Member Article: A Crisis of Cartography: Mapping the Western Front in World War I
by Del Kostka
When the great armies of Europe converged on the border region between Belgium and
France in August of 1914 they were not concerned with map making or topography.
After all, it was very familiar territory. Just forty-four years prior, the most
decisive battle of the Franco-Prussian War was waged outside the French town of
Sedan near the Belgian border, and every commander in every nation knew by heart
the epic campaign of Napoleon, Wellington and Blucher, and the roads that led them
to a quiet Belgian village named Waterloo. Besides, each side was confident that
this would be a very short war. Germany’s Schlieffen Plan, which called for the
invasion of France through Belgium, set a timetable of six weeks for total French
capitulation, and eager British recruits were discouraged when assured that the
war would be over by Christmas. But the Great War would not be quick and it would
not be easy. In fact, it would become a bloodbath of horrific proportions. Before
it was finished over 37 million people were either dead, wounded or had simply vanished
from the face of the earth.
The Soviet Offensive in the Arctic: The Pechenga (Petsamo)-Kirkenes Operation 1944
by Kai & Iryna Isaksen
The Pechenga-Kirkenes Operation, as it became known in Soviet military literature, is an important part of Soviet military history, but has been largely ignored in Western military literature, even though the last few years have seen an increased interest in the operations north of the Arctic Circle in WW2.
It was the "10th hammer blow", the last in a series of strategic offensive operations conducted by Soviet armed forces throughout 1944, designed to deal a decisive blow to the German ability to conduct counter offensives and mount military operations along the entire Eastern Front.
The battle, or rather series of battles, is the largest ever fought north of the Arctic circle and lessons are still being drawn today from the experience of the two armies that slugged it out in the moonlike landscape of the tundra west of Murmansk.
On October 7th 1944, a Soviet force of nearly 113,000 men of the Karelian Front, commanded by General Meretskov (later Marshal of the Soviet Union) launched an offensive against the 60,000-man German XIX Mountain Corps, defending in prepared positions along the Litsa river valley northwest of Murmansk.
Assisted by sea, air, and land forces (Naval infantry/marines) of the Northern Fleet, the Soviet 14th Army defeated the German forces in a three-phased operation that lasted a total of 24 days.
Member Article: Prelude to Disaster: The Siege of Mazagan, 1562: Portuguese Policy and Pyrrhic Victory in 16th Century Morocco
by Comer Plummer
It was a pleasant day of early spring in Lisbon and King Sebastian I of Portugal and the Algarve was making the most of it, bounding about the gardens of the Ribeira Palace. His elfish form disappeared momentarily behind the hedges and then into the shadows of the King's Tower before popping out again, diminutive rapier in hand, the shock of copper hair tussled. Normally, the sights and sounds of the Tagus River and nearby shipyard would have been the boy's primary diversions, but this day was different. Today, there were a thousand imaginary enemies at hand, and the King was determined to slay them all. The host was a Moorish one, godless savages and unruly fighters, and he was the crusading King Manuel I, the one they called The Fortunate, under whose rule the empire reached its zenith. Over 40 years after Manuel's death the country still bore his stamp, right down to the late Gothic architecture, a florid mélange of Italian, Spanish, and Flemish accents to traditional Portuguese style. Manueline, they called it.
As Sebastian leapt by, parrying and lunging, gardeners looked up, revealing weathered faces and furtive looks that were strangely servile and prideful. As the boy rounded the west side of the palace, that facing the river, he came upon knights and men-at-arms milling about the entrance. Recognizing their assailant, the men threw up their arms in mock surrender, sending the scowling boy off in search of another encounter. Usually, the eight-year old King was only permitted so much of this nonsense, but, under the circumstances, he was allowed to indulge. News from Morocco had everyone in a state of excitement.
Member Article: "Forgotten Master": T.E. Lawrence and Asymmetric Warfare?
by Evan Pilling
There have been few leaders in military history that have caught the popular imagination
more than T.E. Lawrence, or "Lawrence of Arabia." Books, movies, and recollections
of this enigmatic figure have served to cloud the reality of the man and surround
him with exaggerations and legends. Lawrence, an odd and eccentric figure by any
measure, himself did much to add to the air of mystery about his leadership ability
and what he actually accomplished during the First World War. These uncertainties
aside, what Lawrence did accomplish while serving as British liaison to the Arab
forces involved in the Arab Revolt (1916-18) against the Ottoman Turks was to conduct
an effective military campaign that is a dramatic example of asymmetric warfare,
one form of which is guerrilla or irregular warfare. He used his cultural understanding
of the Arabs and knowledge of the region, along with significant leadership skills,
to guide the Arabs in the conduct of an irregular campaign. Although at best a sideshow
in the overall conduct of the First World War, the operations that Lawrence led
produced effects disproportionate to the number of irregular troops that participated
and served as a supporting operation to the ultimate British victory in Palestine.
Lawrence's campaign demonstrated the potential effectiveness of irregular forces
against conventional troops and the difficulties that conventional armies face in
combating these forces.
The Borinqueneers: 65th Infantry Regiment
Book Review: The True German: The Diary of a World War II Military Judge
Review by Brian Williams
"True German: The Diary of a World War II Military Judge" is Werner Otto Müller-Hill's secret diary that he kept from March 1944 to the summer of 1945. The diary was originally published in Germany and France and just recently has been published by Palgrave Macmillan (September 24, 2013).
The diary offers the reader a unique insight into the inner-workings of the German army, the regime's bureaucracy, and the Nazi propaganda machine during the late stages of WWII. By the beginning of the diary (March 1944), Müller-Hill has realized that he and the German people have been duped by their leaders and the Nazi regime. Müller-Hill is a highly-intelligent, critical-thinking Wehrmacht Military Judge who has found himself living in the middle of a colossal lie perpetrated by the Nazi regime. To Müller-Hill, the absurdity of the war and the hypocrisies of the regime become too much for him to bear. But his frustrations arise from the fact that he can't share his thoughts with anyone else except very few select individuals...and even then, he must watch his opinions closely for fear of reprisal. This is where his diary comes in. In his diary, he is able to share his inner-thoughts and his frustrations without fear of persecution. Sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, in his writings, he wants to take Germany by the shoulders and shake her while screaming "Wake Up!" before it's too late.
by Daniel Ramos
By an act of congress on March 2, 1899, the first Puerto Rican unit was formed for US military service. It was a volunteer battalion comprised of four companies with 100 men each. By February 1900, the unit had grown to regiment size. A second act of Congress made the Puerto Rican regiment part of the US Army on May 27, 1908.
During World War I, the regiment was never deployed overseas, but ironically was the first unit of the United States Army to engage forces of the German Empire. On March 21, 1915, a German supply ship trying to force its way out of San Juan Harbor to deliver supplies to German U-boats in the Atlantic came under fire from positions at El Morro Castle manned by the Puerto Rican regiment. The Germans were forced to surrender the ship and its supplies. In March, 1919, the regiment was officially renamed the 65th Infantry Regiment.
Americans in the Boer War
by Michael Headley
Why did many American men travel thousands of miles to participate in the Boer War (1899-1902) between the Dutch republics and Great Britain in South Africa?  There are varied reasons why some American citizens chose to act on their own to become involved in this lesser known war, despite the United States Government’s decision to stay out of this conflict. An examination of the motivations of Americans who joined in the fighting shows that Americans chose to participate on both sides of the Boer War. Those include Americans who harbored hatred for British imperialism such as John Blake and the Irish-Americans; adventurous and liberty-loving citizens represented by John Hassell and the American Scouts; those with entrepreneurial interests within the Transvaal and Orange Free State, inadvertently drawn into the conflict as displayed by George Labram; those who fostered humanitarian and moral issues violated by the British against the Boers; and those who supported the British Monarchy such as Major Frederick Russell Burnham.
Logistics and the Western Way of War
by Jeff L. Patton
A theme that has percolated through the ranks of military historians over the last two decades has been the idea there is a “Western Way of War” that has been responsible for the dominance of societies of western (i.e. European heritage) culture that have created the preeminent effective military force on earth. Indeed, several historians have traced the superiority of western militaries from the past two and a half millennium.
One of the first historians to advance this theme is Geoffrey Parker of Cambridge University who wrote The Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare: The Triumph of the West, in 1995. Parker lists five key attributes of western militaries that he believes have been constant since the fifth century BC. The first is reliance on technological superiority, superior discipline and training, continuity of western military tradition, competition among European states, and innovation have been responsible for the West’s hegemony over other cultures.
The Failure of Strategic Bombing and the Emergence of the Fighter as the Preiminent Weapon in Aerial Warfare
by Jeff L. Patton
The aircraft family tree began to split into specialties at the beginning of the
Great War in 1914. From the Wright Brothers first flight in 1903, the airplane
developed into single and twin engine variants carrying one or two crewmembers
whose primary duty was observation and reconnaissance. Immediately before the
advent of hostilities, the need for specialized aircraft became apparent and the
combatant powers followed similar lines of development of fighter, bomber, and
reconnaissance aircraft. Fighter aircraft were generally lighter, smaller,
faster and more maneuverable in keeping with their mission to shoot down other
aircraft while bombers were larger, longer ranged, carried multiple crew members
and a heavier payload in keeping with their mission of being bomb haulers. When
man first dropped explosives from an aircraft is unknown. However, the concept
of using aircraft as bombers predates fighters by several years. Prior to the
Great War, the Germans, Russians, French, and Austro-Hungarians were developing
aircraft that were specifically designed to carry and release bombs.
Dutch Harbor: The Unraveling of Japan’s Pacific Strategy
by Del C. Kostka
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto drew his hand across a map of the northern Pacific Ocean
in a long, sweeping arc. From Attu Island on the far western edge of the Bearing
Sea, the admiral traced his finger along the Aleutian archipelago to the island
of Amaknak near the Alaskan mainland. There, in June of 1942, Yamamoto intended
to strike the American forces at Dutch Harbor. As a strategist, Yamamoto had achieved
near deity status among the Japanese Imperial High Command. His crushing attack
on Pearl Harbor just six months prior was followed by quick and decisive victory
in the Philippines, Malaya, and the East Indies. Now, with the southwest Pacific
under firm Japanese control, Yamamoto looked to expand offensive operations to the
north and central Pacific. By attacking key strategic points in the Aleutians, as
well as Midway Island on the western tip of the Hawaiian chain, he intended to lure
the already weakened U.S. Pacific fleet from Pearl Harbor to its final destruction.
Yet despite his meticulous planning, his intellect and his vaunted reputation, the
attack on the remote Alaskan harbor upon which he now rested his finger would prove
to be one of Yamamoto’s greatest strategic blunders.
Member Article: Four Attacks – Four Failures: The Third Day at Gettysburg
by Bryan J. Dickerson
The Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War is one of the most researched
and written about events in world history. A great many historians have researched,
interpreted, analyzed and re-interpreted what happened leading up to, during and
after these three epic days of battle in the Pennsylvania countryside. Run a search
through Barnes & Noble or Amazon’s websites on Gettysburg and you will find literally
several thousand books on the subject. Historians, scholars, and persons from all
walks of life have debated and argued over these three days like few other events
The Battle of Gettysburg occupies a unique place in American history. Taken together
with the surrender of Vicksburg, Mississippi on the day following the battle’s conclusion,
Gettysburg marks a dramatic and decisive turning point in the Civil War. With Vicksburg
in Union hands, the Confederacy was split in two and the Union now controlled the
Mississippi River in its entirety. With defeat at Gettysburg, the Confederacy would
never again be able to mount a major offensive in the East. The momentum of the
war swung irrevocably against the Confederacy.
From Small Causes, Great Events - Part 2
by Larry Parker
History fascinates me therefore, unless they were inadequately introduced to the subject in the early years of school, I cannot comprehend why so few people share my fondness for this field of study. No television show can rival the passion and intrigue of the Tudors or the Romanovs. No movie, no matter how convoluted, can equal the devious machinations of the Borgia's or the Medici. No work of fiction comes close to the true story of Rasputin or Robespierre. No video game can match the real exploits of Julius Caesar or Hannibal Barca.
Suppose you were to go to the local theater for a few hours of escapist fantasy. As you settle into the plush seat, popcorn and soda in hand, the lights dim and the movie begins. It is the improbable tale of a minor warlord who seizes power in a poor country torn by civil war. Once in control he rules as a brutal tyrant quickly dashing the peasants' dreams of a just peace. Rebellion follows and the protagonist survives numerous attempts on his life only to fall victim to his own greed when he defaults on a debt owed a more powerful despot. As his enemy closes in, the man who would be king loots the treasury and flees the country.
Soldier: Ed Ramsey, 26th Cavalry Regiment (Philippine Scouts)
by Bob Seals
This meeting engagement on Bataan at the village of Morong, led by then First Lieutenant Ed Ramsey on 16 January 1942, was to be the last horse mounted charge by U.S. Army Cavalry in military history. Surviving early days of defeat and disaster, Ed Ramsey was destined to have one of the most challenging and interesting wartime careers of the Pacific theater during the Second World War. His action packed four years of combat, mostly spent behind Japanese lines, reads like a pulp fiction novel written by a Hollywood screen writer. An illustrative example of an interwar generation of hard-charging Cavalry Army Officers, who worked hard and played hard, Ramsey rose to the occasion after the 8th of December 1941. Refusing to surrender on Bataan in April of 1942, he led tens of thousands guerrillas on Luzon in one of the most successful resistance campaigns of the war against ruthless Imperial Japanese Army occupation forces. His remarkable career in the Second World War encompassed the end of several storied American military institutions, to include the Philippine Scouts and Army horse cavalry, while helping to lay the doctrinal foundation of an Army branch not born until after the war, the U.S. Army Special Forces.
Member Article: A response to Everett L. Wheeler’s review of The Armenian Military in the Byzantine
by Dr. Armen Ayvazyan
I considered it a great honor, both for myself and my book, The Armenian Military
in the Byzantine Empire: Conflict and Alliance under Justinian and Maurice
(hereafter – the AM), that it was reviewed in The Journal of Military History
(hereafter – JMH, 2013, No. 1, pp. 318-320), one of the most authoritative periodicals
in the field it designates. The review, written by Everett L. Wheeler of the Duke
University, presents the contents, the imprint and other particulars of the publication
as follows: Glendale, Calif. (sic): Editions Sigest, 2012. ISBN: 978-2-91-732939-9
(sic). Note on Armenian personal names and toponyms. Illustrations. Maps. Notes.
Appendixes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 127.
Member Article: Marching to Timbuktu: The Unwanted Conquest of Mali that Made a Marshal of France
by Dr. Andrew McGregor
When French troops launched a military intervention against Islamist militants in Mali in January 2013, many of those advancing on the legendary city of Timbuktu may have been unaware that it had been 119 years since a French colonial army column under Major Joseph Joffre had entered that ancient trading capital. Rather than a triumph for France, the 1894 occupation was in fact a planned act of insubordination by Joffre and other French colonial officers. The truth was France didn’t want Timbuktu.
Joffre is best known as the commander of all French armies in World War 1 after his victory at the Marne in 1914 was credited with saving France. At the height of his fame in 1915 his military report of the 1894 occupation of Timbuktu was reprinted under the title
My March to Timbuctoo. Unfortunately, Joffre’s account of his campaign along the Niger River disappoints adventure seekers; it is instead a model of dryness and economy of words devoid of personal observations or impressions. Brevity was no doubt called for, as the true story of insubordination, atrocities and war for war’s sake that was behind the conquest of Timbuktu was hardly the material with which to build the reputation of a Marshal of France.
The U.S. Army in Czechoslovakia 1945: An Operational Overview
by Bryan J. Dickerson
From April to December of 1945, the Third U.S. Army conducted operations in and
around the western region of Czechoslovakia. Altogether, three of its corps (XII,
V and XXII) and nine infantry and four armored divisions and two cavalry groups
participated in these operations.
The Czechoslovak operations fell into three distinct phases: Border Operations,
Liberation and Occupation. The Border Operations Phase occurred from 15 April until
5 May. During this time, the 90th and 97th Infantry Division and 2nd Cavalry Group
screened the Czechoslovak border and conducted several limited offensive operations
across the border to protect Third U.S. Army’s left flank as Third Army drove south-eastward
into rumored Alpine Festung (National Redoubt) area of southern Germany / western
During the Liberation Phase (5-8 May 1945), V Corps and XII Corps conducted a major
offensive to liberate western Czechoslovakia from Nazi German occupation. The 1st,
2nd, 5th, 26th, 90th and 97th Infantry Divisions, 4th, 9th and 16th Armored Divisions
and the 2nd and 102nd Cavalry Groups all participated in liberating over 3,400 square
miles of Czechoslovakia. Their irresistible drive was only halted by the orders
of Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower approximately on the line
Karlovy Vary – Plzen – Ceske Budejovice. Having been oppressed by the Nazis for
six long years, Czechs in small villages, towns and the large city of Plzen greeted
their liberators with exuberant public celebrations. The phase ended with the German
High Command surrender and the termination of all hostilities.
The Strategic Culture of the Imperial Japanese Navy
by Gary A. Gustafson
With the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Japan entered into a war against the two most powerful navies in the world, the United States and Britain. An Imperial Liaison Conference on 6 September 1941 approved the “Outline Plan for the Execution of the Empire’s National Policy.” The plan called for three phases. The first phase required the destruction of the US battle line at Pearl Harbor and the capture of resource-rich Southeast Asia. Phase 2 required the consolidation of a defensive perimeter from Burma to Sumatra to the Gilbert Islands to the North Pacific. Phase 3 looked to exploit the natural resources of the captured territory while the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) exhausted American attempts to retake the newly formed Empire of Japan. At a Cabinet Liaison Conference on 1 November 1941, Admiral Nagano Osami, Naval Chief of Staff (NCS), echoed Yamamoto’s earlier thoughts, “We can fight effectively for about two years, but no prediction can be made for after that.”  Despite unprecedented success in the first phase of the plan, within ten months the IJN had lost two thirds of its fleet carriers, was quickly losing an attritional campaign in the Solomon Islands, and had completely relinquished the initiative to the enemy.
The Battles of Luneville: September 1944
by Bryan J. Dickerson
The catalyst for this paper was Jenna Carpenter Smith. On Veterans Day 2012, she
contacted me seeking information about her late grandfather, Staff Sergeant Joseph
Carpenter, who had served in the 2nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Group [Mechanized] in
World War Two. Jenna had contacted me after reading about her grandfather in my
article “The Liberation of Western Czechoslovakia 1945” which is also posted on
Military History Online. I knew Joe Carpenter and his wife Ellin for several years
before their deaths. Joe was one of the many World War Two veterans who have assisted
me with my research on World War Two in Europe and the liberation of Czechoslovakia.
That night, Jenna and I spoke by phone, during which time I shared my memories of
her grandfather and grandmother. I explained to her the role that her grandfather
and the 2nd Cavalry Group played in the European Campaign and share with her some
of the stories that Joe had told me a number of years ago.
Book Review: No Way Out: A Story of Valor in the Mountains of Afghanistan
Review by Bob Seals
The Silver Star is our nation’s third highest award for
valor. As per regulations, recipients of the award must distinguish themselves by
extraordinary heroism during armed conflict. To date, after a decade of combat in
Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, the United States Army has awarded some
three hundred Silver Star medals to soldiers. For ten of these prestigious awards
to be earned for one engagement indicates a level of heroism rarely seen during
the ongoing War on Terror. Furthermore, such a high number of decorations for valor
can, at times, indicate a mission gone wrong. This is the case very vividly described
in the recent book published, No Way Out: A Story of Valor in the Mountains of Afghanistan,
by the noted authors Mitch Weiss and Kevin Maurer. The book is a quick, gripping
read but one that is deadly serious and should serve as a sober warning to all Special
Operations commanders contemplating sending men into a high risk operation in any
theater of operations.
Member Article: Military History Online - World War II Game
Book Review: Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War
Review by Bryan Mitchell Marsh
Dakota Meyer jumps out of the bullet-ridden Ford Ranger, dodging Taliban machinegun fire and the occasional rocket propelled grenade as he maneuvers through the mud-brick walls of Ganjgal, Afghanistan. It seems that every time he moves, he runs into more wounded Afghan soldiers. Unwilling to leave them to fend for themselves, Meyer keeps picking the wounded up and hauling them back to the sputtering truck. While he’s glad to help these men, they aren’t who he’s really searching for. As the hours pass and the Taliban’s attacks intensify, Meyer begins to wonder if he’ll ever see his friends again.
by Ed Druback
This “After Action Report” (AAR) was intended to be written for a dual audience
even though it is a review of one game played of the infinite variety of possible
outcomes. First and foremost this AAR was written for someone who has never played
a table top war game. If you are interested in the early stages of WWII (through
the fall of France) whether you have ever played a war game or not, I hope I have
made this AAR an enjoyable read.
Member Article: The genius of Sweden’s ‘Lion of the North’
by Steve Wilson
In the skies over a modern battlefield a joint tactical air control team is often
credited for carrying their platoon’s “big gun,” or radio, as devastating airstrikes
are vectored in from aircraft loitering in the battle space where friendly forces
are taking fire. Laser guided munitions, global positioning systems, joint direct
attack munition technology and real-time communications make it possible for military
units to shape the battlefield to their advantage.
Visual Guide to the U.S. Fleet Submarines: Part 1
by David L. Johnston
A cursory review of photographs of the U.S. fleet submarines of World War II often
leaves the reader with the impression that the boats were nearly identical in appearance.
Indeed, the fleet boats from the Porpoise class all the way to the late war Tench
class were all similar enough in appearance that it is easy to see how this impression
is justified. However, a more detailed examination of the boats will reveal a bewildering
array of differences, some of them quite distinct, that allow the separation of
the boats into their respective classes. Ironically, the rapidly changing configuration
of the boats’ appearances often makes it difficult to get down to a specific boat
identification. However being familiar with all of the wartime changes will allow
you to narrow down the date of the photo and when combined with other data will
sometimes get you the specific name.
Member Article: The Evolution of British Infantry tactics in World
by Roger Daene
World War One on the Western Front is often times depicted as a series of senseless
battles where infantry ran across open fields only to be slaughtered by machinegun
and artillery fire. The popular conception is that there were little innovations
in tactics. Wilhelm Balck, a German division commander, had written many articles
and manuals on tactics before the Great War. He said, “Bullets quickly write
new tactics.” After the Battle of the Marne in 1914 and the subsequent German retreat,
the war on the western front became more of a positional war rather than a war of
maneuver. The goal of the Allies and the Germans was to penetrate the enemy’s main
defense lines and exploit any breakthrough. The goal would be hard to attain because
of the unique nature of warfare in World War One. Never before in the history of
the world were so many new weapons introduced or old ones that suddenly became practical
enough to use on a wide scale. World War One would see the introduction of the airplane,
tank, and poison gas which had never been used on any battlefield. Although artillery
had been around for centuries, recent innovations allowed for larger pieces to be
developed that fired a heavier shell even greater distances than ever before.
Lodge Act Soldier: Henryk "Frenchy" Szarek
by Bob Seals
No nation of the world suffered more during World War II than Poland. Having the
geographical misfortune to exist between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Poland
sustained more losses as a percentage than any other belligerent; an estimated twenty
percent of every man, woman or child in the nation, some 6 million or so by best
estimate. Enduring six hellish years of occupation, partition, deportations,
slave labor and mass executions, the Polish suffering did not end with the unconditional
surrender of the Third Reich on May 7, 1945. Thousands of Polish nationals, to include
soldiers who had faithfully served the Allied cause on various fronts, faced an
uncertain future, part of the enormous 14 million refugee population of Europe displaced
by war. With the Iron Curtain stretching from “…Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste
in the Adriatic,” in the words of Winston S. Churchill, individuals displaced by
the war faced the agonizing choice of remaining in the west or returning eastward
to live in their Stalinist dominated communist homelands.
Member Article: The Sharif and the Sultan of Fishermen: Mohammed
ash-Shaykh, the Rise of the Saadians, and the Emergence of Modern Morocco
by Comer Plummer
It was in Constantinople, perhaps in 1558, or even years later, that on a certain
day a weathered basket containing the rotten head of Mohammed ash-Shaykh toppled
from the ancient Walls of Theodosius. It had hung there for a long time. Just how
long, no one quite remembered. It tumbled into the refuse that collected along the
base, a forgotten memento, uninteresting to even the wild dogs that scavenged there.
Such a spectacle was, for the era, both callous and insipid. Eventually, it would
become a dubious distinction for a Moroccan sovereign. In the final analysis, it
might be described as a nadir that underscored an audacious life. Youngest son of
Shaykh Mohammed ibn ‘Abd ar-Rahmān, Mohammed ash-Shaykh was born in 1488 in the
arid hamlet of Tagmadert, in the Draa Valley of southeastern Morocco. At first,
he was called Mohammad el-Aςghar (Berber for ‘The Younger’), but later he cultivated
the nickname of Amghar (Berber for ‘tribal leader’), which, in turn, eventually
became the Arab equivalent, ash-Shaykh. Moroccan historian Mohammad el-Oufrani
described him as an erudite young man, expert in the Qur’an, and with a lively interest
in philosophy and poetry. And, as one of his favorite verses would indicate, Mohammed
ash-Shaykh also had more than a hint of ambition.
Member Article: From Small Causes, Great Events
Book Review: Nomonhan, 1939: The Red Army's Victory That Shaped World War II
Review by Larry Parker
An editorial in the 20 July 1939 New York Times
described the conflict between the Soviet Union and Japan on the border of Outer
Mongolia and the puppet state of Manchukuo as, “A strange war raging in a thoroughly
out-of-the-way corner of the world where it cannot attract attention.” Indeed, geography,
the compulsive secrecy second nature to both combatants and the subsequent outbreak
of World War II in Europe combined to overshadow this little known but nonetheless
critical, battle. Boasting the most extensive use of tanks and aircraft since World
War I, Nomonhan, or Khalkin Gol as it was called by the Soviets, impacted World
War II in areas far beyond the immediate scope of the battlefield.
by Larry Parker
Everyone should understand and appreciate the significance of great events and great
men upon history. Had either Darius or Xerxes emerged victorious in any of the Graeco-Persian
wars, Greek and, as a result, Western civilization would have been terminated in
its infancy, completely changing the world as we know it. Had Islam triumphed at
Chalons (451), Poitiers (732), Lepanto (1571) or Vienna (1529 & 1683) Mohamed's
vision of a worldwide caliphate might now be a reality. Had the Battle of the Virginia
Capes (1781) followed the usual course of events in English versus French encounters
during the period when the Royal Navy ruled the waves, the American Revolution might
have ended in defeat rather than victory at Yorktown. Everyone should also understand
the relationship of cause and effect upon history. Everyone should appreciate that
in the interplay of the myriad details that bring history into being everything
is connected, yet nothing about the chronicle is inevitable, nothing about the saga
is fixed. Few, however, do. Indeed some experts would have us believe there are
no great events, that history is the inexorable result of wide spread trends, mass
movements, the realm of ideas; that individuals do not matter, there are no great
men; that details are inconsequential, minutiae swept up in the vast and overwhelming
tide of human actions. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Member Article: Sow the wind, reap the Whirlwind - The Fate of
the Kido Butai
by Larry Parker
Standing on the bridge of his flagship, the converted battle cruiser Akagi
, Admiral Chuichi Nagumo watched with satisfaction as his well trained air crews
moved purposefully about the flight deck refueling and rearming the Nakajima B5N
(97-2) 'Kate' torpedo bombers, Aichi D3A (99-1) 'Val' dive bombers and Mitsubishi
A6M (0-3) 'Zeke' or 'Zero' fighters. Scanning the task force steaming with Akagi,
Nagumo noted similar activity on the fleet carriers Hiryu, Kaga,
Shokaku, Soryu, and Zuikaku. Escorting the aircraft carriers
of the Kido Butai were the battleships Hiei and Kirishima, the
heavy cruisers Chickuma and Tone, and the light cruiser Abukuma.
Twelve destroyers and seven auxiliary oilers completed the Pearl Harbor Strike Force.
Member Article: The Second Samnite War Phase 2: The Caudine Peace
by Gordon Davis
Following the disaster of the Caudine Forks in 321 BC, the Roman state was forced
into an unexpected and unwanted peace with the Samnites. For the balance of 321
BC and the following four years down to the end of 317 BC, there followed a cessation
of direct hostilities between Rome and Samnium. Livy (9.1) calls this interlude
the ‘Caudine Peace’ (“Caudina pax”) and as such the period may be viewed as a distinct
phase of the Second, or Great, Samnite War of 327 – 306 BC. The moniker of peace
for the short five-year period, however, needs to be interpreted in a very narrow
sense. The annalistic tradition clearly indicates that there was little actual peace
in central Italy during these five years. The crisis caused by the military disaster,
the most significant to befall Rome since defeat by the Gauls at the river Allia
in 390 BC, quickly led to further misfortune and setbacks for the Latin state. Within
a year, various uprisings rose up on the frontiers of city’s hegemony, which the
Quirite’s were obliged to move against in force. Such was the Roman’s success
in these operations that by the end of 317 BC they had effectively restored the
limits of their previously gained influence. In the final year of the peace, we
can also discern an intent to prepare for the resumption of direct war with Samnium,
which did indeed come to pass in the following year with Rome’s move to besiege
the Caudine fortress of Saticula.
Air Reconnaissance in the Second World War
by Del C. Kostka
In 1919, the great arsenals of the world lay in ruins. After four years of bitter
conflict, weary governments eagerly scrapped the instruments of war that spread
so much carnage and destruction across the continent of Europe. A global peace movement
and tight fiscal budgets conspired to keep military development to a minimum during
the post-war era, and in almost every nation’s air service the discipline that suffered
the most was aerial reconnaissance. It would be a shortsighted policy. Just twenty
years after “the war to end all wars," an even greater global crisis would once
again prove the indispensable nature of strategic aerial reconnaissance in modern,
mechanized warfare. Without question, air reconnaissance had an enormous impact
on military operations during the First World War. Airborne observers provided clarity
and situational awareness for battlefield commanders (Tactical Intelligence), and
air photo interpreters provided information about the enemy’s strength, logistics
and capabilities (Strategic Intelligence). But the intelligence value of air reconnaissance
in the First World War was considered secondary to the role that aviation played
in guiding artillery fire. Airborne artillery spotting, when combined with new wireless
communication and artillery technologies, constituted the most lethal weapon system
of the war. In fact, airborne artillery spotting was so effective that most post-war
military strategists considered air reconnaissance simply an extension of ground
The Armenian Military in the
Byzantine Empire Conflict and Alliance under Justinian and Maurice
by Armen Ayvazyan
This book brings to light one of the least known, yet most turbulent periods in
the history of the Armenian military and its complex relationship with the Byzantine
Empire. In its first part, Armen Ayvazyan embarks on a military-historical analysis
of the Armenian uprising against Emperor Justinian’s government in 538- 539. While
revealing and evaluating various tactical elements and stratagems employed by the
Armenian forces, he carefully considers earlier and later evidence regarding their
military operations, including both conventional warfare and high risk missions
such as targeting killings of enemy commanders-in-chief and assassination plots
against the heads of colonial administrations. And in the second part, Ayvazyan
examines the Byzantine attitudes towards the Armenians and their armed forces, revealing,
inter alia, that the underlying source for continuity of the anti-Armenian images
with the analogous Roman tradition of prejudice was essentially geopolitical.
Book Review: The Blood of Heroes: The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo
Review by Bruce L. Brager
On March 6, 2012, the thirteen day siege of the Alamo ended
with just about an hour of fighting in the virtual dark. The Mexicans had the place,
not surprising when some 2,000 soldiers fight about 200. Their commander, General
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, also president of Mexico, commanded that “Much blood
has been shed, but the battle is over; it was but a small affair.” Santa Anna
had a strong streak of self-aggrandizement, so in his report to Mexico City the
battle took on elements on one of the major battles in history. Militarily, it might
not have been a major battle, as these things go. But in its influence on history,
the Alamo, and its follow up, was a key turning point in the history of two nations.