Barbarossa/Eatern Front Timeline in WWII

Berlin-1945

Over the past few days I have had an email conversation with Mr. George Toomes, one of my readers, and he brought up a very interesting question. It started with asking if I had or knew where to find a map of the Russian counter-attack outside Moscow in the winter of 1941. In a follow up he mentioned that he was trying to get an idea of when and where the Germans and Russians stopped in their various offensives and counter-offensives in the war in the East. I don’t think I have ever seen a video or graphic that lays out the back and forth of the eastern front in … Read more…

Book Review: Why Germany Nearly Won: A New History of the Second World War in Europe by Steven D. Mercatante

[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] At first glance Why Germany Nearly Won: A New History of the Second World War in Europe is another of the rehashing’s of WWII in the East and West that have become so popular since the fall of communism in the 1990’s and the opening of previously closed Russian archives.  That first glance would be wrong.  Steven Mercatante has produced a very well written history of the war in the East that goes to the heart of why the Eastern Front is … Read more…

Sun-Tzu & Clausewitz: A Comparison

Both Sun-Tzu and Clausewitz have something to offer for the serious student of warfare.  The biggest distinction between the two seems to be their different approaches to the art of war.  Sun-Tzu advocates a more subtle and indirect approach to the art of war while Clausewitz advocates a more direct approach. The essence of Sun-Tzu’s philosophy seems to be winning through superior generalship.  He almost seems to advocate a type of warfare by superior maneuver similar to that practiced in Renaissance Italy.  He preaches the avoidance of pitched battles unless the attacker is assured of winning.  This view is summed up in chapter III verse 3: “For to win one … Read more…

Battle Analysis-The Ludendorff Offensives of Spring 1918

In the spring of 1918 the German army attempted a series of war winning offensives on the Western Front that ultimately were to fail and their failure led directly to the German signing of an armistice in November of 1918.  The failure of the Ludendorff offensives as they were known was strategic and operational in nature.  The German army had devised a new tactical system and doctrine that broke the stalemate of the Western front.  What they could not do was follow through once the front had been broken. The Germans had developed the tactical system known as infiltration in response to the stalemate of trench warfare.  This system concentrated … Read more…

Why the Western Front Stalemated in WWI

The conventional explanation for why the Western Front in World War I settled into a stalemate is that the power of defensive weapons was stronger than the offensive methods employed.  The theory is that the defensive potential of machine-guns, artillery, repeating rifles, and trenches was unbreakable with infantry and artillery alone.  This simplistic explanation does not suffice under close scrutiny though.  If this were so, why were the Germans not stopped in France until after they had removed troops to the Eastern front for the Battle of Tannenberg and why were the French stopped cold when they attempted to invade Germany in August 1914? The reasons for stalemate are complex; … Read more…

Book Review: The German Way of War by Robert M. Citino

This book is an interesting read to say the least, Dr. Citino makes the case that there is a specifically German “way of war”. That way, is what he calls operational maneuver. He traces the development of this “way of war” from the 17th century battles of the Frederick William I, the “Great Elector” of electoral Brandenburg and scion of the Hohenzollern Dynasty through to the end of World War II and the final defeat of Nazi Germany. I am not myself so convinced that the discussion should end there based on my experience talking to current German soldiers about war and battle during partnership exercises while I have been … Read more…

Book Review: Panzer Battles by F.W. von Mellenthin

This is one of the most influential memoirs written by a former German Officer. The cover of the copy I own highlights that it “was the book on General Schwarzkopf’s desk during the Gulf War.” I found it to be a well written book with some pretty good accounts of the battles von Mellenthin participated in as a staff officer as well as some battles he did not participate in. I would not go so far as to say that this book is a definitive account of German tank warfare in World War II but it comes very close. Mellenthin does an outstanding job of describing the operational and sometimes … Read more…

Book Review (sort of): Julius Caesar -The Gallic Wars

Caesar’s Gallic Wars are a series of eight books that Caesar either wrote or had written detailing his actions during the eight years he was the Roman governor in Gaul.  They are best understood as an exercise in propaganda because during the time he was away from Rome the books were an excellent way to keep his name in front of the people in Rome and to enhance his reputation and prestige.  That being said, they are still invaluable as an account of his time there and as a look into the mind of one of the best politicians of the most powerful polity of his age.  It is important … Read more…

Book Review: Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck

 I just recently finished reading Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck (last night), I don’t know why but for some reason I am on a war memoir kick right now and digging through my library and re-reading all the war memoirs I have.  Colonel Luck’s memoir is very interesting, he had a very interesting career in both the Reichswehr and Wehrmacht in the years preceding and during World War II. Colonel Luck opened the war in Poland and fought on all the major fronts of the war to include the invasion of Russia, the Western Desert, and D-day before ending the war once again in the east … Read more…

Battle of Carrhae, 53 B.C.

The Battle of Carrhae in 53 B.C. was one of the biggest military disasters Rome ever suffered, ranking right up there with Cannae, The Teutoberg Forest, and Lake Trasimene.  The battle occurred in what is today Syria between a Roman army under Marcus Licinius Crassus and a Parthian (Persian) army under a general Surena.  In the battle, seven legions were destroyed and their Eagles taken and Rome did not trouble the Parthian Empire again for almost 50 years.

The battle was written about by both Livy and Plutarch.  The links are to translations of their texts.

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Are there similarities between the War in Vietnam and the War in Afghanistan? – Part 2

The last question that needs to be answered as concerns the parallels between Afghanistan and Vietnam is why we are not pursuing a campaign of territorial conquest.  In Vietnam, the U.S. did not seek to gain and maintain control of territory; rather they sought to combat only the military forces of the insurgents.  That is why the now legendary “body count” was so important in Vietnam.  The same thing is not happening in Afghanistan, at least to the extent that the “body count” is important.  The metric I see being used to determine progress in Afghanistan in place of the “body count” is tracking how many attacks occur within delineated sectors of territory.  This metric is probably just as useless in determining victory or progress, as was the body count.  So many factors go into determining how many attacks occur in a given region that the actual number of attacks is meaningless.

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Book Review: Soldat: Reflections of German Soldier, 1936-1949 by Sigfried Knappe

Book Review: Soldat: Reflections of  German Soldier, 1936-1949 by Sigfried Knappe and Ted Brusaw

I realized this morning that it has been a while since I posted a book review and I just finished re-reading this book yesterday and thought I would post a review of it.

This is a ghost-written account of Major Knappe’s time in the Wehrmacht between 1936 and his release from Russian captivity in 1949.  I first read this book in the mid-90s when it was first released.  At the time, I was very much into reading about World War II and thought that reading a book from the German perspective would be enlightening.  I was not disappointed with this book.

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The Transformation of War Wrought by the Armies of the French Revolution and Napoleon

This is the text of a paper I wrote for my undergrad that I found yesterday while looking through the folders on my computer for something else and decided I would post here.  It is not the best writing I have ever done but I like and still agree with the conclusion I came to in it.

In the years before the French Revolution, warfare in Europe was moribund at best.  The wars of the period were dynastic wars fought to maintain the traditional balance of power and were generally limited in scale and scope.  The armies of this era were professional armies with an aristocratic officer class and private soldiers drawn from the lowest segments of society and subject to brutal discipline.  Desertion and looting were rife in the pre-revolutionary or old regime army’s, which partly explains the discipline, the other part of the discipline equation was the need for soldiers to execute their battlefield actions in concert to maximize the effect of their weapons. [1]  Lastly, pre-revolutionary eighteenth century warfare was characterized by small field armies, reliance on depots for supplies, mechanistic battlefield evolutions, and wars for limited gains.

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Are there similarities between the War in Vietnam and the War in Afghanistan? – Part 1

Comparisons of Afghanistan to Vietnam were common during the Bush years but have slowed down considerably since he left office.  Perhaps there are political reasons for this and perhaps there is just comparison fatigue, I am not really which.  I bring this up because I had a conversation about this at lunch the other day and it got me thinking about it.  From a purely military perspective, it strikes me that while the war in Afghanistan is not synonymous with the war in Vietnam there are some parallels that it is perhaps a comparison worth exploring.  The story that brought the topic up is here: U.S., Afghans hope to rout expected Taliban offensive.

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Battle Analysis: The German Invasion of Russia in 1941

The German invasion of European Russia was a huge mistake for several reasons, the biggest being that Germany had insufficient forces to win in the first year.  Another reason was the force disparity between the German and Russian armies there is also the almost total lack of realistic logistics planning on the part of the German High Command or OKH.  The German army did not have contingency plans for a winter campaign and were thus caught flat-footed when Russia failed to capitulate in 1941; this lack of planning was despite the recommendations of such officers as Guderian and Manstein.

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