Mantinea 5

The Battle of Mantinea

The Battle of Mantinea was part of the Great Peloponnesian War (430-404 B.C.). The war was fought in an effort to defeat and contain the growing power of Sparta in Greek Affairs. The war was ultimately a failure as Sparta won in the end and dictated terms to Athens and her allies in the process guaranteeing that Athens would not dominate the Greek world.
The prelude to the battle itself was a gathering of Argive Alliance troops who attacked Tegea, about 5 miles south of Mantinea. The Spartans rallied to Tegea’s defense and began to divert a stream to flood Mantinean territory.

The main source for the course of the battle is The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides.  He covers the battle in Book V: 55-82 of his history.  The actual account of the fighting is 65-74.

Mantinea 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proposed location of the Mantinea battlefield

Proposed location of the Mantinea battlefield

The battlefield itself cannot be pinpointed with any great accuracy today.  However, based on the description of the location of various forces during the battle given by Thucydides it must have taken place to the eastern side of the Ancient Acropolis of Mantinea and the hills around ¾ of a mile away.

Respective Orders of Battle

Respective Orders of Battle

 

The preliminary to the battle was the Spartan army appearing near Mantinea arrayed in battle order. This startled the Athenian commanders who rushed to get their army formed and for defense. Once the armies were arrayed for battle the usual ancient pre-battle speeches were given and then both sides advanced towards each other.

The Athenians and Allies advanced recklessly screaming and shouting at the run while the Spartans displayed their usual discipline in battle by advancing at a measured pace to the music of flutes.

The evidence for tactical maneuver is in section 71 of Thucydides. He first explains the tendency of Phalanxes to move to the right as they advance; he then explains how the Spartan commander ordered the Sciritaeans and Brasidians to extend the line on the march while some of the reserve moved up to fill in the gap created by their movement.

Mantinea 4This allowed the Spartan army to present a united front to the Athenians while the Spartan Right flanked the Athenian Left.
That was the theory however it did not work out in practice as envisaged. Instead the Sciritae and Brasidians milled around without moving and thus created a gap that the Spartans were able to hastily fill.

As the two armies met the Spartans were initially driven back and a part of the Athenian line went on to ravage the baggage train of the Spartan army.

However, the Spartans led by King Agis soon rallied, attacking and driving in the Athenian line starting an instant rout where many Athenian troops fled without even striking a blow.

The Athenian cavalry stopped a slaughter by fighting a rear-guard action allowing the majority of the foot-soldiers to flee the battlefield.  Casualties were also lessened because the Spartans declined to press their pursuit being content with possession of the battlefield itself.

Casualties

The casualty numbers come from Thucydides Book V: 74. The lopsided nature of the numbers is typical of Greek battles. Most of the Athenian dead were probably not killed in the initial clash but were wounded and then and later killed during the pursuit and mopping up by the Spartans and their allies. The Greeks did not generally practice ransom of prisoners in wartime.
Spartans - 300
Argive Alliance - 1,100

It should be noted that the vast majority of the casualties were probably dead (90%-95%) according to the analysis first proposed by Hanson in The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece in 1989. Greek Hoplite warfare was extremely deadly because of the nature of the weapons used and the methods used to fight it.

References

1.Thucydides – History of the Peloponnesian War Chapter 5: available at the Internet Classics Archive

 

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Book Review: No End Save Victory by David Kaiser

[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 history of the war but the actual events in the US are glossed over such that American entry into the war is painted as inevitable.  David Kaiser’s work puts that notion to rest as he details the methods and means whereby FDR led the country into war.

The review copy I received is 343 pages of text with 40 pages of notes and an index.  It is divided into 9 chronological chapters that cover the period from May, 1940 to December, 1941 and America’s entry into World War II.

The text is engaging and very well written.  What struck me most about the period was the amount of foresight by FDR in setting up and guiding the apparatus to get America ready for fighting a global war.  The strategic changes between planning for hemispheric defense and projecting American power into Europe and the pacific are dealt with extremely well.  He also makes clear the extent to which FDR had to overcome resistance from within the government and military to entry into the war while at the same time trying to hold back the more hawkish members of his Cabinet.

One of the episodes that he deals with is the development of what came to be known as the Victory Plan.  I found it refreshing that he puts to rest the myth of Major Albert C. Wedemeyer putting the Victory Plan together by himself.  He correctly identifies that the Victory Plan was a collaborative effort between the military, industry, and civilian planners.  This point is also not belabored.  Wedemeyer made his name post-war on the claims that he developed the Victory Plan almost single handedly and subsequent research has exposed that for the myth that it is.

Another thing covered very well in the book is the extent to which government had to both control and cajole industry and labor to get them behind the effort of switching from civilian to war production.  This is something that is presented as a matter of course in most histories and this book exposes that for the hard effort that it was.

Most of all, the role of FDR is highlighted as the guiding force behind American preparedness for war.  The period prior to America’s entry into World War II is very interesting because it was never a done deal that America would enter the war despite the feeling among most policy makers that war was inevitable.  All the preparation and planning would not have made a whit of difference if the American people had not committed themselves to war.  That commitment came in the wake of Pearl Harbor, but it was the planning done by FDR and the military in the months prior to Pearl Harbor that meant America was ready, or nearly ready when war did come.

I highly recommend this book to anybody interested in World War II, but especially to people who think they are familiar with America’s role in that war.  An outstanding book.

 

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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Warsaw 1920: Lenin’s Failed Conquest of Europe

To say that the Polish-Soviet War was a continuation of The Great War would be a lie.

Certainly, the vacuum of power from the Vistula to the Dnieper had something to do with it, but it does not account for behaviors that Americans will always find opaque and odd when visiting Eastern European history.

The Polish side had brandished rifles at one another during the previous international conflict. They were now united for everything reactionary and terrible (in the eyes of the Bolsheviks): defense of their homeland against the international worker’s revolution (led by soft-handed bourgeois intellectuals).

One anachronism would be the idea of a champion swordsman challenging the other side to single-handed combat before the bivouacking belligerents: this seems like something out of The Iliad, but it happened in 1920.

Another anachronism would be the idea of living off the land, leaving nothing but smoke, ashes and corpses in their midst. This was the Russian side: it is even documented that when entering Roman Catholic churches they made it a point to defecate on the alters and pews.

The reason for the Polish victory had little to do with any kind of inspirational or military genius from that of Piłsudski.  Victory lied in the fact that Polish morale was higher due to the motivation of defense of their homes and the reinstatement of their nation, compared to an abstract idea of spreading a worker’s revolution from Japan to the pillars of Hercules.

The other reason, and I may take flack for saying this, was the absolute superiority of the Polish cipher-breaking team, who broke and read Moscow’s encrypted communications and knew exactly what their enemy was thinking.

The Russians had over 5,000,000 men at their disposal, and world victory seemed a certainty. The Polish side did not have reserves, and had a desertion rate that rivaled the Russians.  Polish victory had much to due with the morale of the officer class and breaking the communications, and little to due with superior equipment or organization.

Adam Zamoyski is a direct descendent of the Hetman Jan Zamoyski. Zamość, a city created after his namesake is an amazing town to visit, and if you ever get there, speak with the locals who will show you around and who will be able to tell you where battles occurred during the life of Zamoyski, and in both of the world wars.

The perpetual theme here is the idea of Poland as an irritating roadblock for Russia: the true purpose was to take over Germany, and use it as a launching pad for worldwide communist revolution. Things didn’t go their way this time around.

I could not recommend this book highly enough.

Now would be a good time for a bit of revisionism

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Please notice the absolute awe of silence from Western nations (and in particular, liberals) during the takeover of the Crimea….

Where are the street demonstrations? Remember 2003, anyone?

Well, maybe if you live in Alaska or Europe, you may want to remember that our “allies” in WWII were the most brutal, raping animals that ever came out of the steppes.

Life under Russian rule would be cold, despotic, arbitrary, hopeless and short: just like it is for Russians right now.

Meanwhile, America is worried that a worthless piece of desert *may* produce a single bomb: the last time this country invaded Europe was 2400 years ago.

The last time nuclear glutton, Russia invaded was yesterday. The time before that was 65 years ago. The time before that was 90 plus years ago, the time before that was 120 years ago….we can keep going.

Anyone get the picture, yet?

How many Americans think America is the worst country in the world? My guess would be at least half. How many people in American know anything about Russian disdain for human life and its endless piles of cadavers it has left in its wake?

So lets end this post with a few quotations from the last GREAT American Army General:

The difficulty in understanding the Russians we do not take cognizance of the fact he is not a European, but an asiatic therefore thinks deviously. We can no more understand a Russian than Chinese or a Japanese. From what I have seen of them I have no particular desire to understand them except to ascertain how much lead or iron it takes to kill them. In addition to his other amiable characteristics, the Russians have no regard for human life and they are all out son of bitches,barbarians and chronic drunks.
I believe that Germany should not be destroyed ,but rather should be rebuilt as a buffer against the real danger, which is Russia and it’s Bolshevism.

Russia knows what it wants. World domination .And she is laying her plans accordingly. We, on the other hand, and England, and France to a lesser extent. don’t know what we want and get less than nothing as the result.

Let’s keep our boots polished, bayonets sharpened,and present a picture of force and strength to the Russians. This is the only language that they understand and respect. If you fail to do this , then I would like to say that we have had a victory over the Germans, and have disarmed them,but we have lost the war.

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