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America's Navy Must Do More to Safeguard Freedom of Navigation in Asia

The National Interest - Mon, 05/07/2021 - 02:33

James Holmes

U.S. Navy, East Asia

If a coastal state like China or Russia asserts outsized claims to jurisdiction over offshore waters and no one challenges those claims, its claims—even though unlawful—have a way of calcifying into international custom over time.

Here's What You Need to Remember: Fortunately, Washington and likeminded capitals seem to have alighted on such a strategy. U.S. Pacific Command boss Admiral Phil Davidson recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee that allies will join future freedom-of-navigation deployments. The more flags fly in contested expanses the better.

The question is a hardy perennial among those who hold forth about maritime strategy in Asia: are “freedom of navigation” operations enough? Are periodic cruises through waters where a coastal state claims rights and prerogatives beyond those codified by treaty enough to safeguard maritime freedom?

Answer: freedom-of-navigation operations are necessary but not sufficient guarantors of “freedom of the sea,” the nearly limitless liberty to use the sea for mercantile and military pursuits, and of the liberal system of seagoing trade and commerce it underwrites.

Freedom-of-navigation operations are necessary for legal reasons. As retired Royal Navy admiral Chris Parry likes to say, navigational freedoms are something like the “right of way” in English common law. They endure as long as seafarers use them. The right of way permits citizens to traipse across private property along certain pathways provided people actually exercise that right. If no one does, the right of way has a way of lapsing over time. Ownership reverts to the land’s holder in full.

Use it or lose it.

Similarly, if a coastal state like China or Russia asserts outsized claims to jurisdiction over offshore waters and no one challenges those claims, its claimseven though unlawfulhave a way of calcifying into international custom over time. International law is a system of customary law as much as it is a system of written treaties and agreements. If navies and merchant fleets fail to exercise their rights under the law of the sea to their fullest, compliance with the coastal state’s demands could begin to look like consent to those demands. Acquiescence could become the reigning custom—and if so freedom of the sea will have been abridged in the waters at issue.

Hence the necessity to defy extralegal claims early and often.

Freedom-of-navigation cruises are insufficient for military and diplomatic reasons. These are come-and-go operations whereas a broad swathe of the seafaring world should go to contested waters and stay in order to make a statement that resonates regarding freedom of the sea.

Think about it. What does an American warship accomplish when it passes by a Chinese-held rock in the South China Sea—in 2016 an international tribunal ruled that none of the Spratly or Paracel islands qualifies as an island in a legal sense—and leaves? It exercises the right of way codified by the law of the sea. That’s good.

But in all likelihood a Chinese warship will have shadowed it, will have instructed it to leave, and may have harassed it during its transit. The fact that U.S. Navy vessels do come and go lends credence to a diplomatic narrative issuing from Beijing. The tale goes something like this: Americans broke into our territorial waters and we chased them off. Chinese spokesmen essay a sort of diplomatic alchemy. They try to portray demonstrating on behalf of freedom of the sea into cutting and running from an embattled zone. If a critical mass of influential audiences buys the Chinese line, it becomes reality in their minds until and unless debunked.

How to deflate China’s narrative? Rather than put in the occasional fleeting appearance, friends of navigational freedom should show up in disputed waters such as the South China Sea, and they should stay. Constancy should be their watchword.

Fortunately, Washington and likeminded capitals seem to have alighted on such a strategy. U.S. Pacific Command boss Admiral Phil Davidson recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee that allies will join future freedom-of-navigation deployments. The more flags fly in contested expanses the better.

That’s why recent news out of allied capitals is so heartening. For instance, Tokyo dispatched one of its “helicopter destroyers,” or light aircraft carriers—the pride of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force—to operate alongside U.S. Navy units in the South China Sea. In so doing Japan’s political leadership stated that it will not buckle under Chinese pressure anywhere around the Asian rim.

Europeans have gotten into the act. London dispatched a Royal Navy amphibious transport to the region last fall to put in appearance near Chinese rocks, and last month a Royal Navy frigate joined U.S. Navy ships in Southeast Asia for several days of combined operations. Great Britain even intends to open a military base in the South China Sea—punctuating its return to seaways “east of Suez” decades after decolonization. A base would anchor the British and allied presence in the region—helping naval forces go there and remain.

European aircraft carriers will soon join the mix. Paris has announced that the nuclear-powered flattop Charles de Gaulle, fresh from its midlife overhaul, will journey to the South China Sea this year. Britain’s first supercarrier, Queen Elizabeth, will follow this year or next—and a U.S. Marine Corps squadron flying F-35 stealth fighters will join her air arm. London has bruited about the idea of creating an Anglo-French carrier force—helping Europeans maintain a constant and formidable presence in waters claimed by China. Paris isn’t quite there yet, politically speaking, but even talking about pooling naval resources constitutes progress.

And if the allies sustain their on-scene naval presence for a long time? Beijing will find it increasingly tough to convince others its navy has chased off ships that never leave. Its parable of Chinese power and allied weakness will no longer pass the giggle test.

Turn to strategic theory in closing. Admiral J. C. Wylie describes control of somewhere or something as the purpose of military strategy, and he depicts the “man on the scene with a gun”—the soldier—as the final arbiter of control. The soldier appears on the scene and stays, outgunning local resistance. He embodies control of dry land. He is control, says Wylie.

Teleporting Wylie’s logic seaward, naval forces on the scene that boast serious firepower are the saltwater counterparts to the soldier. If they mount a standing presence, forces flying not just American but Asian and European flags can belie China’s efforts to impose control as well as its self-boosterism. Its creeping encroachment on freedom of the sea could stall as the seafaring world rallies.

Is success in this armed conversation a foregone conclusion? Hardly. The outcome of strategic competition never is. But an enduring, multinational show of power and resolve might prove sufficient to curb the China challenge.

James Holmes is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and author of “Visualize Chinese Sea Power,” in the current issue of the Naval Institute Proceedings. The views voiced here are his alone.

This piece appeared earlier and is being reprinted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

War Questions: How Effective Is the Iron Dome?

The National Interest - Mon, 05/07/2021 - 02:00

Michael Peck

Security, Middle East

And what makes that question more difficult to answer than one might imagine?

Here's What You Need to Remember: Critics have questioned the accuracy of the IDF’s Iron Dome statistics during the 2014 Gaza conflict. But with four Israeli civilians dead (though one was hit by an anti-tank missile fired directly from Gaza), even Israelis are expressing doubts about the system.

Israel’s Iron Dome is more than a missile defense system. It’s practically an icon, a symbol of how technological creativity can enable one rocket to knock another rocket out of the sky.

But did the system fail earlier this month? And what does this mean for the U.S. military’s planned buy of Iron Dome?

Any thoughts of an invulnerable missile shield evaporated when Hamas fired six-hundred-and-ninety rockets and mortar shells from Gaza into Israel earlier this month. Out of that six-hundred-and-ninety total, ninety never managed to cross into Israel, according to Israeli figures. Iron Dome intercepted two-hundred-and-forty, of which the Israel Defense Forces claim an 86 percent kill rate, with thirty-five rockets landing in populated areas.

Critics have questioned the accuracy of the IDF’s Iron Dome statistics during the 2014 Gaza conflict. But with four Israeli civilians dead (though one was hit by an anti-tank missile fired directly from Gaza), even Israelis are expressing doubts about the system.

Hamas says it deliberately fired enormous numbers of rockets at a specific target zone to saturate Iron Dome. Some Israeli experts agree that it is difficult to defend against massed salvoes with short flight times when fired from launchers situated a few miles away in Gaza. Israel has ten Iron Dome batteries of three launchers each, firing ten-foot-long Tamir interceptors that cost about $100,000 apiece. Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed force in Lebanon, has an estimated 130,000 rockets.

However, assessing the effectiveness of Iron Dome isn’t easy. For example, the software is supposed to calculate whether a rocket will land in a populated area or empty terrain: interceptors will hit the former while ignoring the latter. So, if a Hamas rocket landed on Israel, was it because Iron Dome failed to intercept it, or Iron Dome chose to ignore it because it didn’t pose a threat?

Ted Postol, professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a longtime critic of Israeli and American missile defense, said Youtube video of Iron Dome interceptions showed the system isn’t working. To hit and destroy the warhead, rather than the missile fuselage, an Iron Dome interceptor must strike a rocket head-on, according to Postol. The video that shows contrails from interceptors doing U-turns, or diving down on their target, indicates that the interceptor did not destroy the warhead.

Postol dismissed the IDF’s claim of an 86 percent interception rate. “5 to 10 percent is more likely,” he said. “It’s not Iron Dome. It’s Iron Sieve.”

The latest performance of Iron Dome, first deployed in 2011 and used extensively against Hamas rockets in the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, will interest the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marines are considering whether to purchase Iron Dome to defend against rocket attacks. Iron Dome has also been mentioned as a possibility for the U.S. Army.

But the most important question is what Iron Dome’s latest combat record means for strategic missile defense. Hamas’s saturation tactics illustrate the problems faced with stopping ICBMs from Russia, China or even North Korea: an attacker can overwhelm ballistic missile defenses by firing enough missiles and warheads, or at least enough warheads plus decoys to confuse the defense system.

But James Acton, a missile defense expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says not to read too much into Gaza when it comes to U.S. strategic missile defense. Without knowing whether Iron Dome deliberately avoided intercepting some Hamas rockets, or tried but failed to intercept them, it’s hard to judge the effectiveness of the system. “To be clear, I do think homeland missile defense is vulnerable to saturation,” Acton told the National Interest. “I’m just not sure this is a good example of that.”

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

This article was first published in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

How to Prepare for War in the South China Sea: Read History Books

The National Interest - Mon, 05/07/2021 - 01:33

James Holmes

China, South China Sea

China is asserting rulemaking authority in Asian waters and skies. No arrangement a la the Black Sea compact is on offer in Southeast Asia. Nor is there much reason to think Beijing would accept one were it offered.

Here's What You Need to Remember: There hasn’t been a collision yet—quite—but there have been close calls. Should non-military ships block the path of an American warship and a crash ensue, the optics—photos of a hulking destroyer mowing down a civilian vessel—would favor Chinese efforts to brand the U.S. Navy as overbearing, blundering, or both. The truth would take a backseat to messaging.

What would happen should a U.S. Navy warship collide with a Chinese vessel while demonstrating on behalf of freedom of the sea?

This hasn’t been a trivial or hypothetical question since at least April 2001, when a Chinese fighter jet hotdogging near a U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance plane slammed into the American aircraft, kindling a diplomatic crisis between the Chinese Communist Party leadership and the newly installed administration of President George W. Bush. This aerial encounter furnished advance warning of what might happen on the surface below.

Last weekend the question took on new urgency. On Sunday morning a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type 052C destroyer cut across the bow of the destroyer USS Decatur as Decatur made a close pass by Gaven Reef in the South China Sea. Estimates vary, but it appears the PLAN ship passed somewhere within 45 feet and 45 yards of its American counterpart—compelling the Decatur bridge crew to maneuver to avoid collision. The imagery is striking. Whatever the actual range, terming this conduct “unsafe and unprofessional”—in the U.S. Pacific Command’s anodyne phrasing—understates how close the vessels came to disaster.

Most such incidents involve the rules of the maritime road: who gets to steam and fly where, and what may seafarers and aviators do along their way? Think of the encounter off Gaven Reef as an exchange of point and counterpoint in an armed conversation about who makes the rules governing the use of sea and sky and who obeys them. And the point of this conversation isn’t merely to impress Chinese and American audiences. It’s to make an impression on foreign audiences able to influence the outcome of the U.S.-China struggle over freedom of the sea.

Audiences such as Vietnam and the Philippines, stakeholders in the maritime disputes roiling the region. Such as Australia and India, friends that incline to stand beside a resolute America but might stand aside should Beijing successfully brand Washington as vacillating and untrustworthy. And such as France and Great Britain, extraregional players whose governments are increasingly vocal about the common and whose navies increasingly share the burden of upholding nautical liberty. Europeans are speaking up—and showing up in embattled waters to back their words with steel.

China calls its opinion-shaping enterprise the “three warfares” and prosecutes it through legal, psychological, and media means on a 24/7/365 basis. Three-warfares efforts have a passive-aggressive cast to them: Beijing tries to depict itself as a put-upon Asian power facing a domineering United States and as a masterful defender of Chinese sovereignty and dignity vis-à-vis a hapless U.S. Navy. It flirts with doublethink.

This armed conversation evokes French soldier and counterinsurgency theorist David Galula’s dichotomy between incumbent governments and insurgent groups trying to overthrow them. Galula observes that the challenger is free to say anything to discredit the government and attract popular support, while the incumbent has a reputation to worry about along with a track record for judging whether its deeds match its words. Insurgent leaders harbor few qualms about propagating fake news if it advances the political narrative, while the government tries to get its facts straight before putting out an official version of events.

Insurgents typically get their message out first—and make the all-important first impression. China plays the part of the insurgents Galula describes, whereas the United States is the overseer of the system of maritime freedom. Washington is commonly a latecomer to propaganda battles. It has to set false first impressions straight—and that’s a hard thing to do. Now it’s worth looking at some past near misses and their diplomatic repercussions in order to peer ahead. Some basic questions to ask: what type of craft were involved, under what circumstances did the encounter take place, and who played the propaganda and blame games better? Such factors determine the victor.

The likeliest collision scenario would involve a U.S. Navy warship and a Chinese fishing boat or China Coast Guard cutter. Beijing uses fishing craft crewed by maritime militiamen and backed by cutters as the vanguard of its strategy in the South China Sea and East China Sea. It floods the zone with them to the tune of thousands of fishing craft. Trawlers ply their trade in expanses where China asserts sovereign rights to natural resources. China Coast Guard white hulls dash to the rescue if a rival navy or coast guard challenges the fishing fleet’s presence.

This is the paramilitary fleet that harassed the U.S. survey ship Impeccable in 2009 and has faced off against Philippine and Vietnamese maritime forces. There hasn’t been a collision yet—quite—but there have been close calls. Should non-military ships block the path of an American warship and a crash ensue, the optics—photos of a hulking destroyer mowing down a civilian vessel—would favor Chinese efforts to brand the U.S. Navy as overbearing, blundering, or both. The truth would take a backseat to messaging.

This week’s events also dredge up memories of the Cold War for those of us sufficiently, ahem, seasoned to remember that twilight conflict. Thirty years ago last February the cruiser Yorktown and destroyer Caron skirted through Soviet territorial waters in the Black Sea. Their goal was the same as Decatur’s: to exercise the right of “innocent passage” through coastal seaways and thereby rebut Soviet claims to special prerogatives that contradict the law of the sea. The Soviet Navy frigate Bezzavetnyy converged with Yorktown at a shallow angle and struck the cruiser a glancing blow on her port quarter to telegraph Moscow’s displeasure.

It might seem as though the Reagan administration was picking a needless fight, but there’s a logic impelling U.S. demonstrations. It goes something like this: give those who exceed their legal mandate an inch—for instance, by acquiescing in the common demand for advance notice or permission before passing through territorial waters—and you encourage foes of maritime freedom to take a mile. Or in parlance currently in vogue, you allow “salami slicing” in hopes of amity. Fail to stand against small transgressions and you create the incentive to attempt new and more extravagant transgressions. Soon predators have devoured the salami.

The Black Sea bumping incident amounted to little as diplomatic fracases go. In part that’s because the setting differed markedly from the Western Pacific today. The U.S. task force cruised along mainland Soviet shores where no one disputed Moscow’s sovereignty. This was not contested turf like China’s South China islands—ground wrested from China’s neighbors or manufactured wholesale. That muted tempers. So did the slight damage to Yorktown. Nor was there any loss of life. There was little to fire a public outcry in either capital.

But more importantly, the Soviet Union was a superpower in terminal decay by 1988. The West had come to fear Soviet weakness more than Soviet might. Washington wanted to avoid doing anything that might collapse the regime in Moscow or encourage hardliners to attempt a coup (as they did in 1991). In effect the contenders struck a gentleman’s agreement: Moscow went silent about its excessive claims while the U.S. Navy executed no further overt challenges. Both sides got most of what they wanted.

By contrast, China is a power on the rise. It is asserting rulemaking authority in Asian waters and skies. No arrangement a la the Black Sea compact is on offer in Southeast Asia. Nor is there much reason to think Beijing would accept one were it offered. Quite the reverse. China is serious about making itself the suzerain of maritime Asia and is striving to lock in its status.

The pattern of Chinese actions magnifies the prospect for an actual catastrophe. The Decatur incident wasn’t the first in the genre. In 2013 a PLAN amphibious transport cut in front of the cruiser USS Cowpens to block Cowpens out of the vicinity of the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, then plying the South China Sea. But the Chinese “gator” kept a relatively safe distance during that encounter. Think about what would ensue if a PLAN warship again cut across a U.S. Navy ship’s bow, if the American ship plunged into it, and if heavy damage and casualties resulted. This is the brave new world into which China is ushering the region.

The furor following such a pile-up would probably conjure up the EP-3 affair more than the Black Sea bumping incident. Death and loss of pricey hardware concentrate minds. The 2001 collision cost the Chinese airman his life and the PLA Air Force a warplane, inflaming passions within China. Beijing sought to recoup its dignity by demanding an apology from Washington, as though the lumbering propeller-driven U.S. plane had somehow rammed the nimble fighter. It ultimately wrung something out of the Bush administration that it could depict as contrition.

But China held a trump card in that showdown that it probably wouldn’t hold after a collision at sea, namely possession of the American craft and its crew. The stricken EP-3 landed on Hainan Island, bestowing leverage on Beijing. The parallel between 2001 and today is inexact at best—above and beyond the differences separating an aviation from a seaborne incident. Still, it’s fair to forecast that China would reprise its efforts to define what had transpired, fitting events to its preexisting tale about American aggression and Chinese ascendancy. And it would again seek to extract some confession of U.S. culpability. Such measures conform to Beijing’s three-warfares playbook.

But deeper-seated cultural factors may also be at work. The late Alan Wachman, a China hand at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, likened the EP-3 uproar to imperial China’s demand for a “kowtow” from the British Empire. In 1793 officials representing China’s Qing Dynasty insisted that a visiting British embassy headed by Lord Macartney make such a gesture of subservience to China as a condition of opening trade. Dynastic officials demanded a kowtow; Macartney protested that the British crown was the Qing emperor’s sovereign equal. Neither party bent. Irreconcilable differences set them on the pathway to eventual conflict.

Rival conceptions of world order could likewise shape the aftermath of a future high-seas collision—as Henry Kissinger might prophesy judging from his book World Order. Basic worldviews that clash amid impassioned circumstances and diplomatic one-upsmanship make for mercurial interactions.

In fact, it’s fair to prophesy that such an imbroglio would outdo past confrontations by most measures. The stakes would be high as each contender painted the other as a dastardly aggressor. Publicity would glare on the contestants—limiting their political freedom of maneuver. Beijing and Washington would stake out intractable positions, Black Sea-type formulas for deescalating the impasse would elude them, and options would narrow. It’s anyone’s guess what trajectory such a controversy would take.

Strategists are forever conducting wargames to project how armed conflicts might unfold. As they should. They could do worse than simulate a high-seas collision and its diplomatic fallout as part of their gaming repertoire. Better to think ahead now than improvise later under hothouse conditions.

James Holmes is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and author of “Visualize Chinese Sea Power,” in the current issue of the Naval Institute Proceedings. The views voiced here are his alone.

This first appeared in 2018.

Image: Reuters

Bismarck vs. the Royal Navy: How Britain’s Warships Were Trounced

The National Interest - Mon, 05/07/2021 - 01:00

Warfare History Network

World War II, Europe

Of all the German surface warships, the British feared Bismarck the most.

Here's What You Need to Remember: A 15-inch shell from Bismarck hit the bridge of Prince of Wales. Although it did not explode, it killed several key personnel, and for a short period disrupted command of the ship.

The British Admiralty Board of Enquiry into the loss of the battlecruiser HMS Hood, presided over by Vice Admiral Sir Geoffrey Blake, concluded, “The sinking of Hood was due to a hit from Bismarck’s 15-inch shell in or adjacent to Hood’s 4-inch or 15-inch magazines, causing them to explode and wreck the after part of the ship.”

Director of Naval Construction Sir Stanley Goodall, however, found this conclusion unsatisfactory and in his report pointed out the explosion was observed near the mainmast 65 feet further forward from the aft magazines. A second board of enquiry was convened under Rear Admiral H.T.C Walker. Even given eyewitness accounts that described fires on deck, that board still found a hit by Bismarck being the likely cause, although finishing with, “The probability is that the 4-inch magazines exploded first.”

Taking on the Feared Bismarck

In May 1941, Admiral Sir John C. Tovey, commander of the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow in Scotland’s Orkney Islands, was ordered to attack the German battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen that had just been spotted in the Denmark Strait. Tovey’s fleet consisted of two new battleships, King George V and Prince of Wales, the battlecruisers Hood and Repulse, and the aircraft carrier Victorious, plus many additional cruisers and destroyers. Also hurrying north to join him was the older battleship Rodney, mounting nine 16-inch guns, the largest caliber in the fleet.

Of all the German surface warships, the British feared Bismarck the most. Her size, speed, and firepower made her a definite threat to Allied shipping in the Atlantic, and it was imperative that she be neutralized.

On May 21, 1941, Hood and Prince of Wales left Scapa Flow with six destroyers under the command of Admiral Lancelot Holland flying his flag in Hood, their mission to provide heavy support to the cruisers Suffolk and Norfolk covering the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland––one of the likely routes the German naval squadron would take to reach the North Atlantic. The rest of the fleet was gathering to cover the area between Iceland and the Orkney Islands.

Early on the evening May 23, Suffolk made contact with the enemy ships, quickly turning away toward the coast of Iceland and into a fog bank. Suffolk immediately transmitted a sighting report to the Admiralty and then came around astern of the German ships to shadow them on radar.

Norfolk came up as well, a little too boldly, for Bismarck opened fire on her; like Suffolk, she raced for the fog bank. The blast from Bismarck’s 15-inch guns disabled her own forward radar, and overall German commander Admiral Gunther Lütjens ordered Prinz Eugen to take the lead.

The Germans had picked up the sighting report from Suffolk and advised their own high command. Lütjens was shocked their presence had been discovered so easily and had little intelligence on what his two warships might face.

The Dwindling British Advantage

As the two forces moved toward each other, Holland had a marked two-to-one superiority in firepower. However, this was offset by the age of the Hood (commissioned in 1920) and the newness (commissioned in January 1941) and lack of combat readiness of Prince of Wales, which was still having trouble with her main armament.

Holland soon realized he was in a favorable position to bring the enemy to action that evening, sailing northwesterly toward the Denmark Strait with the enemy on a southwesterly course. He hoped to catch the Germans just before sunset at around 2 am at 65 degrees north latitude. He also hoped to cross the German squadron’s “T,” which would give him a great advantage. “Crossing the T” is a tactic in naval warfare in which a line of warships crosses in front of a line of enemy ships, allowing them to bring all their guns to bear while receiving fire from only the forward guns of the enemy.

During the evening of May 23, the forces converged. Suffolk continued to shadow and update the Admiralty, Holland on Hood, and Tovey on King George V.

Around midnight, Suffolk lost contact because her radar was blinded by a snowstorm the German ships had entered. Holland waited an hour but, hearing no news, turned more northerly in case the enemy turned south. He could not afford a German breakout into the North Atlantic. At 2 am, still with no news, he turned southwesterly hoping to cut off the enemy before total darkness.

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About an hour later, Suffolk regained radar contact and discovered the German ships were still on their original course. Holland must have cursed his luck, for his maneuvering had lost time and space, and the opportunity to cross the T was gone; this would prove critical in the coming battle.

Failing to Concentrate Fire on the Bismarck

Not wanting a night engagement, Holland brought his ships onto a course to intercept the German squadron at first light, keeping up a good speed but in the heavy seas dropping the escorting destroyers astern. By dawn, the destroyers were an hour behind.

Lookouts scanned the horizon for a glimpse of their quarry. At 5:37 am the two ships were spotted to the northwest, 30,000 yards (17 miles) away. The heavy guns could fire that far but the chance of a hit was remote; they needed to reduce the range to 25,000 yards or less––and quickly.

Prinz Eugen had already picked up the sound of ships with her underwater detection gear at some 20 miles to the southeast. At about the same time as the British lookouts spotted them, the Germans spotted smoke on the horizon. Lütjens believed that these were likely more cruisers, and he was under orders to avoid contact with British warships. He turned to starboard and headed almost due west, confident that he could outrun them.

Holland was soon aware the enemy had turned away, but he had to maintain his intercept course. Turning toward them would merely put his ships behind the Germans and make it a chase.

By 5:50 am, the range was down to 26,000 yards, and Holland would soon give the order to open fire. He was fully aware of Hood’s vulnerability to plunging fire at long range and wanted to pass through the critical zone as fast as possible. Therefore, he compromised by turning 20 degrees to starboard on a new course of 300 degrees toward the enemy. This would close with the enemy faster but make it impossible for the rear turrets of the British ships to bear on the Germans.

At 5:52 am, Holland designated the lead ship as the target and gave the order to open fire. This caused Captain John Leach of Prince of Wales a few anxious moments, for he was convinced that the rear ship was Bismarck, posing the greater threat. He ignored the orders from Holland and concentrated on Bismarck.

In seconds, huge columns of water erupted around Prinz Eugen, followed seconds later around Bismarck. Lütjens now had no doubt about what he faced. However, the British angle of approach still made identification difficult.

Marking the fall of shots, the British ships fired another salvo still firing at different targets. Leach had not informed Holland of his opinion and later had not been informed by his own gunners that Prince of Wales was firing at the second ship.

The Hood is Struck

The range was down to 24,000 yards when Lütjens ordered his ships to turn 65 degrees to port toward the British on a new course of 200 degrees and directed his ships to open fire as soon as they had turned. Lütjens was now on course to cross the British T and would be able to employ all his ships’ heavy guns.

Prinz Eugen opened fire first at 5:53 am, concentrating on the lead British ship, Hood, with her fast-firing 8-inch guns at four salvos per minute; she was firing high-explosive, not armor-piercing shells. After a few ranging salvos, Prinz Eugen hit Hood, her shells starting a large fire amidships among the ammunition lockers of the 4-inch antiaircraft guns, as well as ammunition for the unrifled projectile launchers used for defense against aircraft. Attempts to put out the fire were frustrated by the exploding ammunition.

Both British ships were still firing but at different targets. As yet, Bismarck had not opened fire. By now the range was down to 22,000 yards. After turning, Bismarck opened fire on Hood at 5:55 am with all eight 15-inch guns. Her first salvo fell close to Hood. At last Hood’s gunners realized they had been firing at the wrong ship. About this time, Holland ordered another 20 degree turn to port. This turn still would not allow the British ships to use their rear turrets.

At 5:59 am, Holland ordered another 20-degree turn to port, which would finally allow his ships to bring their full armament to bear. The range was now down to 18,000 yards. Bismarck fired three salvos in rapid succession about 30 seconds apart. The first, the fourth in total, again straddled Hood, but the fifth hit with devastating effect at about 6 am.

For the sailors aboard Hood, their worst nightmares were about to come true.

Explosion on the Hood

Ted Briggs had joined Hood as a signal boy on March 7, 1938, at just 15 years of age. Three years later he was an ordinary signalman on Hood’s compass platform, manning the voice pipe to the flag deck.

During the battle, Hood’s X Turret fired for the first time, but Y Turret was silent. Seconds later, Briggs saw a blinding flash sweep around the outside of the compass platform. However, he said there “was not a terrific explosion at all regards noise.” He felt the ship “jar” and begin listing to port. The “jar” was the ship breaking in two. The list got worse, and the men began leaving his area. By the time Briggs climbed down the ladder to the admiral’s bridge, the icy sea was already around his legs.

Eighteen-year-old Midshipman William Dundas had the duty of watching Prince of Wales to make sure she was keeping station; he was not far from Ted Briggs on the compass platform. He remembered bodies falling past his position from the higher spotting positions––the result, he felt, of Bismarck’s shells hitting without exploding. He recalled a mass of brown smoke just before the list to port began. Dundas escaped by kicking out a window on the starboard side of the compass platform. Even so, he was dragged under the water by the sinking ship but miraculously regained the surface.

Twenty-year-old Able Seaman Robert Tilburn was stationed at Hood’s aft-port 4-inch antiaircraft gun and witnessed the fire started by Prinz Eugen’s shells. The heat of the blaze made fire fighting impossible as the flames were being fanned by Hood’s 28-knot speed. Then he said, “The ship shook like mad” and began listing to port. Tilburn got onto the forecastle but was washed over the side by a great wave.

At the second board of enquiry, Tilburn told the admirals, “The Bismarck hit us. There was no doubt about that. She hit us at least three times before the final blow.”

Briggs, Dundas, and Tilburn were the only survivors from Hood; her 1,415 other crewmen were lost. But there were other witnesses, such as Lieutenant Esmond Knight. Aboard Prince of Walesobserving Hood, he remembered thinking, “It would be a most tremendous explosion, but I don’t remember hearing an explosion at all.” Chief Petty Officer French, also on Prince of Wales, said that the middle of the Hood’s boat deck appeared to rise before the mainmast.

Leading Sick-Berth Attendant Sam Wood, also on Prince of Wales, observed, “I was watching the orange flashes coming from Bismarck, so naturally I was on the starboard side. The leading seaman who was with me said, ‘Christ, look how close the firing is getting to Hood.’ As I looked out, suddenly Hood exploded. She was one pall of black smoke. Then she disappeared into a big orange flash and a huge pall of smoke which blacked us out…. The bows pointed out of the smoke, just the bows, tilted up, and then this whole apparition slid out of sight, all in slow motion, just slid away.” Within three minutes Hood was gone.

What Destroyed the Hood?

So what did happen to Hood? Were the boards of enquiry right that a 15-inch shell from Bismarck had hit close to her 4-inch and/or 15-inch magazines, causing an explosion that wrecked the after part of the ship?

What evidence we have would seem to shed some doubt on this. First, Hood was about 17,000 yards from Bismarck by 6 am. By that time, the heavy shells from both sides were travelling on a fairly low trajectory. As the range decreased, the guns would have been progressively depressed. Therefore, any hit would have been more likely to strike the belt. Hood’s belt armor was 12-inches thick and superior to any ship in the fleet; it was also inclined at 12 degrees.

It is still possible a shell could have hit the deck with its thin armor of three inches, but not with the plunging effect Holland had feared at long range. The shell likely fell at a rather oblique angle, which would make penetration of four decks to the main magazine under X Turret unlikely.

Also, it was witnessed aboard Hood and Prince of Wales that Bismarck’s 15-inch shells were likely defective, that most failed to explode.

Could there have been some sort of cordite flash explosion similar to those that destroyed three British battle cruisers during the battle of Jutland in May 1916?

This again seems highly unlikely as Hood’s shell-handling rooms were situated well below the X and Y Turrets’ magazine and the engine room thanks to lessons learned from that tragic Jutland episode. Also at Jutland, all three battlecruisers were destroyed by massive explosions, and there was none audible on Hood. One question about the magazine theory is why Y Turret did not fire like X had. Was something already happening there?

Then there is the fire started by Prinz Eugen’s 8-inch shells. Captain Leach of Prince of Wales described the fire as “a vast blowlamp.” The fire consumed much combustible material on the deck and upper superstructure, but the two- and three-inch deck armor and forecastle armor prevented this fire from penetrating below. The ventilation systems were fitted with gas-tight flaps and, at action stations, all should have been closed. Thus, it is fairly certain that the deck fires could not have resulted in Hood breaking in two or could even have contributed to this significantly.

The second board of enquiry did look at the possibility of Hood’s own above-deck torpedoes causing her to sink. Sir Stanley Goodall, who had supervised Hood’s design, believed an enemy shell could have detonated the torpedo warheads in their  tubes.

Four 21-inch MK IV torpedoes were kept in tubes, two on either side of the mainmast, and four reloads were nearby in a three-inch armored box. These torpedoes were certainly capable of breaking Hood’s back and could have been set off either by a direct hit from an enemy shell or by an intense fire. the TNT in the warheads would ignite at around 250 degrees Fahrenheit and explode at around 280 degrees. Again, however, there was no explosion. It is worth noting that similar torpedo tubes on the battlecruisers Repulse and Renown were later removed.

Was there some sort of underwater penetration? This seems even more unlikely. Hood was outside torpedo range of the German ships. One of Bismarck’s 15-inch shells could have penetrated the side and exploded in or near Hood’s shell-handling rooms––again unlikely without evidence of a massive explosion.

A Lucky Shot

The final theory or possibility is that Prinz Eugen’s 8-inch guns, firing at over half their maximum range, would have been falling on the target at a much steeper trajectory than Bismarck’s 15-inch guns and that one of her high-explosive 8-inch shells might have gone down Hood’s after funnel. If this did happen, it would have been just before Lütjens ordered Prinz Eugen to shift her fire to Prince of Wales, about the time Hood was engulfed.

The wire cage that covered the top of the funnel would not stop a shell and would be unlikely to explode it. The next obstacle on a shell’s journey would have been a steel grating positioned in vents at the level of the lower deck to protect the boiler room. If an 8-inch shell exploded here, it would have detonated in the boiler room. A high-explosive shell bursting in one of the boiler rooms or nearby might have resulted in an enormous buildup of pressure, resulting in an explosion inside the ship. The line of least resistance to this would have been up through Hood’s thin decks, not through the heavily armored sides or bottom.

Was this the result, a muffled explosion within the ship only heard below decks, the flash seen above decks near the mainmast with the propellers still turning driving the rear into the severely weakened midsection and breaking Hood in two parts? Could it have been a fatal combination of two of these theories?

In July 2001, the wreck of the Hood was found 9,334 feet below the surface of the  Denmark Straight. She lies in three sections  with the bow on its side, the mid section upside down, and the stern speared into the seabed. In 2013, the wreck was more fully explored with a remote-control vehicle. The exploration appears to confirm a massive explosion had taken place in the magazine feeding Y Turret and breaking the back of the ship. However, it remains a mystery, given the low trajectory of any shell, how one could have passed through four decks and the magazine armor. It must have been a lucky shot, indeed.

Prince of Wales Escapes

After the loss of the Hood, the battle continued. Prince of Wales was about 1,000 yards astern of Hood. Seeing the flagship explode, Captain Leach ordered a hard turn to starboard to avoid the wreckage. Hood was engulfed in smoke, but the stern was still above the water. The forward section still had some momentum but was listing to port and sinking rapidly. After clearing the wreckage, Leach swung Prince of Wales back onto 260 degrees, bringing his full broadside to bear.

The turn of Prince of Wales disrupted the gunners on Bismarck and Prinz Eugen, but they soon found the range again. With the range down to 15,000 yards, the fire from both sides was finding its mark.

A 15-inch shell from Bismarck hit the bridge of Prince of Wales. Although it did not explode, it killed several key personnel, and for a short period disrupted command of the ship. Direction was transferred to the aft position. She was also hit by an 8-inch shell from Prinz Eugen, knocking out fire control of several 5.25-inch guns, and two more hits caused minor flooding. At 6:03 am, Bismarck passed the port beam of Prinz Eugen, causing that ship to temporarily cease fire. The heavy cruiser had turned away because of suspected torpedoes.

Leach did not close the range. Prince of Wales had managed to hit Bismarck three times, although no explosions had been observed. Bismarck struck back, hitting the starboard crane of Prince of Wales, causing much splinter damage. Another shell hit amidships below the rear funnel under the waterline but failed to explode. It did cause some flooding and required the ship to counter flood to maintain trim.

Leach felt his ship was taking heavy damage––it had been hit four times by Bismarck and three times by Prinz Eugen. His own ship’s main armament was still not working properly, and his crew lacked the experience to adjust for this. Believing his ship might suffer serious damage, Leach ordered Prince of Wales to withdraw behind a smoke screen at 6:05. Also, Bismarck had completed passing Prinz Eugen so that ship’s guns would soon be back in action. Whether this influenced Leach is unknown.

Admiral Lütjens was surprised to see Prince of Wales turn away, but he dismissed calls from some of his men to pursue the British ship. It was doubtful they would be able to catch her. Also, Bismarckherself had been hit. Two shells had caused minor damage. However, one 14-inch shell had struck below the waterline causing some flooding and reduction in speed. Worse, some fuel tanks had been ruptured causing the loss of several hundred tons of precious fuel oil.

Lütjens soon realized he could not continue with the mission to attack British convoys due to the loss of fuel. Prinz Eugen was therefore detached to proceed with raiding while Bismarck turned back. The battleship headed for the nearest port with a drydock big enough to take Bismarck, at St. Nazaire, France.

Sinking the Bismarck

On May 26, a British aircraft spotted the battleship and radioed her position to other warships in the area. A force of 15 Fairey Swordfish torpedo planes from the carrier Ark Royal converged on Lütjens’ ship, and one torpedo damaged Bismarck’s rudder so badly that all the giant ship could do was sail helplessly in a circle.

Like a pack of lions, the chasing British battleships Rodney and King George V caught and engaged Bismarck at a range of 16,000 yards. The German gunners’ return fire was ineffective, and the helpless Bismarck was torn apart. At 10:40 am on May 27, 1941, the German battleship sank some 300 nautical miles west of Ushant, France. Only 110 of her crew of 2,222 survived the sinking. Admiral Lütjens went down with the ship.

This article By Mark Simmons originally appeared on Warfare History Network. This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Wikipedia.

Afghanistan Withdrawal: Final U.S. Troops Leave Bagram Air Base

The National Interest - Mon, 05/07/2021 - 00:43

Trevor Filseth

Afghanistan, Asia

The base will be left in the hands of the Afghan Security Forces; a formal handover ceremony for the base is scheduled to take place on Saturday.

Bagram Air Base, which served as the focal point of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan for nearly twenty years, saw the departure of its last American troops on Friday.

According to AP, two U.S. officials anonymously confirmed that the base had been handed over to the Afghan government. However, they also underlined that the highest-ranked U.S. commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Army General Austin Miller, “retain[ed] all the capabilities and authorities to protect the forces.”

Bagram, an enormous fortified military base roughly 40 miles north of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, hosted more than 100,000 U.S. troops at various times during the “troop surge” of 2009-2010.

Since then, U.S. forces have precipitously decreased in strength; at the beginning of the year, roughly 3,000 U.S. troops remained in the country.

In April, President Joe Biden made the decision to fully withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan; In televised remarks, he stated that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn by September 11, the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania. In conjunction with the U.S. withdrawal, an estimated 7,000 NATO troops from a handful of European nations are also being pulled out; Deutsche Welle reported on June 29 that all German troops in Afghanistan, following Germany’s twenty-year mission in the country, had departed.

It has been speculated in recent months that the final withdrawal of all U.S. troops would be set to conclude in July. A string of military victories by the Taliban has prompted calls for delay, but some sources continue to indicate that a full withdrawal in the coming days or weeks is likely. The troop withdrawal, however, will include an exception for an estimated 650 soldiers, who will be left behind to guard the U.S. Embassy compound in Kabul.

Another ongoing point of contention delaying a full withdrawal is the future protection of Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul’s main civilian airport, which is currently divided between U.S. and Turkish troops.

The airfield at Bagram has a rich history, intertwined with the modern history of Afghanistan. The airfield was constructed by the Soviet Union in the 1950s; during that country’s ten-year war in Afghanistan, Bagram served as a major logistics hub for the Soviet Army.

Following Moscow’s withdrawal and the ensuing civil war, Bagram fell into ruins again. After the 2001 U.S. invasion, the base was rebuilt, with new airstrips, blast walls, and modern accommodations for resident troops. The base will be left in the hands of the Afghan Security Forces; a formal handover ceremony for the base is scheduled to take place on Saturday.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for The National Interest.

Image: Reuters.

The Coming Sanctions Battle Over Iran’s New President

The National Interest - Mon, 05/07/2021 - 00:40

Behnam Ben Taleblu

Iran, Middle East

What good does it do to feign accountability over Raisi but offer impunity and financial access to a regime that has employed and promoted men like Raisi to the heights of political power

Men of the cloth are no strangers to the levers of power in Iran, especially the office of the presidency. Ebrahim Raisi, the sixty-year-old mid-ranking cleric who is now president-elect, or better put, president-select, will be the first in the history of the Islamic Republic to make the lateral move from the judiciary, which he led since 2019, to the presidency. He will also be the first Iranian president under U.S. sanctions.

But that could soon change, especially if what Iranian officials are saying about sanctions relief, having been agreed upon by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s inner circle, of which Raisi is one, holds true. Should past become prologue, then there are legitimate concerns about the United States potentially removing Raisi from its sanctions lists amid talks to resurrect the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Raisi, a failed presidential contender in 2017, has held various positions in Iran’s legal system for most of his life. Prior to becoming chief justice, Raisi served for three years as the head of a major parastatal organization fronting as a charity but functioning as a veritable slush fund for the country’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

But it was in the late 1980s that Raisi cemented his revolutionary bona fides in what is now termed the “1988 prison massacre.” At the age of twenty-eight, Raisi was one of four judges implementing two Fatwas by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founding father of the Islamic Republic, against political prisoners. The result was the killing of an estimated 5,000 inmates already serving lesser sentences. Their killing was not only grotesque and immoral, it was extrajudicial, even by the Islamic Republic’s standards.

Yet, when the Trump administration’s Treasury Department designated Raisi in 2019, they did so because he had been elevated by Khamenei to chief justice. Under the relatively new Executive Order 13867, the United States retains broad authority to target the Supreme Leader’s office and network of appointees. While the Treasury Department’s press release explicitly mentioned Raisi’s abuses, he was not designated under relevant human rights authorities at the time. 

Human rights organizations have been busy ringing the alarm bell about what a Raisi presidency could mean and are calling for an investigation into his past. But there are new, equally important sanctions-related concerns stemming from both the latest game of musical chairs in Tehran and nuclear negotiations in Vienna.

The Biden administration is reportedly seeking to capitalize on the current lame-duck period of outgoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to return to the JCPOA before Raisi and his new assumedly hardline cabinet come into office this August. Already, the Biden administration is taking an expansive view of sanctions relief and even hinted at a willingness to remove non-nuclear sanctions under the auspices of some being “inconsistent with the deal.” Nonetheless, challenges remain.

This is where Executive Order 13867 comes in. Not only have Iranian officials called for lifting all nuclear and non-nuclear sanctions, but they have also purportedly sought the termination of this entire executive order. Reports indicate that the Biden administration is considering this request. Yet revoking the order curbs Washington’s ability to hold to account those closest to, or supported by, Iran’s most powerful person. It would also render Raisi, a major rights violator, sanctions-free.

Retaining the order would signal to other aggressive and repressive powers like Russia, China, and North Korea that the United States can align strategic and moral considerations in its foreign policy. Removing it would frame U.S. strategy and values as something that can be pitted against one other to the benefit of America’s authoritarian adversaries.

We’ve seen this movie before.

When the JCPOA went into effect in January 2016, the United States removed a tranche of persons and entities from its sanctions list and enabled non-U.S. trade with select firms to include a 90-plus billion-dollar empire of companies tied to Iran’s supreme leader. The holding company, which is known by its English-language acronym, EIKO, established its early fortunes “on the systematic seizure of thousands of properties belonging to ordinary Iranians,” according to a Reuters investigation. EIKO was initially designated by the Treasury Department in 2013 for working “on behalf of the Iranian Government” as well as working “in various sectors of the Iranian economy and around the world, generating billions of dollars in profits for the Iranian regime each year.”

Notably, there was no credible justification for offering EIKO sanctions relief under the auspices of the JCPOA other than the desire to covet goodwill with Khamenei to see the deal through. Fast forward to 2021 and the Biden administration risks making the same mistake of believing that in order to engage in nuclear diplomacy with Iran they must first cater to Tehran’s top kleptocrat.

There is no doubt that Washington has sufficient anti-corruption and human rights laws in place—such as Global Magnitsky Act authorities—to redesignate Raisi for his crimes in the face of such a concession. However, analysts revealed that Washington’s rhetoric on redesignating Raisi has been, at best, confusing, given its emphasis on punishing future, rather than past, egregious rights violations. 

Still, sanctions proponents must be careful what they wish for. Redesignating Raisi in exchange for losing Executive Order 13867 and paying in sanctions relief for the waning JCPOA would be missing the forest through the trees and a political shield to facilitate JCPOA reentry. After all, what good does it do to feign accountability over Raisi but offer impunity and financial access to a regime that has employed and promoted men like Raisi to the heights of political power?

Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) where he focuses on Iranian political and security issues.

Image: Reuters.

Study This Picture: These Men, Under MacArthur, Saved South Korea

The National Interest - Mon, 05/07/2021 - 00:33

Warfare History Network

Security, Asia

General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower termed the victory “a brilliant example of strategic leadership,” while General Carl A. “Tooey” Spaatz called it “one of the most, if not the most, significant military operations in history.”

Key Point:  “Geographically, South Korea is a ruggedly mountainous peninsula that juts out toward Japan from the Manchurian mainland between the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. An uneven north-south corridor cuts through the rough heart of the country below the 38th Parallel, and there are highways and rail links on both the eastern and western coastal plains.”

Late in the evening of June 25, 1950 U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson was at his Maryland farmhouse reading when a call arrived to inform him of a serious situation in the Far East. He telephoned President Harry S Truman at the latter’s Independence, Mo. home that same Saturday evening and told HST, “Mr. President … the North Koreans are attacking across the 38th Parallel.”

Harry S. Truman Responds To The Korean Crisis

The next day, President Truman returned to Washington aboard his aircraft Independence for an emergency meeting of the top-level Security Council at Blair House, his temporary residence while the White House was undergoing renovation.

The President heard and approved a triad of recommendations, namely, first, to evacuate all American civilian dependents from the South Korean capital of Seoul; second, to air-drop supplies to the embattled Republic of Korea (ROK) forces under attack; and third, to move the U.S. fleet based at Cavite in the Philippines to Korea. Another caveat was that there would be no Nationalist Chinese forces sent from Formosa to fight in South Korea.

Meanwhile, far away from the nation’s capital in Allied-occupied Japan, America’s Supreme Commander there—five-star General of the Army Douglas MacArthur—picked up the telephone by his bedside in the American Embassy in Tokyo. He, too, was told that the North Koreans had struck in great strength.

North Koreans Had Formidable Soviet Tanks

Long familiar with all the countries of Asia, MacArthur thus described Korea in his 1964 memoirs, Reminiscences: “Geographically, South Korea is a ruggedly mountainous peninsula that juts out toward Japan from the Manchurian mainland between the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. An uneven north-south corridor cuts through the rough heart of the country below the 38th Parallel, and there are highways and rail links on both the eastern and western coastal plains.” He knew that the existing ROK forces were very weak: four divisions along the Parallel and, although well trained, “organized as a constabulary force, not troops of the line. They had only light weapons, no air or naval forces, and were lacking in tanks, artillery, and many other essentials. The decision to equip and organize them in this way had been made by the [U.S.] State Department.” As for their North Korean People’s Army opponents, they, MacArthur knew, had “a powerful striking army, fully equipped with heavy weapons, including the latest model of Soviet tanks,” the vaunted T-34 that had shattered the German Wehrmacht.

The mathematical equation of the rival forces on the ground was both simple and deadly: 100,000 ROKs versus 200,000 NKPAs—plus no modern weapons for the defenders as opposed to all modern weapons for the attackers. The method of the North Korean steamroller-like advance was also quite basic: Swing left and then right of their opponents’ lines in broad, flanking movements, so well practiced by British line infantry regiments during the entirety of the Napoleonic Wars of the previous century, and then plunge through any opened gap in the enemy center.

”Timidity Breeds Conflict, And Courage Often Prevents”

Disdaining President Truman’s term for Korea as a “police action,” his man in Tokyo privately thought, “Now was the time to recognize what the history of the world has taught from the beginning of time: that timidity breeds conflict, and courage often prevents.” Right from the start, therefore, the general misread the mettle of his commander-in-chief, just as the latter did him.

Nevertheless, in these early hours and days of dire emergency, the man in Washington turned to the man in Tokyo: “I was directed to use the Navy and the Air Force to assist South Korean defenses … also to isolate the Nationalist-held island of Formosa from the Chinese mainland. The U.S. 7th Fleet was turned over to my operational control.”

The British Asiatic Fleet was also placed under his command and, with his historic corncob pipe clenched between his teeth, MacArthur flew out of Haneda Airport aboard his old wartime plane the Bataan to take a first-hand, on-the-ground look at the fighting in Korea.

MacArthur Arrives To Witness A Tragic Scene

Upon arrival, he came almost immediately under enemy fire. He commandeered a jeep. “Seoul was already in enemy hands,” he later wrote. “It was a tragic scene. I watched for an hour the disaster I had inherited. In that brief interval on that blood-soaked hill, I formulated my plans. They were desperate plans, indeed, but I could see no other way except to accept a defeat which would include not only Korea, but all of Continental Asia.”

How could that have been, this instant of genius in the midst of overwhelming catastrophe and seemingly hopeless rout? Asserted his later compatriot and eventual successor, Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway in 1986, “He was truly one of the great captains of warfare.” Like Napoleon who would nap on a battlefield by his horse as deadly cannonballs would claim the lives of lesser mortals, Douglas MacArthur was lofty and serene in his genius, utterly convinced in his purpose, and absolutely determined that he would see all his plans through to completion or die in the process.

Formulating a Battle Plan

Clear-eyed and alert despite his 71 years, with thinning hair but no gray, MacArthur set about his plans. On July 23 he cabled to the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon the basic tenets of his plan, to be called Operation Chromite. “Operation planned mid-September is amphibious landing of two division corps in rear of enemy lines [150 miles behind NKPA lines, far to the north of the Pusan Perimeter fighting where General Walton Walker’s 8th Army was fighting for its life and what little Korean territory remained to it] for purpose of enveloping and destroying enemy forces in conjunction with attack from south by 8th Army.…”

Ironically, unlike other U.S. Army generals of the day (like Omar Bradley, who stated openly that seaborne landings were obsolete), MacArthur was a distinct rarity—an army leader who firmly believed in amphibious operations, based on his own previous wartime experiences in the Pacific against the Japanese Army, working hand-in-glove with the U.S. Navy. Moreover, unlike Truman, Bradley, and former U.S. Defense Secretary Louis Johnson (who was fired the day before Inchon was launched, and replaced by General Marshall), MacArthur was not against the Marine Corps. Indeed, having first planned to use the army’s lst Cavalry Division as his projected lead assault unit of what was to be called the X Corps, he changed his mind and asked for—and got—the 1st Marine Division instead.

Tide And Terrain Make Water Landing Extremely Hazardous

Secretary Johnson had even gone so far as to assert that “the Navy is on its way out.… There’s no reason for having a Navy and a Marine Corps,” feeling instead that the new U.S. Air Force could take over both services’ functions. At Inchon, MacArthur used navy ships, Marine aerial Corsairs and Marine and army troops jointly, in a superb example of inter-service cooperation.

In late August, in the Dai Ichi Building in Tokyo, America’s “proconsul for Japan” listened politely to all the arguments against Operation Chromite, and the dire prophecies of doom that it would fail ignominiously. The obstacles were formidable, indeed. MacArthur later wrote: “A naval briefing staff argued that two elements—tide and terrain—made a landing at Inchon extremely hazardous. They referred to Navy hydrographic studies which listed the average rise and fall of tides at Inchon at 20.7 feet—one of ‘the greatest in the world.’ On the tentative target date for the invasion, the rise and fall would be more than 30 feet because of the position of the moon.

“When Inchon’s tides were at full ebb, the mud banks that had accumulated over the centuries from the Yellow Sea jutted from the shore in some places as far as two miles out into the harbor, and during ebb and flow these tides raced through ‘Flying Fish Channel,’ the best approach to the port, at speeds up to six knots. Even under the most favorable conditions, ‘Flying Fish Channel’ was narrow and winding. Not only did it make a perfect location for enemy mines, but also any ship sunk at a particularly vulnerable point could block the channel to all other ships.

The Invasion Plan Would Rise Or Fall With the Tide

“On the target date, the Navy experts went on, the first high tide would occur at 6:59 am, and the afternoon high tide would be at 7:19 pm, a full 35 minutes after sunset. Within two hours after high tide most of the assault craft would be wallowing in the ooze of Inchon’s mud banks, sitting ducks for Communist shore batteries until the next tide came in to float them again.

“In effect, the amphibious forces would have only about two hours in the morning for the complex job of reducing or effectively neutralizing Wolmi-Do, the 350-foot-high, heavily-fortified island which commands the harbor and which is connected with the mainland by a long causeway. …

“Assuming that this could be done, the afternoon’s high tide and approaching darkness would allow only 2 1/2 hours for the troops to land, secure a beachhead for the night, and bring up all the supplies essential to enable [the] forces to withstand counterattacks until morning. The landing craft, after putting the first assault waves ashore, would be helpless on the mud banks until the morning tide.”

A City With Every Conceivable Handicap

And then there came the icing on the cake. “Beyond all this,” MacArthur recalled, “the Navy summed up [that] the assault landings would have to be made right in the heart of the city itself, where every structure provided a potential strong point of enemy resistance. Reviewing the Navy’s presentation, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Sherman concluded by saying, ‘If every possible geographical and naval handicap were listed—Inchon has ’em all!’”

Army Chief of Staff General Joseph Collins believed that, even if the landings were a success, MacArthur would not be able to retake Seoul, and might even suffer a complete defeat at the hands of the NKPA in the embattled capital’s suburbs. The specter of an Asian Dunkirk thus loomed, with MacArthur in no doubt that he must first defend Japan, and only then Korea.

And what about the Japanese Home Islands? Might they not be attacked by their traditional enemy, the Russian bear, while MacArthur was tied down in Korea? And what, too, of the Red Chinese? Might they not also sweep down from the north and crush the X Corps like a paper cup and then go on to do the same to the 8th Army in the Pusan Perimeter? The risks that MacArthur was running were enormous.

The Impossible Serves To Surprise

Now it was MacArthur’s turn to answer his critics at the Dai Ichi military summit conference. “The bulk of the Reds,” he recalled saying, “are committed around Walker’s defense perimeter. The enemy, I am convinced, has failed to prepare Inchon properly for defense. The very arguments you have made as to the impracticabilities involved will tend to ensure for me the element of surprise, for the enemy commander will reason that no one would be so brash as to make such an attempt.

“Surprise is the most vital element for success in war. As an example, the Marquis de Montcalm believed in 1759 that it was impossible for an armed force to scale the precipitous river banks south of the then walled city of Quebec, and therefore concentrated his formidable defenses along the more vulnerable banks north of the city. But Gen. James Wolfe and a small force did, indeed, come up the St. Lawrence River and scale those heights.

“On the Plains of Abraham, Wolfe won a stunning victory that was made possible almost entirely by surprise. Thus, he captured Quebec and in effect ended the French and Indian War. Like Montcalm, the North Koreans would regard an Inchon landing as impossible. Like Wolfe, I could take them by surprise.”

MacArthur Makes a Convincing Case

Turning to the assembled sailors, he intoned, “The Navy’s objections as to tides, hydrography, terrain and physical handicaps are indeed substantial and pertinent, but they are not insuperable. My confidence in the Navy is complete, and in fact I seem to have more confidence in the Navy than the Navy has in itself! The Navy’s rich experience in staging the numerous amphibious landings under my command in the Pacific during the late war, frequently under somewhat similar difficulties, leaves me with little doubt on that score.”

Gen. Collins had proposed another landing at the west coast port of Kunsan instead, thus canceling MacArthur’s prized Inchon plan, but the latter was having none of it: “It would be largely ineffective and indecisive … an attempted envelopment that would not envelop. It would not sever or destroy the enemy’s supply lines or distribution center.… Better no flank movement than one such as this!”

After his conclusion, Admiral Sherman rose and said, “Thank you. A great voice in a great cause.” As for the dangers of going up Flying Fish Channel, Admiral Sherman snorted, “I wouldn’t hesitate to take a ship up there!” leading MacArthur to exclaim, “Spoken like a Farragut!”

A 45,000-To-One Shot

When MacArthur had earlier stated, “If we find we can’t make it, we will withdraw,” Admiral James T. Doyle retorted, “No, General, we don’t know how to do that. Once we start ashore, we’ll keep going.” Later, Admiral Doyle would recall the overall scene thus: “If MacArthur had gone on the stage, you never would have heard of John Barrymore!”

In his final remarks, MacArthur was even more firm: “We must strike hard and deep! For a five-dollar ante, I have an opportunity to win $50,000, and that is what I am going to do.” Indeed, almost no one except those on MacArthur’s immediate staff liked or backed the plan. General Ridgeway called it a 45,000-to-one shot.

Only three dates were possible for the attempted landing because of the moon: September 15, October 11, and November 3; characteristically, MacArthur chose the first, even though when President Truman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved Operation Chromite, there were only a mere 17 days to D-Day. Yet another problem was security—or the total lack of it—as South Korean President Syngman Rhee, General Walker, the American news media (which kept silent at MacArthur’s request), and even Red spies in Japan all knew of it and, later, an NKPA officer correctly predicted the landing in an official dispatch that was found after the battle.

Troops Are Called In To Mount Up

Like Tsarist Marshal Mikhail Kutusov in Russia against the Napoleonic invasion of 1812, MacArthur’s basic strategy in these weeks was to buy time with space (the shrinking Pusan Perimenter) so as to build up his independent strike force and then smash the enemy in the rear at the time and place of his choosing, just as he had against the then-victorious Japanese Army in New Guinea in 1942.

To facilitate this, there was an unheard-of mobilization of troops and ships within Japan and the “mounting up” of Marines from all over the world, including American embassies, the U.S. Navy fleet in the Mediterranean, and the Marine Corps Reserve called up by the President to flesh out the needed muscle of MacArthur’s invasion armada. In the meantime, the beleaguered troops within the Pusan Perimeter kept buying the time needed in order for Chromite’s blow to assemble itself.

Chromite’s keys were simple: Land and secure the initial beachhead on the morning tide, land again in the evening with army troops and then, with the Marines, wage the land battle to defeat the surprised NKPA, cross the Han River, take Kimpo Airfield and then Seoul. After that, Walker would break out of the perimeter, link up with X Corps and drive the NKPA back to their frontier—and later beyond it.

An Unparalleled Leap In Mobilization

The Marine “mounting out” or build-up from scratch, especially, was impressive, with the lst Marine Division rising in strength from 7,789 men in June when the North Korean invasion commenced, to 26,000 men by D-Day, Sept. 15, an unparalleled leap in mobilization, to use the term used by Lt. Gen. Lem Shepherd.

Marine Reserves flooded in from posts around the world and homes across the country. During four frantic days, August l to 5, nine thousand officers and men reported for duty. Lamented a Pentagon planner, “The only thing left between us and an emergency in Europe are the School Troops at Quantico [Virginia].”

North Koreans Begin to Fortify

The NKPA, too, were strengthening their forces and positions, however, particularly on Wolmi-Do Island astride Flying Fish Channel, the literal key to the overall success of Operation Chromite. Notes Robert Leckie, “Little Wolmi-Do guarded all the approaches to the inner harbor. It was well fortified. More, Wolmi rose 351 feet above water and was the highest point of land in the Inchon area. Its guns could strike at Marines attempting to storm the port’s seawalls to the north and south. Wolmi would have to be captured to secure the flanks of both landings, but before it could, Wolmi would have to be subjected to several days of bombardment by air and sea, and this, of course, would forfeit that advantage of surprise so necessary to MacArthur’s plan,” thus making the island fortress seemingly the very nemesis at the heart of Chromite’s hoped-for success.

As what was now being called “Operation Common Knowledge” proceeded, the later problem of the port of Inchon itself came into sharper focus as well. The Marines were concerned that they would be landing under fire directly into a city of 250,000 people where warehouses and buildings were fortified. In addition, once the port was taken, the Marines would have to regroup and prepare for the expected NKPA counterattack that might well drive them back into the water with heavy losses, much as had happened during the Canadian raid on Dieppe in Nazi-occupied France in 1942.

The Top Priority: Retaking Seoul

Surviving this, they would have to cross the wide and swift Han River before they could reach Seoul, the coveted prize. Not only the South Korean capital, Seoul was also the linchpin of the country’s telephone, telegraph, rail-way, and highway networks.

And what of the defenders? In Seoul there was the 10,000-man 18th Rifle Division, reinforced by the Seoul City Regiment, an infantry unit 3,600 strong. There was also the hated 36th Battalion, 111th Security Regiment, plus an antiaircraft defense force unit armed with Russian 85mm guns, 37mm automatic cannon, and 12.7mm machine guns, and air force personnel numbering in the thousands.

At Inchon was a garrison of two thousand new conscripts and two harbor defense batteries of four 76mm guns, each manned by two hundred gunners. In addition, Russian land mines were being laid, trenches and emplacements dug, and weapons and ammunition arriving. There were plans to mine the harbor, but the work had not begun.

Espionage Helped Provide a Guiding Light

Kimpo Airfield, too, was an extremely worthwhile military objective. Located to the north of the Inchon-Seoul axis, it lay a mile inland along the left bank of the Han River, downstream—or northwest—of Seoul. It was the best airfield in Korea, serving the two million inhabitants of Seoul as well as the port of Inchon.

Espionage played a significant part in the planning stages from the Navy side. Recalled Ridgway, “The first step in Operation Chromite was to scout the harbor islands which commanded the straitened Channel. A young Navy lieutenant, Eugene Clark, was put ashore near Inchon on Sept. lst and worked two weeks, largely under cover of darkness, to locate gun emplacements and to measure the height of the seawall. So successful were his efforts that he actually turned on a light in a lighthouse to guide the first assault ships into Inchon harbor before dawn on Sept. 15th.”

Even MacArthur saw the light on the way in to shore on the morning of the 15th: “I noticed a flash—a light that winked on and off across the water. The channel navigation lights were on. We were taking the enemy by surprise. The lights were not even turned off.” (Apparently, he never learned of Lieutenant Clark’s daring mission.) “I went to my cabin and turned in,” he concluded.

Weather Takes A Turn For Worse

“All I fear is nature,” asserted Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Inchon invasion, too, was threatened by the sea and wind in the form of Typhoon Kezia, a 125-mile-an-hour storm that seemed destined to arrive precisely on time with Chromite’s Joint Task Force 7 invasion fleet in the Korean Strait. Naval planners nervously recalled the disastrous storm that had occurred during the invasion of Okinawa in the spring of 1945, and wondered if history might be repeating itself. MacArthur boarded his flagship the Mt. McKinley on the 12th. The vessel and its mates at sea were buffeted by howling winds and high seas when the storm suddenly veered north from the east coast of Japan on the 13th. But the worst of the terrible storm narrowly missed the invasion fleet.

As the countdown for Chromite approached, two diversionary bombardments took place by air to the south at Kunsan and to the north at Chinammpo, with the battleship USS Missouri blasting Samchok on the east coast right across from the real target, Inchon. Next came Wolmi-Do; beginning on Sept. 10 Marine Corsairs set most of its buildings afire.

Enemy Gets Ample Warning Of Invasion

By the 13th, the cat seemed to be out of the bag in the enemy camp: an intercepted Communist dispatch to Pyongyang read: “Ten enemy vessels are approaching Inchon. Many aircraft are bombing Wolmi-Do. There is every indication the enemy will perform a landing. All units under my command are directed to be ready for combat; all units will be stationed in their given positions so that they may throw back enemy forces when they attempt their landing operation.”

At last, 71,339 officers and men of the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, Army, and ROK Marines were ready in their 47 landing craft to prove MacArthur either a seer or a reckless gambler who had bet on the wrong horse. According to one source, “Precisely at 0630, the U.S. Marines swept in from the Yellow Sea to face 40,000 North Korean troops.”

What would be the outcome—tremendous victory or ignominious defeat? In the event, the Battle of Inchon is most notable for two things: What didn’t happen that very well might have, and for the “about as planned” outcome that Douglas MacArthur had envisioned on that hill in South Korea just a short time before.

Did MacArthur Call It Right?

The initial landing force of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, lst Marine Divsion clambered ashore from their landing craft and scaled the sea wall, securing Wolmi-Do Island in a mere—and historic—45 minutes. Stated Ridgway, “The action opened at dawn with a heavy bombardment by American destroyers, whose skippers gallantly steamed up the channel under the very muzzles of enemy cannons, and by British and American cruisers. The first task was to neutralize Wolmi-Do, the little island that sat right athwart the channel, with all channel traffic within point-blank range of its guns.

“The island, however, was not nearly so strongly fortified as had been feared [MacArthur had been right in this assessment] and its guns were quickly silenced by the naval bombardment. Marine Corsair planes strafed the island beaches … and the Marines stormed ashore, scattering the dazed defenders.… Artillery was positioned on the island then to support the assault upon the seawall.”

Continues Ridgway: “In places, the Marines used ladders to scale the wall, which stood four feet above the prows of the Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs). Elsewhere the LSTs simply rammed holes in the wall, or Marines opened holes with dynamite, through which the assault troops poured.… By dark the advance elements … were securely dug in on their beachhead ready to repel counterattacks,” which never came, so complete and total was the surprise victory.

A Smug General Rolls Back Over To Sleep

And what of the man whose military genius had foreseen all this from the start? Aboard the Mt. McKinley, two NKPA MiG fighters were seen at 5:40 am beginning an attack on a cruiser to the front, leading General Courtney Whitney to alert MacArthur in his cabin of the danger. MacArthur simply said. “Wake me up again, Court, if they attack this ship,” rolled over and went to sleep.

After the bombardment began, he went to breakfast and then up on deck, commenting above the roar of the guns, “Just like Lingayen Gulf,” meaning his invasion of the Philippines in 1945. Later, Marine General Shepherd would recall, “His staff was grouped around him. He was seated in the admiral’s chair with his old Bataan cap with its tarnished gold braid [that Truman would mock a month to the day later] and a leather jacket on. Photographers were busily engaged in taking pictures of the General, while he continued to watch the naval gunfire—paying no attention to his admirers.”

“More People Than That Get Killed In Traffic Every Day!”

As the Marines had stormed ashore, elderly Korean civilians had gathered to watch them in awe, admiration, and relief at being liberated from their northern oppressors. The NKPAs also admired the Leathernecks, calling them “yellow legs” because of their distinctive leggings. Indeed, President Truman’s personal observer throughout the battle, National Guard Maj. Gen. Frank E. Lowe, also admired the men his boss had derisively called “The Navy’s police force,” leading the amphibious commander General Oliver P. Smith later to write, “As to personal danger, his claim was that the safest place in Korea was with a platoon of Marines.”

Back on the Mt. McKinley, MacArthur was told that there were 45 enemy POWs on Wolmi-Do, with U.S. losses being put at about six dead and 15-20 wounded, leading him to comment, “More people than that get killed in traffic every day!”

The landings were divided into a trio of Beaches: Green to take Wolmi-Do, and Red and Blue to seize Inchon proper, with the former to the north of the causeway linking Wolmi-Do to the port and the latter to the south of it.

Taking Of Red Beach a Sight To Behold

The main battle assault was at Red Beach. In the words of one Marine company commander, Captain Frank I. Fenton, “It really looked dangerous.… There was a finger pier and causeway that extended out from Red Beach which reminded us of Tarawa, and, if machineguns were on the finger pier and causeway, we were going to have a tough time making the last 200 yards to the beach.”

At 5:24 pm the Marines went in, and Herald-Tribune reporter Marguerite Higgins described the scene: “A rocket hit a round oil tower and big, ugly smoke rings billowed up. The dockside buildings were brilliant with flames. Through the haze it looked as if the whole city was burning.… The strange sunset, combined with the crimson haze of the flaming docks, was so spectacular that a movie audience would have considered it overdone.” Cemetery Hill was taken, and Miss Higgins came in with the fifth wave onto Red Beach.

“We were relentlessly pinned down by rifle and automatic weapon fire coming down on us from another rise on the right [Observatory Hill]. Capt. Fenton’s men took it, and the CO himself had a rather unusual experience, as related by the late Marine Col. Robert Debs Heinl, Jr, whose seminal work Victory at High Tide: The Inchon-Seoul Campaign, is without doubt the very best study in print on MacArthur’s Cannae: “Outside his command post on the hill., Capt. Fenton stood poised to relieve himself by the light of a star shell. As he did so, the hole at his feet came alive and a frightened Communist soldier, armed with burp gun and grenades, sprang out and cried for mercy. Momentarily transfixed, Fenton shouted for his runner, who disarmed the drenched captive.”

The Indomitable “Chesty” Puller

Now came the taking of Blue Beach, and the re-emergence of one of the Marine Corps’ greatest all-time combat heroes: Colonel Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, 52. “Fierce and utterly fearless,” wrote Colonel Heinl, “entitled to almost as many battle stars as the regiment he commanded. Winner of two Navy Crosses before World War II, and of two more during the war, Puller was one of the great fighting soldiers of American history. … Puller’s mission was to land south of Inchon and seize a beachhead covering the main approach to the city proper, from which the regiment could advance directly on [a fortress called] Yongdungpo and Seoul.

During one rather gloomy G-2 report, he cut his own intelligence officer short: “We’ll find out what’s on the beach when we get there. There’s not necessarily a gun in every hole! There’s too much goddamned pessimism in this regiment. Most times, professional soldiers have to wait 25 years or more for a war, but here we are, with only five years’ wait for this one.… We’re going to work at our trade for a little while. We live by the sword and, if necessary, we’re ready to die by the sword. Good luck! I’ll see you ashore.”

Notes his biographer, Burke Davis, Puller’s first wave went in at 5:30 pm. “Puller went to his objective at Blue Beach with the third wave, in a twilight hastened by the smoke pall, and climbed a 15-foot sea wall on one of the scaling ladders improvised on the ship en route. It occurred to him that the Corps had not used ladders since [the storming of] Chapultepec [in the 1848 Mexican War].

Leaflets Dropped To Discourage Enemy Into Surrender

“He sat on the wall,” wrote Davis, “briefly watching the enemy in his front.” He settled his men in for the night, and launched his renewed attack inland the next day, Sept. 16 as planned, at dawn. “By 9 a.m., Puller had driven 4,000 yards against machinegun and mortar fire.” To the north, the fighting was sharper, with a counterattack by six Russian-made tanks against which the Americans launched aircraft. But the advance inland continued, the Marines taking care that none of their dead or wounded remained on the battlefield but were carried to the rear.

MacArthur—ever the military public relations man—had devised yet another masterstroke that paid off, a leaflet dropped some two hundred miles to the southeast, on the Red troops fighting at the Pusan Perimeter.

It read: “UNITED NATIONS FORCES HAVE LANDED AT INCHON. Officers and men of North Korea, powerful UN forces have landed at Inchon and are advancing rapidly. You can see from this map how hopeless your situation has become. Your supply lines cannot reach you, nor can you withdraw to the North. The odds against you are tremendous. Fifty-three of the 59 countries in the UN are opposing you. You are outnumbered in equipment, manpower and firepower. Come over to the UN side and you will get good food and prompt medical care.”

Onto Kimpo Airfield After Inchon Falls

With nine American tanks on Wolmi-Do, three with flame-throwers, three with bulldozer blades, success was in the air. MacArthur took great satisfaction when he saw the Stars and Stripes flying overhead. Six NKPAs forced their officer to strip naked and then surrender, others jumped into the water and tried to swim to Inchon, and yet still others fought to the death in their holes in the ground.

The overall casualties at Wolmi-Do were 20 Marines wounded, with about 120 North Koreans killed and another 180 captured. MacArthur’s great gamble was looking good. After the fall of Inchon came that of Kimpo Airfield on the 17th—D-Day plus two. Two hundred NKPAs with five tanks were wiped out by the Marines in a battle six miles southeast of Inchon.

“Attack, push and pursue without cease,” had asserted French Marshal Maurice de Saxe, and now his 20th-century counterpart—MacArthur—came ashore to do precisely that, landing on the 17th and setting out in a jeep convoy to find the hero of the hour, Chesty Puller. But the tough Marine sent back the message: “If he wants to see me, have him come up in the front lines. I’ll be waiting for him.” MacArthur did so, and awarded Puller the Silver Star on the spot. Puller said, “Thanks very much for the Star, General. Now, if you want to know where those sons of bitches are, they’re right over the next ridge!”

Propaganda From Moscow Paints A Different Picture Of Invasion

The Marines had first fought in Korea in 1871, and first taken Seoul in 1894. Now—after taking fortress Yongdungpo and crossing the Han River, they took it a second time, on Sept. 26, but it wasn’t completely cleared of enemy resistance, after tough street-by-street, house-to-house fighting, until the 28th.

Indeed, the Soviet newspaper Pravda likened the battle for Seoul to the epic struggle at Stalingrad against the Germans in 1942-43: “Cement, streetcar rails, beams and stones are being used to build barricades in the streets, and workers are joining soldiers in the defense. The situation is very serious. Pillboxes and tank points dot the scene. Every home must be defended as a fortress. There is firing from behind every stone.

“When a soldier is killed, his gun continues to fire. It is picked up by a worker, tradesman or office worker. … Gen. MacArthur landed the most arrant criminals at Inchon, gathered from the ends of the earth. He sends British and New Zealand adventure-seekers ahead of his own executioners, letting them drag Yankee chestnuts from the fire. American bandits are shooting every Seoul inhabitant taken prisoner.”

A Huge Number Of North Koreans Taken Prisoner

That was on the 23rd. The day before, the NKPA troops had begun surrendering, as Colonel Heinl points out: “They started coming in in numbers, all carrying their burp guns. We stripped every one as he came in—pretty hard trying to get trousers off over leggings … (which the North Koreans, like their Marine captors, also wore). Indeed, in the two weeks after Inchon, MacArthur’s forces captured a stunning 130,000 North Koreans, just as predicted.

States Leckie, “By mid-September, the 70,000 combat troops opposing Gen. Walker’s combat force of 140,000 men [in the Pusan Perimeter] were served by perhaps 50% of the tanks and heavy weapons they needed. MacArthur’s estimate of what happened to an army at the end of a long supply line was proven correct, and his faith in what happened to it when it was put to rout was borne out with grim exactitude during the last 10 days of September.

All Escape Routes In United Nations’ Hands

“By the end of the month, the North Korean Army was shattered and fleeing north with little semblance of order. Some of the enemy’s 13 divisions simply disappeared. Their men were spread all over the South Korean countryside in disorganized and demoralized small parties. All of the escape routes were in United Nations hands, the sea was hostile to them and the sky roared with the motors of planes that spat death at them or showered them with firebombs.

“The roads, rice paddies and ditches of South Korea became littered with abandoned enemy tanks, guns and vehicles. Wholesale surrenders became commonplace.”

It was at this point and this juncture only—in the heady, warm glow of total victory by UN arms—that arose the idea of the unification of the two Koreas by force, especially espoused by President Rhee, who crowed, on Sept. 30, “What is the 38th Parallel?… It is non-existent. I am going all the way to the Yalu, and the United Nations can’t stop me.”

The Extent Of North Korean Atrocities Become Apparent

On Sept. 29, MacArthur and President Rhee wept together over the liberation of Seoul, as the General and the assemblage recited The Lord’s Prayer in gratitude for the UN victory, and the President blurted out through his tears, “We admire you. We love you as the savior of our race!” He would be overthrown in 1960.

The South Korean people had welcomed the incoming Marines with open arms, and had even brought out their small cooking stoves so that their liberators could warm their cold rations before eating. It soon became apparent why, as Communist atrocities began surfacing. Murdered American POWs also cropped up in ever-increasing incidents as UN forces advanced north into enemy territory.

The reckoning of the battle was also accomplished on Sept. 30, as—in the words of Colonel Heinl—“The X Corps War Diary rounded out the number of enemy killed at 14,000, his prisoners in hand, 7,000. These figures are about as correct as any that will ever be arrived at. Some 50 Russian tanks were destroyed, 47 by Marine ground or air. … The Marine division alone destroyed or took 23 120mm mortars, two 76mm self-propelled guns, eight 76mm guns, 19 45mm antitank guns, 59 14.5mm antitank rifles, 56 heavy machineguns, and 7,543 rifles.”

"The Trinity Of Victory”

General MacArthur was not solely responsible for the great deed done in the campaign, Colonel Heinl concluded. He must be given credit for what Heinl calls “a masterpiece,” but he was responsible for the conception of Operation Chromite, not its command execution. For that the laurels must properly go to “the trinity of victory:” Admiral Struble, the overall commander of all forces afloat; Rear Admiral Doyle, the amphibious force commander; and General Oliver P. Smith, the landing force CO.

“Every great campaign spawns its statistics,” lamented Heinl. “To defeat the 30-40,000 defenders which the [NKPA] threw piecemeal against X Corps, 71,339 soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, and ROK troops landed at Inchon and bore their part in the battle. The cost of this victory to the United States was 536 killed in action or died of wounds, 2,550 wounded, and 65 missing in action. Among the Services, Marines, on the ground and in the air, paid the highest price.”

Adds Ridgway: “The measure of the role the ground forces played in Korea may be judged from the fact that, of the total U.S. battle casualties for the entire conflict, the Army and Marines accounted for 97%.… [But it] certainly may be said that the gallant airmen and sailors who contributed so much to the effort are nowhere more highly honored than in the hearts of the doughboys and Marines who fought the ground battles.”

Reassertion That America Was a Maritime Power

Overall, Heinl asserts, “Inchon underscored … that America is a maritime power, that her weapon is the trident, and her strategy that of the oceans. Only through the sure and practiced exercise of sea power could this awkward war in a remote place have been turned upside down in a matter of days.”

He also makes this very astute observation: “Civil wars, Communist wars, and Asian wars are unhappily noted for their ferocity. The Korean War was all three … Not only did the NKPA cause the ruin of Seoul, but they stripped it systematically (as they did Inchon) of all usable industrial machinery and even office furniture, conducting such removals until the very last moment.”

Like Army man Ridgway, Marine Heinl notes, too, that Inchon was a joint inter-service victory, and quotes the words that are inscribed on the monument that stands today at Green Beach on Wolmi-Do and is still honored each year on Sept. 15 by the South Koreans (who “do not forget”):

Red Chinese Enter The Korean War

“The victory was not won by any one nation or any one branch of the military service. … The Inchon-Seoul operation was conducted jointly by the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.” The ROK forces, this writer feels, should be added to the inscription.

The victory had long-term effects that are still felt today, Heinl felt: “It revindicated amphibious assault (and, more fundamentally, maritime strategy) as a modern technique of war. In so doing, it almost unquestionably averted the abolition of the U.S. Marine Corps and naval aviation.”

The war went on, even though many thought it was won (on Oct. 30, 1950, one U.S. newspaper prematurely avowed that “Hard-Hitting UN Forces Wind Up War”). Less than a month later, Red Chinese Marshal Lin Piao launched his massive attack across the Yalu River from Manchuria into North Korea. “Two Chinese Army Groups—the Fourth, operating against Walker, the Third, against Almond [commanding the X Corps]—attacked with overwhelming force,” wrote MacArthur. “It was an entirely new war.”

Still, that was in the future, and even in the light of subsequent events, nothing can be taken from the bold stroke that both the enemy believed impossible of attempt and completely fulfilled its goal and prediction of cutting enemy supplies and reinforcements while at the same time putting him in a vise between two fighting forces.

Inchon Invasion Receives Wide Praise

General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower termed the victory “a brilliant example of strategic leadership,” while General Carl A. “Tooey” Spaatz called it “one of the most, if not the most, significant military operations in history.”

It was left to U.S. Navy Admiral “Bull” Halsey to say of the attack: “Characteristic and magnificent. The Inchon landing is the most masterly and audacious strategic stroke in all history.” In 1964, author David Rees in his work Korea: The Limited War, termed Inchon “A 20th Century Cannae, ever to be studied.”

And yet back in those bleak and desolate days of the summer of 1951, MacArthur himself was the first to realize that, in German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s words, “If I fail… everybody will be after my blood.” On the very eve of the landings he noted, “I alone was responsible for tomorrow, and if I failed, the dreadful results would rest on Judgment Day against my soul.”

Originally Published October 3, 2018.

This article originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue Is Consolidating Its Power Against China

The National Interest - Mon, 05/07/2021 - 00:31

Robert A. Manning, James Przystup

geopolitics, Asia

The Quad is positioned to be an informal but resilient mechanism, a force multiplier, to address regional security and political issues, though necessarily still improvisational.

Is Asian multilateralism being stealthily redefined? The Biden administration has placed the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (known as the Quad), a revitalized grouping of the United States, Japan, Australia, and India at the center of its Indo-Pacific strategy.

This represents a potential paradigm shift, from ceremonial, process-centered multilateral institutions [e.g.; ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defense Minister’s Meeting (ADMM) and the East Asian Summit (EAS)] to a functional, results-oriented problem-solving institution, reflected in the Quad’s pragmatic humanitarian disaster relief origins. The United States has broken the eggs and is now trying to figure out how best to make an omelet.

In a region of staid, ritualized, bureaucratically inert multilateral institutions, this shift to functional collective action is transformational. It is based on a simple principle: form follows function. Who sits at the table, is based on being willing and able to bring something to the table. The Six-Party talks on North Korea and the 5+1 Iran nuclear talks were examples of this approach. Yet the Quad is a source of apprehension to other Asian partners not included, especially ASEAN and South Korea. Many are wondering, what are the pieces and how do they fit together?

To understand the logic of the Quad it is important to understand its origins. The Quad began as an ad hoc relief effort for the 2004 Tsunami in Indonesia. The four democratic maritime nations, with very capable navies, led global relief efforts. Other actors—including China (which sent a MASH medical ship)—also participated. The point here is that it was a spontaneous problem-solving effort.

Indeed, since the 1990s, in most crisis situations, from the 1998 Asian Financial crisis, through the 2004 Tsunami, 2006 East Timor independence in 2006, the 2007 avian-flu epidemic, and the 2008 Myanmar cyclone, Asia’s formal institutions have played virtually no role. Instead, it has been ad hoc regional coalitions, often U.S.-led that have stepped to mobilize collective responses. The Quad is the latest example of that legacy. To be sure, it has its limits: Neither Asia’s institutions nor ad hoc coalitions have been able to respond to the current coup and crisis in Myanmar, for example. 

Evolution of the Quad 

The success of the Quad led to an effort to revive it in 2007, but an early emphasis on joint military exercises drew protests from China, India was reluctant, and the Rudd government in Australia then pulled the plug on the Quad. In the intervening years between 2007 and the advent of the Trump administration, China’s use of economic and military coercion to change the status quo raised concerns of governments across the Indo-Pacific region. The Trump administration, seizing on the opportunity China provided, revived the Quad, raising it from working-level meetings to Foreign Minister-level talks.

The Biden administration, however, has elevated the Quad to yet a new level, holding a virtual leaders meeting that focused on responding to the coronavirus crisis. The meeting also laid a foundation for wider cooperation, with a leader’s statement that declared the support of all four parties for a “free and open Indo-Pacific region” and a “rules-based international order based in international law.” Commenting on the summit statement, which does not mention China, but which is animating the Quad, Peter Jennings, the director of Australia’s Security Policy Institute, wrote “Nice job, Beijing.” Now the Biden administration is planning to hold a live Quad Summit in Washington this fall. During the upcoming summit, the administration intends to pursue cooperation on a range of other issues including high-quality physical and digital infrastructure, supply chain security and digital/information technology issues. 

The Quad is now positioned to be an informal but resilient mechanism, a force multiplier, to address regional security and political issues, though necessarily still improvisational. But it remains unclear how the Quad relates to the region’s formal institutional architecture. It should give pause for reflection with regard to the value of other institutions and a recalibration of the role and utility of their parade of annual meetings.

There are a number of ideas for how to connect the Quad with other like-minded nations and institutions. Evan Feigenbaum has argued that the Quad should become “a group of first movers on an array of specific functional challenges.” To do this, he proposed that the Quad be the core of “a rotating set of problem-solving coalitions in the Indo-Pacific.”

Thus, based on the principle of “form follows function—the Quad, reverting to its origins, would, on an issue-by-issue basis, pull together nations of the willing and able, based on the capacity to bring something to the table. For example, on maritime problems, the Quad might invite and support maritime ASEAN states such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines to discuss a common position and/or to take a specific set of actions. Or, for example, the Quad might decide to enhance maritime domain awareness and capacity building. When it comes to supply chain security, the Quad might invite South Korea and Singapore, both major technology hubs. On that basis, it is conceivable they might invite China if there were specific issues on which China’s interests were congruent with the Quad. 

But this a la carte approach still needs to define a relationship with key existing institutions, and individual Quad members have all endorsed the concept of “ASEAN centrality,” boilerplate in every statement after regional meetings. However, as the Quad’s existence and ASEAN’s tepid and unsuccessful response to the coup in Myanmar have underscored, the meaning and functionality of its centrality is not obvious.

ASEAN has succeeded in creating a sub-regional Southeast Asian identity and political culture, but it has yet to modernize its 1967 charter. That charter calls for consensus. But as China dominates Cambodia, it effectively has a veto. If ASEAN instead adopted super-majority decisionmaking it—as a collective group with a population of 650 million and a roughly $3 trillion economy—would be able to punch more at its weight, and could as a bloc inter-act with the Quad and China. 

The Quad could serve to rationalize the alphabet soup of Asian multilateral fora. The current overlapping array of ARF, ADMM+, EAS, etc. arose at the end of the Cold War when many in Asia feared a U.S. retreat was coming. As ASEAN was unthreatening to all major powers, its call for region-wide political/security dialogues to keep all engaged was well received, and ASEAN has played a significant role in Indo-Pacific diplomatic networking. 

But over the past quarter-century, other than providing annual ‘jaw-jaw’ sessions and venues for diplomats to conduct bilateral meetings, these institutions have had little impact on Asian security. By any measure, the Indo-Pacific region is less secure, more contested and anxious than any time since these institutions were created.

The Quad appears to be in the right place at the right time, as evidenced in the results of its virtual summit in March: providing vaccines, as well as launching climate and technology working groups. Its staying power will depend on its ability to continue to address the region’s problems and mesh with other regional institutions. For example, on the persistent Chinese military activities in the disputed South China Sea over disputed islets, the Quad could work with maritime ASEAN states like Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines to reshape static efforts to create a binding code of conduct and risk-reduction measures to avoid incidental clashes that could escalate. The Quad could endorse the 2016 International Court of Justice ruling that China claims have no legal basis and/or draft risk reduction measures to apply to the Western Pacific.

The “Quad+” could then take such initiatives to the East Asian Summit for regional endorsement or perhaps assign issues to the ARF or other regional bodies to negotiate details and report back to the EAS. The EAS is inclusive, and meeting at the head-of-state level could function to ratify functional, issue-specific cooperation. There are, of course, various permutations. But the Quad is well-positioned to catalyze a more cogent and effective approach to regional cooperation and a means to counter-balance and perhaps even cooperate with China. In short, it adds a new dimension to Indo-Pacific diplomacy. 

Robert A. Manning is a senior fellow of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council and its Foresight, Strategy and Risks Initiative. He served as a senior counselor to the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs from 2001 to 2004, as a member of the US Department of State Policy Planning Staff from 2004 to 2008, and on the National Intelligence Council (NIC) Strategic Futures Group, 2008-12. Follow him on Twitter @Rmanning4 

James Przystup is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies. Previously, he has served as Deputy Director of the Presidential Commission on U.S.-Japan Relations 1993-1995, the Senior Member for Asia on the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff 1987-1991, Director of Regional Security Strategies in the Office of the Secretary of Defense 1991-1993 and Director of The Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation 1993-98. The views expressed are the authors’ own and do not reflect those of the National Defense University or the Department of Defense. 

Image: Reuters

Biden Could Be the German Election’s Biggest Loser

The National Interest - Mon, 05/07/2021 - 00:31

Stefano Graziosi, James Jay Carafano


President Joe Biden’s plan to outsource the stability of Europe to Berlin and Paris will bear close watching. Washington and Berlin may find working together far more difficult.

Angela Merkel's long chancellorship is coming to an end. In September, Germany will elect a new government and a new leader. Merkel’s legacy of balancing relations between Washington, Beijing and Moscow will be put to the test.  

There is every expectation that a coalition government will emerge, likely including the Greens. The result will be a pairing of odd bedfellows creating a regime ruled by a fragile consensus with a weird admixture of domestic and foreign priorities.  

In this scenario, President Joe Biden’s plan to outsource the stability of Europe to Berlin and Paris will bear close watching. Washington and Berlin may find working together far more difficult. It may take a great deal more work than previously imagined to keep the transatlantic community stable in the era of great-power competition. 

Even under Merkel, Berlin struggled to find a realistic policy that challenged China’s malicious intrusions into transatlantic affairs without compromising Germany’s interests. For starters, Berlin is Beijing's most important European trading partner. Merkel was the main supporter of the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment—a controversial deal opposed by the United States and many in Europe. Last month, the EU trade commissioner announced the ratification of the agreement had been put on hold after China sanctioned European ambassadors, politicians and academics in response to EU sanctions on officials in Xinjiang Province. 

Merkel was also soft on Chinese 5G technology, despite widespread security concerns flagged by the United States and others. Last December, the German government introduced a bill that required companies involved in building 5G networks to ensure that their equipment was not used for espionage and terrorism. The bill was deemed too bland by “Chinese hawks,” who instead pushed through a law giving the government the power to block “untrustworthy” 5G technology providers.  

Meanwhile, Chinese shipping giant Cosco was in talks with Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG to take over a minority share of one of the container terminals in the port of Hamburg—a move reportedly made with the approval of the German government. This has also sparked controversy.

Nevertheless, at the last G7 Summit, the chancellor continued to cautiously oppose the hard line on China, mainly advocated by the United States.  

Merkel's balancing act doesn’t stop with China. The chancellor has strongly supported the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline with Russia and shown interest in partnering on the production of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. She also recently called for a “direct contact” between the European Union and Russia, a move rebuffed by several European nations.  

Even within her party, there is dissent. That was clear during the competition for the election of the new party leader. Former MEP Friedrich Merz, a staunch supporter of NATO, called for strengthening transatlantic relations and adopting a tougher approach towards Beijing. He garnered the most votes in the first round of a three-way race for party chairman, only to lose narrowly in the second ballot.

Armin Laschet, the eventual winner of the party contest and the front runner to become the next chancellor, looks to try to follow Merkel’s lead. “I support the government's China strategy,” he recently told the Financial Times. “We must talk about our concerns (on human rights) but there is no need to turn our China policy on its head.” He also told a conference organized, by the Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie, he wanted a softer approach towards Russia.  

Meanwhile, the Social Democratic Party is also soft on China. Its candidate for the chancellorship, Olaf Scholz, is the current vice chancellor and finance minister. He favors cooperation with Beijing in the digital economy sector. Another important member of the Social Democratic Party, the current Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, recently said “In the EU, we have been describing China as a partner, competitor and systemic rival at the same time” he said. “In all these three dimensions,” he added, “we need strong, sustainable communication channels with Beijing. De-coupling is the wrong way to go.”

Some opposition parties, however, take a different view. Currently running second in the polls, the Greens candidate for chancellor—Annalena Baerbock—has called for more pressure on Russia and opposed the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. She is also a harsh critic of Beijing. Tough positions towards Beijing are also held by the Free Democratic Party. 

The geopolitical implications of the upcoming federal elections, therefore, remain uncertain at the moment. The two most likely scenarios are: either a grand coalition made up of CDU, Greens and Social Democratic Party or a grand coalition made up of CDU, Greens and Free Democratic Party. The second scenario might well drive changes to German foreign policy, especially in regard to China and Russia—producing a weird admixture of alignment and discord with the U.S. 

Both governments will likely align on one issue, getting the United States back in the Iran Deal. This is one point of common ground that is not likely to help either government. Behind the scenes, many admit the Iran Deal is bound to fail to restrain Iran in the end. The hope is it will give allies time to develop alternatives and proceed with a unity of effort. That seems just wishful thinking. In the end, the transatlantic community will likely be as bedeviled by Tehran as Beijing and Moscow.

The reality is, in addition to not solving their Iran problem, the United States will be frustrated in outsourcing transatlantic solidarity to what will be, at best, ambivalent German leadership. Washington won’t see Western allies stem Beijing's influence and fight to hold Moscow accountable.

Looking ahead, Washington cannot rely on Berlin for much. As a result, rather than disengaging from Europeans, the Biden administration will find itself spending more time across the Atlantic or risk losing ground to Beijing, Moscow and Tehran at the same time.  

Stefano Graziosi is an essayist and a political analyst who writes for the Italian newspaper La Verità and the weekly magazine Panorama.Heritage Foundation Vice President, James Jay Carafano directs the think tank’s research in matters of national security and foreign relations. 

Image: Reuters

Central to Europe: The Advance of the Visegrád Four

The National Interest - Mon, 05/07/2021 - 00:31

Kevin J. McNamara

economy, Europe

Pre-pandemic economic and social progress looked very good for Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, and troubling for Germany and France. If these trends resume—and there is no reason to think they won’t—the East will soon outshine the West.

AS EUROPE emerges from the depths of quarantine and recession, its geopolitical landscape will reveal a significant change, the result of trends that emerged before 2020. Since these trends disturb a status quo that sustains illusory feelings of confidence and superiority among elites in Western Europe, it can only slowly, and barely, be acknowledged.

Before the pandemic, many saw the East-West divide of the European Union (EU) as a “Rich Man-Poor Man” rift between a prosperous, modern, worldly Western Europe, on one hand, and a poor, backward, isolated Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), on the other. Western leaders easily took a skeptical and condescending tone toward the EU’s eastern members, in large part due to the lingering perception of these states as the misfortunate orphans of Nazi and Soviet rule. To say nothing of the low opinion of Central and Eastern Europe in popular culture; in Paris and Berlin, Central Europe is viewed as a regional backwater—Europe’s version of West Virginia.

Indeed, right up until the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe liberated themselves from the USSR and the Warsaw Pact, they were routinely ignored, misunderstood, or ritually described as “backward.” One of the most popular English-language books about Europe, The Europeans, by Luigi Barzini, focuses on Belgium, France, Great Britain, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the former West Germany—and, weirdly, even the United States—but not a single country in Central or Eastern Europe. And neither the European Union nor its predecessor, the European Economic Community, ever called themselves West European, even though until 2004 all of their members were located in Western Europe. In Brussels, “Europe” usually means Western Europe.

Yet some CEE countries are, in terms of national progress, becoming the equals of, and even superior to, France and Germany—two EU founders and its two largest, wealthiest members. Recent statistical measures of economic growth, employment, income, prosperity, strong currencies, life expectancy, tax and debt burdens, global engagement, Chinese economic penetration, innovation, entrepreneurship, manufacturing, immigration, crime, and terrorism all show that four ex-Soviet satellites on the EU’s eastern frontier—the Visegrád Group or V4—demonstrate better performance than France or Germany in almost every benchmark metric.

And why is this important? Because the better-performing CEE countries are undermining the reputations, governance models, and leadership of Berlin and Paris, and evident, systemic failings by the EU’s Western European capitals can only sustain the populist, or “illiberal,” politics of Central Europe and Eastern Europe. West European elites are understandably not anxious to confront their widespread, persistent policy failures, so they remain little-known. But the long-established reputations of Paris and Berlin are being undermined by reams of data. Western Europe still sports larger economies, higher incomes, and longer life expectancies, but these represent a fading legacy of decades of prosperity and peace that was denied to the EU’s eastern members. The indicators in which some CEE states still lag, like corruption or pollution, are similarly an inheritance of ex-communist rule. Pre-pandemic economic and social progress looked very good for Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, and troubling for Germany and France. If these trends resume—and there is no reason to think they won’t—the East will soon outshine the West.

THE ECONOMIES and finances of the V4, for example, are far healthier across many sectors than France and Germany. Pre-pandemic data indicated that the four Central European countries were rapidly gaining on the economic prosperity and financial stability of Europe’s two largest powers. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the Visegrád Four long enjoyed significantly higher levels of economic growth and employment than Paris or Berlin. The gross domestic product (GDP) of the V4 grew an average of 4.3 percent in 2018, compared to 1.6 for France and Germany. In both Hungary and Poland, the growth of GDP was 5.1 percent, more than three times the average rate for France and Germany. The worst growth rate among the V4—Czechia’s 3.0 percent—was still double Germany’s growth rate. Given Germany’s stellar reputation as Europe’s economic powerhouse, this is significant. Yet inflation remained mild across all four Visegrád countries, ranging from 1.7 percent in Poland to 2.9 percent in Hungary.

Slower growth was forecast for France and Germany in 2020, even before the coronavirus pandemic, with the International Monetary Fund predicting 1.1 percent growth for Germany and 1.3 percent for France. Somewhat slower growth was also forecast for the V4 countries—from 3.3 percent for Hungary to 2.6 percent for Czechia—but again, the worst-performing V4 country was still going to enjoy a rate of growth expected to be double that of France and even better than Germany’s. And some analysts saw this trend continuing for at least another decade. A recent HSBC Global Research report, The World in 2030, anticipated the V4 countries would continue vigorous GDP growth rates of 3.4—3.6 percent to the year 2030, when it forecast a 0.9 percent growth rate for Germany and a 1.1 percent rate for France.

The economies of the V4 are more vigorous in many other respects. Commercial real estate investment in the V4, for example, was still skyrocketing in the first quarter of 2020, when more than €3.78 billion was invested in the four countries, plus Romania. This was an increase of 79 percent over Q1 2019 for these countries. By contrast, Germany’s growth in real estate investment was 35 percent, France’s was 21 percent, and the average for Western Europe was 51 percent. And speaking of real estate, Warsaw will soon host the tallest building in the entire European Union, Varso Tower, in a project led by a Slovak developer, HB Reavis.

Given this, it is unsurprising that the V4 nations also enjoyed higher levels of employment than Germany and France, both on average and in most one-to-one comparisons. Average unemployment in the Visegrád countries in 2018 was 4.1 percent, while it averaged 6.3 percent in France and Germany. The latter’s poor showing was due almost entirely to France, whose steep 9.1 percent rate would be associated in the United States with a serious recession. Yet Czechia enjoyed a lower rate (2.3 percent) than even Germany (3.4 percent). Hungary’s rate of 3.7 percent was only slightly higher than Germany’s, and every V4 country had much less unemployment than France.

Skeptics of high GDP growth in the V4 countries, of course, can point to their EU subsidies. Indeed, Slovakia received €11.3 billion in EU funds in the most recent seven-year budget cycle (2007–15) and is set to receive €13.8 billion in the current (2014–20) cycle. Czechia received €23.3 billion in the previous cycle and is budgeted for €21.6 billion in the new cycle; Hungry got €27.7 billion previously and is in line for €21.5 billion; and Poland got €61.6 billion before and is getting €76.9 billion now.

Yet there are serious flaws in this approach. Despite the fact that Germany is the largest net contributor of EU funds, its economy has benefited the most under the euro, gaining €1.9 trillion from 1999 and 2007, or about €23,000 per German. Berlin’s economy benefits from the EU’s eurozone in many ways, according to Bertelsmann Stiftung, a respected German think-tank. Without the euro, Germany’s GDP would be about 0.5 percentage points lower, taking it down to 1 percent in 2018 (see GDP figures above). By 2025, the benefits could amount to €170 billion more for Germany. The higher German GDP also accounts for about 0.5 percent less unemployment.

In fact, the GDP of almost every EU member is higher as a result of the integration of Europe’s economies, according to a study by the American Chamber of Commerce of the EU, and France and Germany enjoy an even higher percentage increase in annual GDP than do the V4 countries. According to the report, Germany gained a 1.55 percent increase in GDP per capita, and France gained 1.14 percent, while the gains for the V4 ranged from 0.79 percent for Czechia to 0.49 percent for Poland. 

Even if EU subsidies account for some portion of the GDP in the V4 countries, the issue of dramatically lower rates of GDP growth in France or Germany hang over the issue and beg a question—is it smart for Paris and Berlin to “impoverish” themselves by allotting billions of euros to other countries while their own economies sputter?

AS A result of stronger economic growth and lower unemployment, Central European incomes were growing dramatically and gaining on incomes in France and Germany, both of whose national incomes have stagnated for decades. Starting out in poverty and isolation under communist rule in 1989–91, average national income in Slovakia rose from 50 percent of Europe’s average in 2000 to 75 percent by 2017—a 50 percent increase. Incomes rose in Hungary from 53 to 65 percent of Europe’s average, from 53-70 percent among Poles, and from 62–76 percent among Czechs. 

France and Germany, meanwhile, have long been accustomed to stagnating—even declining—national incomes as far back as 1980. In France, national income was 117 percent of the European average in 1980 but fell to 110 percent by 2017. In Germany, income was 126 percent of the average in 1980 and 123 percent in 2017. At this rate, V4 national incomes will match the European average in two decades.

EVEN MORE remarkable is the failure of the euro, one of the central “achievements” of the EU, championed by Germany and France. Twenty years after its introduction, according to the Centre for European Policy (CEP), a German think-tank, most countries that adopted the euro have experienced a drop in prosperity. While the economies of Germany and Denmark have gained by adopting the euro, five of the eight countries CEP studied—Spain, Belgium, Portugal, France, and Italy—all suffered negative impacts, ranging from about €5,000 to almost €74,000 per person. Italy’s losses totaled €4.325 billion, and France’s were €3.591 billion from 1999 to 2007. Greece experienced a modest gain in this period, but all of it before the crash of 2008–09; in every year since, Greece has suffered increasing drops in per-capita GDP. 

While the CEP study has its skeptics, a recent report on the twentieth anniversary of the euro from the European Parliament acknowledged,

While the euro may have contributed to some efficiency gains, it seems to have done little to facilitate intra-euro-area trade … and the process of greater financial integration has thus far provided to be a destabilizing factor for the euro area rather than a force for sustainable growth.

This currency—lacking a common state, budget, or finance ministry—will always remain hostage to its weakest members, which makes the euro very weak indeed. This is why Czechia, Hungary, and Poland have thus far avoided the eurozone.

AVERAGE LIFE expectancy across Western, Central, and Eastern Europe is 78.3 years, as measured by the United Nations for the years 2015–2020, and it is 82.5 years in France and 81.1 years in Germany. Despite living very impoverished lives as recently as 1991, however, life expectancy in the V4 countries has been advancing rapidly, pegged now at 79.2 years in Czechia (an increase of 6.7 years since the period 1990–1995), 76.6 years in Hungary (an increase of 7.2 years), 78.5 years in Poland (7.3 more years), and 77.3 years in Slovakia (up by 5.7 years). During this same period, the average increase in life expectancy was only 5.1 years in both France and Germany.

This is supported by health and welfare metrics moving in unexpected directions. Such metrics still show mixed results in comparisons between France and Germany, on one hand, and the V4 countries, but it remains surprising, for example, that the 2019 Bloomberg Global Health Index scores show Germany dropping seven places, from the sixteenth to the twenty-third healthiest country, while Hungary moved up four places and Czechia and Slovakia each moved up one place, albeit with overall lagging health scores.

IN THE Visegrád countries, the tax burden on both individuals and families is lighter, reflecting an average of 4.6 percent of GDP in these four countries, whereas it doubles to an average of 9.7 percent of GDP on the French and Germans. Total national taxes are also higher in France and Germany, which collect taxes amounting to an average 45 percent of GDP, while in the V4 countries that average is 36 percent.  

Despite lower taxes, government debt is also lower in Central Europe, with total public debt in the V4 countries averaging 50.3 percent of GDP in 2018, according to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics office. Paris and Berlin do much worse on debt, and in ways that undermine the stability of the euro. National debt rose to 60.9 percent in Germany and a whopping 98.4 percent in France. This is not only a policy failure and a sign of weak leadership, but it shows how Berlin and Paris break EU rules rather than lead by example—yet without any criticism that they undermine the “rule of law,” so often invoked by critics of the EU’s easterly members.

The Maastricht Treaty governing the EU prohibits its members from incurring debt in excess of 60 percent of GDP, a rule long violated by France and Germany. Indeed, public debt has been growing among most eurozone members since the financial crisis of 2008, and France ranks among seven nations with the highest government debt ratios. Hungary, meanwhile, is the only V4 country whose 2018 debt likewise exceeded the EU’s threshold; Prague, Warsaw, and Bratislava all obeyed the rule.

Stronger economies and fiscally conservative governments made Central and East European countries better prepared than West European countries to weather the covid-19 pandemic and recession, according to financial analysts. In the V4, a report in Euromoney said

Government debt-to-GDP levels across the region have declined substantially over the last decade on the back of strong economic growth, falling borrowing costs, and prudent budget management. This means most [V4] countries have room for fiscal stimulus to mitigate the impact of coronavirus.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development forecasted a GDP contraction of 4.3 percent for the eight Central European countries it monitors but said the region will “bounce back strongly in 2021.” By comparison, in the eurozone—which includes Slovakia but none of the other V4 countries—the economy will contract by 8–12 percent, according to the European Central Bank.

REFUTING AN impression that the V4 countries are isolated, backward, and unable to compete, they are much more engaged in the global economy than either Paris or Berlin. Exports account for an average of 73.4 percent of GDP in the V4 countries, while imports account for 70.8 percent. By comparison, exports account for an average of only 30.2 percent of GDP for France and Germany, and imports account for 28.4 percent. As with their rates of GDP growth, moreover, exports of goods and services are growing in the V4 countries, increasing an average of 5.3 percent in 2018 over the prior year, compared to France and Germany’s anemic growth rate of 2.8 percent. To put this in perspective, if the Visegrád 4 were one country, according to an analysis by Brussels-based Carnegie Europe, “they would be by far Germany’s largest trading partner, with an annual turnover in bilateral trade nearly twice the size of China.”

Global engagement at the most personal level—travel and tourism—shows that Hungary has a higher ratio of tourists to local residents, 145 percent, than does France at 126.4 percent, and that Hungary, Czechia (109.2 percent), and Poland (43.4 percent) all have higher ratios of foreign visitors to locals than does Germany (43.3 percent). Another example of Central and Eastern Europe’s larger global role is the €7.7 billion that has been invested in the CEE’s commercial real estate market by East Asian sources since 2013—with South Korea leading the pack—a mere €1 billion less than Europe’s economic giant, Germany, has invested. Another sign is the twenty-six Indian software firms—one of which employs 2,000 people—that established operations in 2019 in Hungary, where more than 20,000 Chinese expatriates are also working.

While foreign direct investment is important to the V4, the largest driver of Hungary’s booming national economy is a 15 percent annual surge in wages. Partly as a result, Budapest ranked number one in 2018 in housing price increases across 150 cities worldwide, while Berlin ranked twenty-ninth and Paris sixty-third, placing the City of Light behind Bucharest, Romania; Bratislava, Slovakia; Warsaw, Poland; and Sofia, Bulgaria.

DESPITE ITS more expansive engagement with the world, Central and Eastern Europe have avoided the high levels of Chinese state-driven investments in key industries that is widespread in Western Europe, where Beijing’s role and influence is often hidden. Since 2012, when China launched its 16+1 initiative to invest billions in sixteen CEE countries, there has been much alarm about Chinese economic influence in this region, especially since eleven of the sixteen countries are EU members.

Yet as with so many issues, the real picture is the opposite to what the alarmists imagine. In fact, Chinese economic penetration of Western Europe far surpasses its role in Central Europe. Overall, Beijing’s investment in all EU-member countries has risen dramatically since 2000, from fewer than 500 million euros to more than 3.5 billion euros in 2018, according to Dutch data sciences firm Datenna, whose “China-EU FDI Radar” tracks Chinese foreign direct investment in the EU to provide greater transparency regarding the investments and their ties to the Chinese government.

There is often a significant government role in such investments, which are often disguised as private investments, giving Beijing hidden control or influence inside European industry. “In many of the European mergers and acquisitions, Chinese state influence was effectively hidden by layers of ownership, complex shareholding structures, and deals executed via European subsidiaries,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Datenna’s analysis of the complex structures concludes that Chinese parties have acquired 479 companies in Western Europe (including Cyprus and Malta), with Chinese government influence in at least 181 of them. In Central Europe, there were only forty acquisitions and in only twenty-one of them does Beijing exercise influence.

The EU’s own European Court of Auditors agrees with this broad outline of the problem, saying in a recent report that “it was difficult to obtain complete and timely data and thus to gain an overview of [Chinese] investments,” and that “concerns have been raised … in the EU about the dependence on Chinese investments in strategic industries [and] their concentration in sensitive or strategically important sectors.” Yet the agency’s country-level data also reveal that every one of the top thirteen recipients of Chinese investments are in Western Europe, while thirteen of the fifteen countries that receive the least investment are located in Central and Eastern Europe.

THE V4 countries, moreover, have embraced both entrepreneurship and innovation, and they are outpacing France and Germany, sometimes dramatically, in these areas. For instance, it would surprise no one that higher levels of education would help spark higher levels of innovation, but many might be surprised to learn that three Polish cities have larger percentages of people with higher education than either Berlin or Paris, and that the populations of the capitals of V4 countries Czechia, Hungary, and Slovakia have higher levels of post-secondary education than Berlin.

One result is that patent applications increased in 2018 by an average of 21 percent over the previous year across all four Visegrád countries, according to the European Patent Office (EPO), while in France and Germany applications increased by fewer than one (0.95) percent. In France, applications actually fell by 2.8 percent. The best-performing Visegrád country was Hungary, which enjoyed a 26.3 percent increase in applications, while the worst was Czechia (17.5 percent), whose increase in patent applications was still almost four times as great as Germany’s (4.7 percent). The average increase for all thirty-eight state members of the EPO was 3.8 percent. 

The V4 capitals of Budapest, Prague, and Warsaw were ranked in February 2019 among “The Best 50 Cities for a Startup in the World,” according to Valuer, a start-up incubator in Copenhagen, which ranked Bratislava, Slovakia, and Wroclaw, Poland, among “25 Up-and-Coming Startup Cities to Watch.” Speaking of cities, a study of the CEE’s business climate ranked all EU cities of 250,000 or more people by productivity (GDP per person), connectivity, and human capital. Of the top twenty cities, sixteen were in Central and Eastern Europe and eight were in the V4.

Manufacturing, in general, is stronger in three of the V4 countries than it is in France, Germany, and, indeed, most West European countries, according to one very reputable industry study. Cushman & Wakefield’s “2020 Global Manufacturing Risk Index” ranks Czechia, Hungary, and Poland among its top twelve countries, alongside the United States and China. Germany is ranked alongside Slovakia in its third tier, while France is ranked in the fourth tier along with nine other West European countries.

With so much business activity, corporate aviation is soaring in the V4 countries. While growth in the size of aviation fleets declined 1.7 percent on average across Europe since 2017, they jumped 41 percent in Czechia and 37.5 percent in Poland. Looking forward, Central and Eastern Europe has almost two aircraft on order for every five aircraft in service, indicating much greater ambitions for growth than Western Europe, which has ordered just over one aircraft for every four in service.

Higher rates of technological adaptation in the V4 countries are driving higher rates of innovation and entrepreneurship. The adoption of digital technologies across all major EU industries, for example, is higher in Czechia, Hungary, and Slovakia than in France or Germany, according to a 2019 survey of 13,500 firms across Europe by the European Investment Bank (EIB). The EIB ranked Czechia among Europe’s top five “frontrunner” countries; Slovakia placed among the next nine “strong” countries, Hungary led the next category of eight “moderate” digitizing nations—outperforming France and Germany in this same category—and Poland lagged in the middle of the final seven countries with “modest” levels of digitalization. Czechia and Slovakia also rank above the EU average, while France and Germany rank behind it.

These statistics are even more striking in light of the fact that, according to the EIB study, “larger firms have higher rates of digital adoption than smaller firms,” and Western Europe’s much larger and more mature economy likely has many more larger firms, on average, than Central and Eastern Europe. Digitalization matters because, according to the study, “Digital firms perform better and are more dynamic: they have higher labor productivity, grow faster, and have better management practices.”

The technologies being adopted in CEE countries include both hardware and software. Czechia, Hungary, and Slovakia, for example, rank in the top one-half of countries using industrial robots, according to the HSBC Global Research report, based on the ratio of robots per worker, and Slovakia ranks even higher than France in its usage of robotics. Broadband speed is higher in Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland than it is in France or Germany. Moreover, Czech cyber-security group Avast was in 2018 the largest tech initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange.

Perhaps innovation and entrepreneurship are flourishing in Central Europe because one of the V4 countries outranks Germany in measures of economic freedom, and all four of them outrank France, according to the Heritage Foundation’s “2020 Index of Economic Freedom.” The index places Czechia and Germany in the “mostly free” category, but with Czechia out-ranking Germany. The index ranks the other V4 countries as “moderately free,” along with France, which is outranked by the entire quartet of V4 countries in the annual study’s twelve measures of economic freedom. The V4 still have progress to make, according to the annual competitiveness rankings of the World Economic Forum and the Swiss research group, IMD, but they are gaining on a Western Europe whose competitive position is stagnant or declining.

THE MOST significant violation of the law in the EU also had the largest negative consequences, yet it is hardly even acknowledged that there was something rather willful about German chancellor Angela Merkel’s very personal decision in 2015 to allow more than one million migrants into Europe. What followed were waves of violence and terrorism not seen in Europe since World War Two, the rise of new populist and Euro-skeptic parties, and a steady string of electoral defeats for Merkel that stalled any new leadership initiatives by Berlin or Paris.

Two years after her decision, the German Bundestag concluded there was no legal basis for Merkel’s decision, and her government offered none. She neither put the issue to the EU nor the Bundestag but simply discussed throwing open Europe’s borders with a few aides. A detailed report by Der Spiegel said Merkel ignored pleas by her Interior Minister and the head of the German Federal Police that she stiffen border controls. She also violated both Germany’s asylum laws and the EU’s “Dublin rule,” which agreed that all migrants be returned to the EU country-of-entry. Perhaps most important, EU treaties do not call for open borders on Europe’s frontiers.

Merkel later made it plain that the decision was purely personal. In an interview with a German newspaper in August 2017, she said—referring four times to her decision’s personal nature—“I’d make all of the important decisions of 2015 the same way again. It was an extraordinary situation, and I made my decision based on what I thought was right from a political and humanitarian standpoint” (italics added).

MERKEL’S DECISION prompted a surge in terrorism, which the V4 countries avoided. The vast majority of deaths and injuries from terrorism in Europe were due to jihadist terror during the period 2011–2019. The data shows clearly that terrorism spiked in 2015, the year Merkel opened Europe’s doors. The number of jihadist incidents (completed, failed, or foiled attacks) jumped from four in 2014 to seventeen in 2015. Deaths shot up from four to 150, and arrests ballooned from 395 to 687. By 2019, all three data points remained dramatically higher than before 2015.

France in particular ranks first among European nations for jihadist violence, but Western Europe generally sees a great deal more terrorism than does Central Europe. Of the seventeen jihadist attacks across Europe in 2015, fifteen of them occurred in France, where 377 people were arrested for jihadist-inspired terrorism. Germany was among six other West European countries that had between twenty and seventy-five jihadist-related arrests.

The V4 countries, on the other hand, had five arrests among them and zero attacks.

More recently, France ranked first and Germany second for completed, failed, or foiled jihadist attacks (seven) in 2019, and Western Europe accounted for seventeen of eighteen jihadist incidents that year. France also ranked first for jihadist arrests, with 202 in 2019, and Germany came in third, with thirty-two arrests (Spain was second with fifty-six suspects). West European countries accounted for 411 of Europe’s 436 arrests of jihadist-terror suspects in 2019. That year, the V4 countries arrested a mere three suspects.

Of course, France and Germany have much larger populations than the V4 countries, but the annual ratio of terror arrests during the period 2017–19 ranged from 1:179,357 people to 1:331,188 in France, while the highest annual ratios in any V4 country ranged from 1:2.6 million people in Czechia to 1:9.6 million in Poland.

Terrorism has not been the only consequence of the migrant crisis. About 1,200 women were assaulted by as many as 2,000 men on New Year’s Eve 2015 in Cologne, Hamburg, Duesseldorf, Stuttgart, and other German cities, according to the national police. Holger Münch, president of the German Federal Crime Police Office, said, “There is a connection between the emergence of this phenomenon and the rapid migration of 2015.” In a related development, female genital mutilation is growing dramatically in Germany due to immigration, increasing by 44 percent since 2017, according to German Minister Franziska Giffey, who issued a report in June 2020, citing greater immigration from countries where the practice is common.

The migrant crisis aside, rates of crime and violence have been reaching historic lows in the V4 countries, trending downward for ten years in three of the countries—while crime in Germany remains stubbornly high and is increasing in France, according to statistics from Eurostat. The murder rate in Czechia in 2018 was about half its 2009 rate. In Hungary, the rate is 61 percent of its 2009 level and in Poland, 55 percent. While declining slightly, Slovakia’s relatively high murder rate is comparable to France’s, ranging from 1.0 to 1.5 murders per 100,000 people in the years 2016–18. Germany’s murder rate is comparable to current rates in the V4, but in both France and Germany murder remains at the same level since 2009, showing no progress.

The incidence of rape is almost twice as high in France as it was a decade ago, and its twenty-nine-plus rapes per 100,000 people in 2018 were almost five times the number in Czechia (6.14), which has the highest incidence of rape in the V4 countries. Germany’s incidence rate has remained stable at about ten rapes per 100,000 people, but that is dramatically higher than all four V4 countries. Even Hungary—where rapes have increased from 2.27 in 2009 to 5.53 in 2018—has about one-half of Germany’s rate.

Theft is also much more common in France and Germany than in the V4. Theft is five times more likely in Germany, and almost eight times more likely in France, than it is in Poland. The worst rate in the V4—Hungary’s 656 thefts per 100,000 people in 2018—is about half Germany’s rate and less than a third of the rate in France. Incidents of theft dropped 42-57 percent in all V4 countries since 2009, but remain stubbornly high in France, while Germany reported a slight decrease since 2016.

While the worst effects of the migrant crisis were blunted by the leaders of the V4 countries, the future of the EU is now on hold. EU immigration policy remains unclear since the V4 countries rebelled in 2016, creating border controls to stem the flows of migrants, which Western Europe criticized—and then copied. This was the first breakdown of the EU’s Schengen Zone open borders accord. Five years later, the EU is still wrestling to craft an immigration policy its members can support.

The Merkel-made crisis crippled very ambitious plans by French president Emmanuel Macron to deepen and strengthen the EU. It also led to a third consecutive defeat for Merkel’s governing coalition in local elections on October 29, 2018. The next day, Merkel announced she would surrender leadership of her party and step down as chancellor in 2021, creating a lame-duck administration that would last three years.

Finally, many analysts believe Merkel’s migrant crisis led to the Brexit vote of 2016, both for reasons related to terrorism, but also because EU member states and their voters were not consulted. Alain Finkielkraut, the French philosopher, said, “If it weren’t for Merkel’s Wir schaffen das (‘We can do this’) and the million migrants Germany took in in 2015, Brexit wouldn’t have happened. That sent a shockwave through Europe. Europeans weren’t asked.” In Great Britain itself, Justice Minister Dominic Raab made a pro-Brexit speech in which he said, “It is undeniable that regaining control over our borders would be a valuable defensive tool in protecting Britain from future terrorist attacks.”

IT REMAINS to be seen how many more ways the EU can fail itself, but it is clear that the enterprise is failing in Western Europe, not Central Europe, and this is due to the actions of Berlin and Paris, not Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, or Warsaw.

In the twilight years of his eventful life, French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau warned besieged Polish leaders seeking his advice to avoid the example set by their West European peers, since their customs, he said, “are daily being bastardized by the general European tendency to adopt the tastes and manners of the French.” It seems that much of Central Europe has gotten the message, if not from the French philosopher, perhaps from the wanton examples established by Berlin and Paris.

Kevin J. McNamara is an Associate Scholar of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He is the author of Dreams of a Great Small Nation: The Mutinous Army that Threatened a Revolution, Destroyed an Empire, Founded a Republic, and Remade the Map of Europe, a history of the dramatic role of the Czecho-Slovak Legion in World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the founding of Czecho-Slovakia in 1918.

Image: Unsplash / Bence Balla-Schottner

One State Is Sending Out New Stimulus Payments (This Picture Is a Clue)

The National Interest - Mon, 05/07/2021 - 00:00

Ethen Kim Lieser


To be eligible for this round, individuals must be a resident of California who filed their 2020 taxes and earned $75,000 or less.

Here's What You Need to Remember: 

As the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department continue to send out the remaining $1,400 coronavirus stimulus checks to eligible Americans, the state of California has already moved on to issue even more financial help to its struggling residents. 

Earlier this week, both chambers of the California legislature approved Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to disburse additional $600 stimulus checks, which have come to be known as “Golden State Stimulus II.” These payments essentially expand on the first round of payments that headed out to eligible Californians in April.  

For that first round, individuals with incomes of less than $30,000 qualified for the checks. But to be eligible for this round, individuals must be a resident of California who filed their 2020 taxes and earned $75,000 or less. They must have also lived in the state for at least six months.

Moreover, families with dependents will receive an additional $500 in direct payments. Another $500 will be issued to undocumented families.  

In all, California state officials are estimating that approximately two-thirds of all residents will receive some form of stimulus payment.

Tenants in California were also recently given eviction protections for another three months, and those individuals with low incomes will have all of their past-due rent covered.  

“California will significantly increase cash assistance to low-income tenants and small landlords under the state’s $5.2 billion rent relief program, making it the largest and most comprehensive COVID rental protection and rent relief program of any state in the nation,” Newsom’s office said in a statement.

For those who are deemed eligible for federal rental assistance, they could potentially be on the receiving end of $25,000 to cover both missed and future rent for up to eighteen months.

“The Treasury (Emergency Rental Assistance) program includes an unprecedented amount of funding for emergency rental assistance to help renters stay stably housed,” writes the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Other states are also taking the initiative to offer more financial help to their low-income residents. For example, New Jersey’s legislature recently approved a $46 billion state budget that green-lighted tax rebates of up to $500 for nearly eight hundred thousand households in the state.

In order to qualify for the full rebate, married couples must have incomes below $150,000 and at least one dependent child. Those individuals who earn less than $75,000 and have at least one dependent child will also be eligible.  

“This is direct tax relief to middle income families and senior citizens who need it most,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney said in a press statement. “The income tax rebate will put money into the pockets of working families so they can support themselves and their children.”  

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn. This article first appeared earlier this year.

Image: Reuters

America's Cold War Nuclear War Strategy Would Have Leveled Civilizations

The National Interest - Sun, 04/07/2021 - 23:33

Michael Peck

U.S. Military History, World

The concept of eliminating the Soviet Union and China as “viable societies" is some heavy stuff. 

Here's What You Need to Remember: The report included questions and answers regarding the various nuclear targeting options. These ranged from attacks on enemy nuclear and conventional forces while minimizing collateral damage to enemy cities, to attacking cities as well as military forces on purpose. This latter option would have been "in order to destroy the will and ability of the Sino-Soviet Bloc to wage war, remove the enemy from the category of a major industrial power, and assure a post-war balance of power favorable to the United States."

“Bomb them back into the Stone Age,” ex-Air Force general Curtis LeMay is reported to have once urged as a way to defeat North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

But it turns out that had global nuclear war erupted during the early 1960s, it would have been the Russians and Chinese who would have reverted to living like the Flintstones.

U.S. nuclear war plans called for the destruction of the Soviet Union and China as “viable societies,” according to documents revealed by the non-profit National Security Archive.

The document in question pertains to the Single Integrated Operational Plan, or SIOP, which governs the numerous war plans and their associated options that govern how America would fight a nuclear war. In June 1964, senior military leaders (including Air Force Chief of Staff LeMay) were sent a staff review of the current SIOP.

The report included questions and answers regarding the various nuclear targeting options. These ranged from attacks on enemy nuclear and conventional forces while minimizing collateral damage to enemy cities, to attacking cities as well as military forces on purpose. This latter option would have been "in order to destroy the will and ability of the Sino-Soviet Bloc to wage war, remove the enemy from the category of a major industrial power, and assure a post-war balance of power favorable to the United States."

“Should these options give more stress to population as the main target?” asked one question.

The answer was that Pentagon war plans already included the destruction of cities as a way to destroy the urban and industrial backbone. “This should result in greater population casualties in that a larger portion of the urban population may be placed at risk.”

In another Pentagon analysis “on the effect of placing greater emphasis on the attack of urban/industrial targets in order to destroy the USSR and China as viable societies, it was indicated that the achievement of a 30 per cent fatality level (i.e., 212.7 million people) in the total population (709 million people) of China would necessitate an exorbitant weight of effort.”

This was because of China’s rural society at the time. “Thus, the attack of a large number of place names [towns] would destroy only a small fraction of the total population of China. The rate of return for a [nuclear] weapon expended diminishes after accounting for the 30 top priority cities.”

Note that while annihilating one-third of China’s population was deemed uneconomical, the U.S. military took it for granted that the Soviet Union and China would be destroyed as viable societies.

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Interestingly, Russia and China would be reduced to the level of Conan the Barbarian—but not Albania. “Should there be capability to withhold all attacks in Albania, Bulgaria and Romania?” asks the document.

The answer was that “the capability should exist to withhold attacks against Soviet satellites (either individually or collectively).” Other documents state that potential nuclear targets included the Sino-Soviet bloc—but not Yugoslavia.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook. This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

No Tax Refund? It Might Be In the IRS's Pile of 35 Million Return Backlog

The National Interest - Sun, 04/07/2021 - 23:11

Rachel Bucchino

Tax Return,

You're not the only one.

Here's What You Need to Remember: The coronavirus pandemic forced the agency to halt in-person operations to mitigate the spread of the deadly disease, prompting the returns to pile up. This poses major challenges for the IRS, as some low-income families are depending on the money from their 2020 tax refund.

The IRS is swamped with a massive backlog of 35 million tax returns that still need to be manually processed, according to a new report released Wednesday from a government watchdog.

The report from the National Taxpayer Advocate, an independent entity within the agency, noted that the backlog includes about 16.8 million paper tax returns, nearly 15.8 million returns that are suspended for further review, and an additional 2.7 million amended returns. The backlog is a fourfold increase from 2019.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the agency to halt in-person operations to mitigate the spread of the deadly disease, prompting the returns to pile up, according to the report. But the backlog poses major challenges for the IRS, as some low-income families are depending on the money from their 2020 tax refund, as well as the economic relief provided to individuals during the pandemic, like stimulus checks and child tax credit.

“For taxpayers who can afford to wait, the best advice is to be patient and give the IRS time to work through its processing backlog,” Erin Collins, the National Taxpayer Advocate, wrote in her report to Congress. “But particularly for low-income taxpayers and small businesses operating on the margin, refund delays can impose significant financial hardships.”

The report comes as the IRS has been distributing the third round of direct relief to eligible Americans. And now, the agency is tasked with pumping out the child tax credit to millions of families who qualify. The enhanced credit is also available to low-income families who don’t normally file taxes since they do not make enough money to file.

The IRS could also gain a load of other responsibilities, as President Joe Biden is pushing for the agency to manage the growing tax gap, particularly to remain laser-focused on wealthy individuals who may engage in tax dodging. The bipartisan infrastructure package set aside money to boost funding for the IRS.

John Koskinen, former IRS commissioner under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, pinned the blame on Congress for implementing too many requirements on an agency with already low funds.

“It’s a problem, but nobody should be surprised. You can’t keep loading more things on an agency without enough people and expect things to go smoothly,” Koskinen told The Washington Post. “The problem is not with IRS employees who work very hard. It’s with Republicans in Congress who have refused to provide adequate funding for 10 years.”

From 2010 to 2018, a report from the House Committee Budget found that the agency’s funding has fallen by about 20 percent and as a result, the IRS has been less prepared to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and other tax-related needs.

“Taxpayers cannot experience similar challenges in future filing seasons,” Collins wrote in the report. “We cannot allow the agency to face the staffing and technology limitations it has experienced this past year.”

Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, and The Hill.

Image: Reuters

The Case for Less Nuclear, and More Diesel, Submarines for the U.S. Navy

The National Interest - Sun, 04/07/2021 - 23:00

James Holmes

U.S. Navy, Global

If it does things wisely, the U.S. Navy can turn technical shortcomings to strategic and political advantage.

Here's What You Need To Know: Adding American boats would impart mass to the fleet—further easing the challenge of keeping enough boats plying the deep. The more subs in the rotation, the shorter voyages can be. Bottom line, having the fleet make its home near likely Asian hotspots would solve many ills, as would expanding and diversifying logistics arrangements

What madman would propose adding diesel submarines to the U.S. Navy’s all-nuclear silent service?

There are a few. The topic came up at an early March hearing before the U.S. House Seapower and Force Projection Subcommittee. Representatives from three teams that have compiled competing “Future Fleet Architecture” studies convened to debate their visions with the committee. Published by the Navy Staff itself, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and the MITRE Corporation, the studies explore everything from overall ship numbers to the types of hulls comprising the future fleet to the mix between manned and unmanned platforms.

Navy potentates will now evaluate and compare the studies. The end product will be an official navy statement about force-structure questions, useful to Congress as lawmakers determine how many—and which—ships, planes, and armaments to fund. One consensus, however, already unites the protagonists to this debate: the U.S. Navy needs more of just about everything. The navy estimates it needs 355 vessels to fulfill its missions in increasingly contested settings, principally around the margins of Eurasia. That portends about a 30 percent boost to the force.

A naval expansion of such proportions will put a premium on low-cost yet effective platforms that can be acquired in bulk. Diesel-electric submarines constitute one such platform. The last boat in the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF) Soryu class—a class widely acclaimed the world’s finest of its kind—ran Japanese taxpayers $540 million. Let’s use that as a benchmark for discussion. Meanwhile, each Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack boat sets back American taxpayers a cool $2.688 billion. That’s five for the price of one—a low, low price by any standard!

Reports Megan Eckstein of USNI News, however, Charles Werchado, the deputy director of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations’ assessments division, “firmly denounced” the MITRE analysts’ vision of a hybrid nuclear/conventional submarine force. Quoth Werchado:

“If I was a country like China, I would buy a lot of diesels because I know you’re going to come and fight me here at home. We have to deploy, and the only way to deploy is to bring your own fuel with you. When we buy a Virginia, it comes with a lifetime of fuel. So I have nothing against diesel submarines, but you have to say, am I’m going to be fighting within 200 miles of where I’m based at? Or else now I have to buy extra oilers. I’m going to make them vulnerable when I refuel them; they’re going to have to snorkel and they’ll become vulnerable. It’s just not an option for us as long as we have to be a global navy."

He thus objected to diesels based on geography, logistics, and military capability. Let’s take those objections in turn. First, geography. Werchado’s critique seemingly presupposes that a U.S. diesel contingent would be based on U.S. territory—in other words, no closer to East Asia than Guam. QED: diesels are a non-starter. They would be positioned too far from the Yellow and East China seas, a likely combat theater, to do much good. And indeed, the cruising-range limitations on diesel boats are real and immutable. But let’s not overstate their impact. Distance can be managed through savvy force dispositions on the map.

In fact, if it does things wisely, the U.S. Navy can turn technical shortcomings to strategic and political advantage. Here’s how: it could procure a squadron of diesel boats in large numbers, station it permanently in the Far East, close to potential scenes of action, and place it under a combined U.S.-Japanese submarine command. Doing so would confer a host of benefits. Forward basing would obviate the range problem. For instance, Soryu-class boats boast a cruising range of 6,100 nautical miles—more than adequate for prowling the depths in Northeast Asia. A U.S.-Japanese force founded on a common hull—whether the Soryu or some other design—could presumably match or exceed this performance.

Nor would this represent some leap in the dark. Diesel subs have proven themselves in Northeast Asia across many decades—witness the U.S. submarine campaign against Japan during World War II. And after six-plus decades of practice dating to the JMSDF’s founding, Japanese subs excel at regulating east-west movement through the first island chain, as well as north-south movement along the East Asian periphery. Indeed, undersea warfare represented one of Japan’s chief contributions to allied strategy during the Cold War. Japanese boats lurked along the island chains to detect and trail Soviet subs trying to exit the Seas of Japan and Okhotsk for the broad Pacific Ocean. Soviet skippers commonly sheltered within Asia’s near seas rather than make the attempt.

This constitutes an ideal approach for an age when island-chain defense is regaining its prominence in allied maritime strategy. Want to deter China from seizing the Senkaku Islands or venturing other forms of aggression? Threaten something Beijing prizes dearly, namely ready access to the Western Pacific. Proliferate subs in Northeast Asia, and demonstrate the capability to use them to bar the straits piercing the first island chain. That should give Beijing pause when the leadership contemplates adventurism. If it’s good for China to procure diesels for anti-access/area-denial purposes in the near seas, then it’s good for Americans and Japanese if they want to deny the denier access it covets.

So the strategic logic cuts both ways. Now think about such a deployment from an alliance-relations standpoint. China is a breaker of alliances. It hopes to divide the allies into manageable bits while dislodging the United States from its strategic position in the Western Pacific. Accordingly, Tokyo fears abandonment by its superpower patron. How better to make a statement about American steadfastness than by permanently forward-deploying a fleet of submarines to Japan while embedding U.S. boats and crews within a multinational command? That would show America is in Asia to stay.

And heck, if Tokyo and Washington were willing to take the diplomatic heat from Beijing, they could even equip the Taiwan Navy with a flotilla of diesel boats built on the common design. The George W. Bush administration offered Taipei eight diesel submarines sixteen years ago. But no American shipbuilder has constructed conventional subs in decades, while no foreign government was prepared to help construct the craft—and thereby incur Beijing’s wrath. The deal languished.

Now might be the time to consummate it. Supplying the boats would help Taiwan defend itself, replacing its flotilla of two Dutch-built subs of 1980s vintage and—astonishingly—two World War II-era relics. And furnishing Taipei with boats interoperable with the U.S.-Japanese diesel fleet would allow for coordinated operations should the allies summon the political moxie to work with Taiwan. A diesel program, then, could open new strategic and diplomatic vistas.

Second, logistics. The U.S. Navy combat-logistics fleet doubtless needs expanding, but not because of prospective conventional subs. Forward-deployed U.S. boats would presumably adopt Japanese logistical patterns, meaning they would go on patrol and refuel in port after returning from sea. Now, the allies could stand to bolster their shore logistical arrangements. China’s military would not exempt Japanese seaports such as Yokosuka and Sasebo from attack in wartime. If it did so it would grant its foes a safe haven for naval warmaking. Missile strikes would be sure to come, and might impair or disable shore infrastructure—starving the fleet of precious fuel and stores.

To cope with this prospect, the allies should rediscover their Pacific War past. During its westward advance across the Pacific, the U.S. Navy fashioned techniques and hardware to refuel, resupply, and repair ships from dispersed, often improvised island bases. The allies should ransack history for insight—thinking ahead about how to use Japan’s many islands and inlets as impromptu logistics hubs. But again, the allies need to make themselves resilient as a matter of course. After all, the conventionally powered surface fleets based in Japan need fuel too. And nuclear-powered warships need every other form of replenishment except fuel for their main engines. (Try running aircraft-carrier flight operations without jet fuel.) Logistical demands, in short, are hardly unique to diesel subs.

And third, diesel subs’ supposed vulnerability. Diesel subs have to surface periodically to snorkel, taking in air to help power their engines. They’re exposed to radar detection while snorkeling. Soryu-class boats, however, sport “air-independent propulsion” that lets them stay submerged for up to two weeks. JMSDF commanders and their political masters evidently find the design wholly adequate, while Japanese submariners have mastered tactics and deployment patterns that let them reach Northeast Asian patrol grounds, loiter on station for a satisfactory amount of time, and return to port.

Adding American boats would impart mass to the fleet—further easing the challenge of keeping enough boats plying the deep. The more subs in the rotation, the shorter voyages can be. Bottom line, having the fleet make its home near likely Asian hotspots would solve many ills, as would expanding and diversifying logistics arrangements. Such measures, furthermore, would cow prospective antagonists while comforting allies and friends. This constitutes a promising venture in manifold respects.

The MITRE proposal, then, deserves a fair hearing—not denunciation. Every ship in a global navy need not be a globe-spanning ship. Diesel submarines are an option for the future U.S. Navy. Whether to exercise that option is the question before Congress and the navy.

James Holmes is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and author of “Visualize Chinese Sea Power,” in the current issue of the Naval Institute Proceedings. The views voiced here are his alone.

This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

George Marshall: Architect of American Victory (He Won World War II?)

The National Interest - Sun, 04/07/2021 - 22:33

Warfare History Network, Michael D. Hull

Security, Europe

FDR unveiled an ambitious program for building 10,000 military aircraft a year with no increase in supporting forces.

Key Point: On April 23 (St. George’s Day), 1939, FDR made one of the most significant choices of his presidency.

Shortly after the infamous accord on September 29, the president instituted a series of White House meetings at which he and his military advisers discussed the ominous situation in Europe. One of the early formal sessions was attended by the Assistant Secretary of War, the Solicitor General, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Army and Air Corps Chiefs of Staff, and a tall, blue-eyed, and courtly brigadier general named George C. Marshall, who had recently been appointed the Army Deputy Chief of Staff and head of the War Plans Division.

An Army Smaller Than Portugal’s

FDR unveiled an ambitious program for building 10,000 military aircraft a year with no increase in supporting forces. As the proceedings drew to a close, the president summed up his plan and turned to Marshall, whom he scarcely knew. “Don’t you think so, George?” he asked. Marshall replied, “I am sorry, Mr. President, but I don’t agree with that at all.” The general was painfully aware of the state of America’s defenses and knew that it would require much more than airplanes to rectify the situation. The U.S. Army, numbering only 174,000 men, was ranked 19th in the world, just behind that of tiny Portugal.

Roosevelt gave a startled look, and the outspoken Marshall received expressions of sympathy from the other conferees, who feared that his promising tour of duty in Washington was about to come to a swift end. But they underestimated both the president and the general, and stiff formalities were observed. FDR never again called Marshall “George” in public, and the general always called FDR “Mr. President.” He refused to succumb to the well-known Roosevelt charm and determined never to laugh at his jokes.

On April 23 (St. George’s Day), 1939, FDR made one of the most significant choices of his presidency. Vaulting over 34 names on the senior generals’ rank list, he asked Marshall to succeed retiring General Malin Craig as Army Chief of Staff. In a hasty ceremony at the old Munitions Building in the nation’s capital, Marshall took the oath of office on Friday, September 1, 1939, the day that Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. He was promoted automatically to four-star rank.

Revitalizing the Army: “A Fight for its Very Life”​

With Great Britain and France allied against Germany and the expansionist Japanese rampaging in China and threatening stability throughout the Far East, Marshall faced the possibility of both a global conflict and a mammoth task at home. The U.S. Army was a threat to no one. Its divisions were half under strength and scattered, it had no combat-ready units, and joint two-week maneuvers were conducted only every fourth year. “During the lean years,” he observed, “the Army’s fight for personnel was a fight for its very life.”

Enthusiasm and resources for a large army were lacking. Instead of 800 men, many infantry battalions could muster only 200, including clerks and cooks, and equipment was hopelessly obsolete and inadequate. Marshall was no interventionist, but it was his responsibility to prepare the Army for a modern war. Despite opposition from the Navy, the Air Corps, isolationists, Congress, and even the president, Marshall went to work with decisiveness and often drastic moves. He gave his best effort.

Reorganizing the Military Bureaucracy

Marshall set out early to reorganize the War Department, where the thinking and bureaucracy had advanced little since 1919. He sought to create “some kind of organization that would give the chief of staff time to devote to strategic policy and the strategic aspects and direction of the war.” There were too many people reporting to him, and too many forced to approve too many documents before the War Department shambled into action.

The major change was the elimination of the fiefdoms of the major generals commanding the infantry, cavalry, field artillery, and coast artillery, each of whom jealously guarded his service branch and personal prerogatives. Marshall was intent on creating a unified, efficient army rather than a loose collection of separate services. The reorganization was undertaken by a committee headed by blunt, ruthless Maj. Gen. Joseph T. McNarney, a former Air Corps pilot.

Efficiency was stressed, and the men immediately below Marshall were given increased authority. Instead of 60 officers having access to the chief of staff, the plan reduced the number to six. Nevertheless, Marshall often plumbed the lower ranks to hear from younger men with worthwhile ideas. The new Army was made up of three commands—the Ground Forces, led by the bantam, energetic Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair, Marshall’s longtime friend from World War I; the Services of Supply, under Lt. Gen. Brehon B. Somervell, a hard taskmaster; and the Army Air Forces, commanded by genial Lt. Gen. Henry H. Arnold. For his command post, Marshall reorganized the War Plans Division and renamed it the Operations Division.

Arnold had the authority to mold the Army Air Forces into an effective bombardment and pursuit force capable of challenging the powerful Luftwaffe, while Somervell was responsible for procurement, supply, support services, morale, and military justice. McNair had the job of turning loosely disciplined, unmotivated ground troops into a fighting army. Regarded by Marshall as “the brains of the Army,” McNair recognized the primacy of the foot soldier. “Our Army is no better than its infantry,” he pointed out, “and victory will come only when and as our infantry gains it. The price will be predominantly what the infantry pays.”

Working with the Executive Branch

While undertaking the massive reorganization, Marshall also found time to institute another reform in America’s military command structure. His plan to reorganize the Joint Chiefs of Staff proved to be one of his most enduring achievements.

Marshall worked closely with his immediate civilian superior, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, and managed to cultivate a good relationship with Admiral Ernest J. King, the irascible Chief of Naval Operations, despite fierce Army-Navy rivalries. Marshall gained the cooperation of Congress and worked harmoniously with President Roosevelt, though in temperaments and habits they were oddly matched. After harboring doubts about him until the Pearl Harbor attack, the austere general came to trust and respect FDR for his intelligent, decisive leadership. “It took me a long time to get to him,” Marshall noted.

A Young Lieutenant George Calett Marshall

George Catlett Marshall was born in Uniontown, southeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Friday, December 31, 1880, the youngest son of a stern, prosperous coalfield owner, Democrat, and Episcopal vestryman. Nicknamed “Flicker,” the gangling, red-haired boy became fascinated with local history, but his progress in school was indifferent. Sensitive and shy, he floundered in grammar, spelling, and mathematics and was an average student in everything but history. Benjamin Franklin and General Robert E. Lee were his early heroes.

Young George decided on a military career, and the Virginia Military Institute was the first choice because several Marshalls had attended the school. His grades remained unimpressive, but the young man mastered drill regulations and enjoyed exercising command. He grew into a model cadet and advanced from first sergeant to first captain. Meanwhile, he courted a 26-year-old woman who would become his wife—auburn-haired, shapely Elizabeth “Lily” Carter Coles of Lexington, Virginia. Graduating from VMI in late 1901, Marshall received his commission as a second lieutenant in January 1902 and was assigned to the 30th Infantry Regiment stationed in the Philippines. After a hasty marriage and brief honeymoon with Lily that February, George kissed her goodbye and headed for a remote, dismal Army post on Mindoro Island.

At the end of 1902, Lieutenant Marshall and his company were transferred to bustling Manila, where he borrowed cavalry mounts and took up riding, which would become his lifelong recreation.

Marshall was posted back to the United States in November 1903, and served at Fort Reno in the Oklahoma Territory. He was promoted to first lieutenant in 1907 and graduated that year from the Infantry and Cavalry School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He graduated from the staff college there in 1908, and remained as an instructor until 1910.

America’s Premier Soldier

Flicker Marshall’s career got into gear when America entered World War I in April 1917. That July, he went to France as a staff and operations officer with Maj. Gen. William L. Sibert’s 1st Infantry Division. Marshall quickly showed a flair for staff work and leadership, and the experience prepared him for his considerable role in the later world war.

Promoted to temporary colonel in August 1918, Marshall moved up to the staff of the U.S. First Army. The following month, he accomplished a brilliant feat of staff work by overseeing the rapid night movement of 500,000 troops, 2,700 guns, and 40,000 tons of ammunition from St.-Mihiel to the Argonne Forest for the big Meuse-Argonne offensive. Marshall continued to move upward in the Army hierarchy, gaining recognition as a first-rate staff officer and trainer. He was appointed operations chief of the First Army in October 1918, chief of staff in the Eighth Corps the following month, and served as an aide to Pershing in 1919-1924. Pershing championed Marshall’s career and later directly petitioned President Roosevelt to consider him for Army Chief of Staff.

After having reverted to the rank of captain, Marshall was promoted to major in 1920 and lieutenant colonel in 1923. He served with the 15th Infantry Regiment in China in 1924-1927, and then was named assistant commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he left a strong imprint on the tactics the Army would use in World War II. Promoted to colonel in 1933, Marshall commanded the 8th Infantry Regiment at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, served as senior instructor of the Illinois National Guard, and was promoted to brigadier general in 1936. Two years later, he was attached to the Army General Staff.

Although he had never commanded a division or been in action, Marshall proved to be the ideal man—intelligent, resolute, and widely respected—to build and lead the Army when his unready nation was thrust into global war. He assumed Pershing’s mantle as America’s premier soldier.

“We Cannot Have a Political Club and Call it an Army”

Marshall inspired and guided almost every aspect of the Army’s growth and effectiveness —recruitment, mobilization, training, logistics, commissions, racial problems, utilization of women, and morale, one of his primary concerns. He traveled widely, usually by air, from camp to camp to check on conditions and needs. He moved without parades or other ceremonies and made morale a “command responsibility.” He also went in civilian clothes to visit the towns near large bases.

Marshall was seeking to build a citizen army based on “respect rather than fear; on the effect of good example given by officers; on the intelligent comprehension by all ranks of why an order has to be.” He said, “We must treat them [draftees] as soldiers; we cannot have a political club and call it an army.”

Marshall respected officers with initiative who did not wait to be told what to do and encouraged them to disagree with him when necessary. He insisted on concise briefings, sought to “expunge ponderosities,” used telephones sparingly, and instituted 9 am show and tell sessions that kept him on top of military and political situations around the world.

Marshall Gives the Go-Ahead on the Iconic Jeep

Marshall remained a firm believer in staff initiative. One day early in 1941, he was conferring with some generals when then Major Walter Bedell Smith came in to report the plight of a salesman who was being given the runaround in Washington. His company had designed a small, lightweight, low-silhouette vehicle that could carry four or five soldiers and be lifted out of mudholes by its passengers. The blueprint had been rejected by the Ordnance Department, but, from his days as an instructor under Marshall at the Infantry School, Smith believed that such a vehicle could be useful to the Army.

“Well,” asked the chief of staff, “what do you think of it?” Smith replied, “I think it is good.” Marshall responded crisply, “Well, do it.” And that was how the durable quarter-ton jeep entered Army service, used for myriad functions in all theaters of operations during the war. By the end of 1945, a total of 653,568 jeeps were in service—634,000 delivered to the Army and almost 20,000 to the Allies and the other services.

Marshal’s “Little Black Book” of Generals

Marshall found it necessary to be ruthless when it came to upgrading the Army for combat and weeding out officers he considered unsuited for it. “The present general officers of the line are for the most part too old to command troops in battle under the terrific pressures of modern war,” he had told a columnist. “Many of them have their minds set in outmoded patterns and can’t change to meet the new conditions they may face if we become involved in the war that’s started in Europe. I do not propose to send our young citizen soldiers into action, if they must go into action, under commanders whose minds are no longer adaptable to the making of split-second decisions in the fast-moving war of today, nor whose bodies are no longer capable of standing up under the demands of field service.”

So Marshall screened the roster of senior generals to see who could lead an army or corps in combat and eliminated all except the gallant German-born Walter Krueger, who would lead the Sixth Army with distinction in the Pacific War. Meanwhile, the chief of staff compiled a list of officers—some known to him and some recommended—in whose judgment he had confidence. The names in his “little black book” included Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar N. Bradley, Mark W. Clark, Courtney H. Hodges, Jacob L. Devers, George S. Patton, Jr., J. Lawton Collins, Alexander M. Patch, William H. Simpson, Lucian K. Truscott, and Robert L. Eichelberger.

These men achieved distinction, but Marshall was not infallible in his choices of fighting generals. He overlooked the able James Van Fleet, and three of his chosen corps commanders had to be relieved—Lloyd R. Fredendall after the Kasserine Pass rout, Ernest J. Dawley after the near disastrous Salerno invasion, and John Millikin after the Rhine River crossing at Remagen.

Under Marshall’s wise leadership, the U.S. Army was shaped into an effective fighting force. By the time it began lining up beside the British to fight the Germans in 1942, its combat strength had increased more than tenfold. The Army grew from 1.8 million men in December 1941 to 8.25 million by the war’s end.

“Modern Battles are Fought by Platoon Leaders”

Marshall’s buildup of the Army from a loose peacetime conglomeration into a mobilized, hard-hitting force capable of challenging the seasoned Germans and Japanese was a remarkable achievement. After some humiliating reverses in North Africa, the Pacific, and Italy, it matured into the most powerful army America had yet put into the field. Although he had seen no combat, Marshall understood the realities of 20th-century war, particularly the key role of infantry in any land campaign. “Modern battles are fought by platoon leaders,” he said. “The carefully prepared plans of higher commanders can do no more than project you to the line of departure at the proper time and place, in proper formation, and start you off in the right direction.”

Marshall’s Relationship with the British​

Marshall enjoyed a cherished relationship with Field Marshal Sir John “Jack” Dill, head of the British Joint Staff Mission in Washington, and when the latter died in November 1944, Marshall skirted regulations to enable him to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Dill and Maj. Gen. Orde C. Wingate are the only British officers to be laid there.

But Marshall and the British clashed over strategy a number of times during the war. He had proved himself a brilliant organizer but was less sure footed in his approach to the most important strategic choice facing America in World War II: when and where to deploy U.S. forces on a large scale. He correctly supported the Germany first strategic priority, but the timing he proposed was premature and caused serious misunderstandings with the British. He advocated a cross-English Channel invasion in 1942, when manpower and resources, particularly landing craft, were limited, and which, as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill rightly warned, would have been catastrophic.

Marshall fiercely opposed the North African campaign and pressed again for an invasion of France in 1943. But manpower and resources were still inadequate, the U.S. Army had still not gained enough experience against the hard-fighting Germans, and the Allies had yet to achieve mastery in the Atlantic and in the skies over Europe. A cross-Channel invasion in 1943 would have carried great military risk.

Operation Overlord: The Choice Between Marshall and Eisenhower

From his Washington desk, Marshall coordinated the operations of American armies around the world, and coordinated these operations with the Navy and the Allied forces. But he was far more than a chair-borne manager of U.S. military resources. He became a leading figure in the U.S. and Anglo-American Combined Chiefs of Staff and attended all the wartime summit conferences. He also visited the armies in the field—from Algeria to New Guinea, from Anzio to Normandy, and from Belgium to Holland—and maintained intellectual and emotional contact with the fighting fronts. Marshall made a special point of talking to subalterns and enlisted men without the presence of their superiors and used liaison officers to prowl the combat zones and report on conditions, needs, and GI morale.

The chief of staff viewed war in the same basic terms as General Ulysses S. Grant: go after the enemy and smash him. Marshall’s simple strategy was to mass the maximum possible weight of men, materiel, and firepower against the enemy where he considered success would bring the swiftest and most decisive results. To him, the armed forces’ singular responsibility was total victory.

Roosevelt insisted that Marshall should command Operation Overlord but wavered when the moment of decision came. FDR left it to Marshall, who refused to request the post. The president then appointed General Eisenhower, telling Marshall, “Well, I didn’t feel I could sleep at ease if you were out of Washington.” The chief of staff was crestfallen but characteristically never uttered a word of complaint.

Only One Medal for the War

Marshall saw the great army he had forged mature in combat from North Africa to the Pacific, from the Aleutian Islands to Sicily and Italy, and take its place alongside the British, Canadians, Free French, and Poles in the great crusade across the English Channel on June 6, 1944. After bitter struggles in Normandy and a critical setback in the Ardennes, Marshall’s force vaulted across the Rhine and into the Third Reich as Nazi resistance faltered and then crumbled.

The chief of staff was promoted to five-star general in December 1944, and on November 26, 1945, he received his only American military decoration of the war—a second oak leaf cluster to the Distinguished Service Medal he had been awarded in 1919. He had refused U.S. decorations during World War II, saying that it was not proper for him to accept such honors as chief of staff and while men were dying. President Harry S. Truman had reluctantly accepted Marshall’s resignation on November 20, and General Eisenhower became the new Army chief of staff.

Two Cold War Cabinet Positions

Churchill hailed Marshall in 1945 as “the true organizer of victory” and called him “the noblest Roman of them all.” Time magazine honored him twice as its “man of the year,” and President Truman said, “In a war unparalleled in magnitude and horror, millions of Americans gave their country outstanding service. General of the Army George C. Marshall gave it victory.” Truman termed him “the greatest military man that this country has ever produced.”

Marshall was gone from the War Department, returning to his home in Leesburg, Virginia. But his respite was short lived. Late in 1945, Truman sent him to China in a bid to avert a civil war between the Nationalist Kuomintang government and Mao Tse-tung’s Communists. Marshall’s force of character was unsuccessful in bringing about a durable compromise, but the experience proved beneficial when Truman appointed him Secretary of State in January 1947. Marshall resigned his Army commission the following month.

On June 5, 1947, Secretary Marshall went to Harvard University to receive an honorary degree. In his speech, he outlined a program of foreign assistance—the largest ever undertaken by the U.S. government—to help war-torn European countries, including Germany, restore their economies. He invited the Soviet Union to participate, but it refused and responded by tightening its control over Eastern Europe. The momentous Marshall Plan, which laid the foundations for NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the Atlantic alliance, was hailed by Churchill as “the most unsordid act in history.”

Marshall left the cabinet in January 1949, but returned in September 1950 as Secretary of Defense. He held the post for a year during the early phase of the Korean War and retired permanently from public affairs in September 1951. In war and peace, he had given his country sterling service for more than half a century. Marshall acted briefly as President of the American Red Cross and was awarded the Nobel Prize, primarily for his plan for European recovery, on December 10, 1953.

The warrior’s health failed, and he was taken to Walter Reed Hospital in the spring of 1959. He suffered a stroke, grew frail, and died quietly on the evening of Friday, October 16. Marshall had left instructions ruling out a state funeral, saying that he wanted no eulogy or long list of honorary pallbearers, and a private interment. On October 20, after a brief, simple service in the Fort Myer (Virginia) Chapel, attended by President Eisenhower and former President Truman, Marshall’s body was taken by caisson to Arlington National Cemetery. He was buried down the hill from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as an honor guard fired rifle volleys and taps was sounded.

Originally Published in 2018.

This article by Michael D. Hull originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Why a Small Defense Budget Can’t Stop the Triton

The National Interest - Sun, 04/07/2021 - 22:00

Kris Osborn

MQ-4C Triton,

There are only a few Triton’s operating in the Pacific Ocean area, leading some to believe more might be needed to address the threats and vast geographical expanse of the region.

Just when concerned observers, weapons developers, lawmakers and other critics began to lament the “lower-than-expected” numbers emerging from the administration’s budget proposal, and advocates for medium-to-large drones began to fear that upgraded platforms such as the Triton maritime surveillance drone might be reduced or even eliminated, there is reason to rethink those worries.

While there is what the Navy calls a “procurement pause” regarding Navy plans to acquire some new weapons such as the MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft, military service leaders appear quite committed to the longevity of the drone, in part through a series of massive upgrades in the areas of Multi-Intelligence gathering capability. 

“Investment in MQ-4C’s Multi-Intelligence configuration is critical to the execution of the Navy’s Maritime Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance and Targeting Transition Plan that will enable the sundown of the legacy EP-3E,” Navy spokeswoman Courtney Callaghan told the National Interest.

The MQ-4C Triton drone, a Navy-specific intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance asset now operating in the Pacific theater, has been specifically engineered to operate in a maritime environment, meaning it can change altitude as needed, track moving targets on the ocean, sense through weather obscurants and function with “de-icing” technologies for extreme environmental conditions. It uses an inverse synthetic aperture radar, which is an imaging technology that develops rendering or two-dimensional images of high-value targets by tracking movements at sea.

Despite this tactical advantage, there are only a few Triton’s operating in the Pacific Ocean area, leading some to believe more might be needed to address the threats and vast geographical expanse of the region. However, while procurement of new Tritons may be “paused” at the moment, Navy officials tell the National Interest that it is now immersed in a series of targeting and command and control upgrades to the Triton in order to prepare it for long-term service life. 

During testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on the Department of the Navy fiscal year 2022 budget Request on June 15, 2021, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday explained the service’s emphasis upon intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance hardening, reliability, targeting, networking and command and control.

“The two biggest challenges that we’re getting after on unmanned are one—reliability. So, the engineering plants have to be reliable so they can operate primarily unattended. The second is command and control and we feel like we’re on a good path on both. But . . . we don’t have any intentions of scaling any of these efforts until we get to a place where we’re comfortable with both of those aspects,” Gilday said.

Stating that “since arriving in Guam in January 2020, MQ-4C has executed over 2,100 ISR hours which has enhanced maritime situational awareness in the theater,” Callaghan seemed to indicate the Navy’s commitment to “targeting” upgrades for the Triton. 

Targeting, command and control, long-range sensing, and extensive multi-domain networking are a few reasons why the service may be looking for drones like the Triton to fly in future high-end warfare environments, despite being less stealthy than other smaller drones. 

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters.

This Crazy Korean War Battle Rivaled Iwo Jima in Bloodiness

The National Interest - Sun, 04/07/2021 - 21:33

Warfare History Network, Al Hemingway

Security, Asia

The Battle of the Hook was a coalitional effort to resist the communists and secure the hill. 

Key Point: On July 27, an armistice was signed, ending the Korean conflict.

Peering intently through a telescope, General Lemuel C. Shepherd, the commandant of the Marine Corps, scanned the shell-pocked Korean terrain in front of his position. Shepherd had made a special visit to the Korean front lines to obtain a firsthand view of the Main of Line of Resistance (MLR) his Marines were defending. In the early spring of 1952, under orders from the U.S. Eighth Army in Korea, the entire 25,000-man 1st Marine Division had moved from the east-central sector of the country to the western part of I Corps to man positions along the extreme left flank of an area called the Jamestown Line. In early March the Marines, joined by the attached 1st Korean Mari­ne Corps, completed the move. Maj. Gen. John T. Selden, 1st Marine Division commander, now had 32 miles of harsh country to defend.

The Hook

Shepherd, for his part, was concerned about the leathernecks’ difficult assignment. In front of their positions was a small speck of land protruding beyond the MLR like a huge thumb. This seemingly insignificant feature, called the Hook by those who had to defend it, dominated the approach to the vital Samichon Valley. The landscape surrounding the Hook was a defender’s nightmare—steep, rugged hills inundated the countryside. If the Chinese managed to break through the Marines’ lines, they could march unhindered all the way to Seoul, the capital of South Korea. As poor a military position as the Hook was, the Marines had no alternative but to occupy it. In enemy hands, the consequences would be catastrophic. Chinese occupation of the Hook would afford a corridor for the enemy to outflank the right flank and reach the Imjin River. This in turn would not only cut off the Marines from the adjacent 1st Commonwealth Division, but also probably render the entire United Nations position beyond the Imjin untenable.

Throughout the spring and summer of 1952, Marines and other Allied units battled the Communists for the various hills and other important terrain features. These bitter, sharp clashes were dubbed “the outpost battles.” In early October, the 7th Marines occupied the Jamestown Line near the Hook. To keep a watchful eye on their adversaries, the Marines established two small combat outposts, Seattle and Warsaw. On October 2, the Chinese struck at Seattle and seized it. Concerned about the Hook, the defenders decided to create another position dubbed Ronson (so named after a Marine had misplaced his Ronson lighter there after a night patrol) about 275 yards west of the Hook. Warsaw was 600 yards northeast of the salient.

Outmanned and Outgunned

The leathernecks’ main problem was manpower. The Marines, plus attached units, had 5,000 troops to defend the Hook. To alleviate the shortage, “clutch platoons” were organized, using Marine cooks, clerks, and motor transport personnel to perform Minuteman-type assignments. They could quickly be formed into reserve rifle platoons in extreme emergency conditions. The leathernecks were not only outmanned, but they were outgunned. To their front were the 356th and 357th Regiments, 119th Division, and 40th Chinese Communist Forces (CCF). Numbering about 7,000 men, the Chinese also possessed 10 battalions of artillery—something the Marines notably lacked—approximately 120 guns in all. In addition, the Marines also suffered from a severe shortage of 105mm and 155mm howitzer shells.

Enemy activity increased dramatically in the last week of October; thousands of artillery rounds were fired on Marine emplacements. Most of the enemy fire was concentrated on the Hook, Warsaw, and Ronson. Marine and Army artillery units responded, trying to silence the enemy guns. Air strikes and tanks guided by forward observers attempted to halt the incessant bombardment. Everyone was braced for the inevitable assault.

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On the cold night of October 26, a company from the 3rd Battalion, 357th Regiment attacked Ronson’s small group, raining down mortar and artillery rounds. Trying in vain to hold on, the riflemen responded with automatic weapons fire. It was no use—every American defender was killed. While Ronson was being overrun, a large enemy force from the 9th Company, 357th Regiment descended on Warsaw, which was defended by a reinforced platoon from Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. Lieutenant John Babson quickly radioed for “box me in” fire (artillery fire that formed a protective shield around the outpost). Despite the heavy shelling, the Chinese penetrated the perimeter. The fighting was hand-to-hand. Just past 7 pm, a clutch platoon was readied to reinforce Warsaw when a radio transmission was received: “We are being overrun.” The outpost was assumed lost. However, just before 8 pm another message requested variable-time fuses to be detonated over the imperiled position. This was the last word heard from the defenders of Warsaw. Only three Marines survived the Communist attack.

As the two outposts were being decimated, a massive bombardment saturated the Hook itself. “Some 34,000 rounds of CCF artillery were used to soften the position before seizure,” Lt. Col. Norman Hicks wrote, “and when the enemy assault came, there were few able to resist.” Captain Paul Byrum’s Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines guarded the important hill. He decided to reconnoiter the ridgeline after receiving a call from Ronson that they were being overrun. He and a sergeant were forced to split up because of the Communist mortar barrage. The sergeant was later killed, and Byrum was buried four times with dirt from near misses.

The Chinese Advance

At exactly 7 pm, the Chinese converged on the Hook in a classic three-pronged maneuver. In less than an hour the enemy had reached the main trench line of Charlie Company. “They were coming over the ridge, gangs of them yelling and blowing horns,” said Pfc. James Yarborough. “They had a horn that sounded like a milk cow. We couldn’t get our guns to work, and we only had two hand grenades. I threw one and my buddy had the pin pulled and was ready to throw the other when he got hit. I threw it.”

Yarborough and his friend managed to emerge from the bunker and lay motionless near the concertina wire on the perimeter. “I lay there and watched the bunker about two and a half hours,” he recalled. “My buddy was still close to it. Finally they came out and it looked as if they were going to shoot him. I still had my carbine and I fired to scatter them. Somehow I got through the wire. My buddy, he got away too.”

Chinese infantrymen breached the wire and infiltrated the trenches. A forward observation team from Battery F, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines directed accurate fire on the enemy attackers. When they lost communications, 2nd Lt. Sherrod Skinner, Jr., directed his men to leave the bunker and continue to fight. Trapped by the overwhelming enemy numbers, he organized a makeshift defensive position and poured fire into the advancing Communists. During the intense combat, Skinner was struck twice while attempting to replenish the machine-gun squads with ammunition and grenades.

Despite their heroic stand, the Marines were outnumbered by the Chinese. Skinner ordered everyone back to their bunkers. Corporal Franklin Roy and Pfc. Vance Worster killed a dozen enemy soldiers before depleting their ammunition. Skinner felt their only hope was to play dead. As the men lay motionless, the enemy searched them. As they were departing, they tossed chicoms (Chinese hand grenades) into the bunker opening. One of the projectiles peppered Worster’s legs with shrapnel. Skinner rolled over on another one, taking the full brunt of the explosion, which killed him instantly.

Although wounded several times, Roy crawled from the sandbagged bunker and discovered a box of hand grenades. He began lobbing them at the enemy until he exhausted his supply. He finally made his way to friendly lines and informed them of what had happened. Unknown to Roy, Worster had already succumbed to his wounds. Skinner was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor, and Roy and Worster received Navy Crosses for their bravery.

The determined attack on the Hook soon forced Charlie Company from its positions. By dawn, the Communists had gained a toehold on the Hook. Marine historian Lt. Col. Robert Heinl, Jr., present during the battle, later commented, “Soon it was apparent that a serious situation confronted the 7th Marines. This was clearly reflected in the faces and demeanor of the regimental commander and executive officer. Enemy fire was unceasing, and his attack continued.” What remained of Charlie Company had climbed a crest overlooking the Hook and began firing down on the occupants. A platoon from Able Company, originally slated to go to Warsaw, joined them there, keeping the Communists in check and preventing their advance.

Retaking the Hook

More reinforcements were needed, however, if the enemy was to be driven from the Hook. Captain Fred McLaughlin’s Able Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines was tapped to link up with Charlie Company and retake the all-important position. McLaughlin had just minutes to devise a plan of attack. He told Lieutenant Stanley Rauh to take a platoon, dig in on the left flank, and deliver as much firepower as possible to create a diversion. Meanwhile, he would take the remaining force of approximately 150 men around the right flank.

Just before daylight, Rauh’s men moved out. As the Marines made their way toward the Hook, the Communist shelling became heavier. When their radio was destroyed by enemy fire, Rauh grabbed a tank’s infantry phone in the rear of the tracked vehicle. Suddenly a white phosphorous round impacted close to them, and Rauh and a sergeant were wounded. The intense heat from the shell fused shut the bolt on Rauh’s carbine and scorched his hands. Because of the lack of water, his men urinated on his hands to stop the burning.

Reaching the command post, Rauh found Byrum still alive. He set out to rescue several isolated pockets of trapped Marines who had been fighting all night. Pfc. Enrique Romero-Nieves picked up an armful of hand grenades and singlehandedly assaulted an enemy bunker. When a bullet shattered his arm, he continued his advance using his belt buckle to pull the pins from the grenades as he moved forward. He survived to be presented a Navy Cross.

Marine and Army rounds began impacting on Warsaw to prevent the enemy from using the position as a forward observation point. Heavy fighting continued at the Hook as Marine tanks positioned themselves on any flat surface they could find and pounded the Chinese now holding fortifications that had been held by the leathernecks a few hours before. Fighter aircraft strafed and napalmed enemy troops attempting to reinforce the Hook from the former Marine outpost on Warsaw. In spite of the superb support, the battle was far from over. The enemy displayed no signs of retreating from the Hook. Rauh recalled: “Communications on the hook were terrible due to the incoming, the terrain and the general confusion of battle. At one point I was talking to the battalion by radio not three feet away from and facing my radioman when a grenade landed on his chest, killing him—I didn’t get touched—only severely jarred. A few moments later a mortar fragment tore the flesh off above my knee.”

The situation at the Hook was desperate. Colonel Thomas C. Moore, Jr., 7th Marines commander, had no choice but to release his last reserve company. Realizing that Able Company and the remnants of Charlie were too weak to push the enemy off the Hook, Moore decided to send in Company H, 3rd Battalion. The enemy, now consolidating forces and moving on the adjacent Hill 146, had to be stopped.

While the beleaguered Marines were immersed in bitter fighting to regain the Hook, the CCF hurled themselves against the nearby outposts of Carson-Reno-Vegas. Defending these positions were elements of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines. A patrol from Company E had just set up an ambush when two CCF companies, moving to attack Reno, wandered into their fields of fire. Just as the enemy was about to advance, the riflemen opened fire, catching the Communists completely by surprise. A few hours later the Chinese returned in force, assaulting the Marines’ perimeter in waves. As the enemy pressed forward, the leathernecks took shelter in their reinforced bunkers while artillery from the 11th Marines caught the CCF units in the open, forcing them to retreat. Reno had been saved.

In the predawn hours, How Company slowly made its way toward the Hook. At 8 am, Captain Bernard Belant ordered his company forward. Leading the charge was 2nd Lt. George H. O’Brien, Jr., from Fort Worth, Texas. With his platoon following him, he zigzagged down the slope toward the main trench line. A burst from an enemy rifle struck him in the arm, slamming him to the ground. Undaunted, O’Brien leaped to his feet and continued the assault. He tossed hand grenades in enemy bunkers as he urged his men on.

One eyewitness account of O’Brien’s actions that day noted, “Five gooks jumped out of nowhere and went for O’Brien. The guy must have had tremendous reflexes, because he dropped all five. He was also wounded, but did this stop him? Hell, no! He continued to lead his platoon. He must have been a hell of an officer.” For four hours O’Brien’s platoon held off the Chinese. When they could advance no farther, the platoon formed a defensive perimeter and waited for any enemy counterattack. O’Brien remained with his men until they were relieved by a fresh unit. For his actions at the Hook, O’Brien later would have the Medal of Honor draped around his neck by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In spite of the valorous attempts to retake the Hook, the enemy still held onto it. On the morning of October 27, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines was told to move up and attack. With artillery support from the 11th Marines and additional firepower from four Corsairs, the first platoon had made it to the crest and by mid-afternoon the entire company was advancing. A company of CCF troops was pouring rifle and automatic weapons fire at the leathernecks, who literally had to crawl toward their objective. Chinese gunners were also delivering devastating fire on the regimental command post.

By 5 pm, Item Company Marines had fought their way to the trenches but were forced to pull back when the Communists opened an overwhelming broadside of machine-gun and rifle fire. Most of the riflemen sought refuge on the reverse slope to avoid being caught in an enemy barrage. By nightfall, Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines was assaulting the enemy trenches at the Hook on the left of Company I. Baker Company infantrymen found it tough going as they reconnoitered the many shell craters that dotted the battle-scarred landscape to reach their jumping-off point and strike at the enemy.

Just past midnight on the 28th, the Marines charged, blasting the Chinese with small-arms fire. A flurry of chicoms met the attackers head-on. Throughout the night, Marine artillery hammered the CCF units. By dawn the Hook was taken. Captain Fred McLaughlin, in charge of retrieving any dead and wounded after the battle, later remembered, “I went around an abandoned trench line at one point and there was a face looking at me from the side of the hill. It was just like it was painted on the side of the hill. It was a Chinese trooper who had been blown into the side of the hill, just the face. We dug these people out. I don’t know how many. It seems to me that over a period from 0800 in the morning until 1500 in the afternoon, we probably located 40-50. Most of them were Chinese but we did recover quite a number of American boys who had given their lives up there on that awful hill that day.”

After the savage fighting to seize the Hook, General Mark W. Clark, commander of Allied forces in the Far East, penned a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Lovett admonishing the Department of Defense for the shortage of artillery shells. The following year, Congress conducted a series of hearings to explore the situation. It was too late for the young men who had died at the Hook. The penetration by the Chinese of the MLR and the capture of the Hook for 36 hours was the first time the enemy had held any Marine outpost for a long time. In the end, the Chinese paid dearly for their incursion, losing 494 killed and 370 wounded. Marine losses were significant as well, with 82 killed, 386 wounded, and 27 missing. The Chinese, however, were determined to capture and hold the valuable piece of land at any price. Soon they would return.

Another Chinese Assault

On November 3, Company D of the 1st Black Watch Regiment and the Canadian Princess Patricia Light Infantry relieved the Marines. Lt. Col. David Rose, commanding officer of the 1st Black Watch Regiment, immediately set out to rebuild and reinforce the fortifications on the Hook, Ronson, Warsaw, the Sausage (a ridge near Hill 121), and Hills 121 and 146. Although the Jocks (slang for British soldiers) did not particularly like their new assignment of digging improved trenches, Rose realized the importance of the task. An improved barbed wire system was installed and communication units laid a new complex pattern of wireless sets and field phones, in some cases doubling and even tripling the number to enhance communications in the event of another attack.

Rose’s elaborate plan was only half completed when, on the night of November 18, Chinese soldiers were spotted by sentries at Warsaw. The enemy quickly overran Warsaw and assaulted the Hook. From their positions at Yong Dong, about 2,500 yards away, machine gunners from the Duke of Wellington Regiment supported the Black Watch by firing on fixed lines across the Samichon Valley and over the heads of the Black Watch. In the end, the Dukes expended over 50,000 rounds in 11 hours. Private Neil Deck of the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Princess Pats later recalled, “In total, we were on the Hook three nights that time. On the second and third nights, I dug the trench deeper as it had been destroyed by the shelling. It was cold and the ground was frozen, so I used a pick when I heard a hissing noise coming from the bottom of the trench. I reached down and felt some cloth. Pulling on it, I realized it was a coat with a body inside. It was one of the British. He was bloated and the noise I heard was the air coming out of him after I had punctured him with the pick. I got sick to my stomach again.”

The Chinese withdrew, but a short time later the all-too familiar sound of a bugle pierced the night air as the enemy swarmed back over the Hook with a vengeance. The Jocks of the Black Watch were forced to pull back under the sheer weight of the advancing Chinese. With the support of the Centurion tanks from B Squadron, the Royal Inniskilling Dragoons finally drove off the CCF soldiers, and the Hook was once again in Allied hands.

After a two-month respite, the Black Watch returned to the Hook in January 1953. Companies were deployed to Hills 121 and the Sausage. One company from the Dukes established headquarters on Hill 146. Nothing changed as the Chinese artillery kept up the tempo with steady bombardments. Their guns, secreted in the sides of hills, were pulled out to fire and then rolled back to be hidden away from U.N. spotter planes.

“The Black Watch Do Not Withdraw”

In the spring, the Hook exploded in colors as the fields came alive again with flowers and weeds. There was no time, however, to admire the scenery. On May 7, 1953, an observation plane was shot down as it was attempted to locate Communist artillery pounding Commonwealth positions on the Hook and surrounding hills. The Jocks on Warsaw saw CCF units massing for an apparent assault. After ordering a withdrawal from Warsaw, Rose radioed for artillery support. Corps artillery sent 72 eight-inch shells screaming into the enemy troops. This seemed to take the wind out of the Chinese for the moment.

By 2 am, the Communists were back. This time the British soldiers from Ronson anticipated the enemy’s intentions. The Chinese were cut to pieces as the 20th Field Regiment sent proximity-fused high-explosive rounds and three-inch mortar shells near Ronson. Turkish units assisted the Black Watch with additional support. Fearing that the British unit had been overrun, an English-speaking Turkish officer telephoned the Black Watch CP and talked to Lt. Col. Rose. “How, many casualties have you?” the Turkish officer asked. “A few,” replied Rose. “Have you withdrawn?” the officer asked. “The Black Watch do not withdraw,” snapped Rose.

Rose, however, was close to being overrun; the Chinese had managed to crawl to within a mere 20 yards of his forward trench line. One machine gun nest, manned by Black Watch privates, let loose 7,500 rounds at the enemy hordes. After a fierce counterattack, the Black Watch drove the enemy back. On May 12, the battered Black Watch was relieved by elements of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. In addition, two troops from C Squadron, 1st Royal Tanks brought their Centurions up for additional punch in the event of another attack.

As the night progressed, Chinese loudspeakers kept up a constant haranguing, warning the Dukes that they would be ousted from the Hook by an overwhelming CCF force. At 11 pm on May 17, the enemy was heard approaching the Hook. An artillery barrage made them retreat, and in the ensuing action a CCF soldier was captured. He relayed the unpleasant information that the Dukes were outnumbered five-to-one and that another major assault was imminent. For the following 10 days, the Communists and the Dukes were in a constant sparring match. Patrols from both sides were dispatched to learn each other’s intentions. Sometimes they would engage in brief but hot firefights. Artillery duels were a daily occurrence. “Bunker life was particularly unsavory with having to share one’s abode with rats, mice and other vermin and being inundated with various insecticides and smells of petroleum-burning heaters in a confined underground situation,” recalled Lieutenant Alec Weaver of the 2nd Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) of his tour of duty on the Hook.

In the darkness on May 29, approximately 100 Chinese infantrymen attempted a lateral approach from Hill 121, trying to capture Ronson. They were spotted and annihilated as they tried in a vain attempt to charge, and 30 mangled bodies were on the wire the next morning as testimony to the futility of the attack. During this period, more than 37,000 shells were fired from British guns. In addition, an unbelievable 10,000 mortar rounds were discharged, as well as 500,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition. One American howitzer let loose an illumination round every two minutes for seven hours. When the full extent of the devastation on the Hook was revealed, 10,000 Chinese shells had ploughed the terrain into six-foot furrows and leveled it like a well-worn football field. Hundreds of Chinese had been killed and thousands wounded. The Dukes had lost 28 killed and 121 wounded and 16 missing. For their heroic defense of the Hook, the Dukes were presented with a battle honor for their colors that read: “The Hook 1953.” Headquarters Company of the 1st Battalion was even renamed Hook Company.

Nearing Armistice

The war, unfortunately, was not over—peace talks between the two sides were painfully slow. Realizing that a truce was near, the Chinese were determined to seize as much terrain as possible, and the Hook was high on their list. Another series of attacks against the Hods and the surrounding hills was planned. Throughout the month of July, the Chinese stepped up offensive operations near the Hook. Boulder City, a Marine outpost, came under heavy attack as well. On the night of July 24, Chinese forces with orders to fight to the last man moved against Hills 111 and 119. Company H, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines was tied in with a machine-gun section from the 2nd RAR led by Sergeant Brian C. Cooper.

In an area designated Betty Grable, the enemy began to form. Allied artillery hammered them as they readied themselves for the coming attack. The CCF units descended on Hill 111 and were soon in the trenches fighting hand-to-hand. British artillery sent scores of high-explosive rounds toward Hills 111 and 119. The machine-gun section from the 2nd RAR on the leathernecks’ right flank also provided timely support. “The scream and thud of incoming artillery and mortar fire was constant,” wrote Private Ron Walker of the 2nd RAR, “the only difference being the closeness of the burst. Whilst being showered with lumps of dirt and debris I waited for the one burst that might be destined to silence me forever.”

Fighting also erupted on Hill 121 as action continued for the next several days on almost every hill and outpost. “Medium shells sounding like express trains passed over us with plenty of crest clearance,” wrote Bruce Matthews of the New Zealand 16th Field Regiment. “But right above our heads 16th Field’s 25-pounder shells were just clearing our crest. An occasional shell exploded over us. Toward midnight, the tempo of the artillery eased off. The U.S. Marines still had an intact line.” After the battle was over, a young British officer from one of the artillery units that had supported the Marines visited their regimental headquarters. He read to the amazed leathernecks the long list of the different types of rounds that had been fired in their behalf. When he finished, the Marine staff was astounded at his flawless rendition. He then smiled and said, “But I am authorized to settle for two bottles of your best whiskey.”

On July 27, an armistice was signed, ending the Korean conflict. Search parties combed the area around the Hook for any dead, wounded, or missing. Lieutenant Weaver of the 2nd RAR remembered, “The carnage was awe inspiring and the stench overbearing. It was a great relief to be able to leave our battered trenches and the horrific scene.” Sadly, the heroic actions of those who fought so bravely on the Hook have been swept into the dustbin of history. But for those who were there, it remains as vivid today as it did more than 50 years ago. Survivor Ron Walker summed it up best: “There was a certain reluctance to leave, as if a certain something had been left behind and more time should be spent looking for it.”

Originally Published in 2018.

This article by Al Hemingway originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Bad News: Could Biden's Infrastructure Plan Actually Decrease U.S. Debt?

The National Interest - Sun, 04/07/2021 - 21:11

Rachel Bucchino

National Debt,

The legislation focuses spending on traditional infrastructures, such as roads and bridges, water infrastructure, energy investments, and climate resiliency. Can it also help balance the budget?

Here's What you Need to Remember: During the first decade of the bill’s framework, debt would increase by 0.4 percent compared to the baseline while GDP stays the same as under the current-law baseline, citing that spending would outpace the increases in revenue for the first ten years. 

The bipartisan infrastructure deal that the Biden administration agreed to last week would decrease government debt and add billions of dollars to the economy, according to a new analysis released Wednesday. 

The report, conducted by the Penn Wharton Budget Model, estimated that during the first decade of the bill’s framework, debt would increase by 0.4 percent compared to the baseline while GDP stays the same as under the current-law baseline, citing that spending would outpace the increases in revenue for the first ten years. 

“It will take us a long time for the infrastructure to become productive, but it will provide a small but significant increase in output over the long term,” Jonathan Huntley, one of the authors of the analysis, told The Hill

In 2050, however, government debt would decline by 0.9 percent compared to baseline and GDP would climb by 0.1 percent. 

The authors noted that over time the new spending from the infrastructure framework will decline while IRS enforcement continues. This will prompt an increase in GDP and revenue growth. 

The report comes as President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators last week struck an infrastructure deal that proposes $579 billion in new spending over the next five years, with a total of $1.2 trillion in spending over eight years. The legislation focuses spending on traditional infrastructures, such as roads and bridges, water infrastructure, energy investments and climate resiliency.

The proposal calls for any “unused” coronavirus relief funds and increased IRS enforcement activities to help fund the new spending.

Biden traveled to Wisconsin on Tuesday to sell the infrastructure deal, where he argued that improving America’s infrastructure is a critical investment that would also help mitigate the climate change crisis and build millions of new jobs in the energy and transportation sectors.

“This deal isn’t just the sum of its parts. It’s a signal to ourselves, and to the world, that American democracy can come through and deliver for all our people,” Biden said. “America has always been propelled into the future by landmark investments.” 

He added. “We’re not just tinkering around the edges.” 

Biden and congressional Democrats are also reportedly considering passing a Democratic-only measure this year that includes investments that weren’t featured in the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill. 

Image: Reuters

Millions Dead: The Japanese Sacking of Shanghai Was Literally a Nightmare

The National Interest - Sun, 04/07/2021 - 21:00

Warfare History Network

Security, Asia

An estimated 85 percent of Chapei was razed to the ground. Nothing was spared...

Key Point: Shanghai was a bastion of Western capitalism, business its life blood.

In the 1930s Shanghai was in its heyday, a teeming metropolis of some 3.5 million people. The great city was a fascinating blend of cultures, its very existence refuting Rudyard Kipling’s famous aphorism. Here, on the lazily snaking banks of the Huangpu River, East and West did meet. The river was literally an artery of commerce, pumping trade into the city’s vibrant commercial heart.

China Forced To Open Trade Relations

Shanghai was a bastion of Western capitalism, business its life blood. British and American Tai-pans (heads of business firms) might attend church on Sunday, but on weekdays Mammon, not God, was Shanghai’s principal deity. The city was one of the original “Treaty Ports” opened up by the Treaty of Nanking in 1842. China had just been disastrously defeated in the so-called “Opium War” and had to bow to British demands. Largely self-sufficient, despising foreigners as “outer barbarians,” China had to be forced to establish normal diplomatic and trade relations with the outside world. The British took the lead, but the United States, France, Japan, and a host of other countries were quick to follow.

Beset by foreign encroachments from without and internal rebellion from within, China was in turmoil throughout much of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Seeking China’s trade, yet wanting to distance themselves from its social and political troubles, treaty powers established the principle of “extraterritoriality” which the Chinese naturally resented. Foreign enclaves would be set apart, largely self-governing and above all not subject to Chinese law.

Shanghai’s International Settlement and French Concession were outgrowths of these developments. Although physically connected to the Chinese-ruled greater Shanghai, the International Settlement was a largely self-governing territory administered by the Shanghai Municipal Council, which was dominated by foreign business interests, largely British, though other powers such as the United States had seats. The International Settlement had been formed by uniting the British and American enclaves in 1863. The French Concession, ruled from Paris, was a separate entity.

Bund Was Noisy Display Of Foreign Wealth

The Bund—the word is derived from an Anglo-Indian word meaning “quay” or embankment—was the International Settlement’s grand showplace, an imposing row of banks, hotels, and office buildings that stretched for a mile along a bend of the river. To the visitor, the buildings were exotic outgrowths, massive symbols of Europe and America that were somehow magically transplanted to Chinese soil. The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, the Yokohama Specie Bank, the exclusive Shanghai Club, and the Cathay Hotel—these were powerful institutions whose soaring domes and stately columns were outward symbols of inner wealth.

The Bund’s grand boulevard was crowded day and night, an ever-changing spectacle that revealed both the best and the worst of humanity. Gawking tourists rubbed elbows with swaggering off-duty sailors, White Russian refugees, British businessmen, and petty criminals. Rickshaw men pulled beautiful Chinese women dressed in silk qi paos, and red-turbaned Sikh policemen kept a wary eye out for trouble. And above all there was noise—autos honking, ship whistles blowing, swarming Chinese rickshaw men crying for fares—an ear-splitting cacophony of commerce.

The International Settlement and neighboring French Concession were artificial creations, safe harbors from the turbulent social and political storms that plagued China. Events were to prove this safety was more an apparition than reality. In the 1930s there were around 60,000 foreigners in the International Settlement and French Concession. They were vastly outnumbered by the million or so Chinese who also lived there.

Strong Japanese Presence In Shanghai

The Japanese also had a strong presence in Shanghai, a presence second only to the British. Japan was a modern nation whose rapid industrialization in the 19th century had amazed the world. Most Europeans and Americans looked on the Japanese as “honorary” Westerners whose accomplishments and growing military power won a grudging admiration.

But Japan’s Westernization was in some respects superficial. Beneath the modern, progressive veneer, some of the more disturbing aspects of Japanese culture still existed and threatened to break to the surface. The Bushido code, or “way of the warrior,” exalted military virtue, dedication to the emperor, and an almost fanatical contempt for death. Japan’s celebrated samurai warriors had practiced Bushido in one form or another for centuries, but in the 1920s and 1930s the world saw its modern reincarnation.

Japan’s population had grown from about 30 million in 1868 to about 65 million in 1930. Japanese farmers were hard-pressed to feed this expanding population, and some argued territorial expansion was the only solution. Of course, aggressive Japanese imperialism was an old story. In 1910 Japan had annexed Korea, beginning a nightmare of cultural suppression, economic exploitation, and political terror on the long-suffering peninsula. But Korea was Japan’s foothold on the Asian mainland, springboard to a greater prize—China.

Ancient Codes And Worldwide Depression Drove Japanese Ambitions

In the 1920s and early 1930s Japan became infected with nationalism and militarism. When combined with the samurai traditions and the Bushido code, this militarism and ultranationalism produced a particularly virulent brand of imperialism. The worldwide economic depression of the 1930s hit Japan hard, making imperial and foreign conquest seem a viable solution to the island nation’s troubles.

In 1931, the “Manchurian Incident” began a whole new round of Japanese aggression. Manchuria was the northern province of China, and Japan maintained a garrison there, Kwantung Army, to protect Japanese property and economic interests. Officers in the Kwantung Army needed a pretext to conquer Manchuria, so they created one. They blew up a portion of a Japanese-owned Manchurian railway and blamed the destruction on the Chinese. It was a transparent deception, but provided the excuse the Japanese Army needed. In due course Manchuria was invaded, weak Chinese armies routed, and a puppet state called “Manchukuo” established.

Japanese Provocation Ignites Passions In Shanghai

The Manchurian Incident sparked condemnation from around the world, particularly the United States, but most countries were more concerned with the Depression than with far-off China. Pu Yi, the last emperor of China, was duly installed as ruler of an “independent” Manchukuo, but his tinsel regime was nothing more than clumsy window dressing. Japan’s naked aggression provoked a storm of protest all over China, but nowhere was the patriotic furor greater than in Shanghai.

Chinese demonstrators crowded the streets, angrily shouting anti-Japanese slogans, and posters were tacked up that denounced Japanese imperialism or simply urged Chinese citizens to “Kill All Japanese.” Soon talk was transformed into action, and the city’s Chinese business community organized an effective boycott of all Japanese goods. All Japanese products, even innocuous toys and bicycles, disappeared from Chinese store shelves. Goods piled up in Japanese warehouses because no Chinese businessman would accept Japanese products.

Boycotted Japanese Goods Pile Up On Shanghai Piers

The Japanese were an important part of the International Settlement’s foreign community. A small waterway called Soochow (now Suzhou) Creek meandered through Shanghai, a watery finger that formed a boundary between the International Settlement and the Chinese-controlled Greater Shanghai before turning sharply and dividing the settlement itself into two distinct halves. Soochow Creek was spanned by the Garden Bridge (now Waibaidu Bridge) near where it emptied into the Huangpu River.

A traveler crossing the Garden Bridge from the Bund would find himself in the International Settlement’s Hongkew District. Hongkew was the Japanese section of the settlement, boasting a population of 30,000 Japanese residents. Numerous shops, bars, and even Geisha houses gave the area its local name of “Little Tokyo.” Hongkew was a natural target for Chinese patriotism. Normally, Japanese imports comprised 29 percent of Shanghai’s yearly total. Once the boycott took effect, that figure plummeted to 3 percent. Seven hundred tons of unsold Japanese goods gathered dust on Hongkew’s piers and godowns (local term for warehouses).

Japanese shops in Hongkew were forced to close, and Japanese residents boarded ships to return to the Home Islands. They had little alternative. Chinese merchants would not even sell them food. These events played into the hands of the Japanese military, which was encouraged by the relative ease of its Manchurian conquest.

Unpaid Chinese Troops Pose Greater Threat Than Japanese

Chapei was a Shanghai district to the north of Hongkew, just beyond the boundary of the International Settlement. It was a heavily industrialized area and home to thousands of impoverished Chinese workers. Streets were lined with dingy, red-brick buildings and grimy factories. The Commercial Press, a Chinese-owned publishing house in Chapei, was a huge concern that supplied three out of every four school textbooks in China.

The situation was becoming more and more volatile, and tensions were not eased when the 31,000-man Chinese Nineteenth Route Army under the command of General Cai Tingkai arrived. The majority of these troops were southerners, Cantonese speakers from Guangdong, and only nominally under the control of Chiang Kai-shek’s national government. General Cai paid lip service to the national government, but few doubted who was really in command.

The Nineteenth Route Army had not been paid in some time, which sent shivers of fear coursing down the backs of many foreigners residing in the settlement. General Cai might turn warlord and replenish his coffers by sacking the International Settlement. Ironically, the Chinese, not the Japanese, were considered the greater threat by the Western powers at this stage. To defuse the situation, funds were to be raised to pay the soldiers.

Japanese Send In Monks To Stir Up Trouble

Deliberately seeking to provoke an incident, the Japanese sent five members of the Buddhist Nichiren sect into Shanghai. The Nichiren sect was ultranationalist, believing it was Japan’s divine mission to rule Asia.

On January 18, 1932, the Japanese Buddhist monks paraded through Chapei, according to some accounts loudly chanting anti-Chinese slogans. It was a deliberate provocation, and the Chinese were quick to respond with violence. One monk was killed and two others wounded. In retaliation, a Japanese mob set San Yu Towel Company on fire, and two Chinese died in the conflagration.

They had played right into the hands of the Japanese. The Japanese consul general presented Shanghai Mayor Wu Tiecheng with a series of demands, including the arrest of those responsible for the monk’s death, an immediate suppression of all anti-Japanese organizations, and an end to the boycott within 10 days. Mayor Wu consulted with the central government in Nanking (Nanjing), but ultimately the decision would be his. While the mayor deliberated, the Japanese were busy sending naval reinforcements to Shanghai, including a cruiser and 12 destroyers from Sasebo. On Saturday, January 23, a contingent of 500 Japanese Marines landed at the Yantzepoo section of the International Settlement, the vanguard of many more troops to come.

As the crisis deepened, the International Settlement’s Defense Committee was galvanized into action. Most of the major powers had small military units in Shanghai whose primary mission was to guard the lives and property of their nationals. The Defense Committee was composed of the chairman of the Municipal Council, the commissioner of police, and various officers from the British, American, French, Japanese, and Italian military.

An International Band Of “Weekend Warriors”

The Shanghai Volunteer Force, a curious multinational militia that mirrored the cosmopolitan nature of the International Settlement, was also represented. Most of these men were “weekend warriors,” Shanghai businessmen who joined partly as a civic duty and partly because they were defending their own interests. There were over 20 units in all, including the American Company, the Shanghai Scottish, the Portuguese Company, and a White Russian regiment. All were volunteers, save the Russians, who were paid a salary.

On Tuesday, January 26, Chinese authorities declared martial law and began stringing barbed wire and laying down sandbags. Events were clearly spiraling out of control, prompting the International Settlement’s Municipal Council to declare a state of emergency. The Shanghai Volunteer Corps was mobilized, as well as various foreign military units. The International Settlement was approximately 8.73 square miles (5,883 acres), while the French Concession was almost four square miles (2,525 acres). Each unit, both professional and volunteer, was assigned a place in the defensive perimeter.

Mayor Wu accepted all the terms of the Japanese ultimatum on the afternoon of January 28, even going so far as to close down the offices of the anti-Japanese boycott organization. In reality, the demands had been more of a sop to world public opinion than a real policy. Admiral Shiozawa was determined to punish the Chinese for their acts of defiance. He admitted as much to New York Timesreporter Hallett Abend, when the two men met aboard the Japanese flagship, the cruiser Idzumo, which was anchored in the Huangpu.

Fishing For Another Excuse

The admiral admitted Mayor Wu’s capitulation was “beside the point,” adding, “I’m not satisfied with conditions in Chapei. At 11 o’clock tonight I’m sending my marines into Chapei to protect our nationals and preserve order.” Shiozawa tried to cultivate Abend by feeding him caviar and pouring cocktails, but the American was not fooled by this sudden hospitality.

Abend left to file his story, pausing only to warn the American Consul-General, Edwin S. Cunningham, of what he had learned. Chapei was just across the International Settlement’s border from Japanese-dominated Hongkew. Shiozawa’s target was Chapei’s North Station, where a tangle of railroad tracks filtered through a labyrinth of locomotive sheds, warehouses, and outbuildings. The Japanese admiral had utter contempt for the Chinese, predicting he would take North Station “within three hours, without firing a shot.”

Chinese Brace For Onslaught

The men of the Nineteenth Route Army, some of them teenagers, awaited the Japanese onslaught. They were indifferently armed, and their dirty tennis shoes, caps, and faded cotton uniforms gave them a rag-tag appearance. But they made up in courage what they lacked in training or weaponry, and were determined to resist to the last man.

At 11 o’clock, 400 Japanese Marines of the Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF) marched from their headquarters on Kaingwan Road in Hongkew and clambered into 18 trucks. Japanese civilians were on hand to cheer them on their way, filling the Marines’ ears with triumphant shouts of “Banzai!”

The Japanese Marines were driven to a point near North Station, then disembarked and sorted themselves out for the offensive. Each unit was guided by men carrying flashlights. The light beams stabbed through the darkness and also made the advancing Japanese perfect targets. About 50 yards from the station the Japanese saw a makeshift barricade of barbed wire and sandbags; any holes in the wall were plugged by an odd table or chair.

Cai Springs Trap For Japanese Marines

At that moment, Abend strained his ears, listening in the darkness for the sounds of fighting he knew must come. He was not disappointed, because the sharp crack of two rifle shots echoed through the night, followed by the staccato chatter of machine-gun fire. General Cai had sprung a trap on the unsuspecting Japanese; the whole area was swarming with Chinese snipers positioned in every building. They were crack shots, and soon many Japanese Marines lay sprawled in the street in rapidly spreading pools of blood.

As the fighting intensified, the noise of battle attracted curious foreigners from the International Settlement. They lived in a privileged world, and the International Settlement’s semi-colonial status made it a safe haven from China’s endless strife. Some foreigners may have sympathized with China, but many British and American businessmen looked at Asians with a kind of bemused and cynical indifference.

Foreigners Come Out To “Watch the Fun”

As it neared midnight, foreigners came out of the settlement’s many hotels, theaters, and nightclubs to “watch the fun.” Many were in evening clothes, laughing and chatting as they ate sandwiches or gulped hot coffee to ward off the evening chill. Throngs of foreigners watched the battle from North Szechueh Road, acting as if the fighting was a sporting event staged for their benefit. Bullets whizzed nearby, and some Japanese Marines were setting up defensive positions just across the street from the curious onlookers.

Frustrated at the delays, and fearing a loss of face, the Japanese resorted to heavy-handed measures. As the weeks passed, Japanese heavy artillery pounded Chapei, the shellfire complemented by salvoes from Japanese warships on the river. But above all there were the bombers, fleets of aircraft that pummeled Chapei without mercy. Cotton mills, tenements, factories, churches, all were reduced to smoldering rubble. Foreign journalists were aghast at the indiscriminate bombing of civilians. Flames sent thick coils of black smoke into the sky, and at night the conflagration turned Chapei into an incandescent hell.

Japanese Show No Mercy To Chapei

An estimated 85 percent of Chapei was razed to the ground. Nothing was spared; even the famed Commercial Press was gutted, its many books reduced to ashes. Thousands of Chinese civilians were killed or horribly wounded, some maimed for life. Over 600,000 Chinese refugees poured into the International Settlement, an endless stream of victims carrying what little remained of their earthly possessions.

Cai and the hard-pressed Nineteenth Route Army refused to yield, though casualties were heavy. The heroic stand made headlines around the world and made General Cai an international celebrity. The Chinese community in the Philippines contributed thousands of dollars to General Cai, and in San Francisco there were fund-raising dinners.

For the Japanese, it was a public relations disaster. Clumsy attempts at damage control only made it worse. Admiral Shiozawa hosted a cocktail party for the foreign press aboard his flagship Idzumo, where he noted that American newspapers had labeled him a “baby killer.” The admiral petulantly reminded Abend, ”I used only 30-pound bombs, and if I had chosen to do so I might have used the 500-pound variety.”

A Hollow Triumph For Japanese

The Nineteenth Route Army had won a moral if not physical victory against impossible odds, but at last flesh and blood could stand no more. General Cai now had 16,000 effectives, down from the original 31,000. The arrival of 8,000 more Japanese reinforcements signaled the beginning of the end. On March 8, 1932, Japanese soldiers raised their distinctive rising sun flag over what remained of North Station. Buildings were blackened shells, and corpses were everywhere. Despite the exuberant “Banzai!” shouts, it was a hollow triumph.

Negotiations opened and dragged on for weeks. A cease-fire pact was settled with a demilitarization scheme that required Japan to remove all troops from Shanghai save its normal garrison. The Chinese were also required to withdraw and keep troops from entering a 30-mile zone around the city.

The battered Nineteenth Route Army withdrew, but its stand had humiliated the Japanese high command and boosted Chinese morale. Peace was restored, and for the next five years Shanghai returned to its magnificent, gilded decadence. Business boomed, ships steamed up the Huangpo, and the Bund was crowded by more people than ever.

Chiang Kai-shek Has Change Of Heart After Kidnapping

General Chiang Kai-shek, the Nationalist Chinese leader, had offered no help to the Nineteenth Route Army during its weeks of struggle. Chiang had little love for the Japanese, considering them a “disease of the skin,” whereas the Communists under Mao Zedong were a “disease of the body.” He was basically hoarding his best divisions for his continuing campaign against the Communists.

The general had a change of heart when he was kidnapped by a warlord, who demanded he form a united anti-Japanese front against the common enemy. Chastened, Chiang agreed, and was released. This “united front” was formed in the very nick of time, because in the summer of 1937 the Japanese were on the move again. On July 7, 1937 (“Double Seven”), a missing Japanese soldier in Peking (now Beijing) formed a sufficient pretext for war. Accusing the Chinese of kidnapping him (he was supposedly later found in a brothel, sheepish but unharmed), the Japanese poured thousands of troops into North China. Peking soon fell, as did the port city of Tientsin (Tianjin).

Chiang Kai-shek knew the Chinese had little chance of opposing a determined Japanese offensive in the north. The Yangtze Valley was a different matter. Shanghai was China’s window on the world, its international showplace, and home to the largest foreign press corps east of Suez. The Chinese would challenge the Japanese at Shanghai, and in giving the Western powers a “ringside seat” in the contest, they hoped to create enough sympathy to provoke intervention.

Chinese Send German-Trained Elite Troops To Fight Japanese

Sensing trouble, the Japanese began sending reinforcements to Shanghai, at the same time evacuating their civilian nationals. The initial Japanese commitment was around 1,300 Marines of the Special Naval Landing Force. Chiang threw down the gauntlet by sending his best troops to Shanghai, the German-trained 87th and 88th Divisions. These were elite formations, tough and well equipped, and they were determined to give the Japanese invaders the fight of their lives.

On August 9, Sublieutenant Isao Ohyama of the SNLF got into a car that quickly sped along Monument Road—his alleged mission, to “inspect” the Chinese Hungjiao Aerodrome. He never reached his destination. The bullet-riddled bodies of Ohyama and his driver were found later.

On Friday, August 12, the Shanghai Volunteer Corps was mobilized and took its defensive positions along the International Settlement perimeter. The volunteers were more cosmopolitan than ever, and included a Filipino company and a Jewish company.

Volunteer Corps Rises To Occasion Once Again

B Battalion of the Volunteers, which consisted of the American, Portuguese, Filipino, and American machine-gun companies, occupied the Polytechnic Public School on Pakhoi Road. By contrast, the White Russian C Battalion manned blockhouses along Elgin Road. There was even a Chinese Company, which occupied the Cathedral Boys’ School.

Regular troops defending the International Settlement included British soldiers and sailors, the Fourth U.S. Marines, Dutch Marines, and Italian Savoyard grenadiers. The nearby French Concession was also in a defensive mode, but the French preferred to go it alone. They had their own soldiers on hand, a battalion of French-officered colonial Vietnamese troops.

The Fourth U.S. Marines occupied a section of the perimeter along Soochow Creek. It was an area where the river itself formed the boundary between the International Settlement and Chinese-ruled Greater Shanghai. On the other side of the creek was Chapei, newly rebuilt and occupied once again by Chinese troops.

Bitter Memories Of 1932 Lingered

Sporadic fighting broke out on August 12, triggering a mass exodus of Chinese refugees from northern Shanghai, particularly from the Chapei district. Chapei may have been rebuilt, but the searing memory of the 1932 conflagration had left deep psychological wounds, still fresh even after the passage of five years. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians sought safety in the International Settlement, first entering through Japanese-held Hongkew before going on to the Garden Bridge and the Bund.

Whole families were on the move—men, women, and children of all ages. The teeming mass of humanity formed a column 10 miles long, a tragic exodus whose main goal was the supposed haven of the settlement. But the Garden Bridge that spanned Soochow Creek had not been designed to handle such a surging hoard, and a bottleneck developed. All other entrances to the Western, non-Japanese portions of the settlement had been blocked, leaving only the Garden Bridge. Once they caught sight of their goal, the refugees began to grow restless at the prospect of this entrance being sealed off.

Horrible And Deadly Stampede

The fear of not reaching safety triggered an unreasoning panic. People fell only to be tramped by hundreds of surging feet. An American named Rhodes Farmer had the misfortune of being caught in this panicking crowd, and the memory of the ensuing horror stayed with him for years. He later recalled, “My feet were slipping … on blood and flesh … a half-dozen times I knew I was walking on the bodies of children or old people sucked under by the torrent, trampled flat by countless feet….”

Worse was to follow. The Huangpu River was crowded with military ships of many different nationalities. There was, of course, the Japanese flotilla, whose destroyers used their 4.7-inch guns on the Chinese-held docks and jetties along the shore. The Idzumo, the 9,500-ton flagship of Vice Admiral Hasegawa, was moored to the Nippon Yusen Kaisha Wharf close to the Japanese Consulate and the mouth of Soochow Creek. Idzumo was an old ship, a three-funneled relic of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, but its symbolic importance made it a prime target.

The American heavy cruiser USS Augusta had recently arrived in port, carrying Admiral Harry E. Yarnell. American neutrality made for some bizarre incidents. Even in the midst of a war, Japanese destroyers and light cruisers paused to render military honors to Augusta’s embarked admiral. American civilians were being evacuated by ship, and Augusta was there to oversee and protect the operation. Several British warships were also in Shanghai, including the Kent-class cruiser HMSCumberland.

Approaching Storms—Manmade And Natural

On Saturday morning, August 14, 1937, there were signs in the sky of an approaching typhoon. Storm warning flags were hoisted, and the residents could feel the heavy gusts that blew upward of 60 mph. Few could realize that the natural storm was going to be preceded by a man-made one of even greater intensity.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese refugees were now jammed into the International Settlement, trying to be as normal as possible in an abnormal situation. The International Settlement authorities did what they could, and free tea and rice were distributed at the New World Amusement Center.

For foreign nationals life went on as usual. Business was conducted with the same profit-driven intensity, and the city’s decadent pleasures were just as enticing as ever. The legendary luxury of the Cathay Hotel made it a mecca for the International Settlement’s social elite. Its rooftop restaurant, redolent with the sweet scent of hyacinths, was the scene of many dances.

American Bombs Go Astray

That same afternoon, a formation of four U.S.-built Northrop 2E attack aircraft from the Second Group of the Chinese Air Force took off from Lungwha Airfield. Their destination was Shanghai, and their target the flagship Idzumo. The planes appeared over the great city around 4:15 and lost no time in diving to the attack. The Bund was densely packed with the usual cross-section of foreign businessmen, street vendors, and beggars, leavened with new Chinese refugees.

In the first moments, the bombing had the air of a sporting event, with foreigners and Chinese alike crowding rooftops and the Bund promenade to watch the show. The first one or two misses were greeted with a chorus of cheers and boos from the assembled multitude. The cheers turned to screams of anguish when two bombs completely missed their target by about a half-mile and detonated in the International Settlement.

The first bomb pierced the roof of the Palace Hotel, collapsing its upper stories like a house of cards, while the second bomb landed on the intersection of the Bund and Nanking Road, just outside the fabled Cathay Hotel. The Cathay’s wealthy guests found that death was literally at their doorstep. Charred and mangled bodies lay everywhere, and tongues of flame leaped fiercely from wrecked cars. Motorists had been waiting for a red light to change at the time of the explosion; now each vehicle became a funeral pyre for its incinerated passengers.

The First American Casualty Of WWII

The misguided Chinese attack had also affected the foreign warships anchored in the Huangpu. A 1,300-pound bomb splashed down near the Augusta’s starboard side, showering the vessel with metal splinters. Twenty-one-year-old Seaman 1st Class Freddie Falgout of Raceland, La., was killed instantly, and about 18 sailors were wounded. A case can be made that Falgout was the first American military casualty of World War II.

One of the Chinese airplanes, by some accounts damaged by Japanese antiaircraft fire, moved northwest, as if to limp home. The pilot suddenly released his payload on the intersection of Tibet Road and Avenue Edward VII just outside the Great Amusement Center. The Bund bombing had been terrible, but it paled to insignificance when compared to the Avenue Edward VII disaster. The bomb or bombs—the number is disputed—landed right in the middle of a densely packed thoroughfare.

Wealthy And Common Share Equality In Death

Eviscerated bodies of men, women, and children lay in heaps, many burned beyond recognition. There were foreigners among the largely Chinese victims. Amid the carnage, one apparent businessman was seen with both legs and part of an arm blown off. He expired before help could come. The haughty Westerners and lowly Chinese refugees had come together at last, in a kind of equality of death. The Avenue Edward VII holocaust established a record up to that time of civilians killed by a single bomb. Altogether 1,123 people were killed, and as many as a thousand wounded. If the Bund victims are added to the total, it stands at 1,956 dead and 2,426 wounded.

What had caused this terrible tragedy? Various theories were put forward, most of them plausible but hard to prove. It was said that the pilot knew his aircraft was badly shot up, so he intended to release his bombs above an empty racetrack. Some said his bomb rack was itself so damaged it caused the premature release. As for the Idzumo bombing attempt, it was said that the pilots had been trained for level bombing at 7,500 feet. The approaching typhoon had lowered the ceiling to 1,500 feet, but the pilots had failed to adjust the bomb sites for the differences. The gusting winds were also advanced as a possible cause.

Land War In China Expands

In the meantime, the land war continued and the front expanded. Shanghai remained the focal point of a battle line that stretched 70 miles and encompassed both sides of the Yangtze River. Chiang Kai-shek sent the equivalent of nine divisions against the Japanese, forcing them to respond in kind. A Shanghai Expeditionary Army under General Iwace Mitsui landed on August 23, an impressive force of two large divisions and a tank corps.

August passed, then September, and the fighting showed no sign of abating. Chinese General Chang Chih-Chung began with four reinforced divisions in the Shanghai region. By September that number had jumped to 15. Foreign journalists observed the fighting from atop the 16-floor Broadway Mansions (now Shanghai Mansions). They watched in comfort, sipping drinks from a well-stocked bar. Surfeited with gin and carnage, they repaired to their typewriters to file their stories.

On November 5, 1937, four Japanese divisions (the 6th, 16th, 18th, and 114th) made simultaneous landings near Fushon and at Cha-pu on Hangchow (Hangzhou) Bay. The dual thrusts formed a pincer movement that threatened to engulf the defenders of Shanghai. The Chinese were forced to withdraw from the great port city to avoid encirclement and annihilation. The battle for Shanghai had been costly, with some 80,000 Chinese casualties; Japanese totals reached upward of 30,000.

Japanese Ratchet Up Pressure On Shanghai

Fleets of Japanese bombers came over the city every day, filling the air with a rain of death. Greater Shanghai was pulverized—smashed and burned almost beyond recognition. On August 28, 1937, Shanghai’s South Station was subjected to a particularly brutal bombing. Paramount newsreel cameraman H.S. Wong photographed a burned and blackened Chinese infant sitting alone amid the ruins. The photo was one of the most poignant and enduring images of the 1930s, a symbol of China as well as a searing indictment of the horrors of war.

A rear-guard Chinese unit refused to retreat, its heroic stand evoking memories of the Nineteenth Route Army five years before. These men were not callow youths, however, but part of the elite 88th Division. There were some 411 men in this unit, quickly dubbed the “Doomed Battalion”by the watching foreign press. They barricaded the five-story-high godown owned by the Joint Savings Society.

By accident or by design, the “Doomed Battalion”chose to make its stand just across the street from the Thibet Road Bridge and the entrance to the International Settlement. The Chinese performed great acts of valor. At one point, a Chinese soldier saw 20 Japanese soldiers advance near the godown. He grabbed some hand grenades, jumped in among the startled Japanese, and pulled the pins. The Japanese peppered the godown with heavy machine-gun fire, punctuated with artillery salvoes.

Reluctant And Tearful Chinese Surrender

Food was passed to the stubborn defenders from the International Settlement just beyond. The British tried to arrange a truce, keeping the phone lines busy between Japanese headquarters and the besieged godown. Finally the “Doomed Battalion” survivors were allowed to “surrender” to the British in the International Settlement, not the Japanese. Other Chinese units that had been trapped in Shanghai followed their example. When some isolated Chinese soldiers “surrendered” to the French in the French Concession, tears of defeat streamed down their faces.

Victorious Japanese troops soon rushed up the Yangtze River Valley, leaving a path of unprecedented destruction in their wake. In December they reached Nanking, where they committed one of the great atrocities of world history. The infamous Rape of Nanking was a hellish six-week session of wholesale rape, murder, and pillage. Thousands were tortured to death for sport, and perhaps as many as 80,000 women were brutally raped. The Sino-Japanese War continued, finally merging with World War II in 1941.

The 1932 and 1937 battles at Shanghai can be considered a dress rehearsal for the later, wider war. In a sense, the first shots of World War II were fired at the great port on the Huangpu. With the wisdom of hindsight, we can say that many events at Shanghai foreshadowed the tragedies to come. The utter destruction of Chapei in 1932 and the carnage of 1937 were copied, and even surpassed, at Rotterdam, London, Dresden, and Hiroshima.

Originally Published October 1, 2018.

This article originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

How India Is Modernizing its Deadly Nuclear Weapons Arsenal

The National Interest - Sun, 04/07/2021 - 20:33

Michael Peck

India Nuclear Weapons, India

India has one of the world's younger nuclear weapons programs, but has already developed an array of ballistic missiles to accompany its nukes. 

Here's What You Need to Remember: India is also developing the Nirbhay ground-launched cruise missile, similar to the U.S. Tomahawk. In addition, there is Dhanush sea-based, short-range ballistic missile, which is fired from two specially-configured patrol vessels. The report estimates that India is building three or four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, which will be equipped with a short-range missile, or a bigger missile with a range of 2,000 miles.

“India is estimated to have produced enough military plutonium for 150 to 200 nuclear warheads, but has likely produced only 130 to 140,” according to Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. “Nonetheless, additional plutonium will be required to produce warheads for missiles now under development, and India is reportedly building several new plutonium production facilities.”

In addition, “India continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal, with at least five new weapon systems now under development to complement or replace existing nuclear-capable aircraft, land-based delivery systems, and sea-based systems.”

Unlike the missile-centric U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, India still heavily relies on bombers, perhaps not unexpected for a nation that fielded its first nuclear-capable ballistic missile in 2003. Kristensen and Korda estimate India maintains three or four nuclear strike squadrons of Cold War-vintage, French-made Mirage 2000H and Jaguar IS/IB aircraft targeted at Pakistan and China.

“Despite the upgrades, the original nuclear bombers are getting old and India is probably searching for a modern fighter-bomber that could potentially take over the air-based nuclear strike role in the future,” the report notes. India is buying thirty-six French Rafale fighters that carry nuclear weapons in French service, and presumably could do for India.

India’s nuclear missile force is only fifteen years old, but it already has four types of land-based ballistic missiles: the short-range Prithvi-II and Agni-I, the medium-range Agni-II and the intermediate-range Agni-III. “At least two other longer-range Agni missiles are under development: the Agni-IV and Agni-V,” says the report. “It remains to be seen how many of these missile types India plans to fully develop and keep in its arsenal. Some may serve as technology development programs toward longer-range missiles.”

“Although the Indian government has made no statements about the future size or composition of its land-based missile force, short-range and redundant missile types could potentially be discontinued, with only medium- and long-range missiles deployed in the future to provide a mix of strike options against near and distant targets,” the report noted.

India is also developing the Nirbhay ground-launched cruise missile, similar to the U.S. Tomahawk. In addition, there is Dhanush sea-based, short-range ballistic missile, which is fired from two specially-configured patrol vessels. The report estimates that India is building three or four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, which will be equipped with a short-range missile, or a bigger missile with a range of 2,000 miles.

It’s an ambitious program. “The government appears to be planning to field a diverse missile force that will be expensive to maintain and operate,” the report points out.

What remains to be seen is what will be the command and control system to make sure these missiles are fired when—and only when—they should be. And, of course, since Pakistan and China also have nuclear weapons, Indian leaders may find that more nukes only lead to an arms race that paradoxically leaves their nation less secure.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

This article first appeared last year and is being reposted due to reader interest. 

Image: Reuters.