Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kings of Battle

I was waiting for my little girl to finish her everlasting evening potty business last night when I picked up one of the books in the commode-side reading basket. It happened to be Jeff Chandler's "Napoleon's Marshals", although, given the catholicism of bathroom reading in our house it could well have been any one of the others tossed in there: a Star Wars comic, "The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove", several Title 9 catalogs, and that paperback where the heroine's genitalia are referred to as her "burning center" (I suspect that Grandma left that one; not our style but very much in hers).

Anyway, as it happens, three things coincided; I was thinking about a piece I'd read earlier about our captain-general in the Hindu Kush, Stan McChrystal, I was also thinking about Seydlitz's earlier ruminations on military genius, and the page fell open to the chapter on Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte: soldier, officer, Marshal of France and King of Sweden.

What it got me to thinking about is the perils of confining our thinking of military genius to the purely kinetic elements of the art of war. First, let's look at Marshall Bernadotte's resume:

Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte
Born 1763
Enlisted 1780 (PVT)
Commissioned 1792 (LT), COL by 1794
Demi-Bde Cdr 1794-1798 (BG) (Theinigen, Passage of Tagliamento)
Ambassador, Austria 1798
Minister of War 1798-1799
Army Cdr 1800-1801 (Vendee COIN) 1801-1804 (Army of the West)
Corps Cdr 1804-1808 (Marshal) (Ulm, Austerlitz, Prussian campaign)
Governor, Hanseatic Towns 1808-1809 (Danish Islands)
Corps Cdr 1809-1810 (Wagram, Defense of Walcheren)
Crown Prince, Sweden 1810-1818 (Grossbeeren, Dennewitz, Leipzig, Bornhoved)
King, Sweden 1818-1844

And, by way of contrast, GEN McChrystal's:

Stanley A. McChrystal
Born 1954
Commissioned 1976
1/504Inf (Abn) 1976-1978 (2LT)
SF Officers Course 1978-1979
7th SFGA 1979-1980 (1LT?)
Off. Adv. Course 1980-1981
UNCSG-JSA S2/3 1981-1982
FSGA (1/19 Inf) 1982-1984 (CPT)
3/75Inf (Rgr) 1985-1989 (MAJ)
Naval War Coll 1989-1990
JSOC J-3 1990-1993 (MAJ-LTC) (Second Gulf War)
2/504 Cdr 1993-1994
2/75 Cdr 1994-1996
JFKSoG 1996
75Inf Cdr 1997-1999 (COL)
CFR 1999-2000 (BG)
82nd Div (Abn) ADC 2000-2001
18th Corps (CoS) 2001-2002 (MG)
Joint Staff J-3 2002-2003
JSOC Cdr 2003-2008 (LTG)(Third Gulf War)
ISAF/USFOR-A 2008-present (GEN) (Occupation of Iraq, XVIIth Afghan War)

The differences jump right out at you, don't they?

First, the Marshal starting as a private, the General as a cadet. Then, of course, the meteoric rise of Bernadotte's career in the chaos of Republican France, no surprise there. The heavy combat experience available in the late 1700's compared to the relative peace of the 1980's and 1990's.

But - look at their "mid-career" trajectory!

Bernadotte is all over the place: Corps commander, army commander, minister of war, governor, corps commander again, then, the weirdest twist of all - prince and king.

McChrystal, the Man Who Would Be King of Afghanistan, on the other hand, makes the typical US Army trot of command, staff and schools. Yes, there's the one year stint as military staffer for the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR). But there's no other exercise of political or geopolitical power. No civilian positions or outside-the-Pentagon political jobs. Minister of war (i.e. SecDef)? Governor? Ambassador?

And, of course, the relative lack of wartime command. Not McChrystal's fault - he didn't have the wars Bernadotte did. But, still...

And keep in mind that Bernadotte was far from being considered even among the upper third of Napoleon's commanders. He had a couple of good outings against the Austrians and Prussians in 1797-1804 and then against his old comrades Davout and Ney in 1813. But he screwed the pooch at Jena and Auerstadt, and his contibutions to Wagram were thought to be meager.

The thing is - all the Napoleonic Marshals' vitae look like this: they were not just troopers. And their enemies were pretty cosmopolitan as well: Scharnhorst and Gneisenau fight in the field, do much of the heavy lifting that reconstructs the entire Prussian Army after 1806, and then conspire to throw off the French occupation after 1812.

Wellington, you know.

These guys were doing grand tactics, operational art, strategy, grand strategy, even geopolitics. They had to negotiate treaties, bribe allies, threaten enemies, spy, suborn, cajole and encourage. These guys were all-rounders.

What is McChrystal? A highly-trained technician? An overpromoted trigger-puller?

So. I'm not trying to add Charles John (Bernadotte's king name) to the pantheon of military geniuses. But I am trying to get us to ask; we're putting people like McChrystal where we used to put people like Bernadotte. Are we preparing ours today as well as the armies and the rulers of Napoleon's time did theirs?

77 comments:

  1. I've always thought well of Bernadotte as a general. Too many of Napoleon's leaders were basically glorified trigger-pullers who lacked initiative or creativity.

    You've made a good case that his generaling skills weren't particularly impressive but he still gets high marks in one particular, he knew when to change sides.

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  2. And he knew that trigger-pulling was to the political string pulling as one is to three.

    Look at his conduct in 1813-1814. He had a very fragile instrument - the Swedish Army - that was his key to legitimacy. Let the army get smashed - even in victory - and his domestic foes would have gone for him, knives out. So he lets his Prussian troops take the ass-whipping, shows up at the crisis and declares victory.

    Shrewd guy. I'm afraid that we, too, have lots of guys whose understanding of warfare ends at the muzzle of the weapon.

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  3. "have lots of guys whose understanding of warfare ends at the muzzle of the weapon"

    As predicted years ago, trigger-pulling and approval was outsourced:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090820/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_cia_secret_program

    Those "missing" billions won't show up on the UBS spreadsheet, nor what activities they're running off the books.

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  4. Chief,
    You know that I'm not a fan of any of the WP heroes, but let's don't forget guys like Grant.
    His bio was real lacking.But then again his war could be won or lost, And AFGH/IRQ does not share that formula.Neither have any chance of being victorious or even of any positive construct.
    jim

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  5. Jim: Point taken, When you look at the careers of guys like Scott, Grant (and his lieutenants Sherman, Phil Sheridan and the commanders of that generation), the Gilded Age guys like Leonard Wood, even the mid-century types like George Marshall, Doug MacArthur (whose political instincts failed him like a case of the clap along the Yalu, but, whatever. Lucky for him Matt Ridgeway was there to pick up the pieces) and Dwight Eisenhower...we used to produce officers capable of exercising fairly high geopolitical and geostrategic judgement. Now? Not so much.

    Look at Westy. Here was a guy who had all the tactical answers. But the problem was, he was being given a geopolitical test. He failed, and so did we as a nation.

    Colin Powell? Hell of a politically astute CJCS. But, it seems, only in the inside-the-Beltway sense.

    Dave Petraeus? His vaunted "surge" now looks more than ever as though he just kicked the sectarian can down the road.

    And the wars in central Asia can be won - just not by American soldiers. A "Chinese" Gordon or a Kitchener - or a George Crook or Nelson Miles - would have gone all native, created an "Ever Victorious Army" or a huge Mike Force of savage Pashtun Scouts and swept the Paimirs clean of Talibs.

    It wouldn't solve the problems of central Asia - NOTHING will solve the problems of central Asia - but it would have run the table of local troublemakers...until the next time, which is all we could (or should) expect.

    And - more to the point - those officers would have marched into the Oval Office and "educated" the suits there about the foolishness of trying to "nation-build" where there are no nations. Because they had politico-military wisdom above the 4th Grade level.

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  6. FDChief,
    Slightly off topic, i still believe the Repubs will field Petreaus as the Prez contender in 12. I also believe he will unseat Obama. BTW , i am not partisan of either party but see the writing on the wall.
    As for Doug Mac-right wing thinking always becomes stratified and leads to big problems, I also believe this was a problem of senility or deminished mental acuity on DM's part.
    The bottom line is that wars no longer follow the old pathways since the stakes are not national survival but rather dominance. We want nations , and crummy nations at that to be our bitches.
    Eisenhower broke out of the WP mindset , imho. Although not a WP graduate Obama is unable to do so because he surrounds himself with lifer mentalities. IE Jones.
    jim
    jim

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  7. Jim: I've never been much of a MacArthur fan. He had one terrific inspiration, the landing at Inchon. He seems to have been a capable regimental officer but once he was promoted above his competence level his performance looks pretty spotty.

    His defense of the PI was atrocious. Once the U.S. lost control of the West Pacific any U.S. troopers left in the Philippines were toast. He should have left a cadre behind with the Philippine Scouts and grabbed the rest of his guys a hat. Every GI that went into the bag on Bataan and Corregidor were his failures.

    He never "got" that the island campaign in the Pacific was a sideshow. We lost guys who never should have died attacking worthless places like Tarawa and Betio. The Fleet was doing all that needed to be done, that and the land war in the CBI. I've read a fair amount of criticism regarding both his assault on and conduct of the Luzon campaign.

    He had his moment at Inchon, and then got a big case of the Caesars on the drive to the Yalu and got a bunch more GIs and Marines killed for no reason.

    Not so sure about the return of the GOP in 2012. Those guys shit the bed pretty bad the past 8 years, and their performance since then has outed them as the corporate whores they are. I think that there's a 50-50 chance that instead they shrink into a regional party of the Old South and become the Whigs of the 21st Century...

    As for foreign adventuring, large and wealthy states have always been tempted to meddle in the doings of outsiders. If they are ruthless enough it can be profitable for a couple of hundred years or so. But we aren't ruthless enough, either with our foreign victims or our own selves. We will kid and fool ourselves along for a while until we run out of energy, cash and excuses. And then it won't be pretty.

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  8. FDChief,
    I have followed your excellent writings for years and appreciate them. But Tarawa? That wasn't McArthur but the navy's battle. The US split the theater into two. King in the East (read Navy/marines) and Mac in the west (new Guinea). Tarawa was strictly a Navy/Marine show. Nothing to do with Mac Arthur. Correct me if I am wrong.

    James

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  9. James: You're right, and I stand corrected. I shot off the names of two island invasions without checking who was the theatre commander, and you're right. Mac pretty much attacked westward along New Guinea/New Britain and from there north to the PI. So the guys who should have been smacked upside the head were King and Turner. I suppose you could make the point that Mac's invasion of Okinawa was fairly pointless but that'd be presupposing that he knew about the A-bomb.

    So - still not a big Mac fan, but at least his operational instincts re: island hopping were sound.

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  10. Excuse me for double posting, I should have edited my previous post (but I don't know how!) that it was not King in the East but Nimitz with the backing of King. The old Army/Navy thing. MacArthur was actually pretty good at husbanding his troops as most of the army was slated for Bolero and the build up in Europe. MacArthur generally landed his troops in the vicinity of airfields, took them, then backed the sh** out of them with artillery and land based aircraft so as to cut off the Japanese thus the island hopping and leaving them to wither on the vine (ie Rabaul).

    It was the the navy with their marine contingents that did the "Ddays at Tarawa, Iwo Jima,etc..." Regarding the PI? Yes he was commited to retake them for his earlier shame, rather than MAYBE the more strategic taking of Taiwan.

    Regarding Seydlits question of Genius. How about Yamishita taking Malaya, the PI and Singapore? To my untrained eye, quite an achievement. I have read that MacArthur basically had him on his shit list as revenge and he was hung as a war criminal. Any comments?

    Also regarding Genius or brilliant mind what about Guderian or Manstein? Two top notch generals but on the losing side. Seydlits, Publius, what do you think?

    James Caba

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  11. James: Yamashita did a thorough, workmanlike job in 1942. It helped that his opponants were completely hopeless. The British in Malaya were ate up and without control of the West Pacific seas the Americans in the PI were doomed.

    Yamashita's defense of Luzon in 1944 looks less impressive because the warship was on the other foot.

    It's hard for me to really judge the abilities of the Japanese Army commanders in WW2 because the Imperial Army was so technically and tactically crude and the conditions - usually trapped on a cut-off island - didn't help. Their strategic maneuver competence seems fairly decent, especially before Midway and the death of Yamamoto; having the better Navy helped a lot. But they never really evolved on land. Look at the Manchuria campaign in 1945. The Soviets, who had been as crude or cruder in 1941, go through the Kwantung Army like a dose of goddam salts. Or the British 14th Army's attacks through Burma in 1944-45. The IJA just never got any more sophisticated than they were in 1941, while we and the Brits went from Frosh JV to the pros.

    As far as the German generals, once you get around the utter loathesomeness of their cause, you have to admit that the Heer turned out some pretty sharp guys. Guderian was pretty brilliant. I always think of Manstein as the "good" Nazi commander, since he pretty much went as far as he dared with Hitler. No question about it, the man ranks pretty high on the military skill chart.

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  13. I thought Mac did a decent political job in remaking Japan.

    Also, don't forget the difference technology makes. Napoleon did not have a telegraph to micro-manage his generals.

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  14. Ael: He still did, though. It's pretty amazing, when you think of it, the degree to which some of the Napoleonic marshals managed to combine lofty ambition with deference to the Master and a surprisingly high level of confusion when out from the Master's eagle eye.

    Some of them were flat-out incapable; Lefebvre was no better than a decent corps commander and Bessieres was over his head when not standing in his usual place at the head of the Imperial Guard. Berthier was a pure staff guy who would have had a hard time leading four privates to the latrine. Bonaparte kept these guys pretty well under his fist whenever he could, and when he couldn't they screwed the pooch, like Berthier in Bavaria in 1809. Even without telephone or telegraph, the marshals were pretty well subordinated to the Emperor 90% of the time...

    You can sling a lot of dirt at the Emperor, but not that he didn't know his subordinates' abilities, or how to control them.

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  15. Chief,
    It's the end of the day and I've been thinking about our Grant exchange and your reply enumerating US generals.
    ISTM that the Amies don't need deep vitas b/c they are schooled in a long standing,well established military tradition. The parts of which are generally interchangeable. Individual personality or brilliance is not the defining quality. Interchangeability is the premium.
    The German Generals and Field Marsalls achieved this thru classic general staff,red striped training and tradition. In this respect the US and German Armies were similar.
    When discussing General qualities there should be a distinction between tacical and strategic qualities. For example the qualities that made Rommel a fine Div Cdr were the same attributes that afflicted his higher commands. He tended to fight too far forward and often lost the big picture. People like Mellentin enabled his propensity to leave HQ and going to the FLOT.
    jim

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  16. IMO, MacArthur was brilliant. This is not to say he was likable in any respect, or was not a narcissist and bully of the first order. If I'd served in WW2, I would have wanted to have served under him. He had the lowest casualty rates of any of the theater commanders. MacArthur makes any of those who've done high command since him look like boys, especially when one considers what really was a masterful job in Japan. And, yeah, from what I've read, Yamashita was indeed railroaded, but it was to save the emperor. So, an example of a tactical move to save the strategy.

    I agree with the Chief in that it's difficult to assess the losing sides' generals in WW2. Nothing really stands out on the Japanese side, but Guderian and Manstein were certainly very good. On our side? Not really much. Eisenhower, yes, because of the ability to keep the peace in the coalition. Alan Brooke, the same. Bradley, no, a butcher. Montgomery, too cautious. Patton, hard to tell. Does audacity and outspokenness and tactical expertise equate to genius as a senior commander? Nimitz, probably yes, even though he sacrificed a ton of troops. Spruance, Halsey, etc., very competent, but not geniuses.

    The requirements of high generalship for the US military has evolved into something that's second nature for the Euros and most other nations. We've always endeavored to preserve this quaint notion that our generals are fighters, not diplomats, and that all of that empire and other stuff is for civvies. But, you know what really sucks? When a general is a shitty general and also can't pour piss out of a boot when it comes to affairs of state. ISTM the overwhelming majority of American generals—and lots of less senior officers as well—fit into this category.

    Over the years, the US military has deliberately inculcated its officers with a hands-off, blinders approach to anything that doesn't involve breaking things and killing people. It often seems the model officer is an automaton good at kinetic operations, but inept when it comes to soft power exercise. If you've followed news reports over the past years, you'll perhaps recall that many junior officers have cited the fact that senior officers just don't get it when it comes to how to get the job done in these chaotic and weird wars of today.

    Join the club, kids. We saw these guys in Vietnam. As Ranger points out, there's this rigid West Point mold and most of these guys find it impossible to break out of it. Unfortunately, if one does feel inclined to break out of it, one quickly learns that one will not ascend to multi-star territory. The ultimate problem with
    US military officers is that they're all conformists, or at least they are by the time they reach a rank where they might actually be able to dabble in strategic affairs.

    We have a mediocre military by design. And Petraeus is a product of that. Draw your own conclusions.

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  17. There are many that say Grant was second rate compared to Thomas. He defeated Hood's Army and kept them off of Sherman's back. He was the architect of Union victory at Missionary Ridge even though Grant took the credit. As a junior corps commander he kept Chickamauga from turning into a disastrous route when his CG and other Union generals turned tail and skeddadled leaving their troops in the lurch. He also was the first Union commander to win a battle in the war. He was never profligate with his troops lives the way Grant was. He was considered by Lincoln for command of the Army of the Potomac instead of Grant, but unfortunately, he was a Virginia boy in Union blue so was anathema to the Ohio politicians who were pushing their boy Grant. After the war, as a military governor in the south, he was the first to recognize the danger of the KKK and he moved to protect freed blacks from klan terror.

    As for MacArthur, he was a genuine hero in WW-1. But even there his two DSC's, seven Silver Stars, and a DSM seem political and a little over the top considering his role and short time in battle. His reputation in WW-2 was very not heroic. He was called Dugout Doug by his own soldiers and not just by Marines. His defense of the Phillipines was atrocious and led to his being cornered and his abandonment of his troops to the Bataan death march. For that he got an MOH, talk about perfumed political princes!!! His supposedly low casualty rates were primarily due to the two pronged strategy in the Pacific, the Japanese could not defend against both so they focused on the Central Pacific campaign. He basically got a pass in New Guinea but even there he needed Aussie troops to bail him out.

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  18. I do want to go on record defending Grant here. He's got the rap as a butcher because of the 1864-1865 Virginia campaign. But when you look at his earlier work in the West, the man could maneuver. I have always thought that his Wilderness-to-Petersburg generalship was the result of;
    1. Working with the Army of the Potomac, which was a brittle instrument with a tradition of retreat and defeat.
    2. Knowing that all he needed to do was keep the Army of Northern Virginia pinned against Richmond while Sherman tore the guts out of the Confederacy.

    The man wasn't Genghis-level brilliant, but he knew what had to happen to defeat the South. He did it, it worked. I'd call that a decent job.

    Thomas, tho, seems to really have been a great commander, and has always been shuffled off as a mere defensive specialist because of Chickamauga.

    Jim and Publius make a crucial point: the U.S. Army has deliberately imitated the German Generalstabs setup, where aspiring officers learn the "book solution" through mentoring and schooling. But the difference was that the German system was always more lenient of individual brilliance - Rommel's penchant for capering about forward of the gun line was developed as a light infantry officer in Italy in WW1 - and resulted in people like Manstein. Ours didn't, and resulted in a lot of Bradleys, Westmorelands and Petraeus's...

    I think we are mistaken to believe that 100 mediocre commanders all acting in concert will outfight 99 mediocre commanders and 1 brilliant one. But we'll see...

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  19. Can anyone explain the nuances of operational war to me like I am a four year old?

    I've been reading posts since the old Intel Dump days and I think I get the tactics vs the strategy but the operational part always throws me for a loop.

    Is it a linear thing? For example, as I understand Western Europe from D-Day, the strategy was to defeat the German army. (Or was it the unconditional surrender of the Third Reich? My head is starting to swim again)! The tactic was to seize a beach-head for a build up of troops.

    Was the operational part then the goal of taking Antwerp for a deep water port for re-supply to fulfill the final strategy? Where does the decision to take the Ruhr Valley as opposed to driving hell bent for Berlin fall?

    Any examples would be appreciated and please remember I am a layman. Thanks

    As a post script I will nominate Ghengis Khan as a genius. He developed a cavalry army combined with a technoligical innovation (the composite bow) to dominate his particular geographic area of operations (that word again). He seemed to have had a clear vision on how to conduct his burgeoning empire's affairs, ruthless ferocity to develop fear and marriages to cement his alliances.

    PPS Chief, I see you have already mentioned Khan but I am leaving my ps in there anyway.

    James Caba

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  20. James: The U.S. Army uses a system to distinguish various "levels" or complexity of military actions.

    The "lowest" or simpliest level is tactics. Tactics are purely physical, pure kinetics, what you do with your body and your weapon to defeat or destroy your enemy. They start with individual actions through fire teams, platoons, companies all the way up to battalions and brigades. indivdual movement techniques, fire teams bounding, platoons acting as base of fire and maneuver elements...all of these fall under the role of "tactics".

    Above the battalion level, and certainly above brigade level, tactics blend into something often call "grand tactics"; the use of large-scale fire and maneuver. It's more complex than "tactics" just because of the scale involved, and because it often includes non-Army tactical elements such as air support. But it's fundamentally just tactics on a grand scale: one division attacking to pin the defense while another breaks through and turns the enemy flank isn't all that much different than a company using its three platoons to do the same thing.

    Then there's "strategy", which includes tactical warmaking but incorporates a significant element of politics and policy. For example, the actual invasion of Sicily in 1943 was a grand tactic, that is, the physical movement of Americans and British from sea to land. But the choice of WHERE to invade; Sicily, southern Italy, Greece...that was a strategic decision.

    Depending on who you read, there's one or two "higher" levels of warfare above that, "grand strategy" and "geopolitics"; the former is the highest level of warmaking, the sort of thing that George Marshall did in WW2, the latter is pretty much the same except it includes both military and nonmilitary actions: the kind of planning that rulers do, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin in WW2, say.

    The term "operational art" was coined to describe the level that translates strategy into tactics. The DoD definition of it reads: "The employment of military forces to attain strategic and/or operational objectives through the design, organization, integration, and conduct of strategies, campaigns, major operations, and battles. Operational art translates the joint force commander's strategy into operational design, and, ultimately, tactical action, by integrating the key activities at all levels of war."

    It's an odd little distinction, but does actually serve a purpose of describing that skill that bridges the gap between the the "theoretical" discipline of strategy and the "practical" one of tactics.

    But, as any smart-alec NCO would tell you; amateurs study strategy, professionals learn logistics...

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  21. Chief -

    Afraid I cannot agree with you about Grant. His so-called victory in the west at Vicksburg was aided in large part by Admiral Davy Porter's gunboats of the Mississippi Flotilla. And earlier in the war the victory at Fort Henry attributed to Grant was won on the Tennessee River by gunboats under the command of Navy Flag Officer Andy Foote.

    I will give Grant and Porter or Foote a few points for operational art for coordination in those and other battles. But I have to give the majority of those points to another Army man - "old fuss and feathers" Winfield Scott - whose Anaconda Plan split the south in two and strangled Confederate logistics. Grant turned out to be one of the implementers of Scott's strategy and did not do his own strategic thinking.

    If you looked at the big picture you might conclude like I and many others that the strategy of the capture of New Orleans and the Union Navy dominance of the Mississippi River, Ohio River, Tennessee River, Red and Yazoo Rivers were the primary factor in the entire war in the west. So the Army theater of operations in the west could have been won even by a McClellan or a Westmoreland.

    Grant was a butcher of his own troops in the west also when you consider Shiloh.

    The rivers and the blockade of Atlantic and Gulf ports was what beat Jeff Davis. Those blockades had already started bread riots in the south and vital shortages for Confederate troops - so Sherman's total war of burning plantation fields was just icing on the cake and not needed. Sherman even spared the Confederate powderworks at Augusta, which were the one strategic target he should have taken out.

    Grant's war of attrition in his Overland Campaign against Bobby Lee's barefoot and starving troops was certainly not the story of strategic genius. But he and his acolytes got to write the history of the war, so therein you see his genius....

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  22. mike: That's pretty hard on Grant. I'll give you that the man wasn't exactly Napoleon, but his maneuvers around Vicksburg were more than just a Navy show. Shiloh was his failure in not anticipating the rebel attack, but he didn't have much choice other than to slug it out once Johnston (and then Beauregard) caught him sleeping. So if you want to tag him as a butcher, it'd have to be for his disposition prior to the battle rather than his conduct of it.

    McClellan? Little Mac would have had trouble defeating a platoon of Mexican irregulars. Lincoln pegged Grant's quality; "He fights." He wasn't brilliant, he wasn't even very clever. But he knew, as you pointed out, that with control of the sea, and the vast economic and population advantage, the only way that the North could lose is it it played Bobby Lee's game and capered about trying on Napoleonic strategems. So he grabbed the Army of Northern Virginia by the lapels and headbutted it to death.

    And, c'mon, blockades don't win wars any more than airpower wins 'em. If they did the Germans and Japanese would have been beat by 1944. Hell, there'd have been bread riots in Hamburg and Yokohama if the residents there hadn't been to scared to riot. The point was not just beating the South but beating them TODAY. The blockade meant victory in the long run, but Sherman's operations and Grant's persistence helped beat the South in 1865. Ugly, crude, probably excessive, but they got their win in 1865 and not 1868. Given the political situation in the North, a Confederacy able to survive into 1868 might have managed to outlast the North by pure cussedness.

    Could the man have done better? Sure. Was he some sort of military genius? No. But the man who is always paraded around as the Great Brain of the Civil War, Lee, was, to my mind, the VERY worst of generals - the guy who is just brilliant enough to make losing a drawn-out, painful affair. So whenever Grant starts drawing fire, I always have to stand up for the guy. He had a crappy job, he wasn't a brilliant guy, but he did what he had to.

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  23. I will still take Winfield Scott over Grant as far as Civil War strategy goes. Without Anaconda, there would have been no victory at Vicksburg and Lincoln would not have been re-elected - or even if he did your prediction of a stalemate until 1868 would probably have legs.

    Grant, I will give you was a doer, but not big on brilliance unless you count his adoption of Scott's strategy. It was the only good thing he did in the war. Otherwise he was no better general than Westy with attritional tactics in Nam.

    I did not say Vicksburg was a Navy show. But Grant's siege of Vicksburg would have been toast without the Navy's Mississippi Squadron and without Farragut's previous victory at New Orleans and the following surrender of Baton Rouge and Natchez.

    You are right that naval blockades and air power do not alone win wars. I did not suggest that they do. But if you think you can fight and win a war without a Navy and without air superiority then you are smoking something a little stronger than rope.

    Look at MacArthur that Publius and Jim rave about. His reputation was made by Kenney, his Air Corps commander and by Bull Halsey. He also benefitted hugely by the US submarine wolpacks that decimated Japanese troopships and resupply ships heading towards his AO in the Southwest Pacific.

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  24. Wow - as to MacArthur, for starters, his handling of post war Japan was simply magnificent, and sadly, less than widely "publicized".

    Lots of mythology surrounds the man, primarily due to his not confiding his thoughts with anyone who later shared them publicly.

    As to the fall of the Phillipines, the standing plans called for reinforcement, and MacA was clearly led to understand that a relief would be mounted for quite some time after the Japanese invaded, even after the relief was formally ruled out in Washington. Hard to be an effective commander when what you are assured to expect in terms of vital resources were never intended to be provided.

    I have a friend, Robert, who served as a junior intelligence officer on MacA's staff through most of the war. I would describe Robert as an exceptionally humble and brilliant person who stands in awe of few, if any, mortals. MacA captured his awe, because he saw him as having "an encyclopedic, four dimensional (space plus time), Technicolor grasp of the world around him". Robert also come to the conclusion that MacA felt his grasp was not unusual, and thus assumed that those who worked with him were similarly equipped. In Robert's view, the "dull normals", self serving and/or insecure were easily threatened by MacA, even though MacA's underlying attitude towards them was, basically, complimentary. Robert was not a career officer, but truly wanted to stay with the Occupation HQ as long as possible, because he was amazed at the alacrity MacA showed as the Occupation Commander. Unfortunately, illness forced his return to the States, so he was only able to see a snapshot of it.

    An example of "myth based" bias against MacA is citing the famous letter from his mother to Pershing, soliciting promotion for her son. Many offer this as proof that his first star wasn't "earned". However, if one studies Army organizational history a bit, especially the first use of centralized promotion boards during WWI, one finds a scathing missive to the War Dept from Pershing about his grave objections to a centralized promotion board "usurping" his authority as a field commander. Lo and behold, Pershing cites MacA's promotion as one he had specifically not requested.

    The man wasn't perfect, but he was quite amazing.

    Al

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  25. Al,

    Your comments on MacA's conduct of the defense of the Phillipines are right on the numbers except for one thing that was mentioned in Mitchner's "Goodbye Darkness".

    When the Japanese landed at Luzon MacA was very concerned about getting into the defensive position at Bataan (which simultaneously kept him from being outflanked and closed Manila's harbor) before the Japanese arrived in Manila. So he jumped into those positions so quickly that he left behind huge quantities of food and water.

    As the Chief mentioned upstream the Japanese army was a rather crude instrument of war, particularly on the offense where their under-developed logistics service couldn't provide their own soldiers with food during an offensive. Japanese soldiers were expected to live off the land when the provisions they could carry on their backs ran out. It certainly was an incentive to win quickly...

    But to get back to the story, the Japanese zip down the island, get to Manila and Bataan and realize they are in for a siege and they haven't brought enough food but MacArther forgot to remove or destroy the food he had stored for the Phillipino Scouts. If he'd managed to keep that food out of Japanese hands, he'd have won the first round of the battle for the Phillipines, which would have been a remarkable black eye for the Japanese.

    I don't think that anybody could have faulted MacA's general handling of WWII after the Phillipines but he sure made a lot of mistakes during that incident.

    Rebuilding Japan was also brilliantly done even though the Japanese tend to act a bit like MacA to this day...

    Korea, other than Inchon (which could have gone very differently if the NK had placed the mines that our troops found in a nearby warehouse), was a completely different story. The man was too old, too out of touch with reality, and could not admit it. I'd say your friend saw MacA only at his best.

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  26. Pluto, no argument that he saw MacA at his best. And, for all his failings in Korea, Inchon was spectacular.

    Al

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  27. Al -

    I (along with Ike and General George Marshall) will be content to be one of your friend Robert's 'dull normals' who believe that MacArthur was a superb piece of PR packaging and propaganda but otherwise was all peacock and paranoia.

    And he may have been the darling of the Republican Party, but even conservative GOP Congresswoman Claire Booth Luce said of him: "MacArthur's temperament was flawed by an egotism that demanded obedience not only to his orders, but to his ideas and to his person as well. He plainly relished idolatry." Many on his staff were syncophants. They had to be as they were spied upon for signs of heresy.

    Your argument that Mac was given a star by the war department over Pershing's objections proves the opposite of what you are trying to convey. His mother was also a friend and frequent corresponent with Secretary of War Newton Baker.

    As to Mac's defence of the Phillipines, I will take the word of former Army Chief of Staff General H. K. Johnson who served in the Phillipine Scouts, and survived the Bataan Death March. In his biography he felt Mac was derelict in his duty there in the Phillipines and was a coward for leaving.

    As far as the so-called brilliance of his plan for the amphibious left hook at Inchon, it was a no brainer. Come on, Korea is a mountainous peninsula and we were stuck on the tip down near Taegu. Any officer who did not come up with an amphibious landing on that peninsula should have been drummed out of the service. Especially since this was just a few years after a war in which we did amphib landings in the Solomons, North Africa, the Gilberts, New Guinea, the Carolines, Sicily, Italy, the Marianas, Borneo France, the Phillipines, the Ryukus and Bonins. We were much better at the time at amphibious manuever than we were at any other type of mobility. A corporal could have suggested amphibious landings. And it was the Navy (Admiral Struble, an amphib expert and vet of the landings at Normandy and Luzon) and the landing that did the planning for Inchon and not Mac.

    I will grant you that Mac did do a good job in Japan after the war. But he was not even close to the job that General Lucius Clay did in Germany. Clay did much better job and never got 1% of the credit that Mac did. A shame I say.

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  28. Mike

    "In his biography he felt Mac was derelict in his duty there in the Phillipines and was a coward for leaving. "

    And what, pray tell, should he have done? He was ordered to leave. If he had resigned, would he still have held command of the forces there? Would his subordinates have also refused to obey lawful orders and recognized MacA as their commander? Or was Johnson suggesting MacA become a guerrilla fighter, which while being symbolically soothing, would have accomplished little. Having served during the tenure of HK Johnson as CSA, I don't put a lot of stock in his analysis of a lot of things. He admitted to War College students in later years, that he advised Pres Johnson that "sending in the Marines" to RVN would present a "historically clear statement" that would be sufficient to put an end to the troubles there. So we sent in the MArines.

    Oh, yes, It has HKJ who prohibited the wear of subdued insignia on fatigues outside of a combat zone, giving rise to our calling the brightly decorated fatigues we wore "Dress Fatigues". As you can see, I'm not a fan of Harold K.

    As to MacA's promotion, was Pinky friendly with the members of the selection board for Brigadier? Are there copies of letters from Pinky to those players as well? My comment simply addresses how many points of his career have been attacked with what turn out to be unsupportable claims. It is regularly written that had she not written to Pershing (the contents of the letter are in the public domain), her son would not have been promoted. Since up to that time, a field commander like Pershing made such promotion decisions, it sounds like a plausible story. But the point in fact was that his promotion was as a result of one of the first centralized promotion boards convened by the Army, resulting in Pershing's complaint, which was not directed at MacA particularly, but The War Dept "usurping" what Pershing saw as his personal prerogatives. Pershing was not consulted by the promotion board before the fact. The whole issue was outside his sphere of influence, other than his evaluations of people serving under him that were in their personnel records. MacA was simply an illustrative example of how the board acted in a manner effectively counter to Pershing's desire, "forcing Pershing to fight the war using other people's decisions in personnel matters". Some see it as pettiness on Pershing's part. It was probably just a Luddite response to change.

    I'll quit here. It took D. Clayton James three huge volumes to render a scholarly biography of MacA, something he originally planned to do in a single volume. He was a complex man. I reiterate my overly brief statement:

    The man wasn't perfect, but he was quite amazing.

    Al

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  29. Al -

    Sorry to hear about your uniform disagreements with General Johnson. What is your opinion of Ike and Marshall and their opinion of MacArthur?

    Yes Mac was an amazing man. He was an amazing hero as a hotshot young Colonel with the Rainbow Division in WW-I. I am told that the WW-I soldiers who served with him adored him at the time. That changed of course 14 years later. And yes he did a amazing job in the occupation of Japan after the war. Those two things alone are worth putting him in the history books.

    There are copies of at least three of Mary MacArthur's letters to Baker the Secretary of War about getting a star for her boy. And Dougie boy himself wrote a letter of consummate military politicking to Pershing which was both obsequious and self serving.

    So maybe Johnson and tens of thousands of soldiers and marines that called him Dugout Doug were wrong about cowardice. But please no bull about his defense of the Phillipines. Kimmel and Short at Pearl harbor were cashiered. Mac who lost a lot more in the Phillipines should have faced a Roberts Commission as well but was spared for political reasons.

    His ego and his belief that people were stabbing him in the back were his downfall and made him incompetent. He was his own worst enemy and should have faded away long before his speech to that effect.

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  30. Mike-

    Part I

    In all fairness, it is an oxymoron to say "Defense of the Phillipines". Washington had no intent to defend the Phillipines, nor to provide support to the forces there, nor to push the Japanese off the island. It was to simply be a delaying action followed by capitulation. At no time was there the forces necessary to successfully repel the Japanese from the Islands, nor were reinforcements in the pipeline. So, we can debate to our heart's content about the efficacy of the response of the local commander, but the outcome was already determined in DC. Add to that DC's claims that "the check is in the mail and your bags are on the truck" for a considerable period of time, and one has to consider how a commander views his options when reinforcements are believed to be on the way.

    Kimmel and Short were sacrificial lambs. MacA was a giant in the eyes of the Philippine people and could not be scapegoated, for obvious political reasons. I have no argument with that.

    George Marshall spoke negatively about MacA at the time of Mac's relief in Korea, agreeing that on the basis of documents Truman showed him, MacA had to go. The "documents" he saw are quite interesting. A classmate at Leavenworth looked into the Army's archives at great length. One can find two communiques from Truman to MacA telling him to cease certain actions, and both refer to being reiterations of previous instructions. HOWEVER, there is no record in the archives of the "previous instructions". My classmate theorized that HST told subordinates to communicate the jist of the "previous instructions", but it was not formally done. The classmate's logic was as follows:

    1. Other than the two communiques referenced above, Truman directly communicated once in his life with MacA - at Wake Island - prior to the relief. Truman was very clear in his memoirs that even before this meeting, he had no use for MacA, even though he had never met the man before Wake.

    2. The newly formed DOD and DA were staffed primarily with ETO alumni and some castoffs from the Pacific Theater. Few, if any had ever dealt directly with MacA.

    3. The channels of communication with MacA would have been through a number of people who were either intimidated by him or had no use for him. It is possible that an informal or back channel communication of of the initial "cease and desist" might have stalled in DC under a "shoot the messenger" concept. There is no record of any such messages being SENT.

    Thus, the whole paper trail on the warning, etc that led to the relief of MacA is incomplete. My classmate found no reason to doubt that Truman expressed a desire to the appropriate people to advise MacA of his concerns and guidelines. There is just no record of Truman's intent being communicated until the "as you were previously told" messages. You figure it out.

    Back to Marshall:
    In 1942, when FDR spoke to Marshall about ordering MacA out of the Philippines, FDR offered to issue the order personally, as he knew MacA's deep emotional ties to the Philippines and that MacA had significant date of rank on Marshall. He wanted to prevent a tiff between the two generals. Marshall told FDR that MacA would either obey an order from Marshall or resign, which Marshall said would be the same situation if FDR issued the order. Marshall was adamant that he felt that MacA would never consider disobeying or calling Marshall on date of rank. Marshall's respect for MacA's respect for the Army was too great for what FDR was worried about.

    I have never said I like the guy, like his attitude, like his ego or whatever. I was addressing his intellect and the application thereof. Unfortunately, he seemed to have confided his innermost thoughts to Jeanne, and she took that to the grave with her. Thus, any view we have of the man himself is purely external.

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  31. Part II

    As to Harold K Johnson, I offered the subdued insignia issue as an example of an issue over which he seriously dug in his heels against the requests of his subordinates. It was dumb and a pain in the ass for those of us serving under him. More significant was his simplistic "send in some Marines" advice to LBJ. Johnson went on to say that when asked if the initial Marine force didn't tamp down the problem, Johnson said "some more Marines will show our resolve". Johnson told the story to take the blame for "gradual escalation" in RVN. He said that he though LBJ was swayed by the Army CSA saying the traditional "send in some Marines", rather than claiming the job for his own service. Who knows? Only HK Johnson has ever told this story.

    As to comparing Ike and MacA, I would be hard pressed to find a basis upon which to do so. Both were dealing, in WWII, with different enemies, different battlefields, vastly different geography, different allied forces, and the like.

    As someone who spent his first six years in uniform in the Corps, the Pacific Theater has always been my main interest. If I had the time and resources, I'd begin by comparing the two commander's battle staff structures, because at that level of command, the battle staff is who they fight the war through. I read Adm Barbey's memoirs. He commanded the Amphibious Naval Forces for MacA. The tempo was so vigorous, Barbey had three separate Operations Teams, and by the end of the War, they had conducted over 60 amphibious assaults with MacA. It was not unusual for them to be putting one operation ashore, sustaining another and planning an impending one. Turns out I knew the son of one of the team chiefs, so I took the opportunity to get the team chief's telling of the mission. Quite amazing. BTW, both Barbee and Flippin, the team chief, had no serious criticism of MacA to offer. (While Barbey's book is out of print, if you can get your hands on it, it's a very educational read.) Flippin said that MacA simply gave Seventh Amphib his commander's intent and a concept of the operation, and expected Seventh Amphib to work with MacA's staff to "make it happen", and it did. Filiipin felt that MacA held his subordinates responsible for the "how", once MacA identified the "What". Subordinates who wanted MacA to provide petty details didn't survive.

    But, back to comparing MacA & Ike, one might compare personalities easily. However, it would take mountains of work to compare the jobs they were given and evaluate how each handled all the little bits through some kind of a lens of commonality. I have some problems with "Ike, the man", but I don't let that skew my view of "Ike, the commander". The same holds true for my view of MacA.

    Al

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  32. Fellows,

    Nice conversation about Mac. What about General Giap for the Vietnamese? Was he brilliant? I don't pretend to know much about VietNam, especially in WW2 and shortly after. I am sure those of you who served in the time have some strong views about him.

    James Caba

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  33. James -

    Thanks for changing the subject as it looks like I will never convince Al of Macarthur's faults. Although as I alluded to previously I do respect Mac for his service with Wild Bill Donovan and Joyce Kilmer in the 42nd Infantry Division at Champagne, St Mihiel, and the Meuse - but that respect was for his personal heroism and his inspiration of his troops and not for his so-called and self-styled brilliance. The success of those campaigns were due more to Pershing's op orders which had been planned out by George Marshall the AEF Chief of Staff, and also by Marshal Foch's overall architecture of the offensive.

    Giap was certainly a smart cookie at Dien Bien Phu. He cut off all attempts at French reinforcement. Se used 'Sappe' trenches as good or better than their developer, Marshal Vauban. he used weather to his maximum advantage. He went against all military doctrine and dug in howitzers and mortars into caves so that they could only be used with no traverse and extremely limited elevation changes so they were basically turned into fixed direct fire weapons. It took a major engineering effort by his artillery men to change targets. But it worked.

    He read extensively on the campaigns of the American Revolution. That can't be bad. Our West Pointers should spend more study time on that than on Grant and Sherman.

    Unfortunately he was also a butcher of his own troops. Worse than Grant or French and Haig. Worse than any Japanese general who sent out human waves of saki soaked banzais to face overlapping fields of machine gun fire.

    And I think he later ran into trouble with his own Communist party. They thought he was getting too much credit so brought him down a few pegs.

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  34. Aviator47,
    You touch an interesting point- there were 2 power centers in the US Army. Probably still is, and these go back to WW1.
    We see the Pershing and MacA strains fighting for control of the Army. You tie them to ETO/Pacific but it didn't start there, and I realize that you didn't indicate that it did.
    Remember that H K Johnson was a WW2/Bataan death march survivor, fwiw, and was the only GO to resign in protest to the VN war.His protest was that he wanted to win it. Somewhat reminiscent of MacA.
    Mike,
    I like Sam Houston as a General. He and G Washington are equally brilliant for their leadership and understanding of the situation and acting accordingly.
    jim
    jim at rangeragainstwar

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  35. Not going to beat the dead horse, but as a contemporary of Al's and a guy who actually served under Johnson, I share Al's opinion of the man. What Al's not saying is there was a time when Johnson and his buddy Earle Wheeler—then CJCS—could have influenced the direction of history WRT Vietnam. Instead, they meekly rolled over and allowed the politicians to scratch their tummies. Inasmuch as I, and lots of other folks, were personally affected, I never really appreciated the fact that these two officers, the senior officers in the U.S. Army, proved to be sycophants, opting to kiss ass rather than provide sound professional advice, which should have been, "what are you, nuts?" As a backdrop to this, the institutional Army long had serious reservations about land wars in Asia, the wisdom of which we've seen in the past eight years.

    Further, inasmuch as the USAF was represented in those days by "bomb 'em back to the stone age" Lemay (don't recall who the admiral was), Johnson undoubtedly read it all as unanimity in the military regarding expansion in Vietnam. Unfortunately, for his legacy, General Johnson told the truth when he was dying: he admitted he knew better. Wheeler was silent, but I'll bet he knew better, too. So Johnson was a coward who didn't give it his best when it really counted, and inasmuch as no one ever accused MacArthur of that, I'm not too inclined to listen to Johnson.

    My first interest was also the Asia-Pacific area. I speak one of the languages and I've spent a lot of time there—probably about half of my total almost ten years overseas. IMO, it's important to understand that our understanding of WW2 is inevitably European theater-centric, because larger battles were fought there, and also because the ally in Europe—the USSR—launched the Cold War even before WW2 ended; the Cold War was centered in Europe. Another erstwhile WW2 ally, China, then teamed with the USSR sporadically to spread the misery throughout Asia. The point of this is the Asia-Pacific realm is far different from Europe; MacArthur knew it inside out, whereas Marshall and Eisenhower did not.

    Finally, MacArthur was not a "good guy." No grinning "Ike" there. Marshall wasn't either. Cold, frosty, but not possessing that great man persona that offended so many about MacArthur. Due to his personality and psychological makeup, MacArthur was always controversial, but few doubted his gift for generalship. Marshall did not have the offensive personality—in fact he seems to have had little personality at all—but he was also one who most believed would be great. Eisenhower, Patton and Bradley were in a whole different league. Nimitz was probably in the Marshall and MacArthur league, but we hear little about him these days.

    As one thinks back to Johnson, Wheeler, Westmoreland and others during Vietnam, and then fast forwards to Powell, Schwartzkopf, Petraeus, Odierno, et al, it's pretty clear the US Army reached his apogee when it comes to great captains in WW2. It's all downhill from there. Like MacArthur or not, he's a giant compared to what we have today.

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  36. Ranger -

    Agree on General Houston, boozer or not. He knew when to fight and when to hold his powder. Like Mac he was controversial in his own lifetime. In his old age he publicly opposed Texas entering the Civil War and took a lot of grief for it from the warhawks. Yet his son volunteered and was wounded at Shiloh, while the son of his main warhawk detractor spent the war in Europe. Chickenhawks have been around quite a while it seems.

    Al and Publius - Sorry to hear of your opinions on General Johnson. I cannot find my copy of Sorley's biography of Johnson. Loaned it out to some deadbeat probably. But as I recall the author said just the opposite of what you claim. He stated that General Johnson opposed LBJ, MacNamara, and Westmoreland. And Dave Hackworth praised Johnson in his book. BTW, did they really call him Holy Harold?? And I wonder is the fact that he had a "...deep dislike for such soldierly pursuits as hard liquor, fast women, or foul barracks talk" the real reason behind your disdain?? :-)

    I think Admiral Moorer was Chief of Naval Operations at the time you mention Publius.

    Regarding Nimitz, I rate him up there as one of the best. He is the guy that recommended the leapfrog or bypass of enemy strongpoints in the Pacific that MacArthur and Halsey eventually adopted. Nimitz suggested it in the Aleutians and skipped over Kiska to take the more important Attu. The Japanese then evacuated Kiska without a fight. It was then adopted formuse in the Southwest Pacific and the Central Pacific campaigns.

    A debriefing by MacArthur of Tojo before he was hung indicates that the Japanese Imperial GHQ believed that leapfrogging was one of the three principal factors that led to their defeat. The other two being US submarine attacks on troopships and resupply ships and the ability of the US carrier task forces to resupply and refuel while underway at sea giving them the ability to operate for long periods away from home port.

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  37. And I wonder is the fact that he had a "...deep dislike for such soldierly pursuits as hard liquor, fast women, or foul barracks talk" the real reason behind your disdain?? :-)

    IIRC, now that you mention it, Johnson specifically forbade "foul language" in the performance of duty. In early 65, while still in the Corps, I was sent to Ft Knox, along with four other Marine NCOs, to an instructor training course. It was an exchange program between the Army & the Corps.

    We were welcomed by the chief of the school, a MSG Kunitsky. He gave us a general inbriefing, and then told us about the newly established restrictions on "language", going through a litany of words and terms that were not acceptable. He closed his pitch on language saying, "If I can adapt, anyone can. Your trainer can give you more info."

    My interest piqued, I was quick to ask my trainer about Kunitsky's "If I can adapt" comment. Turns out that if there was an Oscar for "colorful language", Kunitsky would have won it 10 years running. He was magnificent at using off color and sexually explicit terms to emphasize teaching points. One example was, "The M-60 Tank's ballistic computer is so sensitive to dust and dirt that as much as a pubescent C**t Hair in the gears can result in an x% error in accuracy." My trainer said that few, if any students would forget such a teaching point. The "post-Johnson" version was more like ".... even so much as a curly hair from you know where".

    No, Johnson's Puritan leanings do not compute in my view of him. There are many more issues that overshadow being barred from saying "C**t Hair".

    Al

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  38. The problem isn't that generals aren't good enough in foreign affairs.

    The problem is that they shouldn't be tasked with foreign affairs.

    Spending hundreds of billions on the military and then failing to win a war because of a lack of diplomatic service capability looks like a failure in approach and prioritization to me.

    The Afghanistan involvement (if done at all) should be lead by a civilian with an understanding of the military's capabilities. It should have been a diplomatic effort while the military merely keeps the flame small.

    http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2009/06/pacification-strategy.html

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  39. Aviator 47,
    I knew Johnsons son, we went thru training together and he didn't have a problem with language or booze. He was a typical trooper.
    I always wonder what happened to him since I never again ran into or heard about him.
    Scuttlebut was that he got physically hurt in RVN.
    Maybe somebody reading knows.
    I only tell this to show that the apple doesn't always fall close to the tree.
    jim


    jim

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  40. Too many of our wars are wars of attrition on a grand scale. Overwhelm the enemy with manpower and armaments. No brilliant generalship in that.

    Eisenhower and Bradley both experienced WWI vicariously. Their tactics looked like WWI infantry - keep the line straight. Look at the missed opportunity at Falaise Gap, although it was Montgomery who was slow. Patton was aggressive, although he couldn't be left out unattended. He went around the outside of Sicily when Montgomery plodded along the coast. Patton's drive with 3'd Army was spectacular, although I don't think anyone knew where it would lead except that it had momentum. Nobody capitalized on it.

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  41. Big Bird,
    As an Infantry officer I always wonder why we didn't fight a mobile defense at the Bulge/Bastogne , why didn't the center give and fall back and allow the Germans to penetrate and then counterattack the over extended flanks. That's what the Germans did on any given day in Russia.That's what Balck, Manstein, Guderian, Model,Hauser would've done in our shoes. So why did we fight static , like amatures.? The answer is evident.
    This is how we are taught in our service schools but it's not what we do when the rubber meets the road.
    jim

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  42. Jim - I believe you are right about General Johnson's boy being wounded. I think I read that in Johnson's bio but cannot find that reference to check.

    Al - The C**t hair was a good training aid, too bad. I have also heard that O-clubs and NCO clubs on Marine Corps bases are going broke after some recent teetotaler Commandant shut down Happy Hour, Ladies Night, and dice games at the bar.

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  43. bigbird: I just finished Rick Atkinson's "Day of Battle", about the Sicily and Italy campaign, and he was fairly critical of Patton in Sicily, feeling that his chase westward was a pretty pointless diversion that helped allow Kesselring pull his people back to Messina and prolong the campaign significantly. Monty gets a fair abount of stick, too, and so does Bradley. You get the feeling that the Allied commanders were pretty much hamstrung by the Sicilian (and then Italian) terrain and never could figure a way around it; just straight ahead slogging.

    Jim: when you look at the Bulge, we pretty much did just that (not so much by design but just the way the German attack fell out). The problem was, as at Falaise, we never did learn to move quickly. Monty, again, was the main culprit, but Ike and Bradley did just what bigbird points out, fought a linear battle content to squeeze the Germans out of the Bulge rather than try and cut them off.

    Same-same fifty years later, when Schwartzkopf's left hook turned into a mere tactical flanking movement rather than a grand tactical envelopment. Safe, but limited.

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  44. Ranger,

    I am a bit intimidated by addressing you because.. well because I have been reading your stuff for a while, but I must take issue with this.

    Qoute:

    As an Infantry officer I always wonder why we didn't fight a mobile defense at the Bulge/Bastogne , why didn't the center give and fall back and allow the Germans to penetrate and then counterattack the over extended flanks. That's what the Germans did on any given day in Russia.That's what Balck, Manstein, Guderian, Model,Hauser would've done in our shoes. So why did we fight static , like amatures.? The answer is evident.

    Unquote

    If I may put my balls on the line I will say the following.

    The attack came against remnant divisions regrouping from the Hurtgen Forest They were billeted (sp) in a "quiet" front and were fairly worn out. There were a couple other units that were new and unblooded so put on that sector.

    OK. All this stuff you know and more than likely better than I.

    I posit that the attack split Montey's and Bradley's army groups (not an original idea by me) and Ike was stuck with a logistics problem. I am guessing that Antwerp was not still fully operational as a resupply point and communications were cut. The Hurtgen Forest attack against the damns was cut and the V-2 sites were still not completely nuetralized.

    I argue that Ike did the right thing, though it was humiliating to Bradley and the US in general. He "let" Montey win the battle and we won the war. Masterful generalship in my view.

    He did another one where he let DeGaulle take (I believe) the main city in Alsace/ ST Laurine. His reasoning was that it was better to keep friends and forgoe a shorter route (ala Patton) then to go it alone.

    I will also posit that we did do an elastic defense vs the German attack in the Bulge. We re-organized the lines, redrew the defense at the Muese river, Patton turned North, The Big Red One was trucked in, THE 101st and 82nd were in ready reserve and used as well as numerous other units attacking from the north, under Monty. And when the weather cleared there was some serious tactical air coming down.

    Respectfully, James Caba

    PS.

    Pardon me if I am not out of line but I would still request from you old timers your views on the Vietnamese leadership in modern times. I nominated Guderian, Manstein and Yamashita. The replies were that they were losing generals.

    You gentlemen refer to American generals and colonels in Vietam. What do you think of the opposition on a High level ( Operational levels, strategy...geoplotics). Did the Vietnamese win? I posit they did.
    How??

    And if I may, I will put the ground rule down that it wasn't the US initiative to win and lose that war. How did the Vietnames make it happen?

    I am re-nominating Giap. So far only Mike replied.

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  45. Mike,
    If my memory is served Johnson's son was named Don, or am i confusing him with Miami Vice?Anyway we used last names mostly. But the rumor was that LT. Johnson went to a Ranger unit and was medicaled out of the Army. He was a hell of a fine LT. and was funny as hell. We used to go drinking at Phenix City and I believe he came along. MG Ciccolella's son was also present in our forays into the darkness. We were all Ranger Class 7-69.
    jim

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  46. James Caba,
    I gave you a long reply and it was lost in transmission. I am not ignoring you but will reply again later.
    This is the 3rd time this has happened to me on this site. Is anyone else having this problem Or am i just a trog?
    jim

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  47. Jim -

    I must be a trog(?) also, as I have had a similar problem. But I can usually recover by posting twice. I have been hesitant to do that since there is nothing more annoying than a double comment. So basically I pour another cup of java, take a long sip and then click on the "Post Comment" button again to make sure that the first one in fact did not transmit.

    But tell the truth now, was Phenix City part of the curriculum at Ranger School? I hope you stayed away from those 165-pound beavers lurking in the woods behind main street.

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  48. mike, jim: Unless I'm "logged in" to Blogger, what happens when I post a comment (using my "Google profile" pull-down) is I get a bunch of red text telling me that my action failed. I then re-post it, and I either get a dialogue box that has the comment and my "FDChief" handle in the pull-down box OR I get kicked out to the log-in screen and have to log in. Either way, I have to post it AGAIN, and then it shows up.

    I don't know why Glogger/Boogle works this way, it's irritating, but if you persist it finally works. Kinda like corresponding with DA, in that respect...

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  49. @FDChief:
    "You get the feeling that the Allied commanders were pretty much hamstrung by the Sicilian (and then Italian) terrain and never could figure a way around it; just straight ahead slogging."

    Read this Lessons Learned report about the British part of that campaign and you'll likely agree that tactical incompetence at Bn level and below was the key problem.

    http://www.filefactory.com/file/ah37hh2/n/Wignam_report_rtf
    (h/t to Wilf Owen who apparently discovered this text a few years ago.)

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  50. Schwartzkopf's plan in the Persian Gulf was classic Airland Battle. No surprises there. A BIG problem was Frank's VII Corps being so sluggish in executing the flanking movement. So, after the war, Frank got his 4th star.

    I thought that just having the Marines sit out there off the coast was brilliant. Sucked a lot of Iraqi resources out of position. The Marines were pissed that they couldn't have a moment of glory going in over the beach, but a lot of blood was spared.

    Schwartzkopf's early experience was somewhat thin. He commanded a separate infantry platoon in Berlin, as a lieutenant, then went on to an aide's slot. Not anything really heavy until adviser duty in Nam as a Major. And, adviser duty wasn't cherished as a promotion path.

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  51. Mike,
    We never went downtown while in Ranger training.
    All of us went to jump/jm/IOBC together before we attended the Ranger course.
    We did get rowdy, but that was tolerated back then.
    jim

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  52. James,
    Here's my 2nd attempt.
    First; beware calling us oldtimers. I don't personally mind but I'm afraid my pecker might find out that it's old. That just wouldn't do. So please be circumspect.

    Now off to the Bulge. Let's put on our theater army hats and forget anything except echelons above corps. This is what I'm trying to discuss.

    Everybody above Corps knew that the Wehrmacht was kaput and that they were only waiting for the fat woman to sing.So once the Cdr established that the atk was a main effort and not a localised action ,then the following actions should've taken place.
    -establish enemy c/a to include, sustainability and could they exploit even if they broke thru to Antwerp.
    -enemy lines of communications/msr's etc..
    -follow on forces expected to be employed. We knew the German OB to a red c--t hair.

    It's easier to read this from 64 years away but this is what the theater army cdr should've done , if he weren't standing on his ----.

    Here's my concept of operation.
    -Mobile defense in sector and trade space for time.
    -allow the Germans to penetrate deep into my rear. hold the shoulders and wheel the axis of the adjoining theater armies to seal the shoulders and then decisively engage and destroy the entire penetration.
    -attack their weakness which was lack of depth and sustainability.
    -disallow disengagement.
    -deep friendly objectives by passing major enemy strengths.
    These are what I believe the Germans would've done had they won the toss. They practised what they preached.
    BTW, I would've by passed the Huertgon.
    I hope this clarifies my comment.
    jim

    I'm glad to explain my ideas. That's why we're all here.

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  53. Sven: No question that a lot of the problems present all the way up to Division were still present in Sicily, both for the British 8th and US 7th Armies. But what I've read suggests that the problems went all the way up the chain to Patton, Monty and Ike. Two of the three were still learning what it meant to command armies instead of battalions, and Monty was entering his "if slow and steady is good, REALLY slow is even better" phase that really bloomed once he crossed the strait of Messina.

    But I'd opine that the real issue was: why fight over Sicily/Italy at all? Even the civilian leaders (except Churchill, and he was a little insane about the Med) pretty much agreed that the who thing was a sideshow, designed to tie down German troops and secure the Med for Allied shipping. The whole idea of the Italian Campaign was, IMO, flawed. It should ALWAYS have been an economy-of-force operation, designed to tie as many Axis forces down with the minimum of Allied.

    One of Atkinson's most interesting observations is that it seems to have occurred largely because the troops were THERE. The Allies lacked the transport to get them out of theatre, and they thought that Stalin would get the ass if an entire Army Group's worth of Allied soliders were sitting around the Med doing nothing. And Marshall and Roosevelt thought that Sicily/Italy was better than Churchill's OTHER obsession, which was retaking Greece!

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  54. Ike noted in his "Crusade in Europe" that he and Marshall had settled on attacking North Africa in part to get Rommel out and in part to set up a staging base for really large scale operations.

    They didn't feel that the British islands had enough space and weren't all that enthused about the only available option for hitting the Germans with the stockpiled troops (second front in France in 1943).

    Stalin was laying down major political fire to get his allies to distract the Germans somehow and Churchill was already looking past defeating the Germans to how Europe would be divided once they were defeated and came up with the "soft underbelly" theory of European geography and the Italian operation was born.

    Speaking in favor of the Italian operation, it is now obvious that the US (and British to a lesser extent) still badly needed more lessons on to learn how to fight the Germans. The US and Brits learned an awful lot in spite of the awful price that made the Normandy operation a much bigger success than it would have been in 1943.

    Italy was a nightmare operation but Greece would have been at least twice as bad. Churchill farted around in the Greek islands near Turkey trying to persuade the Turks to join the war and nearly lost the entire force. The book "the Guns of Navarone" is based in part on the incident.

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  55. Pluto: Agree that Sicily, Salerno and Anzio went a long way to ensuring success in Normandy. But the big-picture cost of Italy seems questionable to me. A lot of guys died there to learn those lessons. What did they gain - especially the 30-40K guys who were killed or maimed battering away at the Gothic Line and in the Po Valley in the spring of '45 ("Operation Grapeshot")?

    Greece would have been even more pointless. I agree there, too.

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  56. Jim -

    Just a gentle joke, no disrespect intended. I hope none was taken?

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  57. My Uncle George, who was the lone Euro theater guy in my family, where all of the men—my dad and several other uncles were in the Pacific—fought, usually won the family big dick contests about who was in the most screwed up AO. George ended up as a major, the S3 for a battalion in the 87th Mountain Infantry (he and my dad were then sergeants together and George introduced the old boy to his sister), and he told some wonderful stories about rank incompetence. Mark Clark was not one of his favorable people. George always believed the entire Italian campaign was a waste of lives. He was wounded in Italy and never got the thrill of participating in Overlord. I don't think he minded very much.

    I was never able to get any of those dudes from the earlier generation in my family to agree that anything I ever saw in Vietnam was in any way out of the norm for the US military at war. And I suspect that if one were to get a modern day troop to speak honestly about things, one would find that today's wars are about the same.

    Once we get past all of the great captain and hero bullshit, I think we find that all war is chaotic, dangerous and amazingly full of fuckups. Stupidity on the part of political and military leaders seems to have been the usual condition through the ages. So why be surprised at the Bulge? Or at Gallipoli? Or at Tet? War is ultimately a stupid enterprise, so it's no wonder so many stupid things happen.

    BTW, when I'm logged into blogger, I ALWAYS get the red flag failure notice after the first post. I expect I'll see it when I post this. I merely hit "post comment" again and it goes through. I haven't tried it when I'm not logged in, but I will do so next time around.

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  58. Publius: The story that has always stayed with me was from an old 82nd vet I was detailed to escort around one of the division reunions back in the 1980s. Guy didn't want to talk much about been there, done that, but when he got with some of his old pals the stories came out.

    They got on the subject of stupid ways to get waxed, and one of the ones he remembered was a couple of guys in Holland who'd jumped into a roadside ditch. His squad leader hollered at them and they didn't move, at which point the NCO went over and realized that they were dead, but what had killed them was a power line, cut by an airburst, that had fallen on them in the ditch and electrocuted them.

    "Who the hell leaves the goddam power on in the middle of a goddam war?" one of his buddies asked, and they all shook their heads.

    So, as sorry as it seems, that such a monstrous and lethal exercise as total war is also that random, stupid and pointless. But so it seems.

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  59. And at least one of the guys in that group had been with the 504th in Sicily and at Anzio. I'd never heard of the man before, so for a moment I thought that Mark Clark's middle name actually was "Fucking".

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  60. Mike,
    A trog is short for troglodite.
    No I take no offense and am actually glad to see you joke a little. It's so not Marine- you're making progress.
    Your friend,
    jim

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  61. Ranger,

    I post from the anonymous option. On the first go it is always rejected. I thought on my last post it was due to my computer's inbuilt "breathalizer." Was at a birthday party and had too much of Old Captain Morgan. But I am a stubborn F&*k so I reposted and somewhat to my regret. Also went to bed somewhat later to my wife's regret!

    It is not my right to demand answers from you guys. I should do my own research. Trying to get through one of Giap's memoirs, "Under seige" but it is a bit dry.

    You guys are a treasure trove of info so I would be remiss not to tap in.
    I meant no disrespect by calling you an old timer. I am still trying to find my way in this forum. Thanks for putting up with me and if/when I get out of line I am a big boy so can take it.

    Now what about Giap?

    Respectfully, James Caba.

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  62. Chief,

    I found this interesting.

    Quote

    But I'd opine that the real issue was: why fight over Sicily/Italy at all? Even the civilian leaders (except Churchill, and he was a little insane about the Med) pretty much agreed that the who thing was a sideshow, designed to tie down German troops and secure the Med for Allied shipping. The whole idea of the Italian Campaign was, IMO, flawed. It should ALWAYS have been an economy-of-force operation, designed to tie as many Axis forces down with the minimum of Allied.

    Unquote

    As you know I live in Taiwan and so have some friends from different countries. More than a few of these are English. This situation brings up some curious views. Despite the general consensus, there was more to WW 2 than Axis vs allies. My English friends are convinced that we joined the war NOT only to beat the Germans but also to "usurp" British hegemony. They come up with some interesting arguments.

    Why were the English so adamant about the MED? Easy. That was their communication line via the Suez canal to their empire. As well as their access to oil. Did you know that the Brits in conjunction with the Russians invaded Iran in the early part of the war? ( I am talking about 1940, but am hazy on exact dates). It was a straight partition. So did Churchill have an "insane" view on this? I'd say no.

    We should surely take into account the other allies viewpoints as to why certain places were important.

    James Caba

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  63. Chief -

    This is a great post. The discussions here always stretch the space between my ears. A shame that Seydlitz is on vacation and has not put in his two cents.

    My father and an uncle served in Italy, and they always referred to Clark as a butcher. And my grandma's baby brother, an Army WW-1 vet who had been mustard gassed, always hated MacArthur primarily for the Bonus Army fiasco. But I also remember him and his old cronies dissing MacA for the Phillipines and for Korea.

    I guess those are reasons why I did not uphold family tradition and go Army. That and my other uncle, a Seabee, who always had great stories about South Pacific lagoons and the pretty women there and the senoritas he met in Guam and the Phillipines.

    Regarding MacA, I always wondered how he would have done in the SWPA without Walter Krueger. General Krueger never got much recognition, but then he never sought it. And MacA never let the press talk about his two Army commanders Kreuger and Eichelberger and their subordinate corps and division commanders. Unlike Kreuger who generously gave credit to Ike when he commanded Third Army during 1941 on maneuvers in Louisiana just before WW-2. Third Army won both the offensive and defensive phases of those manuevers. I also note that Kreuger was a graduate of the Naval War College and later served as an instructor there. So it makes you wonder whose idea it was, his or MacA's, for all of those amphib landings along the 1000+ mile coastline of New Guinea. Especially since MacA was the guy who pushed the Buna/Gona strategy (NOT a leapfrog in anybodys imagination) at the start of the New Guinea campaign. But the artful dodger was able to blame that fiasco on Eichelberger.

    Reasons why Kreuger never got recognition he deserved were:
    1] Prussian born, he emigrated when eight years old.
    2] Not a ring knocker, and not even a 90 day wonder, he enlisted in 1898 as a private in the Spanish-American War and received a battlefield commission in the Phillipines.
    3] As one of the older Army commanders in WW-2, he was probably looked on as a bit of a curmudgeon (like me) :-) (but as Jim says, I am making progress)
    4] He spent his retirement defending his son who was court-martialed in 1947 for Conduct Unbecoming and defending his daughter for the homicide of her husband, a US Army Colonel. Must be quite a story there.
    5] Last but not least, MacArthur's hostility to any recognition of his subordinates by the press. The man was trying to run for President in 1944 and wanted America to believe that it was he who won the war in the Pacific singlehandedly.

    There is a recent bio of him subtitled "Unsung Hero of the Pacific War", but alas I will have to until I can find it in a used bookstore or perhaps at the big city library when I got to visit the grandaughter.

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  64. James,
    I was funnin' you about the old timer thing.
    I have a friend whose father was a WW2 Canadian Rgt Sgt Maj at Normandy. He said-Old soldier old shit;young soldier all shit.

    I have absolutely no opinion on Giap. To evaluate him one would have to evaluate his opponents and to my viewpoints they were lacking. Greatness is measured by your opponents.

    Also I'm not interested in him. This is not a slap at you- it's simply fact.

    I also am feeling my way here as I usually and habitually do not comment on other sites b/c my cmts often lack social conditioning.
    jim

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  65. Ranger,

    Thanks for the reply.

    Obviously your "old man" is still alive and kicking from this quote,

    my pecker might find out that it's old. That just wouldn't do. So please be circumspect.

    Now off to the Bulge.

    Unquote

    Pecker, circumspect? Off to Bulge! Okay I am 42 and I reckon you are bit older but that was still funny.

    I have lived in Taiwan going on 20 years and never had an interest to go to Viet Nam due to the war. However I went with my wife this summer and it was incredible. When in Hanoi they don't refer to the Vietnam war but the American war. Weird but somehow apt.

    Going into and out of the old quarter of Hanoi to our hotel we passed the "Hanoi Hilton" more than once. Most of it is knocked down as they built a commercial center there. It is an amazing place. I want to go back and take my daughter there. Vietnam, that is.

    I guess I am from a younger generation. I have a faint recollection of the war but never lived it personally,

    James Caba

    PS I will double post now!

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  66. James: When I label Churchill as "insane about the Med", I'm speaking purely as an American. I understand his obsession with preserving the Empire - his stature as the Rock of 1940 tends to overwhelm his political leanings, which were as crusted old tawny Tory as can be. He really was a creature of the 19th Century in a lot of ways.

    And in re: his American allies, he wasn't wrong. Roosevelt made no secret of his distaste for British colonialism, and his war plans, while not specifically directed towards dismantling the Empire, we made without regard towards the British desires to perpetuate it. To Roosevelt, as to many Americans of the time, it made no sense to talk about "Four Freedoms" and beat back the imperial Japanese and the expansionist Germans only to leave the old European empires standing in Africa and Asia.

    So Churchill may have been paranoid, but he was right: he DID have enemies (or at least, allies who were actively antagonistic to his goals)

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  67. mike: One thing Mac did have was a great capability for choosing subordinates. He bossed around some damn good officers - he just never let them steal his limelight!

    BUT...he could be exceptionally blind about members of his "Bataan Gang". Probably the one that jumps to mind is his G-2 in Korea, MG Willowghby. While I'm not willing to hammer the man to the extent that other military historians have, he certainly didn't do Mac any favors by doing what he's generally accepted as doing, telling Mac what Mac wanted to hear.

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  68. James, not ignoring you, I just kind of line up with Ranger about Giap. No particular opinion, mainly because it's difficult to gauge the guy when we (and the SVN) made it so easy.

    Agree on Krueger. But he didn't get full recognition because he was a German, right along with Willoughby. MacArthur actually had a lot of shitbirds around him.

    All the time I have. An old buddy arrives shortly for about four days. I expect a lost weekend plus.

    Cheers all.

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  69. James -

    Why don't you review for us the main points of "Under Siege"? I have not read it and for one would love to hear your opinion. I have tried to read Giap but as you said his work is dry as a bone.

    And I believe he took a lot of grief from the Party Central Committee as they were trying to discourage a 'cult of personality' around him. Who knows, perhaps he was a genius, perhaps he was just a cog in a committee and implemented committee decisions. We tend to belittle command-by-committee, but then in WW-2 every major campaign by theater commanders Ike, Nimitz, and MacArthur and even some smaller ones had to be voted on by the Joint Chiefs, pass a political test by the WH, and also be vetted by the Allies.

    Speaking of which, your Brit acquaintances in Taiwan put a weird reverse spin on why America got into the war. The end results of American involvement, it is true, helped to hasten the demise of British and French Colonialism. But it was certainly not the reason we got in the war. Churchill begged us to get in and even went so far as to start a huge proselytism effort in New York and Washington DC. But once in, there was no way that the US was going to shed American boys blood to help the English keep their fading empire.

    Churchill was a genius for getting other countries to do his fighting for him. Stalin, to his discredit, had general officers in the Soviet Army shot because when they warned of Hitler's intentions he thought that they were acting as provocateurs for the British Empire. The man was paranoid about Churchill trying to get him in the war and for good reason.

    America also got involved in Iran during the war, not for the invasion, but we did go in afterward and set up assembly plants for lend-lease equipment to Russia. It was a lot easier than the Murmansk run.

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  70. James,
    I too have a faint recollection of the war, however I enjoyed the book much more than the movie.
    jim

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  71. Mike, Ranger,

    That may a good idea about a review but it will take awhile. All the names are a complete goat screw for me. Especially since I know I am reading NOT the way they are supposed to be pronounced.

    When I say faint recollection of the war I mean FAINT! I was born in '67. I literally thought that it was a war against gorillas. To me a terrifying thought but I guess not as bad as it really was.

    I also recollect the boat people and John Wayne's Green Berets. Which I thought was cool, especially because Sulu from Star Trek was in it. As I mentioned earlier I don't know much about it.

    Regarding the Brits it can be downright frustrating talking to them. Especially talking about lend lease and the debt they paid back, but NOT the French or Germans.

    That being said it is illuminating because you can study all you want and talk to someone else and you get a completely different reading of the situation as can be seen here with the conversation about Mac Arthur.

    James

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  72. James -

    You are not the only one in the world who when they first saw the words 'guerrilla war' in print thought it was something to do with a crazed group of silvertips grunting in Spanish and bent on revenge against the kidnappers of Kong and Mighty Joe Young. Too much Edgar Rice Burroughs in my lost youth.

    I have tried to read Giap before. But the problem was not only the dry reading (probably due to the translator), but also that it was full of communist agitprop. There are two biographies of the man, one by Currey and one by MacDonald. I would like to read one of those as they may be a better bet than trying to read Giap himself.

    BTW, there was no lend-lease to Germany. It only went to Allies. So your English friend is blowing smoke. And as far as British repayment - it took them 60 years plus to pay back and then I understood that they only had to pay back ten cents on the dollar and at only 2% interest. Some of that was never tendered in cash but was paid back in basing rights where they worked out sweet deals for themselves at the expense of the Aussies, Kiwis, BIWIs, Bermuda and the rest of the British Commonwealth.

    "Green Berets" = worst war movie ever. But I always liked Sulu. Didn't two or three different actors play him during the run of Star Trek?

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  73. Mike,
    I don't knock JW in his Marine roles and expect the same in return.
    My first memory of reading a newspaper was the headline--RED HORDES ATTACK S KOREA. As a little tyke I literally thought that they'd be red. As in the color red. Just a memory that dovetails with the gorilla comments.
    jim

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  74. Jim -

    Not knocking the Duke, and not knocking Special Forces. My beef with the movie was primarily the special effects - for example exploding cans of gasoline to supposedly look like the explosions of RPGs and mortar rounds. Plus the producers went a little over the top on fighting communist agitprop with their own brand of propaganda which was a little crude to say the least. It did not work with many who were already anti-war and also alienated others who were not.

    But on second thought you are right. It is no way near being the worst ever war movie. Maybe my computer is missing the breathalyzer test that James C has on his. The honor of worst war movie should belong to "The Dirty Dozen" and others of its ilk that portrayed criminals as war heroes.

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  75. "BTW, there was no lend-lease to Germany. It only went to Allies. So your English friend is blowing smoke."

    Germany repaid the Marshall Fund loan money afaik.
    Furthermore, it came quite late and was a smaller sum than reparations to the U.S., but I better don't get started on the myths about the Marshall Plan.

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  76. Mike,
    I don't really know if there is a good war movie. Even ALL QUIET didn't nail it down. As for my JW stuff I'm just playing with you.
    The GB actually stunk as a movie and as a representation of SF and the war but sadly that's how we'll be remembered.
    I knew Ben Collins a member of Sgt Strikers platoon from the movie Sands of Iwo Jima. Ben was in the platoon of the first flag raising and he dis'd the movie. JW never did get it right.
    I think that's why i liked Gardens of Stone and In Country. They did not swagger like a girly man. I always thought that JW walked like a girl.
    There you have it.
    BTW, I do enjoy joking around so don't worry about offending my sensitivities.
    jim

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  77. Sven -

    Yes, Germany repayed Marshall Funds, the only country out of 17 that received them to do so. England who got more than twice as much as Germany repaid zip.


    Ranger -

    It is called pigeon toed, most noted in world champion rodeo riders, soccer players, and ... women. Hey SOIJ at least had a hooker in it. Never saw GOS or IC so won't comment. You are probably right about no good ones - but what about "The Great Escape".

    Oh, and you need to stop terrorizing restaurant hostesses. Probably mistook you for a pirate, isn't that Blackbeard country?

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