greatest champions–presidents such as John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

They were familiar with war and yet did not dismiss it as nothing more than a crass, self-interested undertaking. Recall Kennedy’s famous inaugural address: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Or FDR’s D-Day prayer in 1944: “Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war. For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.”

America’s brave troopers today fight for freedom in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond, all the while yearning, as FDR said, “for the end of battle” when they can return home. They are not there to seize natural resources or to pump up a president’s approval ratings–nor, for all of my differences with 44, do I believe he has ordered troops into harm’s way for such nefarious purposes. War may be a brutal, ugly business, and one that should never be undertaken lightly; but it is also the essential safeguard of peace and freedom. Presumably cats understand that, but certain failures to take note if it is nevertheless startling–and telling.

Pic - "Common Enemy"