The Battle of Berlin – 16 April – 2 May, 1945

Brandenburger Tor in einer Trümmerlandschaft am Ende des Zweiten Weltkrieges (Mai 1945).

Throughout 1944 the German armies on the Eastern Front had been pushed westward across Poland and into Germany proper.  During the winter of 1944-1945 the front had stabilized roughly along the river Oder and inside historically German territory.  In front of Berlin three Russian Fronts (1st & 2nd Byelorussian plus 21st Ukrainian) faced two greatly understrength German Army Groups (Army Group Vistula & Army Group Center).  A Russian Front and German Army Group are roughly synonymous units within the army structure although at this point in the war German Army Groups were pretty much army groups in name only often being the size of reinforced Corps or even divisions due … Read more…

Gallipoli, 1915: Analysis of a Glorious Failure

Anzac Cove shortly after the Start of the Dardanelles Operation

The Allied invasion of Gallipoli and its subsequent failure represented perhaps the greatest lost opportunity of the First World War.  There is every reason to expect that if the invasion of Turkey had been successful then much the same results would have accrued to the Allies then as were to accrue twenty-eight years later when the Allies successfully invaded Italy in the Second World War.  The tangible results of the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943 was the capitulation of the government of Mussolini, and the diversion of up to sixteen German divisions in Italy that could have been more profitably used in France.  Additionally, one of Germany’s most capable … Read more…

Reading and Military Service

There is an interesting piece on Medium.com recently about basic training and encouraging new soldiers to read.  I read, and read a lot, and have always tried to encourage others to read, not only my fellow soldiers when I was in the Army, but people in general. I find that the idea of having a reading list and free copies of said books available to basic trainees to read in their less-than-copious free time is an awesome idea and I am chagrined that I did not do it when I was a Drill Sergeant at Fort Knox many years ago. I don’t necessarily agree with all the titles on the … Read more…

The Hattin Campaign and the Triumph of Saladin in 1187

Medieval politics make modern politics look like child’s play.  If any act from medieval times highlights this it is the Hattin Campaign of 1187 in which the entire military might of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem was destroyed because the Christians themselves collectively acted stupidly due to internal political factors in the face of an existential external threat.  The final campaign of the Kingdom of Jerusalem is best seen as an object lesson of what happens when you let internal politics direct external actions. In 1186 Guy de Lusignan became king of Jerusalem through his wife Sibylla after the death of Baldwin V while in his minority.  The coronation was … Read more…

The First Battle of Manassas – 21 July, 1861

Manassas 5

First Manassas or First Bull Run as it was called in the North was the first major battle between land forces of the Civil War.  The outcome of the battle also set the general pattern for battles in the first two years of the war. That pattern being tactical Union defeats with the Confederacy being incapable of following up on the strategic opportunities presented by their victories. Forces Involved: Union – 28,450 troops under BG Irvin McDowell Confederate – 32,230 under BG Joseph Johnston and BG P.G.T. Beauregard A key point is to remember that uniforms were not standardized on either side this early in the war. Both armies looked … Read more…

Periodic World Craziness Update # 32

The latest month’s wackiness in the world of international relations, politics, and  brinkmanship.   Iraqi Military Makes Gains North of Baghdad in Conflict With ISIS:  It will be interesting to see how the response to the ISIS offensive plays out both in Iraq and in the wider world.  The INA is a broken reed and any gains they make will be fleeting.  I fully expect a stalemate to ensue shortly wherein Iraq is effectively partitioned.  We are saying the beginning of bloody fighting.  Think of it as Sunni Triangle II. Ukraine Says Russia Has 38,000 Troops on Border Amid ‘Invasion’:  The biggest news out of this story is not that … Read more…

The Battle of Messines Ridge – 1917

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From the opening months of the World War I, Flanders was the decisive sector for the British Army.  It was in an around the medieval Belgian town of Ypres that the original BEF had decimated themselves fending off German attacks from October to December, 1914.  Ypres and the salient surrounding it was where the British would see the hardest and most prolonged fighting of all the places where the British would fight in World War I. The Battle of Messines Ridge fought from 7-14 June, 1914 was not really a separate battle at all but rather the opening phase of what would come to be known variously as the Third … Read more…

Book Review: The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940-1945 by Richard Overy

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940-1945 is one of those books that is going to end up a standard work for a long time to come.  It is the single most comprehensive history of the Allied bombing of Germany and occupied Europe during WWII that I have seen since the strategic bombing survey published by the US government in the immediate post-war years. I have a review copy of the book so the page counts may be a … Read more…

Periodic World Craziness Update # 31

The latest month’s wackiness in the world of international relations, politics, and  brinkmanship.  Ukraine battles militants, Russia demands cash for gas:  The hijinks continue.  I am very curious to see what happens in the Elections on 25 May.  If the current regime is selected they gain instant credibility and legitimacy and I would expect them to double down on their efforts to crush the eastern separatists. Hard for NATO to defend Baltic states from Russia – Spiegel:  This should not be news for anyone who has paid attention to the anemic state of the militaries of mos NATO countries.  The question is will Russia even go after the Baltic states? … Read more…

The Battle of Antietam – 17 September, 1862

Photo of the Antietam battlefield taken on the day of the battle by Alexander Gardner

The Battle of Antietam is interesting for several reasons the most important of which for me is that it is the single bloodiest day in American military history. There have been bloodier battles in American wars but no single day matches the blood spilled on those Maryland fields that early day in 1862. The Union victory at Antietam, if you can call it a victory, also provided Abe Lincoln with the opportunity to promulgate the Emancipation Proclamation. An executive act that was totally unconstitutional but that he did anyway for domestic and foreign political reasons. Antietam was the final battle of Lee’s first invasion of the North and while it … Read more…

Periodic World Craziness Update # 30

The latest month’s wackiness in the world of international relations, politics, and  brinkmanship.  Ukraine Falters in Drive to Curb Unrest in East:  Perhaps the biggest mistake the Kiev government could make right now is to make threats they are unwilling or incapable of following through on.   Nothing could damage their credibility and legitimacy more than doing so.  It would seem they have done just that in regards to the protester seizure of government buildings in the eastern part of the country. Fragile Europe Weakens U.S. Push for Russia Sanctions:  Who would have thought the current US admin could demonstrate more resolve than the EU right now?  Of course, Obama must follow through or he shows himself … Read more…

Periodic World Craziness Update # 29

Russian Troops Ukraine

The latest month’s wackiness in the world of international relations, politics, and  brinkmanship.  Crimea referendum: Voters ‘back Russia union’:  Yep, That had to be a fair election.  It’s not like the Russians don’t have armed troops all over the place there.  I stand by my prediction that the US and EU will meekly submit to whatever Russia wants and go no farther than sanctions despite the Western Guarantee of Ukrainian sovereignty from the 90’s.  Ukraine will probably continue to dominate the news this month as well. NATO general warns of further Russian aggression:  So, what led NATO’s commander to just now acknowledge the danger that the Crimea will not be … Read more…

Book Review: No End Save Victory by David Kaiser

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War is one of those books that at first glance looks like it is going to be one of those dry, difficult to read history books that is nothing more than a litany of dates and facts.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is an interesting and compelling account of the events in America during the 18 months prior to American entry into WWII.  Oddly, this period is mentioned in every … Read more…

The Battle of Pfaffenheck – 15-17 March 1945

I recently read The Armored Fist a unit history of the US 712th Independent Tank Battalion in WWII.  One of the events described in detail in the book is the Battle for the town of Pfaffenheck in between the Rhine and Moselle rivers in March of 1945.   The event that stuck out at me from the battle was the destruction of an American tank, which killed the driver, Billy Wolfe.  I had the opportunity to visit the town in March, 2014 shortly after the 69th Anniversary of the  battle.

The Battle of Pfaffenheck was fought between soldies froom the 357th Infantry Regiment of the US 90th IN Division, the 2nd Platoon of C Company 712th Independent US Tank Battalion, and German troops of the 6th SS Mountain Division North (Gebirgsjäger).  The 6th SS Division has an interesting history itself.  The unit spent most of the war fighting in Finland and when that country made peace with the Soviets the 6th SS made an overland trek through Sweden to Norway where they transferred to Germany and fought in the Vosges Mountains of northern France over the winter.

Pfaffenheck
Locations of actions in the battle for Pfaffenheck

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Periodic World Craziness Update # 28

Ukraine

The latest month’s wackiness in the world of international relations, politics, and  brinkmanship.  Ukraine crisis: Police storm main Kiev ‘Maidan’ protest camp:  The question on everyone’s mind: Is this the start of the Ukrainian Civil War?  I would guess no but still put the likelihood of Ukraine descending into civil war around 50%.  It would appear that the president is hoping he can wait the protesters out.  A hope that appears misplaced since the coldest part of the winter is about over and warmer weather is on the horizon.  The return of warm weather will actually bring out more protesters and if eh fails to dislodge the protesters now he … Read more…