Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Situation Normal

Snapshot WWII German soldier standing in the snow in his undershirt, boots and helmet with a cat on his head. Situation Normal, and other stories of The Better Defense.
Ten SNAFU military operations.

1) Ice Skates  
The Spanish Duke of Alba in Amsterdam, 1570's
A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle, oil on oak, 1609 by the Dutch artist Hendrick Avercamp. Situation Normal, and other stories of The Better Defense.
"I came, I saw, God conquered." - Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

In the 1570’s, the Spanish Duke of Alba ordered 7,000 pairs of ice skates. 
Prior to the requisition, Charles I ruler of the Spanish Empire, who was also Charles V ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, had declared the "Edict of Blood", sentencing pesky Dutch Protestants to death . . . all of them. 
The Duke of Alba, enthusiastic about the Spanish Inquisition, established the "Council of Troubles" to carry out the edict. The Dutch continued to engage in Protestant activities and the Spanish started slaughtering everyone. 
In Amsterdam, the citizens flooded the farmland around the city, making passage impossible, so the Spanish retreated to their armada and tried for an assault from the sea. Being winter, the Duke assumed his forces would march across the ice, sack Amsterdam, put an end to the heresy, and return to home aplomb and fanfare. He was not, however, aware of ice skates. 
Armored Spaniards were no match for the skating Dutch. The Spanish military did attempt skating lessons but the Dutch taught the already skating proficient women how to shoot and repair damaged walls. 
The war continued for another 30 years but the "Dutch Water Line" offered defense until air power dominated skating ability.

2) Friendly Fire 
The Battle of Karansebes, Austro-Turkish War, 1788
Illustration of The Ottoman army led by the Grand Vizier advancing to Sofia in May 1788. Austro-Turkish War. Situation Normal, and other stories of The Better Defense.
"Joseph II ruled the Holy Roman Empire, also referred to as the Austrian Empire, at the point when it was no longer either Roman or particularly holy." - Andrew Knighton
Joseph II, ruler of the Austrian Empire, was not a particularly adept ruler and entered a war with the Turks for reasons apparently correlated to his inadequacy when compared to Frederick the Great of Prussia and Catherine the Great of Russia. 
When his troops gathered in Belgrade, in preparation to attack Transylvania, they were overrun with Malaria. 172,000 troops became ill while another 33,000 died. 
The Austrian cavalry, while scouting for Turks, came across Romanian locals who sold them schnapps. The infantry, comprised of Serbs, Croats, and Italians as well as Austrians, followed and demanded a share of the liquor. The cavalry refused and a brawl started. At one point, shots were fired and both cavalry and infantry assumed the Turks were attacking. 
A stampede ensued and some calvary rode through the main camp causing further panic. Military leadership ordered artillery fire and portions of the Austrian military engaged each other in gun battle. The assault escalated and the entire army was ordered to retreat. 
When the Turkish army arrived two days later, they easily captured the area. 
Ultimately Leopold II, Joseph's successor, ended the Austro-Turkish war with most gains going to the Russian Empire who were fighting a concurrent Russo–Turkish War.

3) The Mary Rose 
Battle of the Solent, England, 1545

Illustration of The Mary Rose battleship as depicted in the Anthony Roll of Henry VIII's Navy. Situation Normal, and other stories of The Better Defense.

"He had the sort of knaves whom he could not rule." - Sir Peter Carew, re his brother Sir George Carew, Vice Admiral of the Mary Rose

King Henry VIII inherited a small navy but being continually at war, or on the brink of war, or potentially going to war, or preparing for any possible future war, he ordered the production two sizable warships. The Mary Rose was launched in 1511 and was one of largest ships in the new permanent "Navy Royal". 
Development of new and improved ways to kill people changed naval warfare from on deck swashbuckling to gun-ports and cannon fire. Between wives, starting a new church, and making the Holy Roman Empire furious, Henry ordered a substantial rebuild of the Mary Rose. The ship gained an extra tier of broadside guns and an additional 200 tons. 
In 1545, an invading French fleet crossed the English Channel to the Solent, the straits north of the Isle of Wight. The Mary Rose fired broadside and began to turn to present the other guns when a strong wind caused the ship to rock. Water filled the lower gun-ports of the heavy ship causing guns, cargo, and crew to slide to the listing side. 
A spectacular and rapid demise of the Mary Rose followed taking 90% of the 400 crew with her.

4) Maginot Line 
French and German Border, 1930's
Troops of 51st Highland Division march over a drawbridge into Fort de Sainghain on the Maginot Line 1939. Situation Normal, and other stories of The Better Defense.
"When Patton was asked what he thought of the Maginot line, he said, 'Permanent fortifications such as the Maginot line are a tribute to man's stupidity.' but then Patton had no use for anything besides air and armor." - ArtKramr google group
After the astoundingly horrible trench warfare of WWI, the French decided they would build a wall . . . a big, beautiful wall, and unlike another country, they did. 
Named the Maginot Line after the French minister of war, the fortification took 10 years to build, covered 300 miles at the French and German border, and cost 3.3 billion Francs.  16 miles wide in places, the structure involved several separate layers of defense and contained enclosed air-conditioned recreation areas, living quarters, supply storehouses, and rail lines. 
The original intent was to complete the line at the French and Belgium border but before that could happen, Hitler circumvented the fortification by marching through Belgium into France. 
Hitler did a lot of marching and gained control of France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands in an astounding six weeks. 
The incomplete Maginot Line may have been partially intentional. It was hoped that European Allies would be quicker to get involved if Germany attacked several countries.

5) A Perfect Failure 
Bay of Pigs Invasion, 1961
Bay of Pigs. Captured U.S.-backed Cuban exiles, known as Brigade 2506.Situation Normal, and other stories of The Better Defense.
"Thanks for [the Bay of Pigs]. Before the invasion, the revolution was weak. Now it’s stronger than ever." - Che Guevara in a letter to President Kennedy
Before Fidel Castro's coup, the nationality of predominant business owners who controlled Cuban sugar, Cuban cattle ranches, and Cuban natural resources was north of Cuba. 
Castro's revolution caused an American assessment which concluded that American businessmen didn't like to lose their business, American people didn't like to live next door to a potential missile launchpad, and American officials, at least at that time, didn't like starting thermo-nuclear war if it was avoidable. Enter the CIA. President Kennedy was assured that a group of paramilitary Cuban exiles could secretly invade the island and cause an uprising supported by the Cuban people while ousting Castro. 
A litany of mistakes and miscalculations occurred. Castro was warned months before the invasion and moved his airplanes to circumvent a pre-invasion military strike. Invading ships were sunk by coral reefs, paratroopers were sent to the wrong location and advanced forces lit beacons on the beach alerting the Cuban militia. 
The CIA had failed to notice a radio station on the beach and an account of the invasion was broadcast as it happened. The U.S. launched emergency air support as 20,000 Cuban troops moved to the invaders' landing spot. Unfortunately coordinating the emergency strike was a disaster after a misunderstanding over time zones and the U.S. planes were shot down. The exiles surrendered within 24 hours. 
The CIA denied involvement until the 1990's when documents were released to the public. An internal CIA memo calls the mission a "perfect failure".

6) Drafted and Taxed 
American Civil War, 1861 to 1865
Sepia photo of a young drummer boy. American Civil War. Situation Normal, and other stories of The Better Defense.

"A rich man's war, but a poor man's fight." - a common saying of the day criticizing the Civil War
The Confederacy initially had a Gentlemen’s Army but they quickly ran out of gentlemen and drafted less genteel soldiers while granting an exemption to wealthy Southern gentlemen, the litmus test being ownership more than 20 slaves. The Union exhausted Northern volunteers even faster. In 1863, Congress passed the Civil War conscription act impacting both civilians and immigrants. 
Prior to the Civil war, Congress had ordered all able-bodied men into the militia in 1792 but did not enforce enlistment.  Congress also ordered involuntary conscription during the War of 1812 but the war ended before the military draft was initiated. 
The 1863 act allowed draftees to pay a substitute soldier or purchase a deferment for $300. J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and Abraham Lincoln were among those who paid the government. "Jumpers" made a living by taking a payment for substitution, deserting the company and then taking payment for another substitution. 
Conscription was so unpopular it caused the New York draft riots in 1863. Some semblance of law and order was restored by Union troops, marched in from the recent Battle of Gettysburg. 
Two years earlier, the Revenue Act imposed a 3% federal tax on annual incomes over $800. The "Cut Cut Cut" Tax Act where incomes less than $200 were taxed at 75% was evidently rejected at that time.

7) Armor and Ice 
Crusade in the Novgorod region of Russia, 1242 AD
Russian patriotism poster. 1942 depicting Alexander Nevsky in the 1242 battle of Lake Peipus.Situation Normal, and other stories of The Better Defense.
"Whoever will come to us with a sword, from a sword will perish." - Alexander Nevsky
Teutonic Knights, from The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, decided that practitioners of Eastern Orthodox Catholicism were in need of conversion to Roman Catholicism. Coincidently, they were also in need of surrendering their land and wealth to Roman Catholics as represented by the Teutonic Knights. 
As the Knights made their way north, the Novgorod leadership decided the banishment of their war champion, Prince Alexander Nevsky had been hasty and Nevsky returned home. He rapidly retook captured ground and staged a battle on frozen Lake Peipus. The Germans were forced to cross the lake to engage the enemy. Armored knights on horseback were not particularly suited to the situation and when flanked they were forced onto thinner ice resulting in pandemonium. 
The remaining Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem retreated and went to crusade in locations where calculating ice density was not as critical. 
For military leaders paying attention, there are two warnings. First, crusaders or religiously based military do not belong on the ice, a warning obviously ignored by the Duke of Alba and second, do not invade Russia when it is cold, a warning obviously ignored by a whole bunch of people.

8) ISIS 
Disbanding the Iraqi Army, 2003
Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade of the 14th Iraqi Army Division graduate from basic training in Besmaya 2008. Situation Normal, and other stories of The Better Defense.

"The people in charge of military operations in (ISIS) were the best officers in the former Iraqi army, and that is why (ISIS) beats us in intelligence and on the battlefield."  - Brig. Gen. Hassan Dulaimi, former intelligence officer

Early in the war in Iraq, the people having a clue clashed with the people having nary a clue. It was strongly recommended that the Iraqi Army be restructured but not disbanded, meaning the Iraqi Army was promptly disbanded by the Bush administration. 
The dispersed army (comprised, at least partially, of soldiers who would have been supportive of regime change) became a group of pissed off, battle-trained soldiers. Not only was the best option for controlling insurgent activity pissed away, the commanders and soldiers were free to join the opposition force. 
More than half of ISIL's top leaders are believed to have come from the disbanded army and even Dick (Cheney, not Nixon) admitted, "It may have been a mistake." 
It must have been truly catastrophic for Cheney, who once, when learning that two-thirds of Americans concluded the war in Iraq should not have happened, replied, "So?", to admit a potential miscalculation.

9) Jerrycans 
Germany, WWII, 1939 to 1945
Photo of thousands of Jerrycans as Allies prepare for D-Day on Jun 05, 1944. Situation Normal, and other stories of The Better Defense.
"Without these cans it would have been impossible for our armies to cut their way across France at a lightning pace which exceeded the German Blitz of 1940." - President Roosevelt

The British called their fuel cans Flimsies. They were difficult to carry, leaked 30% of the fuel, and they rusted. American fuel cans had a similar piss-poor design. Before the war, an American engineer had access to a German Jerrycan which he gave to the U.S. Military. Manufacturing the can was dismissed as too expensive and too German. 
The German Jerrycans were made from pressed steel and had a plastic liner so they could also carry water. The cans were creased to accommodate expansion in the heat and to prevent crushing. The handle design made them easy to carry including an option for two people to carry a can between them. They floated and an air-pipe made pouring fast and efficient. 
During World War II, the United States exported more petroleum products than of all other war materials combined. The cans were so valuable that the Allied troops stole over 21 million and Germans used them as bait for bobby traps.    
Ultimately the German design contributed to the Allied success.

10) The BBC 
Argentina, Falklands War, 1982
Two girls wave small flags as British soldiers leave for the Falkland Islands. 1982
"You go to war with the press coverage you have. It’s not the press coverage you might want or wish to have." - Helmut Sonnenfeldt and Ron Nessen
Two days before the Battle of Goose Green in the Falkland Islands, the 2nd Parachute Regiment, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Jones, moved into position. The BBC announced the move on international television. 
Margaret Thatcher had disputed the manner of war coverage, including the BBC's instruction for neutrality in presentation. "We are not Britain. We are the BBC." The BBC also continued their Spanish language broadcast, available in Buenos Aires, although the Spanish-speaking announcer with a Mexican accent, was widely ridiculed. 
News of the regiment's movements was seen by Argentinian military officials. However, as a result of the Mexican accent or for other reasons, they disregarded the story as deliberate misinformation. The mission was a success but Jones threatened to sue both the BBC and the British War Cabinet. 
If only the now-fired grabby-hands American journalist from Fox "News" hadn't been pre-occupied with saving his cameraman from imaginary bullets while covering the Falklands War. He would have sorted out the BBC.

#Military #War #Peace #Politics
Other stories of The Better Defense 

Armchair General

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