The Battle of Thatis River
by John Patrick Hewson
In the second half of the sixth century BC a large scale tribal movement took place north of the Black sea. This began when the Massagetai, the largest and most powerful of the tribes of north Central Asia, undertook an aggressive expansion into the steppes of Kazakhstan. During this process they either enslaved or integrated into their horde many of the nomadic horse tribes of central Asia. We know very little about the resulting confederation except that its success was due in part to the development of a new form of elite heavy cavalry known to the Greeks as Kataphraktoi, which became what we know as Cataphracts.
From Small Causes, Great Events - Part 4
by Larry Parker
Operation Cobra, the breakout from Normandy 24-27 July 1944, began with one of the most concentrated and intense carpet bombings in the history of modern warfare. 1500 B-17s and B-24s dropped 2000 tons of High Explosive and an even greater payload of fragmentation bombs on an area five miles wide by one mile deep. The heavies were augmented by 1000 medium bombers and fighter bombers. In just under three hours 2500 planes disgorged over 5000 tons of ordnance plus white phosphorus and a new agent called napalm, saturating the target zone with over 11,000 bombs per square mile. The Panzer Lehr division defending the area, already weakened by six weeks of fighting, was devastated. So great was the concussion that twenty-five ton tanks were flipped onto their turrets. The blast smashed radios and obliterated Headquarters sundering command and control. General Fritz Bayerlein, commanding the elite Panzer Lehr, estimated that seventy per cent of his men were dead, wounded or rendered senseless and incapable of resistance by the shock effect. Regrettably precision munitions were thirty years in the future. Cloud cover, flak, nerves and aim point miscalculations resulted in the fratricide of American forces waiting to begin the ground assault once the air armada had completed its mission. 136 men were killed, another 621 wounded, primarily from the 30th Infantry Division. Indeed the 30th suffered more casualties in three hours from the Army Air Force (AAF) than from the enemy on any day of the war.
A survivor of Operation Cobra wrote, “One’s life is held in balance by a little piece of metal smaller than a man’s finger.” Depending upon the vagaries of combat that “little piece of metal” might kill, wound, graze or miss completely. Should that “little piece of metal” kill the outcome seems inevitable; at that point we tend to disregard the fact that up until the moment of impact, the moment of finality, the preceding moments were infinitely variable, containing a multitude of possibilities. We forget how unpredictable the world looked mere seconds before the fragment struck. This is the trap of hind sight bias. To use another example, because the West dominated much of recent history we assume that dominance was inevitable. It was not. Western dominance was and remains a close run thing. Had the Persians won at Salamis, had Pilate pardoned Christ, had the Chinese harnessed steam power before the West, had any one of thousands of events turned out differently, what would the world look like today?
In Memoriam: Lt(jg) James A. Nist, USNR (1921-1945)
by Bryan J. Dickerson
Seventy years ago this month, Martin and Ethel Nist (my great grandparents) received a Western Union telegram with heartbreaking news. Their youngest son James, a Naval Aviator assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), was reported Missing in Action in the Pacific Theater. Due to need for wartime secrecy, there were few details.
Member Article: The Third Romano-Samnite War - Phase 1: 316 – 312 BC
by Gordon Davis
In 316 BC war broke out once again between Rome and the Samnite tribes of the central Apennines – the third such conflict between the Italian belligerents since their initial clash in 343 BC. This new conflagration was to become the longest period of sustained warfare between the two powers, eventually, during its course widening its scope of contestants to include the Sabellians of the Abruzzi and the cities of the Etruscan League. The initial five years of this new war, however, only concerned the forces of the Romans and the Samnites and it is this phase of the third war’s operations which is covered in this study. The next and final phase of this war (311 – 304 BC) will be analysed in a later document. During the fighting in these years Rome’s military endeavors gained in scope and scale, as it punched and counter-punched with its Samnite foe. The standard compliment of the army had by now very likely increased from two to four legions, as necessity demanded and as new manpower resources came online from the maturing sections of Rome’s expanding hegemony. The evolution of the manipular legion and its attendant battle tactics would have continued apace during these years, driven by the realities of fighting war against the rustic but martial mountain tribes of the central Apennines, although it is impossible to trace any details of this metamorphosis from the extant sources. The planting of new colonies once again makes an appearance, along with, significantly, the commencement of Rome’s first military road-building project. Against this growing Roman menace, the Samnites tribes waged war as best they could, against a foe which continued to grow stronger.
Book Review: Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America
by Bruce Brager
This is a verse from a 1965 satirical song by the folk-singing The Mitchell Trio. The song writer was writing of denial, among elements of the German population, of Nazi sympathies during World War Two. I laughed at the time, though then I was not aware of the connection the polka had to this country.
Back in 1965 I had not heard of Operation Paperclip. The only Nazi scientist of whom I had heard, along with most American alive at the time, was Werner von Braun. Von Braun played a major role in the American space program during the Cold War and the race for moon. His saying was “I am for the stars.” Of course, in the words of Mort Saul, his V2 rockets just happened to hit London.
Operation Paperclip was the effort, in the years after World War Two, to bring German scientists to the United States to work for us – and deny their services to the Soviet Union. The operation got its names from paperclips used to mark files of promising individuals. The scientists had to offer something of value to the United States, yet not have gone overboard in war crimes and atrocities, nor be too high profile. Adolf Eichmann and Albert Speer would not have found a place in Operation Paperclip.
Member Article: The War Nurses That Came Before Barton
by James Hinton
The history of women in nursing and warfare is well known. Children throughout much of the English speaking world study the roles of Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton in most history classrooms, and a detailed study of their work is required in nearly every nursing program on both sides of the pond. These two women are held up as the ground breakers who brought women and nursing into the history of military medicine, and indeed, to the world as a whole.
However, the question is, did they really? In truth, the history of female nurses in warfare did not begin in the middle of the 19th century, but in fact goes back much further. Nightingale and Barton certainly deserve their places in the history books, but there are many other women who also deserve recognition as well.
Member Article: The Silent Service and the Turkey Shoot
by James Hinton
They called it the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot. American pilots flying from fifteen carriers met Japanese pilots from nine carriers and four islands in the waters just off of Saipan. The resulting battle was the greatest carrier battle of World War II.
At the end of the fighting Japan had lost 80% of its employed aircraft, three carriers, and two oilers, and had failed to achieve any of its objectives. The U.S. carrier pilots were lauded and toasted for their victory, and are credited for effectively ending the Japanese carrier threat. In the seventy years since the Battle of the Philippine Sea took place it has been known as the pinnacle moment for Navy Aviation.
The truth is far more complicated. While the Navy air arm did account for many of the relatively cheap Japanese planes from the carrier force, and their inexperienced, it wasn’t them that delt the harshest blows in the Marianas. Instead, it was the U.S. submarine fleet that did the lion’s share of destroying the virtually irreplaceable ships of the Japanese carrier fleet.
Member Article: Two if by Sea - Part III: The Militia Concept in History
by Steven Christopher Ippolito
The concept of militia -- a time-honored tradition of warfighting originating in the feudal period of Medieval Europe – would prove critical in the defense of colonists in the New World of America as well ((Frank, 2006; Lynn, 1996; Millet & Maslowski, 1984/1994; Morton, 1958; Shy, 1963). Militia formations – fighting units of citizen soldiers -- were conceived, initially, as a land warfare concept. Of critical importance, too, was the militia’s role in the defense of the homeland, long before the concept of homeland security would be articulated in the post-11 September 2001 (9/11) security environment (Gaddis, 2002). Equally significant, however, was the adaptation of the militia concept to the maritime dimension in the late 19th century, when New Yorkers were first privileged to serve as citizen-sailors, in a lawfully authorized Naval Militia (Haunss, 2004). Operating within the waterways of the Empire State, the deployment of the New York Naval Militia (NYNM) would prove interesting, not simply in the historical sense, but as a pragmatically-effective component of the State’s Defense Forces, particularly in the post-9/11 world of non-state actors and terrorism (Haunss, 2004; Ippolito, 2013; Kilcullen, 2004).
The two prior installments of this essay have sought to introduce the reader to the concept of a naval militia, but also to the successful realization of this concept by the New York State Naval Militia (NYNM), beginning in 1891. Accordingly, the purpose of this essay’s third installment is to explain some of the early history of the militia concept, in general, from Europe to America, and the adaptation of this land-based type of warfighting to the needs of homeland defense within the riverine environment of New York State. Since there is no more famous American militiaman than our first Commander-in-Chief, George Washington, some of the first President’s activities in the Virginia militia will also be discussed.
Member Article: Two if by Sea - Part II: The Nautical-Legal Context of Homeland Security
by Steven Christopher Ippolito
The Battle of Lake Champlain, a furious naval clash between British and American sea power, was fought over a three-day period, 11 October 1776 – 13 October 1776, on an otherwise peaceful New York lake. A non-linear test of wills, Champlain was a strategic pivot point in the early days of the American War for Independence (1775-1784). In outcome, Lake Champlain was a tactical defeat for the American militiamen who waged it. However, the verdict of military history is also clear that Champlain was not devoid of military value for the American side; in fact, it was also an authentically transformative
moment in the American militia experience. At Lake Champlain, the United States
military Americans successfully demonstrated that a purely land-based militia
could be re-conceptualized as an authentic naval militia. Beyond that, Champlain
was the “only successful fleet action of [October] 1776 fought by the Americans’
brown-water squadron” (Hagan, 1991, p. 6). The unique dimensions of the battle
would seem to require an inquiry into the transformative role of the American
militia, then and now. Moreover, echoes of the battle’s non-linear character,
and its significance for the concept of militia, can be observed today in the
institution of the modern New York State Naval Militia – a highly effective
organization in the vanguard of contemporary homeland security (Haunss, 2004).
Member Article: In Memoriam: LtCol Adrian Grant-Duff, C.B. (1869-1914)
by Bryan Dickerson
On 15 September 1914, the British Army lost one of its most capable and proficient commanders and an officer who had played a vital role in the formulation of Britain’s mobilization contingency planning for the Great War. This distinguished officer was Lieutenant Colonel Adrian Grant-Duff, commanding officer of 1st Battalion / Royal Highlanders (The Black Watch).
Adrian Grant-Duff was born 29 September 1869 in London, England. He was the son of the Right Honorable Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant-Duff, P.C., G.C.S.I. and Anna Julia Webster Lady Grant-Duff, C.I.E. His father was a practioner of law, Member of the House of Commons, a government administrator and an author of numerous books. Adrian was one of the couple’s four sons and four daughters. Adrian was educated at Wellington College in the village of Crowthorne, Berkshire, England. He then attended the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.
Member Article: A Brief History of Al Asad Air Base, Iraq During Operation Desert Storm
by Bryan Dickerson
From early 2004 until late 2011, Al Asad Air Base was one of the most important air bases used by Coalition Forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom. For most of this time, this sprawling base located in the Al Anbar Province of western Iraq was operated by the U.S. Marine Corps to conduct aerial operations and support ground operations throughout the province. The history of this base, however, dates back to the mid-1980s. During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Al Asad Air Base was subjected to numerous air attacks, sustaining massive damage. Al Asad’s role in Operation Desert Storm is thus the subject of this paper.
Al Asad Air Base is located in the central portion of Al Anbar Province, western Iraq, some 12 miles from the city of Baghdadi and the Euphrates River. Baghdad is 120 miles to the east; the Syrian border is about 110 miles to the north-west.
Book Review: Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne
by Bob Seals
SGT York’s compelling story is a familiar tale to laymen and military historians alike. Born in a small, two room log cabin near Pall Mall, Tennessee, in 1887, Alvin C. York was the third of eleven children born to poor parents who struggled in the hills. After the death of his father, from the effects of being kicked by a mule in 1911, Alvin was thrust into the role of head of the household for his widowed mother and younger siblings at home. The pressure of such responsibility affected the young man. York often sought escape shooting, fighting, gambling and drinking in the rough hewn bars and local moonshine plentiful in the mountains. A favorite game with his friends was called “last man standing,” with the winner being the last left standing after a challenging bout of conspicuous consumption. His life was a pointless, wayward existence until he re-discovered his parent’s devout, fundamentalist Christian faith, and developed a romantic interest in a young lady near the York farm. After a revival meeting Alvin was “…transformed from a drunkard, brawler, and malcontent to a leader in the church, a Sunday School teacher, a choir leader, and a respected man in the community.”
Member Article: Two if by Sea – The New York Naval Militia: Homeland Security’s Nautical Roots
by Steven Christopher Ippolito
The Battle of Lake Champlain, a furious naval clash between British and American sea power, was fought over a three-day period, 11 October 1776 – 13 October 1776, on an otherwise peaceful New York lake. A non-linear test of wills, Champlain was a strategic pivot point in the early days of the American War for Independence (1775-1784). In outcome, Lake Champlain was a tactical defeat for the American militiamen who waged it. However, the verdict of mili-tary history is also clear that Champlain was not devoid of military value for the American side; in fact, it was also an authentically transformative moment in the American militia experience.
At Lake Champlain, the United States military Americans successfully demonstrated that a purely land-based militia could be re-conceptualized as an authentic naval militia. Beyond that, Champlain was the “only successful fleet action of [October] 1776 fought by the Ameri-cans’ brown-water squadron” (Hagan, 1991, p. 6). The unique dimensions of the battle would seem to require an inquiry into the transformative role of the American militia, then and now. Moreover, echoes of the battle’s non-linear character, and its significance for the concept of militia, can be observed today in the institution of the modern New York State Naval Militia – a highly effective organization in the vanguard of contemporary homeland security (Haunss, 2004). An examination of these realities is, therefore, the immediate purpose in this the first of a series of essays on the New York Naval Militia, its history, and its modern application in securing the American homeland in the post-11 September 2001 (9/11) security environment (Hamre, 2000; Newmann, 2002)
Member Article: Alfred Thayer Mahan: Advocate for Seapower
by Larry Parker
In 1865 the United States Navy mustered 700 ships (many of them iron clad and steam powered), mounting 5,000 cannon (many of those rifled, shell guns of the latest design), crewed by 6,700 officers and 51,000 men. In just five years 92.6 per cent of the fleet had been sold, scrapped or laid up. Only 52 ships mounting 500 guns remained in active commission. These, with a few notable exceptions, were crewed largely by the dregs of the waterfront for, as promotion and advancement opportunities stagnated, officers and enlisted personnel left the service in droves taking with them hard won battle experience and years of training. In this environment the eighteen knot USS Wampanoag , first warship to employ super heated steam, was scrapped as congress mandated a return to sail in order to save money on coal. A post war, isolationist, defensive mentality exacerbated the rush to disarm. Costal fortifications were deemed less provocative and considerably less expensive than a credible blue water navy.
From Small Causes, Great Events - Part 3
by Larry Parker
If you study history long enough and in sufficient detail you begin to
understand the sweeping statements regarding vast movements presented in so many
textbooks, while appropriate to lay the foundation for more extensive study,
are, at best, simplified overviews, at worst, gross generalizations. As such
these texts are truly inadequate for they give the impression the outcomes of
great events such as the American Revolution or the Bolshevik Revolution were
inevitable. Nothing could be further from the truth. The great arcs of history
boil down to small moments of chance; significant decisions frequently turn on
trivial matters. In the case of the American Revolution most colonists
considered themselves to be Englishmen seeking to preserve their traditional
rights as Englishmen under the Magna Carta (1215), the Petition of Rights (1628)
and the Bill of Rights (1629). The majority wanted reform not revolution.
Initially, at least, there were very few ardent revolutionaries. Given a more
enlightened monarch and legitimate representation in Parliament we might have
avoided the whole bloody affair and speak proper English today.
Member Article: Behind the Iron Curtain and into the Special Forces: Rudi Horvath
by Bob Seals
Dr. Deborah S. Cornelius, a noted east-central European historian, has described the Kingdom of Hungary in World War II as being "caught in the cauldron." The nation faced a geographical dilemma between two implacable ideological opponents leading to widespread misery and destruction during the war. Unfortunately, after the fighting ended in May of 1945 Hungarians remained "caught in the cauldron," now, a postwar communist one. For some, remaining in a communist Hungary was not an option.
One young Hungarian, Rudi Horvath, inspired by the prospect of service in the Cold War United States Army, went to elaborate and highly dangerous lengths to escape from behind the Iron Curtain, embarking upon a dangerous and fascinating journey leading to service in the nascent Army Special Forces of 1952. As an original 10th Special Forces Group member, Horvath helped to establish that superb force of unconventional warriors prepared to conduct guerrilla warfare if the Cold War in Europe during the 1950's suddenly turned red hot.
American Airborne Units in World War II
by Michael F. Dilley
This short history will cover those combat military groups, squadrons, battalions,
regiments, divisions, and the one corps of U.S. airborne units in World War II.
It will not include Army Air Corps units (such as the Air Commandos) or Troop Carrier
units, or organizations that had American individuals in them who were airborne
qualified and even made operational jumps, such as Army and Marine Corps members
of the Office of Strategic Services (including those with Jedburgh teams and Operations
Groups), or the multi-service, multi-national Special Allied Airborne Reconnaissance
Force (which initially included women who had previously jumped into denied areas).
\ The first plan to use parachute forces by American units was developed during World
War I. On 17 October 1918, Brigadier General William P. (Billy) Mitchell, a later
proponent of strategic aerial bombing, conceived the idea of dropping an American
division by parachute from bomber aircraft into an area in the vicinity of Metz,
Germany. The details of the planning were developed by Major Lewis H. Brereton,
a member of Mitchell’s Air Service staff. Brereton would later serve as the commander
of the First Allied Airborne Army during World War II as a Lieutenant General. (The
First Allied Airborne Army consisted of the American XVIII Airborne Corps, which
included: the 17th Airborne Division, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 101st
Airborne Division; and the British I Airborne Corps, which included: the 1st Airborne
Division and the 6th Airborne Division. Troop carrier units were also part of Brereton’s
Czechoslovak Exile Units of WWII
by Kai Isaksen
In 1938, the 1,500,000-strong Czechoslovak Army was among the largest in Europe, and fairly well-equipped with modern weapons, including locally produced tanks and aircraft.
On November 1st 1938, German troops entered the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia, occupying the entire region with almost no resistance from the Czech forces – only 3rd Battalion of the 8th Border Regiment briefly resisted advancing German troops before being ordered to lay down their weapons by the Czech High Command.
In rapid succession, the Sudetenland was formally ceded to Germany. As had been decided in Munich, a third of Slovakia was ceded to Hungary and Poland occupied the Zaolizie region. Slovakia declared independence under a fascist government, and Ruthenia (part of modern Ukraine) tried to do the same, but was promptly invaded and annexed by Hungary.
Member Article: The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh
by Kai Isaksen
As we enter 2014, the 700th-year anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and the year of the referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom, it may be appropriate to look back at other battles fought between the Scots and the English.
Throughout the centuries, the two nations have fought several epic battles – some well-known like Bannockburn, Flodden, and Cullodden – and others more obscure to the general public, but no less fascinating from a historical point of view.
One such forgotten battle was the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, fought close to the town of Musselburgh, just east of Edinburgh, in 1547.
Many historians have argued that the outcome of the battle had no political consequences and that this may well be why the battle has been largely forgotten outside historical circles.
However, historians also tend to agree that the battle was indeed significant, in that it can be argued to be the first modern battle on British soil, a battle featuring the first real combined arms operations (as we define it through modern eyes), using infantry, cavalry and artillery, as well as naval bombardment, in a coordinated and mutually supportive way on the battlefield.
Member Article: The Fulda Gap
by Bill Wilson
Lariat Advance. This terse and odd phrase, typically delivered via telephone in the early hours of the morning, served over years of the Cold War as an unmistakable notice to U.S. soldiers in Germany that a unit alert had been declared and that henceforth every second counted until such time as the unit’s response to alert had been assessed, and hopefully found satisfactory. Soldiers who lived outside the unit’s base reported in, vehicles and personal equipment were made ready, and finally, the unit deployed to its designated alert location in the countryside.
For those NATO soldiers whose units were deployed in the vicinity of the Iron Curtain, these alerts were laden with additional tension because the nearby presence of the Soviet forces was palpable. As one responded to the alert and approached the Kaserne, thoughts inevitably assessed how “real” the alert might be. For the U.S. Army in Germany in general, and its V (Fifth) Corps in particular, the geographical focus of this concern was known as the Fulda Gap.
Although VII Corps in Bavaria had another terrain corridor, the Hof Gap, as its focus, when it came to anticipated operations in Europe, the U.S. Army firmly expected the first battle of the next war to be a major clash of armored forces in the Fulda Gap. “The Gap”, like the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas, came to represent an assignment of special responsibility for those U.S. soldiers destined for promotion to high rank. The standards for performance of duty in such assignments were uncompromising, and those who met the requirements were considered to have performed well in the closest thing to war during times of peace.
Published works on Second World War Orders of Battle for land forces
by Bill Wilson
The armies of the Second World War were typically large organizations the formation of which was made possible by the total war efforts of the combatant nations. Holding continuous front lines in Europe, particularly in the Soviet Union, demanded the mobilization of hundreds of divisions in addition to other elements by both sides. Orders of battle indicate which units were present in given battles and campaigns, as well as providing information useful for determining the assignments and subordination of particular units within the national military structure.
The published works addressing orders of battle vary widely in their degree of comprehensiveness. Some have been published postwar as official works while others are commercial publications. Besides the published works, there are also primary sources available in the archives of the combatant nations. An evaluation of these primary sources is not in the scope of this article. This article will evaluate selected published order of battle works for Germany, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France, and the United States.
Book Review: Tank Warfare on the Eastern Front 1941-1942: Schwerpunkt
by Robert Forczyk
Robert Forczyk, a former US Army armor officer, once and for all dispels the persistent myth of German armor superiority during the first
years on the Eastern front.
As a reader, I found it amazing just how far behind in technology the Germans found themselves even at the very onset of Barbarossa.
By providing in-depth analysis of the tank engagements during these first years, Forczyk makes a convincing argument that the early German successes
were not due to superior tank design and performace, but instead because of German tactics, experience, logistics, communication, training, and initiative.
One realizes it was just became a matter of time before the Soviets caught up to the Germans in the other categories - thus permanently turning
the tide in the east.
Tank Warfare on the Eastern Front 1941-1942 is a highly-recommended read and is vital to understanding the reasons for eventually German
defeat in the east.
Member Article: Romania and its allies during World War I
by Liliana Adochitei
With the beginning of WW1, Romania came under pressure from both sides of the conflict to join them. The Entente countries (France, Great Britain, Russia) demanded that Romania join their side against the Central powers (Austria-Hungary and Germany), and promised to recognise Romanian claims to territory held by Austria-Hungary in a post-war settlement. At the same time, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany demanded that King Carol I of Romania comply with the 1883 Treaty between the countries, which stipulated that if one of the countries were attacked the other one would offer their unconditional support.
Meeting from July 21 to August 3, 1919, the Crown Council of Sinaia determined that neutrality was the only appropriate option for Romania, as it was a small country located in the sphere of influences of two warring empires (Austria-Hungary and Russia). Romania’s situation was further complicated by the fact that it held territorial claims against both the Empires surrounding it. Consequently, neutrality was considered the best option at the start of the war, although both the Romanian politicians and the population in general, expected that Romania would likely be compelled to enter the war at some stage.
Flying Tiger, Hidden Eagle
by Christopher Lyon
It was December of 1939, and the world was at war. Poland, Czechoslovakia, France,
Italy, China, Great Britain, Russia and Japan all had seats at the highest stakes
game the world had ever seen, but the United States was quite noticeably absent.
Many historians have argued that Franklin Roosevelt did his utmost to propel the
country into conflict with Germany and Japan, and when viewed through the lens of
the Chinese conflict, this controversy is accentuated and brought to the fore. Although
it would be two full years before the catastrophe at Pearl Harbor, it was in this
critical month, when all Europe was falling under the sway of fascism, that the
Roosevelt administration, and especially the president himself, was preparing for
the coming storm. By mid-1940, the US was preparing to boost its support of the
hard-pressed Chinese troops with a very significant number of advanced fighters,
bombers, and hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. For years the Chinese, who
had been fighting both the Japanese and been embroiled in their own civil war, had
faced the technological might of Japan armed only with planes from WWI and infantry
weapons that often pre-dated even that conflict. A US colonel, Claire Chennault,
who had been an advisor to the Chinese military since 1937, oversaw the creation
of the American Volunteer Group, a unit of US servicemen and pilots who volunteered
to serve in the Chinese military in late 1940 and early 1941.
Book Review: The Last Fighting General – The Biography of Robert Tyron Fredericks
by Michael F. Dilley
A biography of Robert T. Frederick is long overdue. Frederick organized and commanded the First Special Service Force in World War II, among other accomplishments. Frederick, a hard-driving, inspirational leader, commanded from the front. His life should be celebrated in U.S. Army leadership courses but it isn’t. This is due, in part, to a general unfamiliarity with Frederick, his accomplishments, and his leadership philosophy.
SAARF – Special Allied Airborne Reconnaissance Force
by Michael F. Dilley
In early 1945, with the Allied forces closing in on Germany from the west and Russian forces from the east, there was concern on the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) staff about the continued safety of Prisoners of War (POWs) in the hands of the Germans. Some intelligence reporting indicated that the Germans may be moving POWs out of camps in areas where Allied military forces were near at hand. Fears of German maltreatment of POWs in the event the war was lost had been raised earlier but planning for those contingencies did not receive a high priority.
As the situation became more of a reality and concerns were raised that camp personnel might decide to massacre prisoners, the priority for planning was raised. The new plans centered on establishing Contact Teams which could be parachuted into or near POW camps to observe and report activities relative to prisoner safety or to intercede in the event of any observed untoward actions being directed against prisoners. Based on limited intelligence reporting, conditions in some of the camps were believed to be bad. There was also uncertainty about whether Hitler might order that actions be taken against prisoners in view of Germany steadily losing ground in the war.
The Force at la Difensa
by Michael F. Dilley
Italy, early December 1943. It had been raining since mid-September. Rivers in the area were running high, bridges were swept away, and road surfaces were mostly gone. And, of course, it was cold.
The German Winter Line had held out despite attack after attack by Lieutenant General Mark Clark’s Fifth Army. Regardless of any progress made, no advance beyond the Mignano Gap to Cassino was achieved. This Gap was flanked by the Camino hill mass including mountains such as la Difensa, la Remetanea, Rotondo, and Lungo.
On 22 November, Fifth Army had announced Operation Raincoat, “the plan to breach the mountain passes.” One of the units in this plan was new to the Italian theater, having previously served in the invasion of Kiska in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. It was assigned to the U.S. 36th Infantry Division as the spearhead of the operation. This unit was the First Special Service Force.
Member Article: The Battle of Megiddo
by John Patrick Hewson
The battle of Megiddo is the earliest battle of which there is some historical record, although the record is fragmented and sketchy. And, although no complete record of the tactics exists, we do have some information at our disposal. James Henry Breasted, in his “Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents” published in Chicago in 1906, gives a translation of an inscription from the Amen temple at Karnak which gives some details of the battle. A slightly different translation is given by J. B. Pritchard in “Ancient Near Eastern Texts” published in 1969. In addition, a tentative map of the battlefield is given in “Carta’s Atlas of the Bible” by Yohanan Aharoni, published in Jerusalem in 1964.
Thutmose III Menkhepori, (died 1449 BCE), an eighteenth dynasty king of the Egyptian new kingdom, was the son of Thutmose II and Iset, one of his lesser wives. His grandfather, Thutmose I, had undertaken extensive military campaigns in both Syria and Nubia. However, Thutmose II did not conduct any major military campaigns during his reign; the only one we know about was a minor police action in Nubia.
Member Article: The Third Battle of Anchialus
by John Patrick Hewson
For close to 500 years the Byzantine Empire conducted relations, sometimes as allies,
sometimes at war, with the Bulgars. The Bulgars were originally a Turkic people
who, like other Central Asian peoples, had a reputation as military horsemen, and
they had developed a strong political organization based on the Khan as leader.
The Khans came from the aristocratic class of Boyars, and were augmented by senior
military commanders called Tarkhans. In the second century, the Bulgars migrated
to an area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and sometime between 351 and
377, a group of them crossed the Caucasus to settle in Armenia.
Fleeing from the Huns at the beginning of the fifth century, a large number of Bulgars
reached an area of fertile land between the Donets and Don valleys and the Sea of
Azov. Some settled in this area, founding the state of Black Bulgaria, which became
known as Great Bulgaria, and which flourished until destroyed by the Mongols in
the thirteenth century. Others moved towards central Europe, settling in the Roman
province of Pannonia, and accompanying the Huns in their raids into Europe between
377 and 453, dispersing into southeastern Europe in 453 with the death of Attila.
Member Article: Sabotaging Hitler’s Heavy Water
by Michael F. Dilley
The years leading up to and including World War II saw a race by Germany and the United States to develop an atomic weapon. Although the idea of nuclear fission was first mentioned in 1934, it was not until four years later that experiments confirmed it by using Uranium. The two methods for moderating the energy of neutrons loosed by bombarding Uranium involve the use of heavy water or graphite. Heavy water, or Deuterium, which looks like regular water, was discovered in 1933. Germany ultimately decided to use heavy water in its nuclear reactor to breed the Plutonium-239 needed in its weapons research.
One method of producing heavy water is by separating it from regular water using electrolysis. This method requires electrolysis chambers and a considerably large amount of power. Ultimately the heavy water supplier for scientists throughout the world was the hydroelectric plant run by Norsk Hydro, located near Rjukan in the Telemark region of Norway.
Book Review: Silent No More – The Alamo Scouts in Their Own Words
by Michael F. Dilley
Prior to 1995 not much was generally known about a small unit that fought in the
Southwest Pacific Theater during World War II. This unit was the Alamo Scouts, the
Special Reconnaissance Unit of the U.S. Sixth Army. All of that changed when Lance
Zedric converted his Master’s thesis into a book (Silent Warriors of World War II
– The Alamo Scouts Behind Japanese Lines; Pathfinder Publishing, Ventura,
California). Soon after the book’s publication there were works of all sorts (magazine
articles, television programs, even a movie) that featured the Alamo Scouts. The
U.S. Army Special Operations Command declared that the Alamo Scouts were a predecessor
unit of the modern Special Forces.
Member Article: The Return of Rogers' Rangers
by Michael F. Dilley
The military exploits of Major Robert Rogers during the French and Indian War
are well known. It was during that war that Rogers raised, trained, and led the
unit that bears his name, Rogers' Rangers. This was, however, not the last
Ranger unit with which Robert Rogers was affiliated. Prior to the war Rogers had
narrowly missed being branded or hung as a result of a charge of counterfeiting.
His exploits during the war left him with money problems but of a different
nature. The new problems involved Rogers' accounts in the army – repaying some
remaining obligations to his former Rangers as well as to certain men in Albany,
New York who had loaned money for the Rangers' subsistence and loans some of the
Rangers had taken against their future pay. Rogers spent almost a month
preparing his statement and presented it to the Crown's representative. By his
account the Crown owed Rogers about 6,000 pounds. Rogers was reported to have
been “thunderstruck” when most of the statement he submitted was denied.
Member Article: Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10
Book Review and Essay by Steven Christopher Ippolito
An American sailor in war once declared: "’There are no great men, there are only great challenges which ordinary men like you and me are forced by circumstances to meet’" (Book of Famous Quotes, n.d.; Crowther, 1960). Decades later, another sailor – who also came to know war in its most intimate and violent nuances – would proclaim a similar understanding of the martial strivings that define greatness “I will never quit…My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time…I will…protect my teammates…I am never out of the fight (Luttrell & Robinson, 2013, p. 235). Many years separated these two sailors in time. But in spirit, they are kindred souls, mystically joined by the common legacy of ordinary men rising to meet the nearly impossible, and aided, above all, by spirit, honor, fidelity to God and Country, and love of one’s comrades. Once accomplished, the making of the great man in war – a veritable descent into an existential crucible -- does not soon depart from the realm of
Member Article: Polo and the United States Army Officer Corps during the interwar period
by Bob Seals
After the “war to end all wars” ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month across Europe in 1918, the United States Army entered what accomplished historian Dr. Edward Coffman characterized as a “limbo” period. Many Americans openly questioned the need for such an institution, with the inevitable cycle of reductions and overseas withdraws paring the Army down to a skeletal frame of its First World War glory. The early years of the “Roaring Twenties” saw significant Army training all but cease. The monotonous daily schedule of formations, duties and drills helped make athletics an increasingly significant part of Army life.