Category Archives: World War II

Makin Burial

The Makin Raid of 1942 and the Recovery of the Marines Lost After the Battle

In August 1942 the 2nd Marine “Raider” Battalion raided what was then called Makin Island in the Gilbert Archipelago of the South Pacific.  The present name of the island is Butaritari in the island nation of Kiribati.

In 1942 the island had a small, roughly 160 man garrison, and was the site of a Japanese Airfield.  The raid was conceived as a way for the Marines to gather intelligence on what and how many Japanese forces were stationed in the Gilbert Islands.  The plan was for 211 men from companies A and B of the 2nd Marine “Raider” Battalion led by LTC Evans Carlson to land on the island under cover of darkness, neutralize the small Japanese garrison and ransack the island for anything of intelligence value before destroying the facilities and leaving the island.  The Marines would land from two submarines the USS Nautilus and USS Argonaut using small rubber boats equipped with outboard motors.

View of Makin Island from the Periscope of the USS Nautilus Before the Raid
View of Makin Island from the Periscope of the USS Nautilus Before the Raid

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WWII Animated Day-by-Day

Below is an animated map of the progress of WWII day by day from 1 September, 1939 to October, 1945 when the last major units of the Japanese military surrendered.  It provides a fascinating view of the way in which the fortunes of the went back and forth.

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Book Review: The True German: The Diary of a World War II Military Judge

[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 True German: The Diary of a World War II Military Judge by Werner Otto Müller-Hill is one of those rare books that come out of war.  A diary written by someone to satisfy themselves with no expectation that it will ever get published.  As such, it provides an almost unique view into the mind of the person writing it.  The vast majority of war memoirs are self-serving and written to make a point.  Diaries tend to be less so, and this one in particular as it was written for the specific purpose of allowing the author to vent his spleen of thoughts and opinions that he simply could not openly express in Nazi Germany without risking death or imprisonment. The book is 186 pages of text and covers the diary entries from March, 1944 to June, 1945.

What is striking about this diary is that it was written by somebody who was part of one of the vital aspects of the totalitarian regime that kept the Nazis in power, a military judge.  Müller-Hill is remarkable in that although he was a military judge, he was not a hanging judge as so many Nazi era judges were.  Indeed, he boasts in the diary that he never sentenced a man to death although he was pressured to do so.  He always managed to find a sentence that avoided the firing squad.

Werner Otto Müller-Hill had served Germany in World War I and was 54 years old when World War II started in 1939.  His age and experience color his observations throughout his diary and he constantly compares the Nazis to the Kaiser era.  This is interesting because he is someone with intimate knowledge of both eras.  He makes several predictions in his diary that turned out to be prescient.

However, the most striking thing that comes out when reading the diary is how Müller-Hill struggled to reconcile his role in the Nazi war machine with his own conscience.  What comes out is the internal debates of an ordinary man who knows he serves an inhuman regime but finds himself powerless to do anything to stop the destruction of the country and people he love.  He does what he can but knows that will never be enough.  This book is a step to putting to rest the myth of a Germany full of Nazis and goes far toward showing that some, if not most, Germans were opposed to the regime but unable to do anything because of the iron grip of the police apparatus the Nazis built.  If anything, the lesson to be learned from this diary and the Nazi era is not that Germans are evil but that if tyranny is not stopped early resistance can become almost impossible.  This diary represents the story of one person who could not fight openly yet still resisted the regime in whatever way they could.

The True German: The Diary of a World War II Military Judge is compelling reading and I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in World War II and the Nazi era in Germany.

German Plan for the invasion of Crete, May 1941

The Crete Campaign: 20-29 May, 1941

Last Spring I did a presentation to my local Military History group about the Crete Campaign of 1941 and figured that since I now have the time I would put something up here about it as well because I find the whole campaign to be a comedy of errors by both sides in this misguided, ill-conceived, and poorly executed excuse for a battle. First, we should examine the strategic situation in May of 1941.
In May 1941 England had been run out of Greece with its tail between its legs and was using Crete as both a staging ground for evacuation and they were hoping like hell they could hold it and stop the Mediterranean, or at least the eastern part from turning into a German Lake. For their part, Germany did not know what to do. They were in the last stages of planning the attack on Stalin’s Russia set to commence in June but in the meantime they had all these troops hanging out in Greece with nothing to do. The possession of Crete would have conferred no strategic or even operational advantage to the Germans as the British still controlled Malta and the British navy still controlled the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Continue reading

Finnish Exceptionalism – Sisu

American exceptionalism is no myth. The 19th century saw some of the greatest minds produce a vastly modern civilization out of a wilderness. Since then we have been in intellectual decline – we have consistent party purges of anyone who doesn’t toe the party line in all areas of life from academia to the military, and narrow ideological constructs such as political correctness have rendered the 1st amendment a relic and a sideshow.

How about our performance in the Second World War? The greatest fighter pilot was a German, the greatest tank ace was a German, and the greatest sniper was a Finn.

The greatest military performance of all time took place in Finland, as well. Historians must acknowledge the organic national character of the Finns to reason with how they gutted the largest military in the world and made them sue for peace after 105 days of conflict.

Americans have their grit, and the Western Europeans have their sangfroid, but the Finns have something that defies translation. Sisu is an organic concept born from the frozen tundra of the North.

This concept defies the idea of universal equality among cultures. It helps us understand not only why Finns were capable of military prowess that puts the rest of us to shame, but also why a barren, rocky arctic nation could turn into the leader of educational and technological excellence after the war.

Finns are not ideologues, nor chauvinists. They are a people who learned to survive in an isolated, sub-zero wilderness and how to apply a can-do attitude to everything in life. Sisu is not only a kind of fatalistic amor fati, but also a simple method of troubleshooting. Life is expected to be brutal, frustrating and people are expected to try to drain us of our energy and resources. It is how we face these obstacles that define our character and our reputation.

Sisu represents not the final goal, but taking a deep breath as you walk the plank. Sisu defies the inner cries for peace as well as the external. Sisu is an inner battle that manifests itself outwardly in feats such as holding the Mannerheim Line, while brandishing relic rifles from 1905 against the largest army in the world.

The world can look to this nation and truly say “I have something to learn from you.” The world can say “I am humbled to admit that your mental training is superior to mine.”

Among all the battle performances in the world, the Finns of the Winter War are among the world’s greatest, right up there with Leonidas and Alexander the Great.

One reason for their amazing performance was the trust and camaraderie that they showed to each other. The Finns fought in a synchronized fashion, where every man’s effort was appreciated, even if it didn’t translate into Rambo-like kill counts of the Bolsheviks. Love, on the line, combined with intense hatred for the invader created a force that to this day can make a reader’s jaws drop.

For the rest of us scouts, we should sit at the feet of these people, and try to absorb what we can.